Foreword: This is headline news up here as far as I'm concerned. What a novelty - a mayor who wants to be mayor rather than be an antiwar pop star.
The Deseret Morning News reports that Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker (pictured at left) is currently attending the U.S. Mayors Conference being held in Washington D.C. Becker is the only Utah mayor amongst a list of 219 U.S. mayors who signed up to attend (the Deseret News reports over 250 in attendance, based upon this press release), so apparently a number of others were "walk-ins"). The conference will last from January 23-25, and Becker is expected to return Saturday. Supplemental report posted by the Salt Lake Tribune.
The 76th annual winter meeting's agenda is packed with panels and seminars on everything from climate change and "green jobs" to tourism and protecting infrastructure, but it also allows Becker to meet other mayors to compare notes. This will be helpful to him because while he's a veteran legislator, he's still a rookie mayor.
"I look at these kinds of meetings and conferences as a chance to both learn what's going on in other communities both from other colleagues and peers and also from experts in the field who are students of cities," said Becker, who was sworn into office on January 7th. "It's a good opportunity for me at the beginning of my administration to get acquainted with an organization that is set up to provide service and, based on all accounts I hear, provides superb assistance and service to mayors."
Becker said he feels cities are taking the lead in many issues and he hopes that the federal government will keep the interests of cities in mind. "Our job has a very direct connection to our residents and they have an expectation of us not to get bogged down in our political differences but to solve problems in the community and to try to achieve aspirations of the community," Becker said.
Becker also met with Rep. Jim Matheson (D-Utah) and Rep. Rob Bishop (R-Utah), and plans to meet with other members of the delegation or their staffs before he leaves on Saturday. "Those relationships are so important for the city," Becker said. "I want to make sure that we are well informed both about what's being considered and make sure that the congressional delegation is aware of both issues and funding that are important for the city so that we can hopefully achieve more of our desires."
Becker believes that attending conferences such as this is important to make sure that Salt Lake City is seen as part of the bigger world. "Salt Lake City is not only not an island within our valley and within our region or within the state, Salt Lake City is affected by what happens in Washington, D.C., and it is important that the city have a presence here and make sure that we are heard here," Becker said.
And so far, he's not taken time out to give an antiwar speech. But he does want to take time out to visit his 85-year old mother, who lives in Washington.
There are actually two mayors' conferences per year. The winter conference is permanently anchored in Washington D.C., while the summer conference rotates amongst different cities.
One of the more controversial participants in this conference is Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, who chairs the Council for the New American City. This must have been an affirmative action appointment. You can find out more about his "New American City" and the way he runs it on the Detroit Is Crap blog. However, a more constructive participant is Anchorage (AK) Mayor Mark Begich, who is rumoured to be readying himself for a run at Senator Ted Stevens' job. Begich chairs the Community/Military Relations Task Force, and few cities have a better relationship with the military than Anchorage, which abuts both Elmendorf AFB and Fort Richardson. Hill AFB is a bit further way from Salt Lake, but this issue will still be of interest to Ralph Becker nonetheless.
Commentary: While I disagree with much of Ralph Becker's politics, particularly his pandering to gays, it is truly a pleasure to see that Ralph Becker is much more interested in being a mayor than in being a bombastic antiwar pop star. He's actually doing the business of the city at this Mayor's Conference. What a novelty!
Finally, after eight long years, Salt Lake is represented by a professional politician once again rather than a grandstanding demagogue. Thank God the "Rock" is history! Good riddance!