Municipal elections have a major flaw that robs the electorate of the best people to represent us.
And it is the all-or-nothing manner in which we choose our mayors that causes this damage.
As it is now in most North American municipalities, someone from our community decides they have the leadership skills and the vision to be mayor and, so, they enter the race. Once the votes are tallied, one is chosen and the rest melt back into the general population, hopefully to serve in some other way.
Meanwhile, a number of successful candidates take their seats on council with one vote each and the same opportunities to lead … just like the mayor.
But these councillors may have only a fraction of the skill and passion as the defeated mayoral candidates.
We, the citizens of Yukon communities, lose.
May I propose the following: Let’s do away with mayoral contests. Instead, let’s just elect seven councillors instead of six. Or five instead of four, in smaller communities.
Whoever has the most votes will be given a choice to be mayor or remain a councillor. If they decline the mayorship, go to the next on the list. Or they could campaign for the mayor’s job amongst themselves and vote on it at the first council meeting.
Those who really want to be mayor will make every effort to get the most votes. Those who fail to get the most votes will at least still be able to serve.
Although this method of choosing a mayor from an odd number of councillors is already allowed for in the Municipal Act, requiring just a bylaw, now is the time to discuss it as we also discuss four-year terms.
The main argument against this plan, as much as my imagination can manage, is that this is not the way other cities do it.
To that I say, “We are not other cities.” We are blessed with a small population that is therefore closer to the decision makers. We can make our communities in our vision for our needs and wants.
Outside, in the big cities, they like to have their mayors prove they can build the best election machine. And they only want the truly ambitious who have the gonads to risk all or nothing.
That’s not us. We like to see our neighbours on council and we like running into them in the grocery store and talking local politics with them.
How many of us doubt that they can get our mayors on the phone today? How many Vancouverites can get Mayor Sam Sullivan on the phone this month?
The added benefit of my proposed plan is that our mayors can make the difficult decisions without destroying their political careers. Sure, they may sit as a councillor the next time around, but they will still contribute.
Let’s put a finer point on it: Look at the person on council in your town who has the least number of votes. Would you be better served by that person or one of the defeated mayoral candidates?