Raring for referendums? Great, let’s dissolve council

Monday, June 22, 2009

So here’s an idea.

Let’s just do away with city council.

Who needs it anyway? All councillors do is sit around and talk and read reports and talk some more and read some more reports.

How hard can that be?

The rest of us out here can certainly take on that job.

Need to make a decision? Let’s hold referenda. We can do one every week if we have to.

Let the people speak.

Problem is, that’s exactly what the people do — theoretically — on election day.

We pick the people we think can best run the city.

Every three years, if we like what they’ve done, we can vote for them again, if they’re running.

If we’re not happy with them, we can collectively vote them out — or at least have the satisfaction of knowing with our X we’ve expressed our view.

That’s the way the system works and it’s the reason why all this nonsense about water meters needs to stop.

We elected this council.

The councillors have read the reports. They’ve asked the questions.

They’ve considered the issue.

I’m sure many have asked their friends, family — perhaps even total strangers — for feedback on the issue. And they’ve made the decision the city needs to have water meters.

Most of the debate has centred around one of two concepts:

We can teach people to conserve and didn’t we already say no to this once?

The education-awareness argument doesn’t need much comment.

Of course we can launch a campaign to do this.

Some people will listen; others won’t. That’s the way it’s always been and likely will remain for years to come.

People buy into concepts or they don’t.

The argument that concerns me the most is this “listen to the people.”

“The people” today are different from “the people” who voted on the water-meter referendum years ago.

The time in which they voted was a different one. We weren’t as aware as we are now about the city’s water consumption, its cost, the consequences of not controlling its use — all those issues we now face.

And the time we are in now is not going to be much like the one our children will see when they reach voting age.

We can’t keep running back to the general population for a “vote.”

It just won’t work. It might be democracy in its purest form, but if you think we have voter apathy now, just imagine how engaged people would become if, on every major issue, we had to hold a referendum.

Now there’s a cost you won’t want to see added to the property-tax calculations.

The real reason the “we already said no” argument is being raised is because, yes, some people already said no.

It’s a convenient argument for those who still want to say no.

But here’s the bottom line: We use too much water.

We know it and yet many of us continue to use too much water — so much for that awareness and education choice.

Meters will force us to realize how much water we use and require us to pay for it.

Basic economics here: Use little, pay little. Use more, pay more.

And here’s the principle we’re in danger of losing if we cave in to those naysayers and pander to their calls for public referenda: We make our civic leaders obsolete.

We don’t need them.

We can decide.

I’m not sure who would be the one picking the “big” issues that require the public to make the decision.

Maybe we could hold a referendum to choose.

In the meantime, these are the folks we chose to make those decisions needed to run Kamloops.

Let’s let them do it.


The last Sunday

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Our last Sunday edition was published today.
It's got an awesome front; Chris Foulds put some of the best Sunday fronts we've done in recent history below the mast, with a series of sundae cups in reduced levels of holding ice cream above the mast.
Some of the people I work with questioned this, saying the Sunday paper might come back.
It might, but I'm not expecting that to happen.
There's even a rumour out there about more possible changes in the publishing arena in Kamloops, which is further proof -- if it turns out to be something more than a rumour -- the industry I've grown up with and in is changing dramatically.
Some day, I think we're going to miss printed newspapers, like we're now starting to miss the purity of vinyl records.
They're coming back, slowly, as we continue to look backwards while we're running forwards.
Fridays were always what I called my day from hell; massive push to get everything done by 5 p.m., the staff just getting over having put out the Friday paper and faced with a quick turnaround to get stories and photos all in.
I can't remember the number of Friday nights it was just me, the editor and Dave Eagles still finishing things off at 5:30 p.m. -- and sometimes later.
It will be nice to get out of work on Fridays at a normal hour.
It's just going to take some time to get used to.


Friday, June 5, 2009

But Monday isn't going to be much better.
It's been a tough week at KTW. We've killed our Sunday paper for reasons that, to the true-believer reporter types some of us are, make no logical sense.
Economic sense, maybe, but to go another day without something tangible, something you can hold in your hands that tells you what's going on -- it's sad to think that reality is disposable in today's world.
It was interesting sitting in on a meeting between the kids in the newsroom and the publisher today. They're so gung-ho; angry at the death in the family we're living with, but they still believe and they want so much to find ways to connect with people and tell share the stories they write.
they want to figure out ways to dive readers to our online presence at kamloopsthisweek.com. They want to engage readers in an online forum. They want to have a dialogue with you, to share ideas, to ferret out the stories you want to tell.
They're willing to use just about any medium that will work and, if the publisher goes along with some of their ideas, you're about to see some truly innovative ways to interact with the KTW reporting staff.
For me, though, it's been a roller-coaster ride.
As i sat bemoaning at home bemoaning the decision I feel is truly wrong, I remembered a day about 27 years ago when, while sitting at home on a medical leave, I got a call from the editor of the metropolitan daily I called home for 25 years.
Believe it or not, he told me, the publisher (who owned the paper, one of the last true, great, independent newspaper publishers) was killing our evening edition.
It was the end of the industry, many of my colleagues said. How could we continue with no evening paper?
Funny thing is we did. We had our morning paper and the five other editions that we sent out at night to our regions. We just didn't have our city evening edition.
We got letters to the editor but, in the end, we learned how to rethink to package our paper for morning deliver and our readers learned how to communicate with us to ensure the news they wanted continued to be covered.
It was an instructive lesson to remember.
They were good old days, they're slowing leaving but there's always tomorrow.
We can dread it or embrace it.
Working with the kids who share our newsroom, it seems I've got no choice.