Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Mayoral Elections: Which Dan and Why?

Many thanks are due to the Women's League of Voters, the Whatcom Independent and KGMI for sponsoring and producing tonight's Candidates Forum at the County Courthouse as a public service event!

Rather than duplicate the detailed media information disseminated via KGMI's listeners and the Herald's readers, I will limit these comments to my own observations regarding the Bellingham Mayor's race.

While this particular forum may not have changed many minds among those physically present, there were some clear winners and losers in my book.

One clear winner tonight was the Dan named Pike.

Dan Pike is a fine choice for Bellingham, because of his training, temperment and truthfulness.
Each of these qualities are essential to have in a truly responsible leader.

With such diverse issues all deserving of serious, fair and effective leadership, I trust Dan Pike to provide that combination of qualities, consistently.

Pike knows how critical it will be to reach out to all sectors of our community and incorporate both their concerns and constructive ideas into effective policy that citizens and the City Council will willingly support.

But, do not make the mistake of forgetting the City Council's role in all of this!
Because that elected body is comprised of public officials who also represent not only their constituencies, but this community as a whole.

It is the Council that must consider and approve any change in policy the Mayor may want.
And, the Council also controls the purse strings on the City Budget.

Any Mayor will need to have a good, mutually respectful, relationship with the Council in order to be effective in setting and carrying out City policy.
That is an important point to keep in mind.

I think Dan Pike exhibits really good potential to achieve that good relationship.
But, I'm not as confident about the other Dan's ability to do that as well, based on what has happened during the last 8 years.

I have supported Dan McShane in both of his last campaigns for County Council, and was very glad he was elected each time.
A big part of his strong support was that the quality of his opposition was so questionable.
Also, the County Council prior to Dan McShane's entry had been dysfunctional and woefully ineffective.
So, unquestionably, even as a relative unknown, his election helped that situation.

But, he also had help because some other good folks got elected too!
Council is a team thing in which leadership is only as good as attracting enough support to get something considered - and passed.

If you were to ask me -and many people have- what is it that gives me pause in endorsing Dan McShane for Mayor, I would be hard pressed to give a simple answer.
But, I can try.

One is the skills sets that make an effective Mayor go beyond what it takes to be a Council member.
I know that first hand!
While I certainly consider myself capable of performing the duties of Mayor, I recognize that I lack the patience, the youthful energy and the willingness to commit time required to do that job.
I may lack some other qualities as well, but those three are enough to illustrate the point.

The skill set required of a Mayor, especially an effective one, usually substantially exceeds the skill set required of a Council member, because of both the full-time management and leadership responsibilities involved.
Just look at the current salary differential, for example, because that is substantially based on relative job descriptions.

It is a recognized fact that a full time Bellingham Mayor now earns six times what a part time Council member earns.
That is as it should be, because the Mayor is essentially acting as a CEO, and managing a Municipal Corporation with an annual budget now exceeding $200 Million in public dollars.
That is not a job just anyone can do!
These arguments relate mainly to potential job performance based on professional training and job experience.

The other side of my evaluation relates to observations over time of the two Dan's.
In Pike's case, I can't say that I can directly attest to his performance on the job.
But other respected officials can, because Pike has already established an excellent reputation in responsible, highly visible, successful, public sector roles.
That kind of reference should be pretty directly applicable to an elected official with administrative duties.

With the other Dan, let's just say I have been underwhelmed - even disappointed- on several occasions with the lack of collaboration he has shown in working on issues involving the City of Bellingham since 2000.
Of course, there have been some notable successes too, although maybe not as many as claimed, or could have happened.

Unfortunately, a steady accumulation of criticism of 'the City' seems to characterize much of this Dan's tenure in office.
And be assured, that is not just what I remember!

Some of these criticisms may have been warranted, because the City is not perfect!
But, the criticism has continued to the point that some legitimate doubt exists over whether he truly understands the issues 'the City' faces.
They are similar to County issues, but certainly not the same.
Yet, he is now seeking the highest office in the same City he has repeatedly derided!

That just doesn't seem like a healthy marriage to me.
Heck, it might not be even a good blind date!

Sometimes history in local office can help a candidate, but sometimes it does not.
Suffice to say I was a stronger supporter of this Dan in 1999 than I am now, in 2007.
But, he has made a good County Council member and I sincerely thank him for stepping up to that job.
I would support him again in that endeavor, but not as Mayor.

At least not with Dan Pike in the race.
Dan Pike has a positive attitude that is oriented toward a better future.
He is not consumed with negativity from the past.

He is more inclusive in his approach, and I think that is what most people want.
He will be thorough in developing enough factual information on which to make an intelligent decision.
He will challenge people to bring forth good ideas, and enable City staff to perform by delegating responsibility and trusting them to perform well.

This is a critical time,
The issues are important.
Good leadership is needed.

I still like Pike.
Now, more than ever!
The guy will make us a great Mayor.

Remember, ballots get mailed tomorrow, Oct 17.
Be sure to vote.

Cheery bye for now...