A vote for Red Deer’s future
Red Deerians have rejected the parsimonious approach to civic government.
And they have opted for a mayor and a group of councillors who have proven skills and broad experience in running this city.
So we can assume that the majority of citizens endorse the Red Deer we know: a city that delivers a broad range of quality services.
And we can assume that most citizens expect the new council to approach the future in a similarly expansive way.
(The results of Monday’s votes are clear; and if you chose not to vote, we can assume you either endorsed the status quo or you were too disinterested to do otherwise, so the rest of us looked after it for you.)
Despite an undercurrent of dissatisfaction that ran through the campaign, the path mapped out over the course of the last nine years, under Mayor Morris Flewwelling and his council, has resonated with voters.
Putting six returning councillors back to work (one, Tara Veer, is now mayor; the other five incumbents are Lynne Mulder, Paul Harris, Dianne Wyntjes, Frank Wong and Buck Buchanan), and electing people with long track records of community service (Lawrence Lee and Ken Johnston) should ensure that Red Deer remains a progressive, dynamic city. And one that stays true to the principles entrenched over the last decade.
Red Deer is a good place to live, and the people charged with forming its vision and guiding civic services toward that vision have, for the most part, got it right.
But that doesn’t mean the voters, or council, should be smug or unmindful of the messages of discord we heard over the last few months as debate raged about the future of Red Deer. Tanya Handley’s presence on the new council is a clear signal, if muted (she is the only Red Deer First candidate to be elected).
We cannot forget what inspired many of the record number of candidates to run in this election: a frustration with the nature of decision making, a feeling that too little information is shared, and a firmly held belief that council has not always spent our money carefully.
For many critics, the bike lane fiasco is the ultimate example of a council with a sometimes weak grasp on what its constituents want. Even if it was a decision made with the best of intentions — and it was — it failed on too many levels. The critics seethed about cost, breadth, consultation (or lack thereof) and cumbersome implementation, to name a few.
It is up to Veer and her council to make sure they learned well from the criticism, and from the failure of the bike lane pilot project.
It is up to the rest of us to stay plugged in to the process of civic governance, so proposals that teeter can be tossed or reformed before they become a costly reality.
In part, that means council must do a better job of keeping us informed. It also means council must do a better job of tuning in to public concerns.
This group should have a short learning curve, given their collective experience. And they then can quickly get on with the business of enriching our lives.
Red Deerians have elected a council that reflects a broad view of what it takes to maintain a livable city. (It’s also, over the longer term, the more costly choice.)
But we can be excited that we have chosen to continue to build on our strengths, rather than to retrench or retreat.
John Stewart is the Advocate’s managing editor.