Tuesday, May 20, 2003



Posted By on Tue, May 20, 2003 at 4:00 AM

It was perhaps inevitable: This is an election year, is it not? And what is an election year without the name of Joe Cooper on a local ballot? Cooper candidacies and rumors of Cooper candidacies are part of the very fabric of local politics -- its warp and woof, as it were (and you can make your own puns involving those terms, thank you; it’s not brain surgery). Cooper picked up a petition at the Election Commission Monday to run for the District 5 city council seat about to be vacated by two-termer John Vergos, who has announced that at some point he will endorse one of his would-be successors, specifying so far only that the endorsee would not be last year’s Republican nominee for county mayor, George Flinn. Lawyer Jim Strickland and community activist Mary Wilder, Democrats like Vergos, are real possibilities. Cooper has run as a Democrat in recent years, but he isn’t holding his breath in anticipation of getting the nod from Vergos, an environmentalist who was probably scandalized, as so many were, by Cooper’s proposal to commercialize a hunk of Shelby Farms in his race for the county commission last year. “Naw, all I’m looking to John for is some more of those world-famous ribs that he and his family [at The Rendezvous restaurant] are so noted for,” Cooper says modestly. As for his ill-fated Shelby Farms proposal, Cooper says, “I’ve learned my lesson. The people in this district made their opinions known loud and clear. They want Shelby Farms to remain like it is.” That’s actually a plank in his newest platform (or it is a message tied to his finger by a string?) : Leave Shelby Farms Alone. Another plank may cancel out the effect of that one for some voters, however. Cooper wants to fire the top administrators at the Office of Planning and Development and “reform” the structure of that agency generally. That typifies the point of view of several disgruntled members of the development community with whom Cooper has been close in recent years. As usual in one of Cooper’s races, he proposes a 24-hour action line for seniors, and this year he adds to that a call for a new police precinct to focus on the area covered by District 5, whose center of balance is Midtown. “I’m the most experienced candidate in this race. That’s the bottom line,” says Cooper, who is without doubt the most experienced at being a candidate, as well. Cooper’s slogan is the same as it has been since 1995 when he coined it for a race for city court clerk which he almost won: “It’s Time -- Now.” That has been preceded by his name and, sometimes, by the office he seeks. “What I think I’ll do is take last year’s yard signs and paste “city council” over the words “county commission,” he muses. Under the circumstances, not a bad idea.

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