By George A. Brown, editor
Rimbey residents are upset with some of the financial decisions council has made or allowed to happen uncontested. They’re challenging councillors to explain their actions.
And this newspaper has to take some of the responsibility for allowing that environment to exist.
For this life of this council we provided little or no regular coverage of council meetings; no oversight of the people you elected and the decisions they made on your behalf. That has changed and now council and residents have responded. Although some on council might not admit it right now, municipal government works best when ordinary folks are involved and keep councillors’ feet to the fire.
Nomination Day is Sept. 20 — less than three weeks away for those candidates lying in the weeds to decide their candidacy. It’s time to lead, follow or get out of the way.
The exchange in letters to the editor may make suitable candidates think twice about tossing their hat into the ring but that’s precisely the reason challengers are needed. There’s only one thing worse than allowing candidates for council to be acclaimed to office and that’s returning incumbent councillors to office unchallenged. It’s up to you and your neighbours to make sure Rimbey’s town council is composed of the most dynamic and progressive voices from the community.
What is council’s vision for the community? Does it jibe with yours?
Rimbey’s incumbent councillors may be the best and brightest the community has to offer but that doesn’t mean they should be immune from reassuring voters by going door to door and attending election forums.
Done right, being a town council is hard work. Being a town councillor is not about cutting ribbons. I’ve known councillors who would cut an umbilical cord if it meant being able to claim a stipend.
Do these town councillors do their homework before meetings? Do they seek answers from administration and input from residents? Or do they stumble along, listening to their clique at the coffee shop or their service club? Do they understand the issues facing Rimbey’s business community, senior citizens and youths?
Some incumbents will get tired and lazy after a couple of terms. They feel they have job security and will take voters for granted and they will resist new ideas because they’re not used to hearing an opposing opinion from the community or around the council table. Do incumbents want to hear your opinion on controversial issues or do they get defensive and argumentative?
It’s easy for voters to re-elect incumbents because there’s no learning curve; they’ve passed several budgets, lobbied cabinet ministers and become better politicians by attending workshops and conventions. Thousands of tax dollars have been invested to educate these councillors and the community wants to see that it gets its money’s worth.
While new councillors bring new ideas to the table, there is an adjustment period before rookies will feel comfortable challenging the status quo or getting used to evening meetings, residents buttonholing them on the street about potholes and streetlights. Being a town councillor also requires a commitment from your family, which now has to bargain for a share of your time with 2,500 others.
We need the services our municipal governments are elected to provide — protective services, cultural and recreational opportunities, streets and utilities. When council considers a budget to affect the level of services provided to your family, you should know what’s going on and have the opportunity to observe the budget process. Your opinion matters and there should be full disclosure. It’s your money; council’s there to make sure it gets spent where the community says it needs to be.
It’s a great responsibility to have a voice at the town council table. Twice a month decisions affecting your family, the value of your property, and the viability of your business are made by your neighbours.
So, what will it be? If there is a lack of credible candidates on the ballot in October, and a low voter turnout, the nutbars and axe grinders stand the best chance of getting elected and taking controll of Rimbey’s political agenda for the next three years.
Your first opportunity to influence the make-up of the next town council is to talk to your neighbours about nominating a worthy candidate for council.
Lead, follow or get out of the way.