Here is a hint at exactly how bad – how dysfunctional even – Belleville city council looks these days: in the past week several people have asked me, with varying levels of seriousness, “Aren’t you glad you didn’t get elected?”
While I don’t think any of them actually think I might be glad I didn’t get elected, I get the point, which is not so much why would anyone want to be a part of this as much as it is how can anybody be proud to be a part of this.
To mash together two descriptions and thereby eliminating the obscenities in both, this has become a cluster-show.
And truth be told, the recent blow up between Jackie Denyes and Kelly McCaw isn’t the spark, it’s the explosion, one that has been months in the making.
Unfortunately every time it appears there might be a glimmer of hope for this council it gets wiped out faster than the Toronto Maple Leafs playoff hopes each year.
In fact, the truly scary thing about this council is not that there are problems but that they seem to be getting more and more firmly entrenched.
Let’s start with councillors behaviour toward one another.
Denyes comments to McCaw were not the first time member of council directed comments that were pointed, edgy or even nasty and mean spirited; these were just the worst.
And here is the problem now: Denyes was wrong and should have apologized, despite the ruling Monday that she didn’t have to.
I know she was wrong because weeks earlier, when a delegation made similar comments regarding Jack Miller and a conflict of interest, Mayor Taso Christopher told them they were wrong.
And two weeks ago, just before she accused McCaw of acting in a conflict of interest, Denyes criticized the delegation from earlier for accusing Miller of acting with a conflict of interest.
What’s sauce for the goose…. if the delegation, who really had no way of knowing better, can be chastized for accusing a councillor of acting in a conflict of interest, how can a councillor doing the same thing not be chastized?
More importantly going forward though is the fact that Denyes clearly believes she has done nothing wrong. Had Christopher not shut her down, she would have actually gone out of her way to rebut claims she was acting inappropriately; in fact, she told The Intel’s Jason Miller she had nothing to apologize for.
If Denyes honestly wanted to act in the best interests of this city and this council, if she cared about how this council worked going forward, if she were a leader instead of, well, not a leader, she would have apologized already.
In fact, she should have spared the mayor and council any of this grief by apologizing the moment McCaw asked the mayor for a ruling, if not before.
Instead she has sent a clear message to at least some of her fellow councillors: don’t cross me because I don’t care what lines I have to cross.
I say some, because what has become painfully clear watching this council is that it has become firmly set in three distinct cliques, two of which are butting heads and a third whosee members have been reduced to keeping themselves from getting firmly entrenched in either of the other two camps.
While this third group really hasn’t established what it’s going to do yet, there is a faint glimmer – you kind of have to figuratively squint your eyes and tilt your head at a funny angle to see it – of hope in not just the presence of this group but the fact it may be growing to the point where it is almost possible to say the three cliques have three members each, meaning they more or less cancel each other out.
But the real hope lies in the realm of “what if?”… as in what if members of the other cliques – maybe even one from each – moved over to this “non-partisan” clique?
That would make this new group not just the arbiter of disputes between the other two cliques, but the de facto government: the group that sets the agenda, makes the decisions and ideally moves the city forward instead of keeping us in neutral.
Of course, to quote that famous literary philosopher Ben Parker, “With great power comes great responsibility.”
But right now, no one seems to be taking any responsibility for anything. Unless that changes, we haven’t seen the end of the kind of cluster-show we saw earlier this week. In fact odds are it will only get worse.
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