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An Election

Is a Seat on the Boulder City Council worth a $40k investment? Apparently. We need to ask: Why?

This is Dark Cloud on Wednesday, February 05, 1997.

There was an election yesterday, a few of you noticed, or at least participated, and today we have a new City Council member, and to believe the hysterics on both side are to be believed, a new City Council. One of the contestants, the owner of a local restaurant, spent, one hears, $40,000 on the campaign, of which $20,000 has yet to be raised. Since the man is a millionaire, one does not sense a huge scandal. Yet, it is against the law for a campaign to spend money it does not have, even if it is just a matter of changing money from one account to another. Regardless, the people have spoken, and we have a new and re-enthused City Council.

For seven months. Then we have a new and major election for about half the membership. The reason we are having an election is that a member resigned only a year into his job, and a new law demands an election rather than the old method, which was to have the Council appoint an interim member. The new law is because only a year previous to that resignation, a long time member and deputy mayor resigned right after a major election. I cannot recall if he himself was up for reelection or not, but his obviously contrived sudden discovery of 'personal reasons' is the reason for the new rule. During that hubbub, the Council’s replacement choice was not, oddly, the woman who had just received the next most votes, but the man who eventually resigned later.

Lest anyone be confused, Boulder does not, despite its rather impressive self-regard, have to implore local Cincinnati to serve on the City Council, which they do after much personal sacrifice. The job is an attractive public forum, and the meetings are televised by the City owned station, the entire existence of which is to cast City Government personnel in soft focus interviews which are played as filler seemingly weekly. Anyone who doubts the effect of television on government need only compare a recent broadcast of a City Council meeting with those on audio only from the past. Members now dress and emote for the ages.

The demands of City Council work are somewhat obvious and even given coverage in the local paper, which traditionally outsources its reporting, meaning other and probably national discussions have occurred. Therefore, it is a little weird for a City Council member to suddenly discover that governing a city requires time and effort and, if dutiful employment is to be maintained, sacrifices will have to be made so that lupine pests do not to start lolling around the door. If you are not willing to give up earning a living, the only two alternatives for deprivation are sleep and family. Certainly, anyone who slaps his forehead upon that discovery must have a cranium composed entirely of solidified calcium and must have either inherited cash or married well because nobody that stupid, not even Forrest Gump, could have made it in business. So it is therefore most odd that both of the recent council members who resigned were highly regarded by the business community, and their potential loss a cause of much alarms, and that their reasons for resignation not roundly condemned.

Therefore, it is not untoward to inquire what the sudden resignations signify, and why these unacceptable excuses are not, in any way, punished. After all, the commonweal is the one bearing the expense for additional elections and the mental health of the community must suffer through new media campaigns. And what, the electorate might reasonably ask, do you know now you did not know then? In exchange for losing a year’s worth of Tuesday nights, the city has given you much name recognition and press coverage and it is hardly fair for you to expense another election to the taxpayer because......well, just because. Short of major illness in yourself or dependent, I’m not sure that people have the right to resign on whim without compensating the electorate in some manner.

What this punishment might be and how it could be fairly apportioned I have no idea, but I do know that the excuses I have heard and read for the resignations indicated we elected, or the council we elected nominated, idiots, if the stated reasons are to be given credence.

It is an open question if a council member, suddenly discovering a spouse was having an affair, or a child was sacrificing local goats to a torch lit idol, or that a business partner was living awfully well despite the lack of turgor in the jointly held bank account, or that after an affair with a goat, a spouse had absconded with partner and bank account, it is fair to ask if such an elected official could reasonably expect to have his attention on zoning, Safeway, or Evan Ravitz without going, as we say, postal. But perhaps if the penalty for early withdrawal was harsh enough, people might think twice about running in the first place, not a bad thing for them or us. And we might look closer at the motivations. Certainly for a long time member and deputy mayor to resign right after an election was not a move in the spirit of civic responsibility, that catch phrase beloved by business boomers.

After all, one candidate, in order to serve seven months, spent $40,000 to attain this distinction. Of course, he expects-expected his incumbency will propel him to a full term in the next election, but $40,000?