Abbotsford citizens and businesses will soon have an opportunity to evaluate the performance of their mayor and council members other than during election campaigns .
With input from over 20 community leaders, local researcher Sherril Guthrie created a Candidate Evaluation Guide prior to the 2011 municipal election so that voters could more effectively assess the knowledge, skills and capabilities of those running for office.
According to Guthrie, the project received excellent coverage and a number of organizations, including the local Chamber of Commerce and Vibrant Abbotsford, provided easy links and access to the forms. The media covered the story and helped get the word out about the Evaluation Guide and, according to Guthrie, other municipalities and voter groups requested a generic version of the form for use in their own elections. She intends to repeat the process for local taxpayers in two years during the next municipal election.
Guthrie says that three years is a long time between elections for voters to have an opportunity to speak their minds about their politicians. As it stands right now, there is no way for most taxpayers to provide constructive feedback on the annual performance of their mayor and council. Most taxpayers have to wait for a specific problem or issue to become critical, then they either have to line up at a crowded public hearing at an inconvenient time of day, hound their politicians via email or phone, or hope their letter to an editor gets posted and read. As for public consultations, most are heavily populated by city staff and consultants who are often more focused on selling their ideas than listening to taxpayer concerns. As for committees, not everyone has the time to participate and most participants are hand-picked by city staff and politicians. Overall, it’s not a good system for the majority of taxpayers and the lack of constructive feedback to politicians doesn’t help them either.
“It became clear that a lot happens in three years and the biggest challenge for voters is to have some way of reviewing the actual performance turned in by each council member throughout their term. I floated the idea of conducting an annual performance review for council members with some locals, and the response was very positive,” she says, adding, “After all, annual performance reviews are standard practice in most well-run companies and organizations. So why not for Mayor and Council? They applied for these salaried positions, sold taxpayers on their ability to handle the job, so now taxpayers need to let them know how they’re doing in terms of results.”
According to Guthrie the one-page evaluation form is complete, and a support document describing the 5 Key Results Areas for Mayor and Council is ready to go.The support document also offers a fact-based summary of some key issues and outcomes in 2012 for anyone who wants a refresher. Taxpayers who are familiar with the political events in 2012, however, may wish to go right to the one-page evaluation form. Either way, it’s an excellent opportunity for Abbotsford taxpayers to offer constructive feedback that may help to improve their Council’s focus and overall results before the next election.
Starting this Wednesday, January 9, Guthrie will begin contacting potential evaluators and distributing the evaluation form for completion. As this is a first in Abbotsford, she will also be making notes on taxpayer ideas and suggestions for the next review.
Says, Guthrie, “Only Abbotsford residents and business owners who live in Abbotsford will be eligible to complete an evaluation. Names and addresses will be strictly confidential, but will be used to verify residence and ensure a cross-section of different neighbourhoods. Results will likely not be available until the first or second week of February.”
For more information on the project please contact Sherril at