- 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.
- "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."
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."
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 . . . ."