Wright needs to get it right
Posted By John Cryderman
Credit: Chatham This Week, March 25, 2009
With respect to Austin Wright’s recent letter to the editor (Chatham This Week, March 18), once again he is levelling criticism to those that won the municipal election over two years ago.
Nice opening. We can plausibly say that your letter contains one fact, but you forgot to summarize the point of the letter. Is the said criticism of elected officials somehow problematic or an important democratic concept? Is criticism not allowed? You need to start with an opening statement that establishes the setting. Even if Hope were elected over two years ago, that still makes him the current mayor. The way it's worded suggests criticism is only allowed at election time. The syntax looks like the criticism is levelled at election results that have expired or maybe even the last mayor. You still need a reason why such criticism is undesirable. I may be paraphrasing a bit, but this looks like what you meant:
"With respect to Austin Wright’s recent letter to the editor (Chatham This Week, March 18), once again he is levelling criticism at those who won the municipal election over two years ago. I'm writing this in defence of Mayor Hope, because our politicians are perfectly capable of respresenting the electorate unencumbered by inconvenient input from the public between elections."
My condolences to Mr. Wright for his lack of success at municipal politics. It appears that it’s easier for him to keep kicking the mayor’s seat rather than to have won it.
Facts are everything. Without them, even the best grammar won't inspire credibility. You told me yourself that all my ideas kept showing up in everyone else's campaigns, which you thought was a sure sign of success. I didn't even run for mayor against Hope. You and Mary didn't want me to. We can edit out the insufficiently veiled insult, and just say:
"It appears that Mr. Wright finds it too easy to kick the mayor's seat, and probably thinks he could do better sitting in it himself. The nerve!"
Emotional bleeding takes time to heal, however, Mr. Wright’s self-inflicted wounds require a different approach to matters.
This phrase suggests your target is mentally ill and suicidal or something, and we don't want to make fun of people dealing with serious problems. Win your readers over by demonstrating some heart. This is a little long, but you should replace your line with something that shows empathy, since you know things your readers might not:
"It must have been discouraging to lose the election after you worked so hard. Having some anonymous coward advertise in the newspaper that your businesses were closed sounds painful. After a blow like that, I can understand if you may feel a bit emotional now that your wife is off work battling breast cancer. I can't imagine what you're going through, yet you still try to participate in your community."
Constructive criticism can be welcomed and criticism can be better justified if one has walked the walk and talked the talk.
We actually used to talk often, and you once told me that you learn a lot more from me than I learn from you. Selling yourself short like that can negatively affect your ego and darken your style. You taught me to ask the tough questions and hold politicians accountable. If they are evasive, then they are hiding something. If they appear to be doing nothing, it's because they are doing nothing - so hold firm and demand accountability. I never forgot that lesson. It's been difficult getting straight answers from the current mayor, so your advice is still valid isn't it? Constructive criticism has no qualifying prerequisites. We'll substitute:
"Constructive criticism of our leaders is always justified, and should be welcome in a democratic society where politicians have nothing to hide."
If one takes a snapshot at our local governance issues through a wide angle operational lens, without filters, and focuses accordingly one, would see the true image, rather than adjusting the lighting conditions to intentionally create the shadows, highlights and distortions that Mr. Wright seems determinded to do in order to justify levelling his tri-pod toward the current mayor.
Most of this is just superfluous since it's an inside joke that pokes fun at my profession - a subliminal reminder of the damage persons unknown caused to my photo business. But the general public probably won't get it because they don't know the terrible price I paid seeking justice in the matter. We can replace that whole paragraph thus:
"We should all keep an open mind to possibilities we've overlooked. The way you view things may not be the way I do. I see our mayor to be effective, because he looks dapper in a suit." (fill in the blank)
The mayor didn’t kill the recreation project as Mr. Wright states. The municipality received confirmation from the YMCA and the college that the recreation project would not be developed. Investors for the mix were not compatible.
Revising history to support an argument is academically weak. Always have your documents handy, and use an effective filing system to make research easier. I can reference any needed information I want, as long as the kids don't need the kitchen table for something else. On April 2, 2007, Dr. Strasser stressed the importance of having mayor Hope support the project to best leverage upper government funding. Hope dug his heels in and voted against it despite council's overwhelming approval. Ultimately, Hope's stance is why the YMCA and College confirmed the project would not continue. It was the mayor who was not compatible, and you were also noted to be present in the mix. We can convey the same thoughts along this line:
"Mr. Wright has his cause and effect backwards - the YMCA and St. Clair College killed the Rec Centre when mayor Hope refused to support the project."
The $7 million that Mr. Wright describes available for the recreation centre did not fall out of the blue, but was lassoed by the previous administration for the Capitol Theatre — a project Mr. Wright initially supported.
Presumably "previous administration" means Mayor Gagner. If so, then she gets credit for bringing Chatham-Kent $7 million more than Hope ever achieved, and she's delivering benefits well inside her replacement's term. I guess that's fair, since she's still being blamed for all our problems too. It's also a misinterpretation or typo, since I described the $7 million as being suddenly available for the Capitol Theatre, not the Rec Centre, even though Mayor Hope didn't think that kind of money would be available for anything, which was my point about his defeatist attitude
I do indeed support the Capitol Theatre, but I don't condone the manner in which it went off the rails. We put $1 million tax dollars into it without adequate oversight, along with several million in donations that represent the heart and soul of our community. Now we own it. My concern is getting the project completed so we can start enjoying some return on investment. If it fails, all that money is wasted, and Chatham-Kent will earn the reputation of being one hostile place; unable to even complete a simple entertainment facility. This sends a negative message to potential investors and residents, as does the hateful karma of people cheering its failure on in newspaper articles.
On February 2, 2008, you wrote that the $7 million was available abruptly, and stated it's irresponsible for the municipality to accept provincial money just because it's there. If your car is out of gas on the highway and someone offered 5 gallons, would you refuse it because you want a new car instead? We agree on 90% of the Capitol Theatre financing issues (for different reasons), but we've always disagreed over the arts and culture aspect, and always will. Sometimes a little common ground is all you need.
"I mostly share Mr. Wright's concern that money for the Capitol Theatre project has not been well spent, and has generally lacked in oversight. I agree some performance on this taxpayer investment is long overdue."
Mr. Wright continues to attack and lay blame onto everyone else. I trust he has removed all mirrors from the house in which he resides — one only has to look into a mirror to find blame and shortcomings.
Mr. Wright was not elected, remember? But he voted, and paid a substantial sacrifice trying to contribute to his community through the electoral process. Voting is usually considered the minimum prerequisite for blaming politicians. The mirrors in your house work just the same as in mine. For years, I've suggested positive ideas for Chatham-Kent. You claim that Mayor Gagner implemented the best parts of my platform, and Hope's campaign later procured other ideas. They weren't shortcomings when they were helping Hope get elected. The ideas are still out there, but Hope is too busy chasing torches, trains and basketballs. I'm surprised you find this acceptable, given your condemnation of a previous administration that actually got more done. This edit isn't exactly accurate because nobody is there listening to ideas at the moment, but it eliminates the gratuitous insults:
"Mr. Wright should step forward with his own ideas before blaming others for having none."
Mr. Wright states Chatham-Kent has been bleeding jobs since Mayor Hope took over. Once again, I’m sorry you lost the election but I would remind Mr. Wright that Mayor Hope and our new CAO Rob Browning have inherited a lot of unnecessary spending, mismanagement and poor planning from the previous administration and mayor.
Details please? I keep hearing this claim, but there are never any specifics appended. What are Hope and Browning doing to combat this horrible mess? Can you prove the current dysfunction isn't Hope's doing? (The corporate review said it was!) When does his executive responsibility kick in? They didn't put much effort into paring back the budget this year, thanks to provincial money that won't be there next year. The election loss thing is pretty tired by now too. Avoid repetition. Think about others. Reading things like this would have anyone in their right mind decline from public service. Who would ever volunteer to run based on perpetual duplications reminding us that a failure will be used as an indefinite smear with hostile fervour?
"A deteriorating economy that coincides with Hope's term has made Mr. Wright assume they are connected. Hope and Browning have a huge job ahead of them to turn things around. The mayor is hard at work playing basketball to effect the needed corrections." (fill in the blank)
Further, Mr. Wright insists we must focus our resources toward retaining what we have. If that’s all we choose to focus on, that’s all we’ll ever have.
Again, this is a vexed interpretation, and it does nothing to defend my original statement that we don't even have a head of Economic Development yet. It parrots my words with deliberate errors and ambivalence. There's no reason why attraction and retention have to be mutually exclusive. The economy is contracting. I think we need a higher priority on retention right now. But I like that ending - "that's all we'll ever have." The same applies if we oppose every initiative anybody ever brings forward and discourage new political participants, as seems to be happening. I'm not sure what you're trying to say with this paragraph. Should we focus more resources towards retention or not? Do we need a qualified head of Economic Development without delay or can the mayor eventually get around to it?
I can only shake my head of Mr. Wright’s lack of understanding of municipal governance and management and the mandatory process required for effective operations. At least he does not lay blame onto the mayor for the weak global economy.
Don't shake it too hard, because that's where my lack of understanding lies. I think you know that statement isn't true. Remember when you lamented that Hope wasn't learning the things you were instructing him to know during the campaign, and you turned to me for advice? Randy Hope even called me looking for strategy, and I heard from Mary Lee also. If my understanding of municipal matters is so poor, what does that say about those who would seek my guidance? We should put this back into a form that doesn't cause you any backlash, and it is always good to conclude with some levity:
"Mr. Wright would probably have his eyes opened by the amount of work municipal government entails. I'm sure many people are frustrated by our economic position. The mayor hears peoples' concerns, and has promised to mullet over."
Original Chatham This Week Article