For two years, Sudburians have looked on as its municipal council has sniped publicly with itself, the provincial ombudsman and its own auditor general.
Since I began observing the goings on at Tom Davies Square two years ago, I’ve marvelled at the tension that seems to hang like a pall over the council chamber.
I’ve been to hundreds of municipal council meetings in my career, but I’ve never seen a council so wracked with internal disputes.
The story MacDonald shared comes from the latest closed meeting report, prepared by Amberley-Gavel, and refers to an incident that occurred while council was eating dinner prior to a meeting. As stated in the report, while all of council ate in the same room, Mayor Marianne Matichuk sat alone at one table; councillors ate together at another.
The dinner time scenario (which I liken to the 1980s classic film The Breakfast Club about a disparate group of teens thrown together during detention who must find some common ground) speaks, I think, to council’s lack of cohesion.
Sudbury’s economy has enjoyed an almost unprecedented level of activity in recent years. It’s dipped slightly, but unemployment remains fairly low, metal prices are reasonably strong and developers continue to find opportunities in the housing and business sectors.
With the opening of the School of Architecture, the revitalization of Market Square and the possibility of a downtown casino and entertainment complex, things look pretty good from where I sit on Elgin Street.
But for all this good news, has council been able to capitalize? Not a single major project has been started, debated or completed by this council.
That exchange between Coun. Andre Rivest and the mayor a couple of weeks ago is just the latest example. After the mayor failed to acknowledge him from the podium at a recent function, he decided to chastise her publicly. Over a hello.
Matichuk apologized, but became angry as Rivest refused to accept her explanation and ordered his microphone turned off. It was like witnessing a spat between high school students.
When this council’s problems play out in public, the city’s reputation suffers.
And, let’s face it folks, reputation is everything.
But back to the dinner thing. My mother always said it was important to sit down as a family to share a meal, to reinforce our shared purpose. I’m sure many of your mothers said the same thing.
Perhaps council could take a page from that book. We’re not asking them to hold hands and sing Kumbaya. We’re not even asking them to be friends. All we’re asking is that this group of intelligent, motivated people put the good of the city ahead of their differences.
In the film, the teenagers do eventually find that common ground. One wonders if our municipal council will manage to do the same. One also wonders if, at this late point in their term, common ground can really make any difference.
Mark Gentili is the managing editor of Northern Life.