BEWARE OF THE HEADLESS HORSEMAN

A COMMENTARY BY AUTHOR/ENVIRONMENTALIST BILL BES
Woodstock has often been described as a quiet, sleepy, little town in the past, but for some reason many articles have appeared in the Sentinel Review in the past few years that paint a different picture; not merely the difficulty of coping with change or a few ruffled feathers, but one of genuine friction and discontent, a disconnect between the citizens and those elected to administer the town’s affairs. In all fairness to council, it is lead by an individual who loves to charge, rather than lead, however, each elected member carries a vote and each elected member came equipped with a voice! We expect councilors to ask difficult questions, to demand answers, to adopt high standards of conduct and accountability, but we do witness an incredible amount of acrimony and friction and Harding needs to take some responsibility for this. My way or the highway is a concept that belongs in autocratic circles, not within a framework of democratically elected people who adhere to proper democratic standards and expectations. I applaud those city councilors who had the foresight of putting the brakes on an art gallery project that could well have the potential of spinning out of control—and we have witnessed enough of those. It was therefore with equal sadness that we had to witness Harding once more bully council to reverse a decision taken. Are we missing something?
Either we fail to listen or are hopelessly inept in comprehending and appreciating the big picture, or, heaven forbid, some of our elected fathers are perhaps out of touch with reality on the subject of how much milk a cow can give. We may want to believe that Woodstock is an isolated and unique bit of matter in the cosmos that swims like a bright, sparkling little diamond against the currents of a global market meltdown, defying the odds of economic gloom, but that kind of thinking has to be considered irresponsible. Many banks and financial institutions have fallen victim to greed and overly optimistic projections. The acolytes of free markets and their slogan “profits are great” are now looking for public handouts to bail them out of trouble—you are the public and you are the source for the cash. When our mayor touts the benefits of a 37 million dollar possible borrowing to fund future infrastructure projects, the guarantor of that debt would be you as well. One sobering fact before I proceed: If we didn’t have a national debt, the interest on that particular item alone would be sufficient to pay for all infrastructure renewal, without ever raising taxes. The mayor’s assertion that we can easily afford to take on 37 million dollars in additional debt—which on a population of 40,000 citizens works out to 925 dollars per person, principal alone—would indeed be justifiable if we didn’t have a national debt, a provincial debt, municipal debt and personal debts in the form of mortgages, loans and credit cards. Taking on more debt might still work if disposable incomes are rising, the economy shows signs of health and steady growth and global markets show signs of stability. The mayor loves to bandy about neat little slogans; change is nothing to fear; growth pays for growth; built it and they will come. I am a little bit leery of catch phrases; they are like billboards floating around without an anchor, distracting the viewer from substance and content. The world is moving away from Keynesian economics, the economic theories espoused by John Maynard Keynes, which argued that a fall in national income, a lack of demand for goods and rising unemployment should be countered by increased government spending to stimulate the economy. Trudeau and his contemporaries subscribed to this theory, which in part was based on optimism about the future, infinite growth and the notion that optimism sells, even if based on fallacious thinking and flawed projections. In case of an economic slowdown and diminishing disposable incomes, the reality of debt repayment will remain. Although bankers don’t shy away from asking for and receiving handouts, don’t bank on you getting the same treatment. It was not that long ago that the provincial government had to come to the aid of several municipalities who were essentially bankrupt. Our landscape is littered with white elephants—buildings and projects—that you and I have paid for with our taxes. There is a new global monetary policy—monetarists—a far more conservative way of looking at the economy and a move to steer away from simply printing more money and extending credit. The actions from the U.S Federal Reserve and the Bank of Canada are evidence that in North America we are reluctant to shed Keynesian thinking, and in part this is due to our over-inflated stock prices, real estate and commodities. There is nothing wrong with planning for the future, but we need to build according to need and when needed, not in anticipation or based on rosy projections. Those elected are not responsible for the debt repayment—you are. In the tale of Sleepy Hollow, Iccobod Crane feared the headless horseman because the apparition resembled a vengeful demon as it barreled down upon him. I fear the thundering sightless blundering of ill-conceived and poorly timed spending on white elephant projects as they head towards us. I know the source of the expected revenue, I know from whose pocket it will come. I whole heartedly agree with Sobeski, Tait and Northcott: Before we start spending more tax dollars on mega projects, we’d better consult with the source of that money and see what the source has to say!
Bill Bes
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9 Comments

  1. Anonymous
    Posted October 2, 2008 at 11:51 am | Permalink

    Paragraphs Bill. Paragraphs. Take a breath.

    My eyes are crossed and bleeding after trying to track that massive block of text across the screen.

    I think I agree with the content but I won’t be sure until I heal.

  2. Anonymous
    Posted October 2, 2008 at 1:22 pm | Permalink

    Bes and his bloated ego never lets facts get in the way of his outragious arguments. Where does he think the money comes from to pay for future infrastructure and capital improvements?

    No wonder the S-R doesn’t carry such dumb articles.

  3. Anonymous
    Posted October 2, 2008 at 1:48 pm | Permalink

    “Where does he think the money comes from to pay for future infrastructure and capital improvements? “

    Same place Harding thinks it comes from?

  4. Anonymous
    Posted October 2, 2008 at 2:09 pm | Permalink

    “Where does he think the money comes from to pay for future infrastructure and capital improvements? “

    Define your terms. Are you perhaps referring to bloated vanity projects like art gallerys?

  5. Anonymous
    Posted October 2, 2008 at 3:41 pm | Permalink

    “Define your terms. Are you perhaps referring to bloated vanity projects like art gallerys?”

    You think it’s easy to make decisions!

  6. Anonymous
    Posted October 2, 2008 at 5:23 pm | Permalink

    “You think it’s easy to make decisions!”

    In the case of our Mayor, yes. It’s easy as pie.

    Intelligent, responsible decision making is another matter. That’s hard work.

  7. Anonymous
    Posted October 2, 2008 at 9:20 pm | Permalink

    Isn’t it funny that great Dictators throughout history like our own Michael Harding had a passion for art and other useless monuments built in their time no matter what the cost? We in Woodstock will be paying for years for Michaels great and glorious visions of his greatness that will dot our city.

  8. Anonymous
    Posted October 3, 2008 at 7:03 pm | Permalink

    Depends upon the pie. A bostom creme is very difficult.

  9. Anonymous
    Posted October 3, 2008 at 7:21 pm | Permalink

    The complete phrase is: “It’s as easy as eating pie.” It don’t say nothin’ about bakin’.


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