Notice to all candidates: Don’t tell me ‘what’; tell me ‘how’

By DJ Kelly May 7, 2010

As election time approaches we are going to hear a LOT of potential politicians trying to articulate their vision for the City. They’ll be laying out their goals, and some may even layout a few objectives for how they will accomplish their goal. But let’s never forget that the life of an alderman or mayor is rarely about the big picture during their day-to-day work.

This makes sense, because we can’t all be thinking big picture all the time. We must also plan for what it is we will do each and every day to ensure we are heading toward that goal.

This is the basics of any good strategy: Goal > Objectives > Tactics.

The goal and objectives for the future of Calgary are pretty much laid out in the dozens of planning documents the City has produced. Those documents range from the most recent round of visioning in Plan It, to the big picture 100-year vision laid out in Imagine Calgary.

But what we really need are tactics: How do we get from here, to there?

(It is almost redundant of us to ask candidates what their ‘vision’ is for City, when this has already been clearly spelled out by those that have came before us. In a way, asking about their vision is asking entirely the wrong question. Again, the question should be how do we achieve the objectives we as citizens previously agreed to?)

So to that end, I invite all candidates to articulate their tactics for how they will accomplish the objectives laid out in these documents – or even how they will achieve the objectives they themselves are laying out for the City. It’s great to have goals, but unless you can tell me how you actually plan to achieve them, you’re not going to get my vote.

At the same time, and probably more importantly, I invite all citizens to accept the responsibility to not be swayed by big picture promises and instead hold every candidate’s feet to the fire by asking the simplest of questions: How? How do you plan on doing that?

This is not complicated, but it needs to be done. Tell me how you plan to make any of these dreams become a reality and I can get behind you and help you make them real. If you just tell me what your dreams for the City are, all we can do is nod in general agreement. Tell me ‘how’ and you’ll get engagement. Don’t and we are only living off your charisma. Charisma is not enough to build a great City that works for us all. We are 1 million strong, and we want to help. So articulate to us how we can help you.

  • joshwhiteCGY

    I couldn't agree more.

  • This is a timely challenge to all candidates. The “How” part for my campaign is connected deeply to democracy and my belief in the potential of Calgary to become a global leader by creating a truly 21st century, modern, citizen centric, open & responsive dynamic for all.
    I believe all citizens have something to contribute to Calgary and that no one individual has a monopoly on the way forward. There are 1.2 million plus Rod Loves' and each of us has the potential to contribute great ideas for smart growth.
    Of all the documents produced through citizen engagement, the imagineCalgary targets are by far the most compelling. It is certainly a “Basis for an Oasis” and implementation is a priority as is a continuous upgrade/reporting on the progress of each target. The other “How” is the immediate creation of a CIO department that is mandated to have an advanced/innovative conversation with citizens involving access & sharing of information, two way & respectful.
    Participation by ALL builds a great city.

  • Uh, DJ aren't you kind of jumping to the conclusion that all candidates agree fully with the visions set out in the documents you mention?

    That point aside here's an alternate view for you…

    While I agree that the “how” is important I'd also suggest that voters should be interested in a candidates vision. I think you first want to know if you agree with what the candidate sees as the “destination”. Ultimately there may be different routes to get you there, and you may even disagree about which turn to take now and again, but if you're both still headed for the same spot these minor differences shouldn't matter. (sorry that was a LOT of metaphor)

    Anyways, it's obvious that you agree with the visions set out for Cgy but you should first confirm that, then allow them to get to the how.