By Alderman Wayne Rothe
What makes an effective city councillor? How can you the voter determine who deserves your support?
Everyone – me included – says they’ll be honest, open and transparent. Everyone will spend your tax dollars carefully. Everyone is a good communicator and will be your conduit to city hall.
Candidates will put their credentials on their literature and their websites. They’ll list their volunteer service, and the number of years they’ve lived in Spruce Grove. Those things are unimportant.
On the things that are important – such as honesty and openness – how can you know if candidates come as advertised? You can’t know from a short doorstep conversation, or from election signs. It’s difficult to know by reading a brochure or from a two-minute speech at a forum. It’s very hard for voters to know who is sincere and who is just saying what you want to hear.
So what is a voter to do? Voters should sift through the rhetoric and look for things that the candidates probably won’t tell you.
You want team players who can play nice, but not bobble heads. You don’t want everyone thinking alike. You want free thinkers who will challenge administrative recommendations, and their colleagues’ points of view. You can claim to be a good communicator and that gets a big meh from me. Show me that you’re willing to challenge me and others and I’ll take notice.
Good councillors will come armed with facts and reasoned opinions and will make others rethink their own. You don’t want too many unanimous votes on the issues that matter.
Whether it’s a zoning change or a position on a sports complex, dissenting points of view should be encouraged. We will disagree at times but I like to think that we leave meetings respecting each other despite our differences. That’s in our code of conduct.
Ask the candidates why they’re running. Look for goals other than just, “taxes are too high,” or “we need better planning.” Don’t vote for single-issue candidates. Candidates should have three or four key objectives that they want to achieve during their term of office. Instead of saying that they’ll ban photo radar, they should say why they’ll push for that. They should be able to show that they’ve considered both sides.
There is a forum at the library Sept. 26 on library, arts and culture. Everyone will claim to support those services, but ask us to prove it.
Nomination day is Monday, Sept. 18, and that’s when we’ll know who is in the race. My advice for the new candidates is to care more about doing what’s right and less about being popular. Hit the ground running. Ask many questions and make an impact right off the bat. If you’re making veteran councillors a little uncomfortable then you’ll probably be effective.