Chaos and municipal elections

The ugliest season of any year is about to begin with civic election campaigns getting underway .

The ugliest season of any year is about to begin with civic election campaigns getting underway in Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows.

Soon our roadsides, residential lawns and every conceivable corner of our quiet countryside will be festooned with thousands of signs imploring us to vote for a wide variety of candidates in mayoralty contests, for council seats and school trustee positions.

Due to varying degrees of dissatisfaction over a perceived leadership vacuum in both Pitt Meadows and Maple Ridge, there promises to be vigorous mayoralty campaigns.

An additional major issue facing voters in Maple Ridge, with three incumbent council members stepping down, is the possibility of electing a council with at least three or more inexperienced members.

Even if the three remaining incumbent Maple Ridge councilors are all successfully re-elected, municipal council could be woefully inexperienced.

And there is no guarantee that any of the Maple Ridge incumbents will be re-elected, although it would take a strong leap of faith to imagine a completely new set of six councillors.

That situation would be chaotic, to say the least.

Voters in Maple Ridge will likely want answers to key questions concerning the overall leadership and performance of  council and its bureaucracy, which has failed to attract any major commercial or industrial developments to Maple Ridge in the past several years.

Similarly, with transportation and transit issues reaching a critical stage, council has failed to achieve any significant progress in dealings with TransLink, the funding and administrative body for these functions in the Metro Vancouver region.

Another flaw in council’s image has been the seeming inability to deal effectively with personality conflicts between councilors and municipal bureaucrats.

Although individual council members are easy to approach and pleasant to talk with, as a group they are much like Nero, the Roman emperor, who fiddled while Rome burned.

Maple Ridge might not be burning, but municipal council and senior bureaucrats have fiddled and diddled while commercial and industrial development is attracted to surrounding municipalities.

There is also growing public displeasure over the size and cost of the monolithic municipal bureaucracy, which is viewed by many commercial and industrial developers as one of the main reasons they choose Pitt Meadows, Mission, Langley or Port Coquitlam over Maple Ridge as sites for major projects.

Another annoying issue Maple Ridge council will have to address is misplaced priorities within the capital budget, which has seen hundreds of thousands of dollars spent on bike paths to nowhere, traffic circles and other questionable traffic calming devices.

To complicate matters even further, the term of civic office holders has been increased from three to four years. This could discourage otherwise good candidates from running. This year, more than ever, voters in every municipal and school trustee election should carefully consider their choices because they’re going to be stuck with the results for four years.

In municipal elections in Maple Ridge, voters are entitled to cast votes for six council members. Normally voters are wise to use all of their votes, but doing that in the coming election could result in the election of some highly improbable candidates. So it would be wise to carefully consider who you choose to support.

There will be ample opportunity for voters to contact council or mayoralty candidates to determine their positions on issues and to enable them to cast their votes in an informed manner.

– Sandy Macdougall is a retired journalist and former district councillor.