IN less than two weeks, the United States of America goes to the polls in one of the most keenly-contested presidential elections in recent memory.
In 2008, Democrat Barack Obama was the face and voice of hope. The first black president was elected amid a groundswell of almost delirious predictions that the US would immediately change for the better. That the lives and minds of all Americans would be revitalised after years of financial troubles and foreign incursions.
"Yes we can," Obama told his audience. Hope reigned, at least for that day.
Four years on and Obama’s own hopes are fading. Battered by a difficult Congress, a stalled economy and broken promises, he stands polarised as a man of words, rather than action.
The electorate usually doesn’t discriminate. It will judge incumbents based upon results, and those who challenge on how they articulate change.
Change has been an underlying theme of another election much closer to home.
In less than two days, the seats on the next Ballarat City Council will have been decided.
Remarkably, the underlying theme which has surrounded this council election has not differed greatly from the 2008 poll. At that time, prospective candidates vowed to restore transparency, to make paid officers accountable and to return decision-making back to basic community values.
Of the current incumbent councillors, some argue that the achievements of the past four years have been under-rated. This is no doubt true – but the fact remains that the lack of definitive action on the Civic Hall site has overshadowed many other positive decisions or projects.
So now we have several new candidates campaigning on a platform of change and restoring transparency.
While most have been careful when answering questions on the subject during the lead-up to this weekend’s vote count, some are known to be seeking a change in the position of the city’s chief executive officer Anthony Schinck.
In many ways, it defies the logic of campaigning to run so strongly on a platform against a person, or persons, who are not running for office. Looking at it in one sense, does it not make one wonder about a candidate’s ability to accept responsibility for the decisions he or she might make in the future?
This premise itself underpinned the demise of the current council’s $40 million Civic Hall project. After committing to "fixing" the site at the start of the previous term – and getting quite a long way down that path – this council did an about turn when the community backlash became unbearable.
We expect councillors to listen to their constituents. The decision taught us a great deal about the operations of local government.
Instead of change, Ballarat ended with the Civic Hall site as it was four years previous – unused and its future still unclear.
Whatever happens in the Ballarat City Council election this weekend, the challenges which the new council faces are not just about which road should be fixed, which services should be funded or which building permit to approve but about creating a vision for the future of city which goes beyond the rhetoric of an election campaign. We wish the new council well and implore it to help make Ballarat a better place through the commitments each has made during this campaign.