Picking Candidates for City Council
The discussion of the possible introduction of political parties into Nanaimo elections has led to comments about candidates as well as about parties. Perhaps we should try mining this vein as well in our search for the discovery of what is needed to make this a town which we would find to be a matchless place to live rather than just another place to live.
What qualities do you think are required by those who represent us in City Council? Have we generally been successful in selecting such people? Why or why not?
These are some of the qualities I would like to see in the individuals sitting on Council,in no particular order:
1.)Good judgement coupled with above average intelligence.
2.)No close association with single interest groups (ie:developers,business,real estate,unions).
3.)Willingness to listen and consider the views of others.
4.)Experience with the principles of budgeting/fiscal management.
5.)Hard working on Council/City issues.
6.)Respectful of the views of citizens and taxpayers.
7.)Basic knowledge of ‘Roberts Rules of Order’ or willingness to learn them.
8.)Passionate advocate for Nanaimo’s future.
9.)Willingness to research topics that are unfamiliar.
10.)Courage to speak one’s mind and defer decisions when inadequate information is provided and/or furthur questions need answers.
11.)Visionary in planning and development.
12.)Sense of humour.
14.)Ability to articulate one’s views with reasonable clarity.
15.)Encourage and promote ‘truth in budgeting’.Courage to question staff on matters of annual budgeting,and being cognizant of the economic stuggles that face some taxpayers in the City.
16.)Willingness to consider the well-meaning views of the public.
17.)Concentrate on the City’s priorities (ie:clean water,dependable sewers,public safety etc.).
I think you may have missed nearly all the qualities extolled in the Boy Scout oath, but nevertheless the individual(s) you describe should certainly be electable. Are these the qualities of our currently seated worthies? And if not, why not?
It is virtually impossible for anyone to exibit all of the qualities listed.But I believe Fred Pattje comes very close in all 17 and in my opinion is by a long way the best of the current nine on Council.On the other end of the scale I would place Larry McNabb,who in my opinion doesn’t come close to meeting any of the 17.Why the voters continue to elect him should be a thesis topic for a student in Political Science.
As far as the remaining 7 members,I would rate Sherry at the top of this group because of his vast knowledge of Nanaimo’s history, being correct on many major issues,his independence and his concern about protecting the taxpayer from wasteful spending.I rate John Ruttan near the bottom of the group because as Mayor he is expected to have and elucidate a clear vision for the City,and he has done neither.
As far as the other 5 Council members, I leave that to others to express their opinions.
Where would one place “Loyalty” in this pantheon of virtues? Particularly loyalty to those who donated to get them elected? Or from those who regularly receive your vote for public funds for the operation of your group? And where would this rank among these virtues?
I certainly agree with most of the points in Wayne Schulstad’s first post. But some of Wayne’s points, while certainly desirable, are skills which would have to be gained on the job as a councillor; for example, a full knowledge of Robert’s Rules of Order and how to use them. That might eliminate a group sadly under-represented on council: the younger citizens of Nanaimo. While I believe that Nanaimo has the distinction of having had the youngest city councillor in British Columbia, I would like to see more representation from younger citizens of Nanaimo in general, as a matter of couse rather than as a rarity. Pushing seventy, I can hardly be accused of self-interest in making that statement. I’d like to see more of our younger working people, people with children still in school, people making mortgage payments on their first homes, people more in touch with that age group.
I also agree with another point of Wayne’s, made in a following post. Loyd Sherry sometimes appears to be the only councillor truly in touch with the average working person in Nanaimo. While the “culture” of Nanaimo and its demographics are certainly changing, particularly with our aging population and the influx of retirees from other areas who bring their money and their spending power with them–certainly a boost to the local economy–Nanaimo in its traditional heart is a hard hat and lunch box city. And more power to that. Sometimes it appears that Councillor Sherry is the only one at the table who always keeps that in mind.
Wendy is right on about needing more youth on Council. Despite perhaps having less life experience, it is this very characteristic which means that they will be more focused on the future and less on the past. We have many young and dynamic folks in town in the arts, in business, etc. with a lot to offer.
We need to ask ourselves why these folks don’t appear to be interested in local government, remembering that Council is a part time duty and they need not give up their day jobs.
They need to ask themselves if they think that the kind of future that they want to see for themselves and their families is being built by the current structure.
I think Ron is right in saying that potential younger councillors believe that sitting on council is, pretty well, a full-time job, and that there is a need to make it clear that it is not. Looking at city councillors, one can understand why that assumption might be made. Many are retired, an indication of the prevailing age bracket. Therefore, a connection in thought: “They ran for council because they’re retired and they have the time for it. I’m working, so I don’t have the time.”
When I have talked to members of the younger generation about the possibility of their running for council, I’ve encountered several responses. This one, for example, I think is valid:
“I’ve got kids and I want to spend my time with my family.”
Others are indications, I think, of the perception of council held by many of the younger generation:
“Those guys know what they’re doing, I wouldn’t know what to do, and I’d look like an idiot.”
“Sure, I can speak in public without my palms sweating, but I don’t know all the history of what’s gone on in the past, and they’d cut me to pieces at all-candidates’ meetings if I was running.”
And several more along the same lines as the last two. But reading between those lines, I detect an intimidation factor. The average age of city council is such that there’s a little fear there. In effect, “These are the ‘elders’ of the city and they scare me a little.” No younger person I’ve talked to about this issue has ever attended a council meeting, but has watched the meetings on Shaw Cable. They’re drawing their conclusions from that experience.
The prevailing opinion of those TV viewers is that everything’s been “fixed up” before the meetings even begin, that everyone knows “everything about everything” through some form of osmosis (which I suspect is not the case, granting that councillors will have attended committee meetings, will have done their pre-reading on issues, I hope), and that any young upstart who actually does succeed in being elected will not be treated particularly well, and, to some degree at least, left out of the loop. Whether that would be the case is something I couldn’t predict, not knowing all the personalities and all the inner workings of council.
I think that if there are any younger candidates forthcoming, they may very well come from the organization “Young Professionals of Nanaimo.” Which, I think, might very well take care of at least part of the problem of the costs of an election campaign. They’ve certainly proven themselves as an effective fund raising group in the past, the most recent example being their continuing efforts to save the train station. Members may, as individuals, support another member running for election.
I live in hope.
Are these not pretty good arguments for some kind of support structure behind a candidate that continues to work for him or her after election. Whether it’s a slate or a party or a group like the YPN.
Someone with these qualities is likely doing something else such as devoting their lives to feeding the poor and seeking world peace.
It is most unlikely you will find them in Nanaimo wishing to engage in local politics.
Regardless of outward appearance, I am very skeptical you will know the true masters most in politics serve.
Would it be helpful to limit the amount of money which could be spent on a municipal campaign? For example, if you have $10 – $30 thousand at your disposal you can pretty much out-sign and out-flyer anyone, as witnessed in the last election.
I realize this suggestion will not be popular with sign companies, printers and the local media, who all benefit from a political campaign, but if you put a spending cap of say, $1,000 on campaign expenses it might even the playing field. Of course a ward system would go a long way also.
Have we been successful electing quality people to council? In a democracy, the public gets the government it deserves. ’nuff said!
If we cannot have genuine democracy and are stuck with the representative variety where we periodically elect our dictators, I would like to suggest that rather than electing them, that we pick the names of electors at random and require them to serve for a term or two, overlapping to ensure some continuity. This has several advantages. First, the interests of the public will be represented rather than those of the group which saw advantage in supporting a particular candidate. Random selection should ensure representation of all elements in the community. This method bears no costs beyond maintaining a list of eligible candidates. Those chosen will have fixed terms as in military service and thus will not find themselves reluctant to leave. The method would also promote a much broader and more intensive education and interest in government.
Remember that if you do not believe that your neighbour would make an adequate representative, you don’t really believe in democracy anyway, but in some sort or aristocracy or plutocracy.
What do you think?
I think our democratic exercise has proven beyond doubt, we are not intelligent enough to rule ourselves!
What we really need is a king on the order of Solomon.
If we are intelligent enough to imagine that we can govern ourselves, then we are also intelligent enough to do it. But nobody said it would be easy…
By the way, what is the name of the baby you propose to split in two?
Two takes on democracy, both from Winston Churchill:
“It has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried.”
“The best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter.”
It was while checking the exact wording of the first that I found the second, which I’d never heard before. A sad statement, but even sadder, I suppose, if it were a conversation with a person who simply never bothers to vote.
Hi Wendy: If you would like some more quotes on democracy, I would point you to H.L. Mencken, whose internet bio can be found at:
If you go down the page to the quotes section you will find some remarkable observations.
Thanks very much for the pointer to the H. L. Mencken material. I tried, first, to go to “On and about organized religion” but the link is broken. Actually, reading Mencken’s Creed was much like listening to some of the things my father said regularly. As were some of the quotes at the bottom. I find it surprising that a man who wrote “A man is called a good fellow for doing things which, if done by a woman, would land her in a lunatic asylum” could be called, in effect, anti-women. One of the “handbooks” of the seventies was a book titled “Women and Madness”, written in support of women’s lib, and its message is much the same.
Very, very off-topic and I apologize. And I have saved that site in my “Favourites”. I realize that Bill Gates may not like my using “Canadian English”, since the program uses “Favorites”, but I’m a traditionalist Canadian.
“Remember that if you do not believe that your neighbour would make an adequate representative, you don’t really believe in democracy anyway, but in some sort or aristocracy or plutocracy.
What do you think?”
Is this a unqualified statement? If your neighbour is a beer swilling, wife beating, drug dealing all round nice guy, he still would make an adequate representative?
It is of course not entirely unqualified. If my neighbour is mentally or physically incapable of carrying out his/her duties, or is incarcerated, does not hold citizenship, etc. they, in my terms, would be disqualified.
If, on the other hand, they are beer swilling, so are a lot of our citizens and even, so I am told, some of our current representatives. As for wife beating and drug dealing, these are crimes, and if they have been convicted, they will be disqualified as above.
My point is this, baring extreme disability, criminality or absence of citizenship we are all in this same boat and deserve representation. Even citizenship is not currently a necessary bar to office as demonstrated by our mayor who is not a citizen of Nanaimo.
Re: (Wendy Smith 30 May 2010 at 3pm) Wendy, we all live in hope. But I think we do need to ask ourselves why we may leaving behind a generation less sure of themselves than we were when we were younger. Or was it just that we lived in easier times?
I too am impressed by what I read about the Young Professionals of Nanaimo and perhaps they may take up the challenge. But I also hope that the more everyday of our youth take part. Or is ambition a prerequisite for politics. Can our age still produce a Cincinnatus?
I really don’t think youth is the answer. I believe it was Henry Ford who said until he was fifty, he didn’t know anything.
The longer in the tooth I get, the more I see the wisdom in that statement.
It really should be those in our age group who can hand a blazing torch to the next generation and not as it would seem a smoldering wick.
If you look at all of the vast natural wealth this great nation has been blessed with, and consider the limited population it has had to support, and then you fairly assess what we have done with it ….
Well ’nuff said.
Experience is valuable when things don’t change so rapidly that experience is misleading.
While I do not suggest that a teenage takeover of city hall would solve our problems, I would welcome a mixture of young working citizens with our gray beards. In a rapidly changing world, experience can be deadly as we may be learning to our sorrow. To continue to do the things we have done in the past seems to have led us to the brink of environmental and financial catastrophe. We have been brought to this brink by our “wise” elders and by the reticence of our young to step up and participate. How can we stimulate them to step up to their responsibilities?