Thursday, November 13, 2014

Paul Holmes - How I will be Voting in Sooke

Another person has taken my up on my offer to express who there are voting for and why, this time Paul Holmes:

Here's how I'm voting in Sooke this Saturday.

Council
Kerrie Reay (Incumbent)

Mayor

I have only lived here for four years. Sooke is a great community with a mosaic of interesting people, a vibrant arts scene, a beautiful natural setting, and truckloads of issues that arise when rural sensibilities clash with suburban demands. And a political gong show that competes with the very worst I've seen.

In choosing my candidate choices, I approached each with a particular issue: the notable lack of a sidewalk in the busy traffic/parking area outside Poirier Elementary School, a problem unique to this Sooke school. A sidewalk on the yet-to-be-developed side would quickly alleviate the bulk of the danger, so it struck me as a pretty obvious amenity, especially with the vocal "pro-sidewalk" crowd. Apparently not, as only a handful were willing to take a stand on the issue.

Some, notably Bev Berger and Rick Kasper, seem loathe to take a position on any issues at all. In a Twitter exchange (beginning with another voter), Ms. Berger even suggested that as a member of a Council of 7, it would somehow be irresponsible that she take positions on issues at all. It very much reminded me of the famous quote accredited to former Prime Minister Kim Campbell that "an election is no time to discuss serious issues." No offence intended, Ms. Campbell.

This baffling notion that if the electoral outcome proves to make your disclosed position beyond reach, that it should somehow preclude you from taking positions on issues in the first place requires staggering mental gymnastics. Or, it is a case of "playing it safe" taken to the extreme, which might just seem sensible (albeit deplorable) for an incumbent, given their propensity to be re-elected by default in our region. The other possibility, which I propose, is that there is a fundamental misunderstanding of the role of a Councillor (or, really, of a "leader" in the usual sense of the word).

Actually, the general lack of decisive leadership around the Council table was quite shocking. I get the sense many of these elected officials believe their role is something of a cog in the bureaucracy, as opposed to "leaders" who, at the very least, stand up for what is right, sensible, fair, or even "attuned to their philosophical leanings" when the machinations of government do not produce desired outcomes. Frankly, I'd rather have a crazed idealougue with principles and well-formed opinions, than self-styled "checkmark makers" for the bureaucracy. It's no coincidence, therefore, that my selections for Council include only one incumbent.

In an Orwellian moment at their final Council meeting, the Council went to great lengths to congratulate each other over agreeing unanimously on over 90% of all the votes over three years. Congratulations for this? On the contrary, this sounds like a far too homogenous group operating in lockstep when it comes to the complex public policies they face in this growing and changing municipality. I'd appreciate quite a bit more healthy dissension, thanks.

Council

There exist many excellent choices amongst the Council candidates. These are my top 6, for whom I will be voting.

First, nobody cares more about the community than Brenda Parkinson. It doesn't really matter who you ask: left, right, center, anti-tanker, pro-tanker (just kidding - that's not a thing), old Sooke, new Sooke, rural, suburban, hippie, yuppie, etc. When I hang out with my artsy friends, Brenda is loved. When I hang out at the Legion, Brenda is loved. When I'm at the Sooke Fall Fair, Brenda is loved. Everyone knows Brenda, and everyone loves Brenda. If there is one "no-brainer" vote on the ballot, it is Brenda. There is absolutely no reason she shouldn't top the polls on the Council ballot. And, she would deserve every bit of it.

Even if people are opposed to amalgamation, they should have a serious look at Justin Hanson. All my dealings with him have demonstrated a deeply held passion for our community. As a lawyer, I'm sure he'd have little issue standing up to the bureaucracy either, when it's necessary. Sooke would be better off with a person of his calibre on Council.

Jeff Bateman also strikes me as a deeply sincere candidate; passionate for the community. At the all-candidates meeting, he was easily the most impressive speaker. And, of all the people who listened to my personal beef, Jeff was quite keen to take the time to understand the issue I raised. Imagine a politician that takes time to engage with the citizens! Crazy, right?

Kerrie Reay is the one incumbent I wouldn't discard from the rest of the lot. She is easily the brightest of the existing group, and having known her for a few years prior to moving here, I am well aware of her understanding of leadership, and capability in being a leader. Having some experienced people on the new Council isn't an entirely terrible idea, but not too many. I'm sure Ms. Reay would absolutely disagree with me about the previous Council, and it would precisely be her willingness to disagree with me that would convince me further of her leadership capacity (disagreement is good, remember).

(If you feel strongly there should be two incumbents, which I don't, you should consider Kevin Pearson as your second "keeper"; the other two should enjoy reading some good books on leadership over the next 4 years.)

I believe Council should reflect, as best it can, the composition of the community itself. As such, given her age and penchant for Youth-related issues, I'll be voting also for Ebony Logins. Time will tell if this was a good idea or not. Regardless, I think she'll win easily, and I have high hopes for her.

Finally, since I have 6 votes, I will be assigning my final vote to Kelvin "Kel" Phair. I found him to be "rough around the edges", but not at all disagreeable. It seems he doesn't take himself too seriously, too, which is refreshing in an ego-driven bloodsport like politics. He also strikes me as a "legend level" hard worker, which can't hurt either. Honestly, I suspect a fellow of his lot (the tradesman who's probably seen it all) does not take a lot of crap, and is pretty likely to push back against those dispensing it.


Mayor

The decision for Mayor was more difficult, mostly because I found neither of the candidates particularly compelling. I briefly considered a protest vote for the "other" other candidate, David Shebib, who, as best I can tell, is running on a democracy has failed us all platform in all 13 municipalities.

Both Mayoral candidates are current Councillors (a strong liability, as noted). When I approached both with my issue, I received a willingness to listen from Herb Haldane. From Maja Tait, in contrast: total, absolute silence. I tried on three occasions to engage Maja Tait in a meaningful way. Mr. Haldane, in contrast, returned my first phone call, and discussed things further with me at the candidate's debate.

Some of Maja's vocal supporters took to social media to discredit my issue (and it's vocal proponent) in a fashion I might expect to find in an Alabama state senate campaign. As distasteful as this was, however, their enthusiasm in this manner certainly may have been uncoordinated and coincidental.

Finally, there is a disturbing "whisper campaign" directed against Haldane. This includes a number of non-specific accusations I won't bother the reader with, other than to say that nobody seemed privy to any actual evidence. It sounded more like hopeful speculation, or bizarre desperation from supporters of a campaign that, by all outward appearances, appears to be leading. Of course, these are simply my observations - those of one unfamiliar with "what really goes on" in Sooke.

Anyway, my reluctant vote for Mayor is Herb Haldane. I think he'll do better than my three other options: Maja Tait, nobody, or David Shebib (in order of preference).


Paul Holmes
Sooke Resident

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