Utah's Maverick Mayor

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Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson meets with protestors at an anti-President Bush rally Wednesday, Aug. 30, 2006, in Salt Lake City.

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As evidenced by his speech at the demonstration, Anderson is not subtle. His words and actions incite plenty of hate mail and nasty letters to the editor. Days before the rally, his office was flooded with emails and calls; three temporary workers had to be hired when Republican-sponsored radio ads urged listeners to voice their displeasure. Most of his critics live outside the relatively liberal "island" of Salt Lake City, and they resent the fact that, though he is not their representative, his actions influence how outsiders see their state.

"He embarrassed himself, the city, and the entire state," says Todd Weiler, the chairman of the Republican Party in Davis County. "Instead of acting as an ambassador, he chose to shout and shake his fist at the President." Weiler also fears that Anderson's actions could hurt Utah's convention and tourism industry if Anderson's antics spark some sort of economic boycott of Utah.

"His narcissism and rush to be in the public eye on President Bush's visit has been a bad thing for the city," says Kirk Jowers, director of the University of Utah's Hinckley Institute of Politics. "For 364 days he can be Rocky the activist, but for one day he needs to be Rocky the mayor."

Anderson himself doesn't really seem all that interested in whether someone is conservative or liberal, likes him or not, or has advice on how to play politics right. He's more interested in being the thorn in the side of status quo, and he is a sharp one.

"There are so many people who just play it safe — they think there is safety in remaining neutral," says Anderson. "But as human beings there is no neutrality. We are always on one side or the other. We can choose to make things better, or we can choose not to do anything to change things, and then we are just supporting the status quo."

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