It’s all over but the voting

I was tossed up about doing “endorsements” this election. There are three kinds of people who read this blog: one third people who agree with me (and therefore are probably going to vote for the same people as me anyway), one third who hate me (and who will probably not be voting for anyone I support anyway), and my Mom (who can’t vote in New West). So I don’t think anyone’s political fate is in my hands. That said, in my work with several not-for-profits, I need to work with whomever is elected, so I don’t want to step on too many toes here. There are a couple of candidates I support strongly and publicly, so I may as well explain why.

The funny part with Municipal elections is that you can vote for many people, but you probably shouldn’t. If you fill the top of your ballot with people you like, then just fill the bottom with random names to fill space, you may actually push one of those random people over the top, potentially pushing one of your favourites out of a seat. So the best strategy is to pick the candidates you like, only vote for them, and keep the rest of your ballot blank. I suspect I will only be voting for 4 or 5 councillors, and maybe 5 school trustees. Most of my picks will remain between me and the ballot box, with these exceptions:

Jonathan Cote is, to me, the model of an excellent City Councillor. I have served on a committee that he chairs, and he has a remarkable ability to make a committee work. He keeps the conversation flowing while staying on track, lets everyone be heard, and then very effrctively condenses the mood of the committee into simple and actionable ideas and items. There is an art and a skill to running a meeting, and he is a skilled artist at it. He has also been one of the easiest Councillors to approach and have an in-depth discussion with over any of a range of topics.

I also had the opportunity to go door-knocking with Jonathan this election, and was astonished to hear his breadth of knowledge of topics that people raised. He also demonstrated that he actually listened to people. At times an issue would come up at one door, and he would say “yes, I agree, the City should look at that”, and it sounds to the cynic like political platitude to get a vote. However, 10 minutes and 4 doors later, we would be walking on the sidewalk and Jonathan would raise that topic, and say “that point they raised back there, is actually a complicated subject, it isn’t black and white…” or “I wonder how Calgary is so successful at managing that issue…”, showing that he had been thinking about the issue in the back of his mind since we left the door- and was already considering how to move forward with it. He didn’t just listen he heard, and he stored the memory.

Jonathan is smart, dedicated, and hardworking, He has demonstrated a genuine desire to learn the craft of running a City (taking time from his already-crazy life to take Graduate courses at SFU in Urban Planning). He has a positive vision for the future of the City, and he cares about getting there so he can raise his young family in the best City possible. I’m also pretty invested in New West, and I want someone who is thinking long-term running the place. I wish I could vote for Jonathan twice.

When I first met Jaimie McEvoy through the NWEP, I wasn’t sure what to think. I remember voting for him last election because of his environmental cred, but didn’t know much more about him. Since he was elected, though, I have interacted with him a lot, and have been pleasantly surprised by his knowledge of the City, his ideas about public policy, and his passion about all three pillars of sustainability. He provided a ton of useful advice during the UBE consultations, and that was where he first demonstrated to me his political savvy. During this election, he is one of the few candidates I have seen take task with another candidate (one he was not even running against!) when he felt the other was not being truthful. He didn’t call him out during the debate, but he approached him after with very few of us in earshot and tore a strip off the candidate in a quiet voice. He was respectful, but spoke with a real passion about honesty. It is inspirational to hear him speak about social justice issues in the City, especially the Living Wage policy. I even read his book, and the guy can actually write!

Jaimie is progressive, passionate, and actually cares about building community, and I am proud to support him.

Here are the reasons I am supporting Wayne Wright for Mayor.

The best answer is I look at the City now compared to how it was in the year 2000, and I can’t help but admit it is a much friendlier, cleaner, safer, and more prosperous community. The growth has been reasonable and generally positive; there are more businesses opening up; and there are areas of Sapperton, Downtown, and 12th Street that are vastly different places now than 9 years ago… all changes in the positive direction. Of course there are both external and internal reasons for these changes, but ultimately, Wayne has been the guy steering the ship, and I like the route the ship is on.

This does not mean I agree with every move he has made, or every position he holds. I think WTE is the wrong direction to go for our City and for our region, and I think he will need to be a strong voice in the City against moving in that direction. When the UBE issue first arose, I thought his initial reaction of surprise at how concerned his citizens were about the project was disappointing, as were his complaints that no-one had done anything about Front Street Traffic for 10 years (not noting that he was the one who probably should have been doing something). That said, now that the NFPR is all but dead, the moves the City is making to return the waterfront to space useable by the citizens of New Westminster (as opposed to the victim of short-term patchwork solutions to other City’s bad planning) is a positive step, and indeed visionary.

In my experience, Wayne has been accessible, honest, and respectful with his dealings with the residents, with developers, and with our regional partners. He is a consensus-builder who is respected by his council partners, by the City staff, and by his regional partners, and that is important if we want to get things done. Also, when push comes to shove, he has demonstrated that he is not unwilling to challenge the “regional consensus”, and will take our regional partners to task if the people of New Westminster tell him that is what we want. In the end, these are the characteristics of a good Mayor.

If I had any criticism of his campaign, it is that the whole affair seemed too passive. He spoke very well at the All Candidates events I have seen, but I would have liked to have seen him take a more aggressive approach towards some of the criticism sent towards him and his council partners. I think most of the criticism of him has been disingenuous or just plain inaccurate, and I kind of which he had taken that on a little stronger. Perhaps he felt it more important to stay above the muck and keep on the positive, so he ran on a record to be proud of and his ability to work with others. I am just afraid his low-key campaign coupled with the very aggressive, populist campaign he is up against will result in an election very similar to Langley Township on 2008. And we all know how well that turned out.

Which brings us to the subject of James Crosty.

I consider James a friend, and think that his heart is in the right place. He has worked hard for many years to build community in New Westminster, and his contributions to this City deserve respect. When his Astroturf organization was collecting signatures at the Quayside Festival, I signed the petition, but I put a note beside my signature: “I want you to run, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to vote for you!” I told him personally that he was going to have to earn my vote.

Unfortunately, he has not done that. He has had a few gaffes in the campaign, and I don’t want to go there, because those happen to those brave enough to take risks. My problem is more in the lack of concrete ideas about ways to improve the City, and the few ideas I did hear were, IMHO, bonkers (McBride tunnel?!). Even more than that, the tone of the discussion from his side was a negative one. From the beginning, he has been combative and vocally critical of the present Mayor and administration, suggesting everything from gross mismanagement to fiscal dishonesty, with very little evidence or demonstration of alternatives. His promotion company has been Tweeting a constant stream of criticism of the Mayor that got pretty tired pretty early. Then, when anyone suggests the James might be negative, his ideas might be off the mark, or presents countering evidence to one of his claims, instead of addressing the criticism honestly and openly, he has tended to deal with these things with an attitude I have heard described as “passive-aggressive”. Having challenged him a few times myself, I know where that description comes from.

His listening exercises (Citizen Chats) were a good idea, but I saw little evidence that he learned anything at those meetings. His latest ads list a series of issues for each neighbourhood, but no solutions, no context to them, and they were mostly things that he raised early in the campaign. James and I talked transportation several times, but I don’t think he understood what I was saying, or just couldn’t address it in the scope of his campaign. In the end, I did not see, during the campaign, an example of someone with the ability to develop workable solutions, make council work effectively, get the best out of City Staff, or to protect the City’s interests amongst regional partners while finding consensus with them.

So I hope Wayne is re-elected this time, because I like the path we are on, and I’m not convinced a change at this time is needed. I hope James keeps playing his important role in the community. I also hope he spends the next three years reviewing what went right and wrong in his campaign, and continues to engage in real two-way dialogue with some of the innovative thinkers in this City (we have a lot of them!). From that will come a set of compelling ideas for moving the City forward, the foundation for building consensus, and a platform of positive changes.

Then in 2014, James can give Chuck Puchmayr a real challenge for the Mayor’s chair. Boy, will that be a fun race to watch!

One comment on “It’s all over but the voting

  1. I too like James. He has a lot of enthusiasm but I think you nailed it in your commentary. I think the biggest problem facing him in the election, in his presidency of the QCB, and other efforts, is that he doesn’t truly listen and steams forward believing that there is much more support for his views and his ideas than there really is; often brow beating those around him into following. Had he listened he might have found a more moderate tone that would have achieved the things he wanted. I think he may also misunderstand the role of the mayor to be more like a CEO where, in some organizations, it is possible to govern by decree rather than taking the time to really research, sell ideas and build consensus. These last three things are definitely not hallmarks of his personality. He doesn’t take the time to do the research so that he can really defend his positions. He is more likely to become angry and brow-beat than to take the time to rationally sell his ideas, and, at the core he is a shoot from the hip, get-r-done type organizer that doesn’t place much value on consensus or team. That said, if I wanted to invade Queensborough and take it by force I’d much rather have Napolean/James leading the charge than Mayor Wright. He has an infectious enthusiasm.

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