Friday September 29th, 2023 - 04:06:20 AM

Council Circumvented Concerning Crow Complaints
Austin Wright, January 6, 2009

I read an item in the Chatham Daily News December 18th issue that caused me some concern.

It seems that we have another crow problem, and the contract with BCI has ended for the year. The News reported that John Cryderman has written to Wayne Pollock, municipal director of public works, recommending that the municipality take charge of crow control.

Now perhaps Cryderman ought to be commended for bringing community concerns and suggestions forward. However, a deeper examination within a broader context gives this recommendation the appearance of circumventing due process.

The first question I ponder is how this letter became public domain and worthy of front page news. The article in question implies that John Cryderman is some sage source of municipal advice. While his brand of negativity has indeed often cluttered the opinion columns, I'm sure many citizens have similarly interesting correspondence concerning the municipality that doesn't routinely make the first page, nor even the editorial section. I've certainly attempted to present my concerns and suggestions from time to time, but those were handled quite differently by elected officials and the media.

Even more disconcerting is the fact that the article marks at least the second time in a year that the Chatham Daily News has reported on Cryderman's recommendations to municipal officials. Last I checked, John Cryderman was not elected to represent us (despite persistent rumours that he has been de facto mayor since 2006), nor is he employed in any capacity by the municipality.

What business does a private citizen have of short-circuiting the due process of municipal governance whereby recommendations normally go before elected officials, who then debate the matter during a public council meeting and then direct administration to implement their decision? It looks like unelected persons are attempting to govern through the media.

It is not the role of a private citizen, nor even any individual council member to substitute their own "recommendations" for the obligation of our elected council members to exercise their collective will based on the best interests of the municipality - councillors who must remain responsive to the entire community. Unfortunately, a few of them, mayor Hope in particular, would rather have somebody else do the thinking for them.

This particular private citizen has a record of issuing directions and instructions directly to administration and council members under circumstances that may not have been so benevolent. Perhaps the Chatham media would look into some of the correspondence that didn't make the news, in which he attempts to rewrite administration's reports to council, or threatens council members and municipal staff with litigation and criminal charges if they don't implement his wishes.

If that's not enough, then why not investigate how this individual has used legal threats and actual million-dollar lawsuits against innocent citizens to stifle and chill any opinions critical of Mayor Hope (such criticism being most curiously absent during Hope's flaccid and nondescript term as a direct result). And I think the public would be concerned to learn of allegations that confidential correspondence to elected officials has been divulged to this individual which was then used in pursuit of a rather scurrilous agenda, in violation of Council's Code of Ethics.

I also sent a letter to the municipality recently. However my letter wasn't published by the media as front page news. I requested some MFIPPA documents from Mayor Hope, head of municipal freedom of information requests, with respect to a closed session of council that was allegedly conducted without the authority of the Municipal Act. As a result, I was informed in writing by the municipal solicitor that he would be my "sole contact" with the municipality. I am not allowed to contact my elected officials directly, and all my municipal correspondence must be addressed through his office, presumably for filtration.

Mayor Hope refused to provide the requested reply to my letter, thereby abdicating his obligations of office under the Municipal Act and as municipal head of the MFIPPA. Consequently, I did not get the information to which I was legally entitled. There seems to be a double standard where only certain people are permitted access (and responses) to those elected to represent everyone equally.

I'm curious how such a situation can exist. It's disconcerting that one certain private citizen has direct access to city hall, and uses it consistently to obtain information that may even circumvent the MFIPPA process, and to instruct municipal staff and elected officials to implement personal recommendations, while I am banned from even contacting my elected representatives and exercising my democratic rights and obligations as a citizen. I would think this to be more newsworthy than a friend of the Mayor's opinion about crows.

The optics of this situation are very poor indeed, and would certainly invite public concerns if they ever found out. Our municipal government has been anything but open and transparent since Randy Hope became mayor, and too much is being done in secret behind closed doors (and perhaps over the mayor's personal kitchen table).

Private citizens are certainly entitled to voice opinions, but having those opinions heard is not an exclusive right belonging only to a small vocal group. The democratic system (and media oversight thereof) only works if every citizen has equal unbiased access - without the fear of reprisals or being sued if an opinion doesn't happen to meet with the mayor's approval. It's time to put an end to this rampant nepotism and grant every citizen equal access to our government and media.

There is only one year left before the next mayoral campaign starts. My candidacy, if offered, would provide an antidote to the secrecy and stagnation championed by the current mayor who is more concerned about photo opportunities, favouritism, and stifling criticism than addressing the economic future of our community. Let's hope that my platform of positive ideas won't also have to serve to inform the public about any dirty little secrets that have never been given proper scrutiny by the media.


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