OUT ON A LIMB: We’re in desparate need of a new way of doing things

It’s been an interesting “campaign” already

So, the municipal election is kind of, sort of officially underway.

Although, it’s been underway since June when the Twitter King Sean Smith announced the worst kept secret in Campbell River, that he was seeking a council seat.

Since then we’ve had a smattering of announcements about who is running and who is seeking re-election. It’s been an interesting “campaign” already. We’ve had two ad hoc think tanks come out with philosophical approaches to choosing a municipal government. I’m talking about the Fusion group which proposed a slate of candidates and the Brian Stamp group which just wants you to consider what would make a good mayor. Shortly after writing that sentence, however, I heard that Fusion has dissolved. Good.

Of the two, I preferred the Stamp group’s approach any way. I don’t think a slate of candidates is a good thing. It’s a good thing that it’s unlikely they would all get elected because it would create the undemocratic scenario of a council of like-minded councillors and mayor. You’ve all heard the term “the tyranny of Parliament” I’m sure. It refers to the fact that the parliamentary system in essence creates a dictatorship because a majority can essentially do whatever it wants. Democracy is best served by a minority government.

On city council, we need a diversity of opinions and we need councillors that can tear apart proposals to look at them from every point of view possible. If they all think the same way and vote from one perspective, then ideas are going to overlooked and we’ll get a narrow solution to our problems. This is not the time for narrow solutions. So, sorry, I’m not in favour of a slate of candidates. It looks like we won’t have to worry about it anyway because Fusion has dissolved for reasons other than the viability of the concept.

I do have a problem with the Stamp group proposal too, however. I think it’s a sound idea, outlining qualities that would make a successful mayor. The problem is agreeing on what makes a successful mayor. I just don’t agree that we need a CEO to run our city. That puts the emphasis on economics and, sorry, but to me a city is a home, a place to live. Not a business.

I know that’s bordering on heresy in the current political climate and these times of declining municipal revenues and tight budgets but it’s more important to me to have someone who will create a community that’s liveable. I want city streets that are clean and people oriented. I want places for children to play. Yes, even with an aging populace. We still have lots of families here and thousands of children. The grey wave hasn’t replaced the kids yet. Look after the kids and you create a liveable community – for seniors as well. Safe streets, green space, recreational facilities, parks, accessible waterfront, family-friendly transit.

Which doesn’t mean I don’t think services for seniors are important. There is a tendency in social and political debate these days to be one-issue oriented. You’re seeing that in a handful of candidates debates coming up – Campbellton, for example. They’re good to get thorough debate on important topics but you can’t be voting for candidates based on what they’re going to do about the one issue you’re passionate about. You have to include the whole spectrum of life in a community.

You can be family focused and still want services for seniors. The two aren’t exclusive. And that’s why I don’t want a CEO in charge. All he wants to do is maximize revenues. Nothing against maximizing revenues, I just don’t want a cold-hearted mercenary CEO in charge. I’d rather have somebody’s mom.

It’s interesting how the tax revenue debate dominates city hall. What are we going to do to generate city revenue? We are obsessed with it. Of course, we have to pay for our services from somewhere but if all we’re focused on is cash then we’ll be a cold-hearted community. And I don’t think that’s necessarily the best way to create opportunity.

I’m sorry but I tend to take a theatre-oriented approach to this – i.e., give away all your opening night tickets so you’ve got a full house and let the audience go away excited about the product and talk it up amongst their circle of friends and acquaintances.

What? You say. Yes, give away tax incentives to start up businesses. Tax holidays. Give people such a good deal to set up here and fill the house. Then they’ll tell two friends, etc. Because you know that when people come here, they’ll go away impressed.

I love what Discovery Trekking Outfitters owner Leslie Hanes says in today’s “The Tale of Two Cities” supplement to the Mirror. Her internationally-successful clothing retail business only gets about five per cent of her business from locals. So why does she stay here? It’s simple, the article says, “A deck with a view and quality of life.” I love it.

I’m voting for somebody who wants to maintain that quality of life. That’s our biggest asset.

Get people to live here because it’s a great place to live and businesses will be generated to serve them. As will tax revenues.

So after all this, I hope I haven’t generated what I’ve dubbed a Don Cherry debate. You now, a rant about some out-in-left-field issue filled with bombastic insults and logic so contradictory it’s hard to know what point is being made.

I do like that different groups and various candidates are coming out with ideas and philosophical approaches. That’s a good thing. Keep the ideas coming because we’re in desperate need of a new way of doing things in this city.

 

Alistair Taylor is editor of the Campbell River Mirror.

editor@campbellrivermirror.com