@03.3 Editorial Body Copy:<Bf$>“I think it’s only fair to the residents, the constituents, that they could have an opportunity to
… offer a choice to select.”
— Outgoing city councillor Murray Blight (Victoria)
What is wrong with this city?
That’s a question a great many Brandonites seem to have ready answers to, especially when it comes to taxes, bureaucracy, salaries and annual budgets, buffer zones, street and road repairs, victory parades and taxes. Did we mention taxes?
But for all the people who think they can run this city better than the elected men and women who have put in their time over the last four years, precious few have put their names forward to put their ideas to the test.
In today’s paper we report that — unless people step up and put their names forth as candidates — eight out of 10 Brandon city councillors will be acclaimed in the upcoming election, as only one person has submitted their name in each of those wards.
The situation is even worse for Richmond ward, which currently has no official candidates at all. Richmond Coun. Stephen Montague has yet to make up his mind whether he will put his name on the ballot.
The only seat with an actual contest is South Centre, where Kim Longstreet and Lonnie Patterson will duke it out for the hearts and minds of voters.
There may well be mitigating circumstances for the situation Brandon now finds itself in. Councillor candidate registration opened on Monday, June 30, after heavy weekend rain storms lashed southwestern Manitoba, causing massive amounts of flooding in the region, including the city of Brandon.
The fact is that the 2014 flood drew provincial and national attention, as the rising waters dominated headlines and newscasts for weeks. People can be pardoned for having something other than municipal election campaigns on their minds.
And for those men and women giving serious consideration to putting their name forward, holding back their candidacy and tamping down their campaigning during a provincial emergency could arguably be a prudent thing to do.
Now with the most serious danger literally draining away from the city, however, our attention should be return to the ordinary, and away from the extraordinary.
True, not everyone has the time to devote to this kind of public service — and make no mistake, being a councillor is a public service.
As any politician can attest, being an elected official can often be a thankless task. There’s not a lot of money in it for those who run, and it takes a serious commitment of time and energy — not just for council meetings, but also committee meetings and ward meetings, and city events. But they also must be available to answer questions and take comments from residents, businesses and media as well.
And sometimes those questions and comments can be unpleasant.
But Murray Blight is quite correct when he says that people need to get engaged in this election if this city is to move forward.
For all its apparent faults, Brandon is a wonderful place to live and work, and it has a lot of potential as a prosperous, safe and forward-thinking community. But like any community, it needs strong leadership. We need people who are ready to serve their neighbours and neighbourhoods as good stewards, and who come to the table with fresh ideas, and a willingness to not only represent their constituents, but to do what’s best for the city as a whole.
It’s not enough for people to sit back and holler suggestions and insults from the cheap seats. To the loudest of council’s critics, we suggest it’s time to put up or shut up.