Rocky tackles S.L. issues with passion and fervor

Published: Sunday, April 9 2000 12:00 a.m. MDT

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."

Direct involvement

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.

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