"Cowardice asks the question...is it safe? Expediency asks the question...is it politic? Vanity asks the question...is it popular? But conscience asks the question...is it right? And there comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular but one must take it because it is right." ~Dr. Martin Luther King

Saturday 8 December 2007

The Debate Begins!

I started blogging in the hopes that people would join the chat about our town's affairs. A year ago, I had no idea how it might evolve. I had hopes but there were no precedents. Before blogging, nobody could ever have revealed what goes on behind the scenes.

I have long argued with people in the private sector that the public sector bears very little resemblance to business. How can it? Periodically in politics, a new board of management is elected. They are chosen for almost as many reasons as there are people in the community.

Residents have told me they are waiting to receive leaflets from all the candidates. Their plan is to read them all and make a selection. Candidates can make hilarious claims to competence in a leaflet and it may be sufficient for a voter to decide in their favour.

A casually written story in a newspaper can create a negative impression. The female candidate "yelled". The male candidate "roared". The female was" bitter". The male was "critical". At times the reporter may be right but mostly it is a societal bias. It happens in every field.

Aurora's politics have always been robust, but there has also been a balance between the duty of political oversight and the responsibility and accountability of the administrative body and a recognition by council that the day-to-day management of town services must rest with the expertise of the professional administration

This term, we do not have that balance. We have elected people who believe they need the expertise to manage the munivcipality. They think they can learn it by questions asked and answered many times over and still without comprehension.This problem has been growing over the last number of years. A steady exodus of senior management has occurred concurrently.

CAO's are a relatively rare breed. Not every municipality has one. They number just over a hundred. Municipal people keep in touch with one another. If a problem rears its head in one community, chances are it has already been dealt with in another. The wheel does not have to keep being re-invented but it is likely more than problem solving is shared. Municipalities can gain or lose a reputation.

At council meetings, Directors traditionally take their place at the council table alongside their political "bosses". This year in Aurora, they have been relegated to the bottom of the table. No expression must cross their countenance, no speaking without invitation, no matter what idiocy or misrepresentation, they encounter,respect for the elected body must be maintained. . By the luck of an election they may have a balanced council and a chairperson with the skills necessary to keep the business of the corporation on track. And they may not.

Public service is unlike the manufacturing , retail.i or any other industry. A council is composed of nine people of various competencies and principles with agendas which may or may not reflect the best interest of the entire community they serve.

Many citizens are certain of the simplicity of delivering municipal services. Summer droughts, winter blizzards, ice storms. None of that is of any consequence to some people. They just know instinctively the job is a cinch.

And yet, if it were not for the efficiency of municipal services, most of Ontario for much of the year would be uninhabitable. A significant number of residents hightail it to other places to escape the hardship of a Canadian winter. Because of municipal services, the rest of us endure to make a living and raise our families in what might arguably be said, except for some of the weather, to be the best place there is.

As individuals, we do not have much influence in the world. We do not even have much in the government of our country. Influence on provincial affairs is less with each passing year.and the wealth and power of public service unions. But at the local level, we can vote, we can put our names forward for election to office. We can make our contribution to the public debate about the difference between good, bad or indifferent government. We can make our voices heard.

'Tis the season to be jolly.

For days I have been trying to think of something positive to blog about. You have provided it. We are not just observers. We are participants. By posting a comment, you have engaged. Can that be a bad thing? I think not, my friend. I welcome your thoughtful comment.

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