The Passing Scene: We the People

So, imagine this; for two terms you’ve been mayor of a (sort of) progressive small town on the shores of Lake Ontario, a town whose first mayor took office in 1837. But, since that mayor was inaugurated 181 years ago, it has only had one female mayor – which makes the word progressive, very questionable. But, be-that-as-it-may; it is now 2018 and, after two terms serving as mayor of this small town, you will be putting yourself out to pasture to enjoy some well deserved retirement years. But, before you do savour that moment – you just can’t resist taking one last kick at the can; writing to your chosen target, the Cobourg Tax Payers Association (CTPA) which has been an on-going thorn in your side.

Graham Woods
Graham Woods

Which is how Cobourg Mayor Gil Brocanier has elected to take his walk into the municipal sunset with an unable-to-resist, rambling 800+word missive to the CTPA. In so many ways the letter is a sad way for Mayor Brocanier to end his term in office, perhaps written in haste, perhaps in anger, only to be regretted after pressing Send? Who knows? In the olden days, writing a letter with the slowness of a pen, or even the faster typewriter, placing it in an envelope, taking it to the mail box – well, it gave time for pause; time to double-check one’s words, time to cool down. Thank God Cobourg has the CTPA, which has been around since 2015. Seemingly, Mayor Brocanier hasn’t noticed, writing about the CTPA, ‘Since you claim to be advocates of transparency and openness you can demonstrate that by informing Council on who you are and how you are structured.’ Well, this being modern times, if you check the CTPA website, you’ll find all you need to know.

This is also the occasion, once every four years between sitting councils, when we take a municipal time-out to contemplate the future. Such as, unopposed, what sort of mayor will John Henderson make? With eight years of solid experience as a councillor and deputy Mayor – and like all mayors-to-be, promising to do ‘good things’ for Cobourg – will he take a stand on finally protecting the western harbour? Living in a democracy, will he have an item on the end of each council meeting’s agenda for a Citizen’s Question Period?

I was going to say, ‘I’ve noticed over the years that the longer a government or council is in power, the more dictatorial and withdrawn they become, forgetting they were elected – to represent the electorate, to become the voice of the people.’ In this case, the people of Cobourg. I noticed that the retiring council elected to hire ‘consultants’ on numerous occasions, begging the question, ‘What were the Council members elected for in the first place?’ As well, the retiring Council, by the end of its term, like other Councils before them, appeared withdrawn and separate from the electorate that voted for them. It is important that our newly elected Council takes a moment to consider the citizens of Cobourg by creating, at the end of each Council meeting, at a minimum, a fifteen minute Citizen’ Voices moment, whereby citizens of Cobourg can speak to Council, without notice (eliminating off-putting red tape) about … well, anything they feel is important to or affects our community. Let this Council be different; let it never forget who put it in office.

Oh, and one more thing: Mayor Brocanier wrote in his response to the CTA, ‘I did not mention that those with a different view of mine should leave town. I very specifically mentioned the small core of chronic malcontents contributing to blogs on John Draper’s website that are so critical of everything and said, if they are so unhappy, maybe they should leave town.’

Hmmm. It’s a funny old world.

Links

Provided by Cobourg News Blog

Note that the letters between Gil and the CTA were not initially copied to the media but were addressed to Councillors and Candidates.

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Kyle

I am becoming more convinced year after year that who you vote for in Municipal elections is irrelevant. The burocracy really now not only runs the ship, it steers it as well. They get their way by using “consultant” reports to justify their ideas and wishes and if a Council happens to say no to a want they just keep bringing it back using another report to justify. It has been awhile since a councillor has gone head to head with its own bureaucracy. Ben is the last in my memory.

Walter L. Luedtke

‘Government of the people, by the people, for the people …’ is what we have here in Cobourg.
We do not have a hereditary nobility, nor an ‘established’ church, nor specially privileged politicians educated in exclusive private schools.
Let’s look at the candidates for Council. They are men and women, young and old, working and retired, hale and handicapped. They are no different from any of our friends and neighbours, except for one thing.
They have offered themselves for public service – not for the money, nor for any special perks.
They have offered their many hours of service because of their public spirit.
We, the voters, elect these folks to do their best to represent us. And that is not easy.
Because ‘We The People’ all have conflicting interests – merchants and customers, landlords and tenants, workers and employers, buyers and sellers, etc etc.
Some of you expect that Council ‘listens’ to you, to put your special interests first.
When that does not happen, these folks feel that Council and Staff need ‘adult supervision’ and that they are the adults in the room,
The bottom line here is that Council represents ‘The People’.
Nobody else does.

Frenchy

Now, who do you suppose “these folks” are?
You’ve still got it bad Walter.

Just because someone is elected doesn’t mean that they can’t be criticized or aren’t capable of doing something wrong.
Don’t believe me? “We (they) the People” elected President Trump.

cornbread

You mean P.M. Trudeau don’t you Frenchy?

Frenchy

Him too.

Old Sailor

Walter, you must have been an English grad at University. I was just a few words as possible math guy.

People who need to constantly criticize our Council should join more local clubs and have less time on their hands.

manfred s

but Walter, isn’t there an inherent problem with that theory, in that one cannot properly and effectively “represent” all people at the same time in the same discussion? You’ve said as much here as well. So how does one choose whom to “represent”, and how does one justify that choice to those who are then without representation? To read some campaign literature it’s not unlikely that some of “the people” feel that their “special interests” will indeed be “represented” and promoted at the discussion table. That’s why I can’t agree with the concept of “representation” at the discussion table, as far as municipal politics is concerned. I think municipal Councillors can only represent themselves and their opinions and positions in any discussion; claiming to represent “the people” would be untruthful, unless of course one states just whom they are purporting to represent at the time. It is in this scope that I make my choices of candidates who I believe will best represent the values that I also hold. I do not expect them to be speaking “for” me but do expect them to be truthful about what they themselves believe. Nevertheless, Walter, everything else you’ve said here I agree… Read more »

Ben

All I know is that whenever I hear a pol say “I am going to represent the people” I run a mile away from them. For a Pol to say this demonstrates two things; either a lack of knowledge about the issue or a willingness not to use their own minds. Either way it is dangerous – just look at the effect of Trump and Ford as examples.

Manfred is absolutely right when he says that Pols represent their own sets of opinions or biases ( I paraphrase). When I was on Council, for nine years I represented my own opinions, demonstrated the ability to distill facts and public opinion and then weighed the two to make a decision. As a Pol most people knew where I stood on most issues and political bias and then voted whether to continue the act every election.

Applying this set of criteria to all of the candidates it was very easy for me to decide who to vote for from a very short list.

Walter L. Luedtke

One approach to municipal politics is to run along party lines.
In Toronto, there are NDP, ‘centrist’ and Conservative Councillors.
I am not sure that is what we want in Cobourg.
I hope that our Councillors will debate the issues and then decide on the basis of ‘the greatest good for the greatest number’.

manfred s

Walter, it seems that ‘party lines’ lean towards long term solutions, which are harder to introduce and implement, and that reflect the party ideologies whereas individuals may be more adept at profering shorter term solutions to satisfy here and now concerns. Ideally we need both and if that mix could be enshrined in the municipal system we’d likely be far better off than we are now.

Ben

Hmm wonder whether the downvotes are reflective of the message or the messenger. Either way beware of the pols who vote to represent the people, watch them carefully and observe for signs of pandering to special interests.

manfred s

Ben, getting the “message” through to those thumbs-downers is the challenge. Trouble is, until they get it, their vote is likely to do it’s own ‘damage’, and I don’t care how that sounds because I can just hear and imagine the outrage it ignites in some circles or cabals.

Jason Beatty

I’ve seen posts here that have a positive message, taking no sides and still get down votes. We could post “I hate cancer” and still manage a couple red thumbs down I’m sure. The sadist in me keeps an eye on the posts with larger vote down numbers just to see if we break any records…

Wally Keeler

Ben asserts: “Either way it is dangerous – just look at the effect of Trump and Ford as examples.”

USA unemployment in August 2018 reached a 49 year low of 3.7%. Now THAT is dangerous.

manfred s

Wally, I think the connection between the effects of policy and the effects of mind-numbing and hysterical ‘patriotism’, (for lack of a better word), as that which Trump is good at motivating, is not particularly strong. I take Ben to be referring to the Trump-style pandering that cajoles folks into a sense of enough trust that they simply defer to his macho ways rather than think for themselves. In my mind, that can get quite dangerous down the road. On the other hand, the economy’s performance is not likely contingent upon that risky trust that he’s cultivating so deftly at present. There is likely a high price tag on that.

Wally Keeler

the effects of mind-numbing and hysterical ‘patriotism’, (for lack of a better word),

I would also add, the effects of mind-numbing and hysterical leftism (for lack of a better word).

The point is that I am weary of the binary politics too many textpress on this blog. So simplistic. So unsublime

Ben

What is dangerous Wally is that the idiot in the White House is quite willing to accept and claim credit for the high number of job vacancies (which is fake news because we are still reaping the effects of the Obama economy) and refusing to allow immigrants to fill those vacancies. One would almost think that he wants keep the vacancies high so he can crow about them in the coming election!

Wally Keeler

“we are still reaping the effects of the Obama economy”

Sez Obama. If that assertion is correct, we should note that the “idiot” has had two years to ruin everything. So when is the ruining gonna happen?

The USA is far greater than either Obama or Trump, and to attribute its success to either politician diminishes the greatness of the USA, as the ambitious innovator to the world for more than a century, etc etc.

manfred s

great point Wally. It is indeed an entity unto its own and as you say, much larger than any politician, no matter the rank. I think if anything is damaged, well short of ruined though, it might be the social fabric, the relationship between the ‘left and right’.

Wally Keeler

The early 70s were much more violent than today, more bombs going off, campus shootings by the National Guard, the Weather Underground, Red Brigades, Red Army Faction, ghettos on fire, etc. Before that the United States of America experienced a civil war. Today is just textcessive venting. Speaking as a poet, I am highly entertained by the bald incompetence and gross abuse of hyperbole by politicians, political activists, social activists … The result is the wide distribution of mediocrity on broadbland media at the speed of blight. Hyperbole should be left with those who have the skill to handle superlatives with texterity and are valid holders of Poetic Licence. The United States of America is a verb, not a noun. The USA is resilient; it chronically reinvents itself. I love USAmerican music, movies, fashion, internet, creativity on a scale never before realized in human history. Long Live the 1st Amendment!

Wally Keeler

Oh I get it. It’s Obama, that has made America great again. So if I put MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN on a blue hat, will that be cool or what?

Frenchy

Wally, are you still celebrating?

manfred s

Ben, do you mean “high number of job vacancies”? I’d have thought you were meaning to say “low”, otherwise your comment confused the hell out of me.

Ben

Manfred “high number” means lots of ’em. Less immigration means fewer people to fill ’em.

Wally Keeler

That’s how I more or less see it. Ok Walter. (What have you done to promote a birdhouse on top of the pole by the Marina launch ramp?)

Ken

Thanks once again Graham! Always an interesting read!

Old Sailor

As mentioned by others in earlier blogs, there are many ways of communicating with Council members other than at a post Council meeting grilling session. We elect these people to govern the town. Not to face random questions after every Council meeting. No wonder we have such a turnover of Council members.

manfred s

the opportunity to communicate with Councillors is everpresent, on a one on one basis, but on a collective basis where a question is posed to all of them it makes sense to do it when they are assembled to conduct town business. It could help to get a sense of Council’s demeanor with respect to the issue at question and that’s more useful than a private, one on one response which could well be more schmoozing than straight forward. Perhaps it’s more about the response than the question

sandpiper

Graham Hit the nail on the head again — nicely put
I am happy that the CTA came to be . as we Individuals with valid concerns were being ignored by Council,
Yes our Taxes have been rising and maybe unjustifiably But the truth will never be discovered
if the Questions we ask go unanswered and unheard . We don’t have a fair reporting of the facts in this town and we don’t have investigative reporters with a News Paper any more .

Thank you Graham

Wally Keeler

Mayor Brocanier wrote in his response to the CTA, ‘I very specifically mentioned the small core of chronic malcontents contributing to blogs on John Draper’s website that are so critical of everything and said, if they are so unhappy, maybe they should leave town.

In the column entitled “Council decision on 394 College Zoning” Sept 16/17. Dubious posted,. “All of these “frills” came after I moved here and increased an already high tax burden so send the Toronto refugees back!”

MAJOR SIGH.

TrishReid

Didn’t the former”Mayor “ come from the GTA?
Personally, he always stuck me as a malcontent himself!

Wally Keeler

What makes you think the former “Mayor” came from the GTA? Note, the FORMER Mayor to the current Mayor was Mr Delanty. To whom are you referring?

Ken

Trish….Mayor Brocanier came from the old country, namely Scotland and if you know Scots as well as I do, then you would realize why he acts the way he does……no harm intended.

manfred s

Grahame writes “to represent the electorate, to become the voice of the people”
I got to thinking about that and I came to wonder, represent the people to whom, in what forum, in what voice? Does he mean at council, at the higher levels of government, where exactly are they meant to represent the people and with what kind of voice?
Those questions also helped me reconfirm my belief that municipal politics is about collecting and spending property tax dollars in the best and most equitable and efficient manner possible, period. There is no ‘opposition’ to the municipal government that works to hold it accountable, only 7 people who decide what they think needs to be done and then do it, all the while supposedly representing the people, the electorate, and if any opposition exists, it ends up coming from the very people who elected them, who apparently feel that they are being ignored. How do you represent people by ignoring their concerns? It’s a conundrum, plain and simple, but elected to represent…not really. That just sounds impressive.

Susie-Q

Enjoyable article, Mr. Woods!

Walter L. Luedtke

Who is the CPTA?
And same old, same old spiel.
Mr. Woods does not like politicians, especially not Mayors.
We know that by now.
Time to change columnists.

Frenchy

Did you mean “Who is the CTPA”?

manfred s

well Walter, Mr. Woods may have a particular slant on politics here but that’s not unique, given the slants of any number of commenters on this blog in particular. You yourself have a pretty obvious slant as well, one that simply leans in the opposite direction to that of Grahame’s. I think all have a place in the world of ‘opinions’ and I’m somewhat surprised at your suggestion to dismiss this one (Grahame’s) in particular. Goodness knows, similar suggestions have been aimed at you probably for similar reasons. As individuals we all have our axes but at least we engage the topics and the many opinions they elicit and THAT is the good thing about opposites, it develops better understanding of the issues, n’est pas? I imagine that Grahame’s attention will redirect to a fresh field once the current Mayor has indeed been turned out to graze the pastures. Wouldn’t it be interesting to ask the posters here to list as many past mayor’s as they can recall, and maybe give one reason each to remember them; might be a clue as to how much visible and enduring impact they may have had on the present world in Cobourg. As… Read more »

Mrs Jenkins

thank goodness we have residents like Mr. Woods who speaks like and gentleman and with the facts – Consultants consultants – how about recruiting some of the towns well- informed retired residents? Thank goodness for the CTA – and Walter – “get out of the box” You as well are well informed but a more positive attitude should prevail.

Cobourg Person

“..how about recruiting some of the towns well- informed retired residents?”

Who haven’t been working for 10-20 years and aren’t up-to-date with new regulations. Great idea! I see no potential issues as a result of that suggestion.

manfred s

from another direction, Cobourg Person, it may be that the ‘retirees’ have more of a handle on things than the driven to distraction, crazy busy working folk who don’t have the time nor the energy to keep up on the issues that percolate behind the scenes of their everyday hectic lives. Ever notice the sea of grey and white at all of the politically motivated events? Gives you an idea of who’s keeping up, wouldn’t you think? As far as regulations go, who but the actual staff and polititions (theoretically anyway) are in a position to keep up and even then it’s a chore for them. I think that’s why we see such a heavy reliance on consultants whose job it is to be current in their fields of expertise and thus be able to present the facts and advise on options open to decision makers. At least the retirees can bring the “local” aspects to the table. After all, it’s the local aspect that should drive the decisions rather than generic one-fits-all solutions that the consultants seem to prefer more often than not. And as for potential problems, they’re not fussy about which scenario they choose to invade, they… Read more »

Elmo

As a member of that retired community and having attended several council meetings (on the marina/west harbour and the new subdivision beside Canada
Ian Tire) issues, I totally agree with Manfred. Well spoken and thank you.

Cobourg Person

At least the retirees can bring the “local” aspects to the table I think that’s an issue as there is the risk that the local retiree is someone who is too involved in the details of a problem to look at the situation as a whole. There are definite pros and cons to hiring a consultant. A consultant will likely have experience in a specific field and have past projects that may mirror Cobourg’s situation. Consequently, there is some peace of mind knowing that the Town is being guided by an expert who has seen the situation before. However, I also realize that while consultants should be experts in creating customized solutions for each Municipality, some may still approach the job with a one-size-fits-all mentality. Rather than offering their solution and leaving before it’s properly implemented, consultants should be held accountable should their strategies not live up to the Town’s expectations. I agree that the Town seems to constantly use consultants, but I believe there is a better comprise than hiring “well-informed retired residents”. I wouldn’t have such an issue with the use of consultants if the cost of the consultants is included in the budget, there were public engagement… Read more »

Rusty Brown

Old age hath yet his honour and his toil…
── Alfred, Lord Tennyson.

manfred s

…and poor hearing, and failing eyesight, and joints that complain incessantly… kinda wreaks havoc with the toiling thing lol

Rusty Brown

Well, maybe some of us. Not me!