Friday, April 13, 2007

Still Kicking and Ready for One Last Hurrah...

Well he's made it official. Springfield Mayor, Charles Ryan, has announced that he is running for re-election. According to the Republican, Ryan at age 79, will once again seek the top slot in the city this November.

His campaign will likely focus on a laundry list of solid accomplishments made possible largely by the Control Board. After a recent hospital scare, Ryan appears undaunted by the prospects of another campaign even joking through the announcement that he knew Caleb Rice, the city's first mayor upon Springfield becoming a city.

For many, Ryan run was probably not altogether surprising. The recent moves of politicians throughout the area provide the most compelling evidence of this. Brian Lees sudden, last-minute, and ultimately successful decision to run for Clerk of Courts is the best evidence so far. Whether Lees had any inside information is impossible to know. More likely, he made a judgement call based on the actions of the mayor.

To his credit, Ryan had long kept his intentions close to the breast. Outside of his family and closest confidantes, Ryan remained tight lipped about whether he would run; just as he had done in 2005. The only hint that most could find was his mention of his hospitalization not affecting any decision to run. In retrospect, that was tantamount to an announcement.

With Ryan in the race, the race will likely be a snoozer. Many of the most interesting candidates have already said they will not run if Ryan does (Hint: Look for 2009 to be one hell of a campaign, hopefully). He will very likely have an opponent, but frankly I doubt that he or she will be any stronger than Thomas Ashe was in 2005. In addition, despite seeing Charles Ryan as one of the architects of the Control Board, many also see him as the only person who can act as ambassador between the city and Board. Certainly the President of the City Council can and does take on that role too, but the mayor has a special position of working with Executive Director Phil Puccia. Furthermore, the jury was still out on the Control Board in 2005. In 2007, there is little doubt that the Control Board's efforts, however painful for some (union contracts, trash fee), has yielded results.

It may be premature to talk about Ryan's legacy, but ultimately history will have no choice, but to be kind to Charles Ryan. The Control Board itself, and possibly the State Legislature/Governor, will probably take the brunt of any negative assessments of this period in the city's history. Certainly his tenure in the 21st century as mayor will outshine his earlier one in the 60's. In 2003, I oppose Ryan's candidacy and advocated for Linda Melconian. I called Ryan out of touch and figured his administration would do little to fix the situation. I was neither right nor wrong. His administration, by itself could do nothing, but he was able to appeal the Legislature for help, however meager. I again opposed the Control Board, but discovered over time that there was no alternative. Ironically, it was the electorates choices in the past, which in retrospect were far worse than Ryan, that made the Board necessary.

I am hardly ready to endorse Charles Ryan for Re-election. The 2005 election was my first chance to vote and I did not vote for Ryan (nor Ashe). However, unlike some people (my former city employee grandmother for one) I am willing to hear what he has to say and consider that Ryan's return may have been one of the better thing that happened to this city in recent memory.
Photo from Valley Advocate*

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