A regular reader of Babel-on-the-Bay admitted the other day that he was not interested when the subject of the day is Babel. He likes the description of Babel as a one-pony town but he claims that it is just not an interesting venue for political discussion. Despising the local Conservative MP is hardly unique in his estimation. He lives in Toronto and he ignores that city council. He probably voted for Rob Ford but he keeps it quiet. What he does not realize is that with his attitude, he is in fact encouraging the corruption of that government.
We have to give a damn. We have to watch what is going on. To give do-nothing assent to incompetence and indolence and chicanery means you will get the corrupt kind of government that you deserve. And in Babel, we have the conditions that breed corruption.
We lack the important safeguards such as a strong and knowledgeable news media. Between the TorStar-owned grocery flier wrap and the poor relation of the Toronto Sun, there might be one and a half real print reporters in this town who are grossly underpaid and expected to spend their time writing obits and editing information on pot-luck suppers and other coming events. The local television station provides secondary runs of shows for the CTV network and the local Rogers cable station seems to have difficulty in distinguishing between reporting news and making news. And what people think of the local radio outlets is best left unsaid.
Well-funded and interested ratepayer associations are key to making citizen voices heard by council. The only effective one in Babel was euchred recently when it failed to support its own candidate in an ill-timed by-election in its ward. It did not even seem to know the business in which the winning candidate was involved.
Citizen participation in council committees can be an important source of two-way communication but not in Babel. Those bringing ideas to the committees or directly to council have their ideas brushed aside without semblance of consideration. Even if the petitioner makes it past council, the city staff will bury the upstart’s ideas forever. One of the really clever ways to manipulate the situation with a really persistent idea is to bring in independent consultants who will report exactly what city staff wants to hear.
Oh yes, you thought that the mayor and council were your voice on council. Not in Babel. The city staff manage this city the way they want, and you should not forget it.
Copyright 2013 © Peter Lowry
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