Reader provides more input on ward system

  • Nov. 28, 2012 3:57 p.m.

I have been informed by City Hall that in order to get City council to have a plebiscite on creating a ward system that I would need to have 10,000 average voters in the City of Red Deer sign a petition in a 60 day period.

The question asked is was there a 10,000 signature petition that gave us the infamous, often controversial bike lanes, or was it a handful of highly influential insiders that saw the expensive bike lane experiment implemented?

The bike lanes is one topic that has been brought up in recent days since I offered my thoughts on creating a ward system in hopes of achieving real representation since many have suggested that our City’s elected officials do not respond to the needs of their citizens and that non-responses have become almost legendary.

We have nine elected officials, one mayor and eight councillors. Only one north of the river, only one west of Taylor Dr. We have five living in the southeast portion of City; we have seven living south of the river and east of Gaetz. Why not have a ward system with two elected representatives in each ward?

The current at-large system favours the incumbents during the elections so it is a conflict of interests for City council to arbitrarily decide the outcome. The system allows us access to all City councillors and what happens if you do not like your elected representatives? We vote them out in the next election, same as our MLAs and MPs.

We have to contact all nine municipal elected officials and hope for a returned call or e-mail if we have an issue or problem. Can you imagine if the province or the country followed this doctrine? You would have to contact 83 MLAs and over 300 MPs and hope for a call.

The City Hall reps suggest that they are too busy to answer calls and mail and they assume that someone else will answer the call. They may have to time off from work to go to meetings if they are held responsible for issues and neighbourhoods. What are they getting paid for? Why are they councillors except for the title and pay cheque? Even among the councillors there is tension about the perceived efforts of some of their co-council members.

We may not need a ward system if City Hall had a formal structure that would assure a timely response and a known entity to contact if you had a problem instead of a list of nine?

Concentration of power at City Hall? That may explain the differences in spending comparing the south east sector with the northwest sector of the City? The bike lanes issue is another fine example. The issues include need, practicality, costs, planning, implementation and timing, and councillors will say that there were too many complaints for them to keep up with them so councillors quit responding.

In a ward system councillors would have a fraction the calls and requests and could possibly have the time to reply. I thought that we have eight councillors, so four wards would be appropriate but I have been apprised that they are considering full-time councillors and there is also a push to have just six full-time councillors. I never saw any 10,000 signed petitions asking for full-time councillors. This is a self-serving goal submitted internally by councillors.

Pundits and journalists talk about the bubble in Parliament in Ottawa, they talk about bubble at the legislature in Edmonton and perhaps they should call it the bubble at City Hall in Red Deer?

Next year there is an election so why not have a plebiscite at the same time about the wishes of the voters in regard to the ward system and whether we should have full-times councillors? Just ask the voters. Thanks for all the support.

Garfield Marks

Red Deer