David Smith’s Prior Service as a City Council Member
When David Smith was first elected to the Plano City Council in 1993, the council had been dominated by developers. Although most of the then newer city residents, including David, were corporate employees, none were on the city council. Worse, many in the city felt excluded from the decision-making. An equivalent of today’s “Angry Crowd” had developed. They felt they were outside a “Plano 100” group that appeared to exclusively participate in all the decisions. Interactions between the two groups were often very adversarial.
David ran for office with a “Citizen’s Perspective” theme. While the developers and their allies had done a great job in planning and building the city, the ordinary residents of the city also needed a voice in city governance. In particular, David pledged to bring more of the homeowners’ perspective to balance the developers’ perspective on planning and zoning issues as Plano was one of the nation’s fastest growing cities.
Upon election, David made good on his campaign pledges. He brought the views of all interested parties to the table, initially to the consternation at times of some of his council colleagues. Where there were valid considerations or good ideas, he respected them and encouraged his colleagues to do the same. As the previously disenfranchised saw at least some of their views were considered or adopted, they gained more respect for city government and vice versa. Many in that decade’s “Angry Crowd” also learned that “Plano 100” membership was actually open, and they went on to become collaborative contributors to what truly became the City of Excellence.
David also worked hard to bring the homeowners perspective into city planning and zoning matters, particularly as new commercial development began in what had been open space next to new residential subdivisions. He frequently met with groups of homeowners to learn of their concerns and work with them on how best to address them with the developers and the city. Many projects were modified to be less intrusive to the adjacent neighborhoods. Perhaps more importantly, David worked for changes in how the city worked with the neighborhoods. Notification procedures and timeframes were changed. A planning department that primarily served and worked with developers was transformed so it serves all stakeholders, including city residents.
In addition, David’s fiscal conservatism and financial experience had a major beneficial impact. When David joined council, the city was enjoying unprecedented growth in property values. Most on council thought it was fine to hold the property tax rate steady, resulting in double-digit percentage increases in city revenue and spending. New programs outside core city services, such as an art festival, were being added to the city budget. David voted against the city budget presented a few months after taking office and insisted the next budget include an increase of no more than growth plus inflation. That did happen in that and subsequent budgets. Non-core items were pared. Tax rates were reduced, and many property owners saw reductions in taxes. And all along, the city’s financial health improved, leading to the AAA bond ratings we enjoy still today.
David also was a key contributor in other areas where he had expertise. Drawing from his telecommunications expertise, he became engaged in the controversy around the area code splits and overlays of the time. He became an expert witness on the subject before the Texas Public Utility Commission, representing numerous interested cities and chambers of commerce.
He also made a difference in other areas where he or his constituents had an interest. One example was spearheading the creation of the city’s first Animal Services Advisory Committee. During his three prior council terms, David rotated through liaison work with virtually every city board or committee, getting to have an impact in many areas.