“A softer morning.”
— A random campaign slogan created on a three-word Internet slogan generator
Empty green space is at a premium in my St. John’s neighbourhood, with municipal election signs dotting every verge and field.
They’re all clamouring for attention, pleading for my ballot with often enigmatic phrases:
“I’m asking for your vote” (why, exactly?)
“A citizen first” (and what, pray tell, second?)
“Expect more” (more of what? More than what?).
It’s all very confusing.
OK, so they all want my vote. I get that part.
But what about what I want? Because when it comes to casting a ballot, believe me, I have some very firm demands.
What does it take to earn my vote? Well, let’s see.
That’s a biggie. Are you in this for power, extra pay and prestige, or because you’re a resident who has invested time and energy in this city and you want to make it a better place? And are you willing to listen to the legitimate concerns and ideas of your fellow citizens? (Please don’t say you’re “passionate” about St. John’s, though — passionate is one of the most over-used words in the politician’s lexicon. Remember Danny Williams? His passions ran so high that a vein in his temple was perpetually twitching.)
Conflict of interest — do you know the rules and are willing to follow them to the strictest letter? Good. Now we’re getting somewhere. (See also, Ethics.)
How much does money matter to you?
Are you seeking election based on the current remuneration and yet part of your secret agenda is to gun for a pay raise as soon as you take office? I can hear it now — “being a councillor is actually a full-time job; councillors in cities of comparable size earn more than we do.”
Yes, but are the citizens in those cities of comparable size constantly getting taxed at a higher rate? Because we are here.
If you’re running for election knowing what the pay is and you think it’s not enough, then have the guts and decency to make that part of your campaign platform.
I’d like to see new blood on council, but not a complete turnover. The loss of longtime members of council like Deputy Mayor Shannie Duff is immeasurable.
When she goes, she’ll take a hell of a lot of experience and historical knowledge with her.
How do you feel about development?
Do you think the city should be so gosh-darned thankful that a company wants to build a hotel, big-box store or office tower here that they can put it wherever they want or as high as they want and with as little parking as they want, or do you believe in developing sound policies and sticking to them — policies that consider residents as well as tax revenues?
Are you luxury-condo crazy or are you mad for monster-house subdivisions? Or do you believe in fostering neighbourhoods that have a mix of housing types?
How about crime, poverty and homelessness? Are those nasty little issues you wish would just go away, or will you confront them head-on and try to find solutions?
Do you think this is just the best-est, happiest city in the world, or do you think this is a great city with problems and pockmarks, like most cities?
How about sidewalks?
Will you make those available all year long or are they just a summertime offering, and pedestrians be damned when the snow flies?
How about arrogance and a sense of entitlement? Anyone ever accuse you of falling prey to either? Are you one of those politicians who doesn’t get elected and then blames voters for having made a mistake or lost an opportunity?
In other words, is Peter Penashue your political soulmate? If so, don’t look for my support.
Do you take a regional or insular approach? I was pleased this week to hear our neighbour, Mount Pearl Mayor Randy Simms, encourage residents from the region — not just his city — to bring their dogs out to experience the new dog park there.
Would you do the same? Or would you be one of those councillors who would rail on about “brown-baggers” and suggest we tax the people who commute here for work or school, or make them pay tolls?
Think about that for a minute. Living in the capital city has benefits that we, as residents, enjoy. I can walk downtown from my house and go to an art gallery or drop by a bar to hear a band.
Not everything is as easily accessible for someone who lives in an outlying community.
And every city attracts people from other parts of the region — it’s to be expected. What’s the alternative?
That everyone must work strictly within the boundaries of their own municipality or face a levy?
That’s not the kind of thinking I’m going to vote for.
I’m for collaboration, not pitting towns against each other.
So, there you have it — those are some of the things I’m looking for in a candidate. Anyone out there fit the bill?
Let me know and you’ll get my vote.
Pam Frampton is a columnist and
The Telegram’s associate managing editor. Email email@example.com.