Internet commenters are somewhat like potato chips. They come in more flavours than one would reasonably expect and some of them are nothing more than greasy little crumbs at the bottom of the bag. But we immediately delete the greasy ones before the public can read them.
Among the published comments, however, are a wide variety of opinions. Some make little sense. Some make a great deal of sense or at the very least provide food for thought. James O’Brien, a candidate in the 2012 by-election, recently commented on The Morinville News website that Morinville should double the number of councillors to 12 and move to a ward system with two representatives from each.
It offers some solid food for thought.
We see several problems with that. Setting aside the mountains that would need to be moved to make it happen, the length of meetings would certainly increase along with the demands on administrative staff. And there is always the strong possibility neighbouring wards could form pacts to skew voting in order to get what they want.
But perhaps the biggest problem with the idea is the rise of one-agenda candidates or ward apathy. While the 2010 election saw plenty of candidates, the 2006 election period resulted in a Council by acclamation. A lack of interest in South Glens could result in a couple ward councillors whose raison d’être is to build a floral arch over the entrance or perhaps a resident of the Lakes whose sole purpose for running is because she wants stargazing friendly streetlights installed.
Edmonton went to a ward system for the 2010 municipal election. Morinville is not ready for that. Early word on the street is there will be no shortage of incumbent and new candidates for that low figure four-digit salary they all take home, but whomever is elected must be elected from the general population with the general interests of the community at heart.
However, if Mr. O’Brien and I were Councillors, as entertaining as that may be, I’d offer a friendly amendment to his motion. Let’s elect our Council and then assign a ward to them during the annual organizational meeting. Here are the three arguments for that.
First. It already works for the various boards and organizations Council is assigned to. They sit on these groups and then bring the groups information and issues back to Council, advocating for those interests as needed. Switching it up every year gives them a broader understanding of those groups.
Second. It would give councillors the responsibility to really understand an area of town. Although still under 10,000 people, a South Glens resident has very different issues than an Old Morinville resident. Councillor or not, unless you live in South Glens or the Lakes or know someone who lives there, you have little to no reason to go there – yard sales notwithstanding.
Third. It would give residents of those areas one member of Council as a liaison to whom they could bring their concerns and in whom there would be an increasing understanding of the neighbourhood and its needs. There is no opportunity for a recall in a ward system, but if liaisons were part of the annual organizational meeting, a neighbourhood could easily express their desire to reassign or replace that councillor in the second, third or fourth year of their term.
We hope Mr. O’Brien will comment on our friendly amendment in the comment section of this publication. Others are welcome to do so as well. Just no crumby or greasy stuff – we delete that business right away.