The choice you make at election time is important. Who you choose to represent you will affect the quality of the representation you receive. It will also affect the quality of the council team and hence the quality of the council decisions. So here are some tips when deciding who to vote for.
Prepare a list of issues that are of interest to you or that you would like to have addressed. This way you can ask each of the candidates the same question and keep a record of their answers.
Municipal government has to deal with some complex issues. Does the candidate understand some of this complexity or does the candidate offer simple but unrealistic options.
What experience does the candidate have in serving the community? Many successful councillors have served their communities in one or more volunteer activities prior to service on the municipal council. This list might include religious institutions, schools, sport and recreation bodies, charitable organizations and business associations to name a few. Participation in one of more of these indicates a genuine concern for community.
Things to Consider
Getting elected is about getting the most votes. In the process some candidates will say almost anything to win your support on election day. But this may not be the best candidate since ultimately some hard choices will have to be made and the promises made on your doorstep may not be kept. A candidate who pledges to work hard on your behalf may be better than the one who makes specific promises.
In the final analysis an individual councillor has relatively little power. Power is exercised by the municipal council as a whole; that is power is exercised by the municipal council through majority vote. The effectiveness of a councillor can therefore be related to his or her effectiveness as a team player. A maverick councillor may make good headlines but his or her effectiveness may be quite compromised by a difficult personality.
Municipal government is about finding the best solution for any given challenge. This means a councillor should be open minded and prepared to listen to different points of view. Listening for understanding and meaning is an important skill for a municipal councillor.
One of the comments made by new councillors is that they had little appreciation for the time commitment. Council meetings, committee meetings, community gatherings, reading agenda packages and just providing good representation require a significant commitment of time. Often times these commitments occur during the regular work day, in the evenings and on the weekends.