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EDITORIAL – Staggered civic elections would avoid ‘learning curve’ jitters

An editorial by Mel Rothenburger.

THIS COMES UNDER the heading of “Advice, absolutely free of charge.”

As the wet-behind-the-ears Kamloops City council emerges from the holiday season and heads toward a new year, we can expect more of the same kind of struggle it demonstrated during the first couple of months of its tenure.

It’s the struggle that comes from being brand new to the job, and this council is about as new as it gets. Less than half its nine members have any previous experience at running a city.

They haven’t looked very comfortable in their new roles so far, and that should come as no surprise. But, other than waiting for them to get the hang of things, is there any long-term solution?

If you’re like me, you’ve already grown tired of hearing, almost daily, that council members have “a steep learning curve” and need to be shown patience. Well, the City doesn’t have time to wait forever for them to learn the ropes.

The annual budgeting process, and decisions about big recreation and culture projects, for example, present serious challenges for this green council.

So maybe we need to re-visit the frequency of elections. I’m referring to the old practice of staggered elections in which only half the councillors were elected at one time, ensuring that there would be sufficient continuity of knowledge around the table to effect a smooth transition from one election to the next.

That was scrapped in favour of the current all-or-nothing system because it saves money by cutting the number of civic elections in half. It’s rationalized with the mantra that voters should be able to throw the rascals out holus bolus if they aren’t doing a good job, but major turnovers are problematic, as we’ve seen.

It would take our provincial government to make such a change at the civic level but maybe the cost of staggered elections would be worth it in terms of smart, efficient government.

I’m Mel Rothenburger, the Armchair Mayor.

Mel Rothenburger is a former mayor of Kamloops, former TNRD director and a retired newspaper editor. He is a regular contributor to CFJC Today, publishes the ArmchairMayor.ca opinion website, and is a recipient of the Jack Webster Foundation Lifetime Achievement Award. He can be reached at mrothenburger@armchairmayor.ca.

About Mel Rothenburger (9358 Articles)
ArmchairMayor.ca is a forum about Kamloops and the world. It has more than one million views. Mel Rothenburger is the former Editor of The Daily News in Kamloops, B.C. (retiring in 2012), and past mayor of Kamloops (1999-2005). At ArmchairMayor.ca he is the publisher, editor, news editor, city editor, reporter, webmaster, and just about anything else you can think of. He is grateful for the contributions of several local columnists. This blog doesn't require a subscription but gratefully accepts donations to help defray costs.

3 Comments on EDITORIAL – Staggered civic elections would avoid ‘learning curve’ jitters

  1. When did we have ” the old practice of staggered elections”, 100 years ago? If we can only muster up 30% of the populous to bother voting every 4 yrs I’d be fearful that this number would fall even lower. I’m more bothered at the lack of turn out than the learning curve of new council members. Maybe it’s time we took a “serious” look at a ward system, both Ontario and Quebec use them with cities our size and both have turnouts far greater than 30%.

  2. Listen here, they are adults which theoretically should be able to rationalize and weigh out pros and cons about any issues. Lacking enough knowledge on a subject they can relatively easy obtain information about any issue. They can easily consult at large and yes, they can even hear what staff may have to say, with a grain of salt. Protocol details are easily overcome and are really non-relevant. The “steep learning curve” cliché I agree is an annoyance and the media should avoid using it. In reality local elections are just a popularity contest as it has been proven beyond any doubts we don’t elected based on knowledge nor experience nor expertise. Staggering elections will not ensure a better outcome.

  3. I think there is a steep learning curve with staffers and the three incumbents who are in a position of having to accept the impossible.

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