“Eye on City Hall”
A column of Information, Analysis, Comment, and unfiltered opinion
reprinted from Oshawa Central Newspaper
Bill Longworth, City Hall Reporter
January 31, 2011
There are a couple of Oshawa City Hall topics receiving coverage and comment in the media and considerable criticism in the social media this week.
First is the appointment of a replacement local councillor for the disgraced Mike Nicholson who refused to be sworn to council after winning a seat in the election, an occurrence that undoubtedly could only happen in Oshawa, and in two elections in a row in Oshawa--- “Believe It Or Not!”
This is so bizarre, it could probably be featured in the Ripley column by the same name for those old enough to remember the syndicated newspaper cartoon panel which pictured items so strange and unusual that readers might question the claims.
Anyway council deliberations for Nicholson’s replacement will take place at a February 3rd Special Council Meeting and should be great fun for all who want a good night of free entertainment and a night of democracy (or not) in action.
Council has decided to appoint rather than call an election to fill the vacancy so some favored son or daughter is going to be gifted almost four years of part time employment requiring approximately 10 hours a month at a salary of approximately $300 per hour (1/3 tax free).
The lucky recipient will also be placed in a “shoo-in” position for election in the regular municipal elections in 2014.
The idea of appointment, and the appointment process itself, has generated giant Facebook debate by the chattering classes on both the pro and anti appointment sides of the question.
Of grave concern to some is that the right to be a candidate is contingent upon being nominated and seconded by a council member. This has led some to observe that, while candidacy in a regular election is open to all, is non-political, and is automatic upon applying and posting a fee with the city clerk, the appointment process chosen by council is more akin to council opening up its arms to consider only “friends” into the club and is therefore seen as cronyism and nepotism.
In supporting his successful motion to consider any interested candidate nominated and seconded by a member of council, John Aker stated, ”Everyone (every politician, he meant!) will be able to bring forth a candidate. It satisfies democracy. No one (no politician, he meant!) is excluded.”
So democracy we learn is about giving politicians the power to select council members, not the people. Hell, you learn something new every day! There are rebellions occurring today in Tunisia and Egypt by citizens who oppose that view as well as civil unrest in many places in the world where the people are too repressed even to rebel.
The process of requiring all those considered for appointment to be nominated and seconded by a sitting council member makes politicians themselves the gatekeepers of who can be considered and this is a very dangerous precedent.
It is however, the distinctive mark of dictators and despots worldwide who bestow their blessings on the chosen thus insuring continuation in perpetuity of the beliefs and policies of those in charge. Hell, they'd never appoint someone with new ideas who brings new or contrary thinking to the club.
The other danger in City Council’s process is that the names of those interested in the position is secret and only the names of those nominated will be made public. While citizens will not get a chance to vote, they will not even know who expressed interest in the position, unless they are nominated, to speculate on reasons for council’s choice.
The politicians have turned down a by-election because of the cost. But hey! There is a cost to every election and so should we throw out the idea of democracy to save money? Maybe dictators are just efficient cost savers!
As astute Facebook writer, Tom Mitchell stated, “If Mayor John Henry really thinks that money is the issue in filling the vacant council seat, he should hold an auction. Get a grip your worship!” Mitchell continued, “Politics isn't the office furniture biz!”
In terms of appointing rather than electing politicians, I’ll never forget a young guy I met whose Chinese name translated into English as “Red Star Rising.” He had reported to Shijiazhuang, the Capital City of China’s Hebei Province where I worked, to have his Assignment as Mayor changed to another city. At the time, knowing a little bit about Democracy and the Electoral Process in the free world, I was a little surprised to see politicians being directly appointed by a government. But now I know you needn’t go all the way to China to witness this phenomenon. You can see it right here in Oshawa.
But anyway, make sure you skedaddle down to city council chambers for the special meeting on Thursday Feb. 3 if you want to see all the fun. As with other meetings this year that might generate considerable public interest, this decision will be made on a night when Rogers Cable does not televise the event....All in the interests of non-transparency and non-accountability of course!
The second event of interest this week is Mayor John Henry’s infantile publicity stunt to hightail it out of Oshawa in a jump seat astride a Mackie’s 24 wheeler Moving Truck to various Golden Horseshoe Mayor’s offices and council chambers seeking support for Oshawa’s opposition to the Provincial Plan to terminate construction of the expanded Highway 407 at Simcoe Street.
The 407 issue is one that John Henry didn’t mention on the campaign trail so it appears he is a Johnny-Henry-come-lately to the cause. All of the considerable public interest so far has been generated by the superb leadership of the issue by Columbus resident, Rosemary McConkey. She has organized bus protest groups to Queen’s Park, has organized extensive sign campaigns, has generated media coverage, and has brought in many prominent speakers and politicians, even MP’s and MPP’s and the Provincial Leader of the Opposition to focus attention and interest on the cause.
And while many issues simmer in this city with little apparent action, our mayor is now hopping on McConkey's 407 bandwagon and cavorting around in a giant moving truck with prominently displayed, “Mackie’s Moving,” emblazoned on the side to chat with Golden Horseshoe Mayors and Councils. They must be impressed!
I wonder whether Premier McGuinty would have sprung to attention in Peterborough recently if he’d seen Henry jump out of the moving truck to greet him?
Maybe use of the Moving Van was symbolic.
During the campaign, I spoke to a number of people in new housing subdivisions north of Taunton who reflected to me that if they’d known about the enormous taxes here, they’d have never come. And the high taxes have decreased their house values below their outstanding mortgages trapping them here. If they could afford to move, they would, I was told repeatedly.
So maybe Henry’s use of the Moving Van was symbolic of this widely-held sentiment...even Henry is grabbing a moving van out of town!
In one report, I read, in response to criticism of being “anti-green” in burning all the gas in the giant rig rather than driving in his car, Henry said, “The truck was going past St. Catharines anyway and so I just hitched a ride.” There was no report on how he was getting home---the bus, hitchhiking, or helping to unload the Mackie’s Truck and then catching a ride back in the empty rig.
While it is common for municipalities to get their ideas supported and sanctioned by other municipalities, and numbers of such requests appear on Oshawa City Council Agendas every council meeting, it is extremely unusual for busy mayors to have the time or interest to make personal representations at many out-of-town council meetings. Mayors who do this either have time to burn or get an image boost from such public appearances....and John Henry might need an image boost after spending 20 years driving around in a truck to pick up office equipment for repair!
Maybe with all these meetings from Cornwall to Windsor, Henry is hoping to bolster his image and buttress support for a run at some higher office. LOL! If so, nobody best see him scamper out of that 24 wheeler!
With this PR stunt, it is obvious we have a mayor more interested in PR than substance. As PM Harper's conservative plant in the city, he is following his leader well....no substance, no action or leadership here, but flying around the world playing the big shot while looking for photo ops. Henry is learning well at the hand of his master!
With this Mackie Truck antic, Henry is continuing as a mayor of image rather than substance.
Anyway this image of Mayor John Henry jumping on the Mackie’s Moving Truck has sure enough generated tons of publicity for Mackie’s.....and tons of ridicule for Oshawa!
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