View From a Height
Commentary from the Mile High City
Sunday, May 04, 2003
The mayor's race here in Denver is down to brass tacks, with the 7 candidates appearing more or less continuously at candidate forums and debates. They manage to be civil, while still pointing out differences. All 7 are at least respectable, and most even have some good ideas. Sadly, all are Democrats. But the tenor of the race and the quality of the candidates are something to be proud of, and a terrific change from the corrupt Marion Barry and feckless Sharon Pratt Dixon/Kelly I grew up with.

At this point, the leader seems to be businessman John Hickenlooper, a good candidate saddled with an unfortunate last name. He was vital in redeveloping the old warehouse district of Lower Downtown, or LoDo, and has served on a number of community boards, apparently actively and intelligently. Both of the major dailies here have endorsed him. He also seems to be the only leading candidate without some definable ethnic or economic base. Don Mares has strong Hispanic and union support; Penfield Tate is banking on the black vote; Susan Casey has strong women's support. Hickenlooper doesn't try to appeal to any of these groups, which is terrific for getting elected, and can be a liability for getting re-elected. But it's an appealing attribute that he's not tying himself down to a specific group, and making himself beholden to them.

I have to admit, I don't follow city poltics all that closely, but Penfield Tate's transportation ideas are just nutty. More light rail, which doesn't work; "development hubs," or something like that, near major light rail and bus depots, as though that will make people work near where they live. I would like to see a commuter rail running up and down the Front Range - it seems to have done nicely back in the DC area. But people want yards, and neither they nor their jobs are going to stay put for very long any more. Living near where you work is so hard to achieve for more than a couple of years that most people have just given up on it. I admit I have no solution to this problem. There may not be one. But Mr. Tate would do a lot better to admit that rather than try to waste more of my money.

One other note. The number of yard signs, for both mayoral and council candidates, is truly impressive. It suggests a level of interest and participation that I'm not used to for local politics. Even in DC, you saw some bumper stickers, and campaign signs on light and telephone poles, but not too many in front of townhouses or in apartment windows. It's a nonpartisan election, and all the mayoral candidates are Democrats, anyway, so it's not just a matter of people signing on to support a party. Very reassuring and encouraging.

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