Posts Tagged ‘Municipal Politics’

Being completely open-minded is something I truly strive for, yet I struggle to keep an open mind towards the extreme authoritarian governments in power in my country and my province. In Nick Fillmore’s latest BLOG post,

Is Stephen Harper displaying
fascist-like tendencies?

he makes the case that although he doesn’t accuse Mr. Harper of being a fascist, one can easily identify elements of fascism from Harper’s actions when applying Dr. Lawrence Britt’s fourteen defining characteristics of fascism. It is compelling reading. I worry about the changes happening in a country once known for its collective social conscience.

Our province could be similarly analyzed. In a province where a campaign has been launched AGAINST opposition leader, Adrian Dix, before an election has been called; in a province where teachers enter an eleventh year with bargaining rights suppressed;  in a province where cuts to arts funding were increased (AGAIN!) and the Bible is raised in discussion by the Minister of Culture and the Arts, I begin to see fascist-like tendencies very close to home.

One can despair, shut them out or take action. Of course taking action is the obvious solution, yet that, too, can be difficult. What to do? What obstacles? What politics within the politics?

Which brings me to social conscience…

When you find someone with true social conscience with whom you can work, volunteer, collaborate…it all becomes so much easier. I found Dave McPherson. He is smart, funny, caring, dedicated, a great navigator but above all he has a true social conscience. And, he’s handling Joe Trasolini’s by-election campaign. Officially he’s the Campaign Manager, but that title seems minimal for what he does. Somehow I knew this was where I could make a difference, stop the creeping fascism, restore some balance and join a team of like-minded people. I am very impressed with the candidate and the myriad of volunteers who have arrived to make a difference.

Joe Trasolini has a public persona that one begins to identify through discussion, through the press, through living in a neighbouring municipality, but every day I like and respect Joe more and more. His values are the right values. He cares about people. He cares about getting things done.  This hard-working man has earned the respect of many, many people in the City of Port Moody. He makes himself available to anyone in the public for meetings through his open-door policy carried over from his 12 years as Mayor. He IS open-minded. He has the mindset of a person who comes to politics to make the world a better place for the many, not for the few. The environment is always in the forefront of his thinking. Scent-free office – OF COURSE. In fact, time to stop BLOGGING and get down to the office. Volunteers are welcome. The office including the phone rooms are wheelchair accessible. Come and join me. We can make a difference.

Hello, neighbours…

It is a privilege to have an opportunity to stand before you this evening, once again to offer to serve you as a Councillor in the Village of Anmore. Many of you have come to know that I am a passionate advocate…for individuals, for the environment, for sustainability, for the ARTS, for this Village and for the Tri-City region.

There is no us and them. That is an illusion. There are only people – some with a more generous spirit than others. This can be observed in small, every-day behaviours. You can see it in how they interact with a child or with nature. You can see it in the things they choose to do with their time. When you choose someone to lead your country or your province or your village, what do you want? A kind person? An honest person? A person who does not just promise to do her best but shows it every day? A person who demonstrates true kindness of spirit? A person with a strong work ethic? A person who can suspend judgment?  A person who can truly listen and does so? A person who will not be bullied? I offer you these, my good qualities – and more because I KNOW…

Such a person will bring to the COUNCIL table your interests, always. You can trust that selfishness, greed and power will not be on MY agenda.

It is certainly helpful if your leader can understand easily the workings of government, and I have studied hard over the years. Yet I put it to you: it is equally important to bring questions to the table.

The candidates here before you this evening have worked hard – to promise you the same promises I have seen on campaign literature over the last three elections. If you peruse my handouts, mail-outs and websites, you will see that financial accountability, environmental protection and community planning are important to me as well. The difference I can offer you – is my community record of committee work, consensus-building and advocacy.

I am here for you –  and I am here for Anmore. On election day, vote for ELAINE WILLIS.

 

It is not an easy decision to run for Council in Anmore. It is a tiny municipality. There are currently about 1400 voters. Three years ago there were approximately 1200 voters which actually demonstrates the growth we are experiencing, and one of the reasons I decided I must, once again, offer to serve. From 2001 to 2006 there was a 32.8% population increase, and this upward population pressure continues. With a “Rural” designation from Metro Vancouver and an outdated, incomplete Official Community Plan with a firm one acre minimum lot size, the village is evolving via the drift rather than plan mechanism that is created by development pressures. Land values continue to soar and conflict between development and sustainability have come to the fore.

What to do about it? Clearly deflecting attention from it with conflict will not solve the problem. Communication, consensus-building and judicious planning are required to create sustainable development. The Official Community Plan must be revised and adhered to. We must also work effectively with our neighbours. Anmore does not exist in a vacuum. The region of the Tri-Cities shares air and watersheds, we share roadways, transportation and infrastructure. We share services. Working within this small region is as important as working with the greater region of Metro Vancouver in planning and decision making and I pledge to keep communication key for shared resources and services. Already I have inserted myself into committees relating to hospital services, watershed management, social services and the arts in the Tri-Cities as I believe so strongly in their importance.

So, a vote for me is a vote for communication, for dialogue, and for advocacy for our village and our region. I promise to stand for and maintain open government, to be responsive to the voices of individuals and to groups. Sustainable development is not rampant development; we need careful planning to keep Anmore beautiful, green and livable.  I have no hidden agenda. My life for the past several years has been devoted to advocacy. I offer that now in service as your Anmore Councillor. Vote for Elaine Willis on November 19th.

I very much enjoyed the experience of presenting. I realize, after the fact, just how much my left brain dominates.  Although I have a good understanding of how the artistic, right-brained individuals function, I am less tolerant of their function than I would like to be when it comes to what I perceive to be  “professional” events and functions. I am not sure if that is something I learned or if it is innate.

I wanted to (and was) on time for the meeting for the presenters. Part of me knew it would be foolish to worry about being on time for an “artsy event”  but that’s who I am (remember the left-brain dominance). The meeting did not occur and the person who called it did not arrive until forty-five minutes later. In fact the level of organization was just not the tight, structured,  Japanese, haiku-like form that is PechaKucha. So as I waited and watched for the show to begin, safely inhaling oxygen at 4 litres per minute (one of the presenters wore a LOT of fragrance), I experienced some cognitive dissonance. I so firmly believe that the production should be organized, should start on time, should be coordinated  professionally – after all people are paying to see the show. On the other hand the audience is happy, largely unaware that the media is not present, the photographer and film crew are absent, the meeting did not take place – they are more than happy.

Dissonance…tells more about me than the situation… “dissonance is reduced by justifying, blaming, and denying”.  I realize I have done all three. So while other people turn inward with nervousness, do I look outward…settling upon justification for the situation by noting that all went well despite the disorganization which I perceived?  The arts community pitched in and did what was needed. The audience was inspired. The focus was on the positive. The networking was amazing….and the feedback I received was great.

It seems that people were, on the whole,  inspired and motivated.

And when I reread “What makes a good PechaKucha” (it means chitchat in Japanese…) from the originator’s website, I know this whole thought process is something I need to continually work through…

“Good PechaKucha presentation are the ones that uncover the unexpected, unexpected talent, unexpected ideas. Some PechaKuchas tell great stories about a project or a trip. Some are incredibly personal, some are incredibly funny, but all are very different making each PechaKucha Night like ‘a box of chocolates’.”

It was a box of chocolates – there was something for everyone at PKN Coquitlam.

My tenant and sometime attendant, Geoff, provided the salient points from a book he was reading entitled  Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy by David D. Burns. For those who suffer from depression, Dr. Burns identified what he saw as the root cause…twisted thinking. I see twisted thinking as a manifestation of the modern world; too much time for thinking perhaps? Dr. Burns identified ten categories of twisted thinking. When I first saw them, I quickly summarized them and shuffled them off by email to everyone I thought would take the time to read them. Brilliant work, Dr. Burns! If intelligent modern humans can recognize their twisted thinking, they can surely alter the course of their thoughts.

Then there is Groupthink…

Groupthink is also a pathology, much as the depression that is linked to the twisted thinking identified by Burns. Some of those appearing below influence the situation surrounding the politics of our tiny village.

Irving Janis devised some symptoms indicative of groupthink (1977).

  1. Illusions of invulnerability creating excessive optimism and encouraging risk taking.
  2. Rationalizing warnings that might challenge the group’s assumptions.
  3. Unquestioned belief in the morality of the group, causing members to ignore the consequences of their actions.
  4. Stereotyping those who are opposed to the group as weak, evil, biased, spiteful, disfigured, impotent, or stupid.
  5. Direct pressure to conform placed on any member who questions the group, couched in terms of “disloyalty”.
  6. Self censorship of ideas that deviate from the apparent group consensus.
  7. Illusions of unanimity among group members, silence is viewed as agreement.
  8. Mind guards — self-appointed members who shield the group from dissenting information.

Groupthink, resulting from the symptoms listed above, results in defective decision making. That is, consensus-driven decisions are the result of the following practices of groupthinking

  1. Incomplete survey of alternatives
  2. Incomplete survey of objectives
  3. Failure to examine risks of preferred choice
  4. Failure to reevaluate previously rejected alternatives
  5. Poor information search
  6. Selection bias in collecting information
  7. Failure to work out contingency plans.

Twisted Thinking – Burns – the individual’s view

  1. All-or-nothing thinking… look at everything in all-or-nothing terms.
  2. Over generalisation… view a negative event as a never-ending pattern of defeat.
  3. Mental filter… dwell on the negatives and ignore the positives.
  4. Discounting the positives… insist that accomplishments or positive qualities ‘don’t count’.
  5. Jumping to conclusions…
  6. bullet Mind reading – you think you know what others are thinking
    bullet Fortune-telling- you know what will happen and you know it will be a bad outcome

  7. Magnification or minimalization… blow up things out of proportion or  shrink their importance inappropriately.
  8. Emotional reasoning… You reason from how you feel:  “I feel like an idiot, so I really must be one.” or “I don’t feel like doing this so I’ll put it off.”
  9. Should statements… You criticise yourself to other people with ‘shoulds’ or ‘shouldn’ts’.  ‘Musts’, ‘oughts’ and ‘have-tos’ are similar offenders.
  10. Labelling… using words like “loser”, “troublemaker”, rather than saying the person made a mistake
  11. Personalisation and blame… You blame yourself for something you weren’t entirely responsible for, or you blame other people and overlook ways that your own attributes and behaviour might contribute to a problem.

Combine these two flawed thought processes and there is a cauldron of trouble. The individual works on the twisted forms of thinking and brings them to Groupthink as truths. Information is not gathered, assumptions are not challenged, an illusion of unanimity is created by a vocal few.

Can awareness that these are the processes taking place steer our tiny ship in a new direction? I often comment that the population of our village is no larger than many strata corporations. yet we are a municipality with many responsibilities and important decisions to make. When we abandon twisted thinking and Groupthink we may actually move forward in positive ways. I am ever hopeful.

Not too much commentary – I will try to let Glenn ter Borg’s film speak for itself. Believe me, there are hours and hours of film that went into making this 10 minute segment of the Hindsight Years. Glenn says mine was the most difficult to date. Here’s the link… enjoy!

The Hindsight Years – Elaine Willis