Doing a good-enough job

I had breakfast with a buddy of mine and one of his first questions was: “Why do you hate the mayor so much?”
“Our mayor? I don’t hate him. I don’t even know what he does.”
He cited my last Halifax Magazine post.
“I was just pointing out the coincidence that it was his father who got us into this amalgamation mess. Did you read the piece?”
Like so many media critics, he hadn’t. “I just saw the picture and read a couple of paragraphs.”
And that was that.
I really don’t understand our what our mayor does. This isn’t a knock on the guy in the chair, or the seat, or throne, or whatever it’s called that the mayor of this city (correction: Regional Municipality) sits on.
And I should know more about local politics, or at least politics on a municipal level because the decisions those people make affect me more than what my MLA or MP does.
If you judge by voter turn-out in municipal elections (vs. provincial and federal ones), I’m not alone in not paying the appropriate amount of attention to local politics.
I didn’t even know we have a Town Crier. But I did know about the Town Whiner. His name is Matt Whitman and my sense is that it’s a lifetime appointment. For proof, see his Twitter feed. If you’re not among the dozens of citizens he’s blocked.
I know much more about federal matters or provincial ones (not a lot, just more) than I do local issues. Maybe it’s because we are the only city this size without a daily newspaper.
Or I’m lazy.
I know that I have a vague sense of where the limits of federal and provincial powers are and where they intersect. Without looking it up, I couldn’t have even told you if we had a “strong” mayor system or a “weak” one. It’s the latter. And in case my buddy has just decided to read this paragraph, I’m not saying our mayor is a weak person, I’m saying the system we have here features a mayor who has slightly more powers than I do.
Not that they I knew what those powers are.
If someone were to stick a gun to my head and ask me what powers the mayor of Halifax has (I admit, not a likely occurrence), before I did some research, I wouldn’t have known. (My research consisted of googling “powers of Halifax mayor.”)
I would have guessed: Wear a chain once in a while? Respond to a viral video challenge months after it went viral? Make silly bets with other mayors, featuring local products if one of our sports teams is in the finals of something? Did that even happen for the Memorial Cup? If we had won, would we have received a copper smelter? (I did some more research) With Rouyn-Noranda winning, did we have to ship them something Halifax is famous for, like a metric ton of dandelions? Or a statue of a genocidal racist? Or a vanity license plate that says “Grabher”?
Here are some of our mayor’s powers: The mayor chairs the meeting of Council but only has one vote. They are a member of all six of the standing committees. Other than that, there’s not much. Though I suppose Mayor of HRM looks good on a resumé.
In term of becoming mayor of HRM: I think the main criteria to be mayor are: don’t be from the Halifax peninsula and be Caucasian. For Savage, it has also helped to not be Peter Kelly, whereas in the previous three elections it helped enormously to be Peter Kelly. Being mayor of Halifax strikes me as a hard job to get, but not a hard job to do.
But I guess the guy there now is doing a good job, because I’m not completely embarrassed that he’s the mayor of the city I live in. And he’s not Peter Kelly, which sadly, is good enough for me.

This story was originally published in Halifax Magazine.

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