the ‘old lady’ comment

A few months ago, a statement I made out of frustration was printed in the newspaper. I clearly proved that I am not a seasoned politician.

If you are still wondering what I really meant, I hope you find the answer below. If not, please contact me. I’d be happy to answer your questions.

Q: Why did you say that about old ladies?
I was referring to an individual in a picture in the newspaper. I shouldn’t have said “old lady”. Her age and gender had absolutely nothing to do with the point I was trying to make.

No matter what your age or gender, It is not a good idea to ignore safety signs and it is not a good idea to walk down the middle of Johnston Rd.

Q: Why did you get upset when she was just trying to get past the construction?
I was very frustrated, but not with the person in the picture. I lost my patience with another City Councillor blaming contractors and City Staff for a problem that City Council created. That same councillor stated that the City was “forcing” people to walk in the middle of the street because of the condition of the sidewalk.

I agree that sidewalks must be safe for people with mobility challenges. In this case, there was a safe and open crosswalk less than half a block away.

Q: Why should people using a walker have to walk further? Why couldn’t a temporary sidewalk have been laid?
The contractors did lay temporary asphalt surfaces many times to allow the crosswalk to be used during construction. In fact, the picture in the newspaper was taken only a few hours prior to the new sidewalk being installed.

This was the source of some of my frustration. A City Councillor was demanding that the contractors do exactly what they were doing. But the insinuation was that they were not. That was very misleading.

Q: How could the City allow the sidewalk to be closed so long?
The reason it took so long is because the contractor was waiting for City Council to decide what the pavement pattern should be, what street lights they preferred and what colour the garbage cans would be. Some people might ask why City Council was involved in that decision anyway; I certainly did.

This is an excellent example of why a City Council should not micromanage; they should empower their staff to follow the policies and procedures Council has set. Had they done so in this case, the end result would have looked exactly the same, but it would have taken several weeks less to build.

Q: Why would you take out your frustration for other councillors on a citizen?
Obviously, that was not my intention. I do not support authoritarian government. I believe citizens should be trusted to make choices in the interest of their own safety. Unfortunately, the picture in the newspaper appeared to validate the claim that government must treat citizens as though they cannot be trusted to look out for their own safety.

A more constructive response would have been to look at how to help citizens make better choices. For example, perhaps instead of only closing the sidewalk, the crosswalk itself could have also been blocked with a detour sign pointing to the intersection crosswalk. This would have made the safe choice more obvious and reduced the temptation to walk down the middle of the road to access the mid-block crosswalk.

Q: Why didn’t you keep your thoughts to yourself or not share them with the newspaper?
That’s a good question. I usually speak without filtering my thoughts. I hold a belief that elected people should be upfront and honest. I prefer to be bluntly honest than unintentionally deceptive.

The challenge as an elected representative is to remain a person of high integrity while choosing my words more carefully. And while the intended message might not change, I need to to use language that reduces the risk of assumptions distracting from that message. Obviously, I’m not a seasoned politician.

I take some comfort in the fact that when most people understand what I was trying to say regarding the sidewalk, they agree that people of any age should not ignore safety signs, people of any age should not walk down the middle of Johnston Road, and City Councillors should accept responsibility for the results of their own decisions.

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