I was pleased to see the Centennial Auditorium nearly full for the Kinsmen all-candidates election forum on Wednesday night.
For the sake of democracy, I was even more pleased that people’s questions for the candidates lasted longer than each of the candidates’ prepared speeches. The whole event lasted for nearly three hours.
There are 19 candidates for council and two for mayor and all were in attendance with the exception of council candidate Jack Smith, whose mother recently had a heart attack. The mayoral candidates were given five minutes each and council candidates were given three minutes. Those speeches took about an hour and the Q&A session took almost two hours.
It was wonderful to see so many people come out and engage in conversation with the potential candidates who will play a large role in running the city for the next four years. Everyone posed valid questions and some people even grilled a few of the incumbents running, which is an important part of accountability.
But perhaps what impressed me most was the attendance of a high school class at the forum, along with their teacher. While their attendance was part of a class assignment, I believe young people being there is the best thing that could’ve happened.
Young people are the future of the city. Let’s face it, if young people can’t or won’t stay in the city, there won’t be too much of a city. However, it is not a hidden fact that many young people do not vote in elections.
I suspect some of those reasons may include, but are not limited to, disinterest in politics, unfamiliarity with the candidates, dissatisfactory candidates, in their opinion, and whatever else.
So, naturally, it was great to see young people come out to the forum as part of an assignment so they had to go and learn about the candidates and what they have to offer. It’s a fantastic way to get more young people involved in politics, so when it’s time for them to vote, they are more likely to cast a ballot.
I’ve voted in every election that has been held at any level since I was 18. I believe it’s my civic duty and right to vote. Of course, we have the choice not to take it, but if you don’t vote and you don’t like who gets elected, you can’t complain because you didn’t cast your ballot.
Besides, don’t you want to have a say in how the city is run? To my fellow young people and other people considering not voting in the election, I say this: you might not have an interest in politics. For all I know, you might hate it. But how the city is run, operated and other policies affect you directly.
Sick of the potholes in roads or the condition of the sidewalks, for example? You’re not the only one. And there is only one way that even has a chance of getting them fixed and that ties in directly to who is elected as mayor and council. The idea is for us to elect people we trust, who we believe have our best interests in mind and can accordingly allocate our tax money to do the things that matter most to improve the city.
This year, there are many candidates running, increasing our choices for who we want to represent us. I’m glad that almost everyone came out because it’s part of the candidates’ duty to us, the people, to be open, transparent, effective and accountable.
But we need to take up our responsibility too, not just by voting in the election (although that is easily the best way to be involved). We need to be able to talk to our representatives about our issues and ask the hard questions when necessary.
It is my hope that the voter turnout at the Oct. 24 election is as high as the auditorium was full during Wednesday’s forum.