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Opinion: Dave Dale, Infected with that nasty civic duty bug

Not to put too fine a point on it, I believe I can add a measure of depth to the council chamber lineup.
council chambers 1 turl 2016
City council chambers.

It starts with a sneeze after covering too many meetings and campaigns. Then comes headaches and chills as the wackiness unfolds around you, similar to waking up with seasonal flu.

Most journalists have some natural immunity, a built-in disdain for having to un-spin what elected officials and their hacks have spun.

It’s a shame there’s no vaccine.

As it turns out, all the precautions, YouTube remedies, and virtuous bravado didn’t help. My guard was down and now I’m infected with a bad case of 'politicalitis' virus. And I don’t think I’ll be able to shake this one off without letting it run its course.

I picked up this nasty variant in early August on a day there happened to be punky news at all three levels of government. And it just got worse as a barrage of silliness ensued with the opportunistic federal election during a pandemic, provincial dithering on everything, and municipal contortions serving as a triple-threat vector.

It’s not that I hadn’t thought about it over the years. When you spend most of your life putting politics and civic issues under the microscope, there’s a tendency to see yourself in the decision-making petri dish. You wonder how you’d handle things. Can I do better? Would I have been able to help steer the ship away from the shoals so the community doesn’t scrape bottom so often?

In the past, when this strain of public duty sniffles came they’d disappear after just a few doses of elixir.

When I was working as a full-time mainstream journalist and writing regular columns at the same time, I harped about how hard news reporters shouldn’t become politicians. It makes it all the more difficult for readers to trust what is being written by the next journalist, feeding the cycle of cynicism the industry faces today. It wasn’t a vague position, there was little room for debate on the subject. And I took care to respect the line between covering news stories and serving up opinions.

Yet, this feeling I might be able to contribute more as a political player has recently taken root and burrowed deeper into my consciousness. And recent events served to tip the scales to the point I’ve even started ruminating about campaign slogans – although most of the ideas probably serve better as one-liners for stand-up comedy bits: ‘You could do worse, because you have.”

Regardless, if I’m contemplating a dark-side experience, I feel compelled to disclose this for those following my storytelling. You should know it’s on my mind. It’s only fair, even if I’m early in the thought process.

After a full week of serious consideration, here’s what’s in the stew so far: At some point in June 2022, I’ll announce whether or not I’m going to run for North Bay council in the Oct. 24, 2022 election. As it stands, I’m only 75 percent infected and looking for a cure.

I divulged this to BayToday editor Jeff Turl last week. We decided that if I put my hat in the ring, and I’m still writing for BayToday, my column will be suspended at the time of the announcement.

Nominations actually open May 1 and the last day to submit is Aug. 19, but I like to wait for my birthday to make big decisions and it’s my 57th celebration June 14.

Many things could change between here and there. It ranks up there in the top five decisions of my life with plenty of pride and principle at stake.

Why North Bay and not East Ferris, where I’ve lived for 19 years? Mostly because The Bay is where I’ve worked for more than three decades and hope to continue until I retire in another 18 years. And to be frank, the Gateway of the North could use my skill set and outlook more than East Ferris right now.

Besides, I’m a proponent of regional cooperation and think East Ferris, Callander, and Nipissing First Nation can work together even more than they do already.

Also in the equation for me, North Bay council pays just about enough that I should be able to make ends meet with only part-time employment required to round out the budget.

The planks for the campaign platform, if there is one, will be fairly simple. I’d start with a pledge to conclude my term before applying for a city job. If I can take paid upgrading, I’d like to learn more about mediation and negotiation.

My focus would also strive for the highest possible level of transparency and communication. My old Nugget comrade Gord Young, city communication officer, will help me understand the challenges.

I’d certainly press for any improvements that could be made in council procedures so constituents can play a bigger part in the decision-making process. Did you know Feb. 19, 2022, is the last day for municipal councils have to provide public notice of a specific question for electors?

Many politicians have told me their hands are tied on most issues and there’s really very little room to change tack with 95 per cent of the $150-million budget set in stone.

Fortunately, one of my skills is detecting what’s achievable and doing the little things necessary to make incremental advances. It’s all about being in a position to have options, much like a chess game.

Not to put too fine a point on it, I believe I can add a measure of depth to the council chamber lineup. There’s definitely the potential for a leadership vacuum as three-term Mayor Al McDonald drives off into the sunset. North Bay will need the strongest council possible to balance out the equation.

My decision will boil down to whether I can do more for the area as a councillor than a peanut-gallery counsellor.

That is, of course, a cure for this politicalitis virus isn’t discovered before then.

Dave Dale is a veteran journalist and columnist who has covered the North Bay area for more than 30 years. Reader responses related to his work can be sent to editor@baytoday.ca. To contact the writer directly, email: davedale@backinthebay.ca or check out his website www.smalltowntimes.ca