El Paso mayor’s support for DP benefits helps make him a finalist in World Mayor competition

Posted on 19 Jun 2012 at 1:48pm

El Paso Mayor John Cook

El Paso Mayor John Cook’s popularity for his stance on domestic partner benefits may earn him the title of world’s best mayor.

Cook’s efforts were not forgotten when it came time to nominate mayors for the World Mayor 2012 competition, sponsored by London-based think tank City Mayors Foundation. Thirteen of the 22 who wrote in support of Cook mentioned the benefits fight, according to the El Paso Times.

The City Council approved DP benefits in 2009, but the vote was overturned in a ballot measure led by anti-gay Pastor Tom Brown in 2010. Cook cast the tie-breaking vote last year to restore DP benefits, stirring Brown to begin a recall effort. A county judge ruled in Brown’s favor, but an appeals court later sided with Cook in February. Brown then appealed to the Texas Supreme Court but it’s doubtful the court will hear the case.

Cook is among five North American finalists and 25 worldwide for the award that recognizes a mayor’s achievements with a sculpture for commemoration. Votes and comments about the finalists’ achievements will be taken into consideration by the organization.

“The City Mayors board of fellows will choose the winner and two runner-ups based on the number of votes received and the strength and passion of supporting comments,” according to its website. “The organisers believe that the persuasiveness of argument is as important as the number of votes. This ensures that a ‘good’ mayor from a smaller city can compete on equal terms with a mayor from a large metropolis.”

Voting will continue until mid-October with the award presented in December. To see the finalists or to vote, go here.

From the El Paso Times:

Cook’s new-found fame seems to be tied to the domestic benefits issue.

Last year, Cook cast the tie-breaking vote to restore health benefits to gay and unmarried partners of city employees after voters passed a ballot initiative ending the benefits in November 2010.

Thousands signed petitions demanding Cook’s recall in a drive that now appears to be dead. People who admire the mayor’s stance figure prominently in Cook’s nomination to be World Mayor. Of the 22 who wrote in support of Cook, 13 cited his stance in the benefits fight.

“He has stood firmly for what is right in the face of homophobes and bigots,” says one letter, written by Billie J.H., that is posted on the City Mayors Foundation website.

The group also posted a note from an El Pasoan who believed Cook should not be nominated.

I “am outraged because this mayor overturned a vote by the people of El Paso,” Mildred G. wrote. “We have a low voter output and now many people are saying there is no point in voting if the mayor can overturn our vote.”

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