EDITORIAL: Polarized parties

A line in the sand has been drawn in White Rock, between council and condo owners.

A line in the sand has been drawn in White Rock, and the resulting crevice appears to be growing deeper by the day.

Such is the case whenever polarized parties face off, not realizing there can be more than two sides to every story.

White Rock Mayor Wayne Baldwin chaired what should have been a conciliatory event last Friday, when his council held an extraordinary meeting to discuss concerns over the city’s decision to cease solid-waste pickup for businesses and multifamily residents.

Extraordinary indeed.

Instead of attempting to meet residents half-way, Baldwin took them to task unapologetically, launching immediately into a lecture about undemocratic behaviour:

“Recently, one councillor has been subjected to a movement to boycott his businesses, which includes posting flyers throughout the community and threats made to his employees. Another councillor, with a young family, has been harassed over the telephone and threatened unless he changes his vote. A third councillor felt sufficiently intimidated by protesters that a request was made for police presence at council chambers.”

But to remove emotion from the argument, one must examine the mayor’s points independently.

The first, that a councillor’s business is the target of a boycott campaign, should be denounced unequivocally. Should a person’s livelihood be threatened because of a desire to serve in public office? And what about the small business’s staff and other investors?

More troubling, however, is the accusation that employees were threatened. If accurate, it should be the subject of a police investigation.

As should Baldwin’s second accusation – that a councillor was phoned and threatened. However, the mayor later confirmed to Peace Arch News that the threat he’d heard about was that the councillor in question would be voted out of office if he didn’t reverse the decision. Hardly the “threat” we were anticipating, and certainly not worth delaying city business over.

The last accusation, that a third councillor “felt sufficiently intimidated” that police were called, raises more questions than answers. Was this feeling warranted? If so, why weren’t more council members – even Baldwin himself – concerned?

Indeed, if there was a real indication violence would erupt, why wasn’t the public warned?

Otherwise, it sounds more like an excuse for us-versus-them thinking, which the city now has in spades.

Thanks to hot-headed behaviour from both sides, it appears the city is no closer to closing this chasm.