59. Who’s really in charge around here?

The excitement is palpable. You can see it, hear it and feel it everywhere you go in the city. Some say you can even taste it and none will argue that you can smell it.

Yes, it’s almost election day – time to elect a new mayor and 14 aldermen who will govern us with stealth, cunning and ruthless efficiency for the next three years.

They will make wise decisions on civic improvements, broaden and strengthen our infrastructure, save us from the presently sad and depressing lives their predecessors bequeathed to us, increase our tourist appeal, and greatly improve, at reduced cost, each and every service presently provided to us all the while managing our money with the frugality of a depression era grandmother.

In just a few short weeks we will have elected them and they will be eagerly and busily engaged in not delivering on any of the things they committed to providing us during the campaign.

Many of them will be first time electees, which means they will bring not only their naïve and quaint new ideas but also their newly acquired world class expertise in all matters pertaining to civic government.

A good friend of mine, a long suffering senior manager with the city, has explained to me how just the mere act of getting oneself elected is all it takes to become the world’s foremost authority on finance, transportation, infrastructure, water treatment, sewage, policing and everything else that falls under the responsibility of city management.

Many of the candidates believe that the role of council is to aid in the running of the city.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

The real truth is they just get in the way of those who keep the city running smoothly.

You know who I mean.

The ones who do the work.

The folks who drive our busses, maintain our parks, police our streets, fight our fires, ensure we have clean water, round up our strays, pick up our garbage and deliver all the dozens of services we are provided with and that we take for granted – principally because they are, and always have been, there.

These people and those who provide support and management services to them are the career folks who operate our city year after year, not the ones who show up for three year terms and then frequently depart in search of higher elected office.

Here’s a little experiment I think we should conduct to determine the real source from which we, the citizens, derive value from those on the municipal payroll.

Part one of the experiment requires secretly secreting all elected officials out of their cozy council chamber and placing them in an undisclosed location from which they can have no contact with the outside world.

Let’s confine them to this space for a period of one year.

A whole year without council’s involvement with the operations of the city.

One hundred percent of them unavailable to lend their brilliance to the city.

Now let’s see if anyone misses them.

My guess is that we the citizens will not even notice they’ve gone AWOL.

Nothing will change.

All services will continue as usual without so much as a minor blip.

And we won’t demand that they be returned to oversee their little empires.

After one year we will return them to their exalted positions and embark on stage two of the experiment.

In this stage council will spend their days counselling and we will select a small percentage of city workers from all levels and departments and send them off on a sabbatical.

Now let’s see how efficiently the city runs.

What will happen to our transportation if ten percent of drivers, mechanics, managers, supervisors and support staff all take a year off.

Or if our police do the same.

Or our fire fighters.

Or our sanitation staff.

Or the folks in finance.

Or parks.

Or any department .

How long would it take before services start breaking down, and fires don’t get fought, and sewers back up, and garbage doesn’t get collected and we have to drink beer – because we can’t drink the water

And we start to get mad.

And demand we bring them back – NOW.

Of course we need elected officials.

Of course we need a functioning, functional (I not sure if we know how to recognize one) council.

We need a council of governance, not one of ego.

We need a council of direction, not one of self gratification.

We need a council of long term vision, not one of myopia.

What we don’t need is a council that thinks it can, and should, run the city.

And as I watch the candidates make promises of what they will do if elected I have become more and more determined to base my decision on which candidate to vote for on the response I get to the question I posed on posting number 51 – Vote for me, I promise anything you want.

I believe that we have an obligation to vote and I have never missed an opportunity to do so.

So the first candidate who publicly answers my question in the affirmative will have earned my X on Election Day.

My question is this “Will you publicly declare that if you are elected to this position and you fail to deliver on any single campaign promise you will not justify your failure by assigning blame elsewhere but will  immediately resign your position and vow to never run for elected office again?”

I have a sad feeling that I’ll be staying home that day.

Till we read again.

P.S. On Wednesday, September 22nd 2010 I will be having another book signing at Self Connection, #125, 4611 Bowness Road NW., from 3pm – 6pm.

I will be conducting a 20- 30 minute presentation on the teaching of my book Life Sinks or Soars – the choice is yours, followed by a group discussion and Q&A session.

There is no charge for this presentation. If you wish to attend, please call Self Connection at (403) 284-1486 to register. Hope to see you there.

My last book signing at that location was an enormous success. While nobody actually showed up for the event itself, two good friends did drop by which provided a rare opportunity to spend some time together and get caught up.

So even if you aren’t interested in buying my book (how is that possible?) you can still drop by for a visit.

And if you can’t make it on Wednesday and must have the book,

then click here and buy it now.

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