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Cooler heads needed for Service Level Review

Chris Marchand

Chris Marchand served as editor of the Dryden Observer from August 2009 to April 2018.

Well that was awkward wasn’t it?

After months of inviting the public to not only take an interest but an active role in the future of their community, I think Dryden City Council walked the razor’s edge over how to respond to the Dryden Business Group’s intent to insert themselves into the service level review process.

While being denied a working role in the process will certainly inspire outrage among supporters of the business group, I believe council arrived at the only reasonable conclusion.

I’m wary of being overly critical of the Dryden Business Group. I think most people would agree that those who care about their community and are motivated to act are to be commended. That said, unelected people who seek influence over important political decisions are walking into dubious territory, regardless of the purity of their intentions.

There was something a bit stinky about it all.

While I have no doubt any member of the business group would vigorously argue that its intent was to apply some heavyweight skill-sets in our community to an overwhelming problem, that much could have (and still can) be done behind the scenes. The bold and public way this group asserted its presence seemed to have been built on a foundation of non-confidence in our duly elected leadership and a belief that the city presently does not have the skills or expertise to get the job done itself.

If I sat on council I’d have a hard time interpreting it any other way.

Last week’s heated public meeting invited a measure of hubris on the Business Group.

Now, if I had a nickel for the crushed spirits of every concerned citizen with plans to shake up city hall with their old-fashioned gumption, who discover their brand of common sense doesn’t work in the context of local government, why… I could buy myself a membership with the Chamber of Commerce.

Government culture is a stubborn beast that responds best to those who learn to operate its own set of unique levers instead of trying in vain to bend it to their will. It’s a different system, one with its own relative common sense.

Take the issue of consultants, for example — whose price tags drive the public into muttering revolutionaries.

In this case, perhaps more than any other, I’d argue that a consultant would be essential to the service review process.

The coffeeshop critics like to parrot the throwaway line: consultants are people whom you pay to tell you what you already know.

It’s true, albeit an oversimplification.

It glosses over some of the more relevant details, which might be expressed as, consultants are individuals whom you pay to objectively examine your situation from the outside then accept a measure of the responsibility for recommending unpopular decisions you already knew you had to make.

For the taxpayers’ sake it is important that service levels in our community are considered without prejudice, heightened emotions, local bias and conflict of interest. That’s difficult to achieve among ourselves. We are frustrated and in many ways blinded by our self-interest and our ties to others in the community. Talking about which city departments need to be cut down to size has become the local pastime.

A fresh set of eyes is essential.

For politicians who are accountable to the public, opinions well-versed in the municipal affairs not only offer sound, research-based reasoning to fall back upon when questioned, they offer the all-important distance needed to arrive at the best decision for Drydenites.

 

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