The days are getting longer, the weather is getting warmer, and there is something in the air. Yes, you may say, it is simply spring and that is true — but it is also the beginning of a special kind of season, one that usually only comes around every three years. Across B.C., mayors, councillors, journalists, and municipal staff whisper two words to describe this coming time — “silly season.”
That’s the unofficial name for the approximate period of about six months before local government elections take place. It’s a time where people who have never been to a council meeting before begin to attend regularly. It’s a time where people who may never have written a letter to the editor before begin doing it weekly. It’s a time where otherwise normal decisions around funding for garbage cans, paving, and other municipal activities begin to generate more interest and debate than normal.
I think silly season is a great thing. About twelve years ago this time, I participated in my first such season and began attending council meetings and getting really interested in the nuances of local government politics in Invermere. There is always a need for new faces, new ideas, and new energy, and elections provide that chance to change things up and for people to voice their opinion on how things have been handled over the previous term.
One change that is coming to all local governments (well, except for that appointed one in Jumbo), is that in future years, silly season and elections will be happening less frequently. Election terms are increasing from three to four years, beginning this November.
The change in election terms is a double-edge sword: it will be great for town councils and regional boards to put their heads down and accomplish more things without thinking about elections quite as often. But this increased length of time will make it harder for some people to commit to letting their name stand on the election ballot. My prediction is that we will see more mid term by-elections, as some people will have life changes or discover that local government politics is not as interesting or as easy as they thought, and they will pull the pin half way through the new four- year terms. Although by-elections are expensive and time consuming, I think they are healthy for democracy and as a check and balance on how councils and boards are doing. All things considered, I think the benefits of four-year terms (and having silly season a little less often) outweigh the negatives.
As the official non-official beginning of silly season is hereby commenced, I invite anyone even remotely interested in serving their community through politics to begin attending Invermere council meetings (held on the second and fourth Tuesdays of the month at 7 p.m.), and I look forward to the healthy attention, debate, and excitement elections will bring between now and this November.
Gerry Taft is the Mayor of Invermere and can be reached at 250-342-9281 or at email@example.com .