Local politicians should get outside insular world

By Robert Washburn

As this is being written, hope is fading for a deal by American lawmakers to avoid a financial disaster called the fiscal cliff, a combination of sweeping spending cuts and widespread tax increases expected to take place on New Years Day.
Both Congress and the Senate appear unable to strike a budget deal, dickering over tax increases and spending cuts.
The inability to strike a compromise is already hurting the fragile U.S. economy, as consumer confidence in the first half of December took a sharper-than-expected dip to the lowest level since August. If not deal is struck, there is talk of a massive recession taking hold again, which could have global implications, including a negative impact on Canada.
About half of Americans think a deal can be reached before the deadline, down from 57 per cent a mere week earlier, according to a Gallup poll released late last week.
The lack of political movement and the lack of confidence in Washington politicians to get anything done is a growing sentiment amongst citizens.
Retiring Congressman Steven LaTourette, an Ohio Republican, told CNN on Sunday, Americans should be ashamed of the politicians because they are more worried about winning the next election rather than getting things done.
“I think it is sinful,” he said.
It would be very unfair to suggest local politicians are in the same boat. But it would be safe to say we are going down the same river.
Municipal leaders are not inspiring a great deal of confidence lately.
One only needs to think about the recent handling of the Port Hope Police debate to realize the level of frustration between citizens and council. But, this is far from being the only source of distrust. The future of the central pier and the role of the harbour commission is another recent example of convoluted process. And, there are plenty more.
Cobourg is not without its own issues, as well.
At its last meeting of the year, council got into a heated debate over proposed signage for a new business in the downtown. The mayor and several councillors were very passionate during the debate, which went on at length until Councillor Larry Sherwin made a motion to defer the decision due to the paralysis.
A presentation by Nickerson Drive residents earlier emphasized a sense of distrust. The public gallery was packed as spokespeople for the resident made strong arguments against any development north of the current housing, even though there are no officials plans to do anything.
The group was inspired to intervene early following a series of meetings between a local developer, Councillor John Henderson and the residents. It appears the group was so concerned; it wanted to make sure any proposals did not slide under the radar before they could make their opinions known.
Certainly, municipal politics in West Northumberland is nowhere near as complex as Washington. Still, there is a common theme: isolation.
Caught inside an insular world of council (Congress or Senate) chambers, deafness takes hold. Common sense flies out the window. Pragmatism is nowhere to be found. Politicians seem free to feel they can act independent of the public in their own little world. Thankfully, many local citizens are becoming more vocal and activist to wake them up.
Let’s hope 2013 brings a renewed commitment in local politics to slow down, listen deeply and act carefully.