In recent days twitter has been buzzing with the news that Craig Chandler will become newly elected alderman, Peter Demong’s community assistant. Demong beat out incumbent Linda Fox-Mellway in Ward 14. Community association members have been contacting their ward’s political community with questions about this role. @ShawnKao, who also ran for the Ward 14 chair, tweeted that he has been contacted by 3 highly involved individuals – all expressing concerns about Chandler’s involvement.
In no way, shape, or form is this an attempt to slam Chandler. Frankly I would be concerned if anyone was named as a community assistant this close out of the gate.
This story has got me thinking about the expectations one has on an alderman. Aside from the written job description, I believe that Calgarians expect a lot from their elected officials that are above and beyond what they may have signed up for.
I think it is expected that an alderman be aware of the happenings in their community but I truly believe that they must be entrenched in those happenings. Community meetings, gatherings and events are where relationships are built and issues are understood. I don’t want my alderman to be sitting in an ivory tower – I want them right next door. I want to borrow a cup of sugar from them and know that when I have a legitimate problem they will be there to listen. I want to know that when my community association is passionate about an issue (from garbage and recycling collection to snow removal to traffic standards) my alderman not only knows about that issue but can understand the history and emotion behind it. How on earth can you understand the passion behind particular community issues if you have sent someone else to attend a community meeting instead of being there in the flesh? Or if you have assigned someone to call and follow up with community leaders instead of forging personal relationships with them yourself?
Passion that is contained in each and every community in #yyc needs to be experienced in person to be appreciated and understood. Some aldermen do a fabulous job of this – they make their constituents feel valuable and understood. My fear is that this community assistant position will set a precedent for alderman to stay an arm’s length away from real community issues … when they should be on the front lines.
If an alderman is on the frontline of their community issues they will be able to properly represent their needs in #yyccc – and perhaps get away from playing party politics in a place where they don’t belong. Perhaps this attitude will help avoid split votes and start getting the things important to Calgarians done efficiently and effectively.
That’s my opinion. I’m a firm believer that my city representative must understand the needs of the community … not second hand … not from a friend … or from an employee. A city representative needs to be a part of the community to understand the community. I sincerely hope that Alderman Demong will still be an active part of Ward 14’s vibrant community associations. Growing up in Ward 14 (and now living in Ward 13) I know that these groups of people are passionate about the community and expect to be taking seriously. They deserve direct attention from their elected official and not his campaign manager. The message hiring Chandler sends is one that communicates a lack of respect for their dedication to the ward.
Calgary Aldermen – I want to hear from you. What makes you a good representative of your community? How do you ensure you are a part of the community? Respected by the community? And up to date on the needs of your neighbours? Let’s sit down and have a coffee (or beer) and chat. PCinYYC is itching to publish a piece on you and your community.
Keep being passionate Calgary! Keep engaging and keep calling, writing, tweeting and emailing your alderman if you have a question, concern or suggestion. We are the stewards of this city – and keeping it great starts with us … not them.