Mayor Tom Potter has already retired once, and at nearly 67 years old, his colleagues—and the rest of the city—are wondering if it's time for him to do it again. But as the clock ticks down on his decision to run for reelection, his colleagues on the second floor of city hall are biting at his heels—and he's starting to bite back.

Between his unwillingness to "work the building" and a lackluster agenda, Potter has left the door wide open for the other city commissioners to advance their own agendas, and for most of the last two and half years, the arrangement has worked. But now, with all eyes on Potter before he announces his future plans (somewhere near his birthday, September 12), he's starting to get a little testy.

For the past two Wednesdays, August 8 and 15, Potter and Commissioner Randy Leonard have faced off in heated debates over Leonard's graffiti ordinance, which would require stores to keep spray paint in a secure area and take the names of people buying it. But the substance of the resolution is secondary (Potter says he supports the idea behind it)—the debate has merely provided a venue to indirectly vent some longstanding grievances.

Through two hearings, Potter railed against Leonard for not involving more hardware stores, or the Small Business Advisory Council, in the drafting of the ordinance—and both Potter and Leonard attacked each other for the way they've handled their criticisms.

"You're looking for a problem instead of trying to find a solution," Leonard fumed. "You're just trying to stop this."

"Why would I try to stop this, Randy?" Potter shot back.

"Exactly," Leonard responded. "Why would you?"

They've sniped back and forth, even dragging Commissioner Dan Saltzman into it, culminating last week with the scheduling of yet another hearing and vote.

And that's where things got interesting. Potter attempted to get Leonard to postpone the vote until the end of September, instead of August 29, when both Potter and Saltzman (the two critics of the ordinance) will be out of town. Leonard, though, refused.

"So you won't consider delaying it?" Potter asked.

"Absolutely not," Leonard replied.

For a full five seconds, Potter stared straight ahead, wordlessly, his face reddening.

"I move to delay the vote until the end of September," he finally uttered. His motion failed.

According to insiders, Potter later flew into an apoplectic rage about Leonard's stubbornness. But why would Potter be so furious over an ordinance that he professes to support? Some city hall denizens think it has more to do with Leonard's repeated efforts to trip up the mayor's sit-lie law, at which he failed to win, but succeeded in embarrassing Potter. In other words, it's payback.

But Potter has also duked it out with Commissioner Sam Adams in recent weeks, over the efforts to rename Interstate Boulevard after César Chávez. After being visited by the activists heading up the effort on August 9, Adams—the transportation commissioner—emailed a draft resolution and a schedule of hearings around to all the city hall offices.

The response he got back from the mayor was terse, and an apparent attempt at reclaiming the issue. "My office has been working with the Latino community and supporters since March to assist them with this issue," Potter wrote. "Based on those discussions, they prepared a council resolution with our assistance. We will work with you and the council as we bring this issue forward."

Adams responded by saying that he hadn't heard the mayor's office was working on it—just the opposite—and that "as transportation commissioner, the public holds me responsible for the public process for considering this proposal."

Potter's final answer was a more politically polite version of "in my office NOW!"

The frequent battles have captured the attention—and imagination—of city hall staffers, many of whom are floating theories about the combative behaviors. One of the most entertaining theories is that Adams and Leonard are playing "good cop/bad cop" in order to convince Potter to not run for reelection.

"Randy is making this job just unbearable for Tom," one insider said.

It's no surprise, then, that Potter's off on a two-week vacation. He's expected to announce his decision on reelection shortly after he returns.