COMMENT: Shame, scandal, and skeletons in the closet as Bennett backs down from the call to council.
Here I tell the sordid tale of how—through greed for lucrative backroom deals with local lobbyists, a smoky lust for power, and the insatiable appetite of an ego growling for the glory of Rossland city council—I ended up with my name on the ballot. And here I must regretfully apologize to my supporters—who were soon to trend beyond the single digits, I’ll have you know—that I must end my campaign before it even began. I hope my naive error will be viewed by the good citizens of Rossland as an expression of zeal for our town. Furthermore, I hope my retreat can be taken as an example of humility for our future councillors: it may feel shameful to make a mistake and it may bruise the ego to reverse decisions, renew perspectives, and change course, but it is vitally important that our community leaders be open and flexible to change despite the burn of flushing cheeks. On the topic of flushed cheeks, now the other candidates won’t have to dig into my closet for skeletons. For one, my renos are running behind schedule and I don’t even have closet doors yet. Chickens are falling out of closets, bees and bunnies too. Piles of mulch and manure are pouring out of drawers and stacks of timber already fell on the dresser, crushing it entirely, while heaps of scrap wait to be turned into said closet doors. I’d be easy pickin’s for a hard hittin’ candidate, not naming names, but especially one with a penchant for bylaw enforcement. (I am, however, blessed with compassionate neighbours, may the good heavens protect them.) But a dispassionate analysis will inevitably conclude that I acted in haste, making the decision to run for council without fully considering the consequences. In particular, I did not anticipate the degree of conflict with commitments I had already made to the Rossland Telegraph. On the morning of Friday, Oct. 14, only hours before the nomination period expired, I went to city hall for the list of candidates. With visions of sugar plums dancing in my head, what to my wondering eyes should appear but a mere seven candidates for six council seats! The unlikelihood of a mayoral race was “lame,” as several have since commented, but now it’s a fact. Mayor Granstrom will do a good job. The spectre of Mr. Charlton’s possible re-election haunted me, however. In a moment of civil panic, I instinctively grabbed two nomination packages and zipped around town in a last ditch effort to convince any of a number of very qualified Rosslanders to run for the good of us all. Ultimately, only I was convinced. Despite a possible affliction with symptoms of pathological megalomania, I’d like to think my reasons were honourable. We must fortify our community as the storm clouds of global change darken and rumble on the horizon. We especially need a wider diversity of politicians, including more young people, to advocate for positive, sustainable change at the local level. Each day the stakes get higher as the human world deepens into economic depression, tips over the edge of peak oil, melts icecaps and shifts ocean currents, ransacks the last vestiges of productive ecosystems and pumps the biosphere with industrial waste, enslaves the underprivileged masses to enrich the merchant oligarchy, feeds them high fructose trash and Monsanto poison for the benefit of a bloated pharmaceutical racket, brainwashes the youth with gadgets, excludes the elderly from society, and generally disrespects the multihued gift of Eden we inherited from 3.8 billion years of ancestors. For our town to progress rapidly towards resilience, we need team players on council. That doesn’t mean they have to share the same opinions, but they need to listen hard, quickly articulate important ideas, debate them respectfully, and come to conclusions and compromise for the overall benefit of Rossland. I’ve listened to council for a year. I’ve advocated to end the term of one councillor who fails to debate either efficiently or effectively, and is occasionally disrespectful. As a whole council has been quite effective, but the perennial complaint I hear from Rosslanders is a lack of communication from the chamber to the citizens. On all these counts I thought I might be able to improve the situation. I signed up for the election with no time to discuss it with my employers. To their lasting credit, when we finally met they did not waggle our oral agreements in my face nor bemoan the difficulty of losing their lead reporter without notice. Instead they told me, “It’s your decision, do what’s best.” Their attitude is a testament to the Telegraph’s commitment to democracy, as is their stance that I would be unable to write for the Telegraph for the duration of the election—it might give an unfair campaign advantage—and, if elected, most events would still lie outside my journalistic jurisdiction. Silly me, I thought I’d be able to write about the arts, culture, history, and sports that make Rossland so exciting outside the machinations of council. But Adrian Barnes and David Livingstone are correct and principled in their approach: it is absolutely imperative that their reporters remain “third parties” even in seemingly unrelated realms. City hall support (or lack thereof) is behind every scene in town. Last night I grappled with the question: How can I best serve my community and my own goals? Should I be on council, or write about it? Adrian and David argued convincingly that I could have a more positive impact through reports, analysis, commentary, polling, and community discussion. I have come to agree with them. As for council, others moved in before nominations closed and we now have a much fuller list of candidates. I won’t say I’m thrilled with the line up, there are many other names I would like to see on the list, but as I bow out we have 10 candidates for six seats. Barring a major upset, we are likely to see incumbents Kathy Wallace, Kathy Moore, and Jill Spearn in three seats. Seven candidates, six of them new, will tussle over the remaining three seats: that’s a good chunk of choice for Rossland. I am sorry for my hasty error, Rossland, but I look forward to an exciting election season and writing about it: scandal, skeletons, and all.