We’re all politicians, unfortunately
for the mayor
Opinion Columns - Tuesday, March 06, 2007 Updated @ 8:05:41 PM
By Tony Houghton
Who’s the most unpopular man in Kingston? Judging by what I read in The Kingston Whig-Standard, it is almost certainly mayor Harvey Rosen.
I hope the mayor’s family likes him and that he has a few friends who might like him, because no one else seems to. It’s hard to find a kind word printed about him.
He’s described, in countless letters from readers, in the most unflattering terms. They say that he shows little respect for councillors. He’s accused of “losing it” in council meetings. He does things behind closed doors. He “misleads the public.” It’s true that the Whig-Standard, at the last minute, endorsed his mayoralty campaign, but so begrudgingly that most of us voted for someone else.
Rosen’s problem is that he is a businessman in a city of politicians. Because in Kingston, we are all politicians. When any issue comes up, we leap into print, usually condemning it.
I have lived in a few other cities, but never in one where so many people get so worked up about local issues, or write so many letters to the newspaper, and can virtually count on seeing them published. Pages and pages of them, sometimes.
The people we elect as councillors are merely the most vociferous of us, and the ones prepared to give up their Tuesday evenings for the next four years.
As politicians, all of us, we love the sound of our own voices, and the reassuring look of our words in print, but we have a real problem when it comes to actually doing something.
For decades, when Kingston was run by politicians, we talked endlessly but succeeded in doing virtually nothing, and everyone was happy. Other towns got things built, but we didn’t. Kingston was already built, thank you. It didn’t need any more buildings. That was the last thing we wanted.
And then came Rosen.
Rosen didn’t understand that we Kingstonians really don’t want to do anything. He thinks he was elected to do something, but that’s not true. We elected him to talk about doing something. We never expected him to actually do it, and when we suddenly wake up and find the downtown arena is half built, we panic. It was done behind our backs. It was done behind closed doors. We vow to pull it down. So what if we signed a contract? Let’s tear it up. So what if we find ourselves faced with a zillion-dollar bill for breach of contract that will have to come out of our property taxes? So what if Kellogg Canada decide to build its new plant in Belleville, and so what if it’s difficult to convince businesses to locate here because they’re afraid we’ll change our mind about it next week? So what if we become widely known as the silliest city in Ontario, a laughingstock throughout the province?
It’s not only the downtown arena. Under Rosen, Block D is finally being developed, after 40 years. Not, perhaps, in the most imaginative way, but at least it’s being developed. Market Square has been fixed up, with a skating rink and a fountain, after our politicians had talked about it for 25 years. The Grand Theatre is being restored, after about a hundred.
Rosen must be stopped. The man is dangerous. True, he hasn’t got around to opening up the K&P Trail yet, but, at this rate, he soon will, and the place will be full of hikers and snowmobilers.
We need politicians here, not businessmen. We must find a way of declaring last November’s municipal elections null and void. They were done behind closed doors. They don’t count.
Tony Houghton is a member of the Whig-Standard’s Community Editorial Board.