Norris for council
Incumbents have experience and a record to run on. They understand the complexities of campaign issues because they’ve dealt with them first-hand. Challengers bring enthusiasm and a desire for change, sometimes painting themselves as disruptors of the status quo.
This dynamic may be true of all the contested races for City Council, but it’s most evident in the District A race pitting Mayor Phyllis Norris against challenger Jesse Daniels, a career bartender and limousine chauffeur.
No other race has a generational gap like this one. Norris, 69, is a classic establishment figure. She ran an important local corporation before aspiring to public service after retirement.
Daniels, 35, brings a blue-collar sensibility to the race. He sees himself as a more accessible representative of city government, able to relate more easily to the working class and better engage millennials. His calling card is active leadership over passive representation.
Perhaps no issue better illustrates Daniels’ progressive bent than retail marijuana. Whether the city allows for retail sales, the drug is still impacting our community. So why not collect taxes on it — or enjoy its ability to create jobs? Norris would rather not see those kinds of establishments take root in the city lest they reinforce the negative social impacts of the drug.
But this isn’t a one-issue race and beyond the obvious differences over this particular question, both candidates are well-versed in the challenges confronting Grand Junction’s future — Daniels surprisingly so.
However, some of his big-picture proposals lack detail. For example he suggests “empowering” economic development entities to better do their work. But the city has already commissioned an economic-development plan that better outlines goals and funding of economic development partners, which Norris pointed out.
The mayor has emerged as a leading proponent of public funding to facilitate economic development opportunities. “We don’t make a penny off parks,” she said, “but when those parks are full and the kids who have games there go grab a hamburger or a hot dog,” that’s the successful leveraging of government services for economic gain.
It bears mentioning that Norris was selected by council to be the mayor. In that role, she represents the majority view of the council and carries water on issues she may not necessarily agree with. For example, she didn’t support Las Colonias on the argument that the city had more pressing needs. But she lobbied effectively for grants that made the project a reality.
Also as mayor, Norris is the symbolic leader of the council that hired Greg Caton as city manager — by far the most important decision the council has made during her tenure. We like the direction Caton has taken on a number of issues — some of which hinge on voter approval. But his incisive proposals are possible because Norris helped hire him.
With little separating Norris from Daniels in most policy arenas, we think Norris has earned the right to be re-elected. If Daniels prevails, it will be a much-needed boost for diversity. We’re grateful that younger members of the community — especially knowledgable ones like Daniels — are showing an interest in leading the city into the future.
But we think Norris has been an effective representative on the council deserving of another term. We urge voters to support her bid for re-election.