This has been a very long day. I woke up to check out Facebook for the first time in a week or so and was inundated with municipal politics eating at my soul. I worked all day, , got my windshield smashed on the Whitemud, hung out with some friends, and had a delicious supper (my wife is an amazing cook). I have been up so long that I have actually already had leftovers of tonight’s supper.
For months I contemplated running for council here in St. Albert and a few weeks ago I returned from a week-long camp with four of my kidlets and decided not to run. I told everyone I talked to and some were disappointed and some were relieved. Today’s events made me question my decision.
Our little city of 65,000 is a bedroom community of our provincial capital and probably one of the nicest places I have ever seen to live. No place is perfect though and one of our biggest flaws is our political unrest. Our past council (getting replaced next month) was so dysfunctional that it bordered on insane.
What was the cause of this dysfunction? Mostly team building.
Team building = royal rumble
I know it seems odd that being part of a team could cause such strife but we had two of them. Currently the two teams, that never agreed on anything for four years, are butting heads over who should be our next mayor. I am stuck between a rock and a hard place because I find Cathy Heron a politician with upstanding character and an amazing person… something you don’t see much of in the political arena.
Cam MacKay is one of the smartest politicians I have ever met. He is very well spoken and a pleasure to learn from. I would have loved to be on council with both of them except when they were both councilors the council meetings were more like a quidditch match at Hogwarts than anything that resembled a municipal governing body.
Case in point, this week’s attack came from Bill Tuchak who is claiming that Cathy Heron stole $400 or something by double dipping and claiming a per diem for a conference in New Orleans when she didn’t attend one day.
The details are sketchy, because I have found nothing of Bill’s that seems to show that he had an iota of evidence. I am not a journalist, I am a blogger. I just want to give my opinions but when a guy like Ted Durham starts a website for the sole purpose of attacking the character of someone like Cathy Heron, without posting any evidence in his site, I start to question character, but not Cathy’s.
Why would St. Albert send someone to New Orleans to learn about waste water? We do not deal with the waste water in St. Albert, it is piped to Ft. Saskatchewan to be cleaned.
~ Ted Durham (The St. Albert News Blog)
Four lines later, Ted posts this…
Councilor Heron included in her October 5, 2015 and October 20, 2016 expense reports a claim for reimbursement for attending two meetings of the Alberta Capital Region Wastewater Commission (ACRWWC).
~ Ted Durham
Wait a second, four lines above you weren’t sure what business she had at a wastewater conference… but you apparently knew that she was on a regional wastewater board that our city sends a councilor to. Apparently she did have a reason to attend.
Mob mentality shows no sign of civilized behavior
Once Ted Durham’s blog or website hits Facebook people on both sides are arguing and mob mentality starts to rear its head.
I tried to lighten things up but the truth is out there…
Those official records show Heron claiming per diems for meetings she did not attend.
~ Andy Von Busse (Facebook Post)
Of course, nobody can show me anything except publicly downloaded expense forms so the proof is missing any corroborating evidence regarding the attendance at the conference.
Results are easy to determine. Heron claimed per diems for meetings official records show she did not attend. Those are facts, not speculation. She has had ample time to explain, she gave a long explanation on the New Orleans trip, which may make sense, but has not made one comment about a simple issue. Why?
~ Andy Von Busse
So Andy is saying that this $400 is a “simply issue” (his words, not mine), then why all the effort to make it look bigger than the Watergate scandal?
Confusion abounds when dealing with the city
I am not even sure if these expenses were accidents or not but I know that they aren’t earth shattering.
I have spent most of the night reading about our city’s convoluted rules about expense reimbursements, I am more convinced than ever that this issue is nothing at all. First of all, expenses are probably handled by a city employee and not the councilors themselves. Would some liability for mistakes fall to the city employee that submits them? Maybe.
Here is a hypothetical for you to ponder:
A councilor goes to a conference in Chicago and gets paid $500 per day for 4 days giving her a cheque for $2000 which she must return to the City of St. Albert. She then gets paid a maximum of $200 per day bringing her total payment to $800. That is right, the city made $1200 for someone to attend a conference. But wait, come tax time, she has to claim the whole $2000 as income. At a 25% tax rate, she owes $500 which means she ended up getting paid $300 for her four day conference.
Rest assured that this will never happen again because this rule was changed for the incoming council. They no longer get any of their per diem.
In situations where a member of City Council is appointed to represent the City in an official capacity on an external Agency, Board or Committee, and a per diem is paid by that organization, the per diems received must be reported to the City Manager and paid into City revenue.
City Council Policy C-CC-03, #8
This is so far from being simply wrong that it borders on criminal. If I ever get on council, we are discussing this at the first opportunity because I can’t think of a world where this makes sense.
Too much Twilight
Team Cathy and Team Cam both have Facebook groups that were created by loyal team members that simply don’t get along. The Facebook groups are rife with posts about who got banned or blocked by someone or some group. This is a huge offense to me. If we are going to fight censorship on Facebook we should be fighting Facebook itself, not one another.
I am a huge fan of free speech but rather than our community acting like people that learned anything from the free speech movement of the 60’s at UC Berkeley, we are acting like a bunch of graduates of the new and improved Berkeley that has now outlawed free speech.
What we need is a Facebook group where everyone can come and discuss policies with all candidates in an environment that is not a safe space. I want a place where I can ask anything and I can accuse someone of something and they can hit me back with reasons for their actions and everyone can get smarter for being members… now it sounds like I am looking for a yellow brick road.
It is okay to have a dream… and even a better one than the one where I changed my name to Bacon before running… I mean who wouldn’t check off bacon on a list?
Team Building is Critical in St. Albert Politics
So here is what we need in St. Albert… a council, a mayor and a city staff that are all part of the same team. We need a group of individuals who can debate and disagree and come together as one team looking for a win for the city of St. Albert.
It is okay to dream.
I actually just started a Facebook group that I am going to try to get all candidates and elected officials into so that I don’t have to chase down people all over the place for answers to questions when someone says something crazy about someone else and forces me to hunt down documentation.
If I can’t find six people to vote for that convince me they have the ability to become part of a single team with enough common sense to stop screwing up this city… then I might have to change my mind and run after all.
If enough of you don’t get on board with my dream I am going to end up throwing my name in the ring for council. I don’t want to be on council anymore than anyone wants to be on it with me. I don’t have a filter and I don’t mince words. You will know how I feel about you 30 seconds after you meet me.