Dear Mr. Heywood:
Thank you for sharing your thoughts with Suzanne Morphet in The Vancouver Sun 6 Nov. 2010:H4. “Are Party Walls A Barrier To Civic Engagement?” was an interesting read. If you wouldn’t mind, I’d like to share some of my thoughts on the ideas you posed regarding voter apathy.
First, I’m a strata owner in a different municipality. My neck of the woods does not enjoy high density to the same degree as your community apparently does, however, we do have a fair number of strata corporations. Some of them have even made the news for those pesky leaky condo stories.
Mr. Heywood I admire your attempt to encourage strata owners to get involved with the whole civic process. It is embarrassing when only 17% of the electorate bother to participate to be sure but do you honestly believe individuals aren’t voting because they are to absorbed with their strata lives? I understand your municipality has a preponderance of strata owners but that does not have anything to do with low voter turnout. Strata owners are no more or less apathetic than detached home owners. To suggest otherwise is rather, shall we say, naive.
I would propose instead that voter apathy is more reflective of the antics of the provincial and federal politicans in general with a little more specificity towards civic leaders. Strata owners are notorious for representing both best and worst of all levels of government so the apathy rampant within a strata corporation is more about ignorance and disinterest rather than disgust and disappointment. Saying that of course it does take a particular mindset to run for public office at any level and to be sure the strata world attracts its own colorful characters.
Mr. Heywood it is my experience strata “officials” have little regard for rules, regulations, bylaws or individual owners. Like control freaks in government, strata corporations are run by control freaks too and quite frankly no one wants to bother with a bully. Decent strata councils are few and far between much the same way good public servants are out there but in lower numbers.
I believe it would be best to leave the strata mess up the provincial government and not burden strata owners with any more responsibility than their disaffected shoulders can bear. Afterall, most governments elected to power with minimal votes appear to hold on to power for long periods of time. It is the same way in strata corporations Mr. Heywood; most strata owners don’t even bother to read the minutes of the meetings they don’t bother to attend.
As the recent current events have demonstrated, the citizens only bother to bring their indignation and dusty weapons to the center stage when their earning dollar is diminished or when they believe money is being mismanaged at their expense. So it is in stratas. Generally strata corporations make the evening news when an owner or owners have been fined excessively or specially assessed in order to maintain their building envelope. Boy, the bafflegab is incessant and loud when those two things happen. Otherwise, owners are too busy living busy lives to care about strata business or how government is governing.
Mr. Heywood, if you want more voter participation get your colleagues to practice what they preach and then consider the needs of every voter not just special interests or business. You might be very surprised with the turnout at the next election. When strata owners take some responsibility for living in a community with shared expenses all the time, they might begin to appreciate the workings of government outside their own microcosm and actively participate. This will be beneficial to all of us who presently make up the minority who bother to vote or choose to run for public office at any level of government.
Thank you very much for your efforts.