Municipal Politics Deserve Your Attention

city hall

Every time something political comes up, like an election, young people get to hear all about how little they care about politics, how they don’t vote, and so on.

Ironically, they also get to hear about how important of a political force they are.

In any case, I promise my editorial won’t be like that.

Besides, if groups like Sustainable Trent, Trent NDP, and Trent Liberty are indicative of anything, it’s that many Trent students are politically active and have clear and distinct ideas of how governments should operate.

However, this only seems to be the case at the federal and provincial levels. Municipal politics tend to be largely ignored by most of us here at Trent.

That’s really not all that surprising, and I don’t think it’s worth another shame fest. Most of us have lived our lives in other municipalities before coming to Trent, most of us return to those municipalities every year in April, and some of us even plan to return there for good after we get our degrees.

If we’re interested in municipal politics at all, it’ll usually be in those of the municipality from which we hail. (Or those of Toronto, but that’s a different editorial for a different day.)

The last round of municipal elections happened when I was in my second year. I had no intention of voting in them or concerning myself with any of the candidates. In fact, I had intended to vote in the municipal elections of my hometown of all places. I didn’t think I would be in Peterborough long enough for the results here to really matter to me.

Well, here I am, and it mattered to me.

Over the past three and a half years, I watched a government I let others elect for me agree that a casino and call centres were good ways to create jobs in the city.

I watched them decide that building a bridge through Jackson Park was what was best for the city, despite overwhelming opposition from citizens.

I watched as council attempted twice to cut transit operations in a city that needs more, not less.

I watched as council routinely ignored the valid and well-presented arguments from informed citizens, as if they weren’t even listening in the first place.

I listened as councillors repeated variations of that tired phrase, “I’m happy that constituents have made it out and presented to council, but [sic] I’m not moved by what my constituents have to say.”

In summary, I have gotten a very clear lesson in why voting matters. I let other people decide who would represent me, and, well, they did a poor job of it.

But I’m a special case because I’ve made Peterborough my home now. Many other students consider it no more than just the city where they go to school.

It won’t make the university administration happy to hear this, but most Trent students aren’t all that invested in the Peterborough community.

That said, even if this is true of you, municipal politics in Peterborough are still important in your life.

I’m not just saying this because I’ve recently started watching Parks and Recreation, although I do admit that it’s been illuminating.

Municipal government probably affects our daily lives more than any other level of government.

Take an issue like snow removal, for example. Most of us students probably have to use city sidewalks or roads to get around, and accordingly, most of us have something to say about how (poorly) they are maintained in winter (more about this on page 6).

Send your comments and concerns to the City of Peterborough, specifically the department of Public Works, because that’s their jurisdiction.

Have you ever noticed that in the residential area just north of downtown (which mostly houses students and lower income folks), there is a disproportionately large number of burnt-out streetlights?

This is a pretty obvious safety hazard that has not been properly addressed since I first started living in this neighbourhood. Some of these lights have been out for years.

Well, this is dealt with by the City of Peterborough’s Engineering and Construction Department, a division of Utility Services.

Sure, local government doesn’t really get to concern itself with the sexy issues that usually get students inspired about politics, but what they do deal with greatly impacts the quality of life experienced by residents of this city.

The election isn’t until October 27, 2014, but that doesn’t mean it’s too early to start thinking about what this city needs from its government, and which candidates you believe are most likely to provide that.

Few councillors currently serving seem to fit the bill for me, so I’m excited to see who will run against those seeking re-election this fall. Whether you agree with me or not, I hope you’re looking forward to it, too.

About Pat Reddick 84 Articles
Pat was co-editor of Volume 49, along with Matt Rappolt. He's primarily interested in arts coverage, often editorializing on arts issues. He graduated from Trent with a Bachelor's degree in English Lit. Pat hosts or co-hosts several programs at Trent Radio, such as Media Are Plural. You can follow him on Twitter, or watch him eat through his kitchen window. In his spare time Pat reads a lot (q.v. English major), plays video games, and writes fiction. He has a blog or something but I couldn't find out too much about that.