They are off and running. OK, running might be a bit of a stretch, but the candidates are lurching into the municipal election as the “War of the Signs” has been declared. Like weeds growing in a garden they will spread.
Humanity has made real progress in the last hundred years when it comes to the sciences, medicine and computing. However, when it comes to how we deal with each other, mental health and politics, not so much. This is a little surprising when you think of the number of people our universities pump out with degrees in political science, social science, the arts and the humanities. Makes you wonder what they really learned and what they are all doing now.
Our municipal politics are based on ancient rituals hundreds of years old that really are out of date and often totally inefficient. They really do need a little rethinking. I don’t have a degree in politics or anything remotely close to it, so this is my own version of civic politics 101.
We get to vote for a mayor and city council based on their personality, popularity, experience and what is loosely called their platform of ideas. Sometimes it’s not a lot to go on but it’s all we got. They do have a couple open debates but only a tiny percentage of the electorate attend or get to see them. They also answer a few questions for the various news media outlets.
The information the average citizen uses to decide on who to vote for is at best minimal and if 50 per cent of the people eligible to vote actually get out and do it, that’s doing well. Also, I would be interested to know what percentage of the people living in an area even make it onto the voters list.
The way things work now, our elected representatives have committee and council meetings where they talk about, debate and vote on policy or things they would like to see the city do. They then direct those wishes to administration, which may or may not agree.
The position of mayor is interesting because it is a full-time job and in theory the mayor is the head of the city. I know it sounds a little kinky, but the mayor gets to wear a chain of office and is sometimes referred to as his or her worship. It sounds like the prelude to a human sacrifice and I am sure some mayors would agree because they get blamed for everything but actually have little power. They get to chair the meetings but until a bylaw change last week, they only got to vote if the council was deadlocked. That has since changed so we will have to see how it works out.
The mayor is the contact between city council and the administrator. If you have ever been to a council meeting, a councillor will ask a question of the mayor, who will direct it to the administrator, who will ask a department head, who then answers the question or says, “I will get back to you on that.”
City councilors don’t even speak directly to city administration and city employees. The only person they have control over hiring or firing is the city administrator who oversees all the other employees and that’s the person who has a lot of power.
The mayor has a whole lot social chores. Shaking hands, greeting visitors, going to functions and, of course, ribbon cutting. He or she can also help set the tone for council meetings and they have a degree of moral authority, if they chose to exercise it.
If the mayor, city council and administration all get along, things work relatively smoothly but if they don’t, it can get pretty nasty. Past administrations have thwarted the wishes of the elected officials and at times they did things that the mayor and council never approved of. That was in the past. We have a new city administration and will soon have a new mayor and council, so let’s keep our fingers crossed for a brighter future, even if our voting system does need a bit of an overhaul.