I don’t really know how city councillors decide on things or what it’s like to sit on a city council. I would imagine the reality of it is that they attend a lot of dull meetings with unflattering fluorescent lighting buzzing overhead as the meeting’s minutes are recorded meticulously and motions about mundane-yet-necessary bylaws regarding sidewalk snow clearing or the existing footprint of the city’s fire and paramedic stations are moved, seconded and, with little contentious hullabaloo, carried.
This is the tedious crossing of the “t” and dotting of the “i” that is the everyday business of city councils, and it is business they almost always complete competently and without fanfare.
But every once in a while, a big ticket item shakes councillors out of this commonplace competence. Suddenly, they sit up straighter, adjust the position of their microphones, clear their throats, furrow their brows and tell themselves that this, this is the kind of issue that made them run for town council in the first place.
The arena issue was one of those kinds of items. As we all know by now, this was not your everyday garden-variety “moved-seconded-carried” kind of issue. This was one where councillors probably thought of their own legacy just a bit too much, and of media interest (15 minutes of fame and all that). At moments such as these, with self-interest supplanting community interest, town councillors are at their worst. Instead of sober, steady, sedate and composed councillors, we can get wild, volatile, flighty, and fanciful ones.
And then private business got involved (movie stars, swimming pools), and when private business gets too involved in community affairs, the community is usually cast into a shadier world where there will be winners and there will be losers, but it won’t be entirely clear who is whom, for after a town’s communal horses are hitched to the bespangled coaches of private interest and cross the finish line first, it could be said that all have won.
Except the horses are quickly stabled and fed oats while those stepping down from their coaches retire to mansions and eat, well, probably not a bag of oats.
We know an arena works downtown. It has for years and years and years. Sudbury residents will support it downtown because they always have. They’ve supported it through thick and thin (mostly thin as the Sudbury Wolves have never won an OHL championship, and were, in fact, the worst team in the entire CHL in the 1980s.) And still, the arena filled up. The acoustics of the building are infamously terrible, but still we packed the place for concerts.
So even though this was a place to be built for a group of citizens who had proven themselves to be conspicuously unfussy over the years, a fuss was nonetheless created. Simply replacing the arena with a newer one downtown didn’t seem ambitious enough. Some people wanted more than an arena, and they wanted it somewhere else. And they were willing to gamble.
And here we now sit, broken-hearted, paid our dime, but only farted.
When it comes to this arena issue, we need our town councillors to go back to being those slightly staid but competent people they usually are when it comes to dealing with parkland dedication bylaws or which 10 non-direct council appointees will get the nod.
We’ve got a new mayor and some new councillors. With a nod to Sesame Street, let’s see if they can come up with a new plan, put it into the tan van, and bring it to Dan (who will then give it to Fran). And if they end up putting it in the tan truck and taking it to Horace again, 10 days in the can.
D’arcy Closs lives in Greater Sudbury.