QUESTIONS & ANSWERS FOR A VOTER
To be a candidate for council is to answer a lot of questions.
Below are a few questions that were sent to me by a voter, along with my answers.
Let me point out, though, that I don’t have all the answers. No one does.
I like to think I’m a quick study. As a journalist I had to do interviews and research for every story and column. A councillor needs such skills, too. He or she must be able to ask the right questions and do their research to make proper decisions.
I thought I’d post this series of questions and answers, because they might reflect your concerns. Without further delay, here they are…
1) Why do you want to be on council?
Your question raises an interesting point. Doing public service of any kind should be more of an offer than a wish. In other words, a person’s ego — I want to be a city councillor — should not drive this decision. I covered city council for The Edmonton Journal for 12 years. I saw some councillors who were more in it for their sense of self importance than the good of the city.
So instead of ‘wanting’ to be a city councillor, I’d rather say I’d be privileged to serve the people of Ward 6. Getting my ego out of the way — thinking of myself as a public servant — keeps me calm and focused on the proper goals. After leaving the paper in 2010 I served on the boards of the Edmonton Mennonite Centre for Newcomers, the Lieutenant Governor’s Circle on Mental Health and Addiction, the Downtown Vibrancy Task Force and the Downtown Edmonton Community League. That spirit of volunteerism, combined with my experience in journalism, reporting on city council, combines into my essential campaign offer: To offer my knowledge and passion to the voters of Ward 6.
2) What do you mean when you say “a clean, safe and attractive city is the key to Edmonton’s future.”
Prosperous cities of active and engaged citizens take great pride in themselves. Litter is collected, streets are swept and city’s public face is kept painted and polished. Such cities are safer because, again, the citizens are out and about and involved with each other. Criminals don’t like eyes on the streets. They work in shadows. Neighbours who know their neighbours are far more likely to look out for each other.
The ‘broken windows’ theory says, essentially, that areas where things are allowed to fall into disrepair … well, the environment rubs off on people. Law-abiding citizens start avoiding such areas and criminal elements take over.
So if we look after cleanliness in the city core — if we have cops walking the streets to ensure safety and security — people will gravitate to it and it will be more successful.
3) How will you deal with core services?
City councils in the 1990s cut way back on maintenance of city infrastructure, particularly its roadway system. So today, we see vulnerable roads erupting in potholes. Simply put, we must invest in these core services at a level that ensures a working, efficient city. Policing is another core service. It is my view that we must return to the promise made by the Edmonton Police Service in the 1990s to engage in true community policing. What I mean by that is officers made responsible for geographic areas of the city and then walking that area to get acquainted with its problems and resources. True community policing prevents crime before it happens. Today’s model of policing responds to crime after its happened.
4) How will you show honesty, transparency and humility?
By putting the needs of the citizens ahead of everything else. By staying in constant contact with people in the ward. By keeping them up to date on my work. And by letting them know of what I really feel, instead of what might be a popular answer.
5) How will you make sure our personal and community values are taken care of?
I think my answer to this is much like my answer to question 4. As a resident of Oliver, I literally ‘live, work, and play’ in Ward 6. I vow to stay in regular contact with citizens and consult them on issues, so I can reflect community values at council. There is great wisdom in communities, when people discuss things and come to consensus. The wisdom of the group will trump the wisdom of the individual.
6) How long have you been a journalist and when did you decide to be on council.
I began my career in journalism in 1983. I left The Edmonton Journal in 2010 to run for city council in Ward 7. I was asked by a group of people I respect to run in 2010. Looking back, I now see it was an error, because I did not live in that ward. But I do live in Ward 6.
7) Some parks are dangerous in Ward 6. What are you going to do about it?
Again, I believe community policing is the key. Police officers walking the beat creates a safe and secure environment. Walking the beat allows them to get to know law-abiding citizens as well as those who face life challenges or are involved in crime. Police officers are uniquely able to draw on government and non-profit resources to help struggling people, living in poverty or with mental illness and/or addictions. Much of what we label ‘crime’ in our community is a side effect of addiction. Addicts, once hooked on substances, will do whatever is necessary to get money to buy drugs. Community policing allows officers the discretion to find solutions, instead of merely responding to and investigating crimes after they’ve happened. In the case of a park, they can deal directly with those making it unsafe and either force them out or find them new pathways to health.
8) An idea that no one else has?
I’d hope to have more than one idea that is different. I have some ideas around an independent budget officer and encouraging more families in the core. But let me say this: I welcome creative answers to old problems. I’m not committed to any one political philosophy. But I do believe that when we start with respect and kindness — what I’d term neighbourliness — we get a chance to discuss and brainstorm ideas. I am such a fan of humility and vulnerability, which I think are the most attractive of human traits. So I strive for these qualities, which I think are rare in politics. Politicians too often get caught up in rivalry and petty bickering. I hope to conduct myself with respect and kindness to others.
9) What will you do if you lose the election?
If that happens I will take it in stride and find another opportunity to serve the public. I have really enjoyed being able to volunteer for a variety of organizations since I stepped down as a columnist at the Edmonton Journal. I am particularly keen on reducing the stigma surrounding mental illness and addiction. I already sit on the Lieutenant Governor’s Circle on Mental Health and Addiction and would try to expand that service.
10) What will be your first priority if you win the election?
I really want to try and reduce the amount of public skepticism and cynicism around politics. My first priority will be to host a round of sit-down meetings in communities so we can get to know each other, as well as community priorities, better. I really want to raise the bar on public engagement and consultation as councillor, so that will not only be my first priority, but my top priority throughout the term.