Thursday, September 15, 2016
I think we need to talk
I love a good family photo. There's nothing like the love and bonds of a close knit family to make you smile and believe in the goodness of the world. However, a municipal council really shouldn't look like the above photo. You see, in a municipal council we are striving for a very specific picture. O.K. it's true that not everyone is striving for the same picture that I am about to paint, but there's a right way and a wrong way of doing government and the right way is about openness, honesty, transparency, accountability to the people that council serves and last, but not least - diversity.
A community is a diverse group of people. Let's look at Lunenburg as a case study. Some people grew up here, some moved here from other places. Some people are financially comfortable, and some people are struggling. There are women and there are men. We have a couple of visible minorities, but not enough. We have retired folks and we have young families, we have single people and married people. In a good council, every member of the community feels like there is someone sitting on that council that understands their experience in the community and will be willing to speak on their behalf.
Good councils argue. Yes, they are supposed to argue. Each councilor is supposed to think independently, share their views with other councilors and when all perspectives have been discussed, there is a vote. When the representation on council truly represents the diversity of views in the community then good decisions are made that benefit the entire community.
In a small town, diversity is difficult. Particularly when many councilors have grown up together and have strong ties outside of council. Diversity is difficult when all the members of a council have a similar life experience. When this happens, good argument falls by the way side. Although there will still be arguments, they will be coming from a single perspective. That is why when we go to vote on October 15th, those of us that believe that a municipal government needs to represent the entire community and should represent diverse perspectives, need to vote accordingly.
The mayor's brother, Ronnie Bachman, is running for council. He is probably a very nice man and I might even like him as a councilor, but personally, as a citizen, I do not like the idea that two representatives might choose not to disagree in order to keep peace in the family. Because Mayor Bailey may win again, I will not vote for him. There is probably no law preventing siblings from sitting on council together, but, in my opinion, it works in direct opposition to the concept of good governance and that is the end goal. Or at least it should be.
There are seven people running for council. There will be six spots to fill out on the ballot, you should only fill out those you wish to see on council, otherwise you are upping the other people's chances of winning.
I will explain why I will vote for 4 people and I will not comment publicly on the others.
1- Brian Davis - A progressive man, a great listener, does not take criticism personally, has lived many places and brings his outside perspectives to Lunenburg.
2- Joseph Carnavale - A very kind hearted and giving man who has repeatedly advocated and fund raised for people in need. I hope he won't mind me saying this, but I know he and his family had some financially tough times. There are many people in Lunenburg that struggle to make ends meet. This demographic is completely unrepresented on council and it should be.
3- Linda Blumenthal - She is a woman, obviously. I have not yet met her, but I did talk about her with some mutual friends and the review was glowing. What I heard was she is community minded, open, inclusive, non judgemental and above all, listens well.
4- Peter Mosher - He served on council this past four years. As most of you know, most councilors, including the mayor, took my battle very personally. The perception was that they were attacked. I tried, to the best of my ability, to not make it personal, but to consistently state that council was misinterpreting a law that was well understood in Halifax and most of Canada. When the parking changes for home based business were before council, I presented at the public meeting. The resentment towards me was palpable. The only councilor that looked me in the eyes as I spoke, was Peter Mosher. I could see in his expression that he was hearing my words and weighing them intelligently and with neutrality. He was the only one. I have watched him in several council meetings and he has consistently shown the ability to think for himself and speak for himself. We do not always agree, but that's hardly the point. The point is being able to communicate. When the response is defensiveness, as has always been the case with the mayor, communication is shut down.
These four people have my vote. I think they would help create a more diverse council. Someone from an unrepresented economic group, a newcomer to Lunenburg bringing in fresh perspective, someone from an established Lunenburg family who can speak to the concerns of established Lunenburg residents and a woman with an open mind, who brings in gender diversity and her own ideas. And of course, David Penney for mayor.
The other remaining candidates are: John McGee, Danny Croft and Ronnie Bachman
Whatever you do and however you feel, agree or disagree-vote.