Our elected officials down at City Hall have denied the citizens who they were elected to represent the opportunity to decide their method of governance. Their rationalizing of their self-serving political positioning does have serious ramifications but does offer some humour.
Chris Stephan is the lone councillor from west of Taylor Drive, and Frank Wong is the lone councillor from north of the river. The mayor and all the other six councillors live east of Gaetz Avenue and south of the river. If Frank and Chris were to decide to leave city council or lose in the next election, and given the disproportionate and increasing influence of the southeast section of Red Deer, then it is quite likely that 75 per cent of the city would not be represented in the next council.
Buck Buchanan was an integral and interesting co-author of the motion and if successful, he had the most to lose. Depending upon the ward boundaries, he could be campaigning against three or four fellow incumbents who garnered more votes than he won in the last election (honourable).
The same could be said and could influence the councillors who voted against a plebiscite on a ward system. They appear to be living in a possible ward where they would be campaigning against incumbents who had garnered more votes, or their vote base may have been outside their ward (self-serving).
Councilor Lynne Mulder said it was too big of an issue for a ballot, so does that mean electing a mayor and eight city councillors is just a small detail? This statement does remind me of Kim Campbell’s famous line, something about elections not being the time to discuss policies.
Tara Veer made comments about focusing on big issues. I had a vision of a beauty contestant standing on a stage with a tiara and sash holding a bouquet of roses claiming that she will devote her term seeking world-peace and ending world hunger. My children worked while earning a degree, had hobbies, travelled, maintained their car, built relationships and managed their nutrition. City councillors, I guess, are easily overwhelmed by involving the public in such a mundane matter of governance.
I was not surprised that they voted against the plebiscite, taking into account their apparent history of not communicating with their constituents these past years. This is also an election year and naturally posturing comes into play and legacies for retirees, etc. I wrote a letter on this issue last fall and there were hundreds of people who agreed with the lack of communications, accountability and respect from City Hall. The idea of a need for a ward system grew from that sense of frustration. Being aware that 300 voices did not constitute a majority, the idea of a plebiscite to involve the whole city emerged.
The months following saw discussions in stores, parking lots, restaurants and office parties. Hundreds of people supported the idea of a plebiscite and of the ward system. The mayor, five city councillors, the school board trustees, two city employees and five other people appeared against the ward system but few were against a plebiscite.
The idea of a petition does pose some logistical issues. We need 10,000 signatures in a 60-day period and there are volunteers who assure me it can be done. Do we petition for a plebiscite to be presented in six months as legislated requirements demand, would there be enough time to include it in the next election or would it force a stand-alone and expensive vote? Should we petition directly for the implementation of a ward system? The petition will be written and I am hoping that Chris Stephan can insure acceptable wording, and it will be circulated before and during the next election.
Another request would be that the media ask and candidates offer the area of their residence. For simplicity, let’s use 50th Street and 50th Avenue as the centre. Could the candidates inform the electorate if they live northwest, northeast, southwest or southeast of that point? Then it would be apparent to everyone about their representation.
The mayor and city council have shown disdain for our intelligence and scorn for our ability to understand the issue and determine the methods of which we wished to be represented. The citizens may reject the ward system but it is obviously apparent that the citizens do want a change, whether it is communications, respect or governance, which seem to be missing now.