2013 — Irony dies by a thousand cuts…

Twenty-thirteen was the year Irony came to Collingwood to die.

I wish I could say it was a dignified death, surrounded by friends and loved ones.

No; instead, Irony died cold and alone in an illegal basement apartment on a Monday night while watching a Collingwood town council meeting on Rogers (the hook-up for cable? Also illegal…).

Yes, it was easy to be cynical about local politics for those of us who toil away every Monday night reporting on the shenanigans at the council table. Fortunately, there was enough else going on in town to amuse and inspire us ink-stained scribes.

A triple twist into a forecheck: Former NHLer and now Crossfit gym owner in Collingwood, Scott Thornton, takes part in CBC’s Battle of the Blades, partnered with retired American figure skater Amanda Evora. The skating couple show off their athletic prowess, completing moves the judges note were Olympic calibre, and win the competition — picking up a $100,000 payday for the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation.

My work here is done…: Councillor Kevin Lloyd puts forward a notice of motion calling on citizens’ group spokesperson Brian Saunderson to come before council and explain himself after the group conducts an online survey that finds a high level of dissatisfaction with council by the survey’s respondents. The next meeting, after drastically rewording his motion, and launching into an petulant diatribe about the Enterprise-Bulletin that failed to recognize the separation between advertising and editorial, Lloyd abruptly withdraws his motion. Irony shakes its head in disbelief and consults the Charter of Rights and Freedoms…

Oh, maybe that’s why…: An expert on municipal politics tells the E-B Lloyd’s motion is nothing more than ‘petty’ politics and represents a ‘low point’ for a council. “It’s like kids in the sandlot who didn’t like what they said about you,” said Mitchell Kosny, a professor and associate director of Ryerson University’s School of Urban and Regional Planning. “It just strikes me as a petty thing for a council to do.”

Suspicious Minds: After Councillor Ian Chadwick rails on his blog about the illegitimacy of online surveys, the Elvis Festival committee — of which he is is a member — launches an online survey to collect feedback for the 2014 event. Irony does a facepalm…

How Great Thou Art…: Hamilton teen Richard Wolfe is reduced to tears after winning the non-pro early years category at the Collingwood Elvis Festival, and — because grand champion Jesse Aron had earned his entry at an earlier event — gets tapped to be Collingwood’s representative at the Ultimate Elvis competition in Memphis. Of everyone I interviewed in 2013, I can’t think of anyone who was as happy…

Chin, meet floor…: A reader calls — on a deadline day — to demand I devote the entire front page of the E-B to coverage of Idle No More protests occurring more than two hours away, noting I should be doing my part to “defend the white man.”

Passing the hot potato…: When CBC reports an unnamed town council member took allegations of impropriety regarding sale negotiations for the grain terminal to the OPP, the E-B asks council members the question: Was it you? Eight of nine council members deny it was them, while the ninth, Councillor Joe Gardhouse, refuses to comment, citing advice from his lawyer.

Not sure what was harder: Huronia West OPP officers arrest a 27-year-old man, and take him to the G&M Hospital, after he knocks himself senseless by banging his head into utility poles at a Wasaga Beach campground during the Victoria Day long weekend.

I’d still be out on the course…: Chris Stoutenburg — a three-time member of Canada’s men’s paralympic basketball team and an inductee in Collingwood Sports Hall of Fame — becomes the first paraplegic to complete the gruelling five-kilometre MetCon Blue adventure race. With the assistance of some friends, Stoutenburg completes the race in a time of two hours and 40 minutes.

Hello, Vegas? $100 on black…: Collingwood councillors, while saying ‘no’ to a 300-slot gaming facility, decide what the community needs is an ‘integrated resort development’ that would include restaurants, convention facilities and a hotel — along with a casino. At least, that’s the vision presented to council by a registered lobbyist from MGM Resorts International — who emphasized he wasn’t presenting on behalf of that company, but as an expert in the gaming industry and an associate of a local businessman.

What does the school board say?: Collingwood Collegiate teachers Peter Millsap and Chris Young — with the help of a few colleagues and some students — record an absolutely awesome send-up of What Does the Fox Say for the school’s 2013 Christmas assembly. The video goes viral (by Collingwood standards), garnering nearly 44,000 views on YouTube. Deep in the bowels of the Simcoe County District School Board head offices in Midhurst, a tightly-wound bureaucrat’s head explodes…

Oh, my poor urbanite brain…: Clearview Township residents go through an electoral review process that includes examining the township’s ward system, ward boundaries, and whether the township should consider an ‘at large’ system — a process that takes all of four months, including four public meetings that attract a couple of hundred people. It takes me back to the previous term of Collingwood town council, when the majority of council turned down undertaking an electoral review because the concept of a ward system was too complicated for local voters to understand.

Bueller? … Bueller? … Bueller?: During Collingwood’s Remembrance Day services, Simcoe-Grey MP Kellie Leitch is asked to come forward to lay a wreath on behalf of the federal government. When it’s apparent she’s not there, her representative is called upon to lay the wreath… and they’re not there, either.

Won’t somebody think of the children?: Leitch is told she’s no longer welcome at the Creemore Santa Claus parade after the main organizer claimed she threw a fit and threatened to hold up the parade after being told to stop throwing candy canes into the crowd because it could cause a child to run into the street — and potentially be run over by a float — to retrieve a sweet. The story goes viral and a day later, parade organizer Corey Finkelstein backtracks on his comments on banning Leitch from future parades. Acknowledging his comments didn’t reflect the position of the Creemore BIA, Finkelstein said the MP would be more than welcome at the 2014 Santa Claus Parade.

What happens when you run things through Google Translate: The Town of Collingwood does a dramatic makeover of its website in December to meet accessibility legislation requirements; the result is a clean, easily-navigable site… until one hits the mayor’s message, which included the word ‘upmost’ (which doesn’t exist), and the sentence, “Collingwood is rich in history and heritage architecture which we are proud of lending to our community’s vibrancy” (a statement which remains on the landing page of the website). Irony consults its Oxford dictionary and an English-Japanese phrasebook…

As it turns out…: The mayor’s message gets taken down after about a day. However, a Google cache search shows that was the mayor’s message on the previous version of the municipal website for at least the last couple of years, and no one noticed.

Thanks for coming out, but…: Residents in the neighbourhood of Paterson and Hamilton present a 49-name petition asking council to reconsider the location of the entrance to the Central Park Arena. After waiting for about an hour for the issue of the park to be presented, the petitioners sit through a 64-minute discussion on the layout of Central Park — of which 51 minutes are devoted to the components of the dog park, which makes up about 9% of the project budget. The petition isn’t even acknowledged, and the residents leave council chambers annoyed. To Mayor Cooper’s credit, she sends the petition’s author an email the next day, apologizing for overlooking the concerns of the residents…

Do as I say…: In spite of writing in his book on media strategies for municipal politicians to always return calls and emails to reporters, Councillor Ian Chadwick doesn’t return calls when the E-B needs comment on a notice of motion he introduced at the council table. Irony considers sending a definition of itself to the councillor…

Social Media Dysfunction: While he mocked Chris Carrier for ‘Twitter blocking’ both him and me from following the former Collingwood mayor on social media during his run for the Conservative nomination in Simcoe-Grey, Councillor Ian Chadwick blocks me and the Enterprise-Bulletin from following his Twitter account. Irony jams a fork into its leg…

Collingwood Bizarro World: Former mayor Chris Carrier suddenly allows me to start following his Twitter account…

Not Exactly As Advertised: Nearly a year after councillors were told the town’s new Sprung structures would be “virtually impenetrable,” someone cuts their way into the Sprung building covering the pool and tips a piece of machinery into the water. Irony looks up the definition of virtually impenetrable…

Not Exactly As Advertised, Too: While council — and the community — was given information about a vandal-proof layer that could be used to protect the Sprung buildings, the layer isn’t included. The newspaper — through a freedom of information request — finds out the decision to not include the layer was made a month before council voted in favour of buying the buildings, even though what was essentially a sales presentation to council included details on the so-called Sprung Shield.

Tell Me What You Really Think: In an interview on the Sprung Shield, and why the town would have included a diagram of the vandal-proof layer in a newsletter sent out to the community, Deputy-mayor Rick Lloyd comments, “This didn’t send a wrong message to the community, unless you knew (what it was), but there’s no way the general public would know. It’s not misrepresenting what was bought at all.” Irony makes a mental note for the next municipal election.

Credibility? What?: While Councillor Chadwick pens a lengthy diatribe on his blog about local media credibility, when presented with the issue of the town’s newsletter — which he designed — including a diagram of the Sprung Shield, the councillor shrugs and notes he just pulled the graphic from Sprung’s website. Irony mutters to itself to keep thinking happy thoughts…

What We Have is a Failure to Communicate: It takes a lengthy interview and several emails to get Mayor Sandra Cooper to comment on whether there was a communication issue in council not being told the vandal-proof layer wasn’t included in the purchase of the Sprung buildings.

Do as I say, too… : The majority of council — except Keith Hull — votes to direct most of the proceeds from the sale of Collus to the purchase of the Sprung buildings. While Hull has been clear throughout the debate he doesn’t agree with the process to purchase the buildings, it doesn’t stop Councillor Chadwick of accusing him on Twitter of voting to ‘raise taxes’. In his book, Chadwick cautions, “Controversy and conflict can polarize the community. Be sure, or present a different, less confrontational message.” Irony looks for something tall to leap off from…

Do as I say, thrice…: A ‘less confrontational message’? I guess that’s why Chadwick, on our Facebook page in response to a story about local citizens’ group Better Together Collingwood, commented, “When is whinging news?” Irony circles Oct. 27, 2014 on the calendar…

A proof is a proof is a proof: After Collingwood’s town council meets for a strategic planning session in December, the municipality issues a news release with the headline, Priorities were the priority at strategic review session. Whew, thank goodness for that; I was afraid noshing on sandwiches on the public tab for the better part of a day would have been mistaken for council’s priority…

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