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.