Winnipeg Free Press - ONLINE EDITION

Sam and not-Sam not only big election looming

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Can you feel that palpable excitement in the air, the crackling electricity, the pounding of hearts overwhelmed with election fever?

Yes, it’s less than a year to municipal election day — can you endure the wait?

Sure, Aldo and Bartley and Dan and Mary Agnes and all my other colleagues may go on and on and on about the 87-and-counting people planning to run to be mayor of Winnipeg, but I’m here to talk about the election about which all of you really care.

I’m here to talk about school board election candidates, if any.

Of the 311 seats up for grabs throughout Manitoba four years ago, 149 went by acclamation, and 11 attracted nary a single candidate — the boards later filled those by appointment.

There were only 280 candidates across Manitoba, and only 96 people in Winnipeg contesting 52 seats.

Wow, was that a whizzbang of an election night, eh?

Recall my story a few months ago in the two Seine River byelections in which voter turnout barely exceeded one per cent?

We’ve all got about 10 months to change that apathy and get something going. That’s about how long it will be until nominations close.

Winnipeg School Division’s going to nine single-seat wards should help — that will make it a lot easier to run and campaign among 15,000 voters than it was among 45,000, if you don’t have deep pockets and/or political parties providing hordes of campaign workers.

If you’re hankering to be a school trustee, the time to start is now.

I’ve said this before — go to school board meetings, read the material available online from the divisions and the province, learn how to read a budget, go through the Financial Reporting and Accounting in Manitoba Education report to see where your division spends its money and how it compares to other divisions.

Don’t trot out that nonsense about the information’s not being available, or how you won’t know how the system works unless and until you get inside.

You should be reading whatever I write about the public school system — I may be totally out to lunch, but I’m the only one doing it full-time. Read or listen to any media doing anything on the public school system, check out when Cloutier’s doing something with the major players on the air, check out CBC and especially Radio Noon to hear about the occasional rural board. All boards put some form of agendas and minutes on-line; Brandon and Pembina Trails are superb at it.

I can’t tell you this far ahead how we’ll handle the school board elections coverage  — at my age, as Vin Scully would say, I’m listed day-to-day — but there will be some coverage, albeit a tad less than the mayoral race attracts.

Four years ago we set up a potentially huge link on our website on which Winnipeg school board candidates could file heaps of personal information and campaign pledges, as well as answers to our very pointed and specific questions — nope, you couldn’t get away with just saying you believe in a quality education and are fiscally responsible.

Maybe half the city candidates took us up on it.

Some others who didn’t, subsequently gave me grief after the election that they hadn't known about it, that they weren’t on social media, saying that having the election link constantly on our website or listed in boxes on the municipal election pages of the paper didn’t cut it in informing them. Several were peeved mightily that I had not written them a personal paper-and-envelope-and-stamp letter inviting them to take part.

Sigh.

Listen — and keep in mind that this is coming from a senior citizen — if you want to run for school board, then get on Facebook, get a Twitter account, create a web page, ask a nine-year-old to hook you up to all the forms of social media that are out there or get invented over the next 10 months.

And if you’re thinking of running for school board, if you’re an incumbent thinking of retiring, give me a holler at nick.martin@freepress.mb.ca.

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About Nick Martin

Nick Martin is the old bearded guy at the back of the newsroom, the most experienced reporter at the Winnipeg Free Press, having started his career in Ontario in 1971.

He’s been covering education for the Free Press since the spring of 1997, after decades primarily covering municipal politics, including a four-year stint at the Ontario legislature for the London Free Press.

Nick moved to Manitoba in 1988 with his Winnipeg-born wife, who is a professor at the University of Manitoba. They have two kids, both of whom graduated from Grant Park High School: son Chris and daughter Gillian.

Nick has won a national journalism award from the Canadian Association of University Teachers, two Manitoba Human Rights Journalism awards, and the Ontario Reporters Association investigative award.

Nick is a long-distance runner, having finished and survived 18 marathons and 15 half-marathons and 30-kilometre races, and having (barely) survived 10 years as an outdoor and indoor soccer coach.

Nick became a soccer referee in 2007, delighting in his 60s in outrunning 16-year-olds and keeping his distance from obstreperous coaches and parents.

Nick and his wife have discovered a mutual love for kayaking at their Whiteshell cottage, and are both regulars at the Reh-Fit Centre. They hold season tickets to both the Manitoba Theatre Centre and the Warehouse, and as empty nesters, have rediscovered the joys of an active winter vacation.

A native of Jarrow-on-Tyne, England, Nick is a member of the Toon Army as a Newcastle United supporter, and a proud citizen of Leafs Nation.

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