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March 14, 2006

It’s Welch, without a surprise

To a tenderfoot, the jovial mood in Metro Council chambers before the March 1 interview session for those hoping to fill Democrat Ron Weston’s vacant 13th district seat would’ve seemed unusual. Considering the business of the day, one might think all the smiling was, well, weird. The sun was out and it felt like spring that day, but otherwise, the Council was facing an important — if somewhat controversial — task.

All that would change relatively quickly, however. Cindy Hollis, a Republican, took first to the podium. She proceeded to systematically whip and chain the Council for what she called an unfair and unjust process, going so far as to accuse Democratic caucus chair Jim King of bagging the decision before anyone had been interviewed.

“This is representation without consultation,” Hollis crowed. King’s face took a dour turn. Other Council members looked around at each other, some stifling whatever emotion was trying to cast itself across their faces. The tension was palpable and things were getting very weird, very fast. Hollis echoed that the only reason she’d applied for the position was to publicly chide and embarrass the Council for its selection process, which does not involve direct constituent consultation.

“I do this for the people throughout the Metro area,” she said without pomp, just before an awkward silence. It was like one of those all-too-human fantasies where you imagine saying the most uncouth thing you could in a given situation, like shouting, during a church service, that you enjoy sex with dead animals.

Hollis’ grandstand set the tone for the day, which would unfold more like a Tom Stoppard play than a governmental proceeding. It was theater of the absurd, a gross physical salute to the brash kind of ineptitude city government can sometimes foster.

The only remotely viable candidates, it seemed, were Democrat Vicki Aubrey Welch (she was chosen overwhelmingly last week to represent the 13th district) and Republican Sharon Woodring. Both will face challengers in the May primary.

Welch said drainage issues and crime are two major issues facing the South End district, a union-heavy area where Democratic politics involve considerably less social posturing than, say, the Highlands. Welch said she favors a downtown arena and considers herself a big-picture thinker. Like the other interviewees, her position on the STAR program — which the Council will take up if a current bill passes muster in Frankfort — was an unrefined non-answer about finding a balance between industry and clean air.