An hour into last night’s All Candidates meeting in Crofton, I was yawning. Same old question-answer format; with 22 candidates the answers take forever. But I stayed for the duration because I received an unforgettable education from a stranger on how to vote.
I noticed the man sitting next to me was taking notes. He had written down each candidate’s name and the main points they had made in their one-minute opening speech. Then, as the candidates answered a question posed to them from the audience, he either put a check mark next to their name, or scratch them out entirely. Once, he put a question mark next to a candidate’s name. I was so intrigued I broke my silence.
“A question mark?” I asked. “Why did that person get a question mark?” He laughed. Until then if he knew I was reading over his shoulder, he didn’t let on. “I wasn’t convinced of his answer, but I’m not sure he’s out yet,” he said. So all those people he scratched out were definitely out because they hadn’t answered the question. A simple yet brilliant system: If they don’t give a straightforward answer now, they probably won’t when they are on council.
During the candidates’ final thoughts, he divided a page into two columns with the headings Yes and Second Choice. As the candidates spoke, those who were not scratched out fell into one of these columns. After we heard from all 22 candidates, he had three names in the Yes column and three in the Second Choice column. He left that meeting knowing exactly who he would vote for on November 19th.
Afterwards, we talked about his process. Here is what I learned:
Lesson 1: Choose a candidate who is focused on municipal issues.
We heard some candidates speak about environmental causes and international issues. But as my new friend says, it’s great to have a cause, but will that person know how to get us a new fire truck when we need one?
Lesson 2: Choose a candidate who treats other candidates with respect.
He did not abide by candidates with abrasive tone or disrespectful comments towards others. Amen brother.
Lesson 3: Choose a candidate who believes in something.
And then make sure you believe in it too.
Lesson 4: Choose a candidate who defines the actions they will take when elected.
With all the rhetoric, all the same language used by all the candidates, who is giving specific actions they will take while on council?
Lesson 5: Have a process
This is the unforgettable lesson for me. There is so much noise in an election: Advertising, signs on the roadsides, news articles. It’s hard to know what to believe and who to trust. His process helped him ignore the noise and focus on each candidate’s message, and how well that message fit with his beliefs.
I left the meeting wondering if, armed with these lessons, my peers would feel more empowered to vote with conviction. I’m clearer on who I will vote for, even if my choices differ from those selected by my new friend in Crofton. Perhaps we all need an education from an informed, non-partisan, political junkie on how to vote.
Some notable moments from the meeting:
When the kid (must be just 18) interrupted the chairwoman (who had just selected a person in the crowd to ask the next question) to say she should let the young girl at the back with her hand up ask the next question because, “She is young and we should encourage her, yo.” (Yes, yo). Which he followed with, “We’re younger, so we have to live here longer.”
When Jennifer Woike told Hilary Huntley (who advocated for “fresh ideas about growing grain on the Island as the proprietors of True Grain bakery in Cowichan Bay do”), “I have 20,000 cattle and 70,000 chickens, there’s not enough grain on this island to feed my farm.” (Forgive me if I got those numbers wrong, but you get the point).
When John Koury answered the question of whether people who run for council should reveal their past criminal activities with an impassioned speech that would leave JFK’s “Ask not what you can do for your country” in the dust. (One wonders why he was so passionate about the issue).
15 days and counting….