There is no easy way for voters to sort the lightweights from the political heavyweights in civic elections. In fact, the boxing ring analogy is not really appropriate here. There are so many candidates running for office Nov. 19 - more than 60 in the Tri-Cities alone - that the election is more like an endurance race than a battle.
It would be easy to give the whole event a pass. There seem to be very few heart-stirring issues and a surprising amount of agreement among candidates. Everyone seems to want at least some scrutiny of operating expenses, less red tape for business, more parks and recreation programs, less crime, more housing options and a careful eye on growth. And transit, don't forget transit.
But probe a little deeper and there are divisions and different points of view. Some candidates, for example, are aligning themselves to certain groups, unions or business while others are openly supporting one mayoral candidate or other. In some cases, provincial and federal political parties are calling the shots. (Hint: if you get a phone call, especially a robo-call, chances are there's a provincial political machine backing that candidate.)
These allegiances aren't a bad thing as voters at least know what they're getting.
But learning about these distinctions takes work. You have to read what the candidates say about themselves, follow political reporting and pay attention to every nuance.
Attending an all-candidates meeting is one option but they are not always helpful. There are simply too many candidates at the microphone to get a true picture of where they stand and you can't grill them if their comments are lame, uninformed or unbelievable.
This problem could be addressed, in part, if mayors got their own debate. But for some reason this rarely, if ever, happens.
So it's up to the voter to do the work and figure out who best represents their point of view. Don't vote and you can't complain. Do the heavy-lifting and you, too, can wear the button: "I survived the civic election of 2011."