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Running for local office isn't for everyone
Aug 2, 2018, 09:52 AM
Municipal elections will be held October 20 in communities across the province and many people are thinking about running for local office. It's a decision that should be made carefully and thoughtfully. In my last Mayor's Message, I outlined former politician Danielle Klooster's Six Awesome Reasons to Run for Municipal Office. Now that we've discussed some very good reasons for wanting to serve your community let's talk about some bad reasons for seeking local office. As with the previous article, I will supplement Klooster's excellent reasoning with my own thoughts and experience.
Five Terrible Reasons to Run for Municipal Office
- People are ready for a change!
Maybe, but how often have you voted for someone simply because you are familiar with their name? Did you really know anything about them other than they seemed familiar? It happens all the time. When I ran for office, I felt like I was ready for the challenge. I grew up here, my business is downtown, my son went to school here, and I attended Council meetings as a concerned citizen and business owner. I had leadership experience in that I was a director and president of the Chamber of Commerce, director of the Ladysmith and District Credit Union, acted as co-chair of our local Parents' Advisory Council, and belonged to a working group that addressed concerns related to the School District 68 10 Year Enhanced Facilities Plan. I was a community advocate long before I ran for mayor and many people knew that about me. Yes, maybe some folks were ready for a change, but that's not why I chose to serve my community and I hope it didn't influence someone's decision to check the box beside my name on the ballot.
- I’m going to clean house!
As Danielle Klooster says so eloquently, "Uh, no you're not." Whatever you think about Town staff or the job they do or how much they get paid, you need to understand that their jobs are not your job and you don't get to direct their work. In fact, the only person who reports to Mayor and Council is the CAO and replacing a CAO results in significant severance costs that are ultimately passed down to taxpayers. It's a decision that can never be taken lightly. Further, once you get elected, you will see firsthand just how hard Town employees work and just how committed they are to serving the residents of our community.
- I'm going to fix the [insert pet peeve such as snow removal, pot holes, bike lanes] situation!
Running on a single issue is a bad idea for many reasons. Once you get elected, you have to work with your fellow members of Council to get decisions made and believe me, there are plenty of issues. If you ran on the premise that you are going to do something specific and the majority of Council decides it has other priorities, you will not only be disappointed, you will disappoint the people who elected you on that platform. When I ran for mayor, I developed an election platform that focused on building a solid foundation for our future - a platform based on 15 items ranging from revitalizing First Avenue to fostering partnerships with the Stz'uminus First Nation to developing our waterfront. As a Councillor, you are one of a group of decision-makers. It is Council's collective responsibility to make decisions for the benefit of all citizens of Ladysmith, not just a select few who are focused on one issue. It's important to bear in mind that what is important to one group of residents might be a low priority to another.
- We have to get rid of the current corrupt/secretive/self-serving/incompetent bunch!
Negativity breeds negativity. It's destructive and-counterproductive. And, at the end of the day, Ladysmith is a small town where most people know their neighbours. Running a campaign on a platform designed to smear someone else is never a good idea because even if you get elected, that negativity will follow you. Further, as with running on the premise that you will fix potholes or improve snow removal, running an 'anti' campaign is similar to running on a single issue. If the ballots are counted in your favour, you will still have a host of decisions to make as part of a team, and some of those decisions may have been in the works for months or even years by the very people you vowed to replace (some of whom may still be sitting next to you in Council chambers). This is a reminder that while it's easy to be a critic, being part of the decision-making team is full of challenges that not everyone is going to agree with.
- I'm going to make lowering taxes my number one priority!
This is such a short-sighted premise. When I campaigned on the premise of creating a solid platform for the future, I knew that taxation would be a factor. How could it not be? From upgrades to our water supply system, to our award winning waste water treatment plant, the new bio-solids composting facility, and our soon-to-be constructed water filtration plant, to our own community centre, Ladysmith has some of the most amazing infrastructure of any local government. If we weren't running our own infrastructure, we'd be paying a lot more in taxes to the CVRD to supply the same services. This way, we have more control over our own services for our residents. Further, each dollar that you pay in property taxes funds a variety of programs and services for everyone to benefit from and enjoy. These include:
- Maintaining 900,000 square metres of park land and 26 kilometres of trails
- Caring for 38 kilometres of Ladysmith sidewalks
- Filling 50-100 potholes per year
- Placing approximately 250-300 tons of salt and 200 tons of sand on roads each winter
- Cleaning and repairing 68 kilometres of sanitary sewer lines
- Supplying 1,407,000,000 litres of clean, safe drinking water to residents in Ladysmith, the Diamond, Saltair and Stz'uminus First Nation
- Maintaining 67.5 kilometres of roads and 17 municipally owned buildings
Without taxation, none of these things would be possible. That said, Council always works hard to try to ensure Ladysmith's municipal share of taxes stays as low as possible. In 2018 the Town's share of property taxes will increase by just over 2% based on the average assessed value of each owner's property as determined by BC Assessment. This slight increase in property taxes will allow the Town to maintain services for our citizens, enable us to invest in key infrastructure, and allow us to move forward on our Waterfront Area Plan.
Now that we have talked about why not to run for office, I encourage prospective candidates to inform themselves about the various issues and opportunities facing our town and check out some excellent videos provided by the provincial government aimed at anyone thinking of running for local office. Visit https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/governments/local-governments/governance-powers/general-local-elections/thinking-of-running-for-local-office
You can also see Danielle Klooster's original blog here http://danikloo.com/five-terrible-reasons-to-run-for-municipal-office/
Mayor Aaron Stone