OUT ON A LIMB: Candidates show little interest in council meetings

How many seeking city council seats bother to show up to council meetings?

Well, it’s time to gear up for another civic election. Our candidates are set and now we have until Nov. 19 to be convinced to vote for some of them.

I have to take up a point that Coun. (and mayoral candidate) Ziggy Stewart made to Mirror City Hall reporter Kristen Douglas. We have 15 candidates for city council that are not already on council, two of them are running for mayor.

How many of them were at Tuesday’s city council meeting? How many have ever been to a city council meeting?

I’m sorry but if you’re running for city council, I expect you to show your face at a meeting at least every once in a while, probably every meeting. I would think that somebody interested in city politics would have been attending council meetings before they even announced their candidacy. But even if they didn’t, they should be there familiarizing themselves with the issues and the skills needed to be effective at the council table, should they get elected.

Now, I know they can probably watch it on Shaw. If you get Shaw cable. I have no way of proving that candidates are following the meetings from the comfort of their favourite T.V. chair. But then again, there was a hockey game on…

I’m reluctant to identify who was there Tuesday, because I might miss somebody, but reports are that candidates Jim Bifano, Larry Samson and Sean Smith were there. For the record, Smith has been to, if not every council meeting, then certainly most of them since declaring his candidacy way back in June. And Darryn Striga has been attending since August but he wasn’t there Tuesday. So good on those two. A smattering of other candidates have been spotted at a previous council meeting or two but, really, I’d say it’s a pretty shoddy show of interest in the workings of our city from people hoping to get our vote.

Of course, some of the candidates are already heavily involved in city committees – Ron Kerr, for example – so that maybe earns a pass, given their commitment to the community shown by the donation of their time already, election campaign or not.

Meanwhile, the campaign signs are propagating around the city. The signs are a curious method of campaigning. Presumably, all they serve to accomplish is to remind you that they are running for council because unless they’re an incumbent or you know them personally, the signs don’t tell you much. There might be a slogan or two but other than that they might as well say “Don’t Forget. Joe Smith is running for council.”

If there was more room on the sign, they might say, “You know him. He’s your neighbour three doors down the street. He’s not a bad guy. You don’t know anybody else, so you might as well vote for him.”

I’m kidding, of course. Some candidates are active in the community in various forums and organizations. It’s a good way to get known but they probably don’t do community service to further they’re political careers. Not at this level. Whether the work they’ve done helps or not, I can’t say for sure. I’ve not done any kind of investigation into this but thinking back on it, I’d say it’s gone both ways for people who are active in the community. Some have won, some have lost.

So, it’s no conclusive advantage. Again, I guess it comes down to your policies and your abilities.

And what about the elephant in the room? The perceived dislike of the current council. Is it any worse this time around than previously?

There has been some controversial issues over the last three years. Some people are still hissing mad at the changes made to the traffic lights on Dogwood. (Does anybody really even think about it any more? Are people not used to the changes by now?)

There’s increased tax levels but could anybody have done anything differently given the loss of Catalyst mill revenue? And somebody really needs to do a comparison of Campbell River’s tax rate compared to other like-sized communities.

Anyway, there’s been a high level of hostility towards the incumbents. It will be interesting to see voter response.

One thing that’s for certain, however, is anybody who thinks they can come in and do something different is going to learn a big lesson. They won’t have been the first to say they’re going to make changes and then found out that you still have to work with the system and your fellow councillors in order to get anything done. You can’t buck the system that you’re going to need to accomplish things. That’s the way city council works. You can’t do it yourself. You have to work with people.

Even a rebel in the mayor’s chair won’t change things. He’s just one vote and then only in the case of a tie.

So, maybe the job for you the voter is to develop a team that can work rather than vote for politically like-minded individuals. Maybe instead of all-candidate meetings, we should make like theatre directors and give them some sample agendas and audition them as a cast, a team, and see which group of six works well together. If somebody does have a different way of doing things that will be successful, they’ll need to convince others to go with it.

But, alas, you have to evaluate them as individuals. So, get to know them over the next few weeks.

Maybe you’ll see them at a council meeting because you voters should be there too.