Municipal Politics: A New Approach

Commentary: By Louie Milojevic

On 2014-08-28,at 10:40 AM Sinasac, Tawny (TSinasac@thespec.com) Subject:Achieving transformational change of a renaissance calibre in Hamilton requires that Hamiltonians elect leaders of no ordinary ability.

This expectation is of course popularly voiced every election.

However, encouraging greater voter participation and candidate diversity, initiatives historically heralded as the surest way of improving democratic government, gives voters only a partial edge on election night.

Certainly, more residents at the ballot box with a wider selection of candidates, increases the likelihood of a more demographically representative and legitimate local legislature.

For an incoming council with several historic decisions on its agenda this would be beneficial; a confirmation that policy going forward is an expression of the popular will, instead of the meagre 38 per cent who voted the past three municipal elections.

We often need reminding, particularly when our collective expectations have been lowered by an uninspiring federal or provincial election, that municipal voters have an altogether different level of empowerment, and greater control of their city’s destiny. When voters cast their ballots in a federal or provincial election, they do so on the basis of party ideology, vision or the character of a party’s leader. The individual capacities of a party’s local candidates hardly come up. They are elected not because of unique skill sets or professional distinctions, but because their respective party’s platform best resonates with a constituency at a given moment.

For a city “On the Cusp,” our municipal elections have yielded surprisingly consistent results. The past four have produced four different mayors, but decisions still rest in the hands of a council with more experience governing in times of decline than leading a renaissance.

If the campaigns of major candidates in this fall’s election serve as any indication, transformational change will continue to elude us. Municipal candidates are great at identifying the issues and stating where they stand. On the campaign trail, like federal and provincial candidates, they force-feed voters the correctness of their positions, and leave with them an abundance of policy positions as the only criteria on which to base their vote.

Consequently, municipal voters go to the polls with the same mindset they have during provincial and federal elections, knowing where candidates stand on the issues, but hardly anything about their ability to deliver. Even once elected the professional profiles of our local representatives matter little. Outsiders seeking greater familiarity with Hamilton as a business or living destination, learn quickly that the only information available about our leaders on the city’s website is what committees they chair or sit on. A remarkable oversight made more glaring by viewing the detailed profiles of Hamilton Health Sciences’ executive council, another significant publicly funded local decision-making body.

In prioritizing policy over competence, we overlook the important fact that the representatives we send to city council go there as individual problem solvers, not party members. They have no party apparatus to hide behind or rely on, only their own experiences and skills to navigate the free-for-all of municipal politics.

Yet voters seldom demand that municipal campaigns be as much about the candidates, their biographies, resum├ęs and personalities, as they are about the issues. There is no better way to improve Hamilton’s transformational potential than learning who the candidates are, in the same way employers do with employees.

The familiar stories of college graduates trying to land that elusive first job should be instructive. In today’s market employers conduct several rounds of interviews before hiring, with candidates being on the receiving end of countless but somehow always-relevant questions.

With a little aggression, more probing questions, and a local media that takes greater interest in the profiles of “outsider” candidates, voters can turn municipal elections into a similarly effective drawn-out job interview. A competence barometer levels the electoral playing field, preventing candidates with name recognition and resources but not necessarily the ability to govern, from winning election on popular issues alone.

Candidates for local office should meet the same standards as those seeking positions in the private sector. No municipality should expect transformational progress with representatives whose electoral success falls short of the rigorous hiring process that most working professionals overcome.

 

Louie Milojevic is the recipient of a 2014 Young Scholars Award from the Cosmos Club Foundation of Washington, D.C., and former doctoral fellow at New York University.

Comments
3 Responses to “Municipal Politics: A New Approach”
  1. Municipal politics is Party Politics. This is why we only look at the top 3 contenders. There are only 3 Parties that count and all are no doubt well represented, via Clark, Eisenberger and McHatti.
    No doubt about it, Municipal Career Politicians are cut from the same cloth as their Provincial and Federal cohorts, who brought us a 2 billion federal deficit, an Ontario deficit equal to that and all Provinces combined, and in Hamilton, a 20 million infrastructure deficit, probably more if the truth were known. If our leaders wanted us to vote, instead of fining and threatening to imprison non-voters, all we need to do is exclude those who don’t vote (without a good excuse), from the benefits of government. Say goodbye to health care, pensions etc.
    NOTE: It about time we had a means test for politicians, and/or run offs as they do in television shows like “Canada’s Got Talent”. It would help if the media would recognize the 4th runner up from the last election. That give the Fringe an edge.

  2. Bonjour and hello to all city of Hamilton members, citizens, residences and visitors. My name is Ricky Tavares and I will be your mayor of Hamilton Ontario Canada in the near future. I was born here in city of Hamilton at St.Josephs hospital. I am here to announce now and to make this statement very public now that I will be the first mayor in Canada willing and proud to work for a minimum wage salary. I love Hamilton and I must protect our city. My colleagues, financial advisors and I have a 5 year plan to implement and generate 1 trillion dollars into the Hamilton city hall building within the next 5 years. I am sorry to announce now that I will only be your mayor for 1 term because this city is too small for me to lead and guide into a productive population. I will be moving to Ottawa to be your Prime Minister of Canada after 1 term here in the city of Hamilton as your mayor. Thank you for voting me Ricky Tavares as mayor of Hamilton on Oct 27.

  3. The reason why I am avoiding verbal physical communication with you and the other media outlets is because I do not want to give away my secret “5 year plan” on how I will and am very capable of generating 1 trillion dollars into Hamilton cityhall building. If I am not elected this year then all the idiots, unproductive, dumbasses that did not vote for me will have to wait another 4 years for next election before I start turning Hamilton into NEW YORK city. I want to make Hamilton the richest city in the world but these stupid, selfish, whitehaired, dinosaur, cavemen mayor candidates and the media are trying to stop me and getting in my way. Why will you wait until next election to vote me as mayor of Hamilton when you can vote me as mayor of Hamilton NOW so that Hamilton gives me the platform and exposure to be able to spread my wings and aggressively generate 1 trillion dollars of foreign currency into cityhall as fast as I can before other cities start to notice and copy my 5 year business plan.

    Right now my hands are tied because I am not mayor of Hamilton. I am not able to make Hamilton the richest city in the world and if I am not mayor then I will not share my secret plan with you or my competitors. Nicole, can you please ask all my mayoral candidate competitors to pullout of this election so that I am guaranteed to win ? If so, then I will appoint and hire some of my current mayoral competitors to work in my office right beside me because I can use their experience and their protection.

    I am serious. This is an emergency for city of Hamilton. You must vote Ricky Tavares for mayor of Hamilton because I will “put Hamilton on the world map” and “run with the big boys”.

    BTW, I do not smoke cigarettes, I do not drink alcohol and I do not smoke marijuana.
    Nicole, are you single ?

    Regards,,,,,
    Ricky Tavares
    http://www.rickyseeds.com
    905-515-4307

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