This is the one time that we the citizens have input into how the city is run. Experience says about two thirds of us will vacate the opportunity.
We will have new aldermen in Ward 4, Ward 6, Ward 9 and Ward 12. That's going to be a lot of new people going into city council even if no standing aldermen get defeated.
In 2007 there were four new aldermen: Pincott took an open ward, Mar defeated King, Stevenson defeated Larocque and Connelly defeated Burrows. That's over 50 percent turnover in just two elections. I may be wrong here, but that strikes me as a very high turnover rate for Calgary.
There's always the question of how well a diverse group of people will work together once elected to city council. I'm not enamoured with the results from 2007. The mayor of 2010 will have to do an exceptional job leading city council.
Typically that means we want a mayor with experience. In this city, we prefer mayors with experience as our mayor. Ross Alger was the last mayor I can remember who was actually defeated in an election as opposed to not running again. An open mayor's seat is an interesting time in this city.
I'm unconvinced that serving time on a mediocrely performing council marks the sort of experience I want to see in a mayor. Ric McIver, Bob Hawkesworth and Joe Connelly were part of a suboptimal council.
I've expressed my decision on Ric McIver. He said, “I … didn’t want to be part of unnecessarily disrespecting Calgarians by making it hard for them to have mobility." However he disrespected Calgarians trying to improve everyone's mobility through improved alternative transportation in this city. I can only see further antagonism in a future council led by Mr. McIver.
Bob Hawkesworth and I are on opposite sides of too many issues. He's an incredibly hard worker and extraordinarily knowledgeable - I've rode the bus with him many times in the morning and have seen him read reams of pages in the time it took me to put together the thought of my first cup of coffee. But I disagree with him on the airport tunnel and the Peace Bridge. I do not see him as a unifying force as mayor.
Joe Connelly is the wallflower on the starboard side of the ship. Perhaps that's a bit harsh because I know little about Ward 6. But I'm not sure I feel I've engaged at all yet. I feel bombarded with buzzwords when I go to his webpage. That gives me a sleepy feeling instead of leaving me energized. I haven't written him off, but I haven't been particularly praising, have I?
That leaves me looking outside the current aldermen.
Barb Higgins said she was putting out policy in September and then gives the Platform Framework that I could have written. I'm underwhelmed, but she gets a bit of a free ride until I see real policy. I hope she's spent every waking hour of the day putting a heavy hitter together. Her name recognition will take her a long way, but she'll need to keep council busy if she plans on accomplishing a lot before the honeymoon period runs out. My biggest hope for Ms. Higgins is that perhaps she'll keep the streak alive: I'm her biggest fan if she can be mayor for a bit and jump straight to our next premier.
Naheed Nenshi is the darling of social media for good reason. He came off the blocks early, he's put out ideas we can actually discuss and has proven communicative and engaging and involved. I keep seeing him at events and one of these days, if I can get over my shyness, I'm actually going to walk up to him and shake his hand. He's taken some chipping - he hasn't been "marked on his record" yet, true, and todays hit, "I'll disclose my donors once we're officially running" shot. In my opinion, he has the single best handle on the issues facing this city, including a better understanding than many current aldermen. Can he herd city hall into implementing his ideas? My biggest concern is actually whether he will ignite traditional voters outside of social media. He'll need every twitterer he can get to overcome 66% apathy. Do I hear auto-dialers in the future? (No, please, it's just a joke!)
I really like Kent Hehr. He's intelligent, he's interesting, he's certainly inspiring, he's owed a better party around him provincially. I'm not sure how I feel about MLA's taking a stab at the Mayor's seat - I'm not fond of it, but I'm not sure it's an outright blocker for me. I do like him at the Legislature. I wonder if his connections will improve or worsen the city's relationship with the province.
Craig Burrows is the inside outsider. I'll give him credit for having the experience of being an alderman with even more credit for having the good taste of not being a member for the past three years. Ghod help us should he decide he needs a course on mediation to keep council moving forward. I do like reading his webpage and I'm hopeful to see more engagement soon. He'll have to move fast or be swallowed.
Jon Lord also has substantial political experience without the stigma of being in the last council. He's closest of anyone to matching my political philosophy. The "Learn the Issues" part of his web page is not to be missed. But is he anywhere close to me on policy and is he capable of melding city council together? So far I'm not entirely convinced. One thing I entirely appreciate about the guy, he eats a good pie.
Wayne Stewart showed up on my twitter feed one week and asked me to help make Calgary great. Okay, it's a pet peeve of mine - if we're making Calgary great, what is it now? I like his earnestness and for someone I don't know at all, I've heard some awfully nice compliments from people I trust. He also gets a free ride until I get hard policy in September.
Paul Hughes needs to show me he's more than a single issue candidate and can handle a full city council of competing interests without simply being a competing interest. He's engaging, he's approachable, he's come across completely open and honest and well meaning to me. The sort of person I want in as a voice; will he show me he can lead the parade?
Everyone else will have to give me a reason to care. I'm not closed off to someone with a good idea, but I'm taking it seriously, they have to reach me.
That's eight of fourteen candidates I'm taking a serious look at. Not restricted to left or right. Some with a lot left to prove (Higgins, Stewart), some that I'm uncertain about policy or leadership - although I'll be thrilled to change my mind (Hehr, Connelly, Hughes, Burrows) and those that I'm satisfied with and I'm watching closely for policy statements (Nenshi, Lord).
If I'm breaking it down to catch phrases, the first thing I'm looking for is leadership skills to get city council back on track. We need a more cohesive, cooperative and open city council immediately and I'm not looking for fluffy puff phrases, I want to know how the mayor plans to do it. Next I care about being capable of managing the city finances - including realizing the tunnel needs to be roughed in now to avoid trying to build it later. After that, I'm looking for someone who realizes that every day I ride my bike means one car less on the road. Alternative transportation makes everyone's commute easier. We need more infrastructure to support that.
Those are my Big Three issues. Four if you consider council's openness an issue to itself. My opinion is malleable and my vote available to whomever convinces me. I intend to declare my vote (before the end of September?) this year and I'll demonstrably support the candidate I choose. This is an important election, and I choose to be very active this time around.