Municipal elections are coming up in November, which for us at the paper generally means a few things.
• Council meetings get longer. This is because those councillors who might have held their tongues earlier in their term, are now eager to be perceived as a politician-with-a-purpose, and that means ensuring their message is reaching voters. Opinions, which may have been in shorter supply earlier, suddenly gush forth with the strength of the water cannon at the spray park.
• Some people pay very close attention to the newspaper’s content. Having been around for multiple federal, provincial and municipal elections, I have heard a whole host of complaints about coverage. I’ve had readers measure the column inches of space devoted to one candidate over another, or count the number of times an incumbent’s mug shot has appeared.
• Everyone suddenly wants to update their photograph with us, often with professional studio shots… except for a few who try to pretend they still look as young as they did 20 years ago by using a photo that’s been hanging around that long.
• Observer reporters get asked by people who they should vote for. It’s not a bad idea, considering that next to city staff (many of whom fondly refer to election time as ‘silly season’), we probably attend the most city meetings and discuss local issues far more than your average person. But before you ask, don’t. It’s not our role to advocate for any candidate, but instead to provide the community with information to make their own informed choice. In my experience, everyone who puts their hat in a municipal election race does so with good intentions — what differs is their views on what is best for Salmon Arm. That is what you, the voter, needs to explore before marking your ballot.
That being said, there are some things that candidates, especially new candidates, can do to run an effective campaign. I was curious about what other news outlets might have to say on this matter, so I found some good advice on ehow.com, which is a website designed to tell people how to do everything from changing a tire to running for city council.
They suggest a few important tips like: finding out when the election is (brilliant!) and deciding what issues are important to you. (If this is troublesome, maybe you’d want to keep your name off the ballot.)
What they don’t suggest, however, is something I see as critical. I like to see candidates actually show up at a city council meeting before they are elected. Call me crazy, but much like I want my dentist to have worked on teeth before, I’d like my political representative to have some idea of how local government works. I am not saying candidates need to have government experience, but it’s a good way to demonstrate an interest and learn at least a few of the ropes before taking a seat at the table.
You might be surprised how many candidates don’t actually do this. So if you want to run, go to a council meeting, check out what it is all about — and as an added bonus, while you are there you can find out when the election is.