We do like you, Dave, but…

Politics are a mess — especially when you get to know the politicians. They’re nice. Somewhat intelligent. Good people.

Never have I had so much difficulty pulling the trigger in a column.

But, like waterboarding, it’s business, not the Geneva Code.

So, Buhler, thank you so much for participating in the 2007 election and congratulations on reaching the final election. There’s nothing wrong with second place. You were an excellent candidate and ran a good campaign.

You’re a nice guy, Dave, and I, like your yard signs say, do like you. You’ve got a slick website, and I love the introduction. Very engaging and unique — I feel like I’ve known you for years and you’d be a great neighbor to have.

The message is clear, and it’s a good one: more transit, stronger neighborhoods, environmental stewardship. All are issues a mayoral candidate has to address in Salt Lake City. Although the bullet points outlining your stance on these issues are good ideas, they’re the same ideas that Ralph Becker, Jenny Wilson and Keith Christensen presented. Let’s face it, Dave — Salt Lake City is a city full of flaming liberals. The tree-hugging, anti-car, organic approach will get you a lot of votes.

Your fundraising was impressive and the money wisely spent. Your marketing director deserves a sweet job somewhere in the Art Space district. (Of course, Keith Christensen deserves a pat on the back for securing the most funds in the race, and he was done fundraising in September. Keith’s also a hell of a nice guy. Great field in all — you too, Jenny.)

Dave, you’re a doer — not a dreamer like Ralph Becker — and that’s swell. I’m sure you’re a savvy politician, and that the good ol’ boys on the hill would get along with you great. However, Salt Lake City needs somebody with a little vision, too.

It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that the city is undergoing a transformation.

The heart of downtown is in ruin — though just temporarily, as the blueprints for a new mall (City Creek) to replace the old mall are still being drawn, according to the city council. Condos are under construction from Gateway to Library Square, promising to inject the people necessary to fill the streets. There is a new planning draft commissioned by the Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce dubbed “Downtown Rising” that presents an ambitious vision of Salt Lake City’s future and potential. And new rail transit projects — a vital artery for vibrant urban concentrations — are sprouting up throughout the city and valley, giving commuters an option for how they get to work and play.

Salt Lake City is at a turning point — a time when the decisions made today will affect the state of the city for generations. If the City Creek project is botched or transit isn’t aggressively pursued, the city will lose valuable time getting it right.

The city needs a dreamer, a planner. At your own admission, Dave, you are not that person.

You voted “nay” in the city council to the University TRAX line. That was not very forward-thinking. It was a dumb mistake, you said, one that you regret. I’m glad that you have seen the light and realize how important alternative transportation is to society and how great TRAX has been to the city.

But, the fact remains — you didn’t see it coming. You did not have the vision to see that light rail would be a step forward for Salt Lake City. Thank God that your peers had that vision.

Imagine if your vote was the decisive one in 1999 (it was only a 4-3 decision). What would Salt Lake City (and the U) be like without TRAX? It would be at least 10 years behind.

Can I trust a guy who, less than 10 years ago, didn’t see the importance of light rail and alternative transportation to oversee the development that will shape the city for the next century?

I can’t, Dave, no matter how much I like you.

Ralph Becker is not only a dreamer, but he’s also the most qualified for the job. As an urban planner, he understands the elements necessary for a vibrant downtown and the challenges of metropolitan areas. While the community might not become entirely independent from the automobile and the city might not reach the international acclaim laid out by “Downtown Rising” during Becker’s tenure as mayor, he has the creativity and the know-how to begin building the foundation of these dreams.

Sorry, Dave. It’s nothing personal. You’re just not the best man for the job.

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