Friday, November 14, 2014

Prince George's Mayor - Choosing between Tweedle-Dum and Tweedle-Dee

Tomorrow municipalities across BC go to the voting booths to select the benighted souls who will lead (we hope) our communities for several years. Exercising my mandate is something I have never shirked from. Indeed a dozen years or so back I stood for and won a seat on the the Central Coast Regional District as "Director" for Area D. There followed two tumultuous years that happened to coincide with the massive Great Bear Rainforest campaign and the shutdown of two of Bella Coola's major employers, Interfor and the BC Ministry of Forests office. But I enjoyed being of some use immensely and would still be trying to serve had we not upped stakes and moved to Prince George.

Here, I have watched as a succession of mayors, none of whom have electrified me have come and gone -- I arrived when Colin Kingsley was at the helm and his can-do rightist politics left me nauseated, though never so much as when after retiring he soon became the regional mouthpiece for the Northern Gateway pipeline. He was followed by the affable PR-pro, Dan Rogers, who I liked personally but, unsurprisingly, given his professional background, never could really sense what if any purposes he had in mind for our city. The last and soon-to-be former incumbent of the big chair was local retailer Shari Green whose reign has proven to be Hobbesian: poor, nasty, brutish, and (mercifully) short. Shari seemed from the start to be rather too close to some of what in the old days would have been called the "vested interests." Her major preoccupation was pure "Tea Party" as she set about not so much to govern as to gut governance through the useless, single-minded and expensive "Core Review" designed principally to back up her (and her back-room boys') neoCon desires.

Her departure, alas, seems less to have been prompted by the incompetence she showed than by her lust for an office with far more perks - filling the miniscule shoes of our long-sitting MP Dick Harris. Getting the Conservative nomination may be challenging for her, but if and when she is the Harper designate in the riding of Cariboo-Prince George, you have a victory guaranteed. For as I have oft-opined the Conservatives could run a moldering corpse here and win (indeed, some might be excused for saying that that is exactly what we have had from here on the backbench for too many a year).

Ah but I digress though I can still stay with the theme of worse-than-useless politicians while returning to the topic at hand. Now, to be very clear some fine folks have stepped up for the city council positions, people like current councillor Murry Krause, former councillor Deborah Munoz and the unique gay, part native, part Asian drag queen Travis Shaw AKA Foxy De-Rossi.

But at the top of the ballot, there is vacancy, utter vacancy. Two dreary ex-councillors who have appeared often in the past few weeks, managing to say essentially nothing memorable except one of them's -- Don Zurkowski -- hearty endorsement of the Northern Gateway pipeline (This actually could have surprised no one given that lurking about at his candidacy announcement several months ago was the ruddy-faced promo-man ex-Mayor Kingsley).

Zurkowski's mug is everywhere and he has certainly mouthed middle brow slogans about engaging the community. But when the rubber hits the road, folks, he keeps his campaign vague and innocuous, close to the chest on most anything except that pipeline. Take for example, a worthy special section that the Prince George Citizen prepared asking all candidates for mayor and for council the same four questions which ranged from an open invitation to pontificate -- "Why Should Residents Vote in the November Election?" (be still my racing pulse!) to the not so vapid, indeed potentially controversial retrospective on whether candidates would have supported siting a women's rehabilitation centre near an outraged city neighbourhood. Tough and potentially damaging as a response either way risked, almost every candidate provided a reasonably clear answer. But then there was the man who opinion polls show to be ahead for mayor, Don Zurkowski answering thus:

"I was not on council at the time and did not attend the public hearing: as such I do not have all the information and will not state a position."

How very engaging Don!

Unfortunately this kind of dodgy substance-avoidance appears to be how the would-be leader likes to work. This morning the Prince George Citizen reports (and editorialized) their fruitless effort to get Zurkowski or his opponent, Lynn Hall to reveal their campauign funding sources. Zurkowski responded, to quote the report's paraphrasing, "any disclosure prior to the election would be incomplete, and so wanted to wait until the full filing was made." This filing is not due until February -- an incomprehensible flaw in its design -- and therefore we must take it on faith that nothing untoward -- such as a revelation that some of those vested interests like Enbridge have undue influence -- has transpired.

Despite having enough moolah to have a double-sided insert advertisement in the local newspaper yesterday (Nov 13), Zurkowski is mute about the source of sufficient "support" for such multi-thousand-dollar one shot ad. Even with that amount of space available to him, Zurkowski's pages gave almost no specific and substantive indication of where he would take this municipality. Other, that is, than pushing Prince George to grow its population from the current approximate 75,000 to 100,000. How? Unclear but even more important, why? Are we not living in an age when the dogma of endless growth has been amply shown to lead down a path to environmental and thereby social destruction? Read Naomi Klein's recent award winning tome, This Changes Everything and you will see but the latest of a lenghty and growing body of analyses critiquing growth as a goal in and of itself. To be spouting on about such a meaningless, unjustified target as the lead point in one's campaign reveals a candidate who ought to be an historical figure of the naive early post WW-II boom years not 2014.

How lovely it would be if his opponent, Lyn Hall could in fact lead a charge against some of the vulnerable vapidities of Zurowksi. Show same fortitude and character something that just might be needed in the coming years! But Hall says almost nothing about Northern Gateway, falls in line with his adversary when it comes to hiding important information about campaign funding and generally has put on a mutual good-ol'-boy chummy show whenever the two have -- top use a highly exaggerated phrase. "squared off" in public discussion or debates. Again the Prince Geroge Citizen commented on this pleasant jibing and camaraderie which we get here in lieu of any real choice. One of their columnists put it nicely that it was like cornflakes clashing - soggy ones, I would add.

So tomorrow, I will do what I never have never before done: oh, yes, I will go to the poll and I'll give the aforementioned would-be councillors my "X", along with some strong school board trustees who were nominated. But regretfully I must leave the circle beside our propsective mayors' names as empty as these men themselves have been in their spiels through the campaign. There is no good way to pick when it's Tweedle-Dum against Tweedle-Dee.

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