Drumroll: Count Dan Luper in for Auburn’s city council race

Looking Behind the Scenes
By: Jim Ruffalo
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Preparing the notebook for shipment to Oslo while contemplating that perhaps the self-esteem movement has gone a bit too far. After all, isn’t it somewhat extreme that the latest award for perfect attendance turns out to be a Nobel Peace Prize? ... Meanwhile, and stop me if you’ve read this before, Dan Luper is tossing his hat in the ring for Auburn’s next city council race. Although the gentle readers are exactly correct that this column has reported this very same note for at least two previous election cycles, Luper says this time is the real deal. “It’s something I’ve wanted to do for a long time, but business and other commitments prevented me from doing it until now,” he said. “I even have money set aside for the campaign signs.” He’s cleared the decks and is ready for action. Some of that preparation included buying out David Mackenroth in order to be sole proprietor of Downtown’s Big O Tire Store. By the way, Mackenroth will serve on Luper’s election committee. Besides being among the most plugged-in members of the local community, Luper also has excellent bona fides from lengthy service with the Boys & Girls Club and the Salvation Army. “Living here since I was three-days-old, and running this business for decades, you meet a lot of people and learn a lot of things,” he said. As for this particular campaign, Luper said that one of the biggest reasons for running is that a lot of people say they need an advocate on the council. “The council needs some new input, especially when it comes to the Endurance question concerning Streetscape,” he said, adding that he was highly disappointed in not being appointed to the new advisory committee. “I guess it’s well known that I agree with the notion that the Plaza doesn’t need a new name,” he said, hastily adding that he’s an “enduro-athlete,” but one who feels that “the endurance theme should not be the main focus of the project.” Luper will have his work cut out for him because, for the most part, Auburn is blessed with a good city council. However, his premise that new blood is continually needed for elected bodies to function efficiently is well taken. To see the validity of that thought, one merely has to consider the new energy and the provoking of thought brought to that august body with the recent inclusion of Dr. Bill Kirby. Call him what you may: gadfly or introspect, or just consummate politician. But whatever one thinks of Kirby, most would agree that he’s brought energy and — most of the time — revitalization to the collective thought-process of the council. On the other hand, even though this upcoming election cycle supposedly will be extremely unkind to incumbents, it’s difficult to picture any current council member as particularly vulnerable. ... In good shape: No doubt a big reason for that almost invulnerable aura surrounding the council is the city’s strong financial sheet. Mayor Mike Holmes points out that the city still has nearly $3 million set aside for rainy days, and that doesn’t take into consideration nearly another million tucked away as reserves in other accounts. Other governmental entities have to envy those reserves, especially in today’s red-ink storms. Auburn is so financially strong that it will even be able to handle the latest $300,000 “borrowing” by the state legislature. “Thanks to Proposition 1A, we’ll be able to securitize that so-called loan to the state,” Holmes said. If you don’t understand securitization, join the crowd. Turns out it’s a financial vehicle which allows the city to borrow that “lent” 300-grand for immediate use. Meanwhile, that lending institution then gets repaid by the state along with the interest. Make no mistake, those precious financial reserves are the by-product of previous actions by the city council. And it should be remembered that not all of that setting aside was greeted with hosannas and cheers at the time. While Auburn does have some problems, none appear insurmountable. And if you choose to compare this village with its contemporaries, you have to admit that things are be run rather well here. Among the very few dilemmas are the city’s contract negotiations with its public safety organizations. While the police bargaining unity has been using its own foot for target practice lately, the firefighters present a much better and brighter public image. So it remains to be seen as to what effect the city’s recent “best and final” contract offer to the bravest will mean, especially with election season upon us. Jim Ruffalo’s column runs on Sundays. He can be reached at