City Council

With two councilors stepping down this April, it is time for candidates to step up

While it seems too soon to be talking about another vote, City Council elections are a far cry – and a welcome relief – from the increasingly nasty and polarized tone of state and national politics. And they are at least as important, which further highlights the fact that ugliness need not be a part of democracy.

All the more reason, then, for candidates to come forward now to help lead the city into the future. It is a worthy challenge, and this year in particular, prospective candidates have good role models in the person of departing councilors.

In April’s election, three City Council seats are up for grabs – those now held by Mayor Doug Lyon, and councilors Christina Rinderle and Paul Broderick. With that, the voters have the opportunity to continue, alter or reverse the course of city government.

Lyon has served two terms on the council and is prohibited from running again by term limits. Broderick is stepping down to devote more time to his family. Rinderle, also elected in 2009, is running for re-election.

With that, discussion of her qualities and accomplishments will be part of the actual campaign. For now, it is enough to direct would-be candidates to Lyon and Broderick.

For eight years on the Durango City Council, including stints holding the rotating gavel as mayor. Lyon has been a conscientious and dutiful councilor. While sometimes teased by a former councilor who served with him as being “pedantic,” Lyon comes by that honestly. He is a professor at Fort Lewis College and dean of college’s School of Business Administration.

That expertise has served the city well, as has his generally even demeanor and unwillingness to be too closely tied to ideology or fads. He has been a consistent backer of the business community, generally supportive of the city staff, and a reliable voice for good government.

Whether all is positive is, of course, a matter of perspective.

Councilor Broderick has taken a somewhat different tack. In speaking about his time on the council, Broderick talks about being on the short end of a number of 4-1 votes.

“It wasn’t easy,” he said, “to get up there and take a position that was counter to the other four councilors and (the) city staff, but there were certain things I felt strongly about. That’s what you are elected to do.”

He got that right.

Broderick sometimes casts his experience with the council in ideological terms, as the lone voice for conservatism. He talks about the need to limit government and how even with healthy, generally functioning government like the city’s, “There can be too much of a good thing,” he said.

But at least in fiscal terms, Lyon can claim to be at least as conservative. There is more to it than money or left-right divisions.

Where Broderick has been a real role model for future councilors is in his willingness to speak out publicly, to question the conventional wisdom and to wonder out loud if the emperor is in fact naked. Raising his voice about the La Plata Electric Association franchise fee may have been a pain for the city staff, but it was also an overdue education for city voters – and as such an excellent exercise in retail democracy.

Broderick’s warnings about government overreach are appropriate, but his best advice is addressed to future councilors: “You’re not city staff. You don’t work for the city. You work for the people.”

In there own and different ways, Doug Lyon and Paul Broderick offer splendid examples for future councilors. The question now is, who will step forward to succeed them?