Archive for May, 2009

public opinion irrelevant?

May 30, 2009

White Rock was the subject of another monumental Supreme Court decision last week. City Council’s decision to deny the Yearsley’s a development permit a few years ago for a six storey tower on the beach was overturned by the courts; the City has been ordered to allow the development to proceed.

The judge explained that “reliance on public opinion is not a relevant consideration if it is not linked to legitimate factors within the zoning bylaw or the OCP.” Since the six storey height of the building is permitted within the bylaw due to a fluke of how the property is sloped, public opposition to the height is legally irrelevant.

This is incredibly disappointing for three reasons.

First of all, it undermines the discretion that citizens believe City Council has for influencing development in the community. It greatly diminishes the authority I thought I had as a member of city council to direct the look and shape of buildings. In my decision to deny the permit, I believe that the building will not complement the surrounding neighbourhood or fit in with the general feel that is intended for the waterfront. Elected representatives for the community ought to have the authority to interpret public opinion and define the vision for the community’s future. Removing subjectivity from City Council’s judgement neuters its ability to respond to neighbourhood concerns and the community’s evolving vision. Read on »

politicians are human too

It seems a lot of people assume that most politicians are compulsive liars. Unfortunately, my successful petition to have a lying politician ousted from office may reinforce that belief. While the behaviour of James Coleridge was certainly deceitful, he is a very rare exception.

The problem with politicians isn’t that they’re dishonest; it’s that they’re human. As such, they have emotions; they can want things to be true that aren’t, making themselves susceptible to self-deception; and they can just simply be wrong because they can’t possibly know everything about all things. So, if an elected official says something at one time then says something different later, is it that they were lying the first time? Or did they learn something new, hear a compelling alternate opinion, or see things from a new perspective? Maybe, after some more careful consideration, they just changed their mind?

In the case of the Coleridge deception, he said things that he knew are not true and then refused to accept responsibility for that lie until forced to do so in Supreme Court. This is an unusual exception. This isn’t a case of him changing his mind or misunderstanding the facts at hand; he told people things even though he knew they were not true.

Ignorance, misunderstanding and naiveté is understandably human and tolerable. Deception is also human, but much less tolerable. But it’s not enough to demand more integrity from politicians. Deceit should be equally unacceptable for all people, not just elected leaders.

People who step up to serve as leaders in our community should not be set up for ridicule with unrealistic expectations that, upon being elected, they should suddenly become smarter and less susceptible to self-deception than everyone else in the community. The best way to raise the standard for politicians is to raise the standard within the whole community.

judgment day

May 27, 2009

My petition to have the election of James Coleridge declared invalid was successful. The judge released her decision yesterday. He is no longer a member of City Council for the City of White Rock. He is required to pay $20,000 toward the cost of a byelection to fill his vacant seat, and some of my legal costs will be reimbursed.

What is ironic about the decision is that the judge seemed less concerned about him pretending he didn’t know who sent the contentious email and making up stories to cover his tracks, it was that he was lying about being honest in his campaign advertising — he was selling himself as being someone who citizens could trust to be honest with them, all the while he was lying.

But this judgment is less about lying than it is about integrity. They are related, but there is a difference. Integrity requires that you accept responsibility for your choices. Yes, Coleridge lied, but it was his lack of integrity — his unwillingness to accept responsibility for his incorrect and misleading statements — that cost him his office. In reading the judgment, it sounds like, had he enough integrity to admit his error when he had the chance (before I filed a petition in Supreme Court to force him to do so), he probably would have escaped this consequence.