Alternates to electing the MRC’s warden, Part 2

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Dispatches from the 148 by Fred Ryan

Suppose you were

Dispatches from the 148 by Fred Ryan

Suppose you were
buying a car and met this at the dealer’s: fixed price, no test drive, no close examination of the vehicle, and no returns. Who’d buy a car under such conditions? So why do it with selecting our warden? An elected warden will cost taxpayers much more; no tests (as in “experienced mayors”); nor are there any guarantees that an outside warden will deliver what others have been unable to
provide, and, once decided, there are no returns to previous arrangements. That isn’t democracy! 
This column first looked at arguments for and against electing a warden (as opposed to mayors electing a mayor, one they know, to lead them). We looked at possible outcomes – but enough negatives! There are positive things we could do to improve the effectiveness of our MRC without buying this all-or-nothing Cadillac solution.
Let me add a few suggestions: first, a salary review at the MRC is needed, including “are the mayors and warden paid enough to match their hours and contribution to local government?” There are a lot of people on salary there already and the public knows little of their tasks and successes. This requires a financial report, a clear budget, released to the public.
Second, produce 10 and 20-year plans for Pontiac’s advancement in economic, social, cultural, and recreational sectors. Then would be the time to look at
a full-salaried warden because we’d know what effort and time is needed from the warden – maybe it’ll necessitate a full-time effort, paid appropriately, but at least we’ll know what we can expect for our increased taxes. More election promises are not sufficient.
We can’t pay for promises; this proposal will give us an action plan, which we can use to evaluate the new warden’s progress and focus.
Third, the Pontiac needs a strategy to involve the whole population in its own government – educational campaigns about the MRC, it’s role, powers and limitations – plus public consultations on public-interest issues,  recruitment of
citizens for committees and boards – MRC committees should all have seats for the public. School kids should be introduced to government’s process and principles.  This third step targets fulfilling democracy’s need for an educated and involved populace. Merely staging a vote does not constitute democracy.
Fourth, the “fourth estate” is another requirement for a democratic government. That means an active and investigative media – not gossipy personal media! The MRC study should propose steps to strengthen this fourth estate for all media,
traditional to electronic. Strengthening local media means a stronger democratic process.
Fifth, without agreeing to more expenses before we see a single result (why is this always upper-government’s approach?), our leaders must rouse our
population, engage our depressed communities, turned off because they see so few opportunities and see so little effort extended on the Pontiac’s behalf.
We need a leader with charisma – to accomplish these few steps, to gain the support of other mayors, other institutions, and the whole population. A real leader, not a messenger bringing Quebec City’s dictation. A leader focused on our needs, not on “the art of the possible”, which non-leaders use to cover their failings.
Charisma does not mean blow-hard; it means a uniter. Big order for Pontiac? It has to be. We’re a big-ambition, big-hearted people.
A democratic and efficient government requires good candidates, an educated public, and an attentive media. Paying someone a big salary as warden won’t guarantee any of these three necessities. A salary, big by Pontiac standards, might attract even worse, say, a Trump!