Thursday, March 2, 2017

Can We Choose Deescalation in Lunenburg?

We have a problem in Lunenburg.   One councillor is giving the other councillors trouble.  He has now been kicked off all committees of council, including those that are integral to making good informed decisions.  The town is divided.  We have been here before.  Is there any way that we can take a deep breath and consider a new way of handling conflict?

Here's the deal in a nut shell.  Brian Davis has concerns about some of the processes of council.  Is anybody outraged yet?  If you are, please pause and consider that questioning a process is not a heinous crime.  Questioning an administrative process should not solicit outrage.  If you disagree with that statement, well, we may not be able to find  common ground, although we can probably still talk about children, dogs, the beauty of Lunenburg and the wonderful pastries at the Farmers Market.

If you agree that questioning a process is not a heinous crime and is not worthy of a call for  resignation then let's continue.  Brian is a new councillor and he came on too strong.  You can't simply walk into an organization and try to restructure it.  My husband once tried to tell me how to sew labels on my hats.  Ask him how well that went over.   Now this doesn't mean that Brian doesn't have any valid concerns or observations.  I think he has plenty of valid concerns and some of those concerns have been backed up by a strong legal opinion.  But he went about trying to address these concerns in a way that made it difficult for council to proceed with the business at hand.  He used the council chambers as a court room and he is not a lawyer.  It was not a good strategy.  I think he knows that and is sorry.

On the other hand,  if Lunenburg Town Council/adminstration views themselves as welcoming to new perspectives they might only be communicating with those that agree with them.

If either side comes to the table and says we are right and you are wrong then we are deadlocked and that's pretty sad.  A lack of willingness to question oneself is a terrible quality in a leader.  If we put aside egos and personalities and pride we might find a way to listen to each other.

But I'm going to interrupt this conversation to mention democracy because this is the real issue here.  Lunenburg Town Council is a democracy.  There are fundamental principles of democracy, like we vote people in and we vote people out.  We cannot silence the voice of someone we don't like or who is a pain in the ass.  You can do those things in a business, but not in a democracy.

So, there's the conflict.  Lunenburg council is indeed a workplace and it's a good thing to try to find a way to work together, but it's not a business.  In a business you can fire someone or demote them.  In democracy you need to find another way forward.  That's why they say democracy is messy. You are stuck with each other.

I see valid frustration on both sides.  But still..... democracy.  Calling for a councillor's resignation because he made it difficult to proceed is kind of silly.  There are people that voted for Brian and want him to stay.  All the councillors represent the people. You can't internally decide that one of you no longer will represent us.  That's our job and we'll do that in a few years.  Every once in a while it is legitimate to call for a councillor's resignation.  You call for a resignation when a councillor has been caught embezzling or having an in camera affair or some other such thing where their moral capacity is called into question.  Nobody should be questioning Brian's morality.  He has that stuff in spades.  Kicking him off of important committees is, simply put, undemocratic.  It's silencing the voice of an elected official.  That's as wrong as wrong can be.  In three and a half years the people of Lunenburg will get to decide whether they are happy with the jobs that the councillors are doing.  Until then, please find a way to work together.  On one hand, obstructionism is not a good vehicle for change, but on the other hand, bullying is a terrible response.  Get help.  Try mediation....or medication.  Leave your egos at the door.  You all owe it the citizens of Lunenburg to find a way forward without a big legal mess.

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