Debt: Political Crack Cocaine

Yesterday we received a Federal Budget with significantly larger deficits  for longer than were projected in the election.  We need to clearly understand the reasons for this expansion and exactly how we’ll judge how well our children’s money is being spent.

Below is a column where I first called public debt the crack-cocaine of the political class. It was published in October 2013 when the US Congress was deadlocked about funding and the EU was in debt crisis.

Deficit spending has a place in long term management of our society, but when our governments incur debt on our behalf,  we need to ensure that the debts have a purpose, the results are quantifiable and that everyone understands the goals and duration. 

Published October 9, 2013:

The constitution of the US is brilliant but it never could have seen the present day problems of the political class, including slack morals, self-serving ethics and general lack of responsibility to individual voters. Political parties are huge businesses, labour unions are huge businesses, and lobby groups and PAC’s are huge businesses.

Part of the problem is average voter’s perception versus reality: Many average Americans can’t find enough money to own health insurance, yet ask them and they mostly feel they live in the greatest country on the planet.

The US Congress has approved decades of irresponsible budgets with massive deficits becoming new debt and then the business of politics shuts down their own government while politicians fight over raising the debt ceiling to cover the very costs that they approved. That is just bone headed stupid and irresponsible. For once I agree with Obama, not on programs or content but on the requirement for a government to approve funding of the programs it passes into law.  Some worry the US may collapse the world economy by defaulting, that risk will get bigger with every passing year of excessive deficits.

Sometimes in political discussions I confuse my message by using Conservative vs. Liberal or Republican vs. Democrat. I’m coming to the point that I believe I must simply start using Responsible vs. Irresponsible to properly differentiate political ideology. I believe strongly that today all political parties are corrupted with significant irresponsibility, and that there is not yet a Responsible Party to lead us away from the messes of debt and unsustainable thinking the world is in. I also believe that, without a major financial crash rooted in government overspending, the people of modern democracies don’t really want or can’t handle the truth and changes that a truly Responsible Party would need to bring to the table.

In systems without responsibility balance checks and balances, the responsible always recover first and thrive best long term. The EU model seems to have few solid balance points for fiscal responsibility, therefore Greece, Spain, Italy, Portugal and others have been able to spend their way into future oblivion while funding social programs beyond their ability to raise tax dollar and the resulting irresponsible levels of debt drag the collective some way downward.

In the same collective political structure, the Germans and Brits are usually better off than most of the rest of the EU, and the Swiss remain small outsiders who seem to always responsibly take care of themselves for the past, present and long term future. I can’t help but say that responsibility that’s not entrenched in law (legislating zero deficits and debt repayment into law is a logical start) depends mostly on the psyche and moral underpinnings of the society. Will we take more than we’ll pay for? Or, are we willing to pay for all that we get and retire that debt in our own lifetimes? Will we ever elect a political party that is truly responsible?

The risk of US financial collapse in the near future seems almost inevitable. No one will escape easily, but a very few countries are more isolated from the effects. Some would call them boring, but Switzerland is probably one of the best isolated from that risk and one of the most potentially self sufficient places on the planet, largely because they’re too responsible to choose to be like the rest. Most of Scandinavia is in that responsible class that will hunker down and survive with simple responsibility accepting the hard work required.

If the US continues at this impasse they’re suffering or worse, defaults and triggers a really dramatic crash, Canada is in a very dangerous position. The Canadian middle class is struggling these days, fueled in part by loss of a significant number of manufacturing jobs and lack of growth in incomes. Many of our prized social programs, including universal healthcare, are available to all citizens but significantly funded by employment related taxes, so as unemployment rises so do those costs.

So how exactly does political irresponsibility creep in? I’ve always felt that the concept of deficit spending is the beginning. Simply put: spending more than we’re willing to tax is irresponsible theft from the future of a society seeking present political gain or illusion of peace. Giving people more government and government programs, social assistance or even wars than they are willing to fund with present generation tax dollars is irresponsible. One of many examples: If my government is using my tax dollars to advertise what they’re doing for me, I think them to be irresponsible because they’re running government like a business with no real cost of money and advertising is propaganda that benefits very few.

Debt is the crack cocaine of the political class and debt beyond reasonable short term limits is just irresponsible. In the recent past we simply counted on inflation to mitigate much of the long term damage of the debt we allowed our politicians to pile up. Prices went up, incomes rose and the past debt seemed less significant. A rise in inflation and the subsequent rise in interest rates might suddenly tip a very fragile recovery to a very bad crash.

In the end, we must look to the fundamental roots of democracy and blames ourselves for voting parties with unsustainable and unaffordable ideas into power. We’re all to blame for the dramatic rises in recent past debt levels of our country, province, or town. It’s time to accept that we’re all responsible for today’s problems and it’s time that we start insisting that all of our governments each start acting responsibly for the quality of our futures.

Sewer Birch Hill

I first ran this column in April 2011, so some of the numbers have changed a bit and the financing split was eliminated but it makes more sense than ever. We need to address this problem, yet at last council we heard that there are still no clear plans or timelines to install sewers in the Birch Hill area. We’re about to have an infrastructure leaning Federal budget and we really need to get a plan moving forward. 

Original column starts here:

Hudson should quickly install sanitary and storm sewers in the Birch Hill area as well as any other area of equally dismal environmental condition. The cost of the required new debt to service required installations should be averaged into the debt service costs of all areas currently serviced with sewers.

I don’t own or have interest in any property in any of the affected areas, so I stand to gain nothing by proposing this vision of fairness. In fact I’d lose money. Our property’s sewer debt costs would rise by some amount, perhaps even double in the interest of fairness and correcting longstanding mistakes of past councils. But, I’d sleep better knowing that my neighbor citizens were being treated fairly and that their problems were being taken seriously and solved.
The current council mentality is that I’m among six hundred plus lucky homeowners who benefit from the grants. Our sewers were installed at publicly subsidized cost and anyone else who needs connecting will have to pay the whole cost themselves, only if they can all agree to the associated debt for the system they need.This grant and debt averaging idea came to me one day when I pondered the ethics of confining the benefits of government grants to select groups of property owners and then refusing to support owners in equally compromised areas because the government grant well has been pumped dry fixing our part of the problem. What right do I have to this exclusive benefit funded by everyone’s
taxes? What right do I have to insist that others pay the full costs for the same benefits our
collective tax dollars have granted me?
Go way back and one might easily say that the development of the Birch Hill area should probably never have been allowed, but we knew far less of geotechnical issues back then and had far less regulation and oversight from higher levels of government. All past mistakes of town leaders become common property in a community, we own them together and we should fix them together. The councils that finally packaged the sewer project and grants were reluctant to think bigger and confined their thinking to the most visible areas, or areas where sewers would allow new developments like a senior’s assisted care, a new medical center and expansions of schools.
Birch Hill’s dirty smelly problem is tucked conveniently out of sight and out of mind and despite petitions and demands for action over decades they never stood a chance of inclusion in the project. They have been offered various bad deals and half measures, but council mentality has never been to accept these problems as a failing of management of development in an entire community deserving a solution by an entire community.

My total annual cost for sanitary sewers is under $400, a combination of grant subsidized debt and annual operating costs. I don’t know the exact current cost of a proper modern septic system for Birch Hill but I’ve heard cost close to $20K installed, plus regular pumping and servicing. Based on a twenty year life span, average out the capital, personal debt and the operating costs of septic on Birch Hill are well in excess of $1,500 per year. It’s pretty simple why you need to pay four times what I do: I’ve got a grant from our government, you don’t, good for me, bad for you. I think that attitude is completely wrong.
It’s wrong to wait for every Birch Hill owner to replace older septic systems with new more
efficient septic. That will take decades, unless we’re willing to compel owners to replace existing septic systems that our town permitted and approved the installation of with more efficient expensive ones, which would also be wrong. Even that drastic measure wouldn’t fix the problem.
Our town engineer has publicly stated that the only way to solve the entire problem is to install storm sewers too. The only way to actually solve the environmental issues in the Birch Hill area quickly would be to connect every property to sanitary sewers, and to add storm sewers at the same time. The only condition I’d attach is a reasonable deadline to get connected to the newly installed system so the pollution stops quickly.
Hudson needs to aggressively seek government grants for future work expanding on our sewer system.

Hudson should be aggressively planning to expand the sewer system to those areas that so
obviously need sewers because of past development errors. Hudson shouldn’t hold back simply because we think grants aren’t available and we shouldn’t expect present owners to bear the entire cost of fixing those past errors in development. Past administrations have simply set high expensive bars for those areas to jump over and then ignored the real environmental needs of the community.

For the sake of a better community, and to average the costs downward for an area in need, I’m willing to share the grant money I’ve benefited from. We need to fairly reduce the costs of others in similar need of the same solutions our governments helped buy for me. I’d like to see known and acknowledged past errors in development being quickly cleaned up and fixed, not be ignored for yet another decade.

Blogging Reality

Duff is back but I understand that he’s deep into a “Man-Cold”.  As men are sometimes baffled by estrogen, women can just never understand that there’s something about the presence of testosterone that exponentially multiplies the effects of the common cold in some men.

Today I may ramble a bit, bear with me or click on another link, the joy of the internet is that there’s no required reading if I’m not entertaining or engaging you. I may remain inspired enough to find the time to post from time to time once Duff returns.

I’ve looked at the couple of weeks of moderating and contributing to this blog as an opportunity and a privilege, and I’ve used the experience to try to learn some things about blogging. I have not had as much time as I would have liked to contribute, I have a day job that’s had challenges over the same time period.  If no one feeds a blog with content number of visitors and page views drops rapidly. That’s my first lesson of blogging; you need to feed this blog beast constantly.

My second lesson is that blogs tend to attract mostly like minded people, which can be both a good thing and a bad thing. Growth of ideas and development of movements and democracies by intelligent dialogue is important to me, so understanding all sides of an issue helps one find the center that the majority will approve. I came into moderating an existing group and was able to have some great learning experiences and exchanges of ideas. I gained new respect for a number of our readers who comment regularly.

By being a shameless self-promoter and cajoling people on Facebook to read and share, we set some records for both visitors and page views. I learned that the majority of people who visit don’t comment or even mark the post as a “like”. We know someone has been reading but we don’t actually know what you’re thinking.

When writing for the weekly paper formerly known as the Hudson Gazette, I considered our paper the deeper end of discussion, opinion and local government and the other local weekly was the shallow more social end of the spectrum. On Internet discussion, Facebook is mostly a social place where people are “friends”. I purposely have few “friends” on Facebook as my main purpose for using it is to have near real time pictures, video and news of our grandchildren. I find Facebook a nearly impossible place to engage in deeper discussions that might change people’s views, life philosophy or politics or educate yourself to change.

This blog experience has inspired me to learn something of WordPress, the open source platform that this blog is running on. It appears that, in a modern world, being without an ability to communicate your message on the Internet will leave one effectively mute in the near future. I’m a technician and prefer to understand the underlying process and technology and so I’ve stretched myself to learn some things. Visit one of my own first admittedly not well designed website to see some examples of my day job’s products at: Not as hard as I expected it would be, but it only took a few hours much of that gathering pictures.

Democracy, especially in the US, has abandoned ideas and policy as selling points and has instead become a high stakes media game. I believe that this trend is a reflection of how the younger generations are becoming engaged and mobilized by political parties. I fear for the isolation of the older and not connected parts of our society, but they’re less and less important to getting elected. Democracy by leveraging media and social media may bring the USA some unexpected challenges that will test the checks and balances designed by the founding fathers.

I started thinking seriously about the failings of modern democracy in about 2009, based on the low voter interest and high levels of apparent dissatisfaction in Hudson. I should clarify that, because I believe the vast and silent majority is quite satisfied. Long before that I had simplistically blamed apathy for every evil of our system, today I see things differently and blame a combination of things with apathy being only one component of why people aren’t getting involved.

Social media represses most people’s willingness to speak up and risk judgement, and so do blogs. Small communities are among the worst places: without a solid vision from leadership they can divide easily into small herds of like minded people with each group often having a fairly narrow vision. These groups can have disproportionately big voices and the silent majority simply won’t engage them.

Probably the most isolated group in any small town is the Mayor and Council, especially if there are any contentious issues or angry people in town. They mostly hear good feedback from their supportive friends and harsh criticism from special interests, past opponents and future mayors in waiting at council each month. At the council meetings I’ve attended, I’d estimate criticism and complaints outweigh compliments by about ten to one.

Because I don’t believe small town or large country democracy is working well these days: I am actively looking for and thinking about ways we might reform the governance of small towns so that the governments that we elect can might have some real time feedback from the silent majority during their term. We need ways to engage people to speak honestly without fear of judgement within a small town, or simply people an anonymous way to give a thumbs up or thumbs down to any given idea that the leaders or citizens might have. Until that day, we all need to treat our local democracy with the respect it deserves and the effort that is each citizen’s responsibility.

Have a great week ahead and give someone words of love, a hug, or just a casual compliment or encouragement. We’re all on this random space rock together, and our journey is finite and of indeterminate duration. My advice: treat the gift of today as a special event not to be missed.

We’re all the same

It’s all attitude.

Start of my day, early and easy to be pissed: Almost an hour on the phone with Mumbai to update credit card info (old card was fraud victim) on an annual renewal software license. They need better systems, the guy spent a lot of time waiting for “the system” to respond.

I knew he was in Mumbai, because I always announce where I am and ask them where they are. Since the time was going to be wasted anyway, might as well chat. It was 1:00am in Mumbai when we chatted, he had five more hours to work.

Some of those guys are fun to talk to and today’s guy spoke perfect English and more importantly had great comprehension. They’re trained to be polite and answer any question you ask while you’re waiting. Remember this was an American company customer service portal.

He commented that “you have a lot of Indians in Canada” and told him that we value our immigrants from India. Our immigrants can aspire to great things and the highest levels. He was happy to hear that we have an Indian Defense Minister who had fought for Canada in Afghanistan.

The guy I got today should become a Canadian: When I asked, he knew who Sugar Sammy was, and then replied that sure he likes Sugar Sammy, but actually prefers Russell Peters.

We discussed Royal Enfield  Motorcycles, ex British product now made in India. I worked on one as a teen mechanic decades ago. He wants to buy one of the fancy newer Royal Enfield models and is working hard to save enough money but he’s also got a beautiful girlfriend and needs to save money to get married. I told him that loving a good wife was probably a better and longer lasting investment than a motorcycle, but to have some fun before the inevitable.

We finished the job at hand, wished each other a  great weekend, and he laughed when I told him he’d get to the weekend before I did. It turned out not to be a waste of time, but an enjoyable chat across the world.

Exactly the kind of thing we should do more often with our neighbors, or the guy standing in line with us. Or the refuge that was driven from their homeland by war.

We’re all the same, just in different places and circumstances.

When given a choice, just relax and choose to be human.

Only Three Choices

Another re-run Weekly Itch Column from 2008, advice that fits well for individuals and communities

My simplistic view of life decisions has the foundation of my understanding that when faced with any decision in life we really have only three choices: Ignore, Change or Accept.

As complicated as we may want to make decisions or events, boil it down and when push comes to shove these are only these three choices. This viewpoint has made my life simpler; hopefully sharing it with you might help you with your next challenging decision.

Ignore is the life equivalent of picking up a problem or challenge that lies in our path and tossing it into a backpack we’re carrying. We must now carry the weight of the problem with us at all times. People who chronically ignore problems or decisions eventually can’t shoulder the weight of all the problems they ignore. Sooner or later many crumble under the load they’re carrying. The total load of the backpack spills around them and they are often unable to cope with all of these problems or decisions now facing them. The world around sees a sudden train wreck, but it may have been years of ignoring that caused the crash.

Change is the second and often the best choice, but change comes with some basic rules and a requirement for work. You can change a lot of things you don’t like. You can change your attitude or right wrongs you have caused. You can change yourself within reasonable limits of what is possible. You can lose weight or exercise more, change your hair colour or clothes. You absolutely can’t change other people unless they truly want to change themselves. So, if your planned solution to a problem that bothers you is to change someone else, it will almost certainly fail.

Change is the constructive form of dealing with a problem or challenge. An example: you want a better job, you might need a better education or updated skills to land it, so you decide to go back to school and change yourself to allow that progress. Almost always, the choice to change something involves work and time, but ends with more value in your life. Choose change wisely and the work you must do to make change becomes an investment that yields more happiness in life.

To successfully change anything you also need a realistic view of your own willingness to do the work, as well as your capabilities to make that change. Example: If I suddenly announced that I wanted to quit my job and become a professional ballet dancer, any who know me would howl with laughter. I’m a really big guy, way too old to start a ballet career even if years of cycling and fading eyesight has made me comfortable in Lycra. I could pursue ballet all I wanted, but not being realistic about my skills and ability to change would likely guarantee failure unless it were in fact a comedy ballet. Work hard for the possible instead of dreaming of the impossible.

Change requires a good hard honest look at yourself as well as being realistic about both your capabilities and true desire to change. Honestly will help decide if you can actually change something. If you really stink at or hate science, don’t plan to become a doctor. Unless of course the extreme passion you feel for becoming a doctor makes the hard work to survive the science a small issue. Recognize your weaknesses and plan to work really hard at them and almost anything you want is possible.

Before giving up on changing something or someone, it’s important to make sure you’ve given your best shot at it. If you’ve taken your best effort at changing a certain part of your life and haven’t succeeded, then you must move on understanding that no matter how hard you might work the changes you want just won’t happen.

Accept is the final choice. True acceptance is usually difficult and comes at a price, but you only pay that price once. I’ve shed my tears over my impossible ballet career and have moved. Seriously though, accepting may be hard work and giving up on unrealistic dreams, but leads to more peace in your life.

We must often find ways to accept the limitations of our life that were caused by life events out of our control. We didn’t cause those problems, but we must either carry them around with us or find ways to accept the results. We’ve each been randomly chosen to carry some extra load through life, and must eventually accept that if we don’t let it crush us it will make us stronger.

If something that really bothers us can’t realistically be changed, we must work to accept it. We could ignore it, it will still bother us and we’ll waste energy every day of our lives carrying it around with us wishing it were different. From time to time, I try to empty that backpack of problems I’ve ignored. I find a quiet time and dump them in plain view so I can begin work on changing what I can and accepting what I can’t change.

I accept that this gift of life we have is of limited and unknown duration, not always fair but always fatal. I will leave this world with exactly what I arrived with. I accept that to live well I must take responsibility and work hard to build value in my own life. I accept that I have responsibilities to my family, my community, my world and myself. In exchange for those responsibilities I earn the right to enjoy my life here for hopefully a very long while.

Silent Majority Democracy

I’m watching the Donald Trump phenomena happen with fear. I’ve given Donald my own rapper name, D. Tea Rump, because from a tiny rump of the very angry and very right wing Tea Party faction within the Republican Party, he’s leveraged bully tactics, angry right wing rhetoric, impossible policy and his high profile persona to close in on victory.

Tea Rump now threatens to become the nominee for all Republicans, and Tea Rump might actually become President of the most powerful country in the world. World leaders and average citizen are shaking their heads. What started as a joke website, started by a DJ on local radio, inviting refugees from Trump to move to Cape Breton Island has over 800,000 hits and has hit CNN. Crazy stuff is a happening just over the border because the majority is too silent.

Democracy today addresses the needs of only passionately committed and unafraid citizens. Modern political structures, major media outlets and even social media groups isolate all sides of any issues into opposing groups of like minded people. The middle of the road citizens, often called the silent majority, just want peace and good government until the next election and because of their silence aren’t important to politics any more.

What small percentage of people will allow lawn signs to show their colours during an election? Getting visibly involved or speaking publicly on any issue carries the risk of judgement, especially by circles of friends you travel in.  I saw brilliant advice on a sign in the parking lot at a golf course in Alberta: “Please leave your cell phones and politics in the trunk of your car”.

Governments today spend all of their time and energy battling and answering to those who oppose; the other side is always wrong and all the noise generated is negative. There’s little time left for socializing with and understanding the needs of the silent majority and the opposition. In that environment, silence feels peaceful and safe, until the agenda gets pulled too far to one side.

Social media, including Blogs and FaceBook pages are not the answer as they divide and attract comments and dialogue from only the like minded, committed, self-interested, strongly opinionated and those who lack any fear of judgement. Social media sites are hard work to control, clearly they’re public places and subject to all available legal recourse should they slander, defame or promote hatred.

I don’t remember the author, but I once read a fearsome analysis and prediction that US democracy could only last 200 years. The US was formed in 1776, so the best before date expired in 1976. Political power is in the hands of the money, the money is more and more concentrated and the average voice just can’t be heard. Doesn’t that sound like a Bernie Sanders speech? Bernie’s got great ideas, but he’s always been an oppositional politician and I don’t think the US would elect him if he actually gets nominated.

Since the McCarthy era, the vast majority of Americans don’t really even understand the differences between social democracy, socialism and communism. The money is happy having everyone pay their own way, because they themselves can. Democracy should involve a collective willingness to charity towards the disadvantaged and good democracy helps without judging the cause of that disadvantage. Money runs both sides of every democratic political structure, and money often sets policy that barely tolerates the average citizen.

I’ve spent years casually pondering the challenges of modern democracy, and for a time I thought the internet and social media might give a better voice to the silent majority. Instead I think the deafening noise of mass media and social media have driven the silent majority further from view and being heard. I’m convinced the revolution we need is involvement replacing silence.

How can an average citizen actually contribute to the public discussion without being visible?  Start small and do something is my best advice. I’m not exactly known as silent, but once was, so I know the process to begin to be heard.

Not every day for me is political, it’s more like a hobby where I try to make some time each week. Lunch at my desk is often a productive time for my personal interests; yesterday I spent probably 30-45 minutes on the following:

I quietly sent two emails to our Member of Parliament on issues that I’m passionate about and that I don’t care to discuss on social media or this blog. I sent a couple of calm constructive emails to our Mayor and Town Council with suggestions that I  won’t discuss publicly, so that they may have a chance to quietly consider my points and act if they see benefit. If they don’t act, I won’t take it personally because I can’t understand the totality of the community needs and resources as they can.

I also interacted, out of public sight, with number of people that I know to be committed to our town and who are on several sides of several issues I’m interested in. Mutual respect is a key element to those relationships and often hard to build.

For mental sport, I participate in a very small and very passionate political discussion group, not with like minded people, but a group with mutual respect and a full spectrum of political stripes. We get angry with each other’s points out of public sight and slowly we come towards a common vision closer to the center on many points.

I hope more people choose to get involved at every level of democracy; the silent majority must start speaking in a calm constructive voice. Just do something, please.

Art and Eats 2008

It’s re-run season for a few days, and I’m not commenting on current events but instead re-running a past column or two that I think were of merit and had some constructive ideas as we look forward again.

Yes, I know that I risk some blame for the Eco Trolley idea, but the much joked about concept of Eco Trolley is an exceptional one that implies that Hudson of the future has multiple points of interest to engage visitors and be busy with enough visitors to require local transport. Worthy goals, some of which I hope we can reach one day soon.

Weekly Itch #61 Published Hudson Gazette July 2, 2008

If Hudson is seeking a big box resistant retail core, we should consider openly attracting and really supporting artists and galleries. Those who come seeking art will come to browse from far and wide and must eat along the way. We’ve got some great eats in town for them and room for more. Some of our restaurants are already galleries for local artist’s works, so the core idea is already here in a small way.

The annual Hudson Studio Tour’s success convinces me that we have a fine base of artists that can draw a crowd within our reach. We need to create the environment for more top-notch artists to come to Hudson and settle down. We’ve got the ideal eclectically friendly community of people. We’ve got a picturesque semi-waterfront village locale, and tons of local character and characters for added interest.

Ideally, we could eventually attract those who teach art and run schools for artists. Example: week long course in fine woodworking brings midweek customers year round for bed and breakfast and after class theater, libation and eats.

We’re missing some of what we need to really make a go of it but I’ll jump to an end vision of a town and walk you quickly through it. Leaving the car behind we ride the free Hudson shuttle. The shuttle runs continuously and picked us up at from the early train at the Vaudreuil-Dorion train station that it services several times a day on weekends.

On Cameron, in the working artist friendly redevelopment of the Daoust dirt and equipment yard, you’d see an open post and beam building erected by local craftsmen. It has a common open gallery with flexible rental artist studios attached on two levels. Painters, weavers, jewelers, quilters, and the quieter smaller arts would fit well here.

The gallery would be staffed on retail hours and present the works of artists who rent the studios and keep a percentage of sales to support staffing and overhead. When the artists are in studio working, they could choose to open doors from the gallery to their studio to visitors, creating a direct link between artist working and customer and a beehive of interesting activity. The old Medicentre might be developed into a similar concept if space demand and structure permitted.

Walking towards Main road we find options for eats or sweets along the way.  We’re drawn downtown to interesting old buildings like Legg’s and Habib’s, their ground floors now commercial galleries full of non-local artist’s work.

The community center is buzzing with activity as one of our artists has booked it for a one-day course teaching the fine points of his form of art. Courses and showings are promoted on the community website and through town funded promotions to attract both Montreal area residents and tourists.

The early weekend Hudson Arts and Theater train is pulling into the station. The Village Theater now offers courses and seminars and hosts a busy sold out weekend schedule year round. Theater people eat and buy art, so before or after the show they browse the community or hop the Hudson Shuttle to Finnegan’s for an hour or two in the summer. Some of the train riders, walk or shuttle to the Yacht Club to enjoy learn to sail days that brings additional day revenue and potential future residents and members into the Club for a summer day each month.

Meandering down Main Road, we notice the new Hudson Fire Hall Complex, which looks old enough to be part of town but is new and finally big enough to actually fit all the equipment and work safely. Upstairs it contains a commercial Hudson fitness center run by and used by the firefighters. Also a few rent subsidized apartments rented to active volunteer firefighters above the equipment bays.

Behind the Fire Hall complex, after the artists started coming, the Public Works yards and administration were moved away from the retail center to somewhere more function appropriate hidden on the edge of town. Heavier larger art is done here in a series of rental lofts for sculptors, potters, wood carvers, and glass blowers. Artists here include anything bulky and not requiring noisy equipment that would disturb close village neighbors. Long established Hudson artists still occupy the rental buildings across Main Road and because of growing customer traffic more wait for space to open up.

Hopping the next shuttle towards Finnegan’s, we get off at the Thomson Park artist’s community surrounding the parking lot across from the park. Few close neighbors to disturb with machinery, the lofts here include fine woodworkers and cabinetmakers and a small woodworking school where a local real estate agent is currently teaching a small group building Windsor chairs. The Thompson Park Café offers sandwiches and the Park is a great place to sit and enjoy the sunshine and lake views before we hop the next passing shuttle to Finnegan’s and spend a couple of relaxing hours browsing.

It’s getting late and we notice a booth at the flea market that makes reservations in all the Hudson restaurants. We quickly get a confirmed table and time at our choice of restaurants and hop the next shuttle back to Hudson for dinner before we head home to the city on the late train.

Could it happen? What would it take? Examples do exist of similar communities that are artist and restaurant centric. I’ve been to a few interesting ones on our travels. Over time they become successful destinations for locals day-trippers from the city and tourists from afar. It wouldn’t happen overnight. We’d have to have vision, cooperation, creative re-zoning and strong purposeful leadership to attract investment over time. Define the end product and manage the path to get there.

I’d rather live surrounded by creative artists, great art and fine food than surrounded by empty shops, modern strip malls and fast food.

Scorched Earth Gardening

I gave my wife Diane a wonderful little counter-top hydroponic edible herb garden for Christmas with the latest LED grow light. You don’t even have to get your hands dirty: Fill it with water, plug it in, add some nutrients and seed pods, and then wait while nothing happens for what seems like the longest time.

Everything germinates at different times; we were sure two of the six pods were duds and would never germinate. Suddenly, a single tiny shoot on one pod appears and then another, then they start reaching for the artificial sun. With time, all six pods sprouted and with more time the plants stretch and mature to compete with each other. After a few months, we’re overwhelmed with a variety of herbs and have more Dill, Thai basil, Cilantro, Mint, Italian Basil, and Parsley than two of us can use.

I’m moving away from commenting on Hudson as a topic, as the world has many interesting and important topics and problems. I’m planning to eventually seek a wider audience on a wider variety of subjects and try to step on fewer toes locally. I will change my Hudson role to back being a single voice citizen attending council meetings and discussing issues on all sides privately where I feel there is merit.

I’ve explored some of Hudson’s many divides, via discussions and dialogues on this blog and private conversations. Hudson has groups and individuals standing on different sides of many issues, not always respecting each other. In the middle ground between all sides is scorched but very fertile earth. Weeds are the first thing that grows in this place and weeds are overrunning our garden: the weeds of anger, distrust, hurt feelings and disrespect are encroaching from all sides including council, town employees and citizens at large. Our community has not enough hope and is starved for progress and good news.

There is a massive disinterest from the silent majority of constructive community gardeners who wisely won’t choose or speak on any side of most arguments. I understand and respect that decision to silence because disrespect and anger are just not the way of the vast majority of the good people of Hudson.

I’ve seen similar and significant attitude problems from all sides, and I have tried to plant some seeds by suggesting exactly the same solutions to both sides, both with my public blog comments and by emails and discussions which will remain private and confidential.

I’ve weathered distrust and anger from both sides of several issues as I’ve tried to lay foundations for some bridges that I personally think need to be to be built, lest we waste the balance of this council’s mandate and install another completely new group that can never satisfy us without our collective cooperation and mutual respect. Hudson chews up and spits out council after council, reducing the effectiveness of the next one.

I’m prepared to have none of my ideas come to fruition, and would be excited if even one took root, but I will never take credit for any that do because I have only provided a few small seeds to a starving community in a place that I know is capable of growing small ideas into great things by cooperating. My no risk offer: The first side to make a public move on one of my ideas that succeeds can take all the credit if it works, and if it fails please blame it on me for ever suggesting it in the first place.

Now is the time for each side of every divide among us to not just plant some of their own quality seeds on our scorched earth, but to nurture the many good ones that survived scorching and the new ones that may sprout as a community of friends works together. We have an underutilized wealth of knowledge, energy with time and willingness to volunteer, but we’re perpetually fighting among ourselves instead of pulling weeds and tending our community garden. We are indeed growing some hate among us, time to stamp that out.

I’m not a gardener good at nurturing; I’m a planter of ideas and hopes and certainly a facilitator of forcing discussions we wish to avoid. I’m not a patient enough man to wait the time it will naturally take for ideas to take root and grow, so I’m forever disturbing tender soil to the detriment of not yet established roots. Plus, I’m only one person and deserve only one voice while our leaders have seven voices and the mandate and validity of election to understand and speak for the majority of Hudson.

Hopefully, one or more of the seeds I’ve tossed onto this scorched earth will germinate and grow.  I know that if I am to have any positive effect, I must step back, move on to other more global or spiritual ideas in my blog posts and we’ll see if there is indeed any good idea planted and any fertile ground in this scorched earth we inhabit together if something sustainable germinates.

I will continue to moderate and engage in constructive respectful forward looking discussion on my past blog posts about Hudson, and hopefully on lots of future ones on other subjects. I will attend council meetings whenever I can and I am always available for one on one or small group forward thinking discussion that doesn’t involve anger.

Tug of war

Never underestimate the very real possibility that honesty will cause both sides to react badly for exactly the same reason: Truth hurts.

Anyone who knows me, or has read me  will know that I’m seriously flawed by my unwavering honesty at calling things exactly like I see them. Further flawed, I poke the issues we sometimes don’t want to talk about so that we might discuss them.

So, when I step into the middle of a Hudson Hornet’s Nest, I know that I’m near the center of the silent majority when the extreme sides both dislike what I’m saying enough to start talking dirty about me. Sometimes I feel like one of those Middle East peace talk guys, trying to understand unwavering and often irrational discord and sometimes hatred among people who share the same land.

The underlying problem is that there’s silence among the majority and I quietly get words of support that let me believe that what I’m saying resonates with a majority of people. As long as the majority stays silent, we can’t remove power from the extremes and we can’t ever find progress for the consensus of the majority.

I’ve got three options:

Option One: This requires everyone to trust me just a bit in an unscientific but confidential poll. I will delete your email addresses once I’ve tallied the results. I’ll do my best to remove duplicates and will never share any names unless your email asks me specifically to forward a comment to Hudson’s Council in which case I will forward only your comment and not your identity. Please be fair and only reply once if you’re from Hudson and of voting age. If you’re undecided or on the fence then send one and only one email to each side and I’ll only flush duplicates by side and your votes will cancel and represent a 50% support. Please share the link on this blog post as you wish.

The Question: Yes or NO  

I support  Mayor Prevost and his Hudson Council of our fellow citizens and would like them to know that.

I’ve set up two email addresses on my company server. and

Option Two: Tug of War

I thought with the coming storm that a snowball fight on Sandy Beach might work, but that risks injury. So, I’m suggesting a town wide tug of war organized by our Recreation Department and assisted by our Fire Department and judged by me the guy stuck in the middle.

Prevost Council supporters on one side and Detractors on the other.

Proof of Hudson residency and voting age required bring the kids and friends to watch.

Option Three:

Phone or email your Town Councillor and tell them what you really think. Many voices are not being heard, and trust me, I understand why some might be reticent to speak for or against issues.

Like the Middle east, I’d like to see some bridges being built instead of destruction and anger.

So please choose Options One and Three and then we can do Option Two just for fun. And keep lobbing those grenades my way, it motivates the hell out of me to speak my mind more.