Welcome back, Coun. Michael Seguin
After an absence from the council table of approximately six months, Seguin reappeared about three weeks ago, and since his return he’s added an element to discussions that’s been sorely missing.
It seems that extended layoff has done him a world of good, as many of his contributions to the table have been on point, and adding a distinctly different voice from those of his colleagues.
It’s true that during much of this part term, Seguin has been a controversial figure. Some of that is his own doing, and some can be attributed to other circumstances.
However, in a council where the relationships between six of the seven members are cordial at the least, and closing in on group think at the worst, it’s in desperate need for some out-of-the-box and free-wheeling thinking, even if it’s from someone who could be called a fly-in-the-ointment.
In far too many instances, the members of council are just too damned agreeable and have a propensity to avoid asking tough questions that might be considered divisive.
In particular, Seguin is currently the only councillor who seems to have an adequate awareness and sensitivity towards public sentiment and opinion.
There have been numerous occasions this year when Seguin has had to explain to his colleagues what perception the public is likely to have on their decisions. In all of those occasions, it seems as if his colleagues are either tone-deaf to that perspective, or simply don’t think it’s important enough to bother with.
That’s a puzzling attitude for a council to have, particularly in an election year. However, it’s an approach has dogged this council during its entire term, leading to unnecessary controversy with many residents who have an avid interest in politics. It seems as if it’s a tough lesson for some people to learn.
Fortunately, there are some promising signs that some councillors are coming around. At Monday’s special committee of the whole meeting, Coun. Joe Halos bucked a staff report that proposed limiting opportunities for public input to COW meetings.
For almost a year, there’s been a movement afoot to allow public questions during council meetings, as do many other councils around the region. It’s not a novel concept.
At that same meeting, Rosemary Mesley from the citizen’s forum group made a very good presentation describing what their expectations were and how the process would work.
It’s a simple, workable plan that makes sense, and should be given careful consideration by the council, although the proposed rules presented by the staff for public participation at COW meetings is a good start.
The week before, Mayor John McKean – who may be the most original thinker outside of Seguin on some issues – also broke ranks a bit during a presentation on economic development. His comments were well thought-out, if not appreciated by members of the economic development committee.
Perhaps, with Seguin showing them how to disagree in what has so far been a respectful, thoughtful manner with much merit to it, things around the council table will get the shakeup it so badly needs.