Political pandering, unintentionally?

July 13, 2018   ·   0 Comments

By Tabitha Wells

Election years are always the worst. Politicians suddenly start passing laws, hosting events, and putting forward bills to “meet the needs of the people” in order to secure more votes, even if their role prior has been mainly negative. This type of behaviour is true at all levels of government. Our local municipal government is not immune.

But is political pandering always intentional? Perhaps not. Take for example, Councillor Nick Garisto’s recent proposal that was made to the Town regarding regular parties on Broadway. It’s no secret residents have been requesting more of the “street” events we had years ago. Events like the Busker’s and Medieval Festivals, along with newer ones to help bring back the community feel.

If you missed the article two weeks ago, Garisto proposed closing off sections of Broadway at the end of July to host a community party. The idea, he said, was developed around events held in Italy that are designed to drive community and help people connect while having fun. In his proposal to the BIA, he indicated that it would be a twice-monthly street party on Broadway.

The concept in and of itself isn’t a bad idea, though there are a lot of things to consider. There is the cost of shutting down Broadway, the required police foot-patrol presence (particularly if there will be drinking), and the overall cost of hosting an event (paying for djs, bands, bringing in food providers, insurance, etc).

So whether intentional or not, how does an event become political pandering? There are a few answers to this question. The first, is that no matter how well-meaning his actions were, Garisto attempted to subvert due process in order to get approval for his event by going around the OBIA, directly to council.

According to the discussion at Council two weeks ago, as reported in the Citizen, the OBIA discussed the idea but felt that they didn’t have the resources to do it this year, thus no formal decision was made. And while Garisto was confident local businesses would come on board, there is no guarantee — nor is there any guarantee for funding from anywhere other than the town. Particularly since each event could cost in the ballpark of $4000. 

The second answer is misusing town funds to drive support for one’s own campaign. Two members of council were not impressed with the timing, given that our elections are coming up, with Coun. Sylvia Bradley suggesting this was Garisto’s attempt at a campaign party. While I would like to believe that was not part of his motivations, the timing of it does not bode well.

See, in order to guarantee it could not be used as a personal way to promote oneself, there are some concessions that would have to be made.

The first, of course, has already been steamrolled over. That would have been ensuring that his own name was not attached to it, and that the origins of the event were not made known during the election year.

The second, is that in the spirit of equality, Garisto would also need to work with the other Deputy Mayor candidates to either co-host the event, or allow them to create their own event of equal calibre. In order for his own event to be approved, the other candidates’ events would also need to be approved. This way, there is no unequal footing heading into the election.

Of course, Councillor Garisto was adamant that this particular event is not being pursued for himself, but for the people of Orangeville, and indicated he wouldn’t be dropping the issue. Actions, however, speak more loudly than words. If Garisto has indeed been honest about his intentions, the best course of action at this point would be to drop the issue, at least until after the elections. Once the elections are over, he could then begin by once again following due process and pursuing approval via the OBIA for hosting at least one of these events in 2019. Regardless of whether he wins in this election or not.

As I mentioned earlier, the idea itself isn’t a bad one. I personally would love to see more events in downtown Orangeville that inspire community. And while shutting down Broadway might not be the appropriate way to host it ($1000 is a lot for every event), there are other nearby streets that could serve as a great venue for such an event.

What can be taken away from this particular situation is a reminder to be cautious of timing for proposals. Political pandering leaves a bad taste in most people’s mouths. They see through it, regardless of the intent. A good idea is still a good idea whether it happens right away or a little ways down the road. Hold onto those ideas, wait until the election is over, and then follow due process to get them brought to light. I guarantee, if the idea is a positive one for the town, you’ll get more support if there isn’t a possibility of personal agendas pushing it forward.

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