Thursday, September 15, 2011

Nanaimo Civic Election 2011

Who Will The Candidates Be?
What Will The Issues Be?
Will More Than 30% Of Voters Care?

To date there is neither smoke nor fire on the local civic election scene, with only Mayor Ruttan announcing his plan to seek re-election. The other councilors are being non-committal at this point but if you watched the last council meeting you can start to hear the tones of election campaign speak, which sounds different from the usual dialogue (or lack there of) that accompanies most council meetings.

If I were a betting man I would say that Councilors Pattje, Johnstone, Kipp, Greves and Bestwick will definitely be in the upcoming race, as would I suspect Councilor Sherry. It would not surprise me if Councilors Holdom and Unger chose not to run, nor would it surprise me if they chose to run. I would also expect some familiar faces to throw their hats in the ring again and those would include Gord Fuller, Darcy Olsen, Brian Filmore, Ian Gartshore, Bill McKay, Ron Bolin and maybe Fred Taylor.

Transparency: this is an issue that some candidates promised during the last election, but this council clearly prefers to make major decisions out of the glare of public scrutiny. For example there was the $500,000 golden handshake given to Mr. Berry, simply because he wanted to retire early. The reasons offered by the Mayor, are an insult to intelligence.
The decision surrounding the 'Bestwick Conflict' case to this day is shrouded in secrecy. The $16 million annex which sees a $12 million contract awarded without going to public tender is still hidden behind the in camera cloak, even though there are no reasons for not releasing all the details now. What is being hidden?? The Mayor said if we had the luxury of time, we might have done it differently. What exactly did he mean? Perhaps he can explain in the upcoming campaign.

Core Review: The only valid reason for not conducting a core review is fearing the results of independent oversight of how our city is being managed. This city hall staff for the most part are pretty much 'home grown' and could benefit from some fresh eyes and suggestions on how to improve efficiencies. All corporations, public and private have a tendency over time to fall into the rut of familiarity and it can be very beneficial to get some fresh ideas on how to do things.

Zero Based Budgeting: This is something municipalities everywhere need to adopt if we are ever going to reduce the amount of bloat that is built into the current budgeting process. For example, where did the $12 million cash come from to build the annex?? It never appeared in the draft budget plan presented earlier this year, yet the money has been collected and socked away, likely for years. What clearly amounts to over taxation needs to be addressed, and zero based budgeting deals is a good place to start.

Low Barrier Housing: This will likely be the most loudly protested issue during the upcoming election as now the residents in the north end will have an issue that galvanizes them with residents in the Quarterway School area.

These are not the only issues that could make for an interesting election campaign, however civic campaigns are usually pretty dull with no forums being available for any meaningful public debate. The all candidates meetings are pretty much pointless as the questions are usually pretty soft, and there is not time for back and forth debate among candidates.

Perhaps some of the local media can get together and organize a forum where the public can hear candidates deal with Nanaimo issues in real detail.

Does Anyone Care?

Perhaps the most challenging question to be answered during the next civic election is whether or not anymore than 30% of the Nanaimo population cares what goes on at city hall. The current sitting councilors have anywhere from 12% to 17% of the total eligible vote, which is a pretty dismal showing considering civic elections is one are where the citizens can actually make a difference if they get involved.



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  2. I appreciate the commentary on the upcoming civic election, but I would like to correct the supposition that I might run again for Council. The lessons I have learned from previous experience lead me to the position that any single Councillor in a Council of loose cannons is playing a game which is, at best, marginal. Of course we all know that behind the scenes business interests and the unions are fighting for Council supremacy using their substantial financial assets to supplement those funds which candidates are, for some reason, willing to spend themselves to try to buy a place on Council. An examination of the money spent in an election and where it comes from paints a painful picture of democracy. There are no organized and transparent grass roots backing for candidates.
    Accordingly I have determined not to join the madding crowd in running for vainglorious office in the absence of such organized grass roots. You can leave my name off your list of perspective candidates until the way the game is played is changed from the back room to the front of the stage.

    Ron Bolin


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