Candidate Conversations. Edition 2. What does a councillor do?

2 min to read

What does a councillor do?  Attend a lot of meetings, return calls, go to events.

Anyone who really has gotten to know a councillor will say that a lot of time is required and they will find it challenging to take personal time.  It is a difficult balancing act.  There is no guidebook stating the hours to be spent on constituency work, reading reports, community involvement......

There is this guidebook The Municipal Councillor’s Guide – a 130 page document.

As well as getting to know councillors I have reviewed this document. It will help me to cast a discerning vote on October 22.

I am concerned that some of the candidates who have put themselves forward are not ready for what would be entailed in this position of councillor.  I also ask myself if some of those that are seeking re-election have done a good job.

A municipal elected official is less glamourous than a federal or provincial position.  There’s no fancy office at Queen’s Park.  There are few travel opportunities.

The people we elect municipally decide on more mundane issues, such as:

-          Garbage and recycling
-          Snow Removal
-          Parks
-          Community Centres, Pools, Arenas
-          Local Transit

But there’s a lot they need to understand

-          Who does what within the Town
-          Legislation and policies
-          Budget processes
-          Strategic planning
-          Rules of conduct for meetings

Basically, they are to allocate finite resources of time and money.  

How well will the elected official comprehend, research, think long term (versus acting to remain popular and get re-elected) and not be swayed by any persuasive voices?  
What is needed to make a stronger community with a better quality of life?
I would vote for someone who is intelligent, insightful, not egotistical and can make the hard decisions.

There is a balancing act to deal with NIMBYism (Not In My Backyard) versus looking after the vulnerable. Yes, we want to maintain our property values but I am a strong believer that we are as strong as the weakest link.  We need to provide and show compassion for children, seniors, those who may be compromised with physical or mental health issues, and new arrivals to our Town who need to know how to navigate and may have experienced traumatic events. 

The budget is a powerful management tool.  It prioritizes what gets done. There are many complex budget issues to manage, such as:

-          Operating and capital budgets
-          Cash management
-          Capital financing
-          Fiscal reporting
-          Amortization
-          Assets to debt ratio
-          Reserve funds

An example of making a complicated decision is the building of the Civic Precinct.  It is not just a simple single cost.  And it is not just a set of offices. It is a public space that should be built creatively.  It is a source of revenue.  It is a landmark that says Richmond Hill is a great place to live and have a business.

I also want us to think about whom would we want as your elected official if there was a disaster?  Another ice storm, a tornado, SARS, terrorist attack, huge fire, airplane crash, a sink hole at Major Mackenzie and Yonge? Yes, there is a disaster plan but how would the individuals react in a time of crisis and recovery.
I believe we need someone who will take responsibility but also listen to others, as is the case for dealing with the more mundane tasks like garbage pickup.

We cannot make these decisions by looking at a lawn sign or having a 30 second conversation at the door.  Please engage more.  And let others who do not have the opportunity to engage to know your thoughts.  Talk politics!

This is the second in a series of bi-weekly posts on the 2018 Municipal Election in Richmond Hill.

Here’s a link to the first article – What makes a good leader (with a list of the candidates)