Congratulations are due to Mayor Wayne Baldwin both for his manner and his approach to Wednesday’s state-of-the-city address at White Rock Community Centre.
That evening, Baldwin was, as the saying goes, “on his game.”
Hosted by the South Surrey & White Rock Chamber of Commerce, he spoke eloquently and decisively – like a man with a clear vision for the city.
He described himself as a fighter, in a way that could not be doubted by even the most cynical opponent. Yet his words also demonstrated a grasp of the rights and function of those who hold dissenting opinions – even those in the small group who were outside protesting against him, as guests arrived for his speech.
It was a performance that was calm, well-considered, and ultimately reassuring.
In a word: statesmanlike.
It showed to those present the kind of leadership the city of White Rock needs and deserves. It showed that Baldwin well understands that, and is more than capable of delivering it. And it is a side of his political personality that residents deserve to see at regular council meetings and throughout the mayor’s day-to-day duties.
Instead, particularly since his re-election last November, visitors have seen – all too frequently – not the conciliatory moderator, but the icy and dismissive autocrat. It is not just customary hecklers from the gallery, but also ordinary citizens and council colleagues who are seen to be treated as little better than minions, and who have been hectored and lectured in a high-handed, condescending manner – a route almost guaranteed to raise ire and fuel protest.
While there is the inarguable need to maintain decorum in council chambers, it has of late degenerated into heavy-handed attempts to assert authority.
In Baldwin’s speech Wednesday, he pledged that staff and council are committed to building a stronger community, facing challenges and opportunities with positivity and transparency.
If the city has any hope of moving forward in the optimistic way the mayor spoke of this week, it needs a leader that recognizes that exhibiting a kinder, gentler or more human side is in no way a betrayal of your convictions.
Nor is hearing out those who disagree with you, or being big enough to admit you may have erred.
To those of true strength, such an acknowledgement of humanity is not an admission of weakness, but an intimation of greatness.