Rocky Anderson will complete his first 100 days as mayor of Salt Lake City Tuesday, and one thing has become inescapably clear during that time: The laziest reporter in the world could cover this guy and still get all the stories he wants.
Rocky fires staffers! Rocky butts heads with Gateway developers! Rocky riles City Council by killing Brooks Arcade deal! Rocky goes after stray shopping carts! Rocky hammers out Olympics funding deal! Rocky resurrects light rail!
With Anderson, it seems every day brings another crisis, another all-important, controversial issue that needs to be dealt with right now. The very name bespeaks his style: Passionate, hard-nosed street fighter.
"I'm always surprised what the issues are," said City Council Chairman Carlton Christensen. "It's hard to read ahead and figure out where he's going on something."
Whether or not you believe it's directed appropriately, you have to admit Anderson has tremendous energy. In his first three months he has attacked large and small issues
alike with fervor and conviction, accomplishing a great deal and delighting and/or ticking off a lot of people in the process.
"We need to take pictures of him now and pictures of him three months from now and see when his hair goes completely white," said Alison Gregersen, acting director of Community and Economic Development.
Anderson estimates his average workday is 14 hours, occasionally stretching to 18. He is famous for meeting with anyone he needs to, at any time, to get something done.
Once he scheduled a two-hour meeting with a Gateway housing developer at 11 p.m.
The mayor doesn't get much sleep, often waking in the middle of the night and reading. Anderson subscribes to 15 magazines Columbia Journalism Review, Mother Jones and The New Republic among them and just finished a book on a Philadelphia mayor called "A Prayer for the City."
Sleep? Who needs it?
In three months, Anderson has been the key player in three major issues: keeping the downtown-to-university TRAX line alive, reworking the mammoth Gateway development west of the Union Pacific Depot and securing a deal whereby the state and the Salt Lake Organizing Committee agreed to fund city services during the 2002 Winter Games."I think a lot of people would look at (the Olympic funding deal) and say it was a minor miracle," SLOC President Mitt Romney said. "He was instrumental, key, in reaching a solution."
Unlike his predecessor, Deedee Corradini, who was a delegator, Anderson involves himself directly in almost everything. Romney, for example, mostly dealt with subordinates and met with Corradini directly only a few times. Not so with the current mayor.
"I think it's a good thing," Anderson said of his style. "We couldn't have done (the Olympic deal) otherwise. It's important you have somebody who knows all the players and knows what's going on."
That type of management, however, has a significant downside. Anderson has had a hard time hanging on to top staffers, either firing them or watching them resign, and many city employees complain that he keeps them on a very short leash. He has endured many accusations of micromanaging, and some observers say city employees are hesitant to do anything without the boss's direct approval.
"I used to hear from a lot of people in the city who were very frank with you, but now they are not as ready to share their opinions," Christensen said.
"When you go from being a lawyer, and a competent one, with a certain intensity, and you have to work with a broad administrative organization, I suspect it takes you a while to get the hang of it," said former law partner Dan Berman. "Maybe you need to step back a bit and give people more of a chance to do their job."
Anderson says he does just that, pointing to chief of staff Deeda Seed and chief administrative officer Rocky Fluhart as examples.
Given the mayor's way of doing things, it's probably not surprising that "there are a few flat spots on the wheels of the honeymoon buggy" with the City Council, as Councilman Keith Christensen puts it.
"If he has a demerit, it's for not listening to the opinion of the City Council with regard to policy matters," Christensen said. "Rocky needs to become more tuned in to collaborative dialogue."
Anderson has angered council members a few times for taking unilateral action without consulting them, as when he signed an executive order Tuesday prohibiting discrimination against homosexuals in city hiring.
Corradini, who has been watching her successor from her South Carolina home, declined comment on his management style or other specific issues."It's still early to make judgment calls," she said. "There is a steep learning curve when you take office. It's a very, very difficult job."
One thing all observers agree on is Anderson's complete sincerity in everything he does. He is strong and even extreme in his views, but they are not adopted for political advantage.
"He is true to the issues that he took into office from his campaign," said Boyer Co. chairman Roger Boyer, who tangled with Anderson over the size and direction of the Gateway project.
Boyer's conclusion, after several lengthy and at times borderline acrimonious discussions: "I have found him to be fair. Tough in negotiation but not unreasonable."
Fairness is a big thing for Anderson. Over the strident objection of the council, he killed a deal for renovation of the Brooks Arcade building on 300 South and State because he had concerns over how the contract was awarded.
The mayor has made ethical rectitude an important issue in his administration. He himself adheres to a "not even a free cup of coffee" gift-acceptance policy and has considerably straightened the city's ethics policies for others as well.
"I think this no-cup-of-coffee is extreme, but boy do I like these ethical values," Berman said.
As for the future, Anderson says with some of the major hurdles out of the way he plans to slow down somewhat. He recently joined a gym and began working out again (stair-stepper and weight-lifting, primarily) and finally took the time to ski a few weeks ago.Comment on this story
But there is still plenty on his plate. Anderson plans to address several issues in the months and years ahead, including airport light rail, commuter rail, an intermodal transportation hub at the Rio Grande Depot, affordable housing and after-school and summer youth programs.
His most immediate concern: the budget. The mayor has projected an $8 million shortfall this year and together with the council is now working to eliminate it through personnel cuts and other means.
"If I'm able to pull that off, I will view that as a huge accomplishment," Anderson said.
Regarding his long-term plans, well, let's just say you shouldn't throw away those campaign signs just yet. "I love this job," the 48-year-old Anderson said. "It's the perfect job for me. I would like to do this until I retire.