Wednesday, February 25, 2009

State of the City

I attended Mayor Mark Mallory's "State of the City" address this evening. (Text here, courtesy the Enquirer.) I'm not sure how the speech will read, but I can tell you that the mayor's delivery made clear that his top priority this year is the streetcar proposal.

Mayor Mallory isn't typically a fire-and-brimstone kind of speaker, but he got downright fiery when he talked about the streetcar. In fact, that was probably the only thing he got fiery about. He noted the development and investment streetcars brought in Tampa, Charlotte, and Seattle, and insisted that the "naysayers" not be permitted to "derail" the project.

There was also an interesting moment towards the end of his address. Mallory spent much of his speech recognizing and thanking various community leaders. In discussing the uptick of convention business last year, Mallory thanked Chris Smitherman for his leadership with respect to last summer's national NAACP convention. While the mayor was, I think, trying to be gracious to the man who has very recently become one of his most outspoken critics, it was clear that the audience wasn't sure how to respond. While the other individuals Mallory mentioned got rounds of applause that were fairly robust, the response to the mention of Smitherman was fairly tepid.

All in all, a good night for Mallory, I think. (And by the way, he affirmed that the "first" phase of the streetcar plan is to include the uptown connector.)

A postscript: I just saw on the late news that Monzel, who delivered the "Republican response" (or just a response?), took the opportunity to reject the streetcar proposal. It's not a new position for him, but makes me wonder: has the HamCo GOP officially staked out an anti-streetcar position? As our regular readers know, I remain ambivalent about a streetcar plan, but would be surprised if the GOP were going to foist an anti-streetcar platform on its five candidates this fall, as I'm not sure it will help them. (And Republican Councilmember Ghiz, if I recall correctly, voted for the streetcar.) And if the party doesn't have a position, then something's amiss: if Monzel was giving a truly "Republican response," then why would he set out his personal position, rather than the party's positions?

Interestingly, Jane Pendegrast suggests that Monzel was to speak for the GOP (quoting Chair Alex Triantafilou as saying that the "opposite party" hadn't given such a response in a while), and Triantafilou refers to the remarks both as "Chris Monzel's response" and "our response." So for whom was Councilman Monzel speaking this evening: just himself, or the entire HamCo GOP?

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