Some ox

Declared stuck in the past and suffering from antiquated thinking, memories of a mentor years back came to mind.

Archie MacRobbie was known for many things including gruff talk and a cliché for most occasions. The particularly contentious issue under discussion at the time eludes me but the phrase “it all depends whose ox is getting gored” resonates to this day. It was a subtle lesson in the fractious nature of public discourse. Somewhere in the middle lies a point where both sides can find some comfort and feel heard at least. Developing a consensus demands finding common ground.

While mentally strolling memory lane with old Archie and others the past couple of weeks, a public meeting came to mind where a cell-phone provider sought to install a tower at Lloyd Dyer Park. It was a full-house that night – some were favourable to the potential revenue which would have helped minor sports greatly, but many were opposed to the use of a public space for private purposes. I remember Carol Hughes saying something about visual pollution and not wanting to see a tower sticking out of the beautiful green canopy that enveloped Rockwood. There was something about her honesty and conviction that brought clarity to that discussion. It wasn’t a planning point or an engineering statistic – it was a people perspective.

The final nail in the coffin, so to speak, for the proposal was pounded in by the applicant’s agent himself. It occurred on a break when he approached me as the chair to ask a thing or two about the rest of the meeting. Then he got onto something about driving it home and sticking it to residents. Along with some phraseology not fit for a family publication rattling around my brain I thought you really don’t get it – these are my people. I’m not your guy.

The tower proposal was defeated only to resurface and be approved in the northeast portion of the village at a later date. Times have changed since then in terms of public meetings and civic engagement – not that then was perfect either but at least people had their say in their own words.

This pandemic has only magnified the absence of public discourse.  Residents are left to watch as millions of dollars’ worth of business is being done without the benefit of real public meetings, real people at the table and real personalities. The character of communities appears to be changing daily, along with priorities. It is a shame to watch.

Surveys and gimmicks to gather public sentiment seem to make the rounds only to be ignored – unless the narrative is conveniently favourable to a certain agenda. Discourse around the virtual council table is limited now too. The incredible freedom social media allows has been commandeered as a silencer against opposing views. Algorithms tend to feed people what they want to hear and read, right or wrong.

The ox hardly stands a chance.