Joe Belanger, reporter of municipal citizen clamp-down record for the London Free Press, points out the obvious when he notes that London city council is divided by predictable voting propensities.
On one side is a group of 10 council members who mostly support issues favoured by developers or business — staff or public opposition be damned. On the other is a group of nine council members who claim to be pro-growth, but not at any cost.Belanger's persuasions are manifest — I'd be inclined, with no more nor less justification, to label the two sides as less and more interventionist, or laissez-faire and authoritarian, respectively — but the substance of the observation is essentially that Belanger has as equal a chance of seeing his compassionate-fist agenda passed as I have seeing it denied.
I was struck by the team line-up of councillors when the Free Press published a tally of the votes of the councillors for and against a ban of pesticides back in July, which I thought would make a very workable council scorecard. The London Fog editorial team was unfortunately … er… preoccupied at the time of the story, feebly accounting for the dereliction of duty. But it is a temporarily decided issue that is worth examining for Londoners, and not only because it illustrates the dependable inclinations of councillors towards or away from trespass.
According to the Joe Belanger of London Free Press on July 26, London city council rejected, for the time being at least, a bylaw banning the use of pesticides in the city and, substituting for restraint,
passed a bylaw that only encourages people not to use pesticides and promotes so-called integrated pest management.At a glance, council's economy with policing resources on this issue may seem an instance of doing the right thing for the assorted right or wrong reasons. And I was amused by the bone tossed to the prohibition crowd in the form of public advocacy education, an always popular precursor to more disciplinary measures once the citizenry fails to govern itself in the prescribed fashions as well as a testament to council's inability to do nothing at all, indifferent to its competence. But it takes a bylaw to forbear already permitted usage?
Council's acceptance of their adopted role in the judgment of standardizing behaviour comes as no surprise to anyone who understands covetousness and hoarding of bright shiny things. Nor was the participation of ban proponents surprising, being the ones who stand to gain in simulated moral authority without having to go to the trouble of gaining moral probity by disseminating the merits of their ideas to any but a small parochial star chamber. It was the submission of proposals and conditions for the license to use their own property and engage in their own trade by opponents of the ban that is alarming but, well, maybe not altogether surprising itself in these days of summary deference.
"I think it was a smart move by council," Henry Valkenburg of Great Lakes Lawn Care said. "Council looked at the facts, looked at the evidence and they made the right decision."This unbecoming praise from those whose practice of their livelihoods hung on the balance of the tempers and caprices of only eighteen councillors thereby concedes that council somehow, somewhere acquired not only the power but also the right to make a decision about everyone else's property and trade, and that a decision on the topic is like some part of a natural composition of order subject to little more than aesthetic criticism rather than an artefact requiring an examination of the premises that allowed it to come to pass in the first place.
Of course, the pesticide and lawn care industries can be forgiven for massaging instead of decrying the authority of their potential malefactors — it's the only game in town and a little flattery and maybe switching of the dice are the only known methods for tilting the odds in your favour, even if you didn't ask to sit at the table in the first place. And who are these city councillors to whose approval people's determinations for their own property must be contingent? Men and women elected in a process few of us have chosen and by a minority of citizens, many of whose criteria for selecting representation appear to rest on a talent for name recognition. Councillors are no more inherently capable than anyone else to make generalized judgments about what is intrinsically good, bad, ugly, moderate, or risky of any relationship between people and their property. In fact, they are capable only of enforcing only subjective political judgments informed, in their case, by their need to be perceived to be governing by consent and certainly not by any standards that are objectively immutable, which makes them fashions and arbitrary.
To those who see no problem with council making a decision, either yea or nay, about pesticide use, the other pillar upon which arbitrary authority rests is the acquiescence of everyone not invited to the table. I have obviously no objection to anyone who declines to use pesticides on their own property — I'm not inclined towards them myself, but if I did I'd kindly remind those squeamish of the supposed risks to stay off my property in the first place. In anticipation of the objections that pesticides constitute an objective harm even to people who observe this once fundamental principle of mutual respect, I can do no better than quote the article to cite the substitution of emotion and hearsay for objective facts:
Coun. David Winninger and others gave impassioned arguments supporting a ban. Winninger said the reason there's no scientific proof pesticides pose a health threat is because they may be tested only on animals.If people really want a community where laws are created based on emotional dramatics where facts are inconveniently absent or unsupportive, I would suggest that they are inviting their own submission to other people's as-yet-unforeseen caprices in the future — a fate those of us who wish to remain masters of our own persons ought to resist. Unfortunately, if we cannot have councillors in London who forbear to make a decision about other people's property in the absence of any objective or non-politically-motivated facts, then I suppose we can at least restrain our strongest censure of those councillors who at least forbear to use their powers to dispose of that property.
So how do the pesticide vote scorecard and Joe Belanger's "staff or public opposition"-friendly professional pronouncement stack up?
The probationary status Belanger assigns to Sandy White is purely theatrical — an attempt to portray the progressive forces of council as underdogs. And Anne Marie DeCicco's position as nominal head of a supposedly fractious council is one she apparently feels obliges her to be only publicly equivocal. But Belanger and I will not come to blows over these minor distinctions — the pesticide scorecard works as well as his paid op-ed piece, even if it was featured in the news pages. And so what? There is really nothing to be gained for Londoners except reprieves when these proposals to control private property are adjudicated by council in the first place. Belanger's side has already won when an article like his can be published.
Belanger's side has the — dubious at least — advantage of a near monopolistic control of local newspaper reporting, where Gloria McGinn-McTeer, past chairman of the Urban League of London and unelected intriguer, resides as regular opinion adjutant at the Free Press to harangue the readership about what the public wants, as seen from the top of Mt. McGinn-McTeer:
McGinn-McTeer points to votes on three major issues she said make it clear council isn't giving taxpayers much more than lip service:By the peopleMcGinn-McTeer means those few hundreds of Londoners — out of 340,000 — who respond to her clarion calls for McGinn-McTeer activism. All other Londoners, it would seem, are coopted into the people by default in virtue of the fact that there are no petitions circulating to leave things and people alone as they are, or to shut her up for that matter. This cozy patrician-club definition of the people reminds of the the opening of the new East London Library branch this past Saturday — local community and business leaders were invited to the ceremonies but, oddly enough, no members of the strip club next door were in attendance.
On the subject of emotion prevailing over reason in the debate about pesticides, Wolfvillewatch reports on a public meeting in Wolfville, NS, that could as eaily have happened in London, except with entertainment provided:
After a welcome the mayor invited in The Raging Grannies to warm up the crowd, so cute in their hats, so lighthearted as they decried the evils of pesticides in song. Then we sat through a "brainstorming session" to develop group norms so that we adults knew how to behave in