..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 ...

Friday, April 25, 2014

3 years on ... and where are we ...

... or more to the point, where are we headed? I don't remember a municipal election when the disillusioned didn't call for "change". What I do remember is that the call for change never spelled out just what that change should be, or why it should be the objective. Sadly, I don't expect anything different this time.

However, I have concluded that the "change" being called for is really a change in the personal lives, the prevailing situations that take people through their daily lives, that never seem to make things "better" or somehow get them closer to realize whatever it is they want to have or how they want to live their lives. I also have come to the conclusion that they don't trust any thinking that doesn't follow the established path to which they are accustomed, even if that path only gets them to the same ends they always get to when that's all they choose to support.

In 1996 I ran for a seat on municipal council and came remarkably close to being elected. My campaign was more focused on presenting myself and my platform on a comprehensive website, something that had not been all that common or well-accepted at the time. It gave me the opportunity to elaborate on every detail and explain my reasoning for everything. My opponent made fun of this unorthodox campaign strategy, choosing to rely on the "tried and usual" methods. As I said, I came very close to upsetting that applecart, much to his and his supporters' surprise. In 2010 I again ran for office against the same opponent who, by then, had made part of his platform, the commitment to use social media as an important part of informing and including the electorate in the governing process. I guess he needed to neutralize any benefit I might have earned from the actual application of that forward thinking the previous time or this time.

However, I had already moved on to another idea that I thought had exceptional value in presenting the embodiment of "change". I chose to displace the ever-prolific lawn sign with individual large banner-style signs placed strategically throughout the high traffic areas of town; 8 of them, that's it. Of course I was mocked and criticized for that departure from tradition, and I had expected as much. Folks just don't trust innovation until it's been around for a while, that is to say, when it's no longer innovation. The vocal reactions were not surprising, but I explained my thinking on my election website, holding my example of change and innovation out as proof that I was not going to go about things in the same way that had always produced the same predictable results during the terms that followed. The whole idea of "change" was my campaign message, that you get the same results when you do the same things. If we were ever going to bring about true change, we'd have to change what we do and how we do it, and do it going in right at the beginning. I didn't expect miracles but I did hope to make an impact with that edgy thinking.

 The political junkies and pundits seemed frustrated that I wouldn't "play the game", so to speak. They wanted to go through the same exercises, the same motions as they always had because that's all they knew, and just didn't know how to handle my departure from the same ol' stump race. Predictably they decreed me collapse and declared my opponent as the winner early on in the race. Ultimately, I didn't make enough connections through what I had attempted with my example of what "Change" really entails and my votes were only about 83% of what was needed to win, but that indicated that my message had resonated in more places and ways that my detractors might have predicted at the outset. Of course, that's lost on them because all they really see is who won the seat.

Now three-plus years into the term and 6 months to the next election, if I had the occasion to meet with those critics I'd ask them the question with which I started this piece, where are we now, and where do we seem to be headed? I'd love to know what their answer would be. I'd also ask them what they were looking for this time as they go through their raggedy old playbook and tell us all how it should be done. I think they'll get the same results as they always do, and will end up with the same leather to chew on for the next 4 years. They fear and reject the very change they claim to want by refusing to support it, yet bemoan the fact that the voters do the same as they do. Don'tya just love the predictability of it all?

Thursday, April 24, 2014

masters of spin but... honestly?

(Honourable) Politics is about letting everybody think they're important and part of the process, while always doing what's right for as many as possible. What's wrong with that? ultimately nothing. But what is wrong, is pretending that politics is not what it is. Yet, politicians keep trying to dance like they've got 6 feet. They obfuscate, they redirect, they avoid, they keep using every trick they can think of to pretend what is never going to be the reality. It is in this context that I write the following commentary, in response to something I read in today's paper.

Regardless of the issue or the decision, the reasons supporting those decisions are just as important as the issue itself. It’s the reasons given that promote or erode the public confidence in our decision makers. It’s the reasons that tell us if our decision makers should even be making those decisions in the first place. It’s the reasons that we should use to judge their suitability for office when elections require us to choose the next council of decision makers. I believe forthrightness and consistency are among the important characteristics we should demand.
That brings me to the parking meter issue that has just been settled. Nevermind that council has wrongfully dragged the DBIA into the debate, or that the DBIA even fell for it; nevermind whether I agree or disagree with the decisions, nevermind that this see-saw decision-making keeps reversing earlier decisions, the underlying and now over-riding “reason” given has been articulated by the Deputy Mayor as quoted in your article in Thursday’s Northumberland Today. He states “The people who are paying for parking in today’s environment are the taxpayers, not the motoring public. “
This may be so, but is this a unique situation or one that needs to be changed? Let’s look at another recent decision by the same decision makers, the dog park. Again, nevermind the issue nor the decision itself, but let’s focus on the reasons. The main reason offered in support of the decisions made are that it is an amenity, a facility for the public at large. Well, how many, or what percentage of our local taxpayers have care of animals that will use this facility? It is stated that there will be plenty of parking. I didn’t see any suggestion that there would be fees associated with the use of the park so it has to follow that the entire cost of creating, operating and maintaining this facility will be borne by the taxpayer, presumably the same taxpayer that’s now paying for the parking referred to by the Deputy Mayor. This inconsistency in arguing support for decisions is very disturbing and needs careful scrutiny. It may be late in the game, but every member of Council needs to be assessed with that same kind of scrutiny, particularly the ones who choose to reapply for their seats.
My point is, how do these two decisions and in particular the reasons given in their support, reconcile? How do you explain the huge disparity between them? How do we accept that such inconsistency in reasoning council decisions is understandable, supportable or even acceptable? I know that I refuse to accept such on-the-fly arguments in support of important decisions of Council. Some Councillors may feel unfairly criticized by this but they need to speak up if they disagree, and their open council discussions and their vote should reflect their opinions on every item. That’s how we decide if they should be part of the process when the time comes to choose the next decision makers.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

big water is a magnet few can resist

Cobourg has a harbour, a fantastic harbour, a man-made harbour built for a purpose many years ago. Now I might be narrow minded about some things and perhaps this is one of those things, but to me, a man-made harbour is built for shelter, nothing else. There are naturally occuring harbours carved out by mother nature, often to be found in rather remote areas, and these are perfect for nature's children. Is it a coincidence that man-made harbours are mostly found at the terminus of some sort of watercourse, I think unlikely. Location and purpose are entwined. Do birds, animals, people frequent harbours, do they derive benefits, both mutual and exclusive, you bet. But why does man build a harbour? Is it for the animals or the birds? No, it's for the boats, plain and simple. The fact that animals and birds are drawn to them is understandable and a natural thing, but it is not the intent, not even a secondary one.

With the planning of expansion for the human use of the larger part of Cobourg's excelent harbour reawakening, the non-boating population perceives a threat to their enjoyment of that feature, that enjoyment being a colateral benefit of a boating facility born of one purpose, shelter for boats. It's wonderful that such a fine facility has provided multiple secondary benefits, to be sure, but none of those benefits provides any kind of material support to help sustain the facility they so happily and freely enjoy. It is, in fact, the boating use that provides all of the resources needed to sustain this fine facility. That brings me to the old adage, those who pay the freight call the shots. Freeloading is great if you can do it but it doesn't give you any leverage, and why should it? After all, it's the "taxpayers" themselves that incessantly remind us and each other at every turn, who should be calling the shots when it comes to spending the money they provide. Same applies here.

However, even though I can't support the cause of the naturalists in this argument, I do have a solution. That solution involves putting up the money needed to develop a natural waterfront sanctuary immediately to the west of the boating harbour, bordered on the east side by the breakwater that has been part of the natural environment for some time now, and continues to be the main feature of their argument to maintain this area as a wildlife haven. That area also has central to it, the terminus of a watercourse, Factory Creek, making it a great option and one that would not be threatened by human activity at any disruptive level. Of course the opponents to such an idea would protest at the cost of such a development but this is what's required if their interests are to be addressed, indepedently of the resources provided by those greedy boat-people who want it all to themselves. I don't have a boat myself, and I don't ever expect I will, but that doesn't mean I think they deserve any less than what they are willing to pay for as well.

Our excellent harbour is a boating facility, not a natural one, not a wildlife sanctuary, a man-made garage for boats, plain and simple. The fact that things have evolved over time due to fluctuating and temporary changes in use and need, doesn't profer upon it, a special status to which it is not suited in the final analysis, and which it cannot sustain itself through the non-existent contributions of its secondary beneficiaries. Better to plan for purpose-driven uses for our entire waterfront than attempt an integration of incompatible uses that would always find fault with each other and never truly achieve a harmony of coexistence that a great waterfront has the potential to provide.

Monday, April 21, 2014

extravegance is not a virtue

Ok, so while I condone taxation as a means to a beneficial and useful end, I don't support wasteful extravegance in its name. That's what has happend in the dog park saga, at least as far as I'm seeing it. Council has voted to spend a hefty amount of tax revenue on something they needn't have, at least not to the extent they chose. There were enough alternate choices at hand that would have achieved as much for far less. The ultimate affront is that these are sunk costs which can only be 'retained' in some way as long as we spend yet more each year on yet more sunk costs. In the end, whenever that comes, those funds will bear no permanent fruit, as equity, much like a car or building lease. Leases make sense under clearly definable circumstances but this is not one of those qualified circumstances. We are using tax revenue to upgrade someone's private asset, one that they will retain and benefit from at some point, at the expense of the taxpayer. This is the type of deal everyone privately wishes for but seldom achieves. It seems that the pressure to solve the dog park issue before the next election campaign was great enough to cause such a lapse in good judgement in those corridors of local power.

I consider this to be a good example of bad decisions and mis-management. If this is the quality of diligence and decision-making we get from a part-time Council backed by a comfortable buraucracy, I'm going to reverse my stance on retaining consultants in every money and infrastructure question that comes before such a Council for dispatch. Either that, or a thorough shakeup is in order here.