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London Mayor calls it quits
By Paul-Mark Rendon
London Mayor Dianne Haskett took city hall by surprise Monday night when she announced she would not be pursuing a third term in office.
What confounded city council members more was the timing of the decision, as another mayoral election is not scheduled until 2001.
"People were asking me all the time. I had to make a decision and I don't feel comfortable with being dishonest," Haskett said.
She added her intention was to reveal her decision to council first. "If I only told friends and family, it would eventually leak out. I decided to do that all in one setting," she said.
Orlando Zamprogna, a controller for the City of London, said Haskett's decision came as a shock. "I didn't expect an announcement of that nature," he said, adding the move will definitely have an effect on the entire city council.
Zamprogna added the unusual timing of the announcement may be construed as a benefit for Haskett as she will no longer have to worry about a long term political agenda.
Haskett acknowledged her decision would allow council to make a more concerted effort to move projects forward. "I believe it will give me a greater sense of freedom. People will stop second guessing my motives," she said.
However, Zamprogna said it may also lead to a flurry of politicians jockeying for the position as her successor. "It could turn loose a whole lot of political maneuvering for council members. In my experience, that's what happens."
Lindsey Elwood, chair of the London Downtown Business Association, agreed the move would give Haskett more political leg room. "I think it will give her the freedom to pursue all her plans and programs without anybody saying 'you're doing it to garner public appreciation.'"
Elwood added he was pleased with Haskett's efforts thus far and was disappointed when he heard of her decision. "She is certainly a team player," he said and speculated Haskett would run for federal office after taking some time off.
Diane Whiteside, also a London controller, disagreed and said she felt Haskett was not doing a good job as mayor and was pleased she would not seek a third term in office.
"My concern is her ability as a team leader," she said, adding Haskett's decision not to tell her fellow councilors beforehand was inappropriate. "I would think if you're a leader of a team, you would let your team know in advance of your decisions."
Whiteside said Haskett's refusal to proclaim a gay rights week in 1997 was also an example of her shortcomings as mayor. "I don't want a bigot for a mayor," she said.
Anne Marie DeCicco, London's Deputy Mayor, said she was aware Haskett was considering the move and was not surprised by the announcement.
DeCicco added she had her eye on Haskett's position. "I'm definitely considering it, but I am going to take my time in consultation with my election team and family."