Tonight the votes will be counted, the electioneering finished, the signs will start to be taken down, and we will finally have a new City Council. There can be no doubt that this last Councils term has been a fractious one filled with scandal and disappointment that Londoners want to move past .So it is no wonder that there seems to be so much expectation focused on tomorrow’s results. But despite the campaign promises and rhetoric the real work begins after the vote is counted. The real work for Londoners begins when the winners swear their oaths of office and this new Council is finally seated around the horseshoe.
Reservoir Hill, The South West Area Plan, The London Plan, The Transit Master Plan, The Cultural Prosperity Plan, Kingsmills/Fanshawe, The Ombudsman’s investigations, budgets, food trucks, and the decision to replace a Mayor were all major issues and decisions for the current Council. During this time a dedicated group of Citizens were in chambers and online, in community gatherings and coffee shops, spending hours and hours paying attention to issues that were important to them and their communities. Despite how easy it could have been to give in to cynicism and give up and walk away they stuck with it. They kept showing up and paying attention. They kept trying to hold Council to account. And despite the shift away from believing that government can be a force for positive change they kept reinvesting their time and faith for a better London. They have ignited in me the idea that democracy is a romance and that like any good romance it requires care and attention. To me these Citizens are the unsung heroes of this term of Council.
It is important to be informed, to understand the positions of the candidates, to make a choice, and then to vote but it is as important for you to pay attention in the time between this election and the next. The work of Citizenship is not a once every four years responsibility but is an ongoing relationship that requires your focus and care. We need this Council to be the best Council they can possibly be. That can only happen when you share with them your opinions and ideas as the issues and plans arise. London needs everyone of its Citizens to be engaged, like that dedicated group of Citizens this term, so that London can be the best possible city it can be.
Glen Pearson said something that has stuck with me for some time. He said that “ The highest office holder in land is the Citizen”. But office holders don’t discharge their responsibilities once every four years. Office holders have a public trust that they have to discharge everyday. This is the trust you hold. A trust with your family, friends, colleagues, and neighbours. You renew this trust at school meetings, when you volunteer, when you help your neighbours, and when you vote. But you also renew it when you pay attention to our government and ensure they live up to the trust you put in them.
Without the romance of Democracy and the responsibility of Citizenship there would be no community for us to share. There would be no places for us to gather to play sports, revel in art, raise our children, or to ensure the most vulnerable are cared for. These ideals of Democracy and Citizenship are more than empty words but are the foundation on which London is built. So I hope that as Council takes its oaths of office and accepts the responsibility of holding office that you will do the same, and accept and faithful discharge the office of Citizen.