We all have choices

Regardless of age, wealth, culture or personal circumstance, we all have choices when it comes to dealing with others.

Some might call it approaching life with dignity, others might think it falls along the lines of decency, but how we choose to speak says volumes about our own character.

One of our junior reporters shared an Arabic proverb with me that made great sense. She picked it up while living in Dubai and it was a state of thinking her friend’s family lived by.

The mouth should have three gatekeepers. Is it true? Is it kind? Is it necessary?

The North American version is less eloquent, in that it is more a statement than a test. Many a mother has suggested if you don’t have something nice to say, say nothing at all. In one of my daughter’s classes years ago in public school, they learned about speaking with good purpose and that was a phrase that resonated with me at the time as a great learning experience.

Life, however, offers up challenges and personalities that don’t always make it easy to speak well with and of others. But the three gatekeeper test – truth, kindness and necessity – offers pause for thought before blurting out things best left unsaid.

Unfortunately, we live in times where dignity, honour and decency are scarce commodities. Yes, there are those gentlemen and ladies that still stand as an example to others, but their opposites seem to be rising in numbers.

In some circles, not only has truth become a casualty, but there is a degree of unkindness bordering on cruelty we find disconcerting. Examples abound where shameless provocateurs are rewarded and admired for brash talk.

Promoting speech with good purpose isn’t a new topic for readers of the Advertiser. It remains what we see as part of our commitment as a community leader. While elections come and go and different personalities and priorities emerge, the one thing this publication will always insist on is decency and transparency in decision making.

As reported in last week’s Advertiser, Centre Wellington council recently fell short of these basic expectations. The subject matter was a notice of motion submitted by councillor Stephen Kitras that indicated an absence of faith in CAO Andy Goldie.

Although few governments can ever be accused of moving swiftly, it was clear that the majority of council and the mayor wanted to debate the proposed motion in 2019, rather than drag the contents into the new year. So, they found a way to bring the motion forward.

Kitras and fellow councillor Kirk McElwain objected to that move, enough so that both men hastily exited the meeting, leaving councillor Bob Foster to try and explain the intent of its contents.

Later claiming a lack of preparedness as part of the reason for the early departure only brings up an obvious question: how well thought out was the original notice of motion in the first place? Surely enough research and thought was put into it that Kitras readily could speak to it, since countless emails were apparently exchanged, including some with selected members of the public.

That part is odd enough, but this sordid affair takes another turn into unchartered territory. Somehow, Kitras had hoped to bring in delegations to support his motion’s contents. This action would be unprecedented for most issues, but putting a mob together to discuss personnel issues? What’s next, a fast march up to Salem for a trial perhaps?

The most disturbing aspect of this obvious personal attack is that the CAO, who has worked tirelessly in his role, has no voice on the issue. Like many other public servants, he will be stuck forging ahead as if this didn’t happen. There is something patently unfair about using a bully pulpit against someone who can’t defend themselves.

Centre Wellington didn’t just land here on this one issue. The chasm on council is evident and we believe it to be manifested by discussions outside of council meetings. Then again, maybe residents here are simply witness to a magical state of symbiosis where four councillors naturally vote one way and three vote another.

There’s a problem in Centre Wellington and it’s going to take some effort in 2020 to get council working together in a more collegial, respectful fashion. A sincere apology sounds like a great starting point.


There is 1 comment.

  1. How come no one has questioned Bob Foster’s comment on the Mathematical Error in the Budget. I would have liked to have heard a little more on that topic…. Before it was passed….