Monday 18 October 2010

City hall parties, bananas, and nuts.

If you read or watch the news and blogs -- and I think it's a safe assumption that you do if you've made it all the way to this little piece of internet real estate -- it's hard to escape the farcical goings-on in our civic election here in Winnipeg. If I try to link to all relevant posts and articles I will run out of links and have to buy more from Blogger, but a few recent examples could be found at Slurpees and Murder and Dan Lett's newest column.

I don't know about you, but everyone I talk to doesn't know who the hell to vote for because every candidate sucks rocks. Who-o-why can't we get somebody capable in office? Well, it may comfort you to know that inept mayors aren't confined to Winnipeg. Brian Kelcey has been doing a good job of covering races in other cities, unfortunately he has made me even more depressed by unhelpfully also pointing out competent candidates in other cities, like Jim Watson in Ottawa. That is why I was relieved to open the Maclean's web site and find this article: Canada's lousy mayors.

The author Nancy MacDonald talks about the “complete disaster” Larry O’Brien in Ottawa, “Dr. No.” Ric McIver in Calgary, as well as candidates in Mississauga, London, and Toronto. Winnipeg doesn't even make the list! Maybe we're doing okay after all!

... or maybe not. Nancy goes out of her way to find the loonies while avoiding any mention of the reasonable candidates. Plus I am quite sure that the only reason Winnipeg didn't make the list is because we're ... Winnipeg. The screwed up little town somewhere in the prairies that used to have a hockey team.

There is one interesting point that Nancy brings up however, and that is party politics at the civic level:

With a party system, mayors can whip their caucus into line, weakening narrow turf wars. Without it, that “how-does-this-affect-my-ward?” mindset, says Winnipeg councillor Jenny Gerbasi, can make it next to impossible to get mega-projects off the ground. “Council,” she says, “can lose sight of the bigger picture.”
Oh hey, look at that. She does mention a looney Winnipeg candidate. How did I miss that the first time? Anyhow ... it goes on:
Parties encourage accountability. If voters don’t think they’re going in the right direction, they can throw the bums out—as Vancouver voters did in 2008, returning an almost entirely fresh slate
cities have grown “way too big,” and the issues “far too significant,” to be left to the vagaries of individual candidates running on their own reputation and name recognition.
I have no idea if City Hall would function better with a party system, but it's hard to imagine it functioning any worse. Something to mull over.

Separated at birth?

If Dr.Ruth were running I might actually vote for her. Maybe she could get the juices of revitalization flowing downtown, lubricate our licensing and bureaucratic processes, and of course: get hard on crime.

credits: I stole the Judy pic from James, and I got the ruth pic from here.

This just in:
The Big Banana has a name

The Town of Melita made an error of judgment, in my view, when they chose the names for their giant banana statue and it's little bird side kick, selecting "Sunny" and "Breezy" instead of my far superior suggestions "Dildo" and "Peckerhead". Obviously Melita has it's own shortcomings in the council office.


One Man Committee said...

I think Gerbasi is on to something. The fact of the matter is that councillors clearly align themselves more or less along the lines of their mindsets (left, centre, right). Why not just bring it out into the open so that citizens can know exactly who is behind what?

The current system encourages a lot of buck-passing which is good if you're an multi-decade incumbent trying to avoid accountability, but isn't so hot if you're a citizen wondering why important things aren't getting done.

cherenkov said...

You might say that there is already an informal party system: the Mayor's EPC party and the Other Guys. However, the agenda that is pushed tends to be the personal agenda of the mayor. Perhaps a formal party system would be better because it would allow more input from grassroots party members, which would lead to a more cohesive strategy and better planning.

Brian F. Kelcey said...

The Nenshi win in Calgary convinced me that parties are a toxin in a municipal system.

Watching the results in Winnipeg will likely convince me of the exact opposite: that parties are an absolute necessity in a municipal system.

I remain torn - though I`m torn a little more *toward* parties than away from them, at this stage.

To sort of match One Man Comm`s point, I think the big benefit of parties would be the increased likelihood of candidate slates committing to an actual platform, based on real information.

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