I once wrote a newspaper column in which I replaced every mention of the word infrastructure with the phrase naughty bits.
In retrospect, it was a bit indelicate of me. In my defense, I was merely attempting to draw greater attention to the ‘dreary’ realm of civic government.
Dreary? In my experience, that’s the popular belief about City Hall and its relatively mundane machinations.
Me? I quite enjoy the thrust-and-parry of a good infrastructure discussion. I thrill to the intricacies of a general tax reassessment.
Don’t even get me started on rezoning. OMG, I love a good rezoning.
I spent 15 years — roughly half — of my journalism career reporting and commenting on civic government. Such things burrow their way into you over time. Like a tick in your ear.
So yes, I’m feverish about this opportunity to again write about civic government. Mind you, this time I’ll be doing it on behalf of civic government.
My title: Blogger in Residence.
Sadly, Poet Laureate was already taken. As was Mayor, City Manager and apparently any job handling cash, machinery or fragile civic assets. Sigh.
Oh, I know what you’re thinking. You think I gave up my journalistic integrity and sold my talents to big, bad government.
Really? You think I’m talented? Gosh, that’s so nice.
So why did I take this position, knowing full well I’d get the furry eyeball for it? Let me count the ways:
- I get to live at City Hall.
- Check that. The “in residence” thing doesn’t mean what I thought it did.
- I get an office, parking spot and free access to all civic facilities and events.
- Really? None of that, either?
So why did I take this job? In all honesty, because it’s a privilege. I love my hometown.
And I truly believe civic government fills a crucial and under-appreciated role in the quality of our lives.
Unfortunately, citizens get a skewed view of City Hall from the news. News, by its very nature, narrowly focuses on tension and novelty.
For example: Edmontonians safely walk across streets millions of times each day. It’s only news when they don’t make it safely.
Not because reporters are bloodsucking sadists. Not at all. It’s because a pedestrian mishap is relatively rare — and because we as people care about other people.
Now, take City Hall. It’s vast network of services and facilities run pretty efficiently for the most part. Buses arrive. Streets are plowed. Facilities open on time.
Then a major snowstorm hits, or a pothole epidemic breaks out, and we’re all cursing the bungling bureaucrats.
When I wrote my civic affairs column
for The Edmonton Journal I almost never used the term bureaucrat. The term is loaded — a sneering slur of people who I witnessed working with commitment and care for the city.
That sounds like I’m sucking up. So be it. My experience tells me that Edmonton’s civic politicians, managers and frontline staff work hard to serve this community. No, not all of them. Not all of the time. Certainly not at levels of perfection.
They are just folks, like us, after all. As we all know, there are malingerers and incompetents in the private sector, too.
As Blogger in Residence, I’m not here to tell you that up is down, or mediocre is fantastic. The job, as I see it, is to shed light on things rarely seen. To explain how this humongous corporation works on the inside.
To explaining the intricacies of tax reassessments, or the infrastructure debt, in ways we can all understand and appreciate.
And I promise. No naughty bits.