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Home / Articles / Archive / News & Columns /  Feature | Rocky Times: Rocky Anderson is still on the case. Barack Obama had better watch his back. Page 1
News & Columns

Feature | Rocky Times: Rocky Anderson is still on the case. Barack Obama had better watch his back. Page 1

By Ted McDonough
Posted // February 3,2009 -

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Eighteen months ago, Rocky Anderson stood on the steps of Salt Lake’s City & County Building calling for the impeachment of the president. Protesters, some wearing rubber Dick Cheney masks, surrounded him, along with papier-mâché tableaus of Bush cabinet members chained together in black-and-white prison stripes. Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, famously dismissed the protesters as "nutcakes." Conservative TV personality Bill O'Reilly later gave his own assessment of Salt Lake City's then-mayor: "kook."

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With George W. Bush in the White House and many Democrats afraid of invisible terrorists and their own shadows, the idea that Bush administration officials would ever be charged as war criminals did seem a little crazy. What a difference an election makes.

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src=/data/449BBE6E-021E-D69E-7A3370304BA7D31B/userData/Image/090205/coverstory/Conyers_library.jpgToday, calls like Anderson’s echo throughout Congress. Just one week into the Obama administration, the new chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich.—with whom Anderson has been meeting for the past year—filed a bill calling for a “truth commission” to examine alleged Bush administration abuses of war powers and civil liberties. The bill is backed by a 500-page report, “Reining in the Imperial Presidency,” based in part on judiciary committee hearings in which Anderson participated during the summer of 2008. A separate Judiciary Committee report recommends criminal probes. Conyers has already subpoenaed former Bush adviser Karl Rove to testify.

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Anderson, interviewed by City Weekly one year to the day after he left the mayor’s office, says it’s an example of what a committed citizenry can do. When he stepped down as mayor, Anderson didn’t join a law firm or become a lobbyist. Instead, he launched a nonprofit advocacy organization, High Road for Human Rights, which took, as its first task, forcing a probe of the Bush years.

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As Democrats everywhere prepared for Barack Obama to walk into the White House with talk of a new era of hope and looking to the future, Anderson’s organization was ramping up pressure on Congress not to forget the past. Those signed up as High Road members received regular e-mail updates urging them to send letters to the new president and Congress endorsing High Road’s seven-point plan for “an end to torture and restoration of the rule of law.” At City Weekly’s press deadline, the letter had 5,000 signatures.

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Anderson may not be mayor any more, but Rocky is still Rocky. And the new stage he’s invented for himself might just become Anderson’s lasting legacy.

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Today, High Road for Human Rights consists of Anderson and one full-time employee in a 200 South office donated by longtime Anderson friend and political ally David Ibarra. There’s also a Website (HighRoadForHumanRights.org), and a handful of High Road “chapters” just barely started up in Salt Lake County and Utah County, and pending in San Francisco, Washington, D.C., and Casper, Wyo., where Rocky pitched the idea at Dick Cheney’s high school.

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Rocky’s office looks much as it did when he was mayor. There is a pop-art painting of four John F. Kennedys and posters advertising protests Anderson headlined as mayor. An article headlined “Electricity Without Carbon” sits atop one of several neat piles on Anderson’s desk.

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Anderson doesn’t have employee benefits. His health insurance ends in June. Grants used to start High Road are running out. Anderson, who is supporting High Road with his speaking fees, says the organization is holding on by its fingernails. High Road currently has just 250 members who have pledged to help by writing members of Congress, screening slick High Road video presentations and penning letters to the editor.

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But Anderson—dressed casually in cords, a sweater and no collar—looks more relaxed than he did during his last days as mayor. He recently turned down a job offer and says he’s sure his new project will work. Everything he’s done before has led him to High Road, Anderson says. In January, he hired a full-time chapter coordinator to start new chapters across the country.

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“The ACLU had to start from somewhere,” he says.

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REPLY TO THIS COMMENT
Posted // February 5,2009 at 05:30 Limp Fucking Noodle

 

REPLY TO THIS COMMENT
Posted // February 5,2009 at 05:27 Hey John Mac - do you work with Anderson?nnSounds like it.

 

REPLY TO THIS COMMENT
Posted // February 5,2009 at 05:15 I agree with Tom K’s evaluation. Anderson is no builder. He doesn’t bring people together, except on one side of an adversarial situation.nnSo,if you notice a problem and don’t care to solve it, but instead want to fix the blame on someone else, call on the Andersons of the world. But if you want the problem fixed, call on the Mother Teresas or the churches of the world -- who, really, are everywhere.nnHis popularity among some folks (see some of the above comments) is due to the fact that many people have difficulty expressing their anger. Anderson, on the other hand, enjoys in-your-face criticism, whether he’s right or wrong, especially when the problems are somewhere else, like slavery in Asian and Africa, or when the problems are difficult to manage or resolve, like global warming.nnHe’s great at casting blame, but he falls short in resolving problems. This is made all the more clear by his defenders, who always have to exaggerate his work to make him sound good, like the above comments about open space at library square, or the successful 2002 Olympics (it was all Anderson; Mitt Romney and those other guys, including the thousands of Utahns who donated their time, had nothing to do with it).

 

REPLY TO THIS COMMENT
Posted // February 5,2009 at 04:54 And what about all those orange flags at pedestrian crossings. Didn’t Anderson come up with that idea? All right, he didn’t come up with that idea. Other cities did and his people put it in place. But he’s the one who gave all the interviews. And it really caught on -- I’ve even seen them in Park City! So there.

 

REPLY TO THIS COMMENT
Posted // February 5,2009 at 04:27 The above comments have unfortunately veered away from the nub of the CW article - that Bush and his coterie may have violated several laws, and the Constitution itself, and that there is a small but dedicated group working to keep that fact from being forgotten or ignored.nI am not a citizen of SLC, so I have no axe to grind on the issue of whether Rocky was an effective Mayor. I do know that I felt tears of pride whenever Rocky came by in a parade or at a public affair; pride for his detemination to envision the right and to do what he could to effect it.nLet’s focus on what Rocky wants us to focus on - the crimes and misdemeanors of the Bush debacle.nThanks.