If you had to describe Surrey’s political climate in one word, which would you choose?
Divisive? Too easy.
Defective? Depends on whose side you’re on.
Dysfunctional? You can’t argue with that, can you?
Anybody who follows municipal politics in our area knows that for a journalist, the city council beat can be a particularly juicy one, especially when presented with the right mix of contentious issues and strong personalities.
Stories about certain council members’ inability to deal with disagreements like grown ups are nothing new. Just say the word ‘pencil’ down near White Rock’s City Hall and see what reaction you get.
And over the years, our newsroom has been privy to many tips and tidbits about our elected officials. Some were worthy of publication, while others were… well… definitely not.
Somebody’s sleeping with someone’s husband.
These two are dating.
Somebody’s a home-wrecker.
These two were photographed coming out of a hotel together.
These two were caught making out in the back of a car.
But the gossip isn’t always sexual (although it’s disturbingly common) – so-and-so hit ‘like’ on a Facebook post that made fun of a fellow slate member.
Wait. We actually did that story and I got yelled at for it.
Anyway, you get the point.
The politics surrounding Surrey has gotten too nasty and too personal – and it can make it difficult to stick to the issues.
In the past few months, we’ve told you about attack ads featuring doctored photos of councillors. We’ve shared full exchanges from chambers that would tell you all you need to know about the pettiness on council.
Consider the response we received after we asked a councillor if it’s fair to publish an attack ad if it uses doctored photos and inaccurate quotes.
“I can’t answer that,” was the terrible answer he gave.
Does any of this feel familiar to you? If it does, there’s a good reason why.
Let former U.S. President Barack Obama explain.
“More than anything, I wanted this book to be a way in which people could better understand the world of politics and foreign policy, worlds that feel opaque and inaccessible,” he said in an interview with The Atlantic about his recently released book.
“It’s interesting. You’re in high school and you see all the cliques and bullying and unfairness and superficiality, and you think, Once I’m grown up I won’t have to deal with that anymore. And then you get to the state legislature and you see all the nonsense and stupidity and pettiness.
“And then you get to Congress and then you get to the G20, and at each level you have this expectation that things are going to be more refined, more sophisticated, more thoughtful, rigorous, selfless, and it turns out it’s all still like high school.”
That it does. That it does.
Beau Simpson is editor of the Now-Leader and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org