I have it on good authority from my brother, the mayor of Woodstock, Ont., that doing his job is no walk in the park. I have no reason to doubt that.
However, if being the mayor of a city with less than 40,000 people isn’t easy, what’s it like to be mayor of a city the size of Edmonton?
I think it’s quite frustrating. Listen to our mayor’s voice the next time you hear him describing yet another instance of the inability of city councillors to make a quick decision, the right decision, or any decision.
Some of the reason for that frustration accrues from the weak mayoral system that is used in most parts of Canada. Under this system, the mayor usually sits as a member of the municipal council. In such systems, the mayor has one vote in common with all other members of council and no executive powers. That means the mayor cannot hire and fire, and there are very few important decisions the mayor can make without a majority of votes of council.
The mayor as first among equals has a nice sound to it, but in reality it rings hollow. No matter how smart, capable, driven or visionary the mayor is, he or she must rely on the votes of others to get anything done. This is problematic when councillors get stuck on what they think is good for their wards and cannot or will not see the needs of the city as a whole.
If we had party politics at the municipal level as they do in Vancouver, perhaps things would be different. We could elect a slate of candidates with a particular platform and then they would be obligated to work with each other to turn the platform into a reality.
If the mayor had executive powers, he could fire people who are clearly incompetent. First on my list would be capital construction general manager Mike Koziol, who didn’t think it was important to tell council about a $5.8-million hike in consultant’s fees for overhauling the Quesnell Bridge because a cost overrun had already been factored in.
Factored in? Our recent tax increase amounts to about $70 per household. Maybe Koziol and his boys weren’t too worried that a $5.8-million jump in cost would wipe out increased revenue from 82,000 average households.
Little wonder you can hear frustration in the mayor’s voice.