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Clark: Has Mayor Verner tamed Spokane’s restless heart?

Let me be first to congratulate Mary Verner on capturing the title of – Tah-Daaah! – Spokane’s “Longest Strongest” mayor.

Call her Mayor Long Strong, for short.

Verner just scooted past the old mark set by former Mayor John Powers, the first mayor elected under our decade-old strong mayor method of screwing up the city.

Although applying the term “strong” to Powers is ridiculous. The only strong thing about Powers was the public’s desire to get rid of him.

Yet Powers took office on the first day of 2001 and served 1,095 days. (Voters gave him the heave-ho at the first opportunity, in the primary, a cold act even by fickle Spokane standards.)

As of today, however, Verner will have presided over the Lilac City for 1,100 days – and counting.

I have a confession to make. I was unaware anyone was keeping track of strong mayor longevity numbers until I read our front page story about it the other day.

It strikes me as one of those obscure-but-intriguing statistics that baseball fanatics love to tout.

Example: Most day-game home runs while seeing double due to a severe hangover. (Mickey Mantle.)

Anyone who votes in this burg should know that there is one (and ONLY one) title that matters in the Spokane mayoral sweepstakes.

And that is the coveted and elusive title of …

Incumbent.

The fact that my hometown has not elected a two-termer since 1973 is a political curiosity of Donald Trump-like proportion.

I’ve often asked myself …

Does this disenchantment reflect the schizo nature of Spokane voters?

Or does it mirror the dismal quality of the boobs who lead us?

We’ve had so many here today/gone tomorrow mayors that the IN-N-OUT burger franchise once considered suing Spokane for trademark infringement.

I’m not complaining. No one relishes the quirky one-term curse more than yours truly.

I’ve seen a lot of Spokane mayors come and go. (Correction: I’ve helped a lot of Spokane mayors come and go.)

The point is that the next four words are devoid of self-interest:

Verner could do it.

You heard me. Verner might have the right stuff to become Spokane’s first repeat offender since the Nixon White House.

A lot can happen before the 2011 election rolls around. I know that.

But Verner is focused and raising money.

The woman started campaigning for re-election six days after taking office, for crying out loud.

OK. I’m exaggerating. It was at least eight days.

Look, I know all about the mayor’s negatives.

This is not the greatest time to be running for re-election.

The city is in a budget calamity. Layoffs and closures and service cuts. Oh, my.

Union difficulties.

And let’s not forget that Verner came up with that bonehead (and, thank God, failed) plan to water our lawns based on alternating odd/even house numbers or whatever.

She infuriated many people by giving an attaboy to the cop who now faces a federal trial over his violent (ultimately fatal) quickie-mart encounter with poor Otto Zehm, the innocent and mentally ill janitor.

Verner’s accrued some unflattering press of late, too.

The Inlander, for example, recently dubbed Verner the “Invisible Mayor” on the tabloid’s front page.

And did any of you catch the last election? The voters were in a “throw da bums out” mood that doesn’t seem to be subsiding.

And yet …

Verner possesses the one characteristic that really counts with voters.

Likability.

It’s not phony, either. Verner is a genuinely likable person who gives off a calm vibe of goodwill. That’s a powerful plus for a politician to have.

Is it enough to break our Curse of the One-Term Mayor?

About a year from now, remember that you heard it here first.

Doug Clark is a columnist for The Spokesman-Review. He can be reached at (509) 459-5432 or by e-mail at dougc@spokesman.com.


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