Advance View: Odd mayors not much of a threat

We can certainly sympathize with the residents of Saanich right now.

Newly elected Richard Atwell has recently admitted to lying about an extramarital affair, which came to light when Atwell called 911 after a fracas with the woman’s fiancé. But that’s largely a private matter – of more concern to Saanich residents is the fact that Atwell has already been censured by his own council, after he tried to force a senior civic staffer out of office, costing the municipality $488,000 in severance. He’s now claiming that someone is bugging his computer, and that the local police are harassing him. 

Not bad for someone who’s been in office less than two months.

Atwell joins the list of eccentric and oddball mayors who have served from tiny towns of a few hundred to the biggest city in the land. Atwell seems to be angling for the title of “Most Controversial Mayor” now that Toronto’s Rob Ford has moved back to being a councillor.

Fortunately, most Canadian municipalities, including all of those in B.C., run under what’s known as a “weak mayor” system.

The mayor is definitely the key spokesperson for their city or town, but when it comes to powers, they have only a handful that exceed those of the rest of the councillors.

We’re just now getting to know a host of new councillors and mayors in B.C., with thousands of new officials taking their seats after last November’s elections and the Christmas break.

Some of them will do great things for their towns, uniting fractious neighbourhoods, building infrastructure, helping build communities that host good homes, jobs, and schools.

Some of them won’t work out quite so well. The lesson in that seems to be that not putting too much power in any one official’s hands, whether mayor or councillor, is a pretty good idea. And that, just maybe, recall legislation might not hurt.

– M.C.

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