Secrecy, incompetence or secretly competent?

Andru McCracken, Editor

By Andru McCracken, EDITOR


Is there trouble behind the scenes at the Village of McBride? Last week we shared with readers that the mayor had been censured by council. We don’t know much about what is happening behind the scenes, but we know enough to suggest that council is taking action against the mayor based on actual events. I also have a good sense that the mayor is not bent on abusing his power for gross personal gain… he’s just new. He is brand new to municipal politics and even in casual conversation will tell you he doesn’t much understand why things need to be so complex in the village. If you are looking for an explanation of why things are ‘a bit rocky’ could it be as simple as that? And even if they are ‘a bit rocky’ is it really so bad?

In defense of the rules
It may seem in a village as small as McBride that things don’t need to be done correctly. Rules are for the metropolis, right? Wrong. In a town where a quarter of people might technically qualify as a relative and another quarter might be close family friends it is important to follow the rules set out for making decisions. It is important that council decisions are the result of discussion and not the impulse of one person.

Council, in times of emergency or great strain, can be a nimble decision maker. Having five minds in a room will make better decisions than just one. Every time. Rarely should the mayor take decision making into his own hands, and then, if he’s in the right and made the right choices, he should welcome censure afterwards.

Residents in the right
Online, citizens of McBride are thinking and talking about what they can do to get and keep the village on the right track. One of the common threads of concern is how much is done behind closed doors. Generally people want fewer in camera meetings and more done in public and they take the number of closed door meetings as a sign of the relative health of the council. I’m of this same opinion, but intellectually I know it’s wrong. I’ve been there. I know what needs to be handled in camera, and more damningly, I know why. As a journalist, when I confront secrecy I instantly recoil and my gut always tells me something is afoul.

But this ‘gut sense’ is wrong.

There is a lot that must be decided behind the doors for good reason. Violating these protocols can come at great expense.

Trust
In the same way that there is no requirement to believe that the sun will rise tomorrow and that the world will carry on, you don’t have to trust that the items dealt with in camera are both appropriate and being handled well.

But it makes it much easier to sleep.

If your chief beef with council is that there is too much done in camera, you could do some reading of the community charter and cases where other elected people have been censured (because they severely screwed things up) for violating their oaths of office.

Double Trust
Just taking this a little bit further, it is completely possible that Mayor Eugene Runtz has broken his oath and his duty to other councillors in good faith and for good reason.

What to do about it all for the benefit of McBride and the harmony of the universe?
I’m not advocating for a weak uninformed populace, but it could be time to cut council and the mayor some slack.

One online commenter, wise for her young years asked: What can we do differently as a community that might have a better result?

I know a secret method that has rarely if ever been tried in the history of democracy: gratitude and encouragement.

Encourage council to do their work, to speak up in council, ask questions and make good choices on behalf of the community. Thank them for what they’ve put on the line.

Encourage the mayor to do his job. Thank him for working on your behalf but encourage him to learn how to do that within the rules and to engage his council and use their wisdom as well as his own. His is a very important job. I encourage him to take his censure as proof that he’s showing up to work, even if he hasn’t quite got the method down.

The mayor and council have just started their journey together two years ago, there are two more years to go before there is an election. What’s left? Learning to work together. Censure seems like a terrible thing and it can sting personally. I trust that the mayor of McBride, thinking about the people who elected him, will take it to heart and imagine how he can work with council to achieve good things for the village.

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