At the conclusion of the Feb. 4 council meeting of the Municipality of Kings, I rose to make my way to the microphone during the public comment period only to be denied the right to speak by Warden Diana Brothers, who hastily shut down the comment period before I reached the microphone. I was only one of two citizens in the gallery at the time, so it is difficult to believe that my intention to speak might have escaped a responsible chair's notice.
This was just one of many seemingly minor indecorous rulings which the Chair accumulated during the course of the meeting. In fact, Coun. Bishop felt the Chair so unfairly curtailed her ability to ask questions throughout the meeting that she resorted to excusing herself, sitting in the galley and attempting to speak as a private citizen during the public comment period. This stunt was both embarrassing and in poor taste; the rules of order offer Coun. Bishop better avenues for raising her concerns. However, I worry about what it suggests about the ongoing conduct of the Chair if our elected councillors can be made to feel so disenfranchised.
Like many citizens, I continue to be discouraged by the fractious environment at the Municipality of Kings. There are many contributing factors, not least among them that governing a rural municipality is simply a challenging task. The whole of council owns responsibility for what occurs, but it is my observation that many of the problems this council seems to experience are, if not caused by, dramatically exacerbated by Warden Brothers’ divisive style of leadership and by her lapses of skill and impartiality in the role of Chair. Her good intentions, which I am well ready to assume, do not wholly excuse these lapses.
I am particularly saddened to make such an observation about an individual who has so identified herself with the cause of social justice, personally championing much good work through the municipality’s anti-racism and antidiscrimination initiatives. The values aspired to by these initiatives seem too often absent from Brothers’ dealings with her fellow councillors. I would encourage her to embrace those values of fairness, openness and cooperation and to allow them to temper her conduct in the execution of her duty as chair. To do otherwise is to undermine much of her good work and to render her championing of this important cause ironic.
I also attended a budget workshop held by the Municipality of Kings Feb. 4. At this meeting I observed that council and staff were completely capable of discussing complex and potentially contentious issues in a respectful and productive way. All the personalities present and viewpoints offered were the same diverse mix found in the council chambers, yet the character of the resulting discussion stood in stark contrast. Interestingly, this meeting was not chaired by Warden Brothers; it was facilitated by municipal staff.
It continues to be my belief that good government is within our grasp, and that it can be accomplished with these very councillors, and with this very warden. It is also my belief that Warden Brothers, if she chooses to, could set a new standard for fairness and openness in leadership for Kings County. I sorely wish her such a legacy, and I hope that all citizens of this county will join me in encouraging her to strive harder for it.