posted on November 6, 2011 by fractalbob
There’s a clear winner in the Candidate Death Match in today’s Voters Guide in the local paper.
But first, let’s look at some of the strange, strange things the candidate questionnaires reveal.
First, Sandra Hanscom’s No. 1 Priority — “have Huntsville designated as a Certified Retirement Community.” I’m more than 30 years away from retirement, so be prepared for me to say some very uncool things that I will one day look back on with the deep desire to kick myself in my ass. But from where I sit, this is the single stupidest thing printed in this guide. There are plenty of sinister things, silly ones, and some factually wrong things, but this is the stupidest.
How in the hell does a certifiable retirement community coexist with a growing university community, and whose economic input will carry the bigger stick?
I know some awesome senior citizens in Huntsville, like Wes and Susan Sanders, who are superior as role models to anyone I have met anywhere. But as far as I know, Wes and Susan came here without being lured by a statewide marketing campaign.
You just can’t market Huntsville as both. No eighteen year old is gonna want to come to a senior citizens’ village to go to school. Those who are already here will fly those Bearkat flags upside down as a sign of distress if Sandra gets her way. Jesus, I sure as hell hope someone talks to SHSU before the city gets to work on this.
That being said, I would like to see Sandra win the Ward 4 council seat. I guarantee you this woman ain’t nobody’s zombie slave. She’s a shrew and a steam roller, but she’d be our steam-rolling shrew. Look out, clowns.
Another weird thing: Mac Woodward seems to have outed city secretary Lee Woodward (no relation) and city manager not-her-boss Bill Baine, who apparently don’t get along. Mac’s first priority is to pull them out of the ring to talk over their differences. Was there a public perception of a beef between the two? Lee is perfectly professional at City Council meetings and though Baine is usually not, I’ve never seen any display of tension between them. If it’s true there’s a problem, that’s insider info. Is Mac attempting to use public coercion to get Lee to succumb to Baine’s authoritarian management style? She works for the council, not Baine, so if he’s gunning for her, he’s got to go through council. Looks like that’s started. Maybe I’m reading too much into it, but if I am, it’s Mac’s fault, not mine.
In the mayoral death match, Mac loses big points for having squishy priorities. [First question in the questionnaire.] His priority is to get everyone working together. Sounds sweet, but not so fast. Mac says, “Cooperation for business and economic development will reduce the tax burden on current taxpayers. When we work together, we maximize the benefits and services to our citizens.”
I bet if you ask Don Johnson, Lydia Montgomery and Keith Olson, they would say that means, “Jack Wagamon has wasted enough time and money with his ‘bull crap.’ With his ass gone, we can get some more cool shit built on the west side of I-45.”
In other words, what someone wants you to know is that the “new protocol,” the post-Wagamon City Council, will not tolerate any more fucking lip from you hippies.
George Russell’s stated first priorities are humble and smack of garden-variety good government: efficiency and good stewardship. And if you believe that, I have some blighted property on University Avenue to show you. George loses points for wolf in sheep’s clothing disingenuousness. George has big plans for your tax dollars, or somebody else’s in the form of grants, starting with new sidewalks downtown.
Don’t get me wrong. I might want to live in the Tuscan paradise George says he envisions for us. But it’s only fair to give us a taste of that in the 1 thru 3 in your mayoral to-do list.
The first question winner is without a doubt Karl Davidson, who must have thumbed thru his complete Franklin Covey library before filling this out. Davidson wants to start with the end in mind — a strategic plan for the city.
The city has a limp-wristed comprehensive plan. Have you read it? It says stuff like, “Public transportation? Uh, it’s not common in cities our size, but SHSU might like some shuttles to move kids around to our shopping districts. OK, sure, we can look into that.”
The city knows what chain restaurants and stores it wants but, as far as I know, it has no clue about what type of industry to draw in or how.
Only George has done any real traveling, and George has the best answer to the question of what cities they like to visit and why. But none of the mayors-to-be makes a single cogent remark on what they have learned from their travels. Like “mixed use” complexes popular now with citizens and city planners all over the country who want to build strong neighborhoods and a livable downtown — people live there, dine, socialize, drink, shop and exercise there. People walk everywhere.
What should Huntsville do to enhance its brand? Mac and George give virtually the same answer, one firmly rooted in their common history: Sam Houston — the world’s most beloved alcoholic Unionist in Texas. Or the only one.
But Karl has a plan, y’all, a real one. The prisons! A rodeo! You can hear Dennis Hopper reading Karl’s answer in your head. Or I could. Maybe the voice in your head is Peter Lorre. Anyway, I fucking love Karl’s idea. I really do. I remember the prison rodeo back in the day. Can you imagine how much better we can market the un-PC camp of that event now in the hip 2010s?! Maybe Pabst will sponsor it.
The most idiosyncratic answer is one to the question about maintaining open government and transparency. Mac gets full points for his answer, quoting the law and publicly reaffirming his support for continuing to videotape council meetings. I can hear Don Johnson’s teeth grinding from here.
George wants to hang up Leonard Schneider, the city’s attorney, by his thumbs while we tickle him under the arms. I’m all for it. Full points to George, too.
But Karl earns not one point from his answer. In fact, I took points away. Karl lays the entire burden of government transparency at the feet of The Huntsville Item. He believes if they “tell both sides of the story,” that’s all the open government we need. Karl has a hard-on for the paper, yes, we all know. But I want a mayor who feels committed to preserving, even increasing, the ease with which the public and the media get access to public information. I want a mayor who insists on a city hall culture of openness and responsiveness to citizens. That means less story to tell in the first place.
In the final tally, though, Karl is the clear winner of the Voters Guide death match. His strategic plan goal beats the shit out of the competition hands down.
And now for the weirdest thing in the Voters Guide — Dr. Tom Cole’s Greco-Nietzchean riff on building a community of the citizens who are worthy of governance. I won’t spoil it for you. Go read for yourself and enjoy.