The epithets have flown at record pace ever since the unceremonious firing of Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson’s spokeswoman, Deeda Seed. People have called the mayor a tyrant, a boss from hell, a religious bigot and a borderline sociopath. On the lighter side, he’s been labeled a high-maintenance control freak or taskmaster.
I’m among the fortunate many who never served at the mayor’s behest. In fact, I’d rather dig my way through the center of the Earth using my mouth than work one month for him. Strangely, then, I hold a fond place in my heart for the handful of times he’s phoned to chew this newspaper out about stories even the least bit critical of his administration. “You call yourselves a progressive newspaper?!” he would ask with all the force of a blast furnace. “Unbelievable! Absolutely unbelievable!”
A grand total of 41 former employees float facedown in the moat encircling Rocky’s City Hall fortress. The hallmark of his take-no-prisoners approach to politics and social issues has a scorched-earth quality that leaves no one unscathed. From global warming to gay rights to D.A.R.E. to the Iraq war to Legacy Highway and back again, there’s no one left for him to offend, perturb or unsettle. Faced with the harshest criticisms, his apologies are anemic. (It’s no secret, either, that City Weekly founder John Saltas loathes the mayor’s behavior beyond contempt.) Mayor Rocky’s bar-hopping campaigns in the name of publicizing our city’s nightlife infuriate our Mormon populace as much as they bemuse those in favor of a good night out. It’s rumored that the primary goal behind the LDS Church’s downtown remodel, complete with BYU campus, is the seeding of enough Republican voters in Salt Lake City’s core so that mayors similar to Rocky will never be repeated.
The mayor is passionate to a fault about the duties of his office'passionate, in fact, to the point that his behavior toward his staff becomes uncompassionate. His strength is also his weakness. For all his faults, though, he remains that most precious of commodities: a politician and public figure who refuses unnecessary niceties when it comes to political principle. Frankly, in a state where politics couldn’t be more one-sided, that’s hardly a bad quality. In a city as staid and borderline comatose as ours, it’s refreshing beyond belief.
Mayor Anderson upsets the Legislature? Rural Utah considers that the height of arrogance, but a lot of Salt Lakers believe someone must play a contrary role to our lawmakers’ increasingly provincial tendencies. The mayor has one opinion and one opinion only? So does Genesis-thumping lawmaker Sen. Chris Buttars and plenty of legislators like him. Ponder for a moment how many “one-sided” right-wingers hold seats in this state and you might concede we need at least nine more Rocky Andersons to counterbalance their powerful influence on state affairs. Let Sen. Orrin Hatch call Rocky and his ilk “nutcakes” all he likes. Remember the days of Mayor Deedee Corradini, who placated the establishment while keeping scandal at bay? No thank you.
Separating personalities from politics is arduous, but sometimes necessary. Perhaps the two are inseparable, but remember that a lot of con jobs are performed by slick personalities attached to lots of flawed principles. No one’s perfect, so supporting a flawed politician with good principles is no vice. Mayor Rocky Anderson may be the mayor we love to hate, but there are those of us who would have a lot more to protest if he weren’t in office.