Give a crap about councilPosted by Kyle Slavin
I don’t know why council meetings get such a bad reputation. I’ll be the first to admit that prior to being named “council reporter” at the Saanich News, I had zero interest in municipal politics.
I had to sit in on a meeting once as part of an assignment in journalism school and – I kid you not – one of the councillors stopped the meeting to ask if I was there for any particular reason because I’d nodded off.
Municipal politicians don’t make decisions like the province or feds. They discuss land-use issues: roads and developments, rezoning applications and parking variances. And sometimes, on a good night, a councillor will drop a bombshell with the mention of an urban ungulates strategy or setting build-green standards.
Okay – these topics don’t have the sex appeal or headline-grabbing gravitas that the politics at the Leg or in Ottawa deal with, but trust me, these issues are important.
My political reporting prof tried to convince my class that if we ever worked at a community newspaper, we’d have to go to council meetings. (I scoffed. Yeah right – I can pawn that boredom off on someone else.) He also tried to convince us why municipal politics matter: because they make the decisions that impact your day-to-day life.
After sitting through a year and a half’s worth of Saanich council meetings, I tell you: there is nothing truer.
The smooth roads on which you drive every day; that peaceful quality of life you enjoy in your backyard; the fact that there isn’t a 20-storey apartment building blocking your view of Mount Doug – you have your council to thank for that. Your eight councillors and mayor have more power to ruin your day-to-day life than probably any other politician you elect.
But nobody cares about council meetings. You should, though.
I’m a convert – I love ‘em now. I look forward to meetings where there are contentious issues on the agenda, I look forward to budget meetings to find out how my tax dollars (and yours too) are being spent, and I look forward to chatting up the politicians to justify every decision they make, ensuring that their residents remain their top priority.
Elections happen in just under two months (November 19) and I urge you to inform yourself. Go to a council meeting, talk to the candidates, learn just what exactly municipal government rules and how that affects you.
You’ll be surprised at how easily you’ll get pulled into enjoyment that is municipal politics.