Ward 5 – The Choice

election scrabble

Let’s talk about the Ward 5 race ‘cause that’s where I live, and I have a vested interest. In the ward is the incumbent, Maureen Cassidy, who has served the last term on Council as our representative for Ward 5. Running against her in the election are some people. Notably Randy Warden, who ran and lost n the last election, Charles Knott and Shane Clarke.  What has marked this election across the city, and here in Ward 5, is misinformation, sign wrecking, and anonymous attacks through websites and signs.

Sadly this seems to becoming a norm in London, and I don’t think the media pay enough attention to the trumpifying of our local elections. That said I want to talk about these candidates and who I feel should choice for Ward 5.

For a majority of candidates in Ward 5, there is little difference between the anti-BRT candidates. They oppose BRT without a lot of details. Most say we need to reconsider BRT because of cost, the need for “better” consolation, or that it won’t fit our future needs. Again their clams are light on details and strong on ten-word opinions. The problem though is that Ward 5 residents need the next ten words to understand exactly what their plans are beyond “further discussions or consultations” or “ preparing us for autonomous vehicles” that may or may not ease traffic.

The problem is with these claims, and others that include safe consumption and development is that they don’t have any credible alternatives and are so sparse on details that we could be another decade waiting for any response to growing congestion in London while they discuss and consult. We need action now, not in 2029, on our severe infrastructure and congestion issues. If you want some thoughts on BRT from some leaders with some credibility and experience, then I suggest you read our former mayors ( and outstanding past Ward 5 councillor)  Joni Baechler and Jane Bigelow here on the facts of BRT

About some of the candidates:

Randy Warden is an outstanding volunteer in our community, especially with St.Johns Ambulance and The Canada 150 celebrations. He has given a lot of his time, and his efforts to London should be applauded for this. That does not make his sparse platform and his views on serious issues affecting London very detailed. On his platform page Randy has two lines on job creation, two lines on BRT, two lines on making life easier for families, and two lines on making life easier for families. If you watch the Ward 5 debates you see the same pattern of sparse answers and hardly any details. Randy’s campaign tagline is “leadership you can trust” but it’s tough to do that when there is little substance to his campaign. Randy is a nice guy and a great community volunteer but we need leadership, and a significant part of leadership is clearly articulating a vision and plan for where we are and what we should do. Randy doesn’t do this.

Charles Knott:  I haven’t been able to find much out about Charles other than his campaign website and Linkedin profile. He’s lived in London for some time and went to The London School of Economics to complete masters degree in science. He worked for a bread company and a motor company in customer service, has created a flooring business that supplies Mixed Martial Arts( MMA) companies, and is a manager of a sports clinic. I haven’t found anything about community service or volunteering. Charles has many of the same views as Randy does, though with more words that describe essentially the same viewpoint. You can read his platform here. Again my complaint is the same as I had for Randy – lots of declarations but few details backing up his clams. Charles talks a lot about job creation, and rightly so, but anyone who has spent any time on economic development will tell you that City Councils have little control of job creation. They can create small incentives through development but Councils are severely limited by law on what they can do to attract business to a city. The industrial land development was an effective way Council did this in the last two terms. But it is also important to understand that according to LEDC ( London Economic Development Corporation), who is charged with attracting business to London, says there are 1500 jobs available right now to at great companies. Our problem is we can’t attract and retain the talent we need to fill those jobs. We have a talent attraction and training gap problem in London, not a business attraction problem. How do you attract young professionals to our city? Well, there’s a lot of research on that, and googling Richard Florida is an excellent place to start as is looking at the CityLab website.  I don’t find Charles to be a credible candidate – claims and assertions are fine, but they need facts and details to be believable.

Shane Clarke: I have a lot of time for Shane Clark as he works on issues that are close to my heart. Poverty, mental illness, addictions, and the serious crisis we have in this city when it comes to our most vulnerable fellow Londoners. Shane has only three issues on his platform. Addictions, affordable housing, and snow removal.  I really respect Shane’s commitment to working and advocating with those who are most in need of our attention and focus. Think Shane also has an outstanding character and his care for his fellow Londoners is evident in his work and his volunteering. If my first choice for Ward 5 wasn’t elected, then Shane has the humility to listen and the strength to stand up for his values and our Ward. Check out Shane here

Maureen Cassidy: Maureen has been a long time advocate and volunteer in London especially when it comes to development issues in our ward. Joni Bachelor endorsed her 4 years ago as her choice to replace her, and again this election, and I believe she has done an outstanding job advocating for our ward and major issues across our city. Fiscally she was a part of the Council team that brought in multi-year budgeting and lowered our city debt by 10%. Maureen has advocated and works on issues from poverty, to indigenous issues, to very complex development issues. Throughout she has been consistent, and I believe very effective as a Ward 5 Councillor. I have had my disagreements with Maureen on some big issues, but she has always taken the time to hear me out and at times modify her views if she thought mine were valid.  Have seen her do this with fellow Ward 5 residents as well. She is not afraid to face tough issues and never takes a position for the sake of an easy political win.  I know her to be steadfast, very competent, and above all someone whom you can trust to work for the best interests of Ward 5. Here’s another reason why I support Maureen. She has details to her platforms and facts to back them up. Unlike Randy or Charles, she has more than ten-word answers. I respect that a lot and appreciate the time and thought that went into it. Here is Maureen’s platform and importantly here is the endorsement of some people who are leaders in Ward 5 and London.  I encourage you to vote for Maureen’s re-election as our Ward 5 city councillor because she has shown courage and commitment in the face of adversity and more importantly stood up for Ward 5 while facing it.

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Shattered ( Part Two – Alone In A Crowd)

glass-jagged-egde

We are labeled or we label ourselves:

Visible Minority                             Millennial                 Conservative

Women                                             Addict                        Urban                  

Man                                                 Asian                            Poor

LGBTQ                                            Conservative               Handicapped

Old White Guy                              Unemployed               Canadian

Boomer                                          Progressive                   Fat

Indigenous                                   Artist                               Middle-Class

The list of identities can go on forever. These labels give us a sense of belonging, a sense of injustice, a sense of our place in the world, a sense of what makes us different from others. Identity helps us find others like us, and because we are human, we all want to belong. We are social animals.

But these labels can, and do, move us to exclude people as much include. If I’m a low-income white male who has been told his entire life that he can work hard, go to school or get a trade, I’ll get a family, home, vacation, car, and retire comfortably. When that doesn’t happen, I can feel cheated and look for someone to blame. If I am an indigenous woman who has been told that I’m a drunk, worthless, have heard the stories of my parents taken to residential school against the will of my grandparents, had traditional land stolen and destroyed, then I can feel angry with the colonials who own everything and exclude me.

If I am an immigrant from India who worked hard to bring my family with me, who saved, and studied, struggled, and finally got to a country where I thought the opportunities were greater for my children, landed a job,  can feel proud. But then had my child comes home crying because another child called my child a terrorist while the teacher looked on and did nothing, then I justifiably feel I am not welcome and not wanted. If I am a woman who sees a man raised to highest office for life despite credible allegations of sexual assault or I make less than a man with the same job then, I will rightly feel the world is unjust and that patriarchy is an unspoken law.

Yet despite these real and justified grievances we try to work together, difficult as it is, to achieve greater goals. Government is the greatest example of this. We vote and chose the party or individual to represent our interests at the tables where laws are created, and decisions on where to spend our collective taxes are made. Education, health care, infrastructure, social services, fire and police, environment, zoning, natural resources, business, and a host of other decisions on an infinite list of areas. In principle, these are a collective effort for the collective good done within the framework of institutions.

Institutions are defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as ” An organization founded for a religious, educational, professional, or social purpose.”. So courts, governments, business associations, non-profits, foundations, universities and colleges, cooperatives, all fall into this category of institutions.

But if the institution is organized and led by someone who’s identity does not recognize mine then we have a severe crisis of belief in the goals of institutions. If they don’t recognize the inequalities in my life or my interests, then are they a credible institution? Many religious organizations felt the anger of indigenous communities for their participation in the nightmare of the residential schools. Many left-leaning individuals see the conservative parties as institutions that enrich the wealthy while encouraging a lack of tolerance. Many conservatives feel the left is spending our children inheritance at the cost of paying for wastefulness now.

Our identity clashes with the needs of the greater whole within the framework of institutions.

We often do not have the faith necessary in the leadership of these institutions to moderate our disbelief in the goals they set. So we oppose or disengage. There may be a good historical reason for this, but we have to ask what form of justice or what form of reconciliation is needed to strengthen the institutions that help individuals arrive at a collective action that strengthens, rather than divides us collectively? Is this even possible given the justifiable level of cynicism many populations around the world have? And if it is possible who is credible enough to begin this process?

I want to write “yet despite this I believe we can….” but I’m not sure I can say that right now. I am not convinced that we can come together and reconcile these differences. I friend told me  he believed the only thing that could reconcile us was an existential threat so great that it threatened the entire planet. But I’m not sure this is even the case.

Today I read in the New Yorker Magazine about a United Nations climate report saying that “Ten million more people would be exposed to permanent inundation ( flooding), and several hundred million more to “climate-related risks and susceptible to poverty.” Malaria and dengue fever will be more widespread, and crops like maize, rice, and wheat will have smaller and smaller yields—particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, Southeast Asia, and Central and South America. Security and economic growth will be that much more imperilled. “. All of this because the governments of the world could not collaborate to ensure global warming stays under 2 degrees Celsius this century, despite the global catastrophic results. The individual needs of counties could not be reconciled to the collective good of the global community.

I am sure you, as do I, find all of this heavy to think about and very depressing to dwell on yet, as I said in the previous posting, you have to understand where you are to see where can go. And where we are is complex and changes in the space of moments. Where we are is as individual effects the collective, and all this leaves the mechanism of action, our institutions, unable to meet our needs. So do our institutions need reform or do we as individuals need to reform ourselves first? I’m not sure. But we have to chose because the consequences have left us frozen in inaction in a moment of crisis.

You can read Shattered – Part One here 

In the next post I will talk about religion and business

Shattered ( Part One – The Complaint)

JAgged

I was talking with a Doctor friend of mine recently, and they said something extraordinary. My friend said that the system in which they worked was worse now that it was 30 years ago when they started practice. This lead to discussing the issues with the health system, which lead to the issues with the mental health system, which led to issues with the government, which led to issues with our province, country, & world. At the end of the conversation we were both defeated by the enormity of the issues spiderwebbing out from local to international levels. Defeated by how jagged and broken our systems seems to be.

Another friend thinks this has happened because as individuals we are so concerned with expressing our own opinions, especially on social media, that the institution that generally hold us together can no longer bear the load. There is some truth in this.

But these institutions that drew us together began failing in the 1980’s and through the 90’s – well before the advent of facebook, twitter, and the red stripe of rage that runs through them. We were losing faith when governments, religions, trade organizations, unions, and community organizations became proxies in the war of economics and capitalism, dressed in the robes of politics, that launched when President Regan, Prime Minister Thatcher, and Milton Friedman began their ascendancy. Its a war that continues today and now uses the mask of populism as a prop.

The centre has shattered and the pieces left are so sharp that we cut ourselves by trying to pick them up and fit them back together. Identity politics further shatters what was blown apart by partisan hand grenades. You cannot speak publicly without being labelled with a tag that reinforces your worldview or has you attacked.

In the midst of this we hear the plaintive calls for us to reach back to a more civil form of public discourse. This comes from those who in the past chose not to rock any boats but fought quiet battles in back halls of power.

I don’t think it is possible for us to fit the pieces back together. To rebuild faith in institutions, political parties, churches, the media, or any other organs of society. We can’t do this because we don’t care about reforming institutions as a means to moderate us as much as we care about winning or being right.

We care more about making sure we get our piece of a tax cut. The result is we will not stand up for the poor or elderly than we will act for the addict or the mentally ill or those who feel the sting of prejudice. These may be a cause to add your voice to while in the moment, but to act to change these pandemics in any meaningful way? No. We don’t want to pay that tax or risk the wrath of corporations removing jobs to pay for the mechanisms of well-being.

So the middle class shrinks rather than stand up for itself and instead we complain about property taxes or how much teachers get paid. The middle class is self-involved and self-serving with the result that it dismantlements itself while the 1% cheers. We do this to ourselves using governments we elect.

I have a bleak view of things, and I understand that it is difficult to hear or consider. But you have to admit where you are before you can make any change and “innovation” or “ efficiency” or “going back to the good old days” will not save us. We must honestly see the enormity of our dysfunction before any change can be made and then, even if we do, it’s unlikely we have the will to do anything to change it.

We are, each one of us, shattered on the aspirations of our egos. We demand and demand and demand but only for ourselves and not for others who need our voices added to theirs. The end of the middle class will not come with a bang, but as Elliot said, with a whimper.

In the next post I’ll expand this by talking about personal vs. collective actions.