By 12:30 on Sunday, Nov. 16, the election signs that lined Highway #3 (Central Avenue) for several blocks had disappeared as if by magic. The extra large one that stood in the vacant lot once occupied by the Grand Forks Hotel proved to be a challenge for the couple who removed it, but it too was eventually whisked away.
And so it is with civic elections. Candidates declare their intentions and begin their campaigns by erecting signs, distributing brochures and displaying posters. The eventually submit written statements, attend a forum and hold drop-in session all in an effort to recruit voters. On polling day, voters choose the people they think are most likely to represent their views and deal with their issues at council meetings.
What the residents of Grand Forks witnessed during the campaign was duplicated in communities across the province. Signs, posters and brochures are the visual part of the drama and in the end they disappear perhaps to be resurrected in a future campaign.
Forums are popular because they can be somewhat entertaining but they fall short in that they don’t provide much more information than that the candidate can speak in public. During this election Facebook discussions were popular.
The question on the minds of voters now is how the chosen few will govern. What style will they choose? Will they build on what the outgoing council accomplished or will they move to negate those accomplishments? Will they lead the city in a new direction? How will they garner the views of residents on major issues? Will referenda be commonplace?
It is to be expected that the atmosphere in council chambers will be different from what it was during the last three years. Council meetings will take be different with a novice in the mayor’s chair and four new councillors. Only with time will residents know whether the mayor elect can get the support of all councillors to fulfill his promise to lead the city like his business, “into a new era of success with a vision for the future.”
If the mayor and each of the councillors want to pursue their individual agendas what will they accomplish? Mayor elect Frank Konrad wants to begin work on the infrastructure, a project that will cost an estimated $127 million, and possibly reverse the decision on water meters. Julia Butler wants the council to “take their orders from the people.” Neil Krog wants to build on the good work of the outgoing council. Christine Thompson wants to address a number of issues of concern from the use of the surplus generated by the electric utility to the construction of sidewalks. Michael Wirishagin wants to work on the infrastructure, taxation, and the attraction of businesses to the city in his statement. Chris Hammet’s goal is to promote economic growth. Colleen Ross has a long list of objectives related mostly to food security in the region.
Fortunately for city residents, the staff at city hall does not change at election time. City staff provide the continuity that is needed to keep the city running smoothly. Services are not put on hold while councillors become familiar with their roles and responsibilities. The city can boast about having a strong staff and that bodes well for everyone over the next four years.
A complaint about the behaviour of city council over the past year was that it was not listening to residents. How will the new council handle such strong admonishment? How will it avoid the complication of slowing down the decision-making process?
Does the election of a new council mean that residents can now relax and turn their attention elsewhere? Certainly not! They must use every opportunity available to be involved in the work of city council.
Imagine what might happen if they choose not to.