Mayor Clarke’s “Reorganization Plan” for CBRM

CBRM Mayor Cecil Clarke’s “Reorganization Plan for Positive Change” takes his election campaign and repackages it in the form of a 13-point to-do list. Each point raises an issue, and lists immediate, short-term, and long-term actions Clarke’s administration will take to address it.

Read it online: Mayor Clarke’s “Reorganization Plan”

The original document is only available as a PDF on the CBRM website. I was frustrated that you can’t comment on it, share it on social media, link individually to any of its 13 sections, or read it with ease on a mobile device. So I put together a quick website that allows all these.

Reading the plan, the first thing you’ll notice (if you haven’t already) is how much Clarke differs from his predecessor. Former Mayor John Morgan was a radical populist, presenting himself as a man of “the people”, always and firmly against the elite. Clarke, on the other hand, wants Municipal leaders to get out in front.

The plan is ambitious. Simply calling it a plan for reorganization is a tacit criticism of the status quo. But with the actions it outlines, it raises the bar for the Municipality (legislatively and organizationally). If Clarke and his team are successful, it could very well prove transformative.

But it also assumes — and creates room for — the participation of the community at large. There’s a lot of overlap here with my own campaign “platform”. And I had originally set out to write a blog post detailing some of the similarities. But I’d rather hear what others think, which is why I made the website.

Read Clarke’s Plan. Leave a comment. Share it with your social networks (#ClarkePlan on Twitter). Encourage your Councillor to make comments. And most importantly, refer back to the website over the next four years, and hold Clarke accountable.

#CBRM #thisisyourcommunity

The Cape Breton Post’s editorial cartoon by Sean Casey of Cape Breton Ink is brilliant because it lends itself to interpretation.

I hope that when people see this cartoon they see beyond the hipster facial hair, piercings, sneakers and slang and notice what the t-shirt says, because the character with the “creative alternatives” is not a composite of a couple of punk kids with too much idealism and too little common sense. It is a composite of all Cape Bretoners young and old who worry about the future, feel helpless at times, and are looking for a way to join in a collective, collaborative effort to rebuild (an effort that is underway).

The “creative alternatives” we refer to are not meant to supplant, but to supplement, an equalization fairness campaign: to consider other means of achieving prosperity in addition to equalization; and to consider other means of pursuing equalization fairness itself.

For me, the real meaning of this cartoon lies in the question it poses: namely, what happens next? Will we have a mayor who engages more of the community? Or will we have a mayor who continues to “cast himself as a lonely but heroic crusader“? In which case, the cartoon may not be portraying Mayor Morgan as using the lawsuit “sword” to fight off the beast of economic ruin, in fact he may not even be using it to fight the beast at all. He may be feeding it.

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What’s this about? See here, here and here

Toward Collaborative Local Politics

Published in The Cape Breton Post comment section (print only) on Monday, March 5, 2012

CBRM Mayor John Morgan should seek input from the community on a more regular basis, and with a deeper commitment to giving that input its full due. He should help open the municipal government’s policy development and review processes to make them more participatory, transparent, and above all, inclusive. And he should re-imagine a social role for municipal government.

This was the message a small group of us delivered to Mayor Morgan last week. The meeting was a follow-up to Donnie Calabrese’s “Open Letter”, published first on Facebook and then in the Post. In it, Donnie challenged the Mayor to think outside the equalization box and look to the community for creative alternatives. But the real challenge now falls on us, to bring those creative alternatives forward and put them to the test. So while we’re expecting a lot from the Mayor and his office, we’re also expecting a lot of ourselves — that we will assume more responsibility for co-creating our communities and local economies.

In order for this new conversation to unfold, there must be an open channel of dialogue between the Mayor’s office and the various constituencies that feel they are not being listened to, let alone spoken to. Only then can we work together to achieve our common goal of creating a vibrant community that offers a viable choice to both newcomers and home-grown folks alike.

During the meeting (which included myself, Donnie, and Erika Shea), we acknowledged the cogency of Mayor Morgan’s argument with respect to equalization. But all parties were able to agree that, while equalization fairness is perhaps necessary, it is not sufficient. We therefore can’t afford to pursue it at the exclusion of immigration and diversity, arts and culture, student life and youth engagement, environmental sustainability, and the nurturing of a business climate more conducive to small- and medium-size enterprise.

Judging from some of the responses to Donnie’s letter, the Mayor is not the only one with a blind-spot when it comes to small and varied locally-based initiatives. Many still buy into the false choice between rescue from government and rescue from big industry. Curiously, this dual rescue package is seen as the only hope by both doom and gloom pessimists and “turned the corner” optimists alike. But both offer false hope.

We need evidence-based analysis from our best and brightest, which our Mayor is. But it must be combined with innovative and practical solutions, which the equalization legal battle is not.

Instead we need our leaders to be inspired by a constructive alternative vision, like the kind Fr Jimmy Tompkins and Fr Moses Coady sought to establish during the Antigonish Movement. Leadership is tricky now just as it was then. What does it mean in a 21st-century hyperconnected world, and in a collaborative setting like the one alluded to above? And how can it help people in Cape Breton achieve Coady’s vision of becoming, as he titled his book, ‘Masters of Their Own Destiny’?

Whatever shape it takes, collaborative community-based leadership requires of us that we educate ourselves and organize ourselves. A well known example of the Antigonish Movement’s effort to educate and organize was the People’s School, established in 1921 at St Francis Xavier University. Its goals were, I believe, ones we can identify with today, almost a hundred years later:

  • to deal pragmatically and head-on with the challenges facing Cape Breton;
  • to liberate, and put to good use, the creative energies of the people; and
  • to inspire them to work together for their common good.

This is not an argument for pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps. CBRM, like every municipality in Canada, has three levels of government, all of which must work together to achieve sustainable prosperity. But an engagement with government at the local level is perhaps the best way of ensuring that the community leads in determining its future.

So roll up your sleeves. There’s a new conversation to be had.