Saturday, June 14, 2008

super mayor

I was in Washington D.C. this week with the mayor for an event hosted by the Brookings Institution. While there, the mayor appear appeared on C-SPAN's Washington Journal and testified before the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs.

The Senate affair was a trip. He testified on a panel of mayors that included Michael Bloomberg of New York.

Before the meeting, we waited in an ante room outside the committee chambers. The mayor chatted with Shirley Franklin, mayor of Atlanta, and John Peyton, mayor of Jacksonville. Then a few senators showed up, and finally Bloomberg arrived with his entourage of six or seven staffers. As soon as he appeared, it was time to go.

They opened the door to the chambers, and there was a wall of photographers clicking away -- all of them there for Bloomberg. They kept their cameras trained on the super mayor as he made his was around the room to his seat and while he testified their shutters fired nonstop.

Mayor Franklin spoke after him and about three of the photographers took some pictures of her. Then for Mayor Peyton I think one took a couple shots. Mayor Funkhouser was last, and I was focused on what he was saying so I couldn't tell if anyone took a picture. But if one had, I'm sure it would've been just one or two.

All this was very interesting, because just two days earlier we had been informed by a reporter at our hometown paper that no one would be covering the event. Upon hearing this, my colleague Kendrick called an editor to complain.

Afterward we got a Lexis-Nexis tally of coverage for the event. There was a nice big story from the Atlanta paper, and an even longer one from AP, in which Funk got the top quote and the kicker quote. But when we got home and opened our hometown paper the next day we found a six-inch story buried in the B section -- not even a quote in it.

The whole trip was surreal. In DC, he was highly revered. At this Brookings event, for instance, he was asked to give the closing thoughts. And this was no small thing. It was the largest event in the history of the institution. After his testimony before Senate he got tons of praise from the senate aides and the lobbyists who were all hustling around the scene.

What's more, everyone out there was saying the same stuff the mayor's been saying in KC. They were all talking about the need for regional cooperation on transit, the need for increased investment in infrastructure, the need to start acting strategically and to stop playing politics.

But back home, he's considered a loser by the political insiders -- which includes the folks at the paper. So frustrating. So strange.\

Funny thing, though. Bloomberg was widely detested his first year or so in office. He joked about this while testifying. Referring to how tough it is to be a mayor, he said something like, "If you want to ban smoking, close fire stations, take over the school district and have a parade on Staten Island. All of which turned out to be very popular. So what do I know?"

So maybe our trials are all just par for the course.

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