The decision about playgrounds in local subdivisions was answered – noisily – Monday night by Belleville city council. But the ramifications of that meeting will linger for a while. Maybe quite a while.
But that decision was not the only noteworthy development that emerged from the discussion on the Potter’s Creek and Settlers Ridge subdivisons.
- Jack Miller’s emergence
While it might seem odd to talk about a three-time councillor, one-time prohibitive mayoral favourite and leading vote-earner among councillors as emerging, that’s exactly what happened Monday night.
Miller didn’t emerge as a councillor or speaker; he emerged as a statesman, in the truest sense of the word.
This was not Miller trying to keep people happy, or find some middle ground amidst the conflict. This was Miller taking a stand on principle, and speaking eloquently, passionately and convincingly about why council, having set a precedent, needed to live up to it.
It was the kind of moment many had thought they would see from Miller from a different seat around the council table this year; if he continues to have them, we still might in a few years.
While Kelly McCaw will rightly get most of the praise for bringing this motion to council and fighting passionately for it, Miller was a big reason – maybe the biggest — it passed by council.
- Two shifting votes.
Halfway through the debate it looked like this was could come down to the mayor having to decide one way or another unless Coun. Garney Thompson opted to vote yes, taking the mayor off the hook but costing him the vote.
And it didn’t look like Thompson was going to let the mayor off the hook either.
Instead, both Thompson, who was on the fence, and Coun. Paul Carr who actually said earlier he would be voting no, voted yes, making the mayor’s vote mute.
Now there are many reasons why both men voted yes, although I suspect Miller’s comments about precedent had a lot to do with it.
What is interesting, though, is in the admittedly early days of this council there have been a surprising number of 5-4 votes, and in a fair number of them, Thompson and Carr have been with the group who voted no on this particular issue.
No, that doesn’t mean there is some sort of clique, or cliques. It means people of similar mindsets and positions tend to vote similarly.
What is interesting now is there seems to be a shift in perspectives. Time will tell if that shift is actually real, and how far it will go.
- Jackie Denyes lost it. Totally lost it.
Denyes has always been a passionate advocate, especially for Ward 2, but she seems to have lost all perspective on this issue.
Forgetting for a moment that Settlers is actually in Ward 2 as is Caniff Mills, it’s not like the motion was to pull funding away from one to go to the other. In fact it was to give more money to playgrounds, which was apparently the point of Denyes supporting the Caniff Mills development in the first place.
But instead of supporting council giving more money to these two playgrounds, Denyes was fighting it like McCaw was a mugger going for her purse, to the point that she stepped so far over the lines of decorum that she may never be able to earn that credibility back.
The remarkable thing about Denyes’ comments about McCaw, which I won’t repeat here because frankly they are beneath contempt, is that 10 minutes earlier Denyes had criticized the delegation from Potter’s Creek and Settlers Ridge for inappropriate comments about conflict of interest against Miller. Then she turned around and made the same type of comments about McCaw. At least the delegation could plead ignorance. Denyes has no excuse.
Nor does the mayor, who directly chastized the citizens group for their comments about Miller but made no move to sanction or criticize Denyes.
Frankly, if Denyes does not publicly and sincerely apologize for the comments at the next council meeting, I will have a very difficult time taking anything she says seriously for the next three years.
I have said before in this space and elsewhere that this council has at times appeared divided, antagonistic to each other and borderline disfunctional.
I think the debate on Monday in some ways made all those issues more apparent and possibly even worse. And in some ways, Monday’s debate may also be a big step in a more cohesive direction.
Only time will tell for sure.
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