I filed my papers for the election this past week. While others announced their intentions weeks, even months ago, I like to take my time before making the decision. It's making a commitment for the next four years, and there are a lot of factors to take into consideration. But after much discussion with family and friends, and many inquiries and much encouragement from Ward 3 residents, I decided that I still have a great deal to offer. More than one Ward 3 resident, in encouraging me to run, said that council needs more people like me, who aren't afraid to ask the hard questions. If I don't run, then that's one less person.
My objective in being on council is the same today as it was when I first ran - to make Ward 3, and Prince Albert, a better place to live. Substandard housing, increasing crime rates, aging infrastructure and inequitable distribution of recreational amenities across the city are all issues that are not solved quickly, but I can look at various actions that I've encouraged during my time on council that have made a difference, and I continue to look at new and better ways of doing things.
A frequent refrain in the comments section on local media is that a whole new council is needed. In my experience, what usually happens is that we get a mix of new councillors and veterans, and that works well. Too many new faces means that there is greater reliance on administration making decisions, and people should remember that administration wasn't elected. A couple of council terms ago that ended up with the police budget being withheld from council, and it took a couple of years to pry the details loose so that all of council could see how more than a third of our budget was spent. It's helpful to have veterans on council in those situations, particularly people like me who aren't afraid to call bull puckies when appropriate.
Many candidates talk about grandiose projects that they would like to see - a new arena has been mentioned, and of course a second bridge is a perennial goal. I prefer to see council focus on fundamentals - replacing century-old pipes, as was done last summer during the Big Dig project, may not be sexy, but these are the necessities to keep water running. Maintaining infrastructure, which has been a focus of this last term of council has the added advantage of not adding to our ongoing financial responsibilities, unlike some of the big ticket items that previous councils felt were the best use of tax-payers' money, and have left us with new ongoing costs that weren't discussed when the projects were first proposed.
There is also the misconception that new people are needed on council to provide new ideas - in fact, many new candidates will say that very thing, without providing examples of what these new ideas might be. I would say that anyone, no matter how long they've been on council, has the ability to generate new ideas. Just last week I suggested to the deputy police chief that doing patrols down back alleys might be a more effective way of discouraging crime than driving along the streets, because the back alleys are where people trying to avoid being seen tend to gather. He hadn't thought of deploying forces that way, and couldn't see why police couldn't start doing that. A new way of doing something, without any increase in expenditure required - to me that's the kind of new idea that's needed.
I would also caution people that just because an idea is new, doesn't mean that it's good, or that further scrutiny isn't required. Think of the Borealis Music Festival, where my questions about the budget were ignored, and which ended up costing tax-payers over $100,000, counting the original support plus the bail-out. A new idea, but not an idea that was well-thought-out.
I often say that being on council is the only job where you have to reapply every few years. But that's how democracy works. I only hope that my hard work over the past 16 years is appreciated by the residents of Ward 3, and that they put their confidence in my ability to do the job once more.
"Regardless of who wins, an election should be a time for optimism and fresh approaches." - Gary Johnson