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Honeymoon

I had so many ideas for my column this week that I actually struggled with what to write. My last column regarding our relationship with the County certainly generated a great deal of discussion. Mostly on the relationship with the County and my position in that regard, but also because people were trying to play the "who was Friel talking about" game.

My comments regarding conspiratorial thinking and game playing started many people trying to get me to name names, "It was Councillor X right? He/she is the most paranoid person I have ever met; everything is a conspiracy."

Well, it wasn't really meant like that, sure I could highlight those individuals who are most prone to see conspiracy at every turn, the individuals who actually lose sight of the greater good in their never-ending quest to muck it up in "alleys of power" -- but to what ends? I would much rather focus on what needs to be done and work to get there, than stopping to play games along the way.

But ya gotta know -- Council's Honeymoon is definitely over. That isn't a bad thing really, the political honeymoon is more of an artificial social construct than it is a measurable gauge of Council's activities and intentions. This does not have to translate to a breakdown of decorum in Council -- well, I should qualify that it doesn't "necessarily" translate into a breakdown of decorum -- because some people view decorum as a decoration and think that the colour of the drapes should change to meet their mood.

I say this with humour, but don't mistake my mirth for a lack of seriousness with the issue, because, trust me, I am most serious about the need to maintain the decorum of Council, and the need for us to move past petty interpersonal issues to remain focused on Brantford and what is needed for the people of our community now and in the future. But a little levity goes a long way to keeping us focused.

Intelligent, focused public debate can be a thing of beauty. When people with good minds and good hearts come together to debate conflicting opinions with a resulting action plan on the line, it can be a joy to behold. This is the reason I entered politics and this is the reason that I returned.

During the election campaign I was interested to hear how many people at the doors commented, and how often it came up in debate, that the Mayor should Chair all council meetings. "We elect you to lead, you lead as the Head of Council."

Other members of Council heard the same thing, and it is why we advanced the concept -- the will of the people. From a personal point of view, I have to tell you, that sometimes I long to be around the table, mixing it up and functioning without the constraints of the Head of Council.

I view Council as a Board of Directors for the Corporation, and that is just as prevalent in our decision making as our role as a political body of elected officials. It is hard to maintain an understanding of the duality of our roles, and it is far too easy to slip into the old ways of politicking before practising good government.

We are often asked in government, why can't you act more like a business? Candidates run on making government more business-like, and this can happen -- if we are allowed to let it happen. But the reality is, when we make business-like decisions, people are quick to return to politics to assuage the short term reactionary instincts of the few.

Taxes -- not actual taxes -- but the word as a blunt object for bludgeoning opponents, has already made it's way onto the floor of Council. Self-professed tax-fighters stand up and rail against all things tax, relying on the majority of Council to move the agenda forward so that in the end they can debate, but don't have to vote in favour of what is decided. To each his own I say.

My position on taxes is perfectly clear, as highlighted in this column numerous times over the past year. We do not need to increase taxes to ridiculous levels, if we look at the process as a matrix of managing ratepayer needs, creating quality services with measurable value, and manage an understanding of where we are to where we want to go, while never forgetting how we got here. It requires a strength of purpose and the depth of political understanding and motivation.

So, to sum up (because I have hit my word limit, and really have much, much, much more to say): politics can make you paranoid; Council's honeymoon is over; decorum is the responsibility of everyone; Chairing meetings is an honour I take seriously; we can be business-like if allowed; and taxes are are not a weapon.

Be a booster!