28 February 2007

Council Criteria

We've gotten a bit of a news dump regarding Charlottesville City Council lately. First, Kendra Hamilton announced she will not seek a second term (Daily Progress, 2/23/07). This was followed by Democratic Central discussing who will run. And Waldo picked up that blog post and ran with it on CvilleNews.

In all this talk about how many seats might come open and who might be on the November slate, I'm not hearing jack about what makes a good Councilor--just who everyone likes or doesn't like. Maybe I need to turn my hearing aid up a bit. If I had one, I would.

There have been a handful of elected officials I have genuinely liked, and many more than that for whom I have voted. IMO, "like" shouldn't come into the equation nearly as much as "respect" should.

There are some things I believe are self-evident regarding people who run for public office. One of those things is that everyone who runs for public office has an agenda. They have issues they feel strongly about, changes they want to make. That's the freakin' common denominator among anyone who bothers to vote, let alone campaign.

Once the ballots are counted, that person takes on a job, and every job has a job description--duties that must be fulfilled. If you do not think a candidate has the ability to perform the duties, does it matter whether you agree on the issues or whether you like him/her?

IMO, not so much. There are some basic personality characteristics I look for: Integrity ranks high, as does responsibility. I want a candidate who balances principled conviction balanced with flexibility of mind, so that conviction doesn't become an excuse for arrogance or laziness. Beyond that, it comes down to what each candidate brings into the office.

So, here are my criteria for the job of City Councilor:
Understanding of and dedication to the actual job of being a public servant;

Willingness to do the background research into the issues brought before the dais, so that each vote made is informed as much by hard knowledge as it is by personal belief in "the right thing to do";

Desire to go beyond the parameters set by staff, which necessarily entails doing more analysis than just reading staff reports, although those are an important tool in decision-making;

Active solicitation of opposing points of view on any potentially controversial issue, and not just from friends, or at public hearings, or through the charlottesville.org e-mail inbox;

Ability to identify and prioritize the greater good;

Knowledge of structural/organizational systems, and how to work within one to change it; and

Time management, time management, time management.

That's my wish list, and I'm hoping our November slate has people who, individually or combined and working together, possess all of them.

No comments: