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Edmonton Votes 2013 – ‘A Regular Contribution’

It’s the voters of course, or the 30% who do vote, who play the king-makers in civic politics. The path to voters in a civic election, free from party politics, is individual name recognition at the ballot. It’s evidenced in the near overwhelming deference given to incumbent civic candidates in Edmonton, and to those challengers whose past professional lives put their names out in the public domain on a regular basis.

Signs, small and large on lawns and public property, Canada Post mailouts, closets and trunks filled with printed materials, pens, pencils, re-usable bags and other swag – These are marketing tools of a campaign that drive recognition of a candidate. They cost thousands to produce and to get into the hands of voters.

Even those who have established name recognition on their side will spend $50,000 or more before October’s election.

The Journal’s Elise Stolte has done some great work (links below) breaking down the numbers from 2010, and some the early outreach efforts to campaigns by Edmonton’s development community.

Cash for campaigns: Winning a seat at City Hall requires lots of dollars from development-friendly donors

The data: Do developers play kingmaker in civic politics?

Fund raising at the civic level isn’t easy, I know, I’ve tried it. Municipal contributions, in large numbers, come from the development industry. Which in Edmonton is well represented by power-houses like the Urban Development Institute and the Edmonton Home Builders Association. As well as large-scale players such as Stantec, Qualico, Rohit and so on.

They build homes, multi-units, business spaces and towers and take a large part of the time and efforts of Council and Civic Adminsitration. From individual zoning bylaws, to land-use plans, visionary planning documents, municipal development plans and so on.

These are groups and industry representatives that have regular access and key stakeholder status with Council and Administration. That often outnumber other groups or community reps in a city boardroom. That are regular, and large dollar contributors to some municipal campaigns, and that can easily tilt a Council race in one direction through campaign contributions.

To candidates out there, I won’t say not to take a contribution if it’s offered. . It takes money to get elected, to advance a good platform, and that’s a personal decision that some individual campaigns and candidates will have to make.

I will say however, that those contributions do nothing to drive public debate or discussion. Nor do they help to create an equal field for each of a Ward’s candidates to put their materials and ideas in the hands of voters.

To voters, I’ll say that it really shouldn’t matter. The fact that a candidate can’t or won’t spend $50,000 or $100,000 isn’t at all a sign of their ability in or inabilities to serve in office. The fact that candidates trip over themselves to blitz the boulevard with signs coming into your neighbourhood, and your mailbox with the glossiest paper when you get home, isn’t terribly healthy for anyone; you, me, democracy or the environment.

To the Province and the Minister of Municipal Affairs, the maximum allowable individual contribution should have been reduced. And the pre-nomination day registration and reporting requirments should have been applied to this election. It’s the 21st century, municipalities could have been ready in time.

To candidates; game on, good luck, and may the best ideas and the candidates willing to implement them, win in October.

Hey Hey Hey Goodbye…

Katz Group puts pressure on potential Edmonton Northlands contractor

Downtown arena may be dead if Oilers owner Katz doesn’t step up

An election is approaching – an unpopular arena funding model seems to become more so by the day – A provincial budget came and went without $100 million in arena funding, leaving the Mayor’s “the money is coming, the money is coming” reality distortion field, bleeding on the side of the potholed road – And a couple more City Councillors have toyed with the idea of possibly, maybe, sort of, voting against the Arena framework as it heads back to Council without the Provincial funding we knew it wasn’t going to get.

Did I mention an election is coming?

Anyway, as it all heads to either a tear-filled finale or a ramming through from throat to rectum, I’d like to offer Council and Council hopefuls a solution, free of charge.

Cut Katz loose.

Aside from a 30+ year lease for the use of the facility for 41 days per year + the playoffs (if any), let’s do it without him. Let’s do it without the Katz drama, the Katz ego, the $20 million marketing deal and the forfeiture of facility revenues. Let’s do it without his meagre investment to be spread out over decades.

I don’t begrudge Daryl Katz for making fantastically one-sided business deals, I just wish my city could do the same. Here’s Edmonton’s chance – cut Daryl out. If we’re going to build it, if we’re going to own it, if the city is going to stretch its borrowing capacity by a half-billion dollars to do this; then let’s run our rink, fill its seats, and profit fully from it.

If we need partners going forward, who have the expertise and the ability to bring shows through the door; Then starting with a trip to LiveNation, City Council can send Simon Farbrother on the road with instructions to fill the barn, not give away the farm.

On the way to the ballot box

If you’re reading this you’re probably either someone with an interest in local politics and civic involvement, or you sat down at a computer with the page open, or something. Anyway, if you are the former, then you’re likely a member of the minority of Edmontonians who vote in our civic elections and take an interest in civic policy and governance. This, the level of government closest to us. With which we interact every day of ours lives, and which is free from party politics, party leaders, whipped votes, and the lure of cabinet seats drawing the attention of individual elected members.

Members of Council are individuals whom are free to vote and influence the city as they see fit. And if they’re open, accessible, attentive and eager to seek input, there’s a large base of vibrant, intelligent community advocates and stakeholders with the local knowledge to positively analyse, and help build the policies and direction that are going to lead to a more vibrant city and a strong future vision.

“Whenever a man has cast a longing eye on offices, a rottenness begins in his conduct”.

The quote may or may not have come from Thomas Jefferson, but regardless, it’s worth considering.

We’re now a year away from the 2013 civic election. With this election likely to see more vacating seats and new faces than the last, as someone whose volunteer interests revolve almost entirely around civic decision making, I’ve been giving thought to the sorts of candidates I’d like to not only see come forward, but be encouraged and supported to do so. Bear with me for a bit of rhetoric and perhaps some ranting, but hey, it wouldn’t be politics with them.

I’ve no interest in voting for someone who wants a career from elected office. I want my vote to help elect an advocate, a public servant with ideas and vision, who also knows when it’s time to go. I don’t want my vote going to a candidate who looks and speaks to the world through a lens of “will this get me elected? Will this build name recognition?”, an ‘all things to all people’ approach. I want to see candidates who are open to input and debate, but who, at the same time have opinions of their own, a determined drive, vision, and a clear sense of what they believe is right and wrong. I want to see candidates who have been active in their communities, in their civic circles, not because they see it as a resume or name-building exercise, but because of a desire to help and a clear vision they’ve tried to see implemented using the resources and channels available to them. Nor do I wish to support someone inexperienced with civic policy and City Council. As electors, we’re best served by an individual who’s able to jump in, from the very start and that first meeting and public hearing. A term goes quickly and a Councillor’s attention is drawn from many directions. The more experience they’ve gained before being seeking office, can only serve to lessen their learning curve and help them to tackle issues effectively from the outset.

This is where our responsibility as voters, and as people who care about our city comes into play. Over the next 12 months we’ll no doubt have many discussions about the election, about policy, about issues and talking points. But dialog aside, along with telling everyone who will listen to us to get out and vote next fall, we need to be recruiters for our city. To go out and recognize the people who clearly care for Edmonton, for their businesses, neighbourhoods and communities. Folks who may not even have any political ambition in their veins, and encourage them to step forward to serve our city. To put their names and ideas out there for the voter’s consideration. Let’s not wait and see what our choices are after nomination day, lets get out there and reach out to the folks who we believe would be strong candidates, strong representatives, and encourage them to put their names forward. Then follow that up by hitting the pavement, hitting the doors, and helping them out along the way.

JamiePost.com

I’d like to thank everyone who voted for, and supported me during this years civic election.  While the result wasn’t what we had hoped for, the experience gained over six months on the campaign trail was invaluable.  With the campaign over, I will be continuing my volunteer work with the Glenwood Community League, Jasper Place Revitalization, and the Edmonton Federation of Community Leagues.

If you are looking for the 2010 campaign site, you can find it by following this link. My volunteer efforts touch upon a number of areas of civic policy, and as I said frequently during the campaign, this is the level of government with which we interact every single day of our lives.  I’m going to keep Jamiepost.com active, both as a personal blog, and an on-going look at civic policy from the perspective of a community volunteer.  I can be reached by e-mail at contact @ jamiepost. com or on twitter @Jamie_Post.