Thursday, November 13, 2008

Composure the clear winner at Webster's Corners last night

We saw it earlier this month in the US presidential race, aside from his other qualities Barack Obama is the master of composure. Washington of course is some distance from Webster's Corners, but composure counts all the same in politics, notwithstanding Adolf Hitler's notable lack of it.

By definition one expects composure from the mayoral candidates. The rule does not always apply however. The incumbent won the last time around notwithstanding a less than composed approach. During his tenure however he learned composure and uses it now to his benefit. The green candidate Sather is blessed with a natural composure that may be attributed to all the fresh air he breathes while researching the woods and fells around Maple Ridge. Uncle Ernie takes composure a step further, almost relaxed he addresses his audience as though they are old friends [many are] and we are all sitting in his living room.

Not surprisingly the council candidates vying for the six spots on council number many more - close to 30 this election period. Also, as expected, for many this is their first time. It shows. Composure is often tossed out the window with the rhetoric, cliches and not too sophisticated tricks of the trade which may seem effective when in the hands of the professionals but look downright silly in the hands of a novice.

One candidate suggested that "....if we can put a man on the moon, then we can fix Maple Ridge......". This is the first time that the citizens of Maple Ridge were exposed to the long-held secret that the UBC Research Forest is in reality a secret NASA outpost where once upon a time scientists worked on the moon lander. They are now working on the the far more complex task of bringing better lighting to the streets of Maple Ridge. One member of the audience [it may have been me] was heard muttering about sending some of the candidates to the moon and leaving them there.

The questions last night revolved around some uniquely local issues focused on 256th Street. New candidates struggled for meaningful answers, incumbents offered stock answers, dragged out, dusted off and repeated; all issues that the old hands went to school on over the past three years. As always the candidates felt they did not get enough time to make their points and as always some in attendance felt that a minute was easily long enough for certain candidates to demonstrate why they are perhaps not suitable for office. Those candidates who could not formulate an answer for a question simply agreed with the previous speaker; ignorance masqerading as accord.

There are many, many new faces among the council contenders and one hopes voters give these eager newbies a shot. We are daily bombarded with the promise of 'fresh ideas' and 'creative solutions' and a 'new approach' and 'time for change'. These are stock themes that are dragged off the shelf and presented to the public every three years. And true, once in a while a new idea emerges and true, in time a new idea or two makes its way into reality's realm; a bridge here, a road there. New ideas, one would think, come from new people. On other hand, experienced councillors may be better equipped when it comes to decision-making.

And experinced councils can lean on their civic memory. Al Hogarth reminded us that we have a fibre optic line running along railway line into to town. He could have embelished on this theme by pointing out that all fuss on Lougheed Highway this week is to do with the extension of the fibre optic network in our downtown. Some fresh ideas do therefore make it through the bureaucratic barriers to the public domain.

A stranger last night put me on the spot (I'm no candidate I whined) and asked me what the issues were for me. I did everything I could to avoid answering the question in a clear, concise, honest, unbiased manner - I even tried to walk away. You could be forgiven in thinking I am a politician in training. The stranger pressed me further. Damn, I thought, this one is good. She may even get a job at the NEWS or the TIMES. Finally she pushed me to the point where I could resist no longer and sadly, as I blurted out my unscripted answer, it dawned on me that I could never run for council as I conceded defeat and answered the question as asked.

The issue for me are: revitalize the downtown (yawn), make our streets safer (zzzz) and of course please, please stop all new development that begins with the 's' word - sprawl (here I dozed off right in front of her).

Curiously none of the mayoral candidates or council candidates mentioned the fact that we are in the midst of a recession-come-depression. Here in the Shangri-Maple-Ridge the world economy has apparently leaped over us. Funny that; not only was Maple Ridge by-passed by the booming economy of recent years, but now we are also it seems going to be overlooked by the recession. Talk about irrelevant; even the good times are bad.

So the candidates had many great ideas for jobs and new business and how we can stimulate our economy by creating a cultural and tourism haven in the Fraser valley, but none of them acknowledged the fact that we are are up to our collective waist in economic excreta. Presumably the hope is that it will all blow over by the end of their term. Now there's something we can all hope for. Not the end of their term, the end of the recession. Duh!!

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