If you think our state one-party politics is boring, try our local no-party politics, where you can’t tell the players without a program. Take our mayor—please! Mayor Denson is a lifelong Democrat, but she could just as well be a Republican and was elected in the non-partisan election with the enthusiastic support of local Republicans. Ms. Denson has presided over her first term as a don’t-do-anything, don’t-rock-the-boat mayor, and now she’s running for a second term with more of the same. If she wins, as of course she probably will, that means our savvy, progressive little city will have endured eight years of standing still, of not addressing any major problems or proposing any major initiatives other than routine street paving and being sure that innovations like the Blue Heron river district or the downtown master plan don’t go anywhere.
The most amazing aspect of Mayor Denson’s first term is that the Athens-Clarke County Commission, which was by-and-large progressive when she was elected, has basically just dozed off into complacency. Instead of revolting against the do-nothing mayor, they have become a do-nothing commission. Kelly Girtz and Mike Hamby, the firebrands who supported Mayor Denson’s opponent, have not been heard from since she took the oath of office. The political speculation at that time was over which one, Hamby or Girtz, would be running against Denson in 2014. Turned out to be neither.
If the court-ordered May non-partisan election schedule holds up, that means just a few months until elections here. Not much time for anybody to organize a campaign, but here’s hoping that somebody will. As a community, we need a choice between Nancy Denson and a viable candidate who can present an alternative and cause us to discuss whether four more years of purposeful inaction is what we want. We need to hear from somebody who has better ideas and is willing to put them out there for us to consider. What we basically need is a Daylight Savings candidate who will spring forward instead of falling back. The only announced challenger, Ryan Berry, doesn’t have any experience in government, but his heart is in the right place.
Sure, that’s a big commitment from anybody, and there aren’t that many people around who have the requisite knowledge and experience to mount a serious campaign for mayor. But come on, folks: if you’re out there, and you have the qualifications to be a candidate, please consider running for mayor. Even if you don’t win (and you know the odds are against unseating an opponent—though it has been done here), you will provide a valuable forum for us to discuss what kind of city we want Athens to be. Jump in! Save us from our slumber.
Meanwhile, two, at least, of our commissioners are retiring. The commission will never be the same without George Maxwell and Kathy Hoard. They have given a definite personality to the group, and they have worked hard on behalf of their constituents. Nobody has announced yet to run in George’s District 3, but Kathy’s District 7 already has a solid contender in Five Points businesswoman Diane Bell, who was ready to announce her candidacy when Kathy announced her retirement.
Speaking of discussing issues, Democratic State Senator Jason Carter’s entry into the governor’s race ensures a forum for talking about Gov. Nathan Deal’s disastrous performance in regard to education and health care, not to mention transportation and job creation. Carter is, of course, following in the footsteps of his grandfather, Jimmy Carter, who also ran for governor as a little-known state senator. Though he lost that first race, he came back the next time and won. Jason Carter has nothing to lose, and just by his candidacy he will focus the spotlight of reason on our sorry state politics. He’ll also just by his presence help the campaign of fellow Democrat and famous-name bearer Michelle Nunn, who is running to replace Saxby Chambliss in the U.S. Senate against a host of right-wing radicals.
Let’s hope things heat up here at home, too.