Who's Council going to choose for Joanne Colt's seat? There are three obvious front-runners: Sallie Clark, Ann Elrod and Judy Noyes. Sallie and Judy seem like reasonable choices, because they both own small businesses, have been active in local politics for years, and are well-known and respected in the community. Ann, an educator, has also paid her dues as a volunteer/community builder/all-around good person.
I doubt they'll select Sallie. At least four of the current incumbents would like to run for mayor in 2003 when Mary Lou, after 18 years, is finally tossed out by term limits. And none of the mayoral wanna-bes are likely to give Sallie's campaign a helpful boost.
Judy would be a reasonable choice, but she may be too closely identified with the downtown business community's interests to pass muster with a council majority. That leaves Ann, whose links to the education community might be a real asset to Council. And, by all reports, she is a thoughtful and competent person.
And what about the rest of the applicants? Council has created a kind of playoff system for separating the wheat from the chaff. Each applicant will make a three-minute presentation to the elite eight, who will then select six finalists, each of whom will be interviewed at length. Clearly, some candidates will have the inside track because of their familiarity with both players and process.
So, as a public-spirited effort to level the playing field, I offer the following advice to all of you would-be councilmembers out there:
Be humble and self-effacing. You are dealing with eight monumental egos. You can't suck up to them enough, or flatter them too much.
Tell them you're a team player. You appreciate how difficult their job is. You want to help build this community. You understand that progress in incremental.
Express amazement that people don't understand what a good city government we have. City employees do a wonderful job with inadequate resources.
Affirm that Council is on the right track. You're thrilled about Confluence Park, and you'd support some kind of city involvement in building a convention center. You'd like to see a more extensive bus system, and more affordable housing, but those are long-term goals. You're committed to properly managed public processes which create reasonable consensus. You'd support going to the voters next April for a tax increase to fund basic necessities. You'd oppose ending the multi-million dollar annual subsidy of the tourist industry's trade organization. It's OK to use tax dollars to help out the Pikes Peak Hill Climb. Doug Bruce is an extremist.
Deny reading this column.
If, on the other hand, you'd like to have a little fun, and expose Council to some unpleasant truths, here are some freshly picked sour grapes to pass along:
To start with, tell them Council ought to vote on Jim Mullen's news management policy. Ask, "Why are you afraid of reporters -- got something to hide? Can you pass a tax increase with Mullen as city manager? Maybe you spend too much time on process, and too little on outcomes. You've done a hackneyed job of managing growth; your rhetoric may be that of smart, responsible and appropriate development, but the reality is something else. Your group smiley-face, and your much-vaunted harmony, are phonier than a three-dollar bill. You're afraid to have meaningful, contentious debates about vital community issues. You were elected to lead; you've chosen instead to hire consultants and to mouth platitudes."
Now that you've got their attention, you can tell your future colleagues how you intend to serve. You'll be demanding, divisive and contentious. You won't gracefully give in when you're outvoted. You'll publicly disparage your colleagues and any city employee who might displease you.
You'll openly disagree with the mayor. You'll cozy up to the media, who will, to the dismay of your colleagues, portray you as a crusading populist. It'll be just like the bad old days, when a perpetually brawling city council built airports, municipal court buildings and sports arenas.
Process will be thrown to the winds, as it was when a canny and cantankerous mayor manipulated his colleagues into preserving our landmark city auditorium. Irresponsible lone wolves will derail important civic initiatives, just as a single feisty councilwoman made it impossible for the city to build a new terminal for a soon-to-be bankrupt airline.
You could say all those things but, as a disgraced president once said, it would be wrong.
And besides, you won't get the job.