Denver Direct: Reflections on the recent election of Paula Sandoval to Denver City Council
Wednesday, May 26, 2010
by Cathy Donohue, former City Council President
“Big City” power brokering is the game that was played to put Paula Sandoval in office as the District 1 City Councilmember. This win was based more on endorsements of her political friends and personal finances than her ability as a successful legislator.
State Senator Paula Sandoval, who could not take contributions because State law prohibits contributions while the Senate is in session, simply played it safe and spent $40,000 of her family’s money to win the council seat. The runner-up spent $25,000 of her own money to win second place.
Both candidates were able to gamble sizeable amounts of money, betting on the come. Why were they so sure they could win, or was gambling that much money small potatoes to them?
I watched 8 public forums where each of the candidates presented themselves and their political ideas for District l. Paula Sandoval said nothing but tired, old platitudes; but she did mail six pieces of literature to all constituents that listed the names of prominent political figures who were endorsing her. Neither she nor the runner-up had any record of ever being involved in City issues.
It has been claimed that she won a “popularity” contest. I do not believe that theory. It might have been a fair fight if all of the contestants had a similar amount of money to buy the advertising necessary to inform the voters who they were.
City Hall is in dire need of new blood–someone who will speak out on the issues and not vote in lock step with the Mayor. I have not seen such control of the city’s legislature since the days of Mayor McNichols. He had his votes in his pocket for the first seven years that I served as a member of the Council. It took that long for Sal Carpio, Bill Roberts, Sam Sandos and me to gather the seven votes in his last year as an office holder to defeat his machine. In l982, we finally found the seven votes needed to change several parts of the City Charter that put a stop to his corrupt rule of city government.
When Mayor Pena came into office, every issue that was important had a 7 to 6 or 6 to 7 vote. He had no one in his pocket and our votes were issues oriented. He had to prove that his programs deserved our support. Sometime we supported him; sometimes we did not.
For the past 6 years, no one but Jeanne Faatz has dared to challenge the Mayor. Once in a while Charlie Brown joins her, but there is no political debate at City Council.. The votes are 99% in favor of the Mayor’s programs. I would like to be able to witness genuine debates at City Council meetings. Is it wise to charge admissions for events in our parks? Should the Council have questioned the Mayor’s idea to give away our green park land in Civic Center for another huge museum? Is the 750- page new Zoning code good legislation that the citizens understand?
There is no debate; just lock-step approval of Mayor Hickenlooper’s plans.
The newly elected member of Council, Paula Sandoval, was able to risk $40,000 betting on the come that she would win. She has had a lackluster career as a State Senator. She is a follower, not a leader.
She will simply follow the directions of her husband, who promotes the current Hispanic agenda and guards his city concession contracts. He used to be a genuine leader, who sponsored and fought for history-altering legislation; but that is not the case with his wife. She just keeps the embers alive long enough to benefit from the old “name recognition” game.
We are not being well served by this time-worn, “big time” political path to success. We needed a strong voice at City Hall. Many of the “also ran” candidates were people who would have been true servants of the people. Although several worked tirelessly to win, they did not have a chance without the big bucks. What we have now is an echo, who will vote whatever the Mayor wants and whatever is good for her special friends.
Former Denver City Councilmember
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