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JONESIE: The infighting and community fighting of the 2018 Civic Election

October 17, 2018 - 1:13 PM

OPINION


Things are getting ugly in the Vernon election.

Candidates are sniping at each other in Facebook forums and it’s become hard to watch.

Dawn Tucker is a candidate for council, but she’s also the administrator on two of these popular forums. I think she’s got the best interests of Vernon in mind and that has helped keep the forums productive and usually positive, which is rare to be also popular.

But she chose to maintain that role through the campaign and is being accused of exploiting her moderator role to her advantage. I don't know about that, but she left the door open to that criticism by not finding another moderator for a few weeks.

It’s a good lesson for any candidate. It shows poor judgment to not avoid even the perception of a conflict of interest.

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I tried to look at election coverage this year from a new perspective.

On municipal issues, voters can shift the weight of their vote to whatever issue they want, from pot holes to pot shops.

We tried to simplify these questionnaires and break it out so voters can find precisely which candidates they may throw their vote to. Personally, I don't recommend choosing a vote for local issues alone, but it should be part of the picture. I hope we did that accurately and fairly and even controversially — why not. 

Let me know if you have any concerns.

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The campaign for Mayor in Kelowna has cooled down considerably. After storming out of the gate, Tom Dyas seems to be laying low. He started out by levelling personal attacks on incumbent and former BFF Colin Basran’s leadership, then attacked several of his decisions and actions, as you might expect a rival candidate to do.

But his campaign seemed to dissipate after the occasional ugliness from the campaign spilled over into the community and apparently some friendships were casualties. It strayed pretty far from the politics at hand. Was that a swing moment? And for who?

No other race for mayor in the Thompson-Okanagan has been so contentious.

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It’s tough to get a read on Penticton Mayor Andrew Jakubeit’s future. He had a rough ride in his first term, albeit early on. Are voters going to punish him for old controversies, like the Trio Marine debacle (Tom Dyas again!)?

He’s got at least two challengers that voters will be familiar with. If his detractors are looking for alternatives, they might find several — and maybe that works pretty well for Andrew Jakubeit.

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This is a throw down, a challenge to any candidate, particularly councillors who have served during a community referendum. Explain to me why voters shouldn’t punish you for stating no opinion or even a lukewarm opinion on the question.

In Kamloops, it was the Performing Arts Centre, in West Kelowna it was the City Hall and in Vernon right now, it’s a cultural centre. Candidates and councillors say: ‘This is for the community to decide, I don’t want to influence the vote'.

Or they state a 'personal' opinion, then hold their hands up and make the same claims: 'This is for the community to decide.'

You oversaw the entire process. Years in the making. Your council felt so strongly about This Expensive Thing that you spent all that money gathering information and running a referendum and putting it out there for voters, taking up staff and volunteer time. If you let it go that far — why aren’t you championing that project and trying to bring it home?

When local governments really want something, they go to alternative approval process and hope 10 per cent of people won’t sign a petition. When they want to pat the heads of Arts/Culture/Sports/Kids/Seniors groups on their little projects, they go to referendum and make sad-face while it dies from lack of oxygen, shrug their shoulders and blame democracy.

So come on. Give it to me. Justify your non-positions with big bonus points if you respond in comments below where everyone can read it. 

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Kamloops looks like the most stable of all city councils right now. While they will definitely have new councillors and plenty good ones to consider, Mayor Ken Christian is pretty safe to return. My only question, as with every election in Kamloops is: Will they re-elect Donovan Cavers?

Only this time, it’s: And will they also elect him to serve as trustee with School District 73?

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Vernon will definitely have a new mayor and that mayor will have never served as a councillor.

Why do people keep doing this?

Yeah, sometimes it works out, but rarely are mayors who’ve never been councillors successful. It’s a steep learning curve just joining council, but then throw being mayor on top and it just slows everything down. The job is never what people expect it is. I think Mayor Akbal Mund in Vernon (he’s running for a council seat instead, this term) and West Kelowna’s first mayor, Rosalind Neis (who moved to a council seat in an election one year later) would advise against rushing too fast to the gavel.

It's inefficient. There's consequences for the city. It certainly doesn’t offer much confidence in plain, old good governance.

Good luck to you.

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I've been in local news a long time and I always feel partially responsible for voter turnout numbers — all of us in news.

When this job is done well, we make local issues understandable and earn your attention, against all your many alternatives. If we do that and people pay attention, we all get better governments and better cities, smaller and fewer issues to stall forward momentum. There’s no real correlation between good journalism and voter turnout but nevertheless, I'm ever hopeful we will move the needle. 

So please go vote.

— Marshall Jones is the editor of iNFOnews.ca


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