According to the snippet I caught on the TV news last night, the President of the Rapid City (SD) City Council, Jerry Wright, is "deeply offended." Wow. The blurb had all the makings of a major story, you know, something seriously serious. "Deep offense" is no trivial reaction so I paid close attention to the details that followed. You can imagine my chagrin when I found out that the source of Wright's consternation was the fact that Rapid City Mayor Sam Kooiker has been publicly supporting two candidates running for county offices, igniting Wright's rather overwrought outrage. Wright went so far as to insist that Kooiker should have taken a leave of absence in order to play politics. The headline on KOTA Television's story even says that Wright called for Kooiker's resignation.
Then, in escalating Wright's reaction to the realms of the ridiculous, KOTA's story goes on to quote Wright as saying that Kooiker's actions are an example of "Chicago style politics." Further stretching an already strained metaphor, Wright is quoted by the Rapid City Journal as saying "It smacks of machine politics. Richard Daley of Chicago is Sam Kooiker of Rapid City." Come again? At this point I can only laugh, based on my experience of having lived and worked in Chicago for about a decade, part of which was spent during the heyday of the "Daley machine." From that perspective, I can tell you that Wright doesn't have a clue. The Daley machine's ruthlessness when it came to retaining its hold on the political reins of Chicago (read Mike Royko's "Boss" for a great and well-documented depiction) were of an era and magnitude that Rapid City's local politicos will never live to see nor achieve.
Wright's political motivations are transparent enough, and I'm guessing that the general reaction among most observers other than his friends is similar to mine: So what's the big deal about a Mayor of any city getting involved in local politics? I mean, this is news? The real story is in gauging the effectiveness of the endorsements themselves. Kooiker and his preferred candidates are running some risk by going through this process: The Mayor's support can backfire because it could bring all the resentment that people may have against Kooiker to bear on his endorsees. My guess is that the local media wouldn't have even picked up on Kooiker's activities (done via that most annoying of political gadgetry, robo-calling) if Wright hadn't made such a gratuitous fuss about it.
The Mayor's involvement in all this is legal and tradition-bound. Wright's ill-considered reaction, especially his call for Kooiker to take a leave of absence--even resign--is way overdone. The ill will that was just created won't do the R.C. City Council much good now that the air has been fouled by this uncalled for political tantrum.
Interesting addendum (added on 6/1 @0930) and a very good point from one of my readers: "Point well-taken, John. Unlike council chair Jerry Wright, I'm not so troubled by Mayor Kooiker's endorsing county candidates (his right as a voter) but his judgement in WHO he's endorsing for county office. Holding brash youthful opinions and wingnut credentials do not necessarily make for reliable administrators." We need some discussion as to who the endorsees are and why Kooiker is supporting them so aggressively. Readers?