Huge commitment required to serve on local elected bodies

Former Terrace city councillor warns of the work that's ahead

By Marylin Davies

The nomination period for city council is Sept. 30 – Oct. 10, giving people that length of time to decide if they wish to run. No easy task. The pressure is on.

Candidates who want to make Terrace a better place to live need to be aware of the vast changes coming.

If a quarter of the suggested industrial development takes place, the future will be mind boggling. Everyone is well aware of the housing crisis, but consider the demand on roads, overpasses, water and sewer, schools, and hospitals. The list is endless. Juggling tax dollars and balancing a budget will take the minds of master mathematicians.

It is also important to listen and balance the needs of the environmentalists, conservationists and those who are not sure they want all this progress to upset their community. Definitely a field covered with mines. We need to balance those concerns with the same folks’ expectations of the future. Always the money aspect will be foremost. Many do not want change but do expect the upgraded lifestyle to continue. Only one taxpayer – I am sure you felt my hands in your pockets for years! That won’t change for a while but it will change.

Candidates need to fully understand the financial stresses that will take their toll before the cash rains down. It is not going to be easy. This is not the time for one issue advocates however well-meaning they may be. There are other ways for them to seek results be it cash, zoning or public awareness.

Think for a moment: what does a well-balanced council look like?

An equal balance of men and women.

A mix of professionals, business and social activists, retirees and those who will become tomorrow’s leaders.

A cross section of ages.

At the all-candidates meeting or at your front door, ask candidates questions that count:

What motivates you to consider running for Terrace city council at this time?

How will you manage the time required to do the job well? Remember council is not only two meetings a month. There are committee meetings at lunch time, mostly on demand, often two or three a week, in-camera meetings on finance and personnel, and seven liaison meetings a month for each councillor. And the term commitment is now four years, not three as previously.

What do you feel qualifies you for the role as councillor? “I’m ticked off with the current council” is not good enough. While you may not have governance experience, there are many roles in the community that can prepare you for such a task. Could you explain some of these to us?

How many council meetings have you attended in the past year? Not watched on TV but actually attended. The answer can be very revealing of their interest. It doesn’t take too much effort to turn a button and glance at the screen from time to time as you catch up on other things. Quite another to get home on a miserable rainy night and have to have a quick supper before you head to city hall.

What would you like your legacy as a councillor to be?

So far we have spoken only of new candidates. However, there are ways to assess current councillors:

Could you tell us three projects you have been actively involved in during the past term? What was your role in them?

How many meetings have you attended and, as important, how many have you missed in the past year?

As a quick estimate, how many hours would you say you devote to council business, research, and extraneous meetings a month?

Are you in favour of councillors doing their own research as well as receiving staff input or would you prefer to have staff do the research and present it to council?

What advice would you give to those seeking a council seat for the first time?

It is an onerous task to elect a council in times of coming prosperity. Perhaps encouraging your friends and neighbours to vote is the most important one of all. Good luck.

Marylin Davies was a council member from 2001 to 2008 and again from 2011 to this spring when she resigned and moved to Vancouver Island.


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