By Jason Menard
The less I know about the person or persons behind the Mayor Wanted ad, the more I’m concerned.
First, a quick rundown. Earlier today, a job posting and subsequent Mayor Wanted Web site was launched ostensibly as a “job opening” for the position of City of London.
In and of itself, it was fine… until we got to the end.
What initially concerned me most, at first, was the “for community support email firstname.lastname@example.org and we will connect you with Londoners who care deeply about the future of our city.”
I’m one of those Londoners. So I was interested. Who are these people? Who decides who they connect to.
And the answer — or lack thereof — is where I get nervous about how this information is being used.
I e-mailed the contact address with this message: “To whom does this e-mail go? And which “Londoners who care deeply about our city” are privileged to receive this information?
“As a Londoner who fits that description, I’m very interested to learn about this process. I’m also concerned about the lack of transparency in this project. While I admire the concept and agree with the majority of the statement, the fact that this is done anonymously tends to lead to some questioning of one’s intents and efforts.
Thank you in advance for replying.”
Two hours later, I received an e-mail back from email@example.com. Overall, there’s no group, it said. The post was designed to start a discussion and was vetted by people from a variety of political viewpoints, to ensure neutrality. It was kept anonymous and funded by out-of-pocket by one individual.
And I was told there was no agenda other than to encourage participation and start a conversation.
But that may not seem to be true. You see, the sentence preceding that “no agenda” line was this: “Anybody who wants to be networked with other Londoners will simply be sent contact information for present councillors or past candidates in wards.”
I followed up again. A couple of times. Once, specifically, to clarify that statement. Does it go to all councillors currently sitting? And who decides which past candidates receive this information?
And why is that not stated right up front in the letter? And who is deciding?
No answer, seven hours later. (I will update should I ever receive a response).
Maybe there’s truly no agenda, but that level of anonymity and picking-and-choosing who receives this information is certainly leaving one open to accusations that one exists.
Especially when it’s signed, “proud citizens of London, Ontario.” Especially when the city’s official logo is placed on the top right-hand corner of the site, and the City’s elections office phone number is referenced to make it appear like an officially sanctioned document to the untrained eye.
Of course, my skepticism was thrown back at me in the response to my initial e-mail. To quote, “Of course, given the anonymous nature of this message you have no reason to trust anything that I’ve written. I can’t do much about that.”
That’s wrong. He or she can. And I wrote back to that effect. It would be spectacularly easy too.
Just sign the letter. And be honest.
As I stated in one of my responses, the message in and of itself is fine; but the vague concept forwarding to a non-specified group of “Londoners who care deeply…” is disconcerting. In an era where we’re demanding more accountability and openness amongst our council, where we’re seeing polarization in both council chambers and amongst the community, it would behoove one advocating for the arrival of a community-building, open and honest mayoral candidate to at least extend the same courtesy.
Even the non-specified size of the group is a little odd. If it’s two or three people, great; if it’s 50-100, even better. But the focus should be about opening up the dialogue to all, being completely transparent about our intents and our efforts, so that we can work together as opposed to simply adding yet another layer of individuality to muddle our collective needs.
If it’s one person with an idea and two others saying, “Go ahead and do it,” that’s great too. But sign your name.
And if you’re going to use official contacts and logos to make the advertisement seem official, but make it clear that it’s a parody. A simple, “This statement has nothing to do with the City of London and any use of its contact information and branding is for satirical purposes only.”
And sign your name.
The intent and message is great when taken on its own. The execution, especially in light of the challenges we face is lacking, but easily rectified. If it’s truly about engagement and starting a conversation, let the words stand and sign your name.
If you merely want to raise awareness and start discussion, then leave off the suggestion that the information collected will be forwarded to current councillors AND FORMER CANDIDATES! If you’re going to take on an advocacy role, then we need to know who is doing the advocating. If you’re picking and choosing who gets what information, we need to have checks and balances to ensure the process’ fairness.
Saying, “Trust me” doesn’t work when we don’t know who you are.
If every councillor currently on staff and every person who has run for a Ward position is receiving these contacts, then let us know because that’s great.
But if it’s a select, chosen few, then that sounds like an agenda to me.
To the author who said, “… I can’t do much about that,” you are totally and utterly wrong. You can do everything about that and make your efforts that much more powerful. By choosing not to, you’re undermining the integrity of this document.
You can do something about skepticism by answering the questions outlined in my subsequent two follow-up e-mails. Specific questions using the very words you used in both the document and your e-mail response to my first question.
Simply put, by not signing a name — or names — you’ve assigned an agenda. And that’s something about which the real “proud citizens of London, Ontario” should be concerned.
And that goes for all “Londoners who care deeply about the future of our city.”
Not just a select few.
UPDATE: After 51 hours, I finally received a response. “After consulting with a number of people that I respect in the community I have removed the last line from the posting. Most did not agree with your position, although a few did, but could see how people could interpret it incorrectly. Thanks for your feedback.” The line’s been removed from the on-line posting.