By George A. Brown, editor
Serving as a municipal councillor is often a thankless job, but really, somebody’s gotta do it.
Municipal government has more direct influence on the everyday lives of citizens than either the provincial or federal government. You expect a lot from your local government but are you prepared to put in a lot of time and effort over the next three years to improve the quality of life in your community?
For you citizens and businesspeople who have opposed the municipal council’s decisions on rezoning applications or public works projects, this is the chance you’ve been waiting for to make a difference.
Nomination day for the fall election is Sept. 20. That gives you a little better than three months to get up to speed on what town council or county council has been up to. You don’t have to understand mill rates, off-site levies, municipal development plans and debentures right away to be considered a good candidate for office. However there is a sharp learning curve.
Serving in public office is no easy task. It demands that you subject yourself to the unswerving scrutiny of your neighbours and devote a considerable amount of time and energy over the next three years to the business of governance. You will have a direct say in the variety of mundane and important issues that are required to direct growth and development — a reward that far exceeds the costs.
Once the Ponoka Stampede is over, the Ponoka News will poll the incumbents and shake the bushes looking for candidates. To do so beforehand could prove embarrassing lest we mix up a politician with the east end of a chuckwagon team heading west. And the bull cookies and cow pies we would have to tippy-toe around…
I expect we will see some retirements from town and county council — and we should. Not that the current councillors necessarily need to be removed kicking and screaming — just that if the community is to advance, it needs fresh ideas, and the revitalization a new generation of leaders can provide.
There’s something to be said for experience and knowing the ins and outs of government, the relationships that have been built with staff and senior levels of government. But councillors with more than three terms of service should either run for the big chair or get out of the way. Incumbents get bored easily because they’ve seen everything come around at least nine times. They might not give an issue the thorough debate it deserves just because they have see it all before — or worse, they harp on an issue because they have the same axe to grind after all those years.
Municipal politics is not about the glory. It’s about public service, about providing leadership for the community. And attending committee meetings that are duller than the average council meeting. It’s hard to believe but it’s true.
Local candidates do not have flashy party machinery to polish their platforms and hone their speeches. You get simple folk coming out of the woodwork — warts and all. It’s up to these people, many of whom are seeking elected office for the first time, to restore our faith in government and ease our frustrations. They must make us feel included in the system and empowered to make change.
Voter turnout on municipal election day is traditionally poor — maybe it’s because of the quality of candidates we have to choose from. You can change all that by becoming the candidate everyone wants to say they voted for.
If there is a lack of credible candidates on the ballot, and a low voter turnout, the nutbars and axe grinders stand a better chance of getting elected — or re-elected — and taking control of the political agenda for the next three years.