Are Rocky's methods hurting city business?

By Erin Stewart and Kersten Swinyard
Deseret Morning News

Published: Tuesday, Sept. 13 2005 12:00 a.m. MDT

Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson's outspoken nature has city employees professing that the man is a beast to work for while equal numbers swear by his do-or-die leadership style and frenetic work pace.

Yet, the latest high-profile shufflings — those of Deeda Seed, Anderson's former communications director, and Christy Cordwell, his longtime personal assistant — have once again raised questions of how the mayor's personality affects the public's business.

Personality differences are bound to distinguish political leaders, but Salt Lake City Council members say the capital city's mayor single-handedly stalls the city's legislative and cooperative interests throughout the state.

"I think that it's difficult to work with this mayor because this mayor has one opinion," Councilman Eric Jergensen said. "Sometimes he gets so caught up in that one opinion that he's not willing to listen to anyone else. It's very difficult to have a functioning government when one branch of that government is always right and the other is usually wrong."

Anderson said his personality does not hinder the city's business.

"That's just political nonsense," he said.

On the contrary, he believes his methods have enhanced the city's image. "We've made tremendous progress in the city. The energy and passion I bring to the job are contagious."

Anderson's differences with the City Council are well-known and plentiful. There was the spat about the Human Rights Commission (the council established it, Anderson said it was toothless); then the fight about withdrawing support for the Utah League of Cities and Towns (Anderson said the organization doesn't represent Salt Lake City's best interests, the council voted to stay with the league); and finally, Anderson's accusation that council members were voting on city business based on their religious beliefs.

Anderson has also clashed with other mayors, residents of other counties, most notably, Davis County residents, and the Utah Legislature. Confrontations with those people have directly impacted his effectiveness, said Councilman Dave Buhler, who also lobbies for higher education with the Legislature.

"I would not call him a collaborator or someone who listens really well," Buhler said. "With the Legislature, he's the man they love to hate. Unfortunately, he brings it on himself and involves himself in issues that are not city issues."

For instance, Anderson said Davis County residents undermined quality of life in Salt Lake City with their general support of the proposed $750 million Legacy Highway.

Lawmakers said Anderson's vocal dislike of opinions different from his own nearly cost Salt Lake City $4 million for a Salt Palace expansion project. Legislators during the 2005 session also eliminated the possibility of using redevelopment agency projects for the Real Salt Lake professional soccer stadium that Anderson is courting.

New poll results

Anderson's political tactics may also be costing him voter approval, according to a new Deseret Morning News/KSL-TV poll.

Of 230 respondents, 50 percent said they probably or definitely disagree with Anderson's political style. Forty-three percent said they agreed with his style in the survey conducted Aug. 29-Sept. 1. The poll by Dan Jones & Associates has a 7 percent margin of error.

"I'm a firm believer that organizations assume the personality of their leader," said Frank Pignanelli, a lobbyist, former Anderson political opponent, and political columnist for the Deseret Morning News. "Salt Lake City being isolated from the rest of the state is just like Rocky being isolated from the rest of humanity."

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