Cue the Ennio Morricone soundtrack…
The good: Councillor Kevin Lloyd’s proposal to reinvigorate the town’s moribund (dead?) economic development department.
Formerly the home of aborted branding strategies ($45,000 of your tax dollars) and incomplete and shelved studies, Lloyd’s proposal to link the local agencies concerned with economic development is a positive initiative.
The last economic development study, presented to council in 2011, featured statistical information that was five years out of date along with a message that ‘smokestacks won’t be locating to Collingwood.’ Yes, we know — we’d been hearing the same thing for 15 years.
Lloyd’s proposal is the first, positive, tangible step I’ve seen on the file in some time, and harnesses the strengths of a variety of different organizations: the BIA, the chamber, Centre for Business and Economic Development, the Small Business Enterprise Centre. In the case of the proposed mandate of retaining business and targeting new business opportunities, the CBED and SBEC have both excelled, though the latter’s achievements don’t often get the credit it — or its executive director, Gillian Fairley — is due (SBEC is behind the very successful Summer Company program that encourages youth entrepreneurship).
It’s a great direction for the community…
The bad: Well, maybe not so much ‘bad’ as ‘perplexing’. Council’s reaction to Don May’s comments on the grain terminals last week; it’s not that I disagree with Don — in fact, I agree with him wholeheartedly — or disapprove of council’s new direction (I don’t).
It’s just that, well, I said pretty much the same thing more than a year ago, both here and in the E-B…
I realize it’s a sign of weakness for councillors to acknowledge what’s published in the Enterprise-Bulletin carries a modicum of reliability, but sometimes (just sometimes), I think we hit the mark.
Which leads me to…
The ugly: Councillor Ian Chadwick’s Cold-Shoulder War with myself and The Enterprise-Bulletin just demonstrates how bush-league and childish a municipal politician can get.
I was moderately amused when I suddenly found myself blocked from his Twitter account; after all, this is the same guy who mocked Chris Carrier when the former mayor pre-emptively blocked both Chadwick and me from following him. Now, as I discover, he also blocked The Enterprise-Bulletin from following him as well, and being able to read what he posts.
Is that the action of an accountable politician?
Or is this: in his book, Politically Speaking…, Chadwick writes:
Return calls and emails, and provide information as necessary in a timely manner.
To the E-B:
Chadwick did not respond to a request for comment, both by email and by phone, prior to the Enterprise-Bulletin’s presstime.
He may think he’s punishing the E-B, but in reality he’s only telling the readers of the Enterprise-Bulletin that he doesn’t feel he needs to be accountable to them.
I realize the councillor is unhappy with our coverage of Better Together Collingwood (the opinion of friends masquerading as front page news, as he puts it), and I’m certain he doesn’t like being chided for accusing Councillor Keith Hull for voting to raise taxes by voting against applying the Collus sales proceeds to the purchase of the Sprung buildings. As Chadwick wrote in his book:
Controversy and conflict can polarize the community. Be sure, or present a different, less confrontational message.
Or maybe how ridiculous he looks for pulling a graphic of the Sprung Shield from the Sprung website for the town’s flyer without determining whether or not it was relevant.
Maybe he needs to go back and read his chapter on Reporters: Allies or Adversaries?:
Grow a thicker skin: You can’t win every battle, you can’t always get the coverage you want, you can’t always expect praise or even recognition. Elected officials are always open to criticism, so learn to live with it…
Some politicians never get past being criticized…
If you show reporters respect, if you are open, honest, and accessible to them, you will in turn gain from them a level of mutual respect. This will not necessarily mean agreement, nor will it free you from criticism; it’s a much healthier relationship than an adversarial one.
I realize Chadwick has chosen political self-interest over our supposed friendship, which is fine. But I can’t help think that Chadwick, as E-B editor (he was editor about 15 years ago), would be outraged at the actions of Chadwick the councillor. As several people have pointed out to me, Chadwick needs to be thrown into a time machine and sent back to 1997 — where the editor could have a little heart-to-heart with the councillor…
Or, as he wrote in Politically Speaking…:
You may not be friends with your media contacts, but you should at least recognize that they are doing a job they care about. Find ways to help them do that job so that their work with you is not problematic. Respect will work both ways.
… to local politics…
My project for 2014, and it’s only taken nine years of picking away at it: my grandfather’s experiences during the final months of the Second World War, somewhat appropriate as 2014 will be the 70th anniversary of his crew being shot down, and the 10th anniversary of his passing. Chapter 1 will take him to Parmain… it’s only partly written (that is, Chapter 1, plus a couple of the appendices), but it’ll get there; much of the research has already been done, and little bits have been written in Word documents on a couple of computers. Comments and suggestions welcome by email: email@example.com. Updates as I make progress…
For my Random Act of Kindness, I’ll direct you over to Councillor Chadwick’s blog for today’s thoughts:
The point is that we need to show one another that we care. We care about each other, care about the community, care about people, about their lives and their situation. We shouldn’t need a special day to do that, a special day when we’re polite and civil then we can be rude and self-centred the rest of the year. We should practice this sort of behaviour every day, to everyone. But it’s a start, so let’s enjoy it.
Well said, and I hope folks pay heed — at least for tomorrow. On Saturday we can return to being snarky to one another…
… kind of like Random Acts of Kindness.
Instead, we’ll make today Random Acts of Snark…
• Note to Mr. Berman: 1950s Soviet Union called — they’d like their sense of state-induced paranoia back…
Actually, I can’t be entirely critical of Steve. As he notes in his latest post, which I thought was quite good:
“… the sooner we pay attention, the more informed our choices will be.”
I don’t know that I agree people need to start lining up outside of Clerk Sara Almas’ office on Jan. 6, though; it would just get confusing with the people filing their Freedom of Information requests. I could be pursuing my latest conspiracy theory, and end up running for deputy-mayor…
• Speaking of the local blogosphere, Rick Crouch points to Collingwood’s Road to Nowhere, thereby robbing me of a potential headline (note to self: steal Crouch’s headline). The 2013 budget identifies the 11th Line and the Nottawa Sideroad as in line to get oil treatment-surface treatment, at a total estimated cost of $65,000…
• T-minus 363 days and counting: municipal101.com is online (link goes directly to the page on Collingwood). Don’t look now, but they have an online survey for each member of council…
• Ideas for Random Acts of Snark day (in my world, everyday): Get a coffee, and inform the person in line behind you that they’re paying for it… Randomly block someone from your Twitter account for disagreeing with your point of view… point out a current council member is acting like a former member of council he used to criticize… obliquely suggest someone is operating outside of their sense of professional ethics and thereby violating the trust of their readership…
“Great minds discuss ideas, average minds discuss events, small minds discuss people.”
Someone posted it that particular aphorism on The Facebook a couple of weeks ago; it was attributed to Eleanor Roosevelt, though some quick online sleuthing indicates the authorship is of some dispute.
Regardless of whether Roosevelt wrote it or spoke it, the synchronicity of reading that particular phrase, at this particular time, is more than just a happy confluence, bringing to mind the current discussion we’re having about a council motion (now withdrawn).
The heart of what Better Together Collingwood is trying to achieve is a discussion on ideas — economic development, strategic plans, open and transparent decision-making.
A shared vision that the community can strive toward.
That was the thrust of their much-maligned survey.
But rather than engage with residents and communicate a vision – and it could be argued on either side what that vision is – the general course of action from town hall has been to demonize the opposition, to lump them all into one category of a “small group of people” associated with embittered former municipal politicians, rather than step back and examine the concerns being expressed in the community.
Rather than address the message, it’s seemingly easier to shoot the messenger, whether it be us at the Enterprise-Bulletin (as was evident on Monday night – and I have to say I’m a little upset at the impugning of my integrity as a journalist), or the folks behind Better Together Collingwood.
Councillor Chadwick, for instance, would rather slag myself and the newspaper as “printing the opinion of friend’s as front page news,” when he absolutely knows that is not how I conduct myself as a journalist. I am brash, yes, off-colour (though ‘blue’ could be considered a colour), abrupt, sometimes condescending (though no more than he), sharp-tongued, intemperate at times… but I also honestly pursue my craft to the best of my abilities, that fairness and balance are my watchwords, and he knows that. But it’s easier to align me with ‘the enemy’ rather than acknowledge that I’m just doing my job, which is to report the news and what’s happening in the community. And that means he gets held to account for what he says, whether at the council table or on his blog – friendship, and access to his Twitter account, be damned, clearly.
But again, it’s easier to demonize an individual than to challenge an idea, and possibly admit you were wrong.
I was to launch into a lengthy but very off-tangent discussion in the midst of this post on the validity, or non-validity, of BTC’s survey results, but I’ll set that aside, other than to say that the question of satisfaction was only one of 10 questions BTC asked; if it weren’t for that question, BTC’s survey would be relatively benign.
There was also the matter of the E-B’s “due diligence” on the ad, other than to note there is a separation between advertising and editorial; the only time I would get involved in an advertisement is if there was a question of libel. And it’s not the role of the paper, or any advertising medium, to investigate claims made in an advertisement that is being broadcast or published.
That argument was nothing more than a straw man propped up to support a pyrrhic victory.
And finally, to the Canadian Code of Advertising Standards, other than to note the town’s ‘Why Sprung’ flyer, and the Code’s direction on “Advertisements must not contain inaccurate, deceptive or otherwise misleading claims, statements, illustrations or representations, either direct or implied, with regard to any identified or identifiable product(s) or service(s).”
But back to my main thrust (rather circuitous way to get there…)
At the moment, I don’t know what the vision of the municipality is, other than to keep spending increases to a minimum. Yes, good things have happened this term: the public transit links to east and, now, west; new rec facilities; a new fire hall; a variety of infrastructure upgrades around the community. But with the good, the town must also consider where it has faltered. For example, the Georgian Triangle Development Institute believes all four communities – but especially Collingwood – is lagging in economic development; I know something is in the works on this file in Collingwood, but whether it’s ‘bold’, or will be the ‘bold’ that the GTDI is expecting, remains to be seen.
And for what good there is, where and when council falters – usually on process -umbrage is taken to any kind of questioning, like it’s somehow an act of treason: the naming of the trail on Mount Doom, the process for approving and sole-sourcing the rec facilities (yes, yes, we know, it’s allowed under the town’s procurement policy), the process for buying and tearing down the Mountain View, how the Collus proceeds were allocated, and now the process behind how the rec facilities weren’t vandal-proofed.
The reaction – moreso in recent months – is to circle the wagons and duly point out the enemies rather than address the concerns, and if a problem is found, to fix it.
This town has been at odds for nearly eight years, and as we draw upon a year prior to a municipal election, there’s a real danger that our differences in opinion could devolve into something that’s very destructive to the advancement of the community, that will get in the way of the economic development of the community.
As an associate of mine said the other day during lunch, we need to put the pride back into Collingwood.
There are good ideas, on all sides, if only there was a willingness to listen. Maybe it’s time we accept that, rather than attempt to tear one another down because we disagree.
To satisfy Councillor Kevin Lloyd’s comment, that he was disturbed “the Enterprise-Bulletin published the [Better Together Collingwood] ad without conducting due diligence, and ran the ad knowing the research its claims were based on was invalid,” and ignoring the fact there is a separation between editorial and advertising, I will personally start investigating the claims made by all advertisers in the Enterprise-Bulletin on behalf of the readers of our fine organ, to ensure such claims are legitimate and satisfactory to local consumers.
I will start with the escort agencies which advertise in our classified section. Wish me luck…
From a fascinating book I’m perusing. Certainly words to live by…
“Grow a thicker skin: You can’t win every battle, you can’t always get the coverage you want, you can’t always expect praise or even recognition. Elected officials are always open to criticism, so learn to live with it…”
“Some politicians never get past being criticized…”
“If you show reporters respect, if you are open, honest, and accessible to them, you will in turn gain from them a level of mutual respect. This will not necessarily mean agreement, nor will it free you from criticism; it’s a much healthier relationship than an adversarial one.”
And from a local blog, I think this is the best quote yet, written several years ago in response to a councillor who questioned another’s propensity to be critical about his colleagues, and especially the mayor, on his blog:
“If you’re so insecure that you can’t take criticism or challenge, then why are you in politics?”
I only bring it up for the sole reason that it’s come to me from mutual acquaintances that certain individuals have decided I’m in league with a former mayor to destroy town hall, because that can be the only explanation as to why lately I’ve written things that could be considered as putting council’s actions in a negative light.
Next week, it could be all rainbows and roses, too. As Joe Warmington notes in his excellent column in The Sun today, “I call it as I see it, Mr. Mayor, and will continue to do so.”
I have no problem with someone disagreeing with my opinion, or with a news story I write, as long as the counter argument is a little better thought out than “you only wrote that because so-and-so is a friend.” Which, it seems, appears to be the only basis for the current campaign to undermine my credibility and integrity.
I also note I’ve been blocked from following Councillor Ian Chadwick’s Twitter feed; it appears he stopped following me quite recently, removed me from his list of followers, and preemptively ensured that I couldn’t follow him as I was greeted with the message, “You have been blocked from following this account at the request of the user.” Which seems kind of rich for someone who once mocked a former mayor (same individual as noted above) for doing the exact same thing… The irony is, uh, ironic…
… but it seems to me other councillors have stomped their feet and raised all kinds of objections whenever a notice of motion has been presented, and a differently-worded motion has come forward. And that’s only when a notice has been given orally, rather than submitted in writing.
But since I can’t find anything immediately in my files, I could also be blowing smoke. It’s been known to happen. Rarely.
Anyhoo, here’s the ‘revised’ motion presented by Councillor Kevin Lloyd, to be deliberated on Monday night. Please note the removal of a certain individual’s name, as well as the ‘whereas’ to do with wanting to know an individual’s role within a certain citizens’ group, and the membership of a certain citizens’ group:
WHEREAS ‘Better Together Collingwood’ has conducted and made public a survey and has placed an advertisement in the Enterprise Bulletin dated October 4th, 2013, noting the surveys conclusion;
AND WHEREAS ‘Better Together Collingwood’ has also commented on the survey in the October 4th, 2013 edition of the Enterprise Bulletin, and further written the Editor of the Collingwood Connected dated October 4th, 2013 with the subsequent publishing of his letter;
AND WHEREAS ‘Better Together Collingwood’ has not made public the methodology used or professional research company engaged to undertake the survey;
AND WHEREAS the survey may or may not be valid, nor the respondents fairly reflect the community as a whole;
NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED THAT Council respectfully requests ‘Better Together Collingwood’ provide to Council and make public, in both local newspapers, the information requested herein, so that the public of Collingwood can be properly informed of the survey conclusions, including assurance of the professionalism and credibility of the survey.
To which I say, go back and read the ad. And, maybe, try and focus on the messages BTC is trying to deliver about the need for an economic development strategy and engaging the residents in a strategic planning process. I realize Councillor Chadwick is working himself into a lather to discredit the results because it’s an online survey (he posted something on Facebook today which perhaps was more of a shot at me and the Enterprise-Bulletin than the results of an online survey, but anyway), but maybe, just maybe, council should look at reviewing its process.
Or maybe I’m just crazy…
Scene: A subterranean lair deep beneath town hall. A raised platform with a large circular desk is at one end; several bodies sit there, dimly illuminated by desk lamps. In the centre of the room, an unadorned desk and wooden chair, brightly lit from above; even though the room is airless, the bright light hanging from the ceiling in the middle of the room sways gently as people push their way into the space at the back of set aside for spectators, non-dissident media, and upcoming witnesses.
The chairman calls the meeting to order…
Chair: I call this first session of the… uh, the… er, has council designated our committee title?
Member No. 1: Mr. Chair, I’m afraid not; we were only given a mandate to investigate alleged disloyalty and subversive activities on the part of Collingwood citizens, town employees, and those organizations suspected of having Commun… er, being mouthy ratepayer groups.
Chair: Well, then, would someone care to put forward a name?
Member No. 2: Town Hall Committee on Un-Collingwood-like Activities?
Member No. 1: Bit of a mouthful, isn’t it? I mean, we need to come up with something so intimidating, people will wet themselves even thinking of having to appear before us.
Member No. 3: Personally I think we should come up with a more cheerful name. We don’t want the public to perceive us as heartless autocrats.
Member No. 4: … even though we are.
Member No. 1: Irregardless…
Member No. 4: … there is no such word as ‘irregardless’. You mean regardless…
Member No. 1 gives Member No. 4 a sharp look and ponders putting him on the witness stand.
Member No. 1: Regardless, then, we require a title that reflects our mandate as directed by council, to question individuals about their role within mouthy ratepayer groups, and the membership of such groups.
Member No. 2: How about, then, the Committee On Un-Collingwood-Like Labours.
Member No. 1: Hey, that’s pretty catchy.
Member No. 4: I would insist that ‘labours’ has a ‘u’, however.
Member No. 2: It does.
Chair: That settles it. All in favour?
All the members acknowledge their agreement to the name.
Chair: With that business out of the way, I will now call our first witness.
A man in his early 60s takes the chair in the middle of the room, and attempts to shield his eyes from the bright light.
Chair: Mr. Paul Hatcher, I believe? You are a resident of Ontario Street. Is that correct.
Mr. Hatcher: Yes, sir, that is correct.
Chair: It is alleged that in July of 2013, you read an article in the Enterprise-Bulletin about an online survey on local governance conducted by the none radical group, Better Together Collingwood. Is that correct.
Mr. Hatcher: I refuse to answer that question as I don’t see the relevance…
Member No. 2: The relevance, sir, is I don’t believe there is any more authoritative document in regard to Better Together Collingwood than its official organ, the Enterprise-Bulletin…
Member No. 4: … we have a photostatic copy of the July 5, Enterprise-Bulletin, in which Morgan Ian Adams (a known BTC sympathizer) has written an article about Better Together Collingwood and its online survey.
Member No. 2: Did you go online and fill out that survey, Mr. Hatcher? Did you not, in fact, give town council an unsatisfactory rating?
Mr. Hatcher: I am not going to answer any questions as to my association, my philosophical or religious beliefs or my political beliefs, or how I voted in any election, or any of these private affairs. I think these are very improper questions for any Collingwood resident to be asked. I feel that in my whole life I have never done anything of any conspiratorial nature and I resent very much and very deeply the implication of being called before this Committee that in some way because my opinions may be different from yours, or yours, Mr. Chair, or yours, that I am any less of a Collingwood resident than anybody else.
Chair: I direct you to give an answer, Mr. Hatcher
Mr. Hatcher: I have given my answer…
Member No. 2: Mr. Hatcher, are you now, or have you ever been, a member of Better Together Collingwood, or have you ever associated with a member of Better Together Collingwood.
Mr. Hatcher: I feel that is improper to ask about my associations and opinions.
Chair: The witness is excused…
Mr. Hatcher leaves the witness stand, and the committee retires to its back rooms to darkly mutter its conspiracy theories and conjure up more allegations of associations… After all, it’s a lot easier than addressing the public’s concerns…
Anyway, here’s the motion, and some fairly innocuous and flippant thoughts; my column on the subject, destined for the Enterprise-Bulletin, is being reviewed by individuals more sagacious than I…
WHEREAS Mr. Brian Saunderson has conducted and made public a survey and has placed an advertisement in the Enterprise Bulletin dated Oct. 4th, 2013, noting the surveys alleged conclusions;
True, there is an ad in the E-B; thankfully, the sales people and I stay well away from each other…
AND WHEREAS Mr. Brian Saunderson has also commented on his survey in the Oct. 4th, 2013 edition of the Enterprise Bulletin, and further written the Editor of the Collingwood Connection dated Oct 4th, 2013 with the subsequent publishing of his letter;
AND WHEREAS Mr. Brian Saunderson has not made public the methodology used or professional research company engaged to undertake the survey;
Actually, I think the methodology was included in the ad…
AND WHEREAS the survey may or may not be valid, nor the respondents fairly reflect the community as a whole;
A matter of interpretation, I suppose…
AND WHEREAS Mr. Saunderson has not publicly disclosed his organization’s mandate, his authority to speak on their behalf, his role within the organization, or its membership, publicly;
Um, wow… I mean, uh, wow. Let’s see: aside from the mandate is fairly clear in the ad (see above), I think we’re covering off Freedom of Association here…
NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED THAT Council respectfully requests Mr. Saunderson provide to Council and make public, in both local newspapers, the information requested herein, so that the public of Collingwood can be properly informed as to Mr. Saunderson’s conclusions, including assurance of the professionalism and credibility of the survey.
Make public in both local newspapers? Did council suddenly become editors of both papers and could direct what we print? I guess we just covered off Freedom of the Press… as well as a couple of the above noted freedoms.
There’s five members of council I can think of who support this motion, including a couple who really, really, surprise me…