As departing members Len Bodack and Jeff Koch cast their final votes at council on Dec. 27, it was hard not to think about what the future holds for the panel.
The previous panel tended to fall with a majority on the side of Mayor Luke Ravenstahl. On Jan. 7, however, three brand-new council members will be sworn in.
After the election last May, the blogosphere was abuzz with thoughts of new members Bruce Kraus, Ricky Burgess and Patrick Dowd lining up with council's more progressive members, Doug Shields and Bill Peduto.
In the past, Jim Motznik, Tonya Payne, Darlene Harris, Dan Deasy and soon-to-be sentenced former Councilor Twanda Carlisle were usually sure votes for the administration; Bodack usually came along as well. Koch could be a wild card, but he backed the mayor more often than not.
Because the three newcomers all campaigned on platforms of more open government -- and because Ravenstahl has been caught in numerous political foibles -- one might expect life to be much more difficult for the mayor in the future.
But until the newcomers sit down with their colleagues, it's not clear with whom their sympathies will lie. Already, some early tension is reportedly showing between the Dowd and Peduto camps, and all three newcomers told CP as early as last spring not to lump them with either the pro- or anti-Ravenstahl camp.
With the future so uncertain, you can't help but think that Ravenstahl's side of the fifth floor is wondering whether rough seas are ahead. If the three new members side more often than not with Shields and Peduto, trying to enact new policies and initiatives might mean rockier days for Ravenstahl than the ones that followed Tiger-gate, charity golf-gate and Yukon-gate all put together.
While it's all speculation now, a clearer picture will start to emerge during the second week of January, when council chooses its president and the committee chairs. Will Dowd get the prestigious finance-committee chair, as many think he might? Will the newcomers back Jim Motznik for the council presidency, a position he's sought before?
Selecting these positions has traditionally been a politics-laden process, with plenty of backstabbing and intrigue. But once it's over, we can focus on the meaningful work ahead -- like finally getting licenses on those damned cats.