There is shame to be had, but the mayor of Kitchener has it sorrily misplaced

hijack

VERB

  • 1Illegally seize (an aircraft, ship, or vehicle) while in transit and force it to go to a different destination or use it for one’s own purposes:a man armed with grenades hijacked the jet yesterday
  • 1.1Steal (goods) by seizing them in transit:the UN convoys have been tamely allowing gunmen to hijack relief supplies
  • 1.2Take over (something) and use it for a different purpose:he argues that pressure groups have hijacked the environmental debate

Mayor Zehr, you have taken a city that was so troubled and so angry and turned it around – downtown was like a hornets’ nest. I remember Kitchener being referred to me at one point after I had chosen to make it’s downtown my home as the “Detroit of Canada”. That was hyperbole on behalf of the person who said it, but when I moved here, they had a point. When I moved here I got yearly calls from Statistics Canada to survey residents of a neighbourhood that had a current problem with and a history of hate crimes. I used to walk by a neo nazi flag every time I had to catch a bus (daily). Crime was rampant. Stores, houses, whole buildings were vacant. Fear and annoyance accompanied even a daytime walk through most spaces downtown – King St, Victoria Park, the bus terminal… Skinheads… skinheads. You, and some other very visionary people turned this around.

I was also active in the downtown, Mayor Zehr. I campaigned heavily while the sidewalks shut for two years – the goal was to have not a single business close (and almost none did, despite people not wanting to engage in the downtown – mud… and mud… and noise and dust). I helped organise festivals. I was called in for consultations on development. I was consulted about culture planning with my other colleagues in the culture industry.

And with all of this work, and all of these consultations, all culture workers, artists, and those who work actively to make a difference almost every day have to painfully follow the City of Kitchener’s process. Even when the things being done were overwhelmingly for the good of the downtown by extraordinary and well established groups – layers upon layers of red tape need to be clawed through. The city does not make it easy to shift anything even when it’s for the greater good. When you try to work for change, there is even a popular idiom “You can’t fight city hall.” When I read your comments calling the city’s overwhelming objection to the statues project a “hijacking”, I became livid.

How well he spoke for our country.

How well he taught us to deal with those who disagree. Fuddle duddle/hijack…

Let me remind you that it was you who first wanted to push this project through without due process. You, Mayor Zehr, circumvented the Public Art Working Group and the Arts and Culture Advisory Committee – both councils who work on behalf of the city, as educated members of the public in the matter of art. Yeah… that due process. This was not a thing that was going to be submitted to any consultation process. This was something that you saw as a cast bronze legacy. Your bullish and pushy attempt to build something that had no discretion or artistic merit, that didn’t consider other work installed in the space, or even the citizens who would have to stare at it every day. You pushed… you acted covertly and ignored the processes in place to even begin to consider the appropriateness of a project that simple consultations would have rendered the same result. We do not want your statues!

There is a process to even approach the subject of installing public art in the city. It requires jumping through hoops and navigating seas of red tape. Placing art anywhere in the city even temporarily requires a huge amount of fiddling with city process. This project usurped the entire process when the mayor placed it at the forefront – his own agenda. And now that it has failed, he is crying about the lack of use of process – with the Record licking the mayor’s wounds. What? Did I hit my head and miss something?

Chretien Shawinigan Handshake

The Shawinigan Handshake – a lesson taught by Chretien on how to deal with democratic protest.

Let me remind you, Mayor Zehr and The Record, about a particular aspect of hijacking. Hijacking is an act of terror against a people. Hijackers are a small set that violently takes over a space and uses that space to try to manipulate a demand. In this case, it’s a violent and inappropriate metaphor.

I, like the counsellor I voted for to represent me in council, am not a hijacker. I have never once in my life tried to illegally seize a vessel nor do I think any of the councillors in city hall could be accused of such a thing. I do, however, see a mayor who tried to seize a process at the ignorance of all.

Your turning the city around was legacy enough for me.

One thought on “There is shame to be had, but the mayor of Kitchener has it sorrily misplaced

  1. Thanks Terre, I often wondered what happened to the Public Art Working Group and the Arts and Culture Advisory Committee. There is now news coming out on those fronts any more and no more public art has been announced in a long time. I am reminded to the time few years back when artists were wanted to help the city with this process. There was due process established after many hours of work by many people.
    Now it is hard to find any arts and culturally trained people working at the city. Event planners all, making events for family days, all safe and narrow and wishy washy.
    Artists not included much in any discussions anymore.

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