"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

Monday 24 March 2008


The most likely occupational hazard in blogland is probably navel gazing. Writing is a solitary occupation. Authors who do it for a living express appreciation in forewords for the person who reads their work and offers constructive criticism. It's usually a spouse or partner. An editor has much to do with the finished product.

A Blog is not so grand. It is a mish-mash. A polyglot. A series of observations and opinions which evolve with ongoing events.

What makes it interesting to some and infuriate others?

The Kangaroo Court Blog created a storm. What WAS that about? I simply commented on a happening which was part of the public record. Council decided to hold a hearing on my frequent emails. Various members commented on their negative effect. They clearly believed they had a right to use a council meeting to publicize their complaints I did not agree.

Neither did I choose to occupy the prisoner's box while they indulged in histrionics. I left the council chamber. But I watched the tape at home.

The comments I have received in response to the Kangaroo Court Blog make no reference to it. They do not defend council's action. They simply light right in to abuse and name calling. One even challenges my right to be a councillor.

The positive comments defended me against the nasty ones and they are much appreciated.

A huge amount of oxygen is consumed with talk about openness and transparency. It is mandated in government regulations. As if personal behaviour can be mandated. Candidates make it a platform in their election campaign.

I don't think it's an issue. One does it or one doesn't. I've always done it. I consider it an asset. People used to say. "As long as Evelyn's there, we will always know what's going on". The blog lets me do it better than ever before, and judging by reaction in some quarters, with more effect. Letters to the editor are even more widely read.

A year ago, I referred to an issue whixh had been discussed behind closed doors. It was about Aurora Cable's intent to erect a couple of wind turbines. It had already been flogged to death in open council meetings. In great anxiety, the Mayor called an emergency meeting to deal with the crisis. I said if they brought Moses down from the mountain with a new commandment they would not convince me the matter warranted a closed door discussion. I said the issue of legal liability was contrived.

A Code of Conduct. was seen as the remedy. Eventually, a report was submitted. Those who requested it rejected it. It should not be done by staff they said. The restrictions contained therein apparently did not sit well. I resisted the temptation to comment. on the obvious.

Last fall, a story appeared in the paper that council had turned down an offer from York Region Police to buy a parcel of land from the Town at the appraised value to build a police headquarters.

In high dudgeon, The Mayor retained a lawyer to "investigate the leak". He was provided with my Letters to the Editor and emails etc. He never did approach the newspaper or myself during his investigation. He asked if I had retained legal counsel and floated the idea of Conflict of Interest and the severity of penalties for said offense, and hinted I should not attend in-camera meetings with the rest of council to discuss the issue. I scotched that idea.

Eventually he reported. His findings did not sit well. Turns out the real quest was about something I had said in a blog which had subsequently become a letter to the editor. I had referred to the standard I adhere to in decision-making.

Though regulations require reporting out on business conducted behind closed doors, there is no time limit for doing it. There has been no further openness or transparency on that issue either.

In my first years on council, two local newspapers were in fierce competition for the news. Editorials were weekly events. Often there was more than one in the Editors column. They created interest and they had influence.

There were three daily newspapers. The Globe and Mail, The Telegram and the Toronto Star. They also had reporters beating the bushes for news..

Aurora's population was a fifth of today's. Town staff were a ready source of political updates. Word of mouth was a wonderful thing, if not always accurate. If they didn't know it before being elected, councillors quickly learned the voters valued their right to choose who would represent them on council and governed themselves accordingly.

When the Region was being created, municipalities were given the right to change the numbers on council. I suggested once we should consider reducing ours.. The reaction from the community was swift and emphatic. Nine councillors we have , and nine we will keep.

There was no pecking order. Each person elected had the same authority as the next. The Mayor only had a deciding vote in the event of a tie. Block voting was unheard of. Debate on contentious issues was fought with few holds barred. Rules of order stretched like the ropes of a boxing ring. When the battle was concluded , we adjourned together to the mess at the armouries and hoisted a few.

It was robust, healthy honest and above all else, open and transparent. Aurora expected nothing less. I see no reason to believe the collective intelligence has shrunk with the town's growth in population.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...


Permit me to ramble a bit.....

I did not vote for you last time (I only voted for people that I wanted on council so if memory serves, I voted for 3 people). However, given the make up of the council, it's a good thing you are there to at least be the "senate" with the crew in place.

I can't imagine anyone in this group going out to a mess hall to hoist a pint after a meeting. It would require an ethics test first and who knows, an ammendment to the code of conduct would have to be drafted.

I had high hopes for a couple members of council (Marsh and McRoberts). I think their potential is huge but they have a hard time to compete with the "wackos" around the table.

While I know it is a person's right in this country (unless Mayor Morris has taken it away) to express an opinion in public, I have a hard time when a councillor (you or any other) writes a letter to the editor of a local paper. This is especially true if the letter is dealing with an issue that was discussed at council. On the surface, it appears as sour grapes, but the reality is, unless another councillor rebuts it, it gives you (or whomever writes it) the "last word" on the subject. I feel that the place to discuss council issues is in the council chamber only.

Your blog is a great vehicle to express your opinion too. As long as it is used to discuss issues that follow the same guidelines.

I understand why Mayor Morris brought in the lawyer to look at the "leak". I would hope that she would do the same thing if any other councillor had a blog or letter that potentially compromised privelege. I somehow doubt though if Councillor MacEachren wrote a blog entry about something in council, she would receive the same unfair treatment as you.

I also have a hard time reading letters to the Editor coming from former councillors (Mr. Kean especially). He clearly has not gotten over the fact that he came in third in a two-person race for Mayor and his campaign for the next time began the day after the election. Letters to the Editor for him are free advertising. However, he (and Mr. Hogg) are civilians now, and they have the same rights as everyone else.

I had given thought to running for council last time, but given the number of candidates, I thought it would water down the vote - I was right. But watching council today, I think I would be very much like you. I like to adhere to the rules of procedure. I also like to empower the people that have a certain job. If staff has reported on an issue, why the constant referral back to staff or trying to get the Mayor involved in the process - these people are paid for a reason. I would only speak to a topic if I felt it was required. I can't count how many times I see a member want to speak to a topic but only to say "I will be supporting this motion". Who cares, that's what the vote is for. These guys are only looking for TV time. I also feel council is a venue for the town's business. There is no need to pat each other on the back for jobs well done. That is why you are there - to get the job done.

Thanks for the opportunity to rant. Keep up the blog, but try to (I know you won't) tone down the Letters to the Editor.