Dear readers, What do I want for Christmas? Nothing; thanks to our loony politicos, I've got everything a columnist could ever want.
Thank you, county commissioners, for being arrogant, scheming and pig-headed -- never change, stay as sweet as you are!
And thank you, too, City Council members, for being ineffectual, well-meaning boneheads. You should all run for mayor in the April elections!
Let's start with the only declared candidate, the ol' perfessor hisself, Jim Null. A two-term councilman, Null learned politics in the toughest school of all -- a university campus. Texas Congressman Tom DeLay, for example, is one nasty SOB, but he wouldn't last three months in the ivory tower. He'd be done in by uncompromising ideologues, back-stabbing colleagues, and smart, ambitious wanna-bes.
Null not only survived in school, but prevailed. In an aquarium full of sharks, he was the Great White: full professor, department head, dean.
Still, although Null has the skills to thrive in a predatory bureaucracy, they don't necessarily translate to the political arena. He's scored a beat on his opponents by getting the incumbent mayor's endorsement and by being first to declare, but he already managed to step in some deep doo-doo.
Last week's grandstanding intervention in the courthouse dispute, wherein he met clandestinely with Ubersturmfuhrer Tom Huffman and one or two other county commissioners, was ill-advised. It emphasized Null's penchant for backroom maneuvering and linked him to Huffman's clique.
In other words, Null's trying to present himself as a problem-solving moderate, but he's coming across as a scheming good ol' boy. And have you noticed his billboards??!! "Grow Strong," "Grow Wise," with sappy pictures of obnoxiously cute little kids -- looks like they're selling disposable diapers, not a mayoral candidate.
Council members Sallie Clark, Ted Eastburn and Lionel Rivera will all be announcing within a couple of weeks. We'll have appropriately snide remarks about their candidacies in the fullness of time, but let's consider the consequences of this rush to glory by the gang of four.
Mayor Mary Lou Makepeace is ineligible to run for re-election, and Council member Judy Noyes may not run again. And it's possible that Charles Wingate's legal problems will force him to resign, putting his seat in play. In other words, of the nine seats on Council, at least six, and possibly as many as eight, will be up for grabs. In that scenario, with eight seats open, Richard Skorman would be the only incumbent running for re-election.
That means a lot of newbies, which is by no means a bad thing. Change is the lifeblood of local politics; new people bring new ideas, new ways of thinking and new allegiances. At least, that's the way it works in the civics texts. The real world's a little different.
Absent incumbents, the power of those special-interest groups who have historically supplied the dollars to local campaigns is magnified. An informal coalition consisting of the Pikes Peak Association of Realtors, the Housing and Building Association, the Chamber of Commerce and a dozen of the city's most powerful developers is poised to call the shots in April.
If they so choose (and you can bet that they'll so choose!), they can endorse candidates for every seat, and fully fund their campaigns.
In the past, the coalition has been perfectly happy with social liberals, as long as they were fiscal conservatives. They want a council that is comfortably, even aggressively, pro-growth.
They're happy to support downtown renewal, open space and public transportation -- all good for business! And they're OK with domestic partner benefits, diversity training, and even mild forms of affirmative action. So, in theory anyway, they'll support folks who are very much like the incumbents they're replacing.
Maybe. And maybe the rigid right will decide to flex their muscles, and put up a bunch of eminently qualified, socially conservative candidates, some of whom the coalition will endorse.
In that case, we may end up with a city council that's a lot like the Board of County Commissioners -- an overwhelming majority of bossy right-wingers, with two or three moderates trying to keep them in check.
Our new mayor, far from leading us confidently into a bright new future, may simply be irrelevant.
But think about it. The man who was arguably the best mayor in American history, Providence, R.I., Mayor Buddy Cianci, who in 20 years transformed a decaying backwater into a great city, just began a five-year term in the slammer. Buddy was too good, too flamboyant and too successful; naturally, the Feds had to take him out.
On second thought, if you're mayor, maybe it's good to be weak and irrelevant.
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