Wednesday will be the end of this election campaign. It's been an interesting one.
Elections are funny things. Councillor is one of the few jobs where you have to reapply every few years, with no guarantees of getting your old job back. If you've been doing a good job, hopefully people remember that and hire you back. If not, well, that's how democracy works.
There does appear to be a fair amount of interest, particularly in the contest for mayor. There have been two mayoral debates, one at the library last Wednesday evening, and one on local radio last Thursday afternoon. And for the first time that I'm aware of, there was also a forum held at the Friendship Centre on Thursday evening to which all councillor candidates were invited. I think that the local media has done a good job of covering both the candidates and some of the issues which have been raised, and I appreciate the opportunity to get my message out in more detail than can be provided in a brochure.
Of course, with the number of ward races going on, there's a limited amount of space that can be given to each candidate. I found this out with the request from the local paper to answer two questions, which were then printed in last Thursday's paper.
The answers to the questions were limited to one hundred words each, and it took me some time to whittle down what I wanted to say, particularly for the second question: "What's the most pressing issue in your ward?"
I'm sure most candidates had trouble focusing on one - in fact, many didn't, choosing instead to list what they have been hearing from residents. I decided to go broader - to identify the main problem that I see facing the city. If we got a handle on this issue, we could solve many of the problems that plague all wards, but may be worse in some than in others.
I believe that the most pressing need for the city is for council to start planning, rather than reacting. That means we need to follow sound financial practices, starting with an open budgeting process that looks at all our current expenditures to see where savings could be made, identifies priorities for our spending, and sets aside reserves for future expenditures and for emergencies. We need to stop rushing through the budget process, and start discussing our needs and setting priorities for infrastructure maintenance, replacement, and construction. We need to follow our own policies for requiring financial statements from city-funded entities before we approve expenditures to those entities. We need to stop building facilities before we know how much it's going to cost to operate the facilities, and we need to start ensuring that users pay their fair share for using these facilities.
And we need to stop adding expenditures to the budget after the budget has been completed. When we do this, it's always at the expense of something else that has already been approved, often putting off needed maintenance. And that sort of thing, of course, usually leads to problems further down the line that are then more costly to fix.
If you haven't voted yet, try looking at potential candidates through that lens. If they show a recognition that how council operates is more important than a specific wish list, then that's probably a good sign that they've been thinking beyond how to get elected, to how to do the job if they get it. An election campaign is a few weeks. The job of being on city council will last for four years.
If you haven't voted yet, don't forget to do so. Positive change only happens if people care enough to try to be a part of making that change.
"Science may have found a cure for most evils, but it has found no remedy for the worst of them all: the apathy of human beings." - Helen Keller