Time for good ideas, not absurd promises

Prior to the 2003 municipal vote, this corner checked in with the author of a citizen’s guide to electing better public officials who encouraged voters to maximize the impact of their decision when they cast ballots.
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 that number of 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 pointed out 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 today as it was in 2003.
So, if you haven’t cast your ballot in one of the advance polls — and the final one is today from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Elgin Mall — then you owe it to yourself and the community in which we live, work and play to exercise your democratic right Monday.
The polling booths are located at Elgin Mall, Fanshawe College, the Timken Centre, Memorial Arena, the St. Thomas Public Library and Valleyview Home. They are open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Do not renege on this responsibility, especially in light of the tragic events of this week.
We owe so much to so many who ensured we have the freedom to vote for the individuals of our choice.

Hard to believe the campaign team of Bob McCaig, Suzanne Van Bommel and aldermen Mark Cosens and Jeff Kohler overlooked this golden opportunity.
Tuesday evening, potential voters crowded into St. Anne’s Centre for a meet and greet with mayoral and aldermanic candidates who had the opportunity to display their campaign material in display booths.
A unique chance to reach out to voters in the final days leading up to Monday’s municipal vote.
Both aldermen really should have exhibited, front and centre in their booths, full details of Option 3 for the St. Thomas Police Service headquarters.
You know, the $2 million alternative to constructing a new building at the Timken Centre or extensive renovations to the Colin McGregor Justice Building.
Voters could have seen for themselves the design plans for Option 3, dissected the $2 million price tag to appreciate the value to ratepayers and the savings we will enjoy.
A sure-fire game-changer that would have left no doubt with voters who our next mayor should be. Warm up the bus, Cliff Barwick and Heather Jackson.
Bob, Suzanne, Mark and Jeff, what were you thinking? I hate to say it, you dropped the ball.
What’s that? There is no Option 3. It is merely confined to the collective imagination of this quartet.
So there are no plans? No budget? No consultant reports? No engineering reports? No drawings?
Not even a couple of rough sketches on the back of a St. Thomas Roadhouse napkin?
I guess voters are expected to just take your word for all of this, sight unseen.
Talk about a wing and a prayer.


Ryan's Law was prompted by the death of Ryan Gibbons following an asthma attack at school.

Ryan’s Law was prompted by the death of Ryan Gibbons following an asthma attack at school.

“We owe it to our children to ensure that the one in five asthmatic children in Ontario can attend asthma-friendly schools.”

Elgin-Middlesex-London MPP Jeff Yurek after his private member’s bill, Ryan’s Law, passed second reading Thursday at Queen’s Park. Last session, Yurek introduced Ryan’s Law for the first time. However it failed to proceed through committee deliberation this April due to minor concerns raised over the language in the bill.

City Scope appears Saturday in the Times-Journal. Questions and comments may be emailed to ian.mccallum@sunmedia.ca.

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