Both are decent men who seem responsive to the needs of their constituents. I wish they would both be a little more rigid ideologically in the free market sense, but pragmatism is a much more effective approach than the left-wing “progressivism” that always lingers like an acidic fart over Saskatoon’s city council. And these two are certainly more preferable than their respective opponents who seem to be much more eager to mould the city into their own left-wing image.
Personally, I called nine out of 11 races: I wrongly thought that Mike San Miguel might squeak by NDP stalwart Ann Iwanchuk in the west end’s Ward 3, and I didn’t really see 26-year-old Zach Jeffries taking out long-time incumbent Bev Dubois, even knowing that her popularity had waned over the years. Otherwise, I was pretty confident that the rest of the sitting councillors would carry through and that Eric Olauson would take the ward where he was born and raised and since settled down.
Normally, when eight out of nine sitting members of council get a vote of confidence from their constituents, a sane person might read that as an endorsement, more or less, of the status quo. Not The Finger however. No, the senior city beat writer in our newspaper of record interpreted this result as a call for change. Seriously.
Here’s The Finger writing today’s editorial:
In a rapidly growing and changing Saskatoon, the old ways of doing things simply won’t do anymore.
If anything, that’s the message newly elected Mayor Don Atchison has to take away from last night’s down-to-the wire civic election that saw contender Tom Wolf came close – about five percentage points or 3,404 votes – to unseating the three-term incumbent, and which sent one of the mayor’s council allies, Bev Dubois, packing.
While it might be gleaned from the outcome that Saskatoon voters were not yet ready to adopt the food charter or the 10-year plan to end homelessness, as Mr. Wolf was urging Mr. Atchison to do on Wednesday night, it needs to be recognized that these issues, along with other initiatives such as a more pedestrian and bicycle-friendly Saskatoon that the contender proposed, resonated with nearly 47 per cent of those who cast a ballot in the mayoralty race.
I suspect that if Wolf came within 20 points, The Finger would be writing the same thing. Maybe the citizens of this community are gunning for a more pedestrian- and cycling-friendly transportation system. But maybe they are more interested in expressing their dissatisfaction with the sitting mayor, who didn’t do himself any favours by running an unfocussed, lacklustre campaign. Who knows? After all, Tom Wolf never held back with his smears on the mayor’s past performance, including his incredulous criticism of the mayor’s role in not preventing the three rainiest springs in recent memory from delaying the South Circle Drive project.
Certainly, the criticizing-the-mayor angle resonates more with The Finger, as evidenced by his bylined column which happens to be situated right beside the editorial he wrote:
Over the past few years [Mayor Atchison] has increasingly tried to isolate those councillors with whom he disagreed and given closer counsel to those he saw as allies. It’s clear from how well they did relative to his close results that voters have greater confidence in these councillors than in Atchison’s performance.
But he’s all solely responsible for the cliquey nature of the last council. In spite of the relative youth of this council, it’s time to show greater maturity. Atchison talks about all he wants to get done over the next four years. Among the first things on the agenda must be to rebuild relationships with each of the councillors and ensure that council pulls together.
“Solely responsible for the cliquey nature of the last council”? Is this guy for real? Cliques are based on personal preferences, and there are some councillors who have been very clear that they prefer not to agree with the mayor on most issues. That’s somehow the mayor’s fault?
Take Darren Hill, the recently re-elected councillor and the axis of the anti-Atch clique on council. Petty character Hill hates Atch probably more than anyone else in the city, even more then The Finger. He hates him so much that he has been working diligently to gain control of city council through other means. For instance, two of Darren Hill’s employees ran for city council in other wards with one–Zach Jeffries–winning, yet The Finger doesn’t think this is worth mentioning. Darren Hill was also advising Sean Shaw’s campaign, yet The Finger doesn’t think this is worth mentioning. Darren Hill was also supporting mayoral candidate Tom Wolf’s campaign, yet The Finger doesn’t think this is worth mentioning.
Think about this for a second: one of our veteran city councillors is actively trying to gain control of council by promoting his own allies in other wards, and yet our senior city hall writer blames the mayor for cliquey behavior?
If The Finger doesn’t want to ask the tough questions, maybe I will. Considering the money Tom Wolf was spending (he placed half-page ads in the editorial section and bought 15 minutes of drive-time air on CKOM in the final week of the campaign), who was bankrolling the campaign of Tom Wolf, a previously unelected citizen who came out of nowhere and narrowly lost to a three-term mayor? Why was Darren Hill’s campaign manager from his recent federal election campaign texting messages to Tom Wolf during his first debate? Is Junior Achievement Saskatchewan, whose president and CEO is one Darren Hill, meant to be a recruiting ground for city councillors?
These aren’t difficult questions to ask, and I think they are more than appropriate to consider. I just expect that if The Finger is accusing the mayor of dividing council to suit his civic agenda, then perhaps he’d ought to provide some evidence of this that could be more damning of the alternative: that Darren Hill, weasel that he is, is doing his best to keep city council divided to promote his own agenda.
And what’s Darren Hill’s agenda? Why, it’s promoting Darren Hill. QED.
But alas, I guess we’ll just have to see how it all plays out.
In the meantime, I think The Finger’s overall premise is wrong: council didn’t move that much more to the left. He neglects to mention that left-wingers Robertson and Shaw were defeated by moderate pragmatists Olauson and Davies, and that there remains the conservative Randy Donauer and centrist Atchison with votes. Zach Jeffries might prove to be a decent find from a pragmatic sense, but history has shown than far too many bright, articulate, young politicians like to aggressively assert their progressive bonafides instead of responding to the concerns of their constituent majority. John Gormley is right when he says that we’ll soon see in the first few council meetings whether Jeffries is a puppet of Petty Character Hill or if he can be his own man. He’ll be watched carefully.
Congratulations to Troy and Atch. They are good men who get things done, and their respective victories were well-deserved.