Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Ethics 101 for Politicians

Many are attracted by the platform local politics provides. If one is eligible to vote, one is supposedly qualified to run for elected office. Before teachers teach, and before preachers preach, they must acquire credentials. About the only leadership jobs people fall into without formal preparation are parenthood and political office.
A little education is a dangerous thing, and those who would lead should get a lot of it. Perhaps, Harvard Professor Bok was thinking of rookie politicians when he uttered, "If you think education is expensive, try ignorance." Two weeks devoted to municipal governance, speed-reading and comprehension helps the chosen hit the road running. The electorate deserve no less -and should have access to scores on provincially mandated tests before casting their vote.
When sitting on committees, councillors have a responsibility to represent all constituents. Each issue coming before council has to be debated on its own merits. No member of council should have a knee-jerk reaction (grandstanding) just because supporting the "right thing" in a given situation offends a special interest group.
The non-voting majority complain about raucous council meetings and rising taxes. However, they permit that 35 per cent of voters who regularly return candidates based on name recognition to set council's composition. As much as we need an influx of councillors committed to working together for the good of all, we desperately need a large infusion of critical and informed voters.
When incumbents come calling, ask each to prove by their track record they bring the skills necessary for effective leadership, responsible policy making, and tax containment. When a new candidate knocks on your door, ask about their business or administrative experience, what they think the constituents' priorities are -and if they are comfortable representing everyone.
In an August 2003 issue of TheLondoner

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