Municipal politics matters – a lot
Some interesting drama on election night. Saint Johners voted for change in a big way. I think Mel Norton will be a good leader in the Port City. I have always felt that cities take on the persona of their mayor – I know that sounds kind of strange but when Brian Murphy was mayor of Moncton the city got a reputation for being a brash, confident – even an arrogant place (i.e. Brian Murphy) and now the city has a kind of firm but nice persona – a gentle giant – sounds like George Leblanc. Saint John under Elsie – it seemed to me – kind of took on an Elsie Wayne kind of persona. Brad Woodside, in many ways, is Fredericton. He will continue to be elected as long as he wants the job.
Based on my superficial logic, I think under Norton Saint John will emerge as more confident, youthful and optimistic.
Shelley Rinehart is a Saint John institution. She won councillor at large by the combined votes of the second and third place candidates. She will be a good addition to City Hall.
In Fredericton, Leah Levac beat out my old colleague Steve Kelly. Andy Scott tells me Leah is one of the brightest people he knows. Sounds like a good addition to City Hall as well.
Dawn Arnold, the brains behind the Northrup Frye Festival in Moncton, also won by a landslide in the Councillor at Large race. She paid for billboard advertising around the city and I kept getting Facebook ads with her picture on them and she crafted a manifesto. I suspect she could have won the race for Queen of the Universe if that was her goal. It will be interesting to see her career trajectory – I suspect she has higher office in view.
Only about 40 percent of those eligible to vote actually voted.
Followers of this blog will know of my belief that local politics matters. Because NB is a small province and because of decisions made decades ago, cities have limited political power. It seems they don’t even have much influence on the location of schools and other provincial government buildings within the city limits.
However, people do not live in ‘provinces’ or ‘countries’. They live in neighbourhoods – inside cities, towns and villages. Just about everything that impacts their lives happens close to home – work, school, health care, shopping, parks, services, etc.
This reality matters now more than ever. If people don’t like their city, they will leave. Skilled workers have never been more mobile. Nearly 13,000 people moved out of New Brunswick in 2010/2011. The Moncton CMA lost 4,500 people to out-migration in 2009 (that’s over three percent of its population) – although it made up for the out-migration with an even larger in-migration.
The point is that cities need to be places that are attractive to live (as well as work) and that is where City Hall comes in.