Archive for April, 2006


April 8, 2006

I am increasingly finding myself frustrated with this responsibility, working within this structure, with these personalities. Hypocrisy has always been a big red button for me. I know it’s unavoidable. But I have an expectation that people at least try to not be hypocrites. Is that really an unfair expectation?

I’ve always been totally intolerant of people who demonstrate a lack of respect for others. And I interpret blatant hypocrisy (lack of any attempt to act as you expect of others) as a lack of respect for others. I see it as an issue of fairness and honesty.

When people point out a difference between what I say and what I do, my reaction depends on the context. If the message is delivered within an attempt to dismiss or discredit my perceptions, I find myself getting defensive and turning to the offensive in response. But if they are asking a question – truly interested in finding more about an apparent contradiction – I actually appreciate that. I see it as a learning opportunity, either to better communicate/demonstrate/project my ideas, or to work on weaknesses in my ideas. It can help me strengthen my arguments, or help me see that what I’m working on might not meet the goals I’m hoping for.

I find many people take offense when they’ve told me what they think of me or one of my idea and I follow-up with questions. Somehow my questions are interpreted as argumentative. But I really want to know. I really want to explore what it is they are presenting. I believe there is a difference between arguing and debating, and again with discussing. When someone offers an opinion about me or an idea I am pursuing, I usually want to explore that opinion. How did you arrive at that opinion? What facts were considered? What are the underlying assumptions? What were the perceptions that support those assumptions?

I enjoy those kinds of discussions. I makes my brain feel like it’s getting a good workout. Unfortunately it’s rare to find someone who is willing to engage. It seems most people want to just cast their judgment then run away. Don’t want to talk about it, don’t want to defend it. Just tell me their conclusion but not want to help me understand what it means or how it was arrived at. And certainly don’t want to test it with any of my questions.

I think it’s sad. Sad for democracy that so many seem incapable or unwilling to fully engage in sharing and exploring ideas.

I find a lot of politicians disappointing for the same reason. They act as if they were elected to render judgments, so how they arrive at those conclusions is nobody else’s business.

I think that’s why I have such disdain for populist politics. It seems so often that they follow this concept of “common sense” by working backwards to justify what the community is saying it wants, rather than identifying the problems that is causing them concern, then determining what it is the best course of action. I’m sure the conclusion is often the same, but shouldn’t we make sure first?

I really really dislike reactive politics. And I have a really big difficulty respecting reactive politicians. They seem more concerned about looking like they’re solving a problem than actually solving the problem. And I think that’s pathetic.

arrogant or pompous?

April 6, 2006

I don’t think I’m arrogant. I’m probably pompous though. And I don’t think I know it all, but I tend to be dogmatic.

Maybe there’s no difference, but I like to think there is. I like to think one is egotisitical and holds an inflated sense of self-importance, whereas the other is very confident in their abilities and ideas but understands that there is always someone with a greater skill or better idea.

I know I need to keep working on my active-listening and listening-with-empathy skills, but I really do try. Seems to me, this is the way to temper my confidence and take the negative bite out of my dogmatic pomposity.

pigs at the trough

April 1, 2006

Would you like some more money? Does that make you greedy?

Do you feel there’s value in the work you do? Does that make you arrogant?

The letters to the Editor this weekend irritate me for two reasons. First, because the issue of pay increases for councillors seems to be sticking to me. And second, because of the insinuation that serving as an elected official ought to be a volunteer commitment.

For the first, it seems the assumption is that since I’m one of the hardest working councillors and don’t have a ‘real job’, that I must be the one pushing for an increase. And that, since I’ve been quoted in the newspaper explaining the workload of a councillor, I must be trying to justify support for an increase.

For the second, it seems the assumption is that a councillor’s work is for the public good and that to do it well it must be done out of selfless motivation, so therefore payment for time and skills would create a corrupting incentive – Out of concern for the people they serve, public servants should serve without payment.

I don’t even think I should have to defend myself against these assumptions. But I will anyway.

1. I did not bring up the issue of pay increases for councillors. I did not bring it up with other councillors in private, in any meeting, at any time. I did not raise the issue.

2. When asked if I believed the work I do is undervalued by the payment I receive, my answer was “yes”. I explained that when the issue was previously brought up, I opposed an increase. But since then, I have had 3 years experience in the role. It is a lot more work than I had been expecting.

However, in response to the question of whether I would accept an increase, I explained how I felt it inappropriate for councillors to pick a number arbitrarily for themselves – that if some on council want to pursue an increase, it should be a third party with no vested interest who determines what is fair.

3. I was quoted in the newspaper because I am often the most accessible councillor. I am the most likely to answer my phone (I forward by home phone to my cell, which is almost always on) and because I rarely skate around a question. I tend to give straight answers to their questions – which means sometimes I’m more quotable just by virtue of the fact I don’t try to avoid answering their questions. So, don’t shoot the messenger. Just because I’m quoted in the newspaper and I’m not rabidly opposed doesn’t mean I’m the one pushing it.

4. I don’t believe being a politician should be considered a career. However, serving is a big commitment with no routine schedule. The time required fluctuates wildly throughout the year. Many of the issues are complex and carry enormous responsibility. To suggest that people take so much time out of their lives, take time away their paying jobs, laden their minds with intense considerations, change the dynamic of their relationships within the community, make themselves vulnerable to those in the community who make it their hobby to point out and ridicule weaknesses of any public person, …

Yes, this is public service. This is not something people get into for the pay cheque. But at the same time, I didn’t sign up to be a martyr. Though it would be impossible to assign a financial value to the responsibilities, I don’t think it’s fair to suggest I should do it and take all the abuse for free. That’s just insulting. It’s a gross dismissal of the weight of time and effort that goes into doing the job properly. It’s public service, not public slavery.

Some say being a councillor should be done as volunteer work. Some others feel we don’t work hard enough. To both I say, look at my record. Look at the volume of work I did. Look at the amount of time I invested. Look at the range of issues I had to study and learn about. Look at the weight of responsibility that was vested in me. And then consider that this is something that continues throughout the year. I’ve been ongoing non-stop for three years and another three year term is just beginning.

I think it’s totally unreasonable to suggest that this kind of time and responsibility would not have some sort of remuneration.

I achieved things I was told were impossible. I am the councillor who had the most assignments over the past three years, yet I was the only one who’s committees actually met their delegated tasks.

If anybody on council deserves an increase, it’s me. I was quoted in the newspaper explaining the issue, but don’t shoot the messenger. I wasn’t me who brought it up. I wasn’t asking for a raise.