Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Dear Voter: It Doesn't Stop After the Election

Vancouver City Hall. Photo by Foxtongue from Flickr
Elections have always given me a rush. I remember the first time I got to vote, standing in a long line outside of an elementary school, waiting to mark an X on a piece of paper that somehow, amazingly, was going to contribute to determining the future of my community. It's like doing a giant puzzle with a whole bunch of strangers, except you don't know what the final image will be.

City politics may not always consist of grand, fiery debates over health care reform or foreign policy or that ever-elusive beast the economy. But each decision at council, be it a rezoning, a development approval, a new by-law, a decision to spend money on this instead of that, affects your day-to-day life as an urbanite greatly. That sidewalk you walk on, that road you drive on, that bus you take, that water you drink, that poop you flush--all of it belongs to the realm of your city government. And you should pay attention to what they do in between elections.

You can attend meetings and council sessions. You can even watch online in your own home with no pants on if that's your thing (it's often my thing). Some of it may be mind-numbingly boring. I won't lie. You may not understand everything at first. And no one will fault you for zoning out for a minute to play Angry Birds on your phone.

You can write emails to your councillors. You can even tweet at some of them or be their friend on Facebook. Sometimes they even write back. The good ones, anyway. You're their boss, after all. Why give them a performance evaluation only once every few years? Tell them what you think of what they're doing. Give them suggestions. Help them do a better job.

Only 34% of people in Vancouver managed to get out and vote in the November 19th election. And that pitiful number is actual an increase over the 2008 election when it was 31%. That means that 66% of people in Vancouver decided they didn't really care about who ran their city for the next three years.

You may not think you care, but you do. If you care about your roads, transit, water, sewage, electricity, arts, libraries, parks, recreation, police, bikes, street festivals, affordable housing, and homelessness, then you care what your councillors are doing in between those election dates. If we didn't have a city government we would all be floating in a void, like in The Matrix before they program stuff in.

If you want to keep up to date on Vancouver City Council, watch meetings online and read agendas, click here.

If you're in Toronto (or like me and have a toe in both cities) and want to do the same for Toronto City Council then check out the calendar which has links to meetings and agendas. You can also watch council sessions online at RogersTV.

1 comment:

  1. Great post Jake! This is why we're hosting Vancouver ChangeCamp just after the election this year. To capture some of that attention and energy of the public and determine some things to focus on the next 3 years. Wish you could make it: http://vanchangecamp.ca/