Monday June 5th, 2023 - 07:26:52 PM

Blame Hopeless Mayor
Austin Wright - March 28, 2008

This is yet another opinion piece refused by the Chatham Daily News, in keeping with their policy of shielding mayor Hope from any scrutiny or criticism, possibly under external pressure from one of their business clients who likes him. Chatham This Week published it mostly intact.

We recently read how a worker in Wallaceburg lashed out at the mayor over the lack of effort or results in retaining the jobs we still have, let alone attracting more. The only thing more predictable than Bruce Corcoran's editorial the next day defending mayor Hope would be the six more weeks of winter that followed Groundhog Day. Unfortunately, the continued loss of jobs, and the Chatham Daily News' policy to cover up for the mayor's inadequacies is somewhat reminiscent of that other Groundhog Day.

In doing damage control for Mayor Hope, The Chatham Daily News asserts that he should not shoulder any blame for local job loss because that's not what he was elected to do. Considering the very active role that the News played during the last election to get him elected, perhaps we should analyse exactly what was promised by the winning mayoral candidate, how the media reported it, and whether a politician ought to be accountable for promises made in order to get elected.

Hope pledged to “Save and Create Jobs to Save our Future” and to “Open Chatham-Kent for business at no cost to you.” He claimed to have a vast portfolio bringing jobs and industry to our area as our “Member of Parliament.” He promised to cultivate contacts in other levels of government to leverage support for Chatham-Kent. Indeed, Hope set his own capabilities, standards and expectations very high.

Now Randy Hope was never a Member of Parliament, but if he used advertising claims like that to get elected to a job that entails bringing jobs and industry to our area, then it should not form any surprise that once elected, residents expect him to actually be doing something to preserve and attract jobs, or else shoulder some responsibility for his failure.

Immediately following the election, the Chatham Daily News reported that Hope travelled to Korea to bring back jobs, with complete editorial support. Hope promised a full report to Council, but the award-winning investigative journalists forgot to follow up on the fact that no report was ever made. Perhaps they felt foolish for publishing an article before the election based on a hoax letter claiming a Korean firm was being stonewalled by Mayor Gagner, but their $70 million investment would come to Chatham-Kent if Hope were elected mayor. This article arguably changed the election outcome, so where's the money?

I received a similar letter, promising millions of dollars for help transferring the fortune of some General who died without heirs, but that didn't make the news. (I would have invested it here!)

Now, the Chatham Daily News opines that it's not the mayor's role to solicit jobs – he should be let off the hook because the economic climate is worse than expected and is beyond influence by mere municipal leaders. Usually it's the politician who makes the “cupboard is bare” speech, not the media. If our municipal leaders can't cope with the same market forces facing every other jurisdiction, then we just need more competent leaders, if we can last 2 1/2 more years.

We certainly feel warm and fuzzy over the unprecedented number of smiling photographs the Chatham Daily News has run of Mayor Hope since his election. This could be a good and unifying thing in prosperous times, or even if he appeared to be making an honest effort. However, posing for the camera has not proven effective at attracting jobs, or even retaining what we have. If he's so busy doing PR while the municipality is without a permanent CAO and Director of Economic Development, then who's actually behind the wheel? It's clear that Hope thinks the obligation belongs to somebody else despite earning a $74,000 salary that was structured to include that responsibility.

The “Chatham-Kent” Chamber of Commerce has openly expressed concern over the lack of economic development accomplishments. Brent DeNure is bang-on with his call for Mayor Randy Hope to work harder at attracting new industry. Our business community is very worried about the current situation and can't afford to wait for Hope's mythical vision of moving the community forward to kick in. (If this is it, we're already in trouble!)

Instead of working hard, Mayor Hope has done the exact opposite of what the community needs. First, he claimed the Mayor/CEO's job had too much responsibility for him to handle alone, and tried to reward his campaign manager with an advisory position having an annual municipal salary of nearly $85,000. Then he voted against the Recreation/Wellness Centre, effectively killing years of municipal effort and poisoning relations with our potentially-expanding post-secondary educational institutions. Mayor Hope voted against the Capitol Theatre to prevent the now-approved $7 million grant that will result in the successful completion of the venue at long last, with millions in spin-off benefits to the entire community. (Watch him take credit now for making it happen!)

Behind each of Hope's senseless votes, one could read very strong opinion letters in this very paper by his campaign manager, which no doubt influenced the mayor's decisions. Hmm... Who's interest is Hope supposed to be serving here?

It's little wonder that people are starting to give up hope and question not only the lack of results, but also the effort - probably to a greater extent than has been reported. Instead of providing balance, we continue to read biased reports that merely lower the paper's credibility. The Chatham Daily News should report politics, not manufacture and manipulate them while protecting their selected players from consequences. Where is the accountability for this vacuum of initiative?

As we approach the halfway mark of the present term, it would be nice to see a comprehensive report about what has actually been personally accomplished by the mayor this newspaper has obviously supported strongly. It's very telling that the Chatham Daily News is paying more attention to Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick's situation than they are to local mayoral issues. If a little journalistic savvy were applied here, we could have our own headlines. There are plenty of albatrosses right here in Chatham-Kent.

The Mayor promised us great things to get elected. We heard a lot about experience, vision, accountability, and moving Chatham-Kent forward. People trusted these claimed capabilities and voted for change. If Hope keeps voting against progress instead of delivering on his promises, then we have every right to blame the mayor, and the media should be first in line to hold him accountable. A healthy democracy demands nothing less.


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