By Mike Archer. In a piece in The Abbotsford Times this week, Executive Director of the Abbotsford Chamber of Commerce, Allan Asaph, took umbrage at the ease with which “Anyone with access to a computer can create a website, a blog or other web presence and hold themselves out as an arbiter of what is wrong and right.”

As if to bolster his case before he has made it, Asaph starts with a quote from Roman philosopher, statesman, senator* and lawyer Cicero – “I criticize by creation, not by finding fault.”

* Mike Duffy is a senator too

Much like the bible, Roman philosophers provided us with enough wonderful quotes they can be skilfully used to bolster many arguments.

By using lofty quotes and complaining about how easy it has become for common folk to criticise the high and mighty, Asaph seems to be harkening back to an even earlier time than Cicero’s when Aristotle pointed out that, “In a democracy the poor will have more power than the rich, because there are more of them, and the will of the majority is supreme.”

Aristotle’s was a warning which organisations like chambers of commerce have been taking to heart ever since.

Here’s a Roman quote on the topic of citizens’ public duty:

“The subject who is truly loyal to the Chief Magistrate will neither advise nor submit to arbitrary measures.” — Junius.

“Unfortunately,” Asaph says, “It’s easy to be a critic these days.”

Unfortunate for whom?

What in particular it is that makes a giant flyer delivery corporation or a spokesman for a local business club any more qualified to speak on the people’s business than the people themselves is never made clear.

After making accusations of anonymity, while not naming those he is criticising, he deftly avoids dealing with any of the criticisms he complains about.

I am assuming Asaph is referring to us, not out of some misplaced or egotistical sense of importance but because, unless he is referring to Kijiji or, we’re the only website we know of which is available to anyone who wants to contribute and which regularly criticises the power structure in Abbotsford.

Asaph makes one valid point – if criticism is not accompanied by constructive proposals for ways to improve things it only allows a community to find out how poorly they are being served by those who are being paid to look after the interests of their friends and neighbours and offers no alternatives.

Allan, I’m really unsure what bothers you more – the fact that nowadays anybody can criticise the powerful in Abbotsford or the fact that so many people are criticising the powerful.

There are many examples throughout the site of the suggestions made to the power structure in Abbotsford over the years if you bother to look for something other than the things that bother you and make you or your friends look bad.

We admit quite freely that, at times, the criticism from the people who contribute to, write for, edit or own Abbotsford Today can seem a bit overwhelming for those on the receiving end.

After all, we aren’t The Abbotsford News or The Abbotsford Times.

Editor's Note: Graphic added after comments received.

Editor’s Note: Graphic added after comments received.

Perhaps if those who run the City of Abbotsford could tone down the incompetence, the disregard for advice from down here or stopped making such terrible decisions we could tone down the criticism.

Perhaps if the chain-owned newspapers would ever criticise anyone in the power structure – for example someone from the Chamber of Commerce – it would be easier to swallow Asaph’s objection about those who actually do.

Asaph carefully sidesteps the Chamber of Commerce’s prominent, loud and vociferous support of Plan A – the major cause of the taxpayers’ current financial woes.

He also sidesteps the Chamber of Commerce’s support for the two new overpasses which emptied our DCC fund and put it into deficit.

The fact is that the Abbotsford Chamber of Commerce has been a major player in creating the situation in which we find ourselves whereby the decisions made over the last 12 years have put taxpayers in an untenable position of increasing costs and decreasing revenues due to decisions the Chamber actively promoted.

While I generally support the Chamber’s drive to lower business taxes if the savings are used to increase business investment and job creation, the enormous influence the Chamber has had on the expenditure of hundreds of millions of their friends’
and neighbours’ money on such enormous failures can’t be allowed to go without mention.

In fact, if the Chamber intends to carry any weight in this community it must ask itself why it allowed its leadership to get it so involved in one of the biggest political failures in BC municipal politics … and were on the wrong side of issue.

Forgive us for being critical but it is our money you’ve been so joyfully throwing away.

We’ll keep the point about the need to be constructive with our crticism in mind, but I’d like to remind Mr. Asaph, and all those within Abbotsford’s power structure who bear the brunt of our criticism, that if you read beyond what we say about you, finish the columns, follow the links and delve into the archives on the site, you will find a plethora of advice which has been outlined, detailed and much of it presented to City Hall at public meetings only to be sidestepped, ignored or even denigrated by people who have made some pretty terrible decisions and acted pretty shabbily towards their friends and neighbours in their positions serving the public trust.

When, against the advise of those outside of the Chamber and Council klatch, the City went ahead and built the Abbotsford Entertainment and Sports Centre (AESC) without a business plan or a way to fill it, they were advised to turn the lights off until they could find an anchor tenant to pay the bills.

Then-Mayor George Peary’s response, published in the Abbosford News: “It’s hard to take these people seriously.” Then, when the deal was sealed that is bankrupting the taxpayers of Abbotsford the News wrote a piece basically telling ‘the naysayers’ to shut up.

It’s the way the power structure in Abbotsford seems to deal with criticism. And you’re doing it right now. Making ad hominem attacks on your critics and questioning their right to criticise you rather than dealing with their criticisms of you.

Abbotsford Ratepayers Association (ARA) president and Today co-owner Vince Dimanno

Abbotsford Ratepayers Association (ARA) president and Today co-owner Vince Dimanno

If you read any of Vince Dimanno’s columns over the last four years you will find a long and detailed account of the ways in which this City could be more effectively run. Dimanno, and anyone else who has dared to contradict the power structure, has been rudely dismissed and belittled by those whom they have dared to criticise.

Councillor Henry Braun

Councillor Henry Braun

If you read any of Councillor Henry Braun’s blog posts, re-published on Abbotsford Today, you will read some pretty intelligent and constructive criticism of the way things have been done in this city and more than a few suggestions about how things ought to be done.

If you have paid any attention to the efforts of Fred Thiessen, which went unreported in the chain-owned media until after his presentation to Council, you’ll find some pretty intelligent and constructive criticism.

Since both chain-owned newspapers seem to toe the party line by publishing missives from organizations like the Chamber of Commerce and as though they were sermons from on high, and ignoring people like Fred Thiessen, Vince Dimanno or anyone else who disagrees with them, maybe those in the power structure aren’t familiar with how a real media works.

Our job, you will forgive us, is not to run the City but to allow those who own it – the citizens – to find out what’s being done with their money and comment on it.

Our job is to point out when you lie, blunder, fail, promise things without delivering or make enormous mistakes like the Plan A debacle which our children will be paying for long after all of the pomp and ceremony, so beloved by those who provide it for themselves, has been forgotten. Our job is to provide ‘The other side of the news’. It’s in our name. We publish the stuff the newspapers don’t and the stuff the people in power don’t want to have published.

If you don’t like our criticism we really don’t care.

Perhaps it is that fact that is most bothersome to those in the power structure of Abbotsford. They have no advertising to cancel; no friends with influence to talk to; no pressure they can bring to bear that will shut us up.

ToffOur criticism isn’t tempered by any need or desire to become a part of the power structure or please anybody within it. We just want the people who pay the bills to have an opportunity to find out what is really going on and to have a say in the discussion without having to become rich, buy land, join a business club, lose millions of dollars a year or play any of the other games required to climb up to the stuffy air at the top of the little Abbotsford power structure built up to support those at City Hall who have done such a terrible job of representing the interests of their friends and neighbours down here below.

Asaph does admit, “Open discussion of ideas, values and priorities together with the expression of opinion is the basis for shaping effective and meaningful action.”

He just doesn’t want to hear what we have to say.

So, Allan, based on your last quote, we’ll go on offering our two cents worth of criticism and providing an unfiltered platform for those in Abbotsford with access to a computer to criticise those who have done such incredible damage to the finances and administration of the City of Abbotsford over the last 12 years and those in the power structure , including the Chamber of Commerce, who have had so much more influence on the public agenda than those who now have an opportunity to commit the transgression of criticising their betters.

All we are trying to accomplish is have those who purport to lead us take responsibility for their actions and listen to the many gifted, intelligent and successful people in this community who have something to contribute despite the fact they don’t belong to the small group of Toffs who are doing such a terrible job of running the joint.

If we are to move forward as a community, we are going to have be able to recognize bad advice when we see it again and avoid it through open, honest discussion.

Say No CoverIf the power structure is going to retain (or regain) any control over the agenda in Abbotsford it is going to have to stop attacking those who dare to question or criticise it and learn to embrace those with whom they share this city and accept the fact that maybe those who don’t happen to have self-identified positions of importance, titles or interest-group-created political careers actually have something to contribute to their community

If organizations like the Chamber of Commerce would be open to an honest discussion of how it is they allowed themselves to throw their full support behind Plan A, while a large number of people in the community were loudly and publicly warning that the plan was terribly flawed, perhaps Asaph’s distinction between acceptable and unacceptable criticism
would sound less self serving

The phony prominence derived from elected office or ‘Chamber of Commerce’ status neither promises omniscience nor protection from criticism from your fellow citizens.

In fact it invites it.

The fact that neither the News not the Times will criticise you does not imply that others either won’t or shouldn’t.

What is truly sad about what you are doing with the columns you are publishing in the media chain with whom you have a business relationship – you pay them to publish your monthly Chamber news – is this: if you had the courage or the wisdom to send it to us … we would have published them for free.

Join the discussion 2 Comments

  • The Editor says:

    From: MittMartin
    Subject: Front page gave me a heart attack

    Message Body:
    But, as Yertle, the Turtle King, lifted his hand
    And started to order and give the command,
    That plain little turtle below in the stack,
    That plain little turtle whose name was just Mack,
    Decided he’d taken enough. And he had.
    And that plain little lad got a bit mad.
    And that plain little Mack did a plain little thing.
    He burped!
    And his burp shook the throne of the king!

    And Yertle the Turtle, the king of the trees,
    The king of the air and the birds and the bees,
    The king of a house and a cow and a mule…
    Well, that was the end of the Turtle King’s rule!
    For Yertle, the King of all Sala-ma-Sond,
    Fell off his high throne and fell Plunk! in the pond!

    PS: Roman philosophers were basically second rate Greeks

  • The Editor says:

    From: Lynn Perrin
    Subject: Dear Allan

    Message Body:
    This is the message I put on Facebook along with the Abbotsford Times article:
    Mayor Bruce Banman and Abbotsford Council you are all ears when it comes to the Abbotsford Chamber of Commerce and have many members appointed to Council Committees. You also have a Councillor as a liaison to the Abbotsford Chamber of Commerce. Their Executive Director states: It starts by asking, ”What are you FOR?” and then by getting involved to make it happen.” Well here goes – I am FOR Abbotsford’s tax money only going to PUBLIC services like PUBLIC water / sewer, roads, PUBLIC parks and recreation centres. I am FOR the YMCA to build their own $35 million facility with their own funds. I am FOR the many local groups who are providing services to the PUBLIC (vs YMCA members) to be supported through grants voted on at PUBLIC Abbotsford Council meetings – not behind closed YMCA board room doors. Chamber of Commerce Executive Director – is what I am FOR clear enough to you?