77% of eligible voters have given us a clear message

Frank Murphy — August 02, 2010
Former City Councillor Diane Brennan contributed the following comment to the blog recently”

“I always found the people who worked in the planning department were professionals whose sole interest was to serve the public interest. After six years on council and two in the gallery, still hold that view.”

I hope to get her to expand on this as I think it’s a key insight into the culture of the institution… Our adversaries as in the good old days aren’t authoritarian monsters (Robert Moses) they’re decent honest well meaning people (that’s how Moses probably saw himself too though I guess). The problem seems to be along the lines of the complacency and mediocrity breed by a system of government that has had any element of opposition, dissent and criticism eliminated from it.

What happens to an individual’s  natural activisim and advocacy once they find themselves “inside the system”?

The lack of Council discussion and debate (I stand by my claim that I’ve never witnessed it: I should be more precise though and say that I’ve never witnessed anything — random outbusts aside —  meeting my definition of debate) is a key question but my concern is at least as much with the structural. I think the Community Charter makes it pretty clear: the “briefing” meetings with staff should not be held in private and secret.

Municpal government is in such need of reform, don’t you agree? 77% of eligible voters have given us a clear message but we’re not hearing it… Society isn’t producing that number, the system is and the institution would be ashamed if it could muster the humility required to step outside that self-perpetuating notion.

Councils will always have a wide variance of qualifications and skills and diversity. The central issue to me is that structurally– unlike the senior levels of government — there’s no inherent opposition function. So like minded people get together in private and reinforce the principles that they honestly feel leave them above reproach: we’re good folks with good intentions so clearly anyone opposing us is unreasonable. We get together often to test these principles among ourselves.

How systemic is the problem? Let’s run up the flagpole the idea of 4 years terms instead of 3. Lets see… who should we ask? I know! The Union of BC Municipalities!