Prior to the 2003 municipal vote, this corner consulted the author of a citizen’s guide to electing better public officials who encourages voters to maximize the impact of their decision when they cast ballots on Oct. 25.
Charles Bens has consulted more than 200 public sector organizations in Canada, the U.S., Europe and Latin America, and he advocates a process he calls “quality voting.”
In the aldermanic race, voters can cast up to a maximum of seven votes, but Bens stresses there is no requirement to endorse seven candidates.
The goal, argues Bens, is to only support those candidates “who will make good decisions on behalf of the community.” If a voter feels they have accomplished that by supporting less than the maximum allowed seven candidates, then they should not feel obligated to cast the remainder of their votes.
He said just filling up the ballot “can sometimes send irresponsible and unethical people to public office.”
Voters need to become familiar with the candidates and the issues beforehand, reminds Bens.
“You can really sort it out quite simply by saying who are the most ethical people here. Who are the people I would trust to babysit my children and to invest my money. Those are the kind of people you want in public office.”
The ideal candidate, advises Bens, is someone who is amenable to working with others to try and get things done.
“It’s always good to vote for someone who seems to have good ideas. Not someone who makes absurd promises like ‘I will not raise your taxes.’ Someone whose ideas can actually be implemented and help the community. Not just ideas that try to trick someone into voting for them.”
Bens outlines 10 criteria to better gauge the merits of both incumbents and challengers.
These include leadership, communication and legislative skills, along with a determination that an individual is not a one-issue candidate.
Other factors include election behaviour, a vision for the community, personal attributes and the assurance a candidate is not making outrageous promises.
Bureaucratic aptitude and accountability round out Bens’ checklist.
“If people use common sense, those are the types of guidelines that have a better chance of putting people in who will learn on the job. Who will start to work together and who, if the administration is cooperating and giving them good information, will make some good decisions on behalf of the community.”
Just as valuable an insight as it was in 2003.
There has been much talk during the current municipal campaign about the need for city council to adopt a strategic plan to deal with a variety of issues — from economic policy to a framework for the future and the need for a cooperative effort.
It’s not a new concept in recent years at city hall.
In September, 2005, the previous council voted on a motion members meet for a day-long strategic planning and team-building session.
The initiative was defeated on a 4-4 vote with Mayor Jeff Kohler, Ald. Bill Aarts, Ald. Terry Shackelton and Ald. Marie Turvey in favour. Opposed were Ald. Cliff Barwick, Ald. Heather Jackson-Chapman, Ald. Tom Johnston and Ald. Dave Warden.
Was the resultant vote based on the issue, or the personalities involved?
Quite the piece of correspondence from Bob McCaig in yesterday’s T-J.
Do you think it will elicit a response from city firefighters?
Spoiler alert — don your asbestos gloves because the scorching response will be printed in this space Tuesday.
Just a thought, are McCaig’s ponderings entirely personal, or are they shared by some of his preferred candidates such as Al Riddell, Mark Cosens, Bill Sandison, Linda Stevenson and Kohler?
In case you missed it, here is the letter from Bob McCaig that has St. Thomas firefighters burning mad.
It was with interest, leading to consternation, that I noted the phalanx of young men in their bright yellow professional firefighter shirts Wednesday evening at the all-candidates meeting at St. Anne’s Centre.
Gathered at the back of the hall at the end of the evening, their shirts proclaimed that they were in support of candidates who supported public safety.
It all seemed a bit intimidating.
If there are any candidates who do not support public safety, they obviously are not in this campaign.
All of the candidates are sincere in their desire to see society protected by fire, police and emergency medical staff in times of need.
The real meaning of the firefighters support begs further inquiry.
Does it mean unqualified and unquestioning support for a group of public servants who, while being paid in part to sleep at the fire station, still manage to organize their shift schedule in order to put in overtime to the tune of $120,000 gross wage per year?
St. Thomas boasts at least a dozen of these stalwarts.
Consternation comes from the fact that uniformed, off-duty firemen are out on the campaign trail distributing campaign brochures on behalf of Mayor Cliff Barwick, as well as the mayor’s closest aldermanic supporters — Ald. Tom Johnston and Ald. Dave Warden.
I trust the electorate will support candidates who promise to provide services based on their needs and not on the direction of one of Ontario’s most powerful union lobbies.
R.A. (Bob) McCaig St. Thomas
How do you feel about firefighters going door to door, on their own time, canvassing for pre-selected candidates?
Who are those candidates? City Scope has determined they are: Mayor Cliff Barwick, Ald. Heather Jackson-Chapman, Ald. Tom Johnston, Ald. David Warden, Ald. Lori Baldwin-Sands, Peter Ostojic and Linda Stevenson.
Candidates who the fire fighters association “is actively involved in insuring that those elected to St.Thomas city council later this month share the same values on public safety that we as firefighters do.”
Really … are those values related to public safety or the protection of contract language and benefits? And, are there really candidates running for office on Oct. 25 opposed to “public safety?”
QUOTE OF THE WEEK
“I definitely believe we need a CAO. One of our big problems I believe is that in the past seven years has been the idea that a CAO is too powerful. I’d like to ask (former St. Thomas CAO) Roy Main tonight if he believes that a CAO is too powerful when he was asked at the time, ‘don’t let the door hit you on the way out.’ So he wasn’t powerful enough to save himself. I really believe we need the direction of a CAO to guide the council.”
Ald. Gord Campbell at Wednesday’s all-candidates meeting dispels the belief a CAO would be beyond the reach of council.
City Scope appears Saturday in the Times-Journal. Questions and comments may be e-mailed to: firstname.lastname@example.org.