Monday, July 14, 2014

Public Service & Democracy ...

   After almost three years serving the residents of Trail, I took the opportunity a week of vacation provided to reflect upon my time in office and all that it had entailed.  The first thing I learned once in office is that the job of a Municipal Councillor is much more challenging that it appears from the outside looking in. Prior to running for council I had served on many boards and committees serving a wide range of interests from the political realm to the charitable sector and everything in between. While most were centered on a single purpose, they all fit the bill as public service and the more global goal of bettering one’s community. That being said, none of them presented an equivalent challenge to serving as an elected official. What I also learned early on, is that I enjoy the challenge and find the very serious responsibility of being a Councillor fits well with the skills and knowledge base I have developed over my working career. I’m not sure there is such a thing as a “natural politician”, (not sure it would be a compliment either), but I certainly do feel comfortable in my skin while doing the job.
   The job of a Municipal Councillor is primarily to ensure the operations of a municipality are consistent with the community’s official community plan (wishes of the public) and that those actions are carried out in an efficient, cost effective manner – within the bounds of legislative authority granted by the BC Municipal Charter. While this sounds simple, many things can get in the way of the best made plans. Bureaucracy within other levels of government is chief among them and can certainly slow down progress. At times, it can cause opportunities as uncommon as Haley’s Comet to sail right by just the same. Public opinion can also change quickly, particularly when results develop slower than anticipated. Fiscal constraint balanced against taxation policy is the one constant that underpins all decisions. In spite of this, we carry on and pursue the goals outlined by the majority. This too brings its own challenges, while pursuing those goals – opposition is guaranteed. Both externally and on occasion from within. This is of course how democracy works. I heard it said once that democracy is the best flawed system of government we have discovered to date. We can thank the 6th Century Greeks/Athenians for giving us the foundation of a system better than monarchical or despotic rule. I’ve also heard it said that democracy is two wolves and a sheep arguing over what’s for dinner. Compared to monarchical or despotic rule… I choose lamb every time.
   Over the past three years, I believe the current council has taken on more challenging projects and tackled more longstanding issues than it had in the past twenty years. The acquisition of the Airport, Regional Sewer Agreement, Recreation and Culture Agreement with Warfield, Boundary Expansion (pending) and a host of others combined for a complex and very busy legislative agenda. Most of the choices involved trade offs and compromises that in the end were necessary, though not always preferred. Herein lays the rub. As a Municipal Councillor you will not always get your way, or even the ideal solution. What you will get though is the solution that is possible (legally, financially, etc...) and hopefully achieves the greatest good for the community as a whole. This is the art of politics within the democratic system; to do the most good, benefiting the most people with the resources you have and within the confines of the laws of the day.
   During my tenure on council I have put much thought and considerable deliberation into every decision I have participated in. Confident each time (With only one exception – See blog entry – Choices, March 4, 2013) that given the options available, the vote cast was the best choice in those circumstances for the residents of Trail. I read ALL of the voluminous material provided in staff reports and correspondence and consult with peers and citizens alike when uncertain about a course of action. Challenging staff recommendations is not something I have shied away from when required, however I can honestly say that the caliber of staff reporting provided to Trail City Council has been on the whole, excellent. I believe these qualities are what are expected of any elected official in local government. Ultimately, we are the final decision makers and Ambassadors for our community. We own the decisions and their consequences, both intended and unintended. I have done my very best over the last few years to live up to the expectations outlined above and wholeheartedly believe that the City of Trail has made significant progress during this time. There is more work to be done though and more tough decisions ahead. That is why I will be asking for your support once again on November 15th, when I allow my name to stand for the position of … Councillor.


Kevin Jolly

City of Trail