I’ve been thinking about Einstein’s theory of relativity lately.
Mostly because of the excellent Christopher Nolan movie “Interstellar.” I won’t divulge any spoilers on the chance you haven’t yet seen the film. If you haven’t seen it, allow me to express my extreme disappointment.
If you’re not familiar with relativity, it’s basically the thought that time passes differently depending on your place in the universe.
Relativity is a part of political careers, too.. Time passes differently for different politicians, based mostly on how we perceive them.
Think back to Dee Dee Corradini as she was finishing up her second term as Salt Lake City Mayor. She was dogged by criticism for soliciting cash and loans to pay off her part in the failed Bonneville Pacific alternative energy corporation. Plus, she under fire for selling a block of Main Street to the LDS Church to create the Main Street Plaza. When she came to the end of her 8-years in office voters were clearly ready to move on.
After Corradini came Rocky Anderson. While he did many, many good things during his term at the head of Salt Lake City (seriously, read his Wikipedia entry if you want a refresher of all the things he accomplished). He also loved sticking his finger in the eye of Utah’s GOP establishment. For instance, he openly called for the impeachment of President George W. Bush. At the end of his two terms, many in Utah were weary of Anderson and his antics. Clearly, it was time for a change.
Americans are conditioned to want something different politically every 6-8 years when it comes to most high-profile offices. That’s partially the fault of the media that can’t stop looking ahead to the next election even before we cast ballots in the current contest.
I would also blame our American consumer culture. The default setting is to want something new, no matter how good the old thing might be. Think about the mania surrounding the release of the latest and greatest cell phone.
Now we come to the curious case of Mayor Ralph Becker.
Becker has the chance to be the first Salt Lake City Mayor to win a third term since Ted Wilson. Even though he’s been in office for 7 years, it doesn’t feel like it. He’s mostly kept his head down and avoided controversy, the new parking meter fiasco being the only notable exception.
But are parking meters enough to make Utah voters yearn for a change?
“If my sense was that it was not welcomed by the voters, I wouldn’t be running for a third term,” said Becker shortly after his official announcement on Monday.
Six months ago I would have bet money that Becker was not going to run for another term. He had over 20 years of retirement banked due to his time working in the administration of Gov. Matheson, from his tenure in the legislature and as Mayor. He recently got married and seemed poised to enjoy life and retirement to the fullest. But, something changed.
“Those are compelling arguments, but the fire I have in my belly for this job was more compelling,” Becker explained. “I don’t keep a checklist of things I needed to do in order to decide on a third term. This was purely a decision of the gut.”
Voters in Salt Lake City will have a year to decide if they want to give Becker another go-round at the helm. A year may seem like a long time. But, especially in politics, time is relative.