Sunday, October 17, 2010

What Do These Schmucks Do? - Mayoral Edition

(re-posted, with edits and additions, from October 2007)

Back to the Queen's Printer, as (once again), nobody at the City of Calgary is inclined to tell us what the Mayor's job is...

General duties of chief elected official

(1) A chief elected official, in addition to performing the duties of a councillor, must
(a) preside when in attendance at a council meeting unless a bylaw provides that another councillor or other person is to preside, and
(b) perform any other duty imposed on a chief elected official by this or any other enactment or bylaw.

(2) The chief elected official is a member of all council committees and all bodies to which council has the right to appoint members under this Act, unless the council provides otherwise.

(3) Despite subsection (2), the chief elected official may be a member of a board, commission, subdivision authority or development authority established under Part 17 only if the chief elected official is appointed in the chief elected official’s personal name.

(Municipal Government Act, Part Five, Division Three)

So, essentially... the mayor is an "Alderman-at-large" required to swing the gavel at meetings.

Again, as with Aldermen, the Mayor can do much more if he (or she) wants to get re-elected. Ralph Klein, when he was Mayor of Calgary, focused on the task of communicating with the people that the council served. Bronco seems to view the mayor's role as more of a leader, helping to set the priorities of council as he believes the people of Calgary wish them to be. Each mayor, and each candidate for mayor, would bring their own interpretation of what the role actually entails.

As long as they've got good gavel technique, none of them is wrong... but some are more right, in the eyes of the voters, than others. Therein lies the difference between "Mayor Such-and-such" and "defeated mayoral candidate Such-and-such".

So...  what does it take to be a good Mayor, E.S.?

"Mayor E.S."...  I like the sound of that...

The skill set necessary to be a good mayor depends entirely on the type of mayor that a candidate would like to be.  For example, a great long-term vision isn't really necessary if you're going to be a "referee mayor", like Al Duerr - the ability to keep a cool head and understand the rules governing meetings is probably more of an asset in that case.  But, let's take a stab at this anyhow...

Political Acumen - a good mayor will know when to hold them, and know when to fold them.  If s/he is disinclined to fold them, they'll need to know how to bluff the rest of council.  At the end of the day, though, the mayor is going to have to find themselves on the WINNING side of more motions and votes than the losing side - whether or not it was the side they were on going in to that meeting.

Management Ability - "I don't need them to love me, I just need them to obey me."  Such words have been said by many leaders through history, and it's really no different at City Hall.  The paper shufflers in the Administration department need to understand, above all else, that Calgary's elected Mayor is NOT starring in a re-make of "Yes, Minister" - the one person on council who can say they were elected by, and speak for, the ENTIRE city is the Mayor.  The Administration, a group of rather well-paid people, need to respect the People's Voice while they cash in their paycheques drawing on the People's Property Taxes.  A successful Mayor should make those around him or her WANT to do this, rather than having to fight them over it.

Understanding of Council Procedures and Policies - At the end of the day, whether the Mayor is going to be a bold visionary or a referee making sure every Alderman gets a chance to speak on an issue, they need to understand the written Rulebook that governs debate and administration at City Hall.  You can't win the game if you don't know the rules - and it's even more important if you're the one holding the gavel and chairing the meetings.  NOTHING is more embarassing in a meeting environment than to watch the Chair being informed that what they just tried to do is against the rules - it's like watching a player explain to a referee what constitutes "tripping".

Communications Ability - Not just to speak to Council and to the public, but also to LISTEN to what they're being told BY Council and the public.  As an effective "alderman-at-large", a Mayor who is well-informed can swing a vote, and effectively offer a 2nd vote on Council to the residents of the Ward most affected by an issue or motion.  This requires having the humility to say, and MEAN, things like "this isn't what I would have preferred, but the people of the city have made their opinion clear, and it is my job in this instance not to lead, but rather to serve".

Judgement - As I mentioned above, the mayor is going to have to know when it's appropriate to keep pushing something, and when to back down.  An extension of this is the fact that there are dozens if not hundreds of times each day when the Mayor has to make choices that aren't perscribed by the Rule Book, or by precedent - they're going to need to be able to make tough decisions, with relatively little time to spare.  Being well-informed on most issues is ideal, however often unachievable given the tremendous number of issues that the City has to deal with on a daily basis.  The Mayor will have to be able to judge when it is appropriate to act quickly, and when it is more appropriate to seek more information before giving instructions to Administration.  Not EVERY issue needs a 9-month study - but the ones that DO, should see one done.

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