Running for Council Tips
With Nomination Day - May 28th - fast approaching, I suspect that more names will quickly emerge, as candidates vie for media attention and public notoriety. If you are still on the fence, or if you feel like you need more information, the great folks in our legislative branch are hosting two Candidate Information Sessions on May 16th (tonight) and May 26th.
They will pass along vital information about the process of running, some of the legal things you need to know, and the placement of election signs. Take the time to attend; it'll make the start to your political life so much easier.
In no particular order, here are some tips on running for Council:
- Signs are expensive and a pain in the posterior region of your anatomy - These are two realities that you're just going to have to accept, unless you choose to run sign-less. First of all, the bulk of your budget will be spent getting signs produced and erected. They will also become the bane of your existence for the four weeks they are up, then down, then up, then down.....you get the picture. Wind, vandals, acts of God - they all come into play with your lawn signs. I keep thinking that if we outlawed election signs, it would make things so much easier and force candidates to get out and meet people. Hmmmmmm?
- Design matters - if you're going to do election signs, pamphlets, postcards and a website, do it right. Engage the services of a professional designer. They will help you look good.
- Watch Council - anyone who runs for Council yet hasn't watched a Council meeting needs to give their head a shake. You need to know - from top to bottom - what it is you're signing up for. Can't physically get out for a meeting? You can watch them all online here.
- Get the inside story - what is it really like to serve on Council? I believe that part of our job is to encourage participation in elections. I'm guessing that any one of us would be happy to sit down and answer any questions you might have about life as a municipal councillor.
- Use social media - former Minister Murray Smith said "If you want to go duck hunting, go where the ducks are." Where do voters spend most of their time? They are online, on Facebook, and on Twitter - not to mention LinkedIn, Pinterest, and myriad other social media sites. I'm of the mind that being active in social media is no longer an option, but a necessity.
- Websites are important - while there are ways around having to have an election website, you need to have a presence online where people can read about your platform, experience and passions. The website that I had during the 2010 election got the most hits (hundreds) in the final hour that the polls were open. The spike in activity blew my mind. Voters expect to access your information in the online environment - end of story.
- Engage in every opportunity that comes your way - when the Chamber of Commerce invites you to a public forum, or to do a video interview, it needs to be a priority. When a multi-cultural group or nonprofit group invites you to their special event or meeting, jump at the chance. Where people are gathering is where you want to be.
- Be a positive voice - this is only a personal opinion, but I believe that voters are more inclined to support a positive, constructive, innovative, collaborative voice than one that drones on in the negative.
- Read formative documents - it is absolutely critical that you have a sense of major documents that have been developed thanks to our citizens in the past few years: Municipal Development Plan, City Centre Area Redevelopment Plan, etc. These accessible plans contain the voices and ideas of the voters, the element of any election that really counts.
- Have fun and smile - taking the personal leap to put your name on a ballot - though intensely frightening - should be fun. The more that people see the joy that the thought of public service inspires in you, the better. Smile. It's important.