After two rocky years in office, a majority of Brandon voters have for the most part given Mayor Shari Decter Hirst and our city council a passing grade.
Count us surprised. Somewhat.
A Probe Research poll conducted exclusively for the Sun asked citizens to rate the job performance of the current mayor and council using a five-point scale. As the Sun reported yesterday, the city-wide survey was conducted by telephone between Jan. 16 and Jan. 23 among a random and representative sampling of 400 adults.
At least 49 per cent of those polled (20 per cent very good, 29 per cent good) said the mayor and council were moving the city in a positive direction, with a further 31 per cent rating their performance as “fair.” Essentially, that translates into an 80 per cent approval rating, albeit a tepid one. Only 19 per cent said the mayor and council were doing a lousy job (12 per cent poor and seven per cent very poor), with the rest saying they were unsure.
Poll participants gave similar numbers when asked whether the mayor and council were effectively representing Brandon, with 48 per cent in solid agreement (17 per cent very good, 31 per cent good), and another 31 per cent answering “fair.” Only 18 per cent disagreed with the statement, (nine per cent poor and nine per cent very poor), with three per cent of respondents saying they were unsure.
And apparently a majority of folks believe Decter Hirst and her fellow councillors aren’t too bad at listening and responding to citizen concerns — 28 per cent gave them “very good” and “good” reviews, and 29 per cent gave them a “fair” rating.
All things considered, this is pretty good news for an administration that has weathered some rather large setbacks. The ongoing casino — now “gaming centre” — debate and the snub by the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs, the loss of the 2017 Canada Summer Games, the mayor’s rather public mea culpa over her threat to slap Coun. Stephen Montague and the conflict of interest allegations that distracted our elected officials for weeks on end — all of this seems to have been rather a tempest in a teapot.
But not everything is so hunky dory — and it would be worth the mayor and council’s time to pay attention to this point. A somewhat larger minority of folks remain quite unhappy with the way this mayor and council have handled city tax dollars.
About 35 per cent of polled Brandonites said the mayor and council’s tax management has been poor (17 per cent) or very poor (18 per cent). While that falls well short of half of respondents, it does indicate a lingering anger over the city’s poor handling of the 2012 property tax file.
Though in our opinion, the city may have done itself some good by a much more open process for the 2013 budget year, and a much smaller planned tax increase — that alone may have taken some of the sting out of these poll numbers.
Frankly, we would have assumed that the antics of this mayor and council over the past two years would have caused them more damage in terms of public opinion. But as it stands, Brandonites have given them a solid B-minus grade — not bad, but still showing room for improvement.