Niagara This Week featured a personal piece with Mayor Bentley or “Mayor Bob” as he prefers to be called and his decision to not seek re-election to Grimsby’s Mayoral seat.  With new additions to his family and many years in the public spotlight, we can certainly understand his decision.

We agree with him that municipal politics is a tough game, as municipal officials are always in the community being governed.  Unlike MPPs or MPs who are largely buffered from their ridings and  constituents by being in Queen’s Park or Ottawa, local politicians face the electorate every day whether it be at Town Hall or the grocery store.

Mayor Bentley in the article also touches on there being “very little trust, regardless of the effort and commitment some people put in” and here is where we will digress a bit.   He further adds:

“There is a true lack of appreciation and sometimes decorum. We have people who are a lot more aggressive, self centred and worry about themselves more than the community. They hide behind social media and ruin people’s reputations. It’s become an environment I don’t want to be in.”

Social media has been a game changer for governments, it brings people together, is an efficient transmitter of information but most importantly also sheds light on what is happening in government.  While any medium has potential for misuse, it has been all too common for politicians (especially south of the border) to decry social media as “fake news” whenever they disagree or disapprove of the information being disseminated even when that information is factual.

Abstract ideas aside, rather than embrace social media as one way to effect transparency and the concept of open government, our current Council for the most part has shunned those principles.  Our local neighbours in Pelham and West Lincoln, to name a few, stream their Council meetings to YouTube.  Despite the low-cost and ease of technology, the Town has not adopted this… and the simple question is, why not?

Residents rightfully deserve to know what decisions the Town is facing and  how our elected officials make those decisions, whether good or bad.  In the current vacuum of information that is our present Council and Town Hall, it is social media as the most modern incarnation of the press that takes up the task of keeping residents informed and provoking thoughtful discussion.

“Freedom of the press is not just important to democracy, it is democracy”
– Walter Kronkite

You can read the full NTW article at: