Citizens from one of Dallas’ largest suburbs are working hard to oppose their Mayor and his allies who’ve pushed for high-density developments despite overwhelming opposition from citizens. Campaign finance records reveal the mayor’s motive to ignore constituents: local developers are largely bankrolling his reelection effort.
Follow the Money
Plano Mayor Harry LaRosiliere misled the Dallas Morning News when asked about his fundraising. He suggested he’d raised only $60,000, but that amount is what he raised since his last report. It excludes tens of thousands in prior contributions he’s used this election cycle.
His campaign is also misleading voters with mailers claiming he’s for “Suburban Quality of Life.” The Mayor has been one of the most vocal supporters of high density. While he’s raised traditional donations, half of the $135,000 in contributions in 2016 came from individuals with direct ties to developers or their financiers. They include PACs, executives, and individuals.
Mayor LaRosiliere’s Unpopular High-Density Development Agenda
The donations shed light on why the LaRosiliere coalition has relentlessly pushed for tens of thousands of new apartment units amidst vocal citizen opposition. But it gets worse. He’s also under fire for doling out tax dollars for costs the private developers should be paying. Below is the city’s development plan, known as the “Plano Tomorrow Plan.” Areas circled in red by Plano Future – a group of citizens opposed to the plan – indicate areas targeted for high-density.
The mayor’s coalition has pushed an unpopular density policy that aims to urbanize the suburb at the behest of developers, despite near-unanimous opposition from homeowners. Critics argue thousands of additional apartments will further crowd Plano schools and exacerbate already dreadful traffic congestion. They also claim the council is improperly subsidizing developers. Plano taxpayers are rightfully outraged the city is effectively diverting existing tax dollars away from improving major road arteries elsewhere.
High-Density Stresses Budget for City Services
Excessive high-density development increases total tax revenue, but decreases revenue per resident. This creates the false need for city officials to increase property tax burdens year over year – despite bragging about their “low” tax rates – and helps officials justify a May bond proposition that asks taxpayers to pay even more for needed infrastructure. Meanwhile, big corporations moving to the area have been handed preferential tax breaks.
Stated differently, the city gives new companies preferential treatment, while raising property tax burdens on everyone else, and then asks taxpayers to pay even more in debt for core needs – all while handing developers subsidies they don’t need for projects Plano taxpayers oppose.
But the saga gets even uglier. The city council has wasted hundreds of thousands of tax dollars fighting citizens in court who want voters to weigh in on the city’s development plan.
City Rejects Lawful Citizen-Petition Drive
Residents organized under the banner of Plano Future conducted a successful signature petition drive in 2015 to force a public vote on the density issue. Despite collecting over 3,500 signatures from registered voters – nearly twice the 1,861 required by the city’s charter – the council simply refused to allow a public vote as required under their own laws and in accordance with state statute.
Instead, LaRosiliere’s coalition has publicly pledged to appeal court rulings all the way to the Texas Supreme Court. The fact the city keeps losing in court exposes the frailty of their legal argument. The truth is, the mayor and his allies fear a public vote on their agenda. Plano Future’s attorney, Jack Ternan, had this to say:
“The Dallas Court of Appeals has denied the [city’s] motions…which leaves in place the Court’s prior ruling that the City Secretary must present the citizen petition regarding the Plano Tomorrow Plan to the City Council,” Tarnan said. “The deadline for the [city] to appeal to the [Texas] Supreme Court falls after the date of the [May 6] election. They continue their strategy of infinite delay moving from one court jurisdiction to another; anything to keep the Plano citizens’ voices silent.”
More Controversy Led by LaRosiliere Coalition
Back in 2014, LaRosiliere came under fire for ramming through the so-called “non-discrimination ordinance,” without seeking any public input. Prior to it’s swift passage by a split 5-3 vote, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and several lawmakers warned city officials about the misguided law.
This week, two citizens filed suit against Plano for violating the Texas Open Meetings Act (TOMA) when council passed the controversial 2014 ordinance. TOMA laws require that the decisions of elected bodies be deliberated and decided in public view. The suit alleges the mayor and council inappropriately met behind closed doors in “executive session” to unanimously support the ordinance 8-0 at the next public meeting.
LaRosiliere has a long, anti-taxpayer record of opposing reforms that would empower Texans both in Plano and statewide. He publicly testified in 2015 before a State Senate committee against legislative efforts to reform the property tax system. He sided with the Texas Municipal League – a tax-funded lobby association of cities – by opposing state laws that would require voter approval for massive tax increases.
Ethical Questions Regarding Potential Misuse of Campaign Funds
It appears LaRosiliere may also be ethically challenged. Questions have been raised about his alleged misuse of donations for non-campaign related expenditures. He paid himself over $2,700 in “mileage” reimbursements from his campaign, essentially claiming to have driven over 4,800 miles. Adding insult to injury, he’s also bilked his deep-pocketed donors for several trips to Austin and Washington D.C., fancy dinners, and for limos to and from the airport. It’s unclear how many registered Plano voters live in either of those cities!
Plano taxpayers deserve public servants who represent their interests, not politicians who abuse them to benefit special interests. Texans for Fiscal Responsibility has endorsed Lily Bao (Mayor), Anthony Ricciardelli (Place 2), Ed Acklin (Place 4), and Rick Smith (Place 8) in their bids for local office.
It’s rare for local elections to field qualified slates of citizen candidates, let alone a slate of four. While each of the above has wildly diverse backgrounds, they appear united by a common cause—to increase fiscal transparency and accountability for all citizens, and to “Keep Plano Suburban.”
LaRosiliere is well-educated, intelligent and articulate, but he and his allies have catered to special interests while being downright dishonest and hostile to citizens. They cannot be trusted with another term after so blatantly violating the public trust.