Usual challenges comprise the normal housekeeping and financial tasks. Housekeeping covers road resurfacing; sewer installation and public works in general; development permits and zoning variances; and so on. Finances includes taxation, fees, budgeting, and expenditures. These are the tasks of normal city business. Every city has them.
Special challenges are those associated with cleaning up, paying for, and rebuilding after the last four years. Pending lawsuits, investigations of what happened, our present status, possible charges for any criminality uncovered or betrayal of the public trust, and litigation to recover wrongful costs will be significant orders of business for the incoming council. Developing a new vision for Nanaimo and culture for City Hall and then putting us on its track will be essential components of rebuilding.
The challenge of leadership falls on the shoulders of the mayor. Whomever we elect to that position will need abilities to create, direct, and support a functioning council team. He will have to weld together a disparate group of individuals into an effective whole. He will need a leadership style that works to that end. Failure to lead effectively may have been Bill McKay’s biggest shortcoming and his major contribution to the chaos that ensued.
Various leadership styles are defined in different ways. If you’re interested, you can read about one categorization here. I’m going to describe them as ranging from autocratic to consensual. It’s believed that novices do better under someone who is more directive; experienced individuals need more autonomy. The best style is held to be “situational”, in which leaders utilize different styles depending on the situation and member(s) they are leading. If true, we need to evaluate mayoralty prospects both for the same attributes as councillors and for their ability to lead the council candidates most likely to be elected by the voters.
I’ve written elsewhere about desired attributes of councillors, and those same general characteristics are also useful here. Honesty and integrity, management skills and experience, education, fiscal competence, intelligence, and critical thinking skills are all important. Published profiles and platforms of mayoralty candidates provide at least an impression of these traits. For those who haven’t had the time to check the online sources, I’ll provide capsule summaries.
According to an article in the Nanaimo News Bulletin, September 9, (the only information found) Ray Farmere is a network administrator at VIU, teaches ESL, delivers newspapers, and has no political experience. Not credentials making him a serious contender for the top job of running the city. Framere’s main impact will almost certainly be only of taking a few votes away from the other, more qualified candidates, Don Hubbard and Leonard Krog.
Hubbard attended Malaspina College, VTS, VIU, BCIT and obtained an ICD designation from the Institute of Corporate Directors through SFU in 2012. He spent most of his career with Lafarge Canada Inc., retiring as GM in 2009. He has had extensive experience on various Boards of Directors, most recently as Chairman of the Board for Island Health. His priorities include: restoring stability and good governance to Nanaimo City Hall; reinstating the Nanaimo Economic Development Committee and Downtown Nanaimo Business Improvement Association; reconnecting with the Snuneymuxw First Nation; engaging with Island Health; and reducing housing costs. His platform is mute on environmental priorities and transportation.
Krog has a BA in History from the University of Victoria and a law degree from the UBC Law School. He has represented Nanaimo as a MLA since 2005. His platform includes: restoring good governance, fiscal responsibility; promoting economic development; restoring an Economic Development Office; maintenance and growth of infrastructure; addressing poverty and homelessness; preserving parkland; improving public transport; and working with the Snuneymuxw First Nation, the Nanaimo Port Authority; and other levels of government.
The information available online suggests Hubbard has more hands-on board experience and appears to focus on specific tasks. Krog’s platform is upbeat, but mostly contains broad strokes. He provides few actionable specifics. Krog seems the more environmentally concerned, while Hubbard’s platform begs questions about where he stands on sustainable growth versus unconstrained development. Hubbard believes the City needs to work with Island Health to solve the opioid crisis; Krog is strangely quiet regarding health care.
The published profiles and platforms raise as many questions as they answer. Hubbard has more experience with private companies and appointments to boards of directors. But that experience includes the hugely problematic computerized information system at Nanaimo Regional General Hospital – for which he has taken responsibility. Did that nightmare result from his management style? His failure to listen to those under him? I wonder how open he is to our new world of Internet and computer connectivity, particularly in social and political realms. My impression is that he may be “old school.” Hubbard says Namaimo needs a business approach, not politics. Not so. Governance is political.
I also have questions about Krog. Why was he excluded from the cabinet in the present BC government? Only because of his lack of support for Carol James or for something more relevant to us? Being elected six times tell us something about his popularity, but little about his administrative or management style. His track record of relevant, personal accomplishments is not extensive. I’m left searching for evidence as to how task-directed and action-oriented he’d be.
In terms of leadership style, Hubbard seems the more autocratic, Krog the more collaborative. Which would be better for our council isn’t clear. Being autocratic seems more problematic; being collaborative seems safer. But lack of clear direction coming from the person supposedly steering the ship can mean not as much gets done. Searching for consensus can take a lot of time and risk the dangers of group-think. Krog may feel safer, but will he supply the direction that is needed to make the council optimally effective? In terms of consensus building, collaboration, and fostering a supportive council culture, Hubbard again seems old school.
So in the next two weeks, I’ll continue to evaluate Hubbard and Krog while I decide my final list of candidates for councillor. (BTW: I’m now having to consider names I had previously eliminated from my shortlist in order to fill all eight positions.) I’ll try to anticipate if the councillors I want (or who are most likely to be elected) would flourish under the leadership style I’ve attributed to Hubbard or to Krog. You might want to do the same. If you already have a short list of choices, look at them all in terms of the kind of leadership they need. Estimate if they would be best supported by one or the other mayoralty candidate. Then we can compare results in a couple of weeks with time left for a final appraisal before election day. It turns out this exercise is no piece of cake.