Should we give up accountability?

City Wide Voting makes municipal politics less accessible for average citizens. No longer will we have a local representative who is accountable to represent our neighbourhoods. Instead, large business interests will control and influence the municipal agenda. Candidates for local offices will need to raise considerably more money in order to compete. This will mean fundraising at the same levels as Provincial and Federal elections, with contributors gaining a much greater influence on City Hall.
Those who support this less democratic form of local politics are very well organized. They have organized a poll at CKWS that has been flooded by their supporters, who are doing organized voting. The voting is almost over, and is overwhelmingly skewed in favor of City Wide Elections. Get on line & vote NO. Let your friends and family know. (www.ckwstv.com/index.cfm#)
Currently, the majority of our councilors do not favor City Wide, but they are feeling the pressure. PLEASE, e-mail or call your municipal representative and lobby them to say no. They need to hear your voices.
LET’S PROTECT DEMOCRACY IN KINGSTON!
(Please forward this message to as many people as you can. Average
Kingstonians need to have their voices heard and their democracy
protected!)

Editorial from the Whig-Standard. Friday, June 19, 2009.

Kingstonians are about to be dragged into a debate over municipal voting reform. Normally we would say, “dragged kicking and screaming.” But this is hardly an issue worth getting worked up about.

A group of ex-political leaders, assembled under the banner “One Kingston,” is lobbying for city councillors to change the electoral system from district representation to at-large. In other words, instead of voting for a councillor in your district, you would select candidates from one big list.

Former mayor Gary Bennett, acting as a spokesman for the group, said it was time councillors started thinking and acting from more of a regional perspective rather than mucking about in potholes and getting hung up on four-way stops.

This elevation of the role of councillor would result in the relinquishing of responsibility for a particular district and, theoretically at least, get them working for the greater good.

City councils certainly do have to think globally. If a city like Kingston isn’t connected with the world, it can’t possibly keep up with change and innovation.

But making this change at the expense of local representation does a disservice to individual citizens — from the act of voting to the resulting governance.

District representation ensures that council candidates go door-to-door at election time, making personal contact with as many constituents as they can. It allows voters to voice their concerns to someone who may be able to help.

What’s the problem with a councillor focusing on potholes and stop signs if those are the issues of most importance to citizens?

If councillors are elected at large, to whom are they beholden? By running on a regional platform, their duty is not to a neighbourhood or street or citizen, but to a vague concept called, to quote Bennett, “community-wide perspective.”

If we want city bureaucrats to handle all matters of supposed lesser importance, and our elected officials to save their energies for thinking big thoughts, then at-large voting is the path to follow.

If we want accountability and to keep councillors’ noses to the democratic grindstone, then we need the status quo.

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