Invest in Democratic Infrastructure...

Elect R.J. for Mayor

More Background - Proposal B

Currently Edmontonians get to vote 1 day out of every 1,095 days in each municipal term. That means that for 99.9% of the time most citizens have very little input.

Money bylaws, questions, plebiscites, and referendums, are being submitted for citizens to consider less and less frequently.  In fact over the last 10 years none have been brought forward or actively supported by Edmonton’s city council.

According to current provincial legislation all citizens have the right to require the city to hold a plebiscite on any issue. Petitions to activate municipal elections requires 10% of the total population. Of course, in the case of Edmonton it requires over 78,000 notarized signatures that must be collected within 60 days to initiate a plebiscite. In terms of the 2007 election results getting a plebiscite on the ballot today would be as difficult as getting 8 councilors - the equivalent of 67% of all councilors - elected.  A truly daunting task.

It is incredibly ironic that in Edmonton it only takes 50 signatures to activate a nomination for a candidate to city council but it requires over 78,000 signatures to bring a question to the same ballot.

Some apologists for the current system suggest that citizens of Edmonton have the right to make representations through letters to the editor or letters to councilors.  Yet experience suggests that space limitations on newspaper pages effectively limits editorial page access to a handful of citizens.  Moreover, experience also suggests that busy councilors with limited support staffs are under no compunction to even acknowledge receipt of correspondence from constituents let alone try to enter into meaningful in-depth exchanges with them.

Still other apologists of the current system suggest that citizens of Edmonton also have the right to make representations at public hearings.  Yet, experience suggests that citizens who exercise this option may have to take as much as a couple of days off work to do so. Another couple of days may be required if one wishes to follow all discussions to their conclusion.  The expense and inconvenience this entails is often too high a price for many to bare especially when citizens discover that they are limited to speaking for 5 minutes and even then the presence of specific councilors, the mayor, or members of the media are not guaranteed to be a part of any discussions or audience.

Public hearings can also absorb large blocks of councilors' time.  Yet, there is currently no objective and transparent method being employed to determine how effectively councilors learn from public hearings.  Data supporting the efficacy of such practices needs to be collected and reported regularly.

R.J. would support the testing of all ward based councilors involved in public hearings.  Test scores earned by each councilor would be posted publicly under pseudonyms.  Tests would be based on questions submitted by presenters. Results would then enable citizens to estimate the success that councilors typically have in gathering and retaining information through the public hearing process.  Hopefully, this will establish that councilors are good one-trial auditory learners who regularly take explanations from one-shot presentations and translate them into effective memories that can in turn form the basis for effective policies.

If students in public schools can be subjected to testing regularly in Grades 3, 6, 9, and 12 and the results are made public then a precedent has been set for the auditing of learning that is expected to occur at public expense.

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