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The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

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Rocky Anderson is embarrassing Salt Lake City

By Aaron Zundel

Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson has been on television a lot these days. On March 19, he was on CNN, and on March 20, he appeared on the FOX News program “The O’Reilly Factor.” You’d think all this publicity would be good for Salt Lake City, right?

Wrong.

Anderson wasn’t on television touting the city’s extensive new “Downtown Rising” development. Nor was he discussing Salt Lake City’s excellent economy, burgeoning mass transportation system or the city’s uncharacteristically tolerant reputation toward alternative lifestyles. No, Anderson — as mayor of Salt Lake City — was calling for the impeachment of the president of the United States and doing it in such a way that he made a mockery of himself and the city he represents.

Coming under increasing criticism for his behavior, Anderson’s actions have been labeled by some — both inside and outside the media — as “embarrassing” and “inappropriate.” In response to the labels, Anderson has retaliated at every opportunity with rhetoric about how he’s simply being patriotic, how he’s concerned that the country is in the middle of the “worst constitutional and moral crisis we have ever faced” and how we ought to discuss the issues on their merits and not on the basis of “personal attacks.” Yet, demonstrating how far out of touch he is, Anderson’s comments about “personal attacks” come on the heels of countless protests at which he has screamed at the top of his lungs that the president of the United States is a “liar” and worse things.

The low point of the mayor’s behavior probably came during his appearance on “The O’Reilly Factor” when he got into a five-minute mudslinging grudge match with Bill O’Reilly and came off looking like an incompetent buffoon — not that O’Reilly came off any better, but people expect that from him and at least he’s not the face of a city.

None of this necessarily comes as a shock, though. The mayor’s addiction to attention, especially media attention, is longstanding and well-documented. For those who don’t know, Anderson is drawn to a television camera or microphone the way a 6-year-old is drawn to a passing ice cream truck. It’s possible that the mayor is simply playing politics and trying to get his name further out into the public sphere in hopes of landing a more prestigious job once he leaves his position as mayor. However, in the interim, Anderson’s actions have moved beyond simply embarrassing and into being detrimental to the city.

Busy with his pet project, Anderson has, in addition to his many rallies and television appearances, been spending a lot of time out of the state. On March 17, he was in Washington, D.C., at an anti-war protest, and on March 1, he was in Olympia, Wash., testifying before a state panel that is considering the endorsement of a resolution that would encourage Congress to — big surprise here — impeach the president.

Members of the Salt Lake City Council have said that not only has Anderson been irresponsibly misusing his position as mayor to advance non-city business, but also, due to his preoccupation with impeachment, he’s been derelict in his duties as of late. Salt Lake City Councilman Eric Jergensen in particular has expressed, on several occasions, how Anderson’s continued absences are impeding, if not completely obstructing, the business of the city.

Anderson, of course, denies the allegations of neglect, claiming he’s taking care of the city’s business while still finding time to protest. Either way, it’s clear that people are losing faith in Anderson’s ability to do his job. That loss of faith — be it perceptional or legitimate — is damaging to the city.

You won’t find a bigger supporter of free speech than I, and if Anderson wants to protest, more power to him. However, while he’s still wearing the mantle of mayor, Anderson ought to muster some dignity and act like a representative of the city. As a simple mayor, Anderson has no mandate to get involved in national politics. He was elected to run Salt Lake City — a job that, until recently, he’s done very well. He was not elected to involve himself in U.S. congressional matters.

If Anderson wants to call the president names and question his integrity, he ought to resign and join one of the many anti-Bush political groups, such as Moveon.org. Or, if he’s serious about impeachment, the mayor ought to resign, run for Congress and make his motion on the floor of the Capitol, where that sort of stuff belongs.

Either way, as long as Anderson continues to sit in the mayor’s office, he’d do well to remember what his real job is. Maybe then he could get back to the business of increasing Salt Lake City’s respectability–not detracting from it.

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