How to choose a warden

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Dispatches from the 148 by Fred Ryan


Dispatches from the 148 by Fred Ryan

Pontiac’s debates show a widespread interest in next month’s election of Pontiac’s first MRC Warden; debate questions, letters to the editor,  chat rooms, and street-side and front-door conversations underscore this interest – which was exactly one goal in switching to a publicly-elected warden. Goal one!  However, these public meetings and questions indicate a lot of indecision and even confusion, given five strong candidates, all with very different backgrounds and ambitions.
At the same time, we’re picking mayors and council-members.
“I like X’s business smarts, but I value Y’s municipal background” or “Z has great people-skills and speaks well, but W has impressive proposals” . . .  how do we decide?
First consideration, of course, is our personal criteria. We’ll each vote – if we’re on the voting list – and if you haven’t received your own confirmation from the MRC (not the one from your municipality), call your municipal office for the next (and last) date for voter list revision in your town.  Without it, you can’t vote for the warden.
In comparing candidates we have to stick with the apples-with-apples routine: use the same criteria for everyone. If you pick out the best feature of Y and the best of X, you end up with the indecision above. Judge all five on the basis of the same criteria, including any candidate you may have already written off. Comparison lists yield unexpected results.  Your first reject may eventually score higher than your original guess-timation.
So make a list on paper of the top three to five issues you personally find important. Check out this and past issues of the Journal for the issues at play. One caution: list only very-specific proposals and ignore, best you can,
generalized good intentions – such as “safety of our school children”, “a vibrant economy”,  “good leadership”, etc, – these are throw-away promises. Who doesn’t agree with them!  They have no real content. Stick with specifics.
Next, jot down (your summary) the experience of each candidate: in
governing, especially on the municipal level and especially in rural Pontiac. Experience with Quebec politics and bureaucracy is also important. Plus experience running a large-personnel operation. All brief.
Third, list the personal qualities and skills you’ve seen in each candidate which will affect how well they can work with a large group of mayors, managing a big group of professionals in various capacities – are they compromisers or authoritarian, are they intelligent, and good listeners?  Patient with the public?  Well-read, how well educated, how bilingual, how energetic? All are personal characteristics.  Also, your assessment of the general political leaning of each – right, left, or whatever: this is relevant to the MRC because it conditions how problems will be ranked, and
which solutions will be considered.
By now, you’ll have a good idea where your vote is going. Top up your
coffee, and now get specific on your rankings. Make a little chart – on one side pick five to ten issues you, yourself, value and, opposite, list the candidates. Score every candidate (1 to 10) on every one of your issues. Add up the scores, and, bingo, there’s the candidate who’s talking best to you. 
As for this list, again, be specific and avoid both generalities (forget “he’s friendly”, “she dresses well”, etc): avoid irrelevancies. I overheard one person saying she couldn’t vote for X because his teeth seemed unclean!  Hey, irrelevant for governing, although important for daily life.
Here’s a sample list of issues (1 to 10 on each): 
1. Likely to put Pontiac ahead of personal ambitions?  2. Intelligence &
ability to listen?  3. Group: business experience, language skills, neutrality in politics, religious, special-interest groups?  4. Their  “presence”: a forceful
personality, convincing? 
5. They avoid formalism, clichés, bureaucratese, not tangled up in procedure and hierarchy?  6. Examples of having mobilized others for a concrete goal?   7. Group: can speak clearly and to the point, concisely, and in positives?  8. Familiar with the Pontiac itself, the people, towns, history, economy?
No rocket-science here, but this is a way to compare all candidates on the same scorecard.  Voting with “your gut” (or even heart) isn’t as reliable as we wish.