In this week's article I'll continue my discussion of leadership, contrasting past leaders with those elected officials at the helm of our city today.
On August 28th, 1963 Martin Luther King delivered, what has become, one of the most famous speeches in the history of the world. Remembered by the trademark statement 'I have a dream' King's address propelled the issue of racial segregation and discrimination from a 'black-issue' to a national travesty, garnering the support of political, religious and business leaders in a united effort to beat the plague of racism. King's dedication in identifying and transcending the racial divide, especially in the Southern states, was immortalized when he was assassinated on April 4th, 1968. An impassioned leader, King intimately understood the problem at hand, developed a vision and a plan and, in the end, was willing to sacrifice everything to achieve the greater good.
Fast-forward almost 45 years and present day Windsor. In the May 2006 State of the City address Mayor Eddie Francis delivered a cacophony of vision and promises for a better city. Mayor Francis reminisced on his committments of 2004 to build "a city renewed .... a clean city ... a city with a thriving, vibrant culture." He identified four key areas that, when addressed in parallel, would create a symbiotic success.
First, financial stability. Francis committed to manage our tax dollars more efficiently by focusing on core municipal services and "not wasting money on things that a municipal government should never have been paying for in the first place." He also committed to tackle the root causes of debt and high taxes.
Second, better service and more accountability through corporate accountability and "the idea that the municipality is there to serve the people and not the other way around."
Third, jobs and investment. Francis declared that Windsor would compete for jobs and investment "just like our entrepreneurs and businesses", while attracting and retaining smart people and growth industries through infrastructure, environmental and economic development.
Fourth, defend the interests of the people of Windsor, especially on the border issue.
On the face of it, Francis appears to understand that municipal accountability, a robust and sustainable economy, built on the foundation of environmental, social and cultural diversity, with a good dose of tax reductions, without the associated reductions in service or increase in debt, will build a strong and vibrant city. A review of the current status of our local economy, introverted municipal government and rising taxes, both property and essential services, shows that reality flies in the face of the commitment by Francis and city council.
In spite of 28 pages trumpeting the successes of his first term, astute citizens recognize that Windsor, under Francis' leadership, has done little to "build a greater city." Some of the 2006 "accomplishments" are down-right laughable, including the following proclamation:
"We are beautifying our neighbourhoods and streetscapes...We're bringing people
back downtown. The entire face of our downtown is transforming, and transforming
for the better...[W]e talked about building a balanced downtown where people could
live, work and play."
Talk is cheap. Windsor needs a leader, politician or otherwise, who is willing to throw caution to wind and do what is right for the people. Windsor has the resources that it needs to become everything that Mayor Francis proclaimed it was, could be and will be. It is time to unleash the collective creativity of grass roots citizens, city administration and our municipal government. It is time to make the changes that need to be made, before tragedy or circumstance force us to play catch up in a race for status quo.
Forget re-election. Forget pork-barrelled, backroom deals. Forget maintaining status quo. Windsor needs someone who is going to get the job done; to make the changes that will transform our city into an oasis of sustainability and prosperity. Windsor needs a maverick, a loose-cannon; someone to buck the system. I long for the day when the grand standing of city council is interrupted by a booming voice of reason, calling council to action that doesn't involve patting each other on the back. We need a political martyr, ready to force the changes that Windsor needs or die, socially and politically speaking, while trying.