…but somebody’s got to do it.
Several members of the city council said they wanted to step aside before the election, that they didn’t intend to run again. I’ve had conversations with almost all the incumbents, and several told me they decided to run the evening the registration period expired. One councilor even said he was torn as to whether he wanted to win or lose because of the four-year commitment a victory would mean.
I have no doubt about the motivation of every person running for council: there isn’t a person there that doesn’t want to see Berlin improve. Paul Grenier might think Laidlaw is the way to do that, and David Bertrand may have a different vision, but both are fighting for what they think is right.
What I wonder though, is how do you make committed public servants and keep them interested in serving? At some point it isn’t about an issue; it’s about how you foster civic engagement.
Tim Cayer is running unopposed for the four year seat in ward four. That’s a shame, simply for the fact that people ought to have choices. If no one is willing to challenge a candidate, the result is weak democracy. Does ward four support councilor Cayer’s stances on the issues, or do they simply have no one else to vote for? In this election, we won’t know.
Councilor Ron Goudreau is running for ward three specifically because he wanted there to be a choice. His positions contrast Mike Rozek’s sharply, and so he ran to make it a race. He didn’t want to see in ward three what is going on in ward four, so he stepped up to the plate.
In a community that is a shell of its former self like Berlin, it is understandable there might be trouble finding candidates, but at the same time the passion of the people here makes me think there must be hundreds willing to sacrifice their 300+ hours.
I know council is a big commitment, but Berlin’s work ethic is legendary. I find it hard to believe the residents of this city, who prove time and time again they will not lay down and die, are unwilling to take on a part-time job for their city.
As I understand it, it’s better now than it was. At one time there were vacant seats on the council, I’ve been told. I haven’t verified the truth of those claims, but it seems Berlin is in too exciting a time to have people sitting on the sidelines. Laidlaw or no, there is a federal prison, ATV trail inter-connectivity, new businesses and new people coming to town. Millions of dollars is being spent to remove old houses. The burned out buildings on Main Street are about to come down. The Notre Dame school will soon be changing hands. There are signs all around pointing forward, upward, and there is no better time to be involved.
I get paid to sit through those meetings every Monday night, so I can’t claim to know how it feels. But I also don’t the investment in this community the residents do. I meet people every day who have lived in Berlin all their lives and would never consider moving away. They care about this city. How do you enlist them to start acting in one more way? How do you convince them to throw their hat in the ring?
David Bertrand’s candidacy is of the utmost importance to this city. So is Paul Grenier’s. With only one of these men, democracy would fail in Berlin. It takes both of these men to offer residents a choice. Having a challenger in a race may be a bad thing depending on which side of the issue you stand on, but in terms of the health of democracy in the city and the right of residents to have their voices represented it’s invaluable. If it takes an issue like Laidlaw to get people fired up and engaged in the discussion, I hope the fight goes on for a long time. It’s better than empty seats at city hall.
Update: What a city council meeting! Can you imagine they don’t videotape those? Real life drama for political science nerds; better than Lifetime. I’ll try to put something up tomorrow, but my writing is no match for being there. If you weren’t there, you missed one heck of a show.