The votes are counted, the elections are over. The winners are celebrating and the losers are contemplating.
But with apologies to the mayors and councillors and directors and trustees elected to a long four-year term, it’s tough to recognize victory.
Not at 30 per cent voter turnout.
From my place in the world, this election had a lot going for it. Issues: In Kelowna, the city is looking at major spending in the near future for infrastructure upgrades. The last Penticton council just couldn’t stay out of trouble while Vernon had a failed referendum on expensive water upgrades.
Let’s be honest, though, more importantly this election had good stories. Two Penticton councillors duking it out to replace a vacant mayors seat. Two men enter, one man leaves. In Vernon, there was a scramble for a vacant mayor’s chair and voters gave strong support for Akbal Mund, its first council-member of South Asian descent. In Kelowna, it was the return of much-loved Sharon Shepherd for another run at mayor, only to be handily defeated by the young (and also South Asian) Colin Basran. And all kinds of other drama.
We had get out the vote campaigns, all flavours of social media by candidates and media and other supporters. You couldn’t go a block without seeing signs on the street.
And yet, two-thirds of people paid shunned their right and privilege. Again. I shake my head. Literally, tsk, tsk, tsk. And usually, that’s all I really do. Because I confess, I hate writing stupid 'people-should-just-vote' stories. Blech. It’s like warning someone over and over again not to walk on thin ice. It’s useless. To them, you are only right if they plunge under a sheet of ice.
And that’s often how people encounter City Hall. They pay no attention, barely aware it exists, until it tears up their street or blocks traffic or their taxes double. They’re shocked, like it’s a cold bath.
The worst part about low voter turnout is I’m at fault; me and all the other journalists whose job it was to inform residents about their city governments. I don’t mean about tax increases and park dedications, that your city is where you experience the most culture, contributes the most to your well-being and where you pay huge taxes because we all do plenty of that between elections. I mean inform residents about what that vote means and what it is: Power.
Is that news? Look, I have a theory about this, because I read the comments on our stories and on forums and I see that it is indeed news.
I read your comments: Oh… politicians, they’re all liars. They’re all crooked. It’s an old boys club. My vote won't mean anything anyway.
Just stop it. It’s all crap. I know. Reporters pray for scandalous stories. They’ll skip meals, stay up nights, sacrifice relationships and spend their own money to find them. We crave them.
And how many do you see? Really, how many? For the most part, they don't exist. It's a myth. It's just not true.
It’s my duty to inform you that nearly every politician and every candidate in the last election, was only there to serve you. Ok, yes, they have an ego need as well, but that just means they have the courage to stand up, put their time where their mouths are and find out if anyone else agrees. If good government is boring, then so be it.
No one's beating you down. No old boys club at the trough. No special interest groups making backroom deals. No giant business interests buying City Hall. No mysterious forces pulling the levers of power for you.
Without those imaginary shackles—you are free and you have power to influence the world outside your front door. You have a vote.
Next time, see what you can do with it.
— Marshall Jones is the editor of Infonews.ca