Rigor Vitae: Life Unyielding

Monday, January 07, 2008


Rocky Anderson is out of a job today, as Democrat Ralph Becker begins his term as mayor of Salt Lake City, and even though I voted rather enthusiastically for him, I hold little hope for his ability to adequately fill the shoes left by his predecessor.

The headquarters of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Mormons) has a somewhat undeserved reputation as a bastion of right-wing thought, and indeed, Utah gave George W. Bush a greater percentage of our vote than did any other state. In the 1992 presidential election, we were the only state that lavished fewer votes upon Bill Clinton than H. Ross Perot. Still, forward thinking does have a place in Salt Lake City proper, and nowhere has that been more evident than in our election of our outgoing two-term mayor, one of the country's most liberal. When the Bush administration eschewed the international Kyoto protocols, Anderson committed Salt Lake City to abide by them, surpassing those goals last year, seven years ahead of schedule. He's been an effective cultural leader, using his bully pulpit to spread the gospel of sustainable living to a populace that, frankly, thought little of it ten years ago. In the late '70s, the city ticketed me for replacing my lawn with a garden of native plants. Today, one can see xeriscaped yards on nearly every block of street in this desert metropolis, and Rocky deserves a good share of the credit. He's worked to make the city more walkable and bikeable, and has been an ardent supporter of minority and gay rights and of the arts. Over the past two years, he's gained national notoriety as vocal critic of the current White House, organizing demonstration rallies, circulating impeachment petitions, and debating such high-profile opponents as Bill O'Reilly and Sean Hannity.

Mind you, Rocky's no saint. He's an egomaniac and a bully. He tends towards self-righteousness and snivelry. He's even made me feel slightly embarrassed, a time or two, but far more often, it's been pride he's made me feel within, and that's something I can say of far too few elected officials.

Last July, Rocky announced he would not run for a third term as mayor, and he's been a bit coy about future plans. He implies that his immediate future will be in grass-roots organizing, but a retreat from the limelight couldn't be anything but frustrating for him. He's far too liberal to win a state-wide office, and the office of junior congressman seems as far from the limelight as anything. It's hard to imagine exactly what the future holds for Rocky Anderson, but it's a safe assumption that he'll continue to be a surprising and entertaining force for positive change.


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