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THE JOY OF BEING MAYOR

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Canadians have always had difficulty in deciding if the practice of politics is a necessity, pastime, racket or folly. Politicians command everything from admiration to scorn and even a standard dictionary allows for a politician to be either "one versed or experienced in the science of government" or "one primarily interested in political offices or the profits from them as a source of private gain." Poking into Politics
Copyright 1966 The Institute of Applied Art Ltd.
192 pages

"What's it like to be Mayor of a City like Calgary?" Having heard the question many times it seemed fitting to mark the end of the first year in office with the preparation of a statistical summary. The score showed:

Regular council meetings attended ..................................................................... 26
Special council meetings attended ........................................................................ 8
Civic committee meetings attended ................................................................... 178
Other meetings attended ...................................................................................... 144
Speeches of welcome to visiting groups ......................................................... 170
Speeches requiring preparation ............................................................................ 26
Banquets and luncheons attended on behalf of city .................................... 224
Sod-turning ceremonies at which Mayor officiated ........................................... 17
Official openings at which Mayor officiated ....................................................... 33
Office appointments .............................................................................................. 550
Newspaper editorials favorable to the Mayor .................................................... 4
Newspaper editorials unfavorable to the Mayor ............................................. 13
Threats of death directed at Mayor ........................................................................ 2
City Hall bomb scares .............................................................................................. 1
Times offered a drink ................................................................................. Lost count
Telephone calls ........................................................................................ Thousands

Apart from committee meetings and telephone calls, there was no monotony. Every Council meeting was different in character. The threats of death suggested differing techniques and even the Official Openings were marked by originality. With most of those Openings, the officiating guest cut silk ribbons but in one instance, it was a matter of turning a door key, driving a "last spike" at Heritage Park, sawing a way through a hardwood door to open a Home Show, pushing a swimmer into the water to open a Swimming Pool, using a letter opener to cut the doorway into a new envelope factory and employing a corkscrew in an appropriate manner at still another Official Opening.

Honorary offices claimed a separate category in the record. For individuals finding satisfaction in collecting executive titles the way hobbyists collect old coins, the office of Mayor would have held reward. Organizations wanted the presumed prestige afforded by the Mayor's name but, happily, did not expect him to be particularly active. In that 12-month test period, the Mayor became the Patron of eight organizations, Honorary President or Honorary Vice President of six, Honorary Member of 13 and Advisory Member to various bodies which never sought his advice.

Occupying the office of Mayor was an enriching experience, not all good, not all bad. Being close to the day-to-day problems of the people, Mayors and Aldermen, it can be said again, have seen public service at its roughest. Mayors found it especially difficult to get away from constituents the way Members of Parliament could do. The Mayor of a Western city who later sat in the House of Commons said he "wouldn't go back to City Hall for a hundred thousand dollars a year." He might have added that he would not have wanted to miss the varied and generally good experiences in the civic service.

Any man entering public life should have been prepared to take the bitter with the sweet. For 85 percent of the time, the person occupying the Mayor's chair would find the duties both enjoyable and satisfying; for the remaining 15 percent of the time, he might wish one of his tormentors had the job. He could be pardoned for trying now and then to get away from the telephone, away from interviews, away from the thousands of employees who believe their salaries are too small, away from the committee meetings which make him think that Hell can be no worse than a committee meeting unbroken through eternity.

Of those people seeking interviews, many hoped to obtain work with the city and opened by telling how they worked and voted for the Mayor's election and, now, needed help. When it was explained that the city had an orderly procedure for the receipt of job applications and elected officials should not become involved in hiring and firing, the reaction was always the same; it was a good rule and one to be followed in all other cases but, in this instance, the Mayor should recognize special circumstances and issue an order for hiring.

Some of those who came seeking help were professionals in looking for work without ever accepting it. Men suffering from hangover and needing money for the next drink were drawn to the Mayor's office like rabbits to a cabbage patch. The elected official was not at City Hall very long until he recognized his "steady customers."

The very first caller after becoming Mayor was a middleaged man with a professional approach, wanting permission to use the Mayor's taxi credit card. When asked what he meant he explained how he had obtained a hundred votes for the Mayor on one street and because he didn't drive a car, he thought he might be permitted to call taxis when he became weary and charge them to the Mayor's account. He admitted he had not worked for years and the Mayor admitted that he had no "taxi credit card."

If only it were possible to provide work and contributions to meet every request without raising taxes, administration would be simplified greatly. It would make city administration so much easier if jobs could be assigned to remove the nuisance of the persistent seekers or if every organization considered worthy by its officers could be given a generous cash grant without having the total effect charged to the taxpayers.

When things go wrong-and there is nothing more certain than civic crises now and then-the Mayor will be the first to be blamed. He is the one who must explain; editors will devote a great deal of their time and space to him; he will be the sniper's delight.

Certainly, the Mayor had visits from people bearing nothing but cheer and good will and some of the other callers seeking his ear were good people, simply frustrated by misfortune and deserving of help. And in some instances, humor mingled with tragedy. There were the two young people calling at the Mayor's office on Thursday, the day before Christmas, 1964. She was a local girl and he, with four days leave of absence from his work, had come by air from Vancouver. Their plan was to get married on the following Monday, December 28, but difficulties unanticipated had appeared. According to law, they needed a licence three days in advance of marriage and because Christmas fell on Friday and the regular Boxing Day would have been on Saturday, all Provincial Government offices were observing a Thursday holiday. The issuer of marriage licences would not open until Monday noon and the prospective groom had to be back at work on Tuesday, or run the risk of losing his job.

"Can't you as Mayor do something, please?" the little lady said pleadingly and the tears in her eyes told of the urgency. The Mayor would have done anything in his power, gladly, but there was nothing he could do to relieve the disappointment, nothing except to suggest they try the marrying parson with a "Licence Applied For" note and see how it would be received. The two young things never returned to report.

To have filled the position of Mayor satisfactorily, arising early enough to get all essential work done and remaining at night to discharge all social demands, an incumbent needed the constitution of a superman. There have been Mayors who accepted all the social calls and had no time for city business, just as there were those who saved the taxpayers many thousands of dollars by attending to business and had little time for public appearances. People raised on pioneer Canadian farms recognized three kinds of equine mares, brood mares, show mares and work mares. But there was no reason why a show mare could not do a reasonable amount of heavy work. The best mare on the farm vvas the reliable worker which when washed and dressed in show harness, could enter the ring and present an impressive performance.


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