Sunday, January 13, 2008

Vecchiato's Voice - Jan 13, 2008 - Civil Transparency - Help, Participate & Advocate For Political Process Change In Langley

Harper's Editor Lewis Lapham once wrote that in a democracy, government stays visible; citizens lives stay invisible. Of course, he was referring to the draconian measures with the Patriot Act and the government's unbridled ability to spy on citizens without good reason. Although the events that triggered such legislation are worthy of action, the Patriot Act has become a blanket permission slip for government to use or misuse it.

Lapham's observation, however, points to a key issue in Langley politics. I know it seems like an incredible extrapolation to go from 9/11 to local politics in this once rural community. However, democracy is democracy, and the assertion of government's visibility is the mutual issue.

A few township constituents met early last week to inventory viable issues that may become points to ponder in this election year and to air our concerns. However, the meeting was planned before Kent Spencer's article in The Province appeared, and the article itself just exacerbated some trying situations, or perhaps gave evidence that the lack of government visibility is not only the nightmare of paranoids, but a reality.

My own personal dilemma with this continuous "in camera" meeting stuff is the pattern that the secrecy takes. Having been active in the 32nd Avenue gravel pit issue and the botched Brookswood Tree By-Law, then hearing from Pacific Land Group who's contracted with Matcom to fill 18 sites, it seemed that staff and council--or any parties aware of plans for such an extensive contract--shouldn't be hiding behind political doors. The most contentious gravel pit is right in a neighborhood with a school, residents, firehall, and also is accessible via Noel Booth. The decision makers who meet privately and don't share their agenda at taxpayer's expense, remind me of some sort of anachronistic Divine Right of Kings, or perhaps the Church before Vatican II when Catholics did not read the Bible.

Regarding the same issue, I was told that there was no public input on Parks. And I ask, Why?

A number of similar issues have been pointed out to me and others, and Kent Spencer's column was rather like icing on the cake. So how do you promote change from within your own community?

The best thing I can think of is get a group going. Not a selective, private group, but one that is open to people who'd like to see some alterations in "business as usual." If you're happy with the status quo, don't bother meeting. However, a level of frustration rumbles among a lot of people who live here, and whether staff is running council or council running staff, I haven't a clue, but the outcome doesn't work within my own expectation of people who are supposed to serve the common good of the community. I believe each reader should test how current affairs resonate within, and if you find an alarm bell going off, or a case of severe cynicism rearing its head, you might be a viable conduit for change. The door is open for any residents who would like to see some change in the process, so do not hesitate to email me at or telephone 604-533-0173. Even if you choose not to, each of us should ponder, "What do I want to see in my community?" before dropping anything in the ballot box.

The issue of transparency, which has become front and center, should be a clear warning to anyone who cherishes democracy. As an English teacher, I have the opportunity to analyze and read 1984 over and over again, and it's scarier than anything Stephen King could dream of. Remember the slogans? IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH, FREEDOM IS SLAVERY, and WAR IS PEACE. The principles of double speak, and the idea that keeping people ignorant seems to be an asset in today's manipulative world of politics, and it goes along the same lines that people get shut up because they jeopardize authority's option to, well, exercise authority. There is some truth to the matter that decision makers prefer constituents who are glued to the TV watching "ER" or "Friends" reruns. Opening dialogue in the community is perhaps what is needed. Most everyone has an opinion on what they feel about local government, and those who put forth effort write letters or meet with others obviously want change. Changing the TV channel with the remote doesn't count.

Cathleen Vecchiato has been an outspoken environmentalist for many years. She is a very well recognized champion of the environment and a community activist in Langley as well as in other adjoining communities. Cathleen formed and leads the Langley Conservation Network. Editor-LFP...

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