It seems silly to have to mention that members of city councils or school boards each get one vote, but based on some of the comments I have read or heard from candidates for public office, not everyone understands that.
As in previous election years, I have seen a number of claims from candidates stating, “If elected, I am going to X,” with the X representing whatever the candidates hope to achieve.
It is true an elected representative could advocate for a particular course of action, or support some decision, but for a candidate to state that they are going to unilaterally accomplish this objective suggests either hubris or a basic lack of understanding of how the process works.
While we might admire their enthusiasm, it is important to remember that, unless they can convince other members to vote in favor of a motion, they aren’t going to get it passed.
Effective participation on a board or committee requires cooperation, and, in many cases, compromise. It involves learning about the subject, and being open minded enough to change one’s position based upon new information.
One of the benefits of our system of government is that just about anyone can run for public office. This makes way for fresh ideas and gives voters a choice. It does, however, require a certain amount of responsibility on the part of candidates.
At the very least, candidates should learn what elected officials can and cannot do. The public sector is not the same as the private sector. It’s a good idea for candidates to attend a few meetings to get a basic understanding of how public meetings are conducted. This can also help to familiarize the candidates with some of the issues facing the body on which they hope to serve.
It is a disservice to the people an elected official represents when the first public meeting the member attends is the one at which he takes the oath of office and sits down to vote on issues that affect his constituents.
On-the-job training has its place, but it can result in some expensive lessons when that training takes place in a public setting.