|Van Turner (L) and Kyle LaMalfa (R) - Image via KCPW|
I had the good fortune to tune into KCPW this morning just in time to catch most of the debate between Salt Lake City Council candidates Van Turner (incumbent) and Kyle LaMalfa (challenger), who are competing for District 2's seat next week.
The debate was moderated by much-beloved local radio Muppet Jeff Robinson, who sounds so much like Glenn Beck's "dumb guy voice" that it's kind of unsettling. You can hear the whole thing here .
The race in District 2, which encompasses Salt Lake City's West Side, is a two-way contest between LaMalfa, a local community activist who finished first in primary voting, and Turner, a small business owner who is an incumbent 4-term Councilman. I have the good fortune to know both men a little from my days working in northwest SLC with the University of Utah's Political Science department and then later with Americorps (full disclosure: LaMalfa mentions the Westside Leadership Institute and the People's Market in his opening remarks - I have worked with both organizations personally).
Knowing both men as I do, I think it's safe to say that we have the rarest of rare political situations in District 2 this year - a difficult choice between the better of two goods. Most of us are far more familiar with the depressingly common "lesser of two evils" scenario when it comes to politics; confronted with two good candidates, both of whom are relatively civil to each other, how are we to choose?
First off, I acknowledge that I do not live in District 2, so anything I have to say on the subject should be considered in that light. While I have held workshops and focus groups and crunched data from surveys taken on the west side, and while I worked for more than a year at University Neighborhood Partners' office there, and while I am familiar with west side issues, I will not be casting a vote for either candidate next week.
With that said, if I were presented with an opportunity to do so, I would vote for Kyle LaMalfa. Van Turner is an outstanding leader in the community, and both of his businesses - the Hook and Ladder and Firehouse Floral - are locally owned and pump money into the local economy. LaMalfa, however, has experience with west side community councils (although Turner arguably has more) and experience with low-income citizen needs on the west side, in addition to his accomplishments as a community organizer with the People's Market and elsewhere. LaMalfa's background and contacts are slightly more diverse, horizontally speaking, than Turner's.
The nice thing about a better-of-two-goods scenario, of course, is that no matter who wins the upcoming City Council election, we all will come out on top.