No, Brian: Elvis isn’t in the CBSP

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SaundersonAt the Nov. 28 Council meeting (seen here on Rogers TV), Deputy Mayor Brian Saunderson blathered on in cliché-rich, lawerly manner (starting 1:14:05) about how much the Elvis Festival means to his “Community-Based Strategic Plan” (1:16:18) – that committee-based wishlist which was neither strategic nor a plan.

What does he mean when he claims that a report has “galvanized the question quite nicely”? Galvanized? Does he know what that word means? It’s not what he appears to think it does… it means to “shock or excite (someone), typically into taking action.” A staff report is seldom shocking or exciting, and even if it were, a question doesn’t get galvanized, nor the report, but rather the reader does.

When he claims he wants the festival to be a “self-sustaining entity unto itself…” I simply cannot grasp what that tautology means. Can you? It sounds like something from the Department of Redundancy Department.

And no, Brian, it doesn’t “beg a larger question” – begging the question doesn’t mean to raise one. It means to make “…a conclusion based on a premise that lacks support.” To beg the question would be to assume, for example, that because Elvis drank water, the festival should be hosted on the waterfront. The word you want to use here is “raise.”

Is he “hardened by the fact” or heartened? Sure sounds like he says the former… maybe some folks at the table find staff reports of a more prurient nature than I ever did.

But where does this fit in with his vaunted yet curiously flaccid CBSP? In fact it fits nowhere.

Number of times Elvis is mentioned in the CBSP: NONE.

Number of times the term “economic driver” (a term Brian uses) is mentioned in the CBSP: NONE. Nor will you find among its platitudes and generic woo hoo the term “economic impact” or indeed much of anything related to building and expanding our economic base in any constructive manner.

Economic development is mentioned, almost entirely as a reference to the eponymous department rather than an action item. The term is only once mentioned in context with events:

The authenticity and creativity of these events will continue to differentiate Collingwood from other Towns around Georgian Bay and help to define a unique identity and contribute to economic development throughout the Town.

See if you can wring Elvis out of that bit of verbal pablum. How this magic will work, or the mechanics of such contribution remain unexplained to this day, more than a year after The Block embraced the CBSP. The statement above isn’t even a “vision” but rather a bland statement padded with saccharine nouns like authenticity and creativity without once actually saying what they mean in any context.

Festivals are mentioned, but only twice and both times in general context, neither specific to Elvis:

The community has expressed a desire to nurture the growth of the arts within the Town as well as to create a wider range of festivals, events and attractions than already exist throughout the year to foster a sense of community.

and:

Support and expand the diversity of community events and festivals.

This council has done exactly nothing about nurturing “the growth of the arts within the Town” and even less to “create a wider range of festivals, events and attractions than already exist.” Expressing a desire doesn’t do anything. There’s nothing to make council actually act, and the wording suggests the nebulous “community” will do the nurturing and creating, not town hall. And not of anything new, just a “wider range” of the same old stuff.

What, too, is a “wider range”? We already have music festivals, food festivals, recreational, literary and artistic events, we have pet-related events, family events, downtown sales events, holiday events, a parade, fireworks, sports meets, alcohol events, Canada Day, Remembrance Day and a farmers’ market… how much wider range do we need?

Are we a poorer community for lacking an astronaut appreciation event? A tofu celebration? A ukulele festival? How widely must the vague community range before it is satisfied?

Supporting Elvis is not expanding any diversity. It’s doing what everyone else has done before, albeit with varying degrees of enthusiasm over the terms. One might argue that supporting it violates the goals of the CBSP towards creating diversity (if one can find anything concrete in that document).

The word “event” appears in the CBSP four times (found in the above codswallop about authenticity and creativity):

It is also intended that local events and initiatives focus on the development and showcasing of local business and the arts.

Intended? That’s a spineless, passive word. It means maybe. Possibly. It doesn’t mean action. And:

Collingwood is proud of its cultural events and thriving arts scene, which the community has identified as a priority to nurture and grow.

Another invertebrate phrase that dies on its own vine. We’re proud, so what? Where does that lead? How do we go forward and nurture or grow these things? The CBSP is, as it always is, mute when action is required. And:

Continue to support community and special events which benefit all the Town’s citizens and the community’s profile.

Which like most of the CBSP says nothing at all but does it in such a cloyingly generic way that it fools people into thinking something meaningful was said when all you got was word salad.

Besides, who determines the benefit? Who determines that all citizens – and not just, say, 98% of them, benefit? And what exactly is the “community’s profile”? How can I see it, where can I stand to take a selfie with it?

None of these limp statements refer to Elvis, despite Brian’s puffery. None actually speak to HOW to implement anything constructive or point to anyone actually doing something aside from wishing or supporting or expressing. Like the rest of the CBSP nothing gets done: it just gets talked about. Reported. Expressed. Intended. Continued in support of.

And what are the “key performance indicators” the CBSP identifies for events and festivals?

Annual reporting on special events.

and

Annual reporting on the community engagement work of Culture and Events Division.

That’s right: not actually doing something, but instead letting the staff write reports. On which the council can then heap praises when the cameras are on, but toss in the recycle bin when they get home. Nothing gets done. Which should have been the subtitle for the CBSP and certainly marks the legacy of this council: nothing gets done. Well, nothing positive, anyway. So much for performance.

Please, Brian: just stop bringing your beloved but empty CBSP into every discussion. It isn’t appropriate for every discussion – or any, in fact. It’s hypocritical of you to speak of supporting economic drivers when your group is responsible for the destruction of so many others in town. The CBPS is a risible failure and people snicker when you raise it in conversation. Save some face and let it die its well deserved death.**

But there is some good news, some light in the tunnel for those who thought this Council was going to isolate Elvis out on the spit, like abandoning an elder on an ice flow, to let it die of starvation, adrift in the pitiless ocean. Thanks, that is, to Councillor Lloyd (1:10:59), who opened the discussion by strongly making the point that the event is of great economic importance to the downtown and to local businesses, as well as generating a lot of media and goodwill. Lloyd spoke up, and saved Elvis. Rather uncharacteristically for their ideology (councillors opposed to everything), The Block followed his lead. Elvis will remain downtown.

At least someone at the table is thinking. Collingwood deserves more of that. *

~~~~~
* Everyone at the table chimed in except for the mayor. Councillor Fryer (1:17:55) contributed this to the discussion:

And, uh, I, uh, I’m, I’m also supportive of the, uh, the um, staying with the three-year (pause) program that we agreed to, um, uh, to, to allow staff time to consider, uh, uh, how the, um, program (vague hand gestures), uh, can be enhanced goin’ forward. Um, I wanted to express appreciation to staff for taking, uh, going the extra mile I think in this particular case. They had a, uh, flip flop of budget of almost, uh, over 50 thousand dollars, um, impact, and, and, they knew that they needed to bring some (pause) fresh thoughts to the, to the council, uhm, um, and, and then consideration of moving forward. And so, uh, they’ve, they went to the bold step of even suggesting relocating. Um, thhhh…. sustainability of the festival is, is of critical importance and, uh, we’ve already expressed the reasons why (vague hand gestures) and uh, and uh, as I said I supported, uh, staying in the location again for this year, and I know that staff will further research the idea, uh, of how to be, um, sustainable in the future, and, and I know that they’ll also, um, er, do what they can to mitigate the safety concerns that have been brought up and, and, what I consider a very excessive workload on, on staff during that period of time, so uh, I, again, I, I, appreciate staff taking the extra step to give us food for thought, um, ah, part of it, but, ah, I would support staying in the location for, for another year.

Councillor Edwards praised the report for having “a lot of really good information” in it (1:16:34) and added gratuitously, “we represent the people” (1:17:27). Councillor Doherty commented – rather well, I thought – on the positive economic impact of the event and its importance to the BIA (why the BIA wasn’t consulted BEFORE planning to move it from the downtown was never explained). Councillor Madigan (1:21:20) was smugly glad everyone took two weeks to “try and understand something that has been going on for twenty years” that was “quite evident to me” when he first got the report. Councillor Jeffrey spoke glowingly about how she hears about Collingwood and Elvis while partying around the nation on an unlimited expense account paid for by taxpayers (1:21:50): “…as I’ve travelled across Canada…” and “last week when I was in Ottawa.” Councillor Ecclestone (1:22:30), said, “um, ah, in my opinion, it, we shouldn’t change the venue…” and added, “…it’s probably unanimous that we’re all together on this.” Better, one supposes, than not being unanimous when you’re all together on it.

** Remember your alleged motto, Brian?

When asked his motto, Saunderson said “in the last four years, I have learned the importance of proper planning and the motto, ‘do it once and do it right.'”

After two years, and the egregious debacles over how council has mismanaged the water utility, airport, Block Nine, Collus-PowerStream, the electricity board, the hospital redevelopment and more – we’re losing hope you will get it right even once, much less do any ‘proper planning.’

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