Editorial: Four-year terms are no barrier

The predictions were apparently wrong. When the provincial government extended the terms of local mayors and councils before the last municipal elections, some feared that many candidates would back out.

The terms jumped to four years from three, and that extra commitment seemed like the kind of hurdle that would be too much for someone aspiring to what is supposed to be a part-time job.

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However, as the Times Colonist’s Bill Cleverley and Katie DeRosa wrote in a story in Thursday’s paper, at least for the region’s mayors, the thought of another four years has not been a deterrent. We are not endorsing anyone, but we are pleased to see so many people willing to let their names stand.

Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps and Saanich Mayor Richard Atwell, both first-timers in their positions, are eager to turn their four years into eight. Both have initiatives they want to pursue in a second term.

The same appears to be true of other mayors who have decided to run again. And we should be grateful for that.

For all the disparagement we heap on politicians, most run for office because they think they can do some good for their communities. For municipal politicians in particular, the money isn’t enough to compensate for the hours, the work, the stress and the all-too-common abuse.

For many, the chance to take on a meaningful project and see it through, or the opportunity to respond to residents’ concerns with action, make it all worthwhile.

Certainly, some might be motivated at least in part by ego or a love of power, but unless they are actually corrupt, we must accept that, as with most people, they act for complex reasons that even they don’t truly understand. The important thing is that they act in our interests.

Identifying those interests is the tricky part. Just ask Victoria councillors, whose bike-lane project has earned praise from some and vituperation from many. The city’s best interests are not necessarily measurable by who yells loudest, so councillors must show wisdom and courage in setting public policy.

Wise or not, the nine area mayors who have already decided to run again say they have tasks they want to see through, even if it’s just to stay the course.

Helps hopes to guide Victoria toward affordability and sustainability, Atwell in Saanich wants to see an amalgamation study, Colwood’s Carol Hamilton and View Royal’s David Screech have transportation issues at the top of their lists and Langford’s Stew Young wants to keep a steady hand on the finances.

From that point of view, longer terms work to the advantage of politicians whose goals require time.

Some local leaders with long-range visions showed their willingness to serve well before the four-year terms came in. A young person could have gone all the way from Grade 1 to medical school in the time that Langford’s Young (seven terms) and Metchosin’s John Ranns (six terms) have been mayors of their municipalities. For them, there is nothing daunting about another four years.

In Saanich’s election to fill the seat of the late Vic Derman, 10 candidates entered the race. View Royal had six hopefuls in its recent byelection. Those numbers suggest that there is no shortage of people willing to take on a thankless job, even with the longer term.

Municipal government affects our lives every day. If, as it appears, longer terms have not deterred candidates, we are all the better for it.

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