Thursday, April 12, 2007

A non-partisan bipartisan agenda

Listening to the Becker-Buhler debate (I am about half-way through it), you get the distinct impression that being a Democrat in this Utah race, for once, is a distinct advantage.

Over and over again, Buhler went out of his way to pretend he was not a Republican or a partisan Republican...except when it would help him, touting his period in the UT Senate leadership for "I can get pork for the City" argument. You don't get to be in the leadership in the legislature unless you toe the partisan line and make nice with those already in leadership. So how he can be "bipartisan" in a "non-partisan" election is beyond me.

Lucky for both men, the debate got front page, front fold coverage by the Tribune of course, the article focuses on the new downtown mall's skybridge, the boringist controversial issue I have seen in this state, and the mormon/non-mormon debate, wherein no one wins.

But Ralph was the debate winner for related reason, the article's second and third paragraphs:
"I wouldn't [trot around the globe as an activist for a cause]," said Buhler, a city councilman and former state senator. Buhler, a Republican, argued the mayor instead should focus on being chief executive - to manage all city departments while working with other city captains and state lawmakers.
Becker, a Democrat, pledged to work with residents, steer clear of anti-war rallies - Anderson has participated in several at home and in Washington, D.C. - and resist hopscotching across the globe. But the professional city planner and House minority leader maintained the mayor should give voice to issues such as air quality.

In talking with Ralph's people during the blogger meeting, they told me that if they got the debate to be about parties they were halfway home. Later in the article...
The candidates placed a lopsided emphasis on party affiliation - despite the fact the mayor's race is officially nonpartisan. Buhler downplayed his Republican pedigree, saying city issues are nonpartisan. But Becker celebrated his Democratic status.
"In a city that is progressive like Salt Lake City," Becker said, "it is important that those values are reflected and represented."

Ralph, a city planner, talked about making SLC more like Portland, with green spaces, public transportation, walkable neighborhoods, and bike trails. Buhler talked about "experience" and his ability to "get things done" because he was "bipartisan" even though his key getting things done ability comes from his Republican credentials.

Rocky Anderson didn't win two terms because of "experience" or because he was "bipartisan" or because he could "get things done." In fact, he was elected and reelected despite of his lack of those qualities. Salt Lake residents liked having a jerk for a mayor because he was an articulate, passionate guy who talked back to legislators instead of cooing in their ears. They liked his activism, to a degree. And they liked pissing off conservatives from neighboring cities and towns, even if it meant less state money for their city and capitol.

The Utah Republican Party Morning News had a different, no-shockingly pro-Buhler spin on the debate, focusing on "experience." Yet they still played into Becker's plans:
Ralph Becker and Dave Buhler have both represented Salt Lake City on Capitol Hill. [...]
The two mayoral candidates tout their experience as key to helping them lead [...]
Becker is a Democrat and current House minority leader. Buhler is a Republican [...]
According to recent polls and the city's political history, Buhler's party affiliation may pose challenges in the mayoral race, and Becker may struggle for never having served in an elected city position.
"While some people want to put people in a box and label people, it's really about working with people," Buhler said.
The mayor's office is officially nonpartisan, but Salt Lake City residents have not elected a Republican mayor since the early 1970s.

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