Republicans, a few years ago, were a force in City politics. But no more. Today, Democrats hold six City Council seats, one is held by an Independent who might as well be a Democrat and only one seat is held by a Republican.
In the 1990’s Republicans were elected Mayor and to the City Council by opposing runaway city spending. For instance, Tom Fetzer won the first time by opposing spending $90 million to build a new Convention Center.
Fast forward to 2007: Today the City is building a $220 million (and rising) Convention Center – and the Republicans on the City Council voted for it. Democrats are subsidizing hotels, restaurants and supermarkets and developers downtown – and the Republicans voted for that too.
The result has been a political disaster. Take, for example, the Mayor spending $20 million to subsidize a hotel downtown. Voters overwhelmingly opposed the subsidy. It was, politically, an issue Republicans could have drawn a bright line in the sand on between them and Mayor Meeker. Instead, they voted for the subsidy. So there was no debate. And on spending there was no difference between the Democrats and Republicans on the City Council.
Even worse, the Republicans on the City Council supported giving North Hills developer John Kane a $75 million tax subsidy – while Mayor Meeker and the Democrats led the fight to stop it. Suddenly the Mayor – of all people – was fighting against giveaways.
By supporting North Hills subsidies and boondoggle Convention Centers, Republicans (on the City Council) politically neutered themselves. There hasn’t been a Republican elected city-wide in four years and Republican district seats once held by John Odom and Tommy Craven are now in Democratic hands.
Here’s a suggestion for a change of direction: The cost of Mayor Meeker’s roundabouts on Hillsborough Street is now up to eight million dollars and a vote is due. Instead of supporting wasting the money to make Hillsborough Street look like Piccadilly Circus, Republicans need to take a stand to spend that money to relieve traffic congestion on Capital Boulevard.
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