There are a couple small mainstream news magazines distributed for free about our town and they have a varying selection of stories about our urban kind of style: city life. The other day I was drawn to check out the recent doings at our city hall to learn of those tactics that are regularly employed by our mayor and his council. Along with these observations is the reaction of another one of our elected representatives who is planning to leave the scene; just not running for re-election. I’m purposefully not using any of their names because unlike our widely distributed up town papers, this website is decidedly down town. It’s the game of politics that seems more interesting than names.
The news is about property taxation here in our world class city. Having always been a person commanding a very modest income and seeking frugality in life and lifestyle, I am quite naturally astounded at the changes I’ve seen in the city since the 1960’s or so. For instance, many of those post war homes that were built around the west end, out along Broadway to the University have now been renovated and turned from the original of say, $30 to $65,000 simple family places into glossy, designer places that are being snatched up by very wealthy people, some foreign and some locals for in the range of a million or two. Whew! There goes the neighborhood!
So, the city council must also transform itself as a governing body in the political sphere mandated to cope with the stresses this kind of escalation makes on the city budget which must include issues of property assessment and taxation, traffic patterns, homelessness, public services such as police and fire, an epic crisis in drug traffic and addictions among our people. Did any of these people understand when they were elected that they would be dealing with the many complicated challenges resulting from the new conditions caused by the whole steaming mess? Are any of them up to what it will take from them intellectually and politically to make realistic solutions that everyone can live with?
Notwithstanding all the news surrounding these issues, it must be a very big personal challenge to be in government, to be in any position of influence and to grow up enough to actually begin to understand what’s going on; let alone make a difference for the whole diversity of our population, older and young, heritage families and new immigrants, the wealthy and the destitute, the educated professionals and the vast others, the bus drivers, construction laborers, store clerks, teachers, garage mechanics, etc who live simpler lives. And so here we are and so they are sitting in chambers trying to figure it all out using the same old assumptions prevalent in our world.
So how can this actually begin to work better? How can it be that our leaders be supported to learn what it takes so as to accommodate a viable economic base of our province going forward and to make a people-friendly city and province for all of us here? And how can the ‘loyal opposition’ just take down their adversarial stance around the whole debate and work with and for all of us?
Using myself as an example of what present conditions need to be addressed: I am in my 79th year, just a short while ago living in an emergency homeless center which is also a business organization that must somehow manage those who live there, provide basic shelter and sustenance all the while coping with many ladies simply unable to manage because of poor mental health, poor physical health, and circumstantial dereliction. None of this can be easy to work out at any level and yet there they are those staff and management people whose jobs require them to take on the task. The only difference in these people and the mayor and council is the separate roles they play in what may look like a Three Stooges comedy of errors. “Biff!” “Pow!” “Nyk, nyk, nyk!”
There is always a way and when a way is found, there is always a better way for our 21st century kind of city life that really must include everyone at some level of decency and efficiency.
Going in the direction of solutions, there was once a lady seeking to discover how women around the world stayed beautiful. From the questions she asked and the natural elements she discovered, she built an organization known as The Body Shop. Anita Roddick once famously brought forward a very clever and effective tactic. She said: Always take the high ground because anyone who opposes you looks immediately like a fool.
And then there was that rather goofy looking guy who showed up to be very, very smart: Albert Einstein. His words on this subject were something like these: It is not possible to solve the problems of the world from the level at which they were created, it is necessary to go upward and expand your viewpoint.
So, there is a direction to take in the tactics that are presently being employed which can make useful solutions. It is not just about slipping in a little underhandedly a rise in taxes at the last minute before a council vote. It might also take some compassionate listening to those people in our world that we do not entirely understand and might even hold some contempt for when those in the provincial government must come to decisions for multiple billion-dollar projects like the Site C dam in our northern region which will impact the land and people for a very long time, and, do not forget a huge and hugely unpopular gas pipeline project through only two provinces.
If we are only concerned about the numbers, money and the ‘economics’, the how and whether of environmental preservation then perhaps that is just not deep enough nor comprehensive enough; wise enough to make good decisions about how to proceed. What are we missing in our calculations? How are we failing ourselves by just not seeking other wider, considerations? Has there been any kind visionary commitment in our leaders so as not to fail the generations coming after us? The indigenous councils of our past history contemplated the impact of today’s decision on seven generations which is approximately 150 years. Again, if we are focusing only on present conditions, profit or even on some kind of science, then I believe we are missing the point.
Our world already includes everyone so what are we doing to make them all welcome and how may we create conditions that can promote all of us to thrive? I would be thankful to turn all this over to our fine mayor and his city council to see what they might do with some higher values and wisdom.