Don't look back in anger: 5 things I learned running for City Council
As I mentioned I did not win my bid to join White Rock’s City Council. I did manage to win a mock election of White Rock’s elementary school students, but apparently, that’s not good enough to actually be given any real power.
I ran because I wanted to do something for the city that I’ve made my home and decided to raise my family in. I’m still disappointed that I didn’t win, but I’m glad that I ran and I learned a few things along the way.
Here are five of those things:
Everyone Running Wanted The Best for White Rock: I can’t read minds, or speak to people’s deepest intentions but everyone that I got to know during the election only wanted what was best for White Rock. Granted we all had different ideas of what was the best for the city, and even what the city should be, but nobody seemed to be running for purely personal reasons.
This is important to note because both before and after the election there’s been a great deal of finger-pointing and harsh words. People accusing each other of one thing or another and some unfortunate support of conspiracy theories. Granted I did once suggest that Mayor Baldwin might actually be two animated children wearing a coat, but it was (clearly) done in jest to poke fun at a topic that remains close to me.
Nobody has the time (or energy) to learn about 22 candidates: This is not to take away from the victory of those that did win, but one question I got a lot when talking to voters was where they could learn about all the candidates in one place. Other cities had websites where candidates could submit their platforms, short videos and other info. White Rock had nothing informative on the candidates, short of our legal nomination papers which only had our home addresses and the names of the people who nominated us. This was one of the reasons Democracy Direct White Rock won, because people could learn about the platform of one slate, and know whom to vote for. The independents who were elected already had name recognition from being previously on the council.
We all love a different White Rock: Talking with people I heard a lot of different explanations of what White Rock is. For some, it’s an oasis away from the hustle and bustle of big city life in Vancouver. Others it’s a place with what Ken Wuschke liked to refer to as having “a beach town vibe”. For some, it’s where we’ve come to build new families and start new businesses and for others, it’s where we’ve come to enjoy our successes in peace. Some people see development bringing in new kinds of stores, businesses and opportunities that didn’t exist before in White Rock and for others, development means the loss of what made things special.
During this past election, we as a city came to grips with some of these divisions, but I think that they’re still there and unfortunately, I think that divide is growing. I had hoped that the animosity in town would subside given the strong mandate handed to the new council, with all those elected having expressed reservations about development, but it seems like the debate may just be starting.
Lack of information continues to be an issue for the city: This isn’t just on city hall and the current (outgoing) council, it’s on the nature of the city. The Peace Arch news serves both South Surrey and White Rock, and with so many candidates for council did not really get in depth with any of them. We lack a local equivalent of a Vancouver is Awesome, Daily Hive or any news source that was able to tackle the election in an interesting and engaging way. South Rock Buzz is a great site but didn’t get involved in covering the election.
Instead what we got was a large number of different political Facebook Groups, run by a handful of individuals where we saw more mudslinging, rumours and bickering then was actually useful to voters. If you’re not tied into the daily drama of White Rock politics and the inside baseball of who was endorsing who, those groups were more likely to drive you not to vote at all than to want to become more interested.
White Rock’s future is young but it needs to vote (and run): Bless the CBC’s heart, Justin McElroy (no not that one) called me one of the youngest candidates. At the age of 40, I was the third youngest in the election. White Rock is increasingly diverse, young and modern. I see more and more families like mine, with one or both parents travelling into Vancouver to work in gaming, technology or other jobs. As the cost of living in Vancouver goes up, more and more young professional families are going to come to our town.
But we need to vote. They need to vote, given that I’m not actually that young. Issues like sustainability, the environment and transit were not as high on the list of topics raised by either slate during the election as I think they needed to be. It’s obviously an unscientific sample, but when I voted I saw only two people under 30 there voting and I heard not one but at least three of the polling staff mention how good it was to see young people voting suggesting that they were the exception rather than the norm.
I recognize that the city and us candidates ourselves needed to do more to reach young voters and talk to what’s important to them and that this isn’t just a White Rock issue. Still, in 4 years or in 8 years, the White Rock electorate won’t look the same as it does today. Hopefully, that’s reflected in who votes, and who runs for city council.