I’ll freely acknowledge supporting England when he stood for election in 2007. Today, as precisely and as free from polemics as is possible given my usual proclivities, I will try to explain why I do not support his candidacy for city council at-large, even if I continue to suspect he’ll be one of the three chosen, along with incumbents John Gonder (D) and Kevin Zurschmiede (R) – such is the lamentable state of the slate.
Mayor England’s first-ever bid for a city council at-large seat is, and also is not, a referendum on his performance as mayor during the past four years. Insofar as it is, and since it is my view that the most benign assessment of England’s record the past four years is “underachievement by comparison to what was promised,” a look at his 2011 council campaign mailer is instructive.
It is almost identical to the “England for Mayor” brochure mailed in 2007, and in like fashion, his yard signs have been creatively doctored and reused to suit the changed direction. As such, it’s fair to ask: Did he achieve these goals during his most recent term?
Occasionally he did, but far too often England displayed an inexplicable and uncharacteristic inertia bordering on outright meekness in the face of opposition. Time and again, he issued warnings and threats against a recalcitrant council before opting to back away, rather than lead. Plainly, the old fighting spirit deserted him, although unfortunately, the nepotism fetish did not.
This begs a second question: Has England re-articulated his stances on the above issues with specific application to what is required to be an effective council representative, as opposed to what is required to be an effective mayor, and explained how his presence on the council might make it less adversarial for the next mayor?
Unfortunately, no -- unless one charitably accepts the England pre-primary master plan, wherein handpicking a successor from the other political party and switching jobs from mayor to councilman somehow would break the impasse of an 8-1 council majority for the Democrats. It was a “solution” so patently self-serving that even the city’s Democratic voters wouldn’t accept it, opting for Jeff Gahan rather than Irv Stumler.
What’s harder to explain is why, having rejected Stumler, Democrats in the primary gave a Teflon-coated England – Stumler’s obvious patron – the highest vote total among at-large aspirants. It would seem to suggest that they found his performance as mayor worthier than I did … but if so, wouldn’t they rather have Doug England as mayor, alone, pre-eminent, than sitting on the council, his voice dulled in proximity to eight other crazed agendas?
Or does anyone give a damn?
All these considerations point to the single biggest cause of genuine concern with England’s campaign for a council seat. To be blunt, is he genuinely interested in being an effective council person, and committed to putting in the time required to perform effectively? Or, is it that he can’t let go?
After all, countless times have I and many others heard the mayor say that his “real” motivation for swapping the mayor’s chair for a council seat is his deeply felt desire to step away from the 24-7-365 grind of the executive office, and devote more time to his family. In a personal sense of one’s home and hearth, this is admirable, except that we cannot ignore what is being implied: Council service is far easier, a part-time job that takes less time.
If England thought a council seat would involve as much work as being mayor, his reason for swapping one for the other would be moot, and presumably, he’d not be running. Maybe I’m the only one to feel this way, but frankly, it’s an insult to all the other candidates for the city council.
At the same time the electorate increasingly grasps the complexity of a council person’s job, and sees that effectively doing the job requires time, effort and study, England is expressing a preference for the council for no other reason than the ease with which he imagines he’ll toy and dabble with it, and precisely because he won’t have to work as hard as he did before, as mayor. Sorry. That's not enough for 2011. In spite of it all, apart from politics, I like the man.
But isn’t it time for a clean flush?