Time and conflicts in mayoral politics

No time?Being a mayor today, even in a small town like Collingwood, takes time. A lot of time. Time that working people are hard pressed to find in their busy days. I know from the experience of three terms that even councillors who work cannot attend every meeting, every event, every activity they are invited to.

Mayors have to be on call, doing town business and dealing with residents’ calls during every day, and many, many evenings. Even on weekends they have little to no free time outside their mayoral duties.

They have to attend meetings with staff, with residents, local associations, with developers and businesses, and be at the county and on county committees often several times a week. There are also the extras – meetings with school boards or provincial representatives and politicians, even ministers and their staff. Plus there are the additional boards and committees a committed mayor will join – such as the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative that our current mayor chairs.

And then there are the frequent social demands: visits to seniors’ homes, cutting ribbons at business openings, giving congratulations in person for fiftieth wedding anniversaries and 100th birthdays, the mayor’s levee, Legion events and so on. There are the regular media interviews, radio shows and TV broadcasts, too.

All in all, it adds up to more than a full-time job, even though it’s only paid as a part-time effort. It’s very demanding to be the mayor today. A part-time person cannot effectively fulfill that role nor fully represent the town or the council.

We need someone who can do the job without having to beg off from municipal duties to attend to work or to leave town hall to go skiing during budget meetings (yes, that did happen this term!). We need someone who can’t beg off their mayoral responsibilities because they’re “too busy” elsewhere. Someone who doesn’t have to choose between personal work (or play) and representing and attending to the community. Someone who can be called up at all hours and every day to perform those tasks.

We need someone who has the time to live up to the requirement in the Code of Conduct to educate himself by attending workshops and seminars. We need someone who can take off afternoons or sometimes several days to attend conferences like AMO (where municipal representative get to speak with ministers and their staff) without being pressured by employers not to attend, or to cut it short to get back to work.

One of the reasons retirees and seniors tend to get involved in municipal politics is because they have the time to dedicate to an increasingly-demanding job. But it’s also because we want to put a lifetime’s experience to use. We want to apply what we’ve learned in both careers and personal life. And we have the time to do so.

Even deputy mayors have demands on their time that are above and beyond any daily working role. When mayors cannot attend events or meetings, it is usually the deputy-mayor who gets called on to fill in.

Doesn’t Collingwood deserve a mayor and a deputy-mayor who are accessible, available and who can participate fully in the town’s business?
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The campaign’s moral compass

Every politician – in fact, every human – has a personal moral compass that helps guide the way they act, debate and vote in office. While a politician’s may not be the same as the compass that they use as civilians, as family members, as employees, or as a friend, it operates similarly to direct their actions.

For some, their moral compass is a strong internal force that is the same regardless of circumstance or role. For them being a politician is not morally or ethically different from being a member of the community, from being in a service club, a community organization, a church group or just a circle of friends. Their moral compass is the same in all situations. They see right and wrong, good and bad in the same perspective whatever their circumstance. I like to think of myself in that group.

Others have a more flexible moral compass; one that changes according to role and circumstance. They may be relativists who see morals and ethics as variables, as situational guides; relative signposts not absolutes. As politicians, they may even choose to ignore their personal moral compass and instead base their decisions on party platforms, on a fixed ideology, or on what someone else tells them to do. I believe most of the local incumbents fit comfortably into this category.

Party politics are often like this: they create a rigid standard of ethics, morals and beliefs that every member of that party is expected to follow, regardless of how these interact or even clash with personal values. Party members  submerge the personal views under the party’s line. That’s not always bad, but it can often sideline conscience.

Municipal politics are supposed to be about individual conscience, not about partisan politics or blind faith in any leader. The moral compasses of councillors should not all point towards one person’s north. One of the strengths of municipal politics has always been the variety of ideas and views it allowed.

Do obedient soldiers, those gray ranks of “komitetchiks” make the best decisions at the council table? I don’t believe so, at least not for the community’s well-being. I believe councillors should vote on issues according to their conscience, based on their research and their understanding, based on effort and thought, on discussions with residents and staff, not simply because someone told them how to vote.

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Saunderson’s abject desperation

Begging for your votesI’m not sure whether I pity Brian Saunderson most for his lack of principles or for his lack of shame. Or maybe both.

Desperation makes people do things that common sense would suggest won’t work. Monday we saw desperation replace both principle and shame when Saunderson made a motion to support the hospital at the end of the meeting. It was an abject, grovelling effort. Embarrassing to watch.*

Brian Saunderson is, of course, desperate. He faces not one but two credible candidates for the position of mayor, in a town where he and his five Block minions on council are widely despised as an unethical, spineless lot more concerned with their own entitlements than the community.

Their biggest challenge – Saunderson’s albatross – is their active role in opposing our Collingwood General & Marine Hospital’s plan for redevelopment on another site. Opposing the redevelopment has been a rock-solid pillar in Saunderson’s ideology for the past two years. And his puppy-like minions have eagerly tagged along.

But in light of his campaign challenges, Brian is both desperate and shameless. This Monday Brian tossed out a “Hail Mary” motion – along with his principles – to try and stop some of the bleeding. His motion pledged full support for the redevelopment and to send a letter to the Ministry taking back all the negative, nasty things they said and did about the hospital in the previous two years. And pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.

It won’t work. The public isn’t fooled. No one has forgotten Saunderson and his group’s numerous attacks on our hospital. The medical community knows all too well what Saunderson has done to their livelihoods and to local healthcare. This is just a last-minute effort to pull the wool over voters’ eyes.

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A cop on every corner and in every backyard

JeffreyCouncillor Kathy Jeffrey wants to get tough on crime. Serious crimes like throwing birdseed on your deck, not cutting the grass on the boulevard in front of your house, and riding a bicycle on a sidewalk. I suppose and we’re all at risk from imminent social collapse if they aren’t curtailled and the malfeasants brought to justice right away.

And charged. Big, hefty, bankruptcy-threatening fines.

Getting tough on crime is always a hot button topic around election time, so there’s little surprise Jeffrey is on that bandwagon now, and was silent about it the previous three-and-a-half years.

The Connection reported that in a recent council meeting, she said,

“If we can’t enforce them, why do we have rules?… It would definitely require more staffing, and it would have to pay for itself somehow…”

“If we can’t enforce them, why do we have rules?” That’s an ironic comment coming form a member of The Block who voted against her own town bylaws to fire the members of the town’s electricity and water utility boards. They’re sure a do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do bunch at the table this term. Everyone else has to obey the rules, just not The Block.

Adding more staff to the bylaw department? We’ve already learned this term that hiring more people for town hall is something The Block just love to do. So what that the latest accommodation review says that The Block’s willy-nilly tactic of hiring more and more staff will cost taxpayers between $20 and $25 million? After all, it’s not their money they’re wasting.

And they sure do waste it.
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Collingwood’s Reichstag fire

Reichstag fireThe Reichstag was the home of the German parliament until 1933, when it burned down just one month after Adolf Hitler was appointed Chancellor. The Nazis immediately blamed the fire on the Communists – their main political rivals – and used the event to suppress their opponents, repress opposition and dissent, consolidate power, while deflecting public scrutiny from their more hideous acts.

Many historians believe that the Communists weren’t involved, but rather the Nazis set the fire themselves to help promote their own agenda and enable their vendettas. They used propaganda tactics to enrage the public, and consolidate their position.

The Reichstag fire became a worldwide symbol of those in power: using a “false flag” attack which Wikipedia describes as, “…a covert operation designed to deceive; the deception creates the appearance of a particular party, group, or nation being responsible for some activity, disguising the actual source of responsibility.”

Sound familiar? Sound like something that recently happened here in Collingwood with a CBC exposé about alleged wrongdoing? A story with no wrongdoing but a lot of sly allegations and innuendo? A distraction from the real, important stories?

That’s Collingwood’s own Reichstag fire. Or its false flag, if you feel more comfortable with that name.

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Brian’s new campaign slogan

PettinessBrian Saunderson needs a new campaign slogan, now he’s officially filed papers in his ill-fated race to become mayor against the hard-working, well-liked, ethical, community-minded, former police chief, John Trude. It’s not good enough for Brian to run on his slogans from last election – “I’ll Show ‘Em Who’s Boss!”, “My Way or the Highway!”, “Why Be Open and Accountable When Secrecy and Deception Get My Way So Much Better?” and the local favourite, “I’ll Get Even With All of You!”

Last election, he launched his campaign on the coattails of a phony OPP investigation based on innuendo, wildly unfounded allegation and a nasty conspiracy theory. That story was hyped by his ski-hill buddy, a CBC reporter. But because  the public are onto his game and know the story was a hoax – after more than six years, the police have not identified or interviewed, much less charged, anyone – now Brian must fling his feces from new places to gain traction.

This spring, he launched his campaign by burdening taxpayers with a potentially $6 million, yet entirely unnecessary judicial inquiry to look into an open, transparent and legal process that happened way back in 2011-12. Sure, it’s another transparent attention-getting hoax cooked up with his desperate campaign team, and I suspect it will carve him a place in local history as the most vindictive, petulant politician ever. But it did get him attention among sycophantic local media and the echo chamber of Collingwood’s version of Faux News lite (run by his BFF).

And guess who he brought to town to publicize the inquiry even before anyone in the public or local media heard about it? Right: his CBC buddy from the ski club.

His local pet barnacle – so divorced from facts and truth in his online spume that he makes alt-right harridan Alex Jones seem credible – filed a complaint with the integrity commissioner against Mayor Cooper for trying to do her elected job honourably and honestly. And to twist the knife in her back, Brian and his Block minions gleefully made sure that the Integrity Commissioner came to council to publicly humiliate her. Nothing like a public flogging of a popular woman to garner votes, eh, Brian?

Like last election, Brian still has no cohesive platform for managing the intricacies of bureaucracy, holding the line on spending, keeping taxes low, maintaining infrastructure, engaging the citizens, collaborating with others for the greater good, helping the economy, or ensuring safe streets, clean water and clean air. So instead, he desperately needs to distract voters from his egregious lack of substance and commitment with an unrivalled show of nastiness and pettiness well beyond even that he has exhibited these past four years. It’s already well underway.

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