Why not to run for council

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Silly season starts this fallA recent article shared with me on Facebook, titled “Five Terrible Reasons to Run for Municipal Officelists many – but far from all – of the reasons people should not run for office. It’s a good read and, since the silly season will be on us soon enough (some of The Block are already in campaign mode), you should pay attention if you plan to run for office next year. Knowing why not to run is as important as knowing why you should.

The author of this piece is Danielle Klooster, self-described as, “… a leading Alberta provider of professional community development, economic development and strategic business planning consultation and support…”

Klooster’s five terrible reasons are:

  1. “People are ready for change!”
  2. “I’m going to clean house!”
  3. “I’m going to fix the [insert pet peeve such as snow removal/pot holes/bike lanes] situation!”
  4. “We have to get rid of the current corrupt/secretive/self-serving/incompetent bunch!”
  5. “I’m going to make lowering taxes my number one priority!”

She then fleshes out each element with her explanations why you should not run on these. Overall, it’s a pretty good exploration of the inappropriate motivations behind some people’s decisions to campaign for municipal office. Locally, of course, there have been other reasons, not least of all The Block’s decision to collectively use the municipality and your tax dollars to enforce and fund personal agendas and private vendettas.

The Block was especially big on number four – they built a whole campaign on innuendo, rumour and lies about the former council and promised to “drain the swamp…” but instead, they became the alligators. This council quickly proved itself more corrupt, secretive, self-serving and incompetent than any we’ve seen in this town previously.

They still harbour conspiracy theories about the former council and some now-departed staff and blame them for everything (Yes, I know: The Block blame their own faults and mistakes on someone or something else, all the time because taking responsibility is an adult act).

Time has shown the public that the former council was none of these things, and in fact The Block have shown themselves time and time again to be the most closed, unethical, and corrupt councillors in our town’s history. In the past three years, The Block’s single positive accomplishment has been a bylaw that makes it illegal to throw birdseed on your porch or driveway. Compare that to the lengthy list of positive, pro-community actions and accomplishments last term.

They also liked to rail on about reason number two – cleaning house – but only to a point that suited their vendettas. They harassed staff and drove several experienced and professional staff away. The COO of the water utility moved to another community, and the provincially respected and honoured CEO of the electrical utility retired early, among others. Their incorrigibly bad treatment of the hospital and the roadblocks they erected to the redevelopment were likely part of the reason the hospital CEO recently left for another placement. But they didn’t want to get rid of the much disliked and confrontational interim CAO – who at $225,000 a year is paid more than the premier of the province – and thus save taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Obviously, even though most of The Block campaigned on number five – low taxes – none of them intended to keep that promise. In fact, they have RAISED property taxes three times in the past three budgets, while giving themselves a nice pay raise each time they did so.

Keep in mind that last term council only raised property taxes ONCE in four years, while still paying down the town’s debt, building a new fire station, rebuilding the OPP station, covering the swimming pool for year-round use (and adding a heated pool to it), building a new 400-seat arena, putting more public docks in the harbour, purchasing a new building and site for the works department, and financing most of the Hume Street upgrades. All done with less revenue than The Block have now (of course, we weren’t paying high-priced sole-sourced lawyers and consultants, either, as this group have been).

The Block and their friends had other reasons to run for office, including some very personal ones (guess which these are, from the list below):

  • “I’m going to punish everyone who upset me or stood in my way or didn’t so what I wanted last term…”
  • “I want to get even because the last council blocked me from getting a cushy job with the YMCA…”
  • “I need the money…” (and the subsets: “I failed as a financial advisor and now I need the money…” and “It’s either this or getting welfare…”)
  • “I’m not qualified or experienced, but my friends think I should run…”
  • “I was the head of a trailer park council but I better get elected because I’ve told everyone I was the mayor of a big, important place and I know what to do…”
  • “I plan to vote as I’m told and not question anything, so you’ll always know here I stand…”
  • “I want to be the next mayor…”
  • “I’m an alpha personality…”
  • “I want an unlimited expense account so I can fly all over Canada and party with my friends…”
  • “I don’t want to work at something hard, so a council seat is perfect for me…”
  • “I run a barely surviving small business, so I figure I’m qualified to run a big corporation…”
  • “The town can save money by not giving me paperwork because I don’t read…”
  • “It’s too noisy at home, so I need a quiet place to nap in the evenings…”
  • “I’ve been fired from every job I’ve had, and I can’t keep sponging off my wife and in-laws…”
  • “I’m an entrepreneur who has opened dozens of businesses and companies and although none of them have lasted or succeeded, I want to try my hand at managing a town…”
  • “My spouse wants some time alone, so I figured this would be a good place to spend it…”
  • “My boss wants me in public office so I can manipulate things and drive business his way…”
  • “My in-laws want me in public office so I can manipulate things and drive business their way…”
  • “I want the free healthcare…” (and the subset: free parking)
  • “This way I’ll be able to put all my friends on boards and committees even through they aren’t qualified…”
  • “I have nothing intelligent to say, and this is the perfect place to say it…”
  • “I want people to think I’m a big shot…”
  • “People don’t respect or like me. This will make them think twice about me…”
  • I’ve been warned not be alone around children, so I need a job with adults…
  • “I will finally be able to order people around and make them do what I want for a change…”
  • “I can use my power at the table to discredit and put down every Liberal in town…”
  • “Taxpayers will pay for me to visit my friends out of town because I’ll claim I was at a conference…” (and the subset: “Taxpayers will pay for me to ride my bicycle around different cities because I’ll claim I was at a conference…”)
  • “I’ve always loved secrecy and can’t get enough of conniving and scheming behind closed doors…”
  • “The voices in my head told me to run for office…”
  • “I am opposed to any changes in this town and I will fight to prevent them from happening…”
  • “I don’t like Clearview, so I plan to piss them off…” (substitute any or all of Wasaga Beach, Town of the Blue Mountains, Simcoe County, New Tecumseth…)
  • “We don’t need more jobs here, so I will discourage their creation… ” (substitute businesses, industry, growth, airport development, waterfront development…)
  • “Revenge! I will take take revenge on my former co-workers…!”
  • “I had a bad experience in the hospital, so I want to punish them…”

I’m sure you recognize at least a few of the reasons above – although they weren’t the reasons made public. And you likely can guess to whom they correspond.

The Block’s campaigns last term were not merely disingenuous: they lied to residents. None of them ran for office for reasons of selflessness, for the greater good, to make our community better, more prosperous, to improve services, to fix problems (like traffic and housing), to improve regional relationships, to grow and develop business, to help create jobs… they ran for purely personal, selfish reasons. And we can’t let that happen again next election. Were they in any way moral or ethical, all of them should be too ashamed of their lies and their behaviour to run again. But they’re too arrogant, too selfish, too greedy not to.

Since we no longer ride people out of town on rails, all of them deserve to be tossed out in 2018.

Collingwood deserves better.

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