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

Monday, November 1, 2010

The Election Post Mortem...without any regrets or tears

“Eye on City Hall”

A column of Information, Analysis, Comment, and unfiltered opinion
Bill Longworth, City Hall Reporter
November 1, 2010

The election is over and the people have spoken. I am happy with many aspects of the results and have concerns about other aspects of it.

I ran as mayor, obviously because I believed there were many shortcomings in council actions and in the direction it was taking this city. Had I been satisfied with council, I wouldn’t have run.

In many ways, I feel my campaign set the agenda and tone for the election and in many ways determined its outcomes. Some candidates adapted some of the ideas I had proposed, and no doubt others will be adopted in the future and I will be communicating some of these ideas directly to those elected.

The Mayor’s race is the only one voters are vitally interested in as they realize it is the Mayor who sets the agenda, tone, and direction for Council. Therefore the Mayor’s Platform is important. The ideas of those running for other positions gets lost in the shuffle. Because the Mayor alone gets elected on his platform, council members have a moral responsibility to support the Mayor’s platform in implementing the will of the people. My race for Mayor therefore, gave my ideas the light of day.

My key reason for running was to try to defeat those members of city council who irresponsibly voted to give the city the unwieldy “General Vote” election system not used in any large city in the country. The resulting 70 name ballot made it impossible to know the candidates. This lets incumbents hide in the weeds and get elected on name recognition only rather than service to the community.

Of the seven council members supporting the implementation of the General Vote, only Pidwerbecki, Marimpietri, and Henry survived this election with John Gray, Louise Parkes, and Maryanne Sholdra being defeated and Joe Kolodzie resigning. I also wanted to defeat April Cullen for getting her MBA at taxpayer expense and Brian Nicholson for his general dishonesty, bullying, lack of integrity, and lying about his academic credentials. So success in this objective was achieved.

A classic example of the General Vote’s shortcoming is Maryanne Sholdra’s near win in the election. She was widely recognized as a wasted council seat missing many meetings, often arriving late and leaving early, and absenting herself regularly during meetings. She didn’t seem to understand the issues and her participation was limited to asking questions and making remarks that had already been raised. Despite this, she just narrowly got defeated and in the process beat out Mark Paton and UOIT Business Professor Will Thurber, both of whom have MBA’s that might have brought a business sense to the council table. Interestingly, voters missed on 2 additional MBA candidates in Kevin Brady and Doug Hawkins who would have brought intelligence and business sense and knowledge to the council table.

In our democratic system, “the public is always right” even though they don’t always “get it right.” Sometimes a candidate’s name is more important than their platform. This is especially true with the General Vote where there are so many candidates. Coming first on the ballot like Aker, for example, or having "politically great" names like England or John Henry is a distinct advantage. The poor guy with the handle Esrick H. Quintyn didn’t have a chance even if he was as good as Jesus Christ.

The General Vote system was highly criticized by voters and hopefully the new city council will implement a midterm information program for citizens and then provide an online voting system, supplemented with a mail-in ballot, to canvas citizen’s desires for a return to Ward Voting for the next (2014) election.

The announcement of such a program, along with the implementation of residential and industrial/commercial tax cuts to make Oshawa competitive with Whitby, Ajax, and Pickering in attracting new investment in this community will be an early test of the responsiveness of John Henry’s administration to the wishes of the people. Without these, he will go the way of the Dodo bird following the next election as Nancy Diamond is now sitting in the wings waiting for the opportunity to resume the Mayorship should Henry flounder.

Some have questioned whether John Henry has the strength of personality and intellect to lead this council. Over his four years on council, he has not shown any real leadership, vision, direction, or insight into Oshawa problems. Indeed in this election, he has not defined any real platform except to put all of the best ideas of council candidates on the table to select a new course for Oshawa. I don’t think real leadership is seeing which way the wind blows. He did have a great sign campaign though and was fortunate in having access to Colin Carrie’s Sign List.

In terms of insight into Oshawa problems, John Henry’s answer to attracting industry at the CAW retirees Mayor Debate was: “We have a deepwater port. We’re on the main rail line across the country. We’re on a major highway. We have an airport. We have a skilled workforce. We can build anything and ship it anywhere in the world!”

What Henry failed to see is that we’ve had all these attributes for the last half century and still have a net outflow of industrial jobs. He failed to know that the city has the highest industrial/commercial tax rate in the GTA that scares away industrial investment like a cornered skunk. We are not competitive with Whitby, Ajax, and Pickering where investors would save from $206,000 to $226,000 annually by locating a $25M plant there. It’s amazing that our incoming mayor did not know these basic facts about this crucial problem.

I do commend John Henry, however, on his apparent honesty, integrity, and sincerity and, for Oshawa’s future, do wish him well and pray that he’s up to the job.

From all reports, if we can believe the election materials of successful candidates, we have a number of fiscal hawks elected in Nancy Diamond, Bruce Wood, Roger Bouma, Bob Chapman, and John Aker so we may very well see tax cuts in our future.

Despite what some voters have told me, I had the strongest and most far-reaching and visionary platform of any candidate for any position, and a city lawyer said my platform was “head and shoulders” above all candidates, some have criticized me for running a negative campaign.

I did expose city council’s missteps, mistakes, and misdeeds and over the campaign became aware of the tremendous liberties Louise Parkes was taking with the truth. Her motto “Fair Taxes” did not seem at all consistent with her practice on council in wallowing in the public trough for her own entitlements---the highest expensing councillor, arguing for a bigger office budget to cover her travel expenses, a 54% salary/expense spending increase in the first 3 years of her present term and exorbitant cell phone bill $23 less than the total of 8 of her fellow council members...and felt a responsibility to expose these inconsistencies to the public. I could not stand by and watch her blatant lies fuelled by her personal ambitions.

Many election observers, me included, have roundly criticized two of the newspapers in town for printing their choices for election. These endorsements were simply personal choices not based on any survey or opinion polls and were no better than your judgement or mine. Readers do expect the comments of the press to be somewhat objective and accurate but no rationale for the decisions were made. That leaves open the charge that the papers were trying to influence the results to protect their city advertising revenues.

Oshawa Express correctly chose John Henry as Mayor, but were wrong on 3 of their 7 Regional Councillor Choices and wrong on 2 of their 3 Local Councillor Positions. Only 6 of their 11 choices were right for a poor 55% accuracy reading.

Oshawa This Week was wrong on their choice of Mayor, wrong on 3 of their 7 Regional Councillor Choices and wrong on 2 of 3 of their Local Councillor Choices. Only 5 of their 11 choices were right for a pathetic 45% accuracy rating in predicting the results.

I believe it was unprofessional for these papers to publish this information when it is not based on any scientific and objective polling. After all, it is the people who elect the council, not the press. Hopefully the accuracy of both papers in their general reporting is higher than this.

Clearly neither newspaper had its hand on the pulse of the people. It is unclear how much these affected the election results but certainly it is irresponsible journalism.

All-in-all, the hard work and $4800 I spend on this election produced a good show in a race with a $100,279.20 spending limit. And with this effort and expenditure, I believe I helped to shape Oshawa’s future.

Despite the election result, I’m calling it a “WIN!” I accomplished much of what I set out to do---a win in anybody’s book!

I’ll call my $4800 election expense an investment of a responsible and concerned citizen in Oshawa’s future.

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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