Friday, September 9, 2016
"Don't be an Armchair Quarterback!"...sighh
In the past two years, this expression, "armchair quarterback" was thrown my way more than a few times. It was also tossed over to anyone that shared an opinion in regards to how council was dealing with the issue of Home Based Business. Despite having gone out and done all the homework that should have been done by our councillors and staff and despite my direct communication with both municipal and provincial government, I was repeatedly discredited as being an armchair quarterback. This expression has been used to discredit anyone who has openly disagreed with council.
As I do not live in the mind of the councillor that wrote this, I can only imagine that the sentiment behind this statement is that if you want to make a difference then join government. I couldn't agree more. Except that my vision of government includes its citizens. In my understanding and vision of government, engaged citizens are embraced, supported and valued, not put down.
I apologize for taking you back to this ugly time in Lunenburg's history, but it's important. You may recall that council excluded me from serving on the very committee that they had formed to address the very issue which I brought forward. The following was the mayor's quote in Lighthouse Now. “She has expressed her opinion about her particular issues often, loudly, and I don’t know that she has anymore that she can add to that. So we have already heard from her in abundance,” said Mayor Rachel Bailey during a phone interview on Monday morning. There were similar things said on the radio.
In my understanding of healthy municipal governance these words could never be uttered by an elected representative towards one of their own constituents. In a healthy municipal government, Lunenburg council would have invited me to give the same presentation that I gave to The Nova Scotia Building Advisory Committee. The huge provincial government invited me in. My small, local government shut me out. I was called an armchair quarterback.
A healthy and progressive council understands that civic engagement is not an item to be checked off of a list. Civic engagement is the ultimate goal. In a community as educated, accomplished and intelligent as Lunenburg, the council should be actively seeking the input and vision of its residents. The brilliance of this community is an untapped resource. Look around Lunenburg and you will see what I mean. The farmers market, The Opera House, The community garden, the dog park, the walking tours, the small businesses, the artists, L.A.M.P.......all of this is the hard work of regular people in the community. When these regular people speak up regarding a municipal issue, they should not be mocked with the term, "armchair quarterback" They should be respected and heard and brought on board.
A healthy, progressive and broad minded council understands that meeting times are not just about the the convenience of the councillors, they are also about the convenience of the citizens that want to participate in democracy. It should be understood that fixing a broken sound system in the council chambers is a priority because when people can not hear the discussion it is one more reason to not show up. It should be understood that if people are not attending council meetings, do not have informed opinions and are not engaged then council is not doing its job well. It should be understood that if the current council is not diverse, and it is not, then there is a systemic problem. Every elected council should be nurturing the next generation of leaders. That did not happen in the last four years. But the future is filled with possibilities.