This came over my desk today
Date: November 14, 2011 4:31:29 PM PST
Subject: Municipal politics
Caution: political musings re. Victoria Civic election ahead. Please forgive if this is not of interest (or if you are not in this municipality). I feel strongly on the subject and am prompted to do what I can.
We are a week away from a municipal election. Of all the levels of government, municipal government affects most people, most often. Here in Victoria I have been very disturbed for a long time about the direction our Council has taken us. In my opinion there has been little genuine support for issues I car about: poverty, heritage conservation, vibrant arts and culture, the environment, wise spending and citizen participation. The last three years have been the worst. We have had a council that pretended to consult on important decisions, but had to be forced to give citizen's any say on massive spending on a new bridge and squandered tax-payer dollars (and plenty of them) hiring a communications team to 'manufacture consent.' They succeeded in manufacturing that consent, through every trick they could dream of... from a confusing referendum question to ubiquitous signs (all paid for by us.) I resent that. They also lied about a determination to preserve an important rail link on the bridge.
We now have a mess. In my opinion the ghastly sight of the raised Johnson's street railway bridge these past several months is nothing but an 'elect me' sign for the present city council - desperate to demonstrate the wisdom of their leadership on this issue. That rail bridge was determined unsafe for trains only - it is viable for pedestrians and cyclists and should be lowered. When this council used the safety and comfort of cyclists to press for a new bridge... and then forces them to navigate the scary car bridge deck. Sorry - that's plain hypocrisy. And then, again without public discussion, commits to an LRT system costing nearly a billion, designed to make Wal-mart the central hub of Victoria? Why should Victoria pay for that, when it completely jeopardizes our own prosperity? Come on. How bad can this get? Probably much worse.
Many decisions by this council have been made in secret without public disclosure or information. Citizens have had to go to the frustration and expense of filing Freedom of Information requests in order to stay informed. The Open Victoria campaign documents that 31 of the past 32 Council meetings have entered into 'closed session' where the public is excluded. This should be only a very rare event, as with most nearby municipalities.
This is supposed to be a progressive Council. That is not the kind of progress I seek.
We have a chance to send a message, to stop this disastrous and costly approach, to move towards a vision arrived at through genuine input and consensus. Personally I 'd like to see a Council that presses all levels of government for genuine action to end poverty and homelessness so that the families, addicts and the mentally ill receive the attention and assistance they need; that invests in a badly-needed arts centre; that recognizes and protects heritage structures, bridges, trees and environments; that makes genuine citizen participation a priority; that declares Victoria a smart-meter free zone; that works with large and small business, development and communities in a balanced approach.
I like the questions mayoral candidate Paul Brown and his Open Victoria team have posed and answered on their website: www.openvictoria.ca. Check it out (under City Questions and answers).
There are also other good candidates running for Council. Let's retire the majority of this current council and bring in some folks with new energy, who aren't afraid to have their own opinions, who are prepared to ask questions and think for themselves, who will stand up to the bureaucracy and staff if need be - and act on behalf of residents, tax-payers, citizens. Things have gotten out of whack, I'm afraid. As others have noted, now we have Council using tax-payer's money to sell the bureaucracy's vision to the residents. It's supposed to be the other way round... that the Councillor's are our representatives, representing our interest at City Hall.
It's time to put party allegiance aside, at least until the party in question demonstrates loyalty to its purported ethics and values.
Those are my thoughts... Thanks for reading. Please vote and consider how you will vote. There is so little genuine democracy left in our world. More and more decisions are made by those who represent private rather than public interest. We need to fight for democracy - for wise decisions that benefit the electorate made by elected representatives that genuinely represent us. The municipal level is a good place to start.