ORIGINALLY POSTED Friday, December 8, 2006
The inaugural is over. We have taken our Oath of Office. We are now entitled to take our seats at the council table. Months of campaigning, years in some cases, have taken place. Hundreds of thousands of dollars have been spent getting the messages out. Several questionable questionnaires were circulated. Four all-candidate events brought out huge numbers of voters to hear and see candidates perform under pressure.
The Town expects the election to cost $140 thousand dollars of public funds. Twenty-three candidates vied for nine seats. I was not out there wearing out shoes and knocking my knuckles to the bone on thousands of doors but when people say they did that - I believe them. It is a heroic effort and everyone who participated deserves the appreciation of the entire community. Sticking your head up above the crowd and inviting people to take shots takes no small amount of courage.
When the chosen nine take their seats at the council table, I think that’s a big deal. I think it’s a serious responsibility to be making decisions for the entire community. I think accountability for votes cast during a term of office is a big deal. What other measure, in a civilized and intelligent society, should a voter have to determine where to place a vote in a future election?
That is why I do not believe the decision-making process should be spread out to include a hundred other citizens who will serve on advisory committees. They have not faced the voters. They have not spent personal resources, physical and financial. They have not spent months of their lives putting ideas forward and risking rejection in a very public arena. They will not be held accountable for the votes they cast in committee.
The most important function of a member of a councillor is to provide oversight to the Town’s administration. Councillors need the opportunity to gain an understanding of how a town department functions and the various principles underlying advice to Council.
The only way to get that level of competence is through the work of a standing committee. That’s where time can be spent between a department head and the elected representative, asking and answering every question that comes to mind. The job is part-time. If the taxpayers’ interest is going to be properly served, the highest and best use should be made of council’s time.
Sitting around a table with twice as many non-elected citizens with twice as many votes who are looking at only one aspect of town service is not my idea of the highest and best use of a councillor‘s time. It is undoubtedly a virtuous concept. It is not my idea of good management practice.