Our own worst enemy

I’ve lived in Hudson for 34 years, just sixteen more years until I’m considered a local. I have enjoyed the best of Hudson life and seen the worst at times.

I’ve watched and at various times participated in municipal government, our children lived and one died here in service of our town, they were both educated to brilliance here by great teachers many who live among us, my wife  was an elected school commissioner for ten tumultuous and angry years in education, our family was at the center of a tragedy that reached the national news and uncovered structural weaknesses in our local government and management of departments, I’ve spoken in over 200 often controversial columns in our best local paper of the time.

We are a wonderful community at our heart. Hudson is full of amazing people engaged in a wide variety of activities and interest. We attract some of the best and brightest people in many fields to live here. We have so many people who contribute to Hudson that I’d have to write a book and I’d still miss many of them because they quietly shape Hudson into their vision of a caring compassionate responsible and sustainable community. We support each other’s charities and causes like Nova, le Pont Bridging, the Palliative Care Center, Greenwood, le Nichoir, being the first community in Canada to ban pesticides. And yes, we spent public legal dollars defending our right to insist that we all must live equally with dandelions.

I could sum the true spirit of Hudson up in one annual event: Hudson Yacht Club’s Work Bee. A volunteer group of members spend the day organized into groups to prepare the yacht club for the coming season. They share hard work, lunch, drinks, friendship, citizenship, community and by all pulling together for a day accomplish not just the repair of an old club, but they bond into a cohesive group with better understanding of each other and the needs of the club.

There has been, for most of the years I’ve been here, an impossibility to ever truly govern Hudson. From apathy we acclaim far too many of our leaders and those who get elected are elected usually by a minority of citizens who come out to vote.

Around half way through almost every government, there are angry mobs quietly forming in Hudson that are determined to bring down the government. No public consensus required, gather a group who will listen, light the fires to heat the tar, get the feathers and they’re ready to rumble.

Because they have a responsibility to govern for the balance of their term, most Town councils under siege react by circling the wagons, plugging the leaks and forming an impenetrable bunker around their group. The angry mobs isolate them from the silent majority of citizens.

Modern social media brings new challenges for communication, including the potential for legal challenges due to slander and libel that previously only the press needed to worry about.  It is not a citizen’s absolute right to express any opinion or promote anger publicly. One cannot be sued for calmly stating verifiable facts and details, publishing legal documents in the public domain, and even carefully coming to a logical conclusion or rational request for action based on those facts. However, if you are hateful or of the opinion that there has been something illegal happening and even imply that an official or a town employee is involved, you are breaking the law and should be held accountable.

Angry mobs are not the answer; calling to bring down the government in absence of any criminal charges is not the answer because there are no recall tools available.

There’s a giant boulder in our way. Years of ineffective and illegal management of Hudson, questionably effective past mayors and councils, rising debt, and new rules and technical challenges including the MRC, the PMAD, the CMM other regional obligations that we under participate in.

The government of a few elected citizens, friends among us, is in charge of managing the moving of that boulder. But we have angry mobs forming on every side of that boulder each yelling and pushing in different directions, so because we’re not as a majority pushing in any one direction the boulder never moves.

We have the best possible government in Hudson this time; we actually elected all of them from the best choices among us who chose to run for the thankless role of leadership. And they chose to run for office at a time when they knew Hudson was in an intractable mess and that they’d inherit a swamp full of problems they couldn’t even see until they started draining the swamp. They’re not perfect, but they are the best we could have and deserve respect.

We have choices to make, we can choose to get behind or at least move out of the way of our government or we can destroy their ability to make any progress and pick them apart one piece at a time. Or perhaps we could somehow get a consensus formed to help to start pushing this boulder out of the way as a community. The problem with that  consensus is that it is buried in silence with the majority of citizens afraid to speak up and possibly be judged by the angry mobs.

I needed time off from council meetings, and I work hard long days running my own business. I’m going to begin attending council meetings again, not on any side or allied with any cause. I’m going to witness government and bear witness to the responsibilities of both sides of democracy at work. If I see abuses or disrespect on either side I will comment.

I’m going to attend because I don’t want a local government who must close up and bunker themselves in protective silence and inaction and I don’t want to live in a town full of angry narrow focus mobs setting the direction.

In the end I will always try to take the side of and speak for the most responsible side that I believe speaks logically, respectfully and best supports the needs of the majority of Hudson. That is my responsibility as a citizen, as it is your responsibility.

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12 thoughts on “Our own worst enemy

    1. Thank you Doug,
      That’s what I aim for: Truth.

      If I’m wrong I expect and I welcome facts to correct me.

      Time to re-publish PatchFault?

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  1. Peter,
    I agree with almost everything that you have said. However, the “old” Hudson’s motive force were the volounteer organisations who, at the drop of a hat, would roll up their sleeves and collectively solve the problems. The administrations during this period were facilitators at most, allowing the citizens to “get on with it”.
    The current administration paid lip service to this, but my experience is that they “circled the wagons” from day 1.
    The root cause of the malaise we are suffering, is, in my opinion, the hiring and retaining of Mdme Haulard as DG. She had no roots in the community and was determine to eradicate all long term employees from the Town. Apparently this was her boast during the hiring process. Every employee should have a 6 month review and presumably she passed this hurdle with the current council. This was their big mistake and we, the citizens have suffered greatly because they either did not do the necessary performance review or approved of her draconian employee relations philosophy. The informal networks that made Hudson work and made this the special place that I remember, was destroyed.
    We now need to rebuild using the original model. Let the citizen volounteer organizations lead and let the council facilitate what is planned by the grass roots by getting out of the way.

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  2. I’ve had to disallow several posts mostly for the possible legal safety of the person posting or because they were personal towards me and I won’t decide on those that address me personally but rather defer to someone more impartial.

    As well I’m first and foremost protecting Jim Duff’s safety as owner of this blog. If your post is in that group it has been referred to Jim as the higher authority and when he chooses he may release them.

    I trust you will understand.

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  3. Any level of government needs checks and balances usually in the form of an opposition party and in its absence a vigilant populace. So , Peter, as we are some of the time on opposite sides of the political divide but always remain civilized ,I think , to keep you honest I will have some objection to your opinion that : ” we have the best possible government in Hudson this time.” We both wrote for Jim’s paper in varying circumstances so I’m fairly careful about what I say. About two years ago I declared in a column that Mayor Prevost was my ideological enemy for different reasons but all having to do with his governing style and efficacy. I did run for council , I have served on TPAC, and I have been threatened with defamation suits by this administration. Whether that gives me any rights in declaring war on the Mayor is debatable but I have always declared it publicly . I am not an adherent to any disgruntled group probably because I would turn on them just as resolutely. That being said Captain Prevost took command on November 13, 2013 and since we have been through:
    4 Director Generals
    4 Treasurers
    1 Parks and Recreation Director who lasted for 4 days
    1 Parks and Recreation Director missing in action
    2 culture and Tourism Directors
    1 Environmental Officer
    50 % of Town employees retired or resigned or other
    7 ongoing lawsuits
    Job hirings w/o any job postings
    No employee collective agreement inspite of a Town consultant at $60K+
    Pine Lake w/o water
    Pine Lake $750K loan bylaw rejected by the citizens
    Omnibus land rezoning bylaws proposals repealed
    A Mayor called in front of the Quebec Municipal Commission
    A Quarry Point mansion and an Architectural control bylaw ignored
    A Parkinson Trail stalled in study after study
    A 2014 missing Town financial audit
    3 separate corrections to an ill thought out 2014 municipal Taxation mil rate.
    A postponed Town/MRC/CMM/PMAD concordance plan inspite of a 5 yr. preparation period.
    2 Agricultural Committee mtgs. in 2 1/2 yrs. when a small farm strategy is one of the pillars of the Strategic Plan
    A Town Website that rarely has TPAC minutes within 4 months of being current.
    2 Canada days gone missing
    Paid for Land Art while volunteer Hudson artist groups are snubbed.
    La Petite Seduction – I’m still not sure what that was about.
    No resolution on whether we have a train station or a theater.

    There’s more but I’m tiring . Mayor Prevost has been the Captain for all of this and ultimately must take the blame . Crew and Councils can only scrub the decks and it’s a big and thankless job and their Captain has done them an ill service. I would ask that he resign and we have a by-election . I pronounce for no one but myself on this matter .

    Liked by 2 people

    1. In my consulting practice, I was often charged with assessing the status of an organisation-usually in 2 weeks. I found that there was a strong correlation between how the organisation dealt with the small items and how well they dealt with the really important stuff.
      In consequence i would find out the average time it took to answer a request from a client, how current and how well presented were the notice boards in the facility and how clearly the Vision and Mission objectives were internalised by the employees. Answers to these questions were relatively easy to get in the time limit and I found that they were a leading indicator about the overall heath of the organisation.

      This week in Hudson we:
      1) “lost” the minutes from the last council meeting – but approved them anyway !!
      2) Announced in council (monday) that there would be an information meeting the following night at 7:00 pm re Valuation Assessments. This was cancelled at 6.45 pm Tuesday .
      3) The Employee’s union has written to the Quebec Government demanding that the Town of Hudson negotiate in good faith regarding the overdue contract.

      ??????????????

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Now , Bill , we’re under some pressure from the Mayor to cease our naysayer ways. So to confirm my commitment to Ed’s wishes I will say they managed to get those things not done in under two hours. There, he’s right , I feel better already.

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  4. Brian, I though of not approving this post, but you state factual information and it is in your rights as a citizen to speak and also to call for the resignation. You write a good honest mid-term evaluation for them, at least they have a list in one place of some rookie errors they’ve made.

    If you’d get a petition with more than half the shareholders of Hudson demanding the resignation I’d say Captain Prevost might need to reconsider.

    Based on the comments and support I’m getting from the silent majority, I wish you luck. The citizens at large would like the Prevost council to be able to act on some of their plans and not just defend themselves.

    I’d like to see some bridges built, preferably stone ones that won’t burn.

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  5. Thank you, Peter, but as I say I speak only for myself and it is up to Mayor Prevost entirely to evaluate his future. Petitions are very often mindless signings by people just in a hurry to get away. Editing is a tough job. Thankless too, I bet.

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    1. Thanks Brian, tough but very informative. Somewhere between the angry and opposed sides (yes both sides are guilty of non-constructive anger) is the consensus of the silent majority.

      Like

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