London Ontario Canada

May 11, 2011

Ward Councilor: Politician or People’s Voice?

Background….

Just a  few days ago I was pondering my future. It looked pretty bleak. I am 55 years old with no defined skills. I have been looking for a job “forever”  to no avail. Think about it, even if I had specific qualifications I’d still be bumped out by youth. That’s just the way it is. I wondered if there is a grey area for old guys like me. Seemingly unemployable, yet too young for Canada Pension. Starting in July my income reduces because the school year ends and my son will be 18 in October. No more Child Tax Credit like as soon as they turn 18 (or get out of school) it’s a given they have a job. In this case, he still has another year to go to get his grade 12. I think the support payments end too, but I am not sure. I was looking at having to find someone to take him in and me going to a rooming house or something. My son and I have lived together for the past 12 years in this apartment. It is the longest I have ever lived in any one spot and the only place he really knows. That makes it home. Neither of us have a desire to move, let alone be split up. Like I said, bleak.

Foreground:

The Federal Election rekindle my interest in politics which lay dormant for many years. I just didn’t really care. It seemed it didn’t really matter so I just voted the usual. For Municipal elections I picked whoever seemed the most human and less political, but did only enough research to figure that bit out.  Harper scared the hell out of me and moved me from not caring to only caring. I read and read, talked on blogs and FB and read some more.  The events of 420 in Victoria Park got me blogging because nobody else seemed to be outraged by it, at least not enough to write about it. It was like there was a gag order out, but I didn’t get the memo. After the election I had little to blog about, so I turned to municipal politics.

Then I found Twitter. I went there not really knowing what it was really all about, but knew enough to know it was a good place to flog my blog. I quickly learned Twitter was more than that. I less than a week I connected with a number of people who, 140 characters at a time, became important to me. Somehow Twitter, or really the Twitterites inspired me to read more and find more things to blog about. I also have to credit the London Free Press and their Core Reaction/Who’s London forums. I am not sure if they are serving the purpose intended, but it gave me a place to write and I felt I was doing some good with my comments. I found myself championing for the poor. No surprise since I could wear that moniker for the pat 5 years or so and looked like I’d be wearing it forever.

One day on Twitter I found myself in a foul mood. I was depressed by the bleak outlook and started moaning live about it. My Twitter friends were supportive, some offered job links. Mostly they just talked to me and put up with my moaning. They helped me become determined to find a job and I started to think what job I could qualify for enough to have a decent chance of getting. I even Tweeted: I need a position where I don’t need a resume and don’t need specific qualifications.  I don’t know if I joked about it or someone else did, but “run for office” came up. Thinking federal or provincial was out and the municipals are a few years away. I thought if I could hold out for 3 years….maybe….

So me being me I started thinking, without research, what I thought of the duties of Ward Councilor. My kneejerk was to write it off because they were politicians and I just can’t be a politician. It’s a game I don’t know or agree with the established “rules”. I am not big on spin or saying one thing and doing another and “playing politics” on a Municipal level. That’s what I thought of when I thought of Municipal Government.

Since then I have delved into cyberspace and started reading about what’s going on in our city and what a councilor’s responsibilities are. It came to me that one doesn’t HAVE to play the game to get the job done and maybe the people are finally fed-up with politics in City Hall. Maybe they were ready for something a little different. Something like transparency, no spin and the truth, even if it hurts. I started seeing the position of councilor less political and more representational. I always said I couldn’t be  salesman, but I could certainly be a representative for a product I believed in. As councilor one represents the people living in said ward, the product is truth.

What are the qualifications for the position of ward councilor? What is the job description? The job description seems easy enough. Take the voice of the people to City Hall and vote accordingly. The qualifications? The ability to listen and report. I can do that. Seems like the biggest qualifications are listening and talking. This all led me to imagine myself applying for the job of ward councilor.

I cannot be a politician, but I can be a ward representative. I do not see it as a part-time job or Full-time. I see it as a life choice for 4 years. I see it as an eat and sleep 24/7 job. I read up a lot in the past few days. I know now that Ward 4 is called Carling as a neighbourhood designation. I know things like there are 52% females in this ward. I know that of the employed 52% are males. I know the bulk of the income is low and most people live in apartments and many other 2006 stats. I know the borders and am learning some of the issues.  Not stellar knowledge, but not bad for a couple of days. I say this to establish I am a fairly quick study.

Future:

What would I do as councilor? Well come on, that’s a hard question to answer so early in my education. But, since one policy would be to answer any question as best as I could at the time, here it goes:

I would study every chance I had so I was prepared for most questions. If asked something I didn’t know or was unsure of I would study that so as to answer as quickly as possible.

I would try to eliminate battles of words in meetings and stress the need to get to business, not posture and worry about sound bites.

I would not use the car allowance because I would be riding the bus or walking. I would be walking or busing all over the ward talking to constituents of all walks of life asking what I, as their representative, could do for them and their families. I would also help them understand exactly what I was allowed or capable of doing in City Hall.

I would be transparent. Really transparent. No lies, no spin, no politicking. Just honesty.

Since I feel councilors are overpaid for talking and listening I would donate a portion of my salary to a needy cause in the ward. Something that benefited the less fortunate.

I would be accessible. I would continue to blog, Twitter and Facebook. I would be able to be reached by email and phone and whatever methods available.

I would try to “lead” by example and hope other councilors dropped the pretenses and just get on with the job. It is not about position or power or a stepping stone to other appointments, it is about representing the people of your ward.

I would be at every meeting, every vote and I’d sit on whatever boards I felt I could benefit.

I would stand up for London and Ward and work in their best interests, not my interests and not special interests, but ALL interests.

It wouldn’t matter if I think you need a new walkway (as an example) all that matters is that you think you do. My job would be to present your view to city hall.

I am 55 years old. I have lived most of my life in London, out for a year or two in the late 80’s working in Toronto and travelling the country in my teens. I have lived. I have not lived as if I would be under the scrutiny of the public eye. I was not guarded and patterning a life. I just lived. I have experienced much. I have worked a multitude of jobs, mostly in some form of public service. Retail, bar tending, cab driving, computer repair…. all involving dealing with the public. I have empathy, I understand and care about people.  I believe I would make a very good representative. I hear Nancy Branscombe is “the hardest working” councilor of the bunch. I would like to earn that distinction.

Does this sound like I am campaigning? Well I guess I am. Please accept this as my letter of intent to apply to the citizens of Ward 4 for the position of Representative in the 2014 Municipal Election.

I do not have official sites set up yet. That’ll be a while and there is plenty of time. Please feel free to follow me on Twitter as thatguyinlondon. Keep an eye on this blog for other random articles, but mostly for updates on my campaign.

As soon as financially possible I will be setting up a website. I will also be dropping the thatguyinlondon blogger moniker and Twittering under my given name.

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1 Comment »

  1. that makes me smile. as i have always said “you have the right to not know, and the responsibility to find out”. it’s not trademarked, so you can use it!!

    Comment by j — May 12, 2011 @ 9:19 pm


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