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From the Publisher's Desk...

AS PRIMARY DAY NEARS, WHOM SHOULD WE ELECT? – PART I

This month our focus is on the city council, specifically the Democratic primary races for the Ward 1 and one of the at-large seats. Our vote will be for the incumbents –- Jim Graham for Ward 1 and Phil Mendelson for at-large.

Yes, there’s talk that it’s “time for a change” but we are not in that camp.

In reviewing Councilmember Graham’s performance over the past four years. our view is that he has benefited his Ward 1 constituents immensely; we can discern no compelling reason to opt for somebody new, somebody without the kind of experience and incredible dedication to all economic and cultural sectors of this most diverse collection of dynamic neighborhoods.

Several example come to mind, including the influence he has gained over matters regarding public works (through his chairmanship of the council’s public works committee and his close involvement with Metro as a member of its board). In the extremely vital area of public works and transit he has been able to closely watch out for the interests of Ward 1 residents –- as well as all residents citywide. What can possibly be gained by giving up his influence over, and know-how about, these matters and the agencies which have responsibility for delivering the very “bread and butter” municipal services that are so important? Our answer is, simply, there can be no advantage.

But it’s not just public services that the council member has directed so much of his time and attention: it is housing and crime and neighborhood economic development, to name some vital quality of life areas, that he has worked diligently to craft practical solutions to deal with what often seem to be unsolvable problems.

Among many thingsm and just to single out one area, we give high marks to the council member for his tireless work directed toward ensuring more affordable housing and to preserving  rent control for citizens with limited financial means. By so doing, he has been instrumental in helping to maintain the diversity that we hear from so many residents is something they prize about city living and that they consider to be extremely important. These are residents who tell us that they do not want to see our city evolve into a bland demographic pool like the boring suburbs that more and more people are abandoning in favor of the more interesting and dynamic life in our vibrant downtown neighborhoods.

Our brief recitation of Councilmember Jim Graham’s work on behalf of not only his own constituents but all of us throughout the city who have benefited from the initiatives he has pushed has only scratched the surface. We enthusiastically urge his re-election without hesitation.

The other city council primary race that we believe is very important indeed is that of the at-large seat open to a member of the Democratic Party. In light of Councilmember Phil Mendelson’s long record of effective advocacy for residents across the city and for his thoughtful approach to carefully analyzing the complexities of policy issues as they affect our laws and regulations –- and ultimately our daily lives –- and crafting legislation solutions, we have no reason to suggest that there might be any good purpose to vote him off the council.

When we took a look at the 25 bills, eight resolutions, and five reports that the council’s public safety committee, of which he is its tireless chairman, has been responsible for issuing over the past year-and-a-half, we can only conclude that its highly competent output reveals much about the skill and worth to our city of the council member. This we are not prepared to advocate tossing aside.

Among his accomplishments that are of major importance has been his work in getting the council to declare the role of the city’s attorney general as being independent from the Executive Branch and calling for the position to be filled by election.

Another major accomplishment has been his bringing to fruition the “Omnibus Public Safety and Justice Amendment Act” which affected 39 separate laws by improving various provisions thereby improving law enforcement. The Act also created new crimes, including one dealing with illegal firearms in motor vehicles, and added a new authority to address gang violence by establishing a practical, on-the-streets intervention mechanism designed to reduce such violence.

We are puzzled by complaints that we hear in some circles that the council member is not “aggressive” enough, that he’s too “low-key” and therefore isn’t effective. We strongly disagree. While we admire legislators who come on strong (but only if they are especially smart and knowledgeable), this doesn’t mean that one who is quiet isn’t equally effective.

This is a council member who is deliberative, a stickler for detail, one who watches out for every nuance in the language of the legislation that he is called upon to vote. We need members on the council with that skill to ensure that what gets enacted into law doesn’t later reveal flaws that create unintended consequences for the city or for individual citizens.

With this, along with his constant watching out for efforts by city government officials seeking to chip away at civil rights in the name of crime prevention or other perceived dangers by bureaucrats, we enthusiastically urge the re-election without hesitation of at-large Councilmember Phil Mendelson.