By Colin Burrowes
When it comes to municipal politics, where we leave the party lines behind, a little bit of objectivity might come in handy for our elected officials. Objectivity is not always an easy thing to master. Journalists are told to use it when we’re sharing the news with you. Sometimes we get it right and keep our personal bias out, and sometimes our bias slips in. And you’ll get no argument from me if you say some media outlets quite openly lean left or right.
At the small-town level, we do have a familiarity with the politicians we vote in so we’re not always surprised if they cross lines and get themselves in a bit of hot water for their behaviour.
At the Municipality of Kincardine committee of the whole meeting on Jan. 27, council received a report about a complaint lodged against Coun. Dave Cuyler by by-law enforcement officer Dallas Hewitt.
A smooth, functioning municipality has clearly defined roles for staff and council with clear rules of separation keeping them apart. Council represents the constituents and confirms the by-laws but enforcement of those by-laws is done by staff members.
Cuyler crossed the line when he involved himself in a bi-law issue regarding Allies for Ally Catz, and then he stepped further over the line on Sept. 10 when he confronted Hewitt about the investigation he was conducting. According to Hewitt, Cuyler became aggressive, and was yelling and swearing at him.
One of the many roles of the Chief Executive Office is to act as a communication conduit between council and staff. Cuyler did not communicate with Hewitt this way. Perhaps it was because of his comfort from his 22 years serving the community on staff that he felt he could circumvent the system.
Cuyler did realize he went too far and has since apologized, but the incident caused considerable stress to Hewitt and other staff members who witnessed the outburst.
Municipality of Kincardine Integrity Commissioner, H.G. Elston’s report on his investigation incident is available in the agenda for the Jan. 27 Committee of the Whole meeting, but that’s not my point. I’m pulling this back to the comparison between small-town politicians and small-town journalists, objectivity, crossing lines and stirring up the pot.
There are times when it’s good to kick the hornet’s nest, make a fuss and let the cookies and clichés crumble where they may. Sometimes it’s best to stick with that more pleasant cliché and catch your flies with honey. So, like Cuyler, who will likely be reprimanded as the report to council recommended, we who write these godforsaken opinions in these newspapers have to remember the bible story about the house which could not withstand the flood because it had a poorly constructed foundation.
Sometimes the belief you are doing the right thing isn’t a strong foundation, when the dust settles and you realize the facts did not support your argument. Choose the wrong side too soon, too many times and you’ll get your hoofs caught in that stirred pot and sounding like an ass – hee-haw.