Voice of Utah (voiceofutah) wrote,
Voice of Utah

Some unsolicited advice to Ralph Becker

Ralph Becker's folks evidently liked the story in this morning's D-News reminding us that many of Utah's part-time legislators have conflicts of interest on bills that they sponsor. What a shocker! (Well, actually it was; we would have guessed the percentage of conflict bills at much higher than 25 percent.) Anyway, back to Becker, whose campaign website quickly linked to the article. That was understandable, because it depicted Becker as a guy interested in ethical government. That's always good. Ironically, though, when I got to this part I had to laugh:

    House Minority Leader Ralph Becker, D-Salt Lake, says he has considered several ways to make conflicts of interest more "open and transparent" in the Utah Legislature. But each time he has made proposals, he has met with resistance from colleagues and abandoned his efforts.
The funny part wasn't so much the comment as the imagined reaction to it by VoU2 if she happened to read it. Just two days earlier, when asked her perception of Ralph Becker, VoU2 offered this take:

    "I think he’s been in the legislature too long. He’s been browbeaten. He doesn’t know how to run anything because he's used to rolling over."
Don't get us wrong--we both think that Ralph Becker would probably be a pretty good mayor. He's one of our top three choices. He's intelligent, a capable businessman, and a Democrat. (Yes, we know, potholes aren’t Democratic or Republican, but until there is more balance in this state, party is a tiebreaker.) He just doesn't rev our engines.

What’s our problem with Ralph Becker? Mush. Becker supporters, hold your fire. These are honest perceptions formed by a couple of disinterested observers; wouldn’t you rather know what people are thinking? What might tip the scales for undecideds like us? We’re not saying that Becker isn’t smart; we know that he is. We’re not saying that he isn’t ethical; we know that he is. To us, he just comes across as, well, mushy.

Willing to admit that I might be wrong, I sat down with a respected veteran of city politics a while back and ran through the list of candidates. Except for one candidate, they all have their pros and cons and would be acceptable, he opined. When it came to Becker, the burning question had to be asked:

    "Is he a wimp?"

    "A bit," he nodded. "But he would not be a bad mayor."
Good to hear. So, can Becker get elected? He was at 9 percent in last month's early poll, but top candidate Jenny Wilson only had 20, so it's a wide open field. Speaking of Wilson, to an outsider she seems to have the personality trait what we're talking about: Oomph. It. Pizzazz. When Wilson upset incumbent Steve Harmsen in 2004, it wasn't just about (sur)name recognition, good organization, and perfect timing. She had attitude. Who could forget the time that she drove behind Nancy Workman's dignified vehicle in a little car with a sign that said, "Already saving the County money"? Brilliant.

Salt Lake is used to a mayor who, for good or bad, grabs the bull by the horns. Love him or hate him, no one can accuse Rocky Anderson of being wishy washy. Granted, more than once we’ve wished that Rocky would do things differently, less eye poking and more hand shaking. But we want to feel confident that the mayor could jab someone in the eye if he needed to. Could Becker? We don't know. Could Wilson? Oh, yeah. In spite of, or perhaps because of, her background in child advocacy, Wilson is outspoken and gutsy – not inappropriately, and not all the time, thank goodness. Just as we don’t want to be led by the Lord of Milquetoast, we don’t want Mayorzilla stomping around, either. We’re not asking Becker to flip the bird to Greg Curtis or chain himself to the City Center Trax station to protest the Skybridge. We just want to believe that he could come out swinging if an occasion called for it.

Becker is – and he’ll be the first to tell you this – a diplomat, a consensus builder, a collaborator, a compromiser, a guy who plays well with others. We get it already. GOP legislators won't hate you like they hate Rocky. You catch more flies with honey than vinegar. Compromise is a good thing. All true. We like a guy who seeks compromises, as long as he will put someone over his knee when needed, say, in the unlikely event that the state legislature did something irrational and/or retaliatory and/or mean-spirited. A guy who writes poetry is wonderful, if he can also punch out the mugger in the alley. If you want to win over waverers like us -- and if you don't, fair enough -- amidst all the "consensus-building" and "collaboration" and "quiet diplomacy," how about sprinkling an occasional "I feel strongly about this . . . ."


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