Political Analyst and Observer, Bill Longworth's, Weekly "Eye on City Hall" Columns, as published in Oshawa, Ontario, Canada's Oshawa Central Newspaper

Monday, May 17, 2010

Politics Has Opened to the Masses---Get involved!

“Eye on City Hall”
A column of Information, Analysis, Comment, and unfiltered opinion
Bill Longworth, City Hall Reporter
May 17, 2010

As the election approaches, city politics seems like a war zone with facebook war-of-words battles breaking out everywhere and politicians attacking each other incessantly.

But what can you expect when the politicians have introduced the general or city wide vote which not only robs the various communities of their guaranteed community representation at city hall, but has produced a dysfunctional council by making all politicians competitors with each other for the same vote.

These are functions of the general vote that I predicted when I made a number of presentations to city council opposing the general vote. At that time, I said the politicians would backbite, bitch, bicker, and grandstand trying to grab the press leading to an unproductive and dysfunctional council and large parts of Oshawa would become disenfranchised over time as all of the political representation would come from a few of the richer areas of the city. We now see these predictions coming true in spades.

But the last thing we’d expect is for city politicians to take out their vitriol on voters who want to express their opinions. After all, that is a right we have in this country…right? But the unheard of is happening.

One Columbus resident who has been active as a responsible and committed citizen in working to preserve the rural uniqueness of her community has received the despicable scorn of Mayor John Gray and Councillor Brian Nicholson when she made a presentation to the May 3, 2010 meeting of the Development Services committee of Council. She addressed Durham Region’s planned amendments to its official plan pushing for about 3,000 hectares of prime agricultural land north of the proposed highway 407 to be rezoned for employment and residential use. Ms. McConkey argued this was hasty and premature rezoning of farm land which would quickly lead to urban sprawl. This rezoning of agricultural lands (Regional official plan amendment 128 *Durham Region Growth Plan passed by the Region last June but not yet approved by the Province) involves land mostly already owned by the Development Industry and is favoured by John Gray who is Chair of the Regional Planning Committee. It is interesting that Mayor John Gray gets close to 80% of his campaign donations from the Development Industry, and with so much cash coming from the Developers, Gray may very well be seen as a representative of the Development Industry and not at all of the people of Oshawa.

Interestingly, Queen’s Park agrees with Ms McConkey and, is expected to issue a formal denial of Durham’s rezoning attempts. The Province is not happy with the excessive amount of land the Region wants to earmark for future residential and employment land. In order to justify paving over more green space than sanctioned by Ontario, Durham officials set aside the province's population and employment forecasts and insisted their region would have 25,000 more jobs than expected by 2031.

John Gray, Durham Region Planning Committee Chair, supported by his #1 supporter, defender, and apparent sidekick, Brian Nicholson, seem very defensive about the Province’s probable rejection of Regional Rezoning Plans and unleashed their despicable vitriol on Ms. McConkey at the May 3, 2010, Oshawa Development Services Committee Meeting. You can view a video of their disrespectful and alarming attacks. This video gives ample example of the dysfunction of this council and also the disrespect some city politicians have for its citizens.

John Gray’s and Brian Nicholson’s despicable attack on a concerned citizen is difficult to believe as this kind of disrespect coming from elected officials can never be justified. Their questioning of this citizen debutant borders on the type of hostile cross examination worthy of some major criminal trial…except that the judges in those cases would demand greater respect of the accused.

This behaviour is just one more indication of why Oshawa is becoming the laughing stock of Canada...Cullen Miniatures, MBA's, Stephen Colbert Day, mayor's use of city charge card to pay off Provincial Offences fines, money losing GM Centre, unnecessary demolition of council chambers and City Hall "A" wing, handling of student housing issue, raids on student housing with police and locksmiths to go through student personal belongings looking for leasing documents, Regent Theatre, highest taxes in GTA, demolition of North Oshawa Arena and The Civic because of surplus of ice pads after construction of Legends Centre and agreement with UOIT with their ice pad complex, the Mayor's bright yellow "boy toy" gas guzzling muscle car, pathetic state of the downtown, the lake front/marina fiasco, etc., etc., etc.

We need a change of leadership in this city---and we need it fast to limit the damage!

Facebook pages mounted by Oshawa Citizens indicate a new age of politics is upon us. Not only are many of the pages informative and entertaining, they are changing the face of political campaigning and opening up information and opinion opportunity to every interested citizen Information generation and flow is no longer just the purview of the commercial media or those rich enough to buy media space or those prominent enough like incumbent politicians to get free media coverage. Every person’s ideas and opinions can now be expressed and widely diseminated. And politicians are finding it impossible to hide information or hide behind the press.

This week, for instance, we have learned that Councillor Louise Parkes, the city council rep on the Downtown Business Improvement Area, has been accused by former BIA members of being asked by Parkes to write letters to the editor supporting Parkes. Doesn’t this smell like the supportive letters to the editor disgraced former Conservative Cabinet Minister Helena Guergis directed her political staff to write to newspapers following Guergis’s temper outbursts during airport security checks when she was leaving Prince Edward Island in the last months?

We also learned that Councillor Brian Nicholson who regularly cuts readers from entry to his facebook pages when they disagree with him or correct the "misrepresentations," “spins,” and "lies" he tries to foist on his readers, it has been widely alleged that he has created facebook aliases to allow him to eavesdrop surreptitiously on facebook commentary about him and use these aliases to anonomysly write supportive and "apparent" third-party rebuttals in response to any negative commentary about him that is running rife over the facebook accounts of Oshawa residents, many of whom have expressed the idea that he must be defeated in the next election.

For your entertainment, you could do a search on facebook and find pages entitled, “Brian Nichulsoncullanclarkeydodadee,” “Candidates Behaving Badly,” “Stop Bullying in Oshawa Politics,” “The "SHWA" Dictionary,” “I Love The Oshawa Bunny Ears Man!,” “You know you're from Oshawa when...,” “Say 'NO' to Louise Parkes for Oshawa Politics,” etc., etc., etc.

This listing of facebook pages having to do with Oshawa City politics is certainly not exhaustive. Virtually every declared candidate has mounted both facebook pages and websites.

And more interesting, informative, and entertaining stuff is cropping up every day.

We have entered a new age of politics. It is impossible to hide information from the masses and everyone can have their say.

Maybe this is “true democracy!”…just like those early days in Greece when the earliest forms of democracy emerged---when everyone had their say and town meetings were the order of the day...

Perhaps we have come full circle. The grass roots are becoming more important in how we’re governed.

Now folks…We just have to get out and VOTE! This is our responsibility and an opportunity many people in the world would give their right arm to have.

Be sure to follow Bill’s radio broadcasts, “Eye on City Hall”,
every Monday, 6-9 pm EST, on http://www.ocentral.com/thewave/

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