councilors at large

Wantedposter

The Mayor's Era Banner ran an article for its Sunday edition titled: "Councilor plans to pitch ward system"
http://www.yorkregion.com/News/Aurora/article/100270

I agree with councilor Granger as often as I do Steven Sommerville, but on the issue of pitching a ward system for Aurora I find myself on-board with both of them.

However I do question the timing of Mr Granger's pitch.  If councilor Granger was truly interested in the issue he would have brought it to council shortly after his election.  Granger's original proposal from 2006 is online here:

http://docs.google.com/viewer?a=v&q=cache:Hs8ss3pC-1YJ:www.town.aurora.on.ca/app/DocRepository/1/TownHall/Agendas%2520and%2520Minutes/AAC06-03/CouncilAgenda06-03DelegationD.pdf+ward+system,+aurora&hl=en&gl=ca&pid=blsrcid=ADGEESjQFFURnrEm5L_gRTy05mfFz7ED2EfA6HdHmNoCNbJuHOaNx4ONRJxFd8DVYkw01xIAMXAZrv9VVWMtnZc5NNNbsDDUg1EPaNC_DOyYKFEYJtZC38plHZZdZxY-LNnAZ3zop4nF&sig=AHIEtbQlnuMs-ocn0PzG9caxKE-JnjleaQ

It's almost 2010, so what has been taking all of Mr Granger's time in the last 4 years bringing this matter forward in a timely fashion as he promised in his last campaign?

I assume that a ward system is not in the interest of the coalition he is in on council, and that his individual issues take a back seat to the MorMac regime.  The main reason that the majority of our council opposes the ward system: With no direct representation, no one can be held accountable.  How convenient.

The fact that he is resurrecting this now is so that he can use it as a campaign issue.
It is too late for this discussion to evoke changes for the 2010 election, so he is safe to raise the issue now as he has nothing to lose except make it look like he is looking after key issues.

Regardless of Granger's lack of both a brain or a spine, the issue is worth pursuing so I thought I would explore it at more length here.

There are two separate discussions over at the Aurora citizen blog, with seemingly equal arguments for and against:

Aurora Citizen Blog topic – September 2008
http://auroracitizen.ca/2008/09/21/community-corner-ward-system-what-happened/

Aurora Citizen Blog topic – March 2009
http://auroracitizen.ca/2009/03/29/guest-post-preparation-for-the-next-election/

I'm dumbfounded that there is so much resistance to a ward system when almost every other municipality is using the ward system and for good reason. The arguments against it are ludicrous, and I hope to dispel some of the bullshit behind those that chose to discredit the movement.

Here are their claims:

1.) Ward systems pit councilors against councilors to get things for ‘their area’.

Really, and this dysfunction is rampant in every ward system? 
If this is such a concern is there any ward system that could be cited as an example where this is true?  I couldn't find one.

Newmarket, our neighbors to the north, seems to be functioning perfectly, and they adopted a ward system in 2003.

"Ward councillors have a more intimate knowledge of the area,"
Mayor Tony Van Bynen said.

"Residents know who to call about something. Residents have a richer representation and councillors have a richer perspective."

This is an important facet of councilors, being accessible to, and knowledgeable about residents concerns.  I often echo the following comment from the Aurora citizen's blog:

"Many times I have had concerns or comments that I have wanted to address to my representatives, but I never do because I just don’t know whom to approach. I feel it is a waste of councillors’ time for me to email eight people and get eight responses. And it would be a waste of my time to phone eight people. With the present system, I don’t get involved."

My fear is also one where a citizens issue can easily be lost in the "pass-the-buck" mentality because no councilor is representing that citizen in a ward.  This is especially the case when councillors are not evenly spread accross the municipality but clustered together like we have in Aurora.

Ward systems are created not to pit councilors against one another but to ensure adequate representation.

2.) We have enough antagonism now without councillors becoming even more territorial.

How would councilors become territorial?  Its not like it could bring us any more dysfunction then we already have.

Wouldn't they be better able to represent their particular ward without having to spread themselves over the entire municipality.  I seriously question that any councilor can be effective given the size of the municipality and the diverse changes in our geography given recent development.

How is it even conceivable that any of our councilors can claim that they represent the entire town that has grown to a population of approx 52,000?

I live in NW Aurora, there is no councilor who lives close to me that can relate to my specific concerns, nor is there anyone from the NE area of town.  This is a failure of democracy which a ward system would rectify.

Carve up the town, and reduce the demands on each councilor, allow them to focus their efforts.
There is nothing preventing them from working in the best interest of the town as a whole, but they should work to represent their ward so that all residents are equally represented at council.

3.) We’re not (yet) big enough for a ward system.

And how exactly is this claim validated? exactly
How big do you have to be?  What is a magic number that needs to be reached?

If we are such a small population how does one justify 8 councilors?  Would 6 suffice?

It seems to me that all of these arguments are heavily flawed, how could we not want to pursue the merits of the ward system, when there are several.  Including countering all of the points above a ward system could:

1.) Reduce election confusion and increase voter turnout.

Why should any citizen have to inform themselves with over 20 candidates to pick the top 8?
If there's any question as to voter apathy I seriously suggest one looks at this.

Instead a ballot could simply list a vote for mayor and a vote for ward councilor, thus reducing the amount of confusion a voter will have come the election to wonder how (or if) any of the councilors could represent them.

East Gwillimbury seems to be reaching the same conclusions:
http://www.yorkregion.com/News/East%20Gwillimbury/article/100276

Another reason for the push to establish a ward system is to introduce new blood and new ideas into the election.

"For the last two elections, there have been no issues at stake," Mrs. Sullivan said. "There's no issue to vote for one councillor over another. Residents interested in running can run based on a platform of ideas about a ward system and about everything else going on."

2.) Reduce the cost of By-elections.

One of the lame-ass excuses that was given by our mayor to forgoe the democratic process and hold a by-election was cost.  Cost of holding a by-election in a ward system is reduced.  How could anyone want a repeat of the miscarriage of justice that happened when Grace marsh's seat was handed over to Gallo?

3.) Reduce campaign costs for candidates.

Through a ward system a councilor doesn't have to campaign over the entire town, they can maintain their focus in their ward.

Eric McCartney proposed a 4 ward system with 2 councilors to each ward.

I would go further.  A 3 ward system with 2 councilors in each ward.  That's right 6 councilors.  Hey we just saved some tax money.

Split the town into north, central and south, and then again into east and west.  The lines can be best shifted to represent population clustering and less like trying to divide a birthday cake equally.

Having 2 councilors in one ward would reduce the # of people to contact, it would hold councilors accountable, it would unify, not divide our council and as citizens we would have more power to prevent against a slate of candidates being elected and working as a coalition inside council.

Let's call our council out, so they have little opportunity to hide and remain "at-large".

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