Armidale is a long way from Washington DC, but it was the third president of the United States, Thomas Jefferson, who once said: “The cornerstone of democracy rests on the foundation of an educated electorate.”
Of course that principal is true in democracies right around the world where representatives are elected by the people.
While Armidale Regional Council is nowhere near the political heights of the US capital, it is the cornerstone of democracy in our local government election, that the people are informed.
In recent months, our newspaper has tried to do just that, interviewing candidates and reporting what they hope to achieve if elected to council.
With just one week remaining before we go to the ballot box for the first Armidale Regional Council election, our city got to hear directly from many of the candidates putting up their hand to be councillors, this week.
The Meet the Candidates forum, organised by New England Toastmasters and Armidale Regional Ratepayers Association to give our city a chance to hear the candidates, and more importantly, question the candidates. Among them were past councillors and many vying to be elected to council for the first time.
These days we expect our representatives to perform. If you take on the authority then you have a responsibility and voters should be very sure about who can and who can’t carry that responsibility before voting.
A similar forum was held in Guyra last week, ahead of this unique election where an amalgamated shire goes to the polls for the first time.
Unfortunately not every candidate was able to be there. But we did gain an insight into those that did take the opportunity to address the voters.
We commend those candidates who did take the time to speak to the people, and outline the issues they believe will be important for the new council in coming years.
In the age of social media and the internet, the concept of a public meeting to inform the public is often lost. It’s seen as less convenient.
But we are certain that those who took the time to attend the Meet the Candidate events will have benefited.
As Thomas Jefferson also said: “Whenever the people are well-informed, they can be trusted with their own government.”