One Year In… Generous Orthodoxy

Thanks for Reading

I’d like to kick this week’s blog post off by thanking you for reading it. Since I launched it a few years ago, I have had over 10,000 people visit and read my sometimes legible ramblings. It means a lot to have an audience, and I hope that as I continue to grow within the realms of business, politics and as a half-way decent person. I hope that we will have the opportunity to share more of what I’ve learned, my perspectives and the opportunities that I see for my home, region, and business.

These posts are my point of view, I do not pretend to speak for anyone else, nor to be an authority on all things. For those of you who have and continue to read these posts (and to those I have been elected to represent), they are simply as honest of a representation of my opinion as I can provide. There are bound to be those who disagree with me, but I believe that I owe it to the people of Belledune and individuals who care to read these ramblings to keep them apprised of where I stand, and this I feel is an effective way of communicating this intent.

A year in Belledune

Most of this blog post including a follow-up video post below is supposed to serve as an update/recap of what my first year in elected office. I won’t go into too much detail about Contendo, you can visit our website at Contendo.ca to learn more about that awesome organization, but inevitably when you are running a business in an area where the primary focus is on Economic development, politics and business are going to have a bit of bleed through.

I was elected on May 9th, 2016. Just a little over a year ago. I came second in the voting

IMG_20160524_202344
Fr L-R Deputy Mayor Paul Arsenault, Sandenn (me), Lilliane Carmichael, Mayor Joe Noel, Nick Duivenvoorden, Tracy Culligan
for the two at-large positions. I had 556 votes, 127 votes behind my fellow councilor and 321 more than the third place candidate. So in my mind, this was a relatively strong mandate from the people of the community. As expected with a new council, we didn’t have the most productive summer. Between learning the ropes, assessing the lay of the land and finishing up projects started at the beginning of the season by the previous council, there was not a great chance to get the ball rolling on many portfolios.

I will be the squeaky wheel, you are not going to like me.

  • Me to the rest of council at our first meeting

Assessing the Terrain

From the get go there seemed to be a lot of enthusiasm to give the community the shake-up that it sorely needs; however, as with most things, energy is a precious and fragile thing, and revolution quickly was coopted by complacency. One of the first moves of the council was to handle the early retirement of the C.A.O. This process started in September and for reasons beyond my comprehension has not yet been settled.

Through the fall and the early days in the holidays, I attempted to start several initiatives and was fortunate enough to get the Health and Wellness Program launched, and it is Burst_Cover_GIF_Action_20170404185234still going strong today. With Fitness classes with Andre Langteigne of Drekon Fitness Academy and yoga with Melanie Doucet of Pure Balance Yoga, delivering both Seniors and Adult classes Tuesday and Wednesday evenings. It’s been great to see the progress that all of the participants have made. We always have room for more, so, don’t think about it, just show up.

Another struggle was the creation of the Economic Development Task Force. I am very pleased with the result, but it didn’t need four months to get together. I had to abstain from the setup process because my Father, Dennis Killoran, President of Sancon Commissioning was selected. Which is fine (and legitimate) but what should have been an easy process got pushed back months and months. We now have great members from in and around the community, and I have great faith that they will deliver on the directives (which I wrote) of the task force to provide valuable insight, ideas, and momentum for the growth of the community. And one thing that was almost unanimous in the first meeting of the committee,

We need to attract and keep more young people in the Village!”

The next big ticket issue was the decision to take back control over the destiny of the Belledune School. Previous councils had left the school in virtual limbo through a purchase agreement that locked it in place guaranteeing it for a purchaser, if that person could raise the money and gain the license to open and operate a special care home. There is nothing wrong with this idea, and I remain committed to helping out the proprietor if they can attain that license and build within the village limits. It took a bit of time, but the entire Village and Council were able to get on board with the idea.

As you’ll recall from my 2012 run at Mayor, I’ve always believed that this institution and its enhancement could form a strong foundation for growth and development in the region. Even though the team seemed to buy in some members of the Village seemed unwilling to cancel the agreement, thus putting off any substantive action until January. It is my hope that the new community center will set the stage for an increase in civic engagement, health, and wellness activities, give a shot to startups and provide much-needed childcare services to our village. The village has been bereft of opportunities for far too long, and had we started last summer like I wanted to, we could be cutting the ribbon this fall, instead of what will likely be next fall.IMG_0014

The 3-2 Splits

One aspect that I have not been a fan of is the 3-2 split votes that have occurred on Council. Not that I do not believe in dissenting views, nor do I mind having people disagree with me. As mentioned in Fighting, I may come off as aggressive, but I truly do appreciate having my ideas challenged. Now, if every decision that Council made was a 3-2 vote that might be a little excessive; however, my issue comes not with the fact that we disagree with each other. I resent and discredit the assertion made by others that these splits are based on gender.

Some of the more contentious votes by the village council have fallen to a 3-2 split with Deputy Mayor Arsenault, Councillor Duivenvoorden and myself voting in the affirmative and councilors Culligan and Carmichael voting in the negative. The “gendered” nature of these vote counts, is a narrative created and propagated by these councilors and those that support them. I beg to differ,  85%+ of the votes that occur in Belledune, passed unanimously. The votes that split this way are always votes where the affirmative vote is one to take action, and the negative is to maintain the status quo.

I am not beholden to anyone at the table. I have lost several votes, I have been the only voice on some losing motions; however, I do not declare ageism or reference the fact that I am referred to as “The Baby”  when I lose votes or fail to gain the support of my fellow councilors on topics that are important to me. So to those of you who are inclined to see the three to two votes and assign some trend towards them, let it be this one, Those votes were all about getting something done and making a change, and what might be more concerning is that there are two votes against that.

Generous Orthodoxy – A Path Forward

It’s an oxymoron. The term Generous Orthodoxy comes from a German clergyman who is trying to make a new faith through balanced and accepting practices of religion; you can pick up the book from Amazon. The core meaning that does not necessarily need to be applied to faith:  is that Generosity is the free giving of ones’ self or mind to a new idea, set of beliefs or the perspectives of others. Orthodoxy is rigid. A strict, formal and often traditional approach to life, business and yes even politics.

Malcolm Gladwell, who can be viewed in the video below (an excellent segment on discussing the combat of David and Goliath). A Canadian author living in New York, Gladwell has written some of the past two decades greatest think pieces. Last year Gladwell launched a podcast called Revisionist HistoryIt’s great; you should all listen.

In one of the last episodes of the season entitled Generous Orthodoxy, Gladwell highlights the struggle of a Mennonite Pastor and his church’s refusal to accept his gay son. Faith and love of their community are central in the life of a Mennonite, so for the Pastor’s son to be excommunicated and to have his faith challenged was a crisis of substantial proportions.

To bring his family back together, Chester Wenger performed the marriage of his son and his husband. Immediately afterward he reported the act to his congregation Wenger-Chester-232x310and had his credentials taken away from him. Charles was no longer a Pastor. Later he penned an open letter to his church. He knew the act of marrying his son would have consequences, he understood them and respected them.

To be unambiguously generous and say yes to everything robs the generosity of its value. To be unable to break away from orthodoxy “The Way We’ve Always Done It” is just as harmful to the growth of any entity. It’s  about finding the balance. This balance doesn’t come without consequences, and it’s certainly not always easy; however, it is, in my opinion, the practice that is most needed in this region.

You must respect the body that you are trying to heal

  • Malcolm Gladwell Revisionist History: Generous Orthodoxy

Our province, our region, our village suffers from the same lack of balance. On one side of the column, we have groups that believe that the traditionalist approaches are the only way to maintain or relive past success, or worst are terrified of the consequences of implementing change. On the other end of the spectrum, we have the overly generous who think that we can flick a light switch and reinvent our economy, culture, and destiny. The truth is that we need both. We have to be open to new ideas and at the same time understand that you cannot instantaneously change the world.

Pt 1. Generosity

We can, however, take small steps, all of us, and realize that no small group can change the course of a large ship on their own. There are leaders in this community, business, civic, political and community; we have to stop persecuting those that wish to change things, or excel. The province of Saskatchewan spent two years changing the culture of their citizens from one of resenting each other’s success to one that celebrates and encourages it. I know from speaking with many in the community that they would love it if we were a more inclusive and supporting community. Well, it all starts with us. Go to an event, shop locally if you can, speak positively about the village, volunteer, put yourself out there. There may be consequences, your ideas will face criticism, they may get shot down, but through the giving of yourself to the effort of rebuilding our community, you may inspire a host of others to do the same.

Pt 2. Orthodoxy

Look to others for the path. We are not that different from other communities in our province, Maritimes or nation as a whole. We can look at initiatives that have worked in other communities and understand that with the proper dedication and hard work they can work here too. The orthodoxy required in our case is not believing in a magic bullet. Understanding that it will be a slow process and it will demand the effort of more than six people on a council that meet three times a month. It requires an understanding that the body that is Belledune, is very used to doing things a certain way, and just like starting to run or exercise we have to respect that it may take a while before we start seeing the results we are after.

Innovation without dedication and commitment is just fiction. Sometimes that fiction can be preferable to the reality that we face, but it takes both the generosity of spirit to chase those dreams and support those who have them, but it also requires the orthodoxy to understand that it takes a lot of support and work to realize any of them.

 

Thanks for taking the time, we will talk again soon.

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