Editorial — Citizens wants responsible representatives

Four-year terms will not guarantee better representation for citizens in their dealings with municipalities.

The guest editorial published on this page and online, from our sister newspaper serving Coquitlam and the other (four) cities in the Tri-Cities area, makes some excellent points about the challenge of getting rookie local politicians up to speed. There is lots of information to absorb when you’re part of a local council, particularly in large and growing municipalities.

But that’s why there are seminars for newly-elected councillors — to learn how to manage this overflow of information and juggle it with other duties.

Four-year terms for councillors will not solve this problem. Instead, what four-year terms will do is further entrench councillors so that they are rarely, if ever, thrown out of office.

In Langley Township, no councillor seeking re-election has lost  since 2005. Meanwhile, in the same period, two mayors have lost re-election bids.

The longer that councillors stay in office, the less they listen to local residents. While there are exceptions, most become very comfortable with the information they are fed by top managers in their cities, and sympathize less and less with residents who have a problem with specific aspects of city administration.

In terms of saving money, it would be very interesting to study how much money was saved when B.C. went from two-year terms to three years, in the late 1980s. It is almost certain that no money was saved at all.

Council members in recent years have regularly raised their own wages by percentages people in the private sector can only dream about.

If there are actual savings from holding one less election over a 12-year period, it‘s a safe bet that the savings will end up in the form of larger council paychecks.

What citizens truly crave is council responsibility, and that has nothing to do with the length of the term.

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