Think of an old movie, a black and white—a Western film about a small town. Now picture the mayor of this small town. He walks the dusty streets. He knows the sheriff. He knows the man who owns the saloon, the druggist, and the dentist. He knows what is going on in the city day to day, and the concerns of its people.
This mayor also knows what threatens the city: a gang of bandits from another town, a harsh winter, or a bug that kills crops. He’s concerned about gathering or importing materials to build more houses for people to live in. He’s thoughtfully considering the protection and conservation of resources like well water or emergency rations.
This mayor has his hand on the heartbeat of the town. It’s a position of power. But it’s not the kind of power you fear. It’s the kind of power that you rely on for protection.
• Asking Another Question •
On May 16th, Colorado Springs (often called a big small town)will have a new mayor. It will either be Yemi Mobalade, a local small business owner and pastor who has worked in the City Administration, or Wayne Williams, a lawyer who has been a Colorado Springs City Council member, an El Paso CountyCommissioner, and the Secretary of State for Colorado.
Here’s the question that seems to be in everybody’s mind and DMs: “Which of these men do I agree with politically?”
Our national elections are aggressively publicized, and undeniably polarized. It could be argued that we’ve absorbed the dynamics of national elections as a sort of mental or emotional template for local elections as well, which is why our minds snap immediately and exclusively to political alignments.
Understanding the political stance of Mobolade and Williams is important insofar as we are trying to understand the man, how his mind works, and what kinds of solutions he will bring to the problems we face as a city.Ultimately, we all want a leader who thinks as we do and will bring us closer to the kind of community we envision.
As you consider political alignment, I’d like you to also consider asking another question: “Which of these men do I trust to increase the quality of life for me, my family, and the people of this city?”
• Defining Quality of Life •
First of all, I think it’s worth saying that neither candidate is politically extreme. If and when the country descends into madness, it will not begin with the Colorado SpringsMayoral race. So, that’s a relief.
I’ve proposed that we focus on quality of life as a metric for making this decision.The first step to knowing which candidate will improve my quality of life starts with a definition. What does quality of life mean to us? What is it we want our city government to provide?
Safer streets? More affordable housing? More jobs? Clean, safe parks? Thriving businesses? More art, music, and fun things to do? Less crime?How about a lot less crime? How about dangerous drugs being taken off the streets? How about more resources and mental health education so our suicide rates will go down? How about the protection of our natural resources?
Do we want a mayor who cares about these things?
I believe that no matter your political affiliation, your answer to all of the above would be a solid yes. Why? Because you’re a human being and at the end of the day you want a safe, clean, happy place to live and work and raise your kids. In the end, this election is simply about a city full of humans, and the human who leads us.
• The Mayoral Office •
Colorado Springs uses a so-called “strong-mayor”system, which means the mayor has administrative and decision-making power, as opposed to a “weak-mayor” systemwhere the mayor is more of a ceremonial role.
That said, the Executive and Legislative branches of the city(mayor and council) do not directly mirror our federal/constitutional form of government where, for instance, the legislative branch must propose the budget.Council must vote to approve, but it’s the mayor as Chief Executive who puts the budget together and brings a draft to the council. Also, the mayor can veto the city council’s decisions, but the council can also override his veto.
The mayor has a myriad of duties. He is in charge of appointing and removing people in positions of power. He creates committees that can accomplish things for the city, and work to maintain smooth governmental operations. He has access to the inner workings and operations of all municipal departments, divisions, and agencies (most importantly, the City Attorney’s Office and the CSPD).
He can establish any administrative departments, offices, oragencies necessary to help run the municipal government. He is responsible to propose the city’sbudget and sign contracts on behalf of the city.
Clearly, this has to be someone we can trust. There are things a mayor can’t do.The mayor can’t do anything about climbing interest rates and the effect that has on ourcurrent housing crisis. But he can use his position to convene entities(non-profits, for-profits, etc.) that could help devise solutions. The questionis whether he cares enough to do so.
• Practical, Humble, Present •
There are always going to be big political, philosophical issuesto think about. Things we’re all passionate about. I hope we never stop wanting to test our intellectualmetal against our neighbors and argue about outcomes, and challenge the system.But this election isn’t about that. It’sabout things that are practical, humble, and very present. Civil protection, community growth, economic strength.
We need affordable housing. The mayor can encourage theconstruction of homes that fit the present need. We need more police. The mayorcan inspire local men and women to join the force and present them with bothreason and reward for doing so. We need to control crime, create mental healthresources, and support small businesses. The mayor can collaborate with local organizations to find solutions.
His values, more than his politics, will guide his actions in all these important things. We don’t need a leader who is politically aligned with us on every issue. But we do need a compassionate leader, a connected leader, a leader who can bring people together to solve present problems and prepare for the kind of future we all want.
May 16th is rolling up fast! Get to a ballot box and turn in your ballot ASAP.