By Scott Findlay
Municipal elections are in the air.
Even now, incumbents are pondering whether to run again, while potential challengers are weighing the costs and benefits of entering the lists.
These are difficult decisions.
Mayors and councillors are stewards of the public trust, charged with doing what is, in their view, best for the community. But determining what is best, and best for whom, is not an easy task. That political landscape is rugged, unforgiving and beset by dragons.
But need it be so? Or has it simply become so from neglect? Have we, as citizens, failed to give it the attention it deserves, so that, over time, the (municipal) political landscape has become inhospitable for citizens and politicians alike? Perhaps.
And if so, then as citizens, we must re-engage – but re-engage productively and constructively.
Chelsea residents, like people everywhere, are a diverse lot. Some hopes and dreams are shared, others not. But diversity notwithstanding, we share several common values, such as respect for diversity, social and biological; like transparency, accountability, and fiscal prudence.
Perhaps it is time to formalize these values. Perhaps it is time for an explicit declaration of the principles to which we cleave, and the actions that follow from them.
Such a statement would serve several purposes: it would serve as a vehicle for re-engagement and get folks talking about what matters to them and why. If, through respectful debate, we could achieve consensus on such a statement, it would not only render the political landscape more hospitable, but provide a roadmap through it – for council and for ourselves. And it may give incumbents and challengers alike some food for thought as they begin constructing their political platforms.
I believe it is time for such a statement. So do others.
Early in 2013, a group of Chelsea residents met to plan a meeting of community groups to identify common concerns and discuss how these concerns might be addressed.
In March, representatives of several community groups met to share experiences and views about municipal governance, transparency and accountability, what makes for good decision-making, communication, fiscal and environmental management and service delivery.
These and subsequent meetings have led to the drafting of a Chelsea Charter, a statement of the principles which we believe underpin good municipal governance, and a set of actions which, in our view, are consistent with these principles.
The Chelsea Charter reflects many hours of discussion by a number of people who care deeply about Chelsea’s future.
Undoubtedly it is incomplete, perhaps even wrongheaded or misguided, but at least the conversation has started. We encourage you to join it at http://goo.gl/Vwd3DE.
Ed. note: Scott Findlay is a resident of Chelsea, Quebec.