Some of the candidates have read my column. Some liked what I had to say, others did not.
From what I understand those that did not, thought I was targeting them and was also biased toward the incumbents. This is surprising to me because my intentions are not to tell you who I think are the best candidates, but to encourage you to weigh exactly what they are saying and determine whether or not if it is factual. If they are promising action, can you determine that they have all the information, determined all the options and consequences and then made an intelligent decision on the course of action?
I am also encouraging the candidates to demonstrate to the electorate that they understand the responsibilities and authority of an alderman. It is also my hope that they will identify issues in the community and explain to us their strategy. I am hoping that they will not take the short cut so many candidates take and that is say little but push all the emotional buttons, like ‘City Hall is out of control,’ ‘We pay too much in taxes and I will cut them,’ or ‘Communication is poor - no one is listening, but I will.’ The problem is that some of these may be legitimate issues, so tell us more! Show the community that you have done your homework and have a well thought out action plan.
I also feel I have a responsibility to provide the rest of the story when statements are made that perhaps infer something else (like council has approved a 2011 and 2012 budget). Perhaps this is what is making some of the candidates uncomfortable. Maybe they would prefer you believe something sinister is happening!
Speaking of taxes, do you realize that a one per cent tax increase raises approximately $250,000 or that only 40 per cent of the City’s revenue comes from taxes? That is not going to build much in way of infrastructure or provide much snow removal.
City Hall has two outstanding communication specialists and they use every means possible to communicate with you. The problem is that it takes two to communicate, which means if you want information, you have to be prepared to look for it. This does not mean it is hard to find, in fact it is at the end of your fingertips.
I have been reviewing all of the council candidates’ platforms and there is one possible theme that is disturbing to me. A couple of candidates appear to support party politics. I believe party politics, at the municipal level, can do nothing but harm a community. Municipalities report to the Provincial government because they were created by the Province. Communities must be able to work with whatever party is in power. To pick sides means that they may be in opposition and if that is the case, they would be treated like opposition, which is not in any community’s best interest.
Schools are a platform issue for a number of candidates. I recognize this is a need for the community but the school boards are the appropriate body to deal with this issue. They have direct contact with the Department of Education, and therefore the most influence. What surprises me is that both local public board positions were not contested. In fact, this community has had trouble getting candidates to run for these positions, yet they are a high priority on the council candidates’ platforms. I recognize council can lobby the Province (like every other community) and I know that every council I have worked for has done so tirelessly. The school boards and our MLA, as well, have not left any stones unturned in the quest for new infrastructure.
In closing, I urge you to listen to what the candidates are saying and ask yourself if you feel a connection. Make a mental note to do this every time you hear information about a candidate. Have your mind made up before you go vote because if you wait until the last day it will all become blurred and chances are you will not vote.
It is your democratic responsibility to do so!
George Keen is the former City Manager for Airdrie.