Okay, maybe I had too much coffee. Enough coffee to make me run around the house ranting obsessively about the Albuquerque Journal’s endorsement of Mayor Marty Chavez in the upcoming election.
Not the endorsement, per se. This, in itself, doesn’t surprise me. Of course the Journal endorses the Mayor. He’s a Republican posing as a Democrat in a non-partisan yayoral election. He’s the king of sprawl and he’s been endorsed by a newspaper whose owner is deeply involved in land development. But the reasoning? The writing? Shouldn’t we expect a bit more from our local daily? It is times like these that I long to live in a city where the lead of the daily’s election endorsement says something besides the pathetically vague and detestably obvious.
Too much coffee.
I had just finished reading Joan Didion’s beautifully written, powerfully moving mini-memoir in the New York Times magazine about the death of her husband, John Dunne. I switched to the Journal for a moment, to catch up on the treasurer’s scandal, and here was the endorsement. How could I think it was a good idea to read this after four cups of strong, Sunflower Market French roast and reading a piece by one of this country’s best writers? It would only make me apoplectic.
The Journal, you see, thinks Marty should be mayor again because he was mayor already and he’s good at the job. That is, if you consider unplanned sprawl, a neglected downtown, and a road through our treasured archeaological sites, to be good mayoring. I don’t, personally, but that’s my opinion.
What bothers me even more is the way this particular column is written. You have to pay to read it online, but here’s the first couple of sentences.
“Being mayor of Albuquerque is a tough job. Every mayor has found it hard to get things done and difficult to move the city in the direction he believed it should go. Maybe that’s why no mayor has ever been elected to a second consecutive term.”
I really like to edit, because I like the process of taking a mediocre piece of writing and making it stronger. I like teaching, as well, and editing and teaching are closely linked. Sometimes I edit to amuse myself, as a kind of mind game. Just for fun I edited (unasked) this endorsement.
“Being mayor of Albuquerque is a tough job. [STATING THE OBVIOUS. LET’S BEGIN THIS WITH SOMETHING MORE COMPELLING]. Every mayor has found it hard to get things done and difficult to move the city in the direction he believed it should go. [AGAIN, THIS IS PART AND PARTIAL OF THE POLITICAL PROCESS. MY REACTION AS A READER IS, DUH. BESIDES, ISN’T THE MAYOR A COLLABORATIVE JOB? WE LIVE IN A DEMOCRACY, LAST TIME I LOOKED. THE MAYOR WORKS ALONG WITH (EMPHASIS) CITY COUNCIL, TO GOVERN THE CITY. WE SHOULD MAKE SURE OUR READERS KNOW THAT A MAYOR IS NOT A DICTATOR] Maybe that’s why no mayor has ever been elected to a second consecutive term. [YES, THAT COULD BE THE REASON, BUT A DEEPER ANALYSIS HERE IS CALLED FOR. WE CAN’T ASSUME THAT NO MAYOR HAS BEEN ELECTED TWICE BECAUSE HE DIDN’T GET ALONG WITH CITY COUNCIL. THAT’S COMMON IN MANY CITIES ACROSS THE COUNTRY. VERY FEW MAYORS GET ALONG WITH CITY COUNCILS. IT’S PROVINCICAL TO THINK ALBUQUERQUE WOULD BE OTHERWISE.]
Here’s another paragraph: “Two of his rivals are city councilors who will frankly tell you they don’t like dealing with this mayor. [AGAIN, STATING THE OBVIOUS. IT IS A COMMON THING THAT MAYORS DON’T LIKE SOME MEMBERS OF CITY COUCIL AND VICE A VERSA] It is a not uncommon sentiment among local political rivals.[IMPLIED] They don’t like his personality or his tactics. They don’t like him always wanting to get his way. They especially don’t like him getting his way so often. [IS THIS SUPPOSED TO BE PROSAIC? IT ACTUALLY JUST FEELS REPETITIVE]
And so on. I have rarely felt moved to take on bad writing so publicly. But in my war against mediocrity, I firmly believe the people of Albuquerque deserve more than this pablum from their daily newspaper, whether or not I agree with its political views.
And now, time to brew another pot.