Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Vecchiato's Voice - Feb 12, 2008 - Looks, Talks & Walks Like A Slate


It must be a slate. That is my feeling from the Times editorial's reference to the mayor's endorsement of 2005 candidates. Choosing to endorse other candidates, as the mayor did, and having a group of taxpayers, South Langley, support you are not comparable commodities.

What distresses me the most with the mayor popping his head up like a prairie dog in Kansas is that he portrays the pacifist, willing to work with others to build a strong community. My own feeling is quite different. I am sure that he works with others if and only if they do what he says. This reeks more of despotism than democracy.

If, in fact, the peaceful community-minded approach was practiced at council meetings, then why are people silenced by having their mikes turned off? It seems to be a way of shutting up what you don't want to hear.

I have to say that I am tired of the razor-edged rhetoric that spews out of that monstrous hall. When a group of us addressed the political aspect of retaining more trees, the mayor's sarcastic rebuttal was, "What trees do they want to save?" After becoming a Canadian citizen, I mentioned this enormous change I'd embraced to our mayor during a council meeting break. He stared at me point blank and said, "Why are you telling me?" I had just been endowed with the right to vote in this country, and my highest level local elected official tosses a redundant question at one of his constituents. How can a leader expect to lead by intimidation? We are not enlisted as Marines here, where degradation is often a military motive.

To further examine the phenomenon of slates and "groupthink," consider a conversation I had with Councilor Ward last year. Although I have nothing personal about most people on council, I was surprised when we were discussing residential development. I stated that it does not pay for itself. He countered that it does, and the topic did not seem open to discussion. Less than 8 months later, he votes to increase my taxes to pay for additional fire and police services. Additions to existing services are components needed when a community grows. Development has 12 servicing components, from sewer and lights to fire and crime protection. The cost of development is astronomically high, but the biggest of the game players manages to make tidy profits, lucrative enough to donate money to the Vancouver Art Gallery and other artistic venues. I am not against philanthropy, especially in the arts, but when I am picking up the tabs for the servicing not covered by development cost charges, then I have to see what a crock of crap this kind of philanthropy is.

And they, and the many people who work for the various levels of government, need to remember where their bread and butter comes from. The mere mention of the word slate seems to raise hackles on the back of many necks. However, the majority of our council seems to choreograph their voting prior to public meetings. There have been some who deviate from this normal practice on occasion, and may have taken the time to consider the issue in detail prior to council meetings. However, most of the time, they are so snowed with reams of paperwork that I doubt there is time to do any in depth analysis. This begs the questions: who is authorizing this snowing of paperwork? Who is running the show here?

Having just watched the primaries in the States where I vote as well, I felt jazzed, as enthusiastic as when Bill and Al won. On that night in 1992, I was at Democratic headquarters in San Mateo, California, and the air was charged with something akin to absolute joy. Having younger, cooler candidates enter onto the political scene offered promise, much the same way that Obama offers hope to those who would like to see change.

So spiral up to a suburb north of the 49th parallel where municipal politics are hot issues because so much power has been delegated to them through the local government act. Local government has been contingent on apathy. It's machine works when as few people as possible get involved. Keep them busy and they won't bother us. Raise their taxes so they have to work more and will be too tired after picking their kids up from dance to even bother. Let them line the cat box with the local papers and they'll never see our Township page or give a rat's ass about the development projects and its long-term effect on their lives.

Enough anachronistic politics. It's time for change.

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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