“I can’t say I’m super-excited about any of it. And, honestly, I’m not even sure I’m going to vote,” she said. “But if I do, I guess I’ll pick the least worst option.”
The woman in the pink jacket sipping her pumpkin spice latte is unfortunately in the majority. Only about a third of those that can vote actually do vote.
I thought about telling her that maybe municipal elections would be more interesting if she took a few moments to familiarize herself with some of the issues. But, rather than engaging, I finished my chocolate-cherry biscotti in silence and headed home.
I’m not overly political, and I have no desire to see my name on a ballot form, but nor do I think that municipal elections are something to scoff at. While federal and provincial campaigns get most of the media spotlight, our prime minister and premier don’t have as much of a direct impact on the lives of citizens as we may think. Our local elected officials are the ones who dictate the local laws, policies, and budgets that affect us the most, and these officials are being elected with little citizen involvement.
And yet the conversations in the staff room and at the coffee shop inevitably turn to something else: American foreign policy, or climate change, or the YouTube video of a fur seal slapping a kayaker with an octopus.
Walking alone down the quiet streets after dinner I wonder if those that reside in our valley will vote for a mayor interested in boosting the economy by giving tax breaks to big business, or will we vote for someone who is interested in giving the area’s wilderness more of a supporting role. Will we vote for experience, or is it time for a fresh voice?
Those within town limits have a chance to show their satisfaction (or dissatisfaction) with the current council. Perhaps all is as it should be; perhaps it’s time for further diversity.
Sometimes municipal elections in a small town are little more than a popularity vote; other times it’s all about those that bark the loudest. With election signs blowing in the wind at every corner, I am reminded that too easily we mistake confidence for competency, and only realize our mistake after the fact.
I also wonder how many put their name forward because they genuinely want to make the world a better place, and how many do so merely to see their name and photo in print. How much of this is about building a better community, and how much is about ego? It’s also interesting to note which candidates seeking reelection actually took the time to attend meetings and answer the tough questions, and who preferred to cower at home under their bed sheets.
Unlike the woman slurping her latte at the coffee shop, there are a fair number engaged in local politics and they’re asking the tough questions both in person and on social media. Will there ever be a new fire hall? What can be done about affordable housing? Is it possible to create a cohesive yet unique streetscape so that tourists will stop and saunter through downtown when the bypass is built? How can we help support our disenfranchised youth? Will our school district support a variety of learners?
On Saturday, October 20th, citizens of the Creston Valley will gather together under flickering fluorescent lights to elect a mayor, town council, school trustees, and directors for Area B and Area C. We can opt for someone with short-term goals or someone with a long-term vision. We can vote for someone eager to charge out of the gates, or someone who will remain comforted by complacency and mediocrity. Or maybe it’s just a matter of the least worst option.