|Question them. Especially the chairman.
I’ve chosen to highlight just two of these questions, followed by a bullet list of all 10. Notice that none of them pertain to gesture politics or jeremiads beyond the realm of grassroots and local.
If you’re reading from the hermetic tinpot confines of the 1st council district, you have our sympathy. Dan “Wizard of Westside” Coffey is beyond questioning; he’d commence to top-down filibustering before you were finished with query number one.
10 QUESTIONS TO ASK SOMEONE RUNNING FOR LOCAL OFFICE, by Rachel Quednau (Strong Towns)
How can you tell if someone running for local office will do a good job? How can you ensure that he or she will improve your town’s economy — not get your community further into debt? How can you figure out whether this candidate for mayor or city council is going to uphold Strong Towns principles and take a thoughtful, incremental approach to your community’s problems?
Below, we’ve put together a list of 10 questions you can pose to someone running for office in your town to see whether he or she is worthy of your vote. You could raise these questions in a public forum, at a personal meeting, or even informally, if you happen to run into the candidate at the grocery store.
Familiarity with the needs of walkers and cyclists? Don’t hold your breath on this one.
3. How do you feel about the transportation options currently available in our city? Do we have enough options? If not, what will you do to increase those?
What To Listen For: Keep an ear out for a candidate who doesn’t just give lip service to transportation options besides cars, but actually demonstrates a familiarity with the issues facing bus riders, cyclists and pedestrians. Also note whether the candidate advocates for an incremental approach to improving transportation options (thumbs up) or advocates for top-down megaprojects (thumbs down).
Similarly, expect another platitude: Either run for office yourself, or accept your insignificance.
6. How do you plan to involve residents in the decision making process in our town?
What To Listen For: Your candidate should be able to genuinely answer this question with specific plans for engaging residents and listening to their concerns, not just platitudes about how “decisions are made by those who show up.”
Here is the summary.
- Do you think our main street/downtown is healthy and successful? If not, what would you do to change that?
- What’s more important for our city right now: building new homes and commercial space or rehabbing/expanding/better utilizing our existing homes and storefronts?
- How do you feel about the transportation options currently available in our city? Do we have enough options? If not, what will you do to increase those?
- Some people in our community say that we have traffic problems. What do you think? How would you mitigate those concerns or change the situation?
- If you could change one thing in our zoning code, what would it be and why?
- How do you plan to involve residents in the decision making process in our town?
- If someone came to you with a proposal to build a new piece of public infrastructure in our city (road, bridge, etc.) how would you evaluate whether that project was worth implementing?
- If elected, what three steps would you take to put our city on a firmer financial footing?
- If you received a $1 million grant to use for the city any way you wanted, what would you do with it and why?
- What neighborhood do you live in? Why? Where are your favorite places to spend time in our town?