Monday, July 1, 2019

Evaluating City Council Candidates

Scales of Justice

“Always vote for principle, though you may vote alone, and you may cherish the sweetest reflection that your vote is never lost.” -- John Quincy Adams

In Highland there are three open city council seats this year. The nine candidates that are vying for your vote are asking for the privilege to spend ten or more hours a week for four years making decisions that affect us now and years into the future.

The issues they deal with will range from approving changes in user fees for parks to budgetary expenses totaling $18M, from zoning changes to park amenities, and from road maintenance to how to deal with legal issues.

Let me offer a few thoughts on what principles can be applied in selecting candidates for city council:

  • They need to be someone whose judgement you can trust, because they will at some point vote counter to what you believe is correct. Are they able to put the interests of others over their own self-interest? If they can, you will be more apt to trust their judgement.
  • They will be making decisions on issues in areas where they are not experts. Look for someone who likes to learn, is willing to listen to multiple points of view, and is able to revise their opinion as they learn more about an issue.
  • Council members and mayors often don’t agree with each other but need to work together. Can a candidate disagree without being disagreeable? Are they able to effectively debate issues? Can they compromise when that is called for? When issues are properly vetted, which often includes vigorous discussions, better decisions are the result.
  • Residents will have strong opinions on issues and occasionally are unkind to those who don’t agree.  Showing civility in the face of incivility tends to de-escalate issues and helps take emotion out of decisions. Look for those who are gracious when others are not.
  • I’ve found that trying to do the right thing in the wrong way can generate a lot of negatively and is often worse than doing nothing. The “wrong way” usually means making big decisions in a way that is perceived to be non-transparent. Candidates that are patient and persistent will be able to move the ball forward on big issues.

Is there a perfect candidate? No. Are there candidates who are perfectly capable of doing an excellent job. Absolutely! Please take the time to get to know those who are running and support those you believe will be effective public servants over the next four years.

If you have other thoughts on selecting candidates please feel free to share them.

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