Measuring the Drapes

Measuring the Drapes

One of the great things about democracies is their eternal sense of revolution. Governments are toppled, term limits take hold, or elected officials simply decide to retire, and suddenly a fervid sense of potential takes hold. The New Regime arrives, fresh-faced and wide-eyed, prepared to do things as they have never been done before.

These political cycles are nothing short of rebirth. They’re also fairly predictable, in a quaint sort of way. To begin with, everyone appreciates seeing the new faces. Then, in 100 days or so, the nit-picking starts. Before six months is out, full-fledged battles over mind-bogglingly Dumb Stuff are breaking out all over the Metro Courthouse.

If incoming Mayor Bill Purcell has it together, he will dispatch the appropriate pols to clean up the messes, promise a new sewer line or two, and then move on to other business. Purcell has played the game before; one presumes he will treat these calamities as nothing more than the normal wreckage of government.

Purcell’s arrival foreshadows an administration that seems to be promising much on the rebirth side of the equation. Part of this owes to the fact that he was elected mayor at the same time that two African-Americans were elected to at-large positions in the Metro Council. A large number of women were also elected to Council. The new vice mayor is Jewish.

Along those same lines, Purcell has hired an administration that safely covers all the bases in the political spectrum. His chief of staff was once a national player in the Republican Party; his finance director worked for Democratic Gov. Ned McWherter; his arts/film/music administrator is openly gay.

So, if there’s a good vibe to all of this, it’s that, as Purcell has said, the government looks and sounds like the community it represents. So long as it doesn’t act like the community we’ll be in good shape.

Based on what we know about the newly elected Metro Council, it seems more outspoken, intelligent, and activist. Its members are probably more eager to embark on particular initiatives and agendas. Given that there is a lot of excitement among those who have been newly elected, members will likely want to be deeply involved.

While this is all positive, it is, in many ways, anathema to the interests of a city mayor who would just as soon they all go to sleep for a while and let him establish the playing field. But as we see things, that ain’t gonna happen. This group of 40 folks, all with the best of intentions, includes many who would be quite happy running the ship. So, if you’re Bill Purcell right now, one of the people you’re doing everything for is Ronnie Steine, the new vice mayor. It will be Steine, after all, who will have to herd the 40 cats into something resembling a cohesive legislative unit. We’re not sure how he plans to do it. But we feel certain he’s up to it.

So, if you’re looking for an early report card on Purcell, you’d have to give him high marks on the people in his administration, and the sense of hope that the community has. Long-term, Metro Council may give the guy fits, and that’s where Steine comes in. Before it’s all over, Steine may be left holding the chits.


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