So I was on WMT radio last week when Bob Bruce asked me why so many people are interested in being the next mayor of Cedar Rapids. I rattled off some answer about critical junctures and such.
But really, what Bruce asked me is a pretty important question right now. And it deserves some exploration.
For starters, important elections draw candidates. Just look at the crowd of wannabes that sought the presidency during the 2008 cycle.
There’s a palpable sense here in Cedar Rapids that the fall election will be pivotal and perhaps one of the most important in the city’s history. The issues are huge. Voters are interested. Turnout will be relatively high. It adds up to an irresistible test for the ambitious, idealistic and competitive people who typically seek elected office.
True, on paper, the mayor’s job isn’t much to text home about. It’s a part-time position. You’re one vote on a nine-member council. The pay’s not great and your actual statutory powers are few.
But often in politics, circumstances create power and influence that didn’t exist before. And the mayor’s office in Cedar Rapids is now rich in that circumstantial clout.
That makes the election worth winning. It makes the job worth having.
Since the flood, residents have been clamoring for strong, cohesive leadership to emerge from City Hall. The current occupant, Mayor Kay Halloran, has, to put it kindly, failed to quench that thirst. Into that gaping power vacuum have flowed all sorts of expectations for how the next mayor will ride in and lead the charge.
Simply put, a good sized pile of circumstantial power is sitting there, waiting to be grabbed.
For all the power centers popping up around here in the past year, the private sector-driven Economic Planning and Redevelopment Corp., the yet-to-be-hired city flood CEO/superman, etc., the new mayor will be the only one backed up by a citywide vote. That will mean something when push comes to shove on some big decisions.
And in politics, timing is everything. The optimist in me says the economy will recover, the feds finally will start sending us delayed recovery money and rebuilding is going to kick into high gear. The next mayor will have a big voice in charting how redevelopment occurs and draw some of the credit for getting the good times rolling.
Sure, it’s taboo for candidates to admit future ambitions, but you don’t have to be a high-priced political consultant to understand that presiding over a comeback would look pretty good on a congressional or gubernatorial resume.
It’s a big job at a big moment. Let’s hope the campaign lives up to it.
BE THE POLL — As of this hour, 283 votes have been cast in my unscientific mayoral poll, which is an unusually high number for one of my weekend blog polls.
Ron Corbett leads with 119 votes, followed by Brian Fagan with 94. Good old “None of the Above” is in third with 19 votes followed by Monica Vernon with 16, Gary Hinzman and Linda Langston each with 12 and Scott Olson with 11.
Meaningless, but fun. I may have a Corbett-Fagan runoff at week’s end.