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My Brush with Municipal Politics
A former aspiring politician exposes murky undercurrents of the system.
I have left out names to protect the innocent?---or was that the guilty?
My initial introduction to municipal politics was the result of my friendship with a former president of our local clay court tennis club. This gentleman was very active, as a volunteer, on a number of community committees, including a regional committee on race relations. He suggested that I should become more aware of the issues that faced our community, including somewhat grandiose plans for the redevelopment of our surrounding area.
To this end, he suggested that we should attend an 'All Candidates Meeting', for the upcoming municipal elections. There were only two major candidates for the position of alderperson. One of these people was a currently serving school trustee, while the other was a lawyer. The school trustee was well versed in the issues facing our community, presenting a clear platform of objectives and answering related questions with ease. The lawyer, on the other hand, was really not all that cognizant of the issues, presenting a rather incoherent set of objectives and stumbling with answers to related questions.
To the surprise of both myself and my friend, some weeks later, the lawyer issued campaign literature which not only covered all of the major issues, but also stated positions on those issues which were in fact those that his opponent had stated at the earlier 'All Candidates Meeting'!.
Intrigued by this metamorphosis, my friend and I decided that we must attend the next 'All Candidates Meeting'! To summarize our opinions, I would say, at the first such meeting, the lawyer came across as what would be best described as a 'Stumblebum'. During the following meeting he would be best described by the phrase 'As polished as spit'! Needless to say, we left the second such meeting with a strong sense of incongruity in regards to the lawyer and his adopted platform!
Not surprizingly, due to the the bulk of the general public's apathetic interest in the realities of the political system, this charlatin was elected to the position of alderperson more than once. (As an aside, this same individual later ran afoul of the law and found himself both disbarred and incarcerated!!!)
My next encounter with municipal politics came the following year. My friend encouraged me to become a volunteer member of our local ratepayers association executive committee. I spent the next two years attending meetings, soliciting members for the association and distributing literature about impending issues facing our community. During that time we launched two legal actions to try to prevent some of the aforementioned grandiose development plans from becoming a reality. Myself and the others on the ratepayers committee came away from that distasteful experience with the realization that our province's governing board for such issues was essentially 'In the Pockets of the Developers'!
A few years later, I had my last 'brush' with municipal politics. I was playing tennis with an old friend and former hitchhiking companion. He had been a former 'campus radical' at one of our city's universities and was now serving as a school trustee for that city. He was also a member of a municipal political party with both provincial and federal affiliations. We began discussing municipal politics. My frustration with the earlier experiences, detailed above, led me to suggest to him that I had often given serious consideration to running for municipal political office. I told him that if I proceeded in this direction, I would only do so if I myself became fully conversant with the issues facing my constituents. I further indicated that I believed my role was not to 'Vote My Conscience' but to 'Vote the Conscience of My Constituents'. This in turn would require that I would have to become an 'Objective Information Broker', presenting both all the available factual information, as well as contending views on each current issue, including my own views. I would also have to develop a polling system in order to ascertain the consensus of my constituents on each issue. Having vented my views and opinions, I thought the matter was closed.
To my consternation, only a few days later, I received a phone call from the municipal political party to whom my friend was a member. The spokesperson indicated that they had heard rumors that I might be interested in running for municipal political office.
During the course of the conversation, it became abundantly clear as to how that charlatin lawyer had undergone such a metamorphosis. The spokesperson told me that they would like to bring me in for a number of 'informative sessions'. During these 'sessions', their organization would bring me up to date on all of the current issues facing 'my' prospective constituents. They would also assist in the design and distribution of 'my' campaign literature. Finally, they would also assist me in developing and/or refining 'my' skills in delivering campaign speeches and answering questions at 'All Candidate Meetings'. I rebutted the spokesperson by saying that I wanted to control all the aspects of any campaign for political office that I might choose to launch. Their spokesperson then suggested that they would give me a few days to consider their offer after which they would contact me.
By nature, I am a researcher. During that interval between contacts with my friend's municipal political party, I made what I believe to be the most 'Politically Astute Decision' of my potential political career! I decided to visit our municipal political offices and speak to the 'Clerk of the Municipal Council'. Misguidedly, most of the general public have the impression that the mayor or similar political officials know the nuances of legislative procedures when in fact it is this bureaucrat's function to know all of the procedures. I told the clerk of my objective to 'Vote the Conscience of My Constituents'. 'Off the Record', fearing for his job, the clerk told me that if I simply voted the 'Conscience of My Constituents' on every issue and did not vote with my fellow councilors on some of their 'Pet Issues', they in turn would look for every 'Loophole' in the council's legislative rules to prevent me from ever bringing any of my constituents' issues before the council, effectively rendering their issues meaningless!!!
Yes, Politics is a Game of Compromise. The problem is that the game is being played with PEOPLES LIVES and the people being compromised are NOT THE POLITICIANS!!!
When my friend's political party contacted me again, I essentially said 'THANKS BUT NO THANKS!!!'
Prior to these experiences I had a rather cynical view of politics and politicians in general. It should come as no surprise that these experiences only exacerbated that view. I have since developed my own simplistic rating system for politicians, as shown below:
Clearly, their is a need for change in our political system which would make politicians much more accountable to the electorate and not merely at election time!
A former aspiring politician exposes murky undercurrents of the system.