Be impolite! Ask straight-up questions!
Our city’s government comes up for election this fall – only four-plus months from today. That’s cutting it short for us – not only for the hopefuls – to realize that this is OUR government, the government most closely linked to our personal lives and budgets, and it’s up for our choice.
We have to give some thought to what we expect from our city, what we can demand the city government to do, or not do, and what we want to hear from the candidates, from the top job itself, mayor, and from local councillors. I’m sure we don’t need the smiley-face platitudes: making the world safe for children and the elderly, a clean environment, an “economical” government, one that maintains services or improves them. Those are already givens! If a politician proposes such platitudes – which every single person in the city already expects – then we can be sure that politician either doesn’t know what his/her job entails, or else she/he is avoiding something, a different question.
We ourselves have to ask the right questions, and we have to be blunt: no clichés, and undeliverable promises, please! Voters need specifics, and we need to see the financial implications of promises (both to adding services or to cutting them). Cutting services does not always save money, it shifts the costs to other files or jurisdictions. And “saving money” is what bank accounts do; we don’t elect people to “save” us money. These aren’t bankers we’re voting for.
It’s the nuts-and-bolts of our neighbourhoods, streets, traffic flow, school locations, parks, libraries, zoning and city consultations that are important, and we need to know the candidates’ views on larger questions, too.
How do they feel about continual population expansion and its traffic? What do they think about centralizing recreational services in the centre of the city, rather than to the sectors or neighbourhoods – especially the massive arena project in centre-town? How about the private plan to build a large radioactive waste dump upstream from our city (and our water sources)? How about the homeless? There are many such “long-term questions”, just as there are the local ones. We each have to think about which questions mean most to us – and then ask those very questions! Insist on our questions, not the politicos’ prepared front-door blabfests.
There will be opportunities, but not enough to let a single opportunity to ask go by. Besides the public “debates”, there already are candidates knocking on every door, and here is where you have them in your grip for a couple of moments. Cut off their prepared speeches, and ask the meaty questions. Don’t be polite! Ask your need-to-know questions! Ask twice!
Or prepare to mumble to yourself for the next four years.
Read their printed material between the lines, between the clichés. Read their ads in this newspaper, and every interview here, too. Listen to all the media.
This homework is worth the bother. It’s your own future – yours!