In District 11, Ken Burnley is finally getting out of Dodge. Supple, competent and not exactly guileless, Burnley withstood dozens of challenges to his authority over the last 15 years. Almost at any time during his tenure, he could have chosen to take over a big-city district like Detroit's. He refused a dozen offers simply because D-11, with all its problems, is infinitely more manageable than, say, Detroit.
But given the public's evident disenchantment with his administration, it's clearly time to go.
Give Ken credit; the manner of his departure -- taking a bigger job for twice the money -- will be extraordinarily helpful to the district that he served for so many years.
And who would be the ideal successor to Ken, who leaves some pretty big shoes to fill? How about someone in their early 40s, from somewhere else (and therefore not tainted by this administration's credibility problems), a person of color, and a woman? Preferably, she would have advised George W. on education reform in Texas, and be a registered Democrat and former elementary school teacher as well.
Sound like an impossible list of attributes? It is -- that's why it's so hard to fill a job as thankless and difficult as that of D-11's superintendent.
Meanwhile, over at city hall, the ever-eccentric city manager, control freak extraordinaire Jim Mullen, may have stepped in doo-doo too deep for even Mayor Mary Lou to wipe off his shoes. First, in an inexplicable display of pique, he throws community activist and probable future City Council member Sallie Clark out of a media briefing. Not only did Mullen potentially violate state and city laws and ordinances regarding open meetings, he did so disrespectfully and deliberately: "You're not welcome here. ... You have to leave."
Since the mayor and several Council members both dislike and fear Sallie, Mullen probably thought it was safe to give her a kick in the butt.
But his latest maneuver, suppressing (even from Council!) the results of a $157,000 consultant's study of the impact of racism, sexism, homophobia, et al., upon the city workforce, just may make even the most somnolent members of Council take action.
In the interests of preserving harmony, building consensus and looking good to the voters, Council has cut Mullen a lot of slack over the past few years. Remember the $2.6 million the city blew on computer fixes that didn't work? The loony media policy designed to let the city operate in secret? Mullen's vitriolic remarks directed to his boss, Councilman Bill Guman? The cable TV franchise agreement that isn't? Past city managers have been canned for a lot less.
In the Tarot, the queen of spades is death. And in city politics, once the race card is played, someone's going down. The last time it appeared, then-city manager Dick Zickefoose quit, negotiated a fat severance payment, jumped in his RV and took off for parts unknown. Will history repeat itself? We'll see.
And as primary time approaches, we may be in for some fun. Will Chuck Brown be denied renomination for his seat on the County Commission by fierce campaigner Rich Brenner? Will Charlie Duke replace Lynn Hefley? Will Doug Bruce beat Ronnie May?
Think of it -- our new bosses might be Duncan Bremer in control of the County Commission and Duke and Bruce at the Statehouse -- the Duncster, the Dukester and the Dougster! Sounds good to me; I always liked the Three Stooges.
Meanwhile, having a morning cuppa joe at my favorite coffee shop, who should I see but my favorite Council member, deep in discussion with Economic Development Corporation boss Rocky Scott. He/she shot me an agonized glance, as if to say "Don't come over here and embarrass me!" I didn't, but it occurred to me that elected officials spend entirely too much time cultivating the movers and shakers. They need to be hanging out with regular people and taking time to learn things.
That's why it was disheartening to notice that not a single elected official attended James Howard Kuntsler's talk at Colorado College last Friday. Kuntsler is the author of The Geography of Nowhere. His subject? Urban design -- how we got into our present mess and how we can get out of it.
He's persuasive, funny, direct and biting. And even though the power structure was elsewhere, there were a hundred bright and attentive college kids hanging on his every word.
If we're lucky, maybe a few of them will stay in town and eventually replace a stooge or two.