David McConkey - Columnist, Consultant, Citizen
Columnist. Consultant. Citizen.

Thoughts on the Brandon Civic Election

October 31, 2006 - David McConkey

The municipal elections last week showed a few things about where we are at as a city. We got national publicity, but what else happened?

First observation is that all the incumbents - Mayor, Councillors, and School Board Trustees – were reelected. (Later note: one newcomer overturned an incumbent in a re-count.) As well, in the three wards where there were vacancies, men who were former Councillors were elected. And I deliberately say “men” as opposed to “people” to emphasize the makeup. Last time, two out of ten Councillors were women. Now only one out of the ten is a woman.
With all the Councillors either reelected or having served before, they won’t need much of an orientation. As City Manager Brian MacRae was quoted in the paper, “It’s not like having to work with a bunch of neophytes.” Heaven forbid that we would have to work with someone new!

Isn’t this all too comfortable, all too easy? Too easy for voters to check the names they are familiar with, too easy to over-value the importance of experience, and too easy for the Administration at City Hall to work with people they already know?

During the mayoral debates, there was some discussion of broadening the outlook of City Council to include more contact with women, visible minorities, and aboriginals. Hopefully, this discussion continues after the election. Hopefully, new people and new ideas are welcome in Brandon, including at City Hall.

Second observation is the increased role of the Internet in the election. Here are some of the ways that the Internet was used during the election to inform the public.

Candidate Information:  The City of Brandon website assembled a very helpful list of all candidates and their information. Included were phone numbers, and most had email addresses, for the public to pose questions. Some of the candidates had their own websites, and these were noted as well.

Discussion Forums and Blogs:  The election likely raised the profile of several places on the Net for surfing Brandonites. Especially: the blogs of editorial page editor Curtis Brown (Endless Spin Cycle), as well as the on-going discussion forums and blogs at eBrandon.

News Content:  The Brandon Sun posted the video of their mayoral debate on their website. The website eBrandon did an excellent job with a questionnaire it had sent out and about two-thirds of the candidates answered. A feature let one compare the answers of any candidate with any number of others. On election night, the City of Brandon website, Brandon.ca, was the place to watch the results.

Discussion and information on the Internet is instantaneous, thorough, with lots of both information and opinions. Commentators on the Internet speak their minds more freely and are less constrained than in other media. Brown, in his blog, referred readers to the CKX TV website for more information about a story – which would be surprising in his regular column in the Brandon Sun.

What about the future? Less than one-half of the electorate actually voted. Now would be the time to start to prepare for voting on the Internet in the next municipal election. It would be an ideal way to boost not only the voting participation, but also Brandon’s image at the same time.

This time, Brandon gained national headlines for crime. Next time, wouldn’t it be great to get coverage for being a progressive city?
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See also:  

Brandon Casino Plebiscite

Future Change May Be Dramatic

Proud History of Looking Forward

Who Could Be Brandon’s Most Famous?

Brandon:  What Kind of a City Do We Want?  (two-part series)

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David McConkey,
Brandon, Manitoba
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