By Mike Archer. An awful lot of nasty things get done in this city due to the perception by some in the community, and the media, usually those being criticized, that there is a need to be nice when we talk about the people we pay to manage our City.
I get accused of being mean because I take some public servants, politicians, community leaders and journalists to task, sometimes quite angrily, over some of the decisions they’ve made, the actions they’ve taken and the way they do (or don’t do) their jobs.
Being nice about issues, which are anything but, is not in anybody’s interest except those who perpetrate the deeds and cause the injustices, burdens and costs of their beliefs, choices and decisions.
Not one of them has apologized, much less even acknowledged the enormous damage they’ve done during their time in public office, or writing (or not) about it. They’ve subjected us to international embarrassment; they’ve caused financial damage which will take years, perhaps decades, to fix, and they have made us the laughing stock of the Lower Mainland.
Whether or not the newspapers have failed to criticize or even comment on some very incompetent, immoral and possibly illegal actions on the part of our community leaders, our children and grandchildren need to understand why Abbotsford got so screwed up during the first decade of the 21st Century. And maybe, if new politicians can fix things, we won’t fall back into the same miasma of failure and ineptitude we’ve experienced over the last three councils.
As Henry Braun has said about the Abbotsford Homeless Crisis, “I’m not sure I know what the solution is but I do know that continuing to do what we’ve been doing is senseless.”
With respect to our aging, geriatric council – how many times are we going to let these failed politicians continue and repeat their behaviour? Is it reasonable for them to be asking for a third and fourth term in office when they haven’t even acknowledged what a mess they have made of things during the many years they been feeding at the public trough?
I’ll try to do this column without repeating myself too much …
… And I’ll try to be nice.
Let me begin by giving an example of how the impressions we have are often driven by our emotions and our feelings towards any given subject matter. In other words – you see what you want to see.
I have heard various people accuse Abbotsford Today and, by extension, me, as managing editor, of publishing nothing but negative stories.
So you won’t have to click back and forth between this column and the homepage, open up another window to the homepage of Abbotsford Today.
There are a total of 65 stories and links on the homepage of Abbotsford Today
Of those 65 stories there are two opinion pieces that are the least bit provocative, controversial or disturbing to anyone, whether in the power structure or not.
One is a critical, but mildly positive column about a mayoralty candidate and the other is about the Abbotsford Police Department’s (APD) decision to sever its relationship with Abbotsford Today because it does not agree with the way we practice journalism.
Man the barricades! The peasants are running wild in the streets!! We’ve lost all control!!! A media outlet has published a mildly positive opinion piece and one which disagrees with the police!!!!
Oh Sweet Jesus No … However Will We Cope??????
Get a grip.
A politician who made the transition to higher levels of politics once told me how astounded he was to find out how coddled and pampered Abbotsford politicians are. “They should be forced to talk to real reporters sometime so they know how good they’ve got it,” he said.
Negative stories are actually not very easy to find on our website. You have to go looking for them. Perhaps, those who accuse us of running only negative stories are only looking for negative stories. Or perhaps we’re just being negative about them.
Being Nice To Politicians
Columnists and editorialists regularly start critical pieces with the words, “Now I know that the vast majority of politicians are good, well meaning people …”
Why would you say something like that unless you were writing in order to please the majority of politicians?
Some of the politicians I have known in 25 years in the media are intelligent, educated, devoted men and women who have decided to give back to their community.
The majority of the politicians I have met in 25 years in the media are not very smart, do not understand either Roberts Rules or the Canadian Constitution, couldn’t get or hold down a real job without knowing someone or being owed a favour, and most got into politics because, as part time jobs go, it’s a pretty good pay cheque for doing very little work.
The good ones – those who actually devote 20 hours or more every week, on top of their meetings and public duties, to actually reading their briefing notes and deciding for themselves what their opinions are without simply being told by people with money – are underpaid for the work they do. They are also few and far between. Very few of those with which this City has been saddled over the last three councils are overpaid.
Most of the men and women who are about to flood the news with announcements that they have decided to grace us with their presence in the political arena have simply looked at the people currently collecting a public pay cheque and have said to themselves, “Hell … if he/she can do it anybody can.”
That’s not being mean … that’s being truthful.
As well-meaning and devoted to their community as they will all tell you they are, very few of them will tell you what’s wrong with this City or how they intend to fix it. Most will list the organizations they have joined over the years, as if running a boy scout troupe, or volunteering qualifies you to make $300,000,000 decisions with your friends’ and neighbours’ money or making sensible and legal decisions that will either keep people who are living on our streets alive or simply let them die for lack of healthcare.
Ever since Vince Dimanno and I started Today Media back in 2008, we have repeatedly told politicians and readers that, if they feel we’ve got our facts wrong, we will publish their rebuttal without commentary or editing. We’ve offered every councillor who has come along since 2008 a regular column. Most politicians have shied away from our offer but a number have taken us up on it over the years and have found us to not only be committed to free speech but quite reasonable to deal with if you actually have something to say and the courage to say it.
Our readers have never shied away from telling us when they think we’ve got it wrong. That’s what journalism is supposed to be about. This website is nothing if not a bulletin board for the community to discuss what’s wrong and what’s right in as forthright and open a debate as possible. We’ve never claimed a monopoly on truth just a willingness to let everyone have a say.
Rather than enter into discussion with us, most Abbotsford politicians and power brokers have preferred to whisper about us in the corridors of power, or tell people who ask about some of the ‘mean’ things we say, that we aren’t real media and that all we publish are negative stories.
Anyone collecting a public pay cheque who can’t handle criticism from the media should find a different line of work. They are spending their friends’ and neighbours’ money. Surely part of their job is to deal with the fact that people in the community disagree with them about their choices.
The simple fact is this – in municipal government there is no opposition party. If all you have to provide balance in a community is a somnolent media which practices permission-based journalism seeking approval from authorized-knowers for their narrative, you end up with a dysfunctional community where a PR hack from the police department thinks he knows what journalism is and acts like a petulant child when a media organization doesn’t cover the news the way his boss wants it covered. In Abbotsford even the newspapers forgot what journalism is long ago.
Give us politicians and community leaders with principles, skills, smarts and a commitment to doing the right thing – we’re as nice as pie to those kind of politicians and civil servants.
Being Nice To People Who Actually Deserve It
One thing you will notice about Abbotsford Today, which has been true since we first started back in October 2008, is that we reserve our highest praise and give up the largest amount of space on our homepage and our website to people in the community. People in the Arts are especially dear to us and we will give whatever support we can to arts organizations, and especially individual artists, musicians, poets, writers, actors, photographers, painters, singers and performers of any kind.
Those people we are unreservedly nice to.
Students in our schools – we devote more space to education coverage than any media in Abbotsford does or ever has – we’re nice to our students. Our athletes get a lot of coverage on Abbotsford Today. Take a look through our Sports section before you leave today.
We’re awfully nice to our readers, the ones who populate our Popular Voice section and of course, since we started Today, we have always had a soft spot for our animals.
Ask the many caring and giving people at the animal shelters, – in a city which doesn’t have a municipal animal shelter or a pound – yes; we treat our animals almost as poorly as our homeless in Abbotsford.
We are as nice as we can be to the vets, the shelters and the hundreds of volunteers who help protect and save our animals.
Those are the people who are building this community.
The people who come together to do something about the problems in their community.
Like the folks at the Abbotsford Dignitarian Society* who are having a helluva time getting their Dignity Village style housing project at Valley Road past the roadblocks and meaningless statements of support from politicians who don’t mean it. We try to be as nice as we can to them.
Full disclosure: I am a director of the Abbotsford Dignitarian Society.
Abbotsford’s homeless – the people who are being chewed up and spit out by a political and police machine in Abbotsford which seems more interested in cleansing downtown Abbotsford of the poor, the mentally ill, the addicted and the marginalized than they are in protecting or helping our most vulnerable men and women. Their sin – they try to stay close to all of the services the City put in the downtown area so they can stay alive! Those people we are really nice too.
After a decade of abuse, hatred, theft, assault, pepper spray, arrests, harassment and intimidation, we think it’s time somebody be nice to these poor bastards. If that involves being mean to the men and women who have systematically meted out the hatred and the abuse on them then go ahead and call me mean.
The problem with being nice when it comes to politicians and community leaders is that, while I am the first to admit that some of them are very nice people trying hard to work within a system which seems almost designed to reward bad behaviour, the majority are simply too weak, too uncaring or too inept to do the right thing.
Perhaps with the right kind of strong-willed leaders around the council table, Patricia, Simon and Dave would have voted differently over the last decade, but they didn’t. They followed the lead of Bruce Beck, John Smith and the people behind the mayor in deciding what was best. If they had demonstrated more backbone, Abbotsford might be a different city today.
But they didn’t, and look what Abbotsford has reaped from years of having the media be nice to politicians: we have a political class which seems to believe they can get away with anything … Plan A, The Abbotsford Heat contract, the $300,000,000 lie about running out of water in a rain forest, the YMCA tax giveaway (which will be back to haunt us), the Ledgeview Country Club giveaway …
I know I said I would try to stop repeating myself but here’s the thing – the media in this town has never held any of them to account. Largely because of that, almost all of them just keep on running again, and again, and again as though no one is ever going to hold them to account for any of their disastrous, immoral, unprincipled or illegal decisions.
By being nice to them the media has been encouraging them to give us more of the same. And they have.
What does being mean really look like?
- Passing and defending an illegal ‘Anti-Harm Reduction Bylaw’ which prevents health care professionals from providing lifesaving assistance to drug addicts so that people die on the streets and Abbotsford develops the highest rates of HIV and Hep C in Canada. Now that seems mean.
- Developing a policing policy of ‘Displace and Disperse’, otherwise known as ‘The Abbotsford Shuffle so that helpless, marginalized and desperate people get moved around town at the end of a billy club every few weeks and have their lives made more miserable than they already are by armed men and women with guns, rubber bullets and batons. Now that
- Passing Anti-Homeless Bylaws which make it illegal to occupy public land anywhere in the City or face arrest and then not providing adequate shelter for the men and women who can’t get into the restrictive, religious and high barrier shelters which are the only shelters you will allow in City limits. Now that seems mean.
- Sending two City councillors and a downtown developer from the Abbotsford Downtown Business Association to give a local pastor a talking to about his disturbing habit of feeding the poor
lest they grow used to it. Now that seems mean.
- Turning down $15.3 million in funding for a low barrier shelter, fighting the homeless in court, using your Anti-Homeless Bylaws, No Trespassing signs and barbed wire to shuffle them out of downtown under threat of arrest while telling the media and the judge you have just struck a Task Force on Homelessness which will have some recommendations for next year. Now that seems mean.
- Treating your most marginalized, damaged and hopeless citizens like vermin while spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to
get rid of them by every means at your disposal – through illegal bylaws, lawyers, cops, eviction notices, No Trespassing signs. I know; make them move a few hundred yards every few weeks and then chase them away again when you deliberately deny them a place to go. Now that seems mean.
If any of the people I criticize want to be treated nicely, why do they insist on treating others so cruelly?
If I sound mean or angry in some of my columns about the men and women who have perpetrated one of the most unjust, callous and mean-spirited sustained and deliberate series of human rights violations and possibly criminal acts in the history of this city, and brought national shame and ridicule upon it, then you’ll forgive me.
Somebody ought to be pissed off.
PS. Judging by the feathers we seem to be ruffling, I think we’re being nice to the right people 😉
“I put the bastards of the world on notice that I do not have their best interests at heart.” – Hunter S. Thompson
What Do You Think? Tell us in the comments box below or send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Short Summary of Abbotsford’s Homeless Crisis:
First came John Smith’s announcement to the national media that he had instructed the APD to handle homelessness in downtown Abbotsford; then the Abbotsford Shuffle – otherwise known as Chief Bob Rich’s “disperse and displace” strategy for solving homelessness; then Mayor Banman’s Chicken Manure Incident (first revealed on Abbotsford Today); then there was the Standoff in Jubilee; followed by the ‘MCC Dignity Village‘ protest camp on Gladys Avenue and the gathering of more and more of Abbotsford’s homeless to the security of living with others and out in the open in the growing size and number of camps across from the Salvation Army and along Gladys Avenue.
Along the way a few embarrassing revelations were uncovered and published by Abbotsford Today including
the fact that the Salvation Army knew about and was in agreement with the use of chicken feces to encourage the homeless to move from their camp across the street from the Sally Ann; and the rude and demeaning emails shared by police chief Bob Rich and his senior staff after the Chicken Manure Incident went worldwide.