..and when the sun rises again tomorrow, we'll see how far we've come ...

..and when the sun rises again tomorrow, we'll see how far we've come ...

... just to remind myself why I'm doing this ...

Depending on our personalities, the world can be a crowded place or a very lonely one. For those who seek comfort in numbers, there is no shortage of hangers on, but for those who avoid that circus, keeping thier own counsel can leave them feeling quite alone and disengaged from the mad place we call home. Life is a trade off and most of us choose how we live it.

For me, I'd rather work things out as best I can, using my own thoughts and feelings to sort things out. Following the crowd has never been a temptation to me, but that has its price, one that I'm totally comfortable with every day I get to stand up and be the person I aspire to be. When I sometimes lose track of who that is, I come here to remember, to reconnect and to resume my quest.

These posts are a reflection of some of what matters to me and it's a privilege to have the opportunity to collect these thoughts as they form in my head, as they prepare the way for my life, as it evolves from one day to the next. They re-inspire me when things seem to be floating about, with no particular aim or purpose, and it does happen from time to time.

So, today I had these thoughts that I think are worth writing down for the future me to look back on when I need to ...

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Wally's world is ...

For me, a trip (maybe more of a stumble), into Wally's world is what I imagine a turn at finding my way through a house of mirrors to be.

Now Wally is a long-time friend of mine, going back to the time I was about 8 or 9. He finds it necessary to argue with what I characterize as "friend" so "acquaintance" is the word I'm using in its place. My first transgression into the murky realm of pranksterhood was at Wally's house. We, either he or I, dialed a random telephone number and let it ring until it was answered, only to shout something and then hang up with a bang. We were daring accomplices. While it's kindof cute, it really has nothing to do with the banter, sometimes friendly and sometimes antagonistic, we get into from time to time, particularly on John Draper's exceptionally informative blog about everything Cobourg does, is and wants to be. I've let myself get sucked into these bouts from time to time but I just don't think it's right or good form for me to argue or 'discuss' whatever Wally wants to dredge up from time to time, on that public forum. Therefore, I'll relegate my responses to Wally's challenges to this blog, my own space, and anyone who wants to, can follow along or check in from time to time, or just plain ignore us, which I think is the most likely scenario. I extend my welcome to any and all who wish to drop in, and better yet, perhaps take a deeper look into the thoughts that tumble around inside my head until I make the time to deposit them here in my space. It might to some degree explain who manfred s is to those who might be a bit curious. If you wander in, have fun, and _'read' carefully.

Now, down to business. Wally, you seem to have this burr up yer ass about me having maligned you in some way with respect to your talents. You being one who himself expects proof of such claims, bring me the proof of what you claim and let's get it out onto the table so we can see what it is that has you so vexed. If I remember correctly, I've tried to get to the bottom of this before but you didn't respond. This is your chance to get some resolution, if that's what you actually want. I, "on the other hand", think that it's more about being in the public eye, and the centre of some curious attention, but we'll see what's what, if you go down this road with me.

If you choose to continue the banter on John's blog, I'll simply respond with a note directing you to my responses here and you will do as you wish, I'm sure. But, I'll do my 'splainin, if there's any to be 'splained, right here, and only here. So, dems de rules from now on.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

.. and they used to deliver bread and milk to the door for free too ...

Way back in the early part of 2013 I made a decision to try something very different and potentially detrimental to my business for some time, until the concept would actually have sunk in. After musing about, then calculating and finally planning a very controversial concept for a retail operation, I actually did it - yup, I did it. The local paper got wind of it and wrote up a lengthy article about it, and made a decent effort to explain it, because I think the reporter actually got it! Well, while some folks also got it right off the bat, a lot more didn't, particularly at first. I tried a number of signs explaining it in the simplest terms but the fly in the ointment proved to be the "charge", or "fee" as the paper called it, and the rest of the message fell on blind eyes, deaf ears and lazy minds. I say lazy, because so many were unwilling to even make any kind of attempt to understand the reasoning and get past the idea of paying for something that up to then was simply a free activity, seen as almost a "right" in its own.

Starting back a bit, originally the thought that got all this going was that EVERY person through our door was a potential sale but definitely a real cost to the business; the calculation was based on the annual cost of doing business divided by the number of people through the door. For illustration's sake, let's use some round arbitrary numbers of no relation to the business. Annual cost of doing business, $150,000.  Number of people through the door in a year, 30,000.  making the cost $5 per person. Putting it another way, we have to lay out $5 to literally pay a body to come into the business. At that point, nothing has been sold yet. At this point we have to presume a gross margin so let's set it at 50%, for argument's sake and to make calculations fairly straight forward. To recoup that cost from 25% of the browsers who actually turn out to be buyers, each buying customer has to leave behind, on average, $40 to cover the product cost alone (to the business) of what they bought and the cost of having the opportunity to buy it. It also means that 22,500 people through the door paid nothing towards the cost of having the door open for them to come through. That cost is then being paid entirely by the 7,500 buyers who actually made a purchase. How many people do Canada's Wonderland, Fort Henry, Disney World, Lang Pioneer Village, and so on, allow through the door to see what there is to see without contributing to the cost of making it available to them for that purpose? ZERO. What if they only charged those that actually did something or looked at the displays, that group would have to pay for the whole thing and make the cost of admission prohibitively expensive. Since that's not a feasible business model for their operations, they spread the cost over EVERY person who comes in, thus making it affordable for all and allowing the business to survive and continue to provide the value that their visitors enjoy day after day.

So, with this "concept" in mind, we ran a pilot project to test the concept at retail level. For 6 months we applied the concept and monitored the reactions and results. That takes us back to the top of this post. Now, a few months short of two years after the pilot project was complete, we still hear comments about "that's the place that charges you to go in" and yet sometimes they remember that the actual "buying customers" saved 20% on everything they bought, including things like $700 desks and $600 clocks. You see, the amount we charged each person, which was already part of the prices of goods being purchased, was actually removed from the selling prices of what was then purchased, making everything cheaper to buy because the fewer buyers were not having to pay the whole cost by themselves. The concept was designed to provide a great benefit to those who actually supported the business by buying the products., at the expense of those that just wanted something to do or a place to pass the time.

Since our project was completed, this SAME principal has made itself known in the wholesale world at the world's largest market for retailers, held twice yearly in Germany. Attendees to the market now pay $35 per day to attend their buying show which was once free and open to all retailers. It takes part of the load and cost of putting on the market for the retail industry back on the very ones who need it and off the backs of those who provide the market in the first place. It's about an equitable distribution of costs among ALL the beneficiaries of the enterprise. This thinking, while revolutionary today, will become far more mainstream as costs escalate everywhere.

We'll always have lazy minds that see only what they think is bad for them in the immediate and miss the true value behind it. I'm convinced that new strategies are needed for retail, as we've known it, to carry on as a way to buy and sell goods in an open market. I think the on-line marketplace is part of that evolution. My own day in retail is winding down but my mind still wants to race ahead to see what the challenges will be like some day, and to try to offer the things I've come to know about it, to those who will devise those new strategies.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Growth... the faster way to die

Today, after thinking about many things connected, and not, I asked myself if what I think about growth is real, smart or even supportable, or if it's just an idea that's rolling around up there and not making much sense. Well, let's try to find out.

The whole impetus for the question is my belief that so many communities continue to struggle with their problems that seem to only get more difficult, because they don't know when they've got it just right. Many forces are at play as a community wrestles with infrastructure issues, finances, unpredictable economic shifts, business and economic volatilities, population changes and demands, political infighting and a particularly difficult one - development pressures. There's even more but this gives us the tone of what affects the community day in and day out. The default, by far, is to believe and accept without reservation, that growth is the Holy Grail of municipal health. Without growth, you begin to die. Well I think that's way too monolithic thinking. Sure, growth is part of the living process and probably is next to impossible to arrest fully but is it an essential ingredient or is it an inevitable byproduct? I think growth takes us closer to death than not growing. Growth becomes a maturing process and that maturation can only lead to decline and death. The slower the growth, the slower the maturation and the slower the decline.

Now, that's not to say that we can simply do nothing to facilitate growth. On the contrary, we need to maintain what's already here and "renew" on a regular basis, as well as when needed beyond that. Simple analogy - an apple tree starts by planting a single shoot. It grows, and eventually matures to a point when it begins to develop blossoms and bear fruit. Of course, it wants to keep growing, but good practice, if you want it to bear good fruit for some time, is to prune, to cut back the unnecessary growth, the DNA driven growth, the growth that uses valuable resources that are otherwise directed to fruit production. Growth makes a bigger tree, yes, but does it provide more or better fruit? Not so according to the apple-wise. So we have the restriction of natural growth and as a result we maintain an arguably healthier tree and produce. We also prepare for the time when we have to "renew" the original tree because it will eventually need too many of the resources to simply continue to live and produce its fruit. That replacement is also a form of renewal and can never be achieved by the growth that was curtailed throughout its lifetime. In fact, its lifetime was likely extended by curtailing that instinctive need to simply grow. Had that growth been allowed to remain or continue, it would have eventually created a situation where the available resources would have been insufficient to even maintain a healthy existence plus ever more growth. So, my point is, growth, while it may be the natural thing to do, may not and likely is not, the best solution for a healthy existence.

A tree can't know about the availability of resources at any given time or in the future, so it simply acts on what is at hand. That means it grows when it can and slows down when things are not favourable. That means an external guidance system is essential to a healthy future. That guidance can determine the optimum conditions for growth and for existence, given the vagaries of its environment. It can also determine the optimum size to which it should grow in that environment. Absence of such guidance assures a return to the simple and natural instinct to simply grow when it can, just in case anything interferes down the road and threatens its existence. So, to guide growth requires assessment of environment and future possibilities. It also means flexibility is an important factor to be included.

I think growth has to be about optimum, instead of maximum. While there may be potential for growth, the value of that growth may be far too little to consider allowing it to proceed. Some growth is needed to replace damage or decay through a variety of reasons and that's part of the assessment process that should be always at the forefront. That's good MANAGEMENT. Management is the key to successful existence, and well-controlled and guided growth. The absence of good management simply allows the uncontrolled forces of nature, the power of DNA, to take over and chaos eventually takes over and tries to overcome all obstacles, using limited resources that would otherwise support a healthy existence.

All of this is a metaphorical way of explaining my perception of growth of a municipality and the community it sustains or attempts to sustain. A municipality is likely far more complex than an apple tree but in the final analysis, is it? A municipality can have its roots in one sole inhabitant at the beginning of its life, and it grows as the necessary resources come available and continue to be so. It can change depending on its environment and its output. The parallel can go on in every way and the results are equally comparable in so many ways. Of course, we can immerse our thinking in the minutae of municipal management and loose sight of the whole analogy but from outside, it remains quite clear and quite appropriate.

One of the most problematic challenges for any organism is disease, that goes for trees and it goes for municipalities. The medicine cabinet, though, is quite different, but there are similarities upon which we should draw to effect the necessary cures. Municipal "diseases" come in many forms and of varying strengths, and cures can be elusive. That's one good reason to restrict the growth that leads to such unmanageable diseases right from the start, instead of letting things grow far enough to require impractical or almost impossible intervention. Restricting growth known to cause such conditions may seem unconventional but given the option, could be the smartest one to choose.

In my way of thinking on this, I see the development industry as the natural, the DNA force behind unrestricted growth. That doesn't make it evil; it just makes it something that needs to be channeled properly, and municipalities have the tools to do that. They don't necessarily use those tools to the level they should in most cases, |I'd speculate, because the "rewards" for restraining themselves appear too lucrative at the time, to decline. The fact that there are always already so many other pressures at play means that any reward that helps to deal with them at the moment are attractive enough to suspend good judgement in dealing with the rewards being offered and their hidden costs that manifest later on. Politicians being the creature they are, today's brush fire is far more pressing than the forest fire it MAY ignite later. The development industry knows this and uses it to its fullest advantage. That's its own DNA, growth = profit = more growth = yet more profit. No amount of medicine will cure that condition, and because its an eventual crippler, it should be looked upon as a disease. A disease without a manageable cure. It's a disease that can only be checked through prevention, not through treatment. It resists treatment like a bacterial infection that develops immunity as it evolves. And it takes an enormous amount of restraint and willpower to keep it in check, but it can be done. It has to be done if a municipality hopes to contain the spread of all its other problems beyond its ability to cope with on its own. As proof, just look at every city in this country, and listen to their pleas for help from bigger government, which ironically has the same weakness choking it into unconsciousness.

The development industry is an essential part of municipal "RENEWAL". It doesn't have to be dependent on growth alone. Renewal can be a far better mainstay of development but it does require more work, more effort, more consciousness, more foresight and more goodwill than greenfield  razing and virgin conquests. Municipalities can redirect developer energies into renewal by making it more lucrative than new development. The fact is, they already have the tools to do just that. They just avoid using them because they're afraid the developers will simply take their money and seek even greener pastures and purer conquests. That has to change, and it will take politicians with a strong sense of right, a longer view and the guts to act responsibly, regardless of the political cost to themselves. We have seen them, just not that often and not long enough to establish a beach-head from which more such visionaries can set the trail for those following to navigate the way to successful communities that are truly sustainable and great inspiration to others as examples of successful management and municipalities that are the most attractive places to live fulfilling lives in every way.

All it really takes is a willingness to see the picture, the desire to make it happen and the guts to see it through. I'm convinced this is more than just a thought rolling around in my head, It's a compelling idea for the well-being of municipalities as their challenges outpace their ability to cope with them.

Hello....anybody out there...hello....

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

a lack of vision eventually results in lower expectations... especially of ourselves!

In times of increased and increasing economic and social challenges, two choices prevail. Work harder and smarter, or accept the apparent inevitable. Governments slip between the two choices the rest of us face, they throw money at the challenge and end up distracting us from the more difficult choice.

We've just been shown a bit of upbeat news regarding the Northumberland Mall, which has languished in what I would describe as a state of suspended animation, particularly since the exodus of the large Zellers store. In a simmering economy, this could, at first impression, get folks excited but a second and deeper look reveals a bit if troubling apparent shift in focus locally.

Let's face one of today's basic truths - the economy has shifted from a local and regional emphasis to one of global scope. When we tend to now focus on and get excited about changes in the retail world, are we relegating industrial growth and development to a secondary stature or importance? Expansion in the retail sector actually translates to jobs that are considered among the lowest grade of employment. Secondly, it also tends to have an impact on the local (and to some extent regional) income levels, and at the same time increases the demand for even more disposable income, something that's pretty hard to count on at the moment. If we subscribe to the theory, as it goes at this time, that keeping spending local significantly benefits the local economy, why have we not experienced those benefits since the introduction of the multitude of national retailers locally? It stands to reason that the lion's share of profits from all those sales actually transfer out of the local economy and that may well explain why we've seen little in the way of benefits here. Bringing in yet more of the same could then only result in similar drainage. I think that the initial wave of such similar development some 13 years ago is the most significant factor in the decline of the central business district that we are experiencing at this time. This decline is of enough depth that the town undertook a plan to revitalize it with the help of Provincial funding. Of course, we're not unique or the only ones in this position but that's beside the point. So, in light of what has been announced regarding changes at Northumberland Mall, what do the "revitalization committees", proponents and supporters think about this development? It can't help but have an impact on what their plan is all about (and I still to this day don't have a clear picture or understanding of what that is).

Sure, we need to "grow" the local economy (as differentiated from the local community) on a number of fronts but we also need to be mindful that we don't put too many of our eggs in such a leaky basket; leaky in the sense that money spent in national and bigger chain retail stores in large part leaves the local economy with little benefit locally. We can't lose sight of the need to keep our major focus on better employment opportunities than retail jobs. Every community in the province is chasing whatever industrial development is coming on-line so our opportunities seem extremely challenging, if not limited there.
Remembering the shift to a global economy, Distribution facilities would be a great sector to develop, given the fact that most of their costs are lower outside the larger metropolitan centres and because of our excellent exposure to the variety of transportation infrastructure we already enjoy. We don't need to chase the big game to be successful. We need to pursue the second-string business opportunities, the less glamorous ones that others consider less attractive and too mundane. They are as important a part of the whole economic fabric as the "big fish" who know how to milk the demand for their favour. Retail, - meh, lets get aggressive in ways others can't. Then we can really get excited about our changes and development.

Cobourg struggles to stay rooted in the past... and is succeeding

Cobourg has a new Town Crier. Yup, a functional anomaly born of the need to inform the citizens of announcements that may or may not affect them in their day to day lives, at a time when there was no other widespread, timely and efficient way to do so, OVER 100 plus years ago!

Fast forward to the 21st century. Radio, television, telephone, email, social media and on and on ...communication is instant, world-wide and super-efficient, and does not depend on physical presence of anyone. Today, we have what the town calls a communications co-ordinator or something like that. You could argue this position actually fills the role of the old-style town crier.

So why do we insist on holding on to such a pointless vestige? There was concern that the new crier would attempt to emulate the one and only crier we've had, and in doing so, somehow diminish the memory of that local and admittedly colourful figure. I would say the best choice would have been to retire the position with all the memories it created and allowed it to be a completed chapter in our history that could not be reproduced to any similar level of recognition. Now, we will likely and unwittingly compare the new to the original and perhaps lose some of the magic that had been created in people's minds if the new performance differs significantly from the memory.

In my opinion, it's unlikely that this position of crier brings people out to events rather than perhaps add some colour to them. Nevertheless, it hearkens back to a time we should remember and understand but not reproduce today. Today is today and has its own characteristics that may some day, who knows, offer a glimpse into our "shabby" way of life as it may be seen some time in the future. Let every era be its own, have its own highlights, dark places and memories to be looked upon in future generations, as with "how they lived back then... the poor saps". Hey, we do it now, don't we?

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Bad, very bad advice can do a lot of harm

absurd: (adj); (of an idea or suggestion) wildly unreasonable, illogical, or inappropriate.

That's the word I would use, for now, to describe what's happening in the discussion centred on the use of Cobourg's harbour. In one of our local newspapers, an individual who we probably can assume to be an otherwise reasonable person, has made the statement "A new plan is being prepared. It is not often that electors can influence the outcome of a new plan by how they vote. In this case they can by checking the position of candidates on ....". For this election, clearly he is advocating to vote for candidates that are against marina expansion, but more seriously, to NOT vote for those that support or appear to support it. That is really,Really, REALLY bad advice.

This is a current issue becoming highly charged with emotions, that for now, has only two options, namely adding slips in a larger part of the basin or leave the basin as is. It is about as far removed from policy decisions as it can be, and we should be electing candidates that demonstrate their aptitude in setting policy because it's their decisions that will guide the future of Cobourg as a healthy community in its entirety. To avoid voting for someone who has not rushed to a definitive decision on the "harbour issue" while they may very well be exactly what the town needs for the future, is complete ignorance, utter foolishness and just plain idiotic.

Earlier I said the harbour issue has, for now, only two options. A good council will explore the issue beyond the two options and if we elect candidates with their minds made up and positions set, it's highly unlikely that any kind of discussion to find a completely inclusive solution can take place. That would be a very bad situation to end up in for such problems that will naturally arise at different times in the next term. Personally, I am far less likely to vote for candidates that already have their mind made up on this type of issue, than the ones advocating for alternative solutions based on a large body of evidence.

This opinion piece is not about which option should prevail; it is about electing people that are able to pursue inclusive solutions to problems that they will, as a council, face more than once or twice during their term. We must not succumb to emotional urges or tirades when we make our choices at the ballot box this time, or any other time for that matter. An informed voter will see that on their own but the advice being offered by one passionate person should not be the determinant in any event. Hopefully sanity and reason will prevail.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Decisions. decisions, why do we avoid them?

The tendency to boil down an election to one over-arching issue, or maybe two the odd time, is so counter-productive to electing a well-qualified council. The media calls it the 'defining issue in this election' and so voters focus on that, too easily and too lazily. Having been detached from events and goings-on throughout the past term, voters have little to go on when choosing candidates to support. Typically they take a personal position on "the defining issue' and go about trying to figure out which candidates are on the same page as they are. Presto! I know who I'm voting for.

Of course, that is pure nonsense. Smart politicians know how to appear to support every side of an issue in one way or another, nevermind what they really think and which options they will support when the chips are finally down. So much for transparency here. Then, what about all the other 'issues' that come before council in the four years they wield power? Having voted for candidates based on only one issue, those voters have no idea what their chosen councillors thinks about other issues. That's when the gripeing starts. as the term progresses, more disappointments emerge and at some point the call for "change" rings out, in response to the failings of councillors to support the positions of the ones who elected them.

Well what can we expect, really? As voters we made our choice based on their responses to "the defining issue(s)" of their election and never ever really got to understand their core beliefs and outlook. Way too much effort. We were too focused on the single defining issue to see beyond it into the next four years. The really frustrating part is that even then, when this all happens, as predictable as day following night, we still don't pay enough attention to stop repeating the same scenario for the next, and next, and too many future elections. The natural outfall is that the savvy politicians know this and play to the net every time, preparing for the next election rather than bringing about the changes they appear to promise during the campaign. They can do that because we're still not paying attention. Ultimately and sadly it ends up being about getting re-elected rather than fixing problems and making things better in some way for as many as possible, something that only seems to happen seriously when the crowd gets a bit unruly from time to time. Of course the public's attention span is miniscule and things get back to 'normal' in short order. If it weren't so downright stupid, it would be really funny, and great material for a sit-com. Fits right into the reality TV madness.

Saturday, May 31, 2014

"simply complaining" is for the lazy and the cynical

Daily, every newspaper and newscast presents some share of voices complaining about something that's being done, directly or indirectly to them, with which they take great and passionate exception. Some resonate more than others, but they all feel justified in their views and positions. The ability to freely make their concerns known is precious, and "priceless", as one credit provider would say. Not much to object to there.

The issue here is one of reasonableness and moral 'rightness'. Lots to argue on that level though. Not everyone possesses or has earned the moral capital to expend on their particular beef. Furthermore, too often, just voicing a complaint stems from laziness, or just plain cynicism, and should be ignored as being just such.

Let's look at elections. Elections empower people with specific viewpoints to apply them to the creation or revision of the laws we are all bound by in our daily lives. That makes those choices critical to our lives. Yet, why do so many eligible voters simply ignore their responsibility in making that choice? So many of those same voters have little trouble crying foul if things don't go the way they want. They should know full well pretty much what the landscape holds once the decision makers are empowered.

Somehow, the lazy and cynical voters, the ones that either can't be bothered, or the ones that don't care enough, or the ones that claim there's no point, or the ones that just don't take the trouble to become and remain informed in order to decide on a choice of representation at the discussion table, still believe they have the unassailable right, and own the moral right, to voice their displeasure with the results of those discussions at that table.

Well, I for one, begrudge them that 'right' and I would deny it to them if it were in my power to do that. But, at the same time, I would exercise that same power to do what I could to provide an environment that holds legitimate promise of improvements. With that option before them, there'd be no room for any of the excuses to be lazy or cynical. In providing such an environment, it still places the responsibility for action, upon the individual and does not absolve them of it in any way.

Of course, becoming informed in order to make a choice is only a part of the whole. Once informed ourselves, we also have to inform our representatives of our views and expectations. Our own inertia causes us to wait for the candidate to come to us, to make a pitch, and we decide if we like it enough to support them instead of telling them what we're looking for. Consequently we're faced with choosing options that can only hope to touch on our specific quests. It's no wonder then that we're going to be left wanting and disappointed in the results. The whole mess is of our own making by not being engaged enough to let our problems, issues and concerns be known by those who have the influence and some of the power to effect the needed results that help the system to function as it can.

The long and short of this piece is simple. Simply complaining is the lazy man's medicine. Offer something more than a critic's wail and you'll have a much better chance of doing something worthwhile. Then your need for complaining won't even have a snowball's chance.

too late to the party...and a nickel short, to boot

As one would admittedly suspect, the OMB has "ruled" by giving its approval of the agreement between the Town and a developer re the Legion condo deal's height proposal. One of the remarks attributed to the member should be a clear indication that the decision was predetermined and that the "hearing" was a mere symbol of public accountability, something it clearly was not.

The member was reported to have said that if the agreement had not been penned, and if the proposal for 6 stories had been on the table, it would have been approved. That statement proves the predetermined aspect of the decision. Without hearing evidence, objections and arguments for and against a 6 storey proposal, a truly impartial decision could not be honourably rendered. Yet, the member did just that by making the statement she is reported as making. Based on this evidence, it's fair to conclude that the "fix was in". Also supporting this suspicion is the Mayor's reported statement that he didn't want to take a chance on the Board approving 6 stories so he supported the 5 storey agreement. What would cause him to assume that 6 would be approved in the absence of the agreement?

This brings me to my point here. The OMB interprets the rules already in place when it comes to adjudicating conflicts in development proposals. The rules are public knowledge and have been publicly approved by Council under the Official Plan review process. It's all about applying the laws already on the books. The only question arises in their interpretation and that's where the OMB has final say, short of the judicial process which is always an option. Unfortunately the resources needed for such a challenge are usually much scarcer to the challenger than the proponent, who can always recoup them from the eventual proceeds from the project. That makes judicial challenges unlikely and the proponents usually bank on that by pushing for the limit-plus. The place where these excesses and abuses need to be stopped or mitigated is at the OP review stage. Sadly, the public has little in the way of forward vision in these matters, usually becoming alarmed only when the proposals come forward, taking advantage of this lack of diligence on everyone's part. Of course, as evidenced by this latest Johnny-come-lately fiasco, by that point it's clearly too late to slam that particular door shut. Anyone who disagrees with that view should, the next time we have an OP review, have a look at who and how many actually take an active interest. Exactly my point.

I'm no big fan of the OMB but I do see that as one reason for their apparent impatience in such cases. That's not to say that they don't have an obligation to listen to all relevant comments and concerns when thay affect the disenfranchised in such matters. But that also does not absolve that same public from its responsibility to remain engaged if indeed they believe they have any kind of stake in the issues they feel drawn to from time to time.

For any of the aggrieved parties to qualify for affected or interested party status in development matters down the road, they need to acquire that status by becoming familiar, to a degree, with the provisions of the planning rules they might come to disagree with at some time. Then their voices will have meaning and likely an impact on the process, which is presumably what they are looking for in the final analysis.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

society has become lazy ... and too dependent on government

"the government should..." is a phrase that has come to exemplify society's dependence on and demand for direction, protection and oversight by those all too willing to provide it, albeit at a staggering and some would say prohibitive price.

Tune in to any newscast, day or night, here or there, locally or abroad, and we are reminded of what the masses want, demand, from their governments. The underlying caveat is that they also expect someone else to foot the bill, usually meaning those that are seen to be the unfairly anointed wealthy, and powerful elite. The masses want government to step in and re-balance the books, so to speak, and redistribute the power and hoarded riches among the more deserving. What escapes them in this quest is that it takes resources, money, influence, to become part of the governing body and only those that already have those qualifications stand a chance of achieving their goals. It then follows that the governing body will essentially protect those assets upon which they rely for maintaining their own positions. On the other side of this equation is the reality that the masses have little to offer in this regard and are therefore likely to hold little sway with those who do. That's not to say that they are ignored entirely but the essential reality in the end is that only the crumbs are available for redistribution while the hope for more is always prominently offered.

Apart from the money and power aspect, the biggest, and possibly the single most difficult challenge that governments face is the utter impossibility of satisfying all the participants in the same space at the same time and to an equitable degree. It just can't be done because, at the extremes, the demands themselves are often contradictory and not reconcilable. That means that when the chips are down, the nod goes to the ones with the greatest potential for contribution to the status quo. The greater their skill in convincing the masses that they indeed have even a hope of getting closer to their demands being met, the ever more secure the entrenched will be in their position of influence and power. The paradox is that the masses look to the powerful to help them get what they want while what they want will have to come from those same wielders of  influence and power. Like that's ever going to happen!

On the infrequent occasion when a member of the masses does manage to elbow their way into the power structure of government by convincing their supporters that things will change, those few quickly come to the unavoidable realization that the battle is no less difficult when waged from inside, that it will be a long and difficult one, and that to continue the battle, they end up engaging the same corrupt tactics that they pledged so convincingly to eradicate. Thus lives the charade.

This perpetual struggle only survives and flourishes because the masses live in hope. What else is there for them to wake up to every day when all they think they can do is depend on someone else to do it for them? Because they choose to be dependent on government to provide for them, they pin their hopes on that arrangement rather than take the initiative to deconstruct that concept. It would be much more beneficial in the long run to take hold and fend for themselves than continue to let go and allow others to set the path. It would definitely be far more difficult to do so but, while filled with uncertainty and fear, the rewards are potentially far more satisfying and liberating.

In the face of such options, those with the means obviously act to convince otherwise by making endless and sparsely fulfilled promises that seem just lucrative enough to suppress the notion that self-reliance has its benefits. By delivering minimally on the hopes they empower, the governing cohort maintains its hold and its opportunity to continue the harvest of resources it needs to sustain this profitable dependency. The seemingly prevailing conclusion then says that the inherent instability of replacing dependency on government with individual effort is too high a price to pay for the hope of future security, however inadequate it has been up to that point. While individual cases and circumstances vary greatly, and faced with a difficult choice, clearly, in the overall context, demanding more while doing less is seen to be more attractive and productive than the alternative.


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