Friday, April 22, 2011

The Front Range's other mayoral race

City Sage

Posted By on Fri, Apr 22, 2011 at 3:57 PM

Ours is not the only mayoral race along the Front Range. Denver, that dusty little cowtown 60 miles to the north, has one as well — and it’s interesting to compare and contrast the two races.

May’s runoff here between Steve Bach (68) and Richard Skorman (57) pits an aging lion of the real estate community against a slightly younger lion of the small-business community. One brags of his 45-year presence in the city, while the other, a relative newcomer, has only 41 years in the community. Neither has significant experience in state government, in big business, or in public administration.

On May 3, Denver voters will choose among 10 mayoral candidates.

Like Colorado Springs, Denver will have a runoff election if no one candidate receives a majority of votes cast. Given that a credible poll gives each of the top three candidates about 20 percent of the vote, a June runoff seems inevitable.

The issues? Jobs, economic development, city revenues, and city tax structure - sound familiar? We may look enviously at Denver, with its airport, convention center, professional sports teams, museums, bike trails, and renovated warehouse district, but Denverites see things differently.

They see a city that has lost five major corporate headquarters in recent years (Qwest, Frontier, First Data, ProLogic and MillerCoors). They see a city whose vast airport lacks direct connections to Asia’s booming economies. They see a city which, like Colorado Springs, needs to re-invent and refresh itself.
Denver’s three leading candidates - Michael Hancock (41), James Mejia (44) and Chris Romer (51) - are significantly younger than our dueling geezers. They’ve all succeeded on Denver’s large stage, and bring impressive credentials to the race.

Hancock’s biography traces an inspiring journey from childhood poverty to creative leadership, most recently as a member of the Denver City Council. He worked for the Federico Pena administration, for the National Civic League, and was president of the Denver chapter of the Urban League. He’s a big-city guy, a man who grew up in Denver as one of 10 children in a frequently homeless family. He’s been an outspoken advocate for public education reforms, and has twice been selected by his peers as Council President.

Mejia has served a term on the Denver School Board, worked on the economic development staffs of both Gov. Roy Romer and Denver Mayor Wellington Webb, and ran the city’s Department of Parks & Recreation. He also headed the team that planned and built the downtown Denver Justice Center, a difficult and thankless job which would test any manager. Mejia pulled it off, on time and under budget.

Romer is the son of former Colorado Gov. Roy Romer. He grew up with politics, but chose investment banking as his career, spending 25 years doing municipal bond deals. During that time, according to the Denver Post, Romer did more than 500 deals, raising more than $10 billion for highways, municipal water companies, and hospitals throughout the Mountain West.

In 2008, he left his job as a senior VP at JP Morgan Chase, giving up a high six-figure paycheck to devote himself to the state Legislature and a part-time position as a consultant to KIPP schools. Passionate, outspoken, and unafraid of controversy, Romer has clearly inherited many of his father’s political skills.
If Denver voters choose one of these candidates, he’ll help define the city’s image. In a time when every city seeks young professionals, Denver’s mayor will be young, smart, ambitious, and progressive.

And what about Colorado Springs? Will we be seen as older rather than wiser, provincial rather than progressive, discouraged rather than optimistic, a city that prefers the comfort of stagnation to the risks of ambition?

That depends, I guess, on our chosen geezer, for whom I have one piece of advice.

Don’t forget your morning Geritol.

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