How to pick a mayor!
The widespread interest in next month’s city election is impressive – crowded debates, letters to the editor, call-ins, discussions on the street, on and on. This also indicates a lot of indecision, even confusion, given five solid candidates, most with different backgrounds, experience and ambitions.
Voters are up in the air. So, how can we focus our vote?
First consideration, of course, is our personal criteria. Comparing candidates requires the apples-with-apples routine: use the same criteria for every candidate. If we pick out the best feature of Y and the best of X, how do we decide? We judge all five on the basis of the same criteria, very simply, and such comparisons yield unexpected results.
Make a real list -- on paper -- of the top three to five issues personally important to you. Look through the Bulletin for the issues at play. Caution: list only very-specific proposals and ignore, best you can, generalized good intentions – such as “safety of our school children”, “more jobs”, “good leadership”, no one disagrees with these throw-away promises. They have no real content. Stick with specifics.
Next, jot down, somehow, the experience of each candidate: in governing, especially on the city level. Experience with Quebec politics and bureaucracy is very important. Plus experience running a large-personnel operation. Briefly.
Third, list the personal qualities and skills you’ve seen in each candidate that will affect how well they can work with a large council, managing a big group of civil servants -- are they compromisers or authoritarian? Intelligent, and good listeners? Patient with the public? How well educated, how bilingual, how energetic? Also, your assessment of the general political leaning of each – right, left, or whatever: this is relevant to city administration because it conditions how problems will be ranked, and which solutions will even be considered.
By now, you’ll have a good idea of your choice. But top up your coffee, and now get more specific on your rankings. Make a chart – on one side pick five to eight issues you value and, opposite, list the five candidates. Score every candidate (1 to 10) on every one of your issues. Add up the scores, and, bingo, there’s the mayor for you.
Again, be concrete and avoid “motherhood” pronouncements and grand generalities.
Here’s a sample list of issues (1 to 10 on each): 1. Likely to put Aylmer and Gatineau ahead of personal ambitions? 2. Intelligence & ability to listen? 3. Business experience; language skills; neutrality in politics, religious, special-interest groups? 4. A forceful personality, convincing? 5. They do avoid formalism, clichés, bureaucratese, not tangled up in procedure and hierarchy? 6. Examples of having mobilized others for a concrete goal? 7. Can speak clearly and to the point, concisely, and in positives? One-to-ten on each group.
No rocket-science here, but this is a way to compare all candidates on the same scorecard. Voting with “your gut” (or even heart) isn’t as reliable as we wish.