Editorial: By-election coming up – considering standing for election?
UPDATED: Rossland City Council officially announced Scott Forsyth’s resignation from Council in its January 8 “Council Connects” newsletter. There will be a by-election, and the date has been tentatively set for April 4. For more details, be sure to read the “Council Matters” report on the January 20 Council meeting, coming soon.
Should you consider standing for election? And as a voter, for whom should you vote? Read on …
Do you have the qualities to be an effective member of council? Here are observations and suggestions from a person who has been watching and reporting on Rossland’s City Council for about seven years. In my opinion, the following qualities are very useful in Council members.
These suggestions are not in any order of importance — they’re all important.
Patience. Council’s work proceeds at a pace limited by legislative requirements, and often allows for input from affected parties and the general public. In meetings, councillors need to wait for recognition from the Mayor before speaking, even when they’d love to burst out with their opinions instantly.
Clarity of Speech. Being able to express your thoughts clearly and succinctly is a huge advantage; it enables others (including the press) to understand your meaning, and it saves Council precious time if members can get their ideas out there without rambling or backtracking or being unduly repetitious. It helps to be able to project your voice, too, so you can be heard.
Respect and courtesy. Hearing the views of citizens and other council members with respect and responding with courtesy even if you disagree profoundly with their thoughts is crucial to the tone and functioning of Council. At Council and everywhere else, people should discuss issues without taking opposing views personally.
Systems thinking. Being able to see how things affect each other, rather than seeing a decision only in isolation, will lead to better decision-making – because the City deals in systems, not isolated actions. Good councillors understand the fundamental interconnectedness of all things (with apologies to Douglas Adams and his fictional character Dirk Gently).
Curiosity and willingness to learn. Neither new council members nor experienced ones know everything, and it’s very vital to be a good listener and be open to learning.
Preparedness and presence. Council members have about four days to read large volumes of material, and they should do that before the Council meeting – and be prepared to discuss everything. And they should be able to attend most meetings.
Integrity. Councilors must be honest and not open to corruption. You must be there to accomplish the best outcomes for the whole community – no attempts to benefits yourself or your buddies above everyone else.
Long-term strategic thinking. Council decisions often affect the community for a long time.
Now that we’ve laid out suggestions for potential council members, here’s a list of what we do NOT need or want on City Council; these are repeated from a previous article on the topic.
If you’re a candiate or council member,
Do not make promises about what you’ll get Council to do once you’re elected; you can’t do that, because you’re just one vote. And you probably don’t have all the information on the topic (whatever it is) yet anyway.
Do not be unprepared for meetings. If you aren’t prepared, you’re wasting everyone’s time.
Do not try to instruct staff members – that is NOT your job as a councillor; it’s the CAO’s job. If you try to give direction to staff, you’re just meddling and it’s really, really inappropriate.
Do not try to make everyone happy – it’s just not possible. Act in the best interests of the community as a whole, instead.
Do not have a fixed mindset and fail to listen to alternate views and reasoning – being unable to take in new information if it doesn’t support your prejudices is not helpful.
Do not criticize, blame and complain – it’s not only unproductive but also damaging to the relationships you need to build to be effective. Hostility and antagonism have no place at the Council table.
Do not talk only to “your peeps” – if you limit your conversations to your buddies and those who already agree with you about almost everything, you’re not being curious enough and you’re failing in your role as a community representative.
Preparation for candidacy:
Still considering being a candidate?
If so, be sure to attend several Council meetings, and read factual reports on Council meetings. Be informed of facts – don’t base your candidacy or your campaign on rumours you heard in the coffee shop, the bar, the locker room, or social media.
Sign up, if you haven’t already, to receive Council’s agenda packages – and read them all the way through, before going to those meetings. It’ll be good practice.
Talk to several current council members – not just one or two – and elicit information from them.
Sign up for other notifications from the City.
And if you do stand for election – congratulations. It’s a bold step to work for our community.