Monday, November 2, 2009

The Clock Is Ticking

It’s less than a year before the next municipal election, and the clock is ticking. A majority of Albertans will once again have their triannual opportunity to ignore their democratic right to vote for their community’s political leaders. A minority of Albertans will once again exercise that democratic right and cast their ballot. And there is a wee tiny slice of that minority who will actually considering running for their local Councils.
It’s a tough decision to make, for local politics is a very tough game. There is no other form of politics as close to the day-to-day lives of constituents. If one can survive and succeed as a Councilor, you can survive and succeed in most political arenas.
It’s even tougher here in Alberta, where we continue our passionate obsession with “Strong Leadership”. Peter Block, in his marvelous book, “Community: The Structure of Belonging”, talks about what happens when all that counts is what leaders do. The effect is to let citizens off the hook and breeds feelings of citizen dependency and entitlement. Why would any busy Albertan spend time or energy on voting when the folks who do get involved will elect a strong leader and we can snooze for the next three years? Wouldn’t we better spend our time shopping or papering our Facebook walls?
We don’t even think much about the definition of “strong leadership”. Is a “Strong Leader” a person who is “one of us”- the kind of guy or gal with whom we’d share a few beers? Could someone with extensive education or experience outside the community be trusted to lead a community of “common folks?
Speaking of definitions, does electing a “strong leader” make sense when that leader has to work together with other “strong leaders”? How many Municipal Councils are hamstrung because we elect “strong leaders” who don’t play well in groups?
So how do we find citizens with good credentials who can work together with others to find pragmatic, effective solutions to community problems? How about becoming politically engaged and looking around us for the people we know who fit that description? They may already be Council incumbents, for many Alberta Councillors have those skills. Ask these people to consider running for Council next fall and volunteer to help them with their campaigns.
I know this is radical stuff. Getting engaged in local politics is truly scary for most Albertans. Yet we also know that we get the leaders we deserve. That leads to one final question: If we citizens invest nothing in the political process, what should we expect?

No comments:

Post a Comment