The Black Rod

The origin of the Usher of the Black Rod goes back to early fourteenth century England . Today, with no royal duties to perform, the Usher knocks on the doors of the House of Commons with the Black Rod at the start of Parliament to summon the members. The rod is a symbol for the authority of debate in the upper house. We of The Black Rod have since 2005, adopted the symbol to knock some sense and the right questions into the heads of Legislators, pundits, and other opinion makers.

Location: Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada

We are citizen journalists in Winnipeg. When not breaking exclusive stories, we analyze news coverage by the mainstream media and highlight bias, ignorance, incompetence, flawed logic, missed angles and, where warranted, good work. We serve as the only overall news monitors in the province of Manitoba. We do the same with politicians (who require even more monitoring.) EMAIL:

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Handicapping the races to 510 Main

Reporters makes the mistake of ignoring city council races because they think the seats are decided on local issues.

Yet councillors, once elected, vote on issues that affect the city at large. Which gives every citizen a stake in the election of certain councillors, and the defeat of others.

There are 15 council seats to be filled in the coming civic election and easily two-thirds of the incumbents deserve to be replaced.

The Young'un
Justin Swandel (St. Norbert) gets a bye. He's only been a city councillor for a few months. He's barely learned where the washrooms are.

The Greybacks
On the other end of the scale, however, are the Old-Timers.

Jae Eadie (St. James) 25 years
Harry Lazarenko (Mynarski) 22 years
Mike O'Shaughnessy (Old Kildonan) 19 years
Bill Clement (Charleswood) 22 years
Lillian Thomas (Elmwood) 16 years

These five share a collective responsibility for the state of the city we're in.

The undiminished decay of downtown Winnipeg? Them.
The high taxes that sparked the exodus to satellite towns? Them.
The epidemic of car theft? Them.

The time for excuses is long past. They've either been wrong too often to warrant re-election, or they've proven to be too pliable to bone-headed mayors, or they're too weak to effect change.

It doesn't matter any more. It's too late.
In a perfect world they would be called into the boardroom to hear those immortal words: You're Fired.

The Moonbats
Jenny Gerbasi (Fort Rouge) and Donald Benham (River Heights) are an embarassment to the city. Their embrace of junk science in the fogging-for-mosquitoes debate is bad enough. But their willingness to maximize the risk of contracting West Nile Virus disqualifies them from any responsible body of legislators.

The Sophomores
This group of two-termers has been around long enough to know better.

Gord Steeves (St. Vital) 5 years
Mark Lubosch (North Kildonan) 10 years
Harvey Smith (Daniel McIntyre) 7 years (plus another five in the Eighties).

They have no excuses for the more recent boondoggles inflicted on the city. They either supported them, or, if they opposed them they've demonstrated they have no leadership abilities to warrant their staying on the job.
A quick list:

* The red-light camera contract that earns more money annually for the company that installed them than for the City of Winnipeg that paid for them.
* The unanimous vote by council to give the city's chief administrator the power to set the pay for senior managers, and the skyrocketing pay-and-bonus system that followed.
* Addressing out-of-control car thefts by holding street parties.
* The huge cost overruns for the city's water treatment plant ($65 million and counting) because city councillors rejected a private-public partnership in favour of an in-house model. The Winnipeg Free Press said the water and waste department was warned of the "grave risk of escalating costs throughout the construction phase, but declared it would manage that risk."

Sitting councillors accepted that risk, and now they should pay the price. To do less would be to reward failure.

The Forgiven
They're the newbies on council.

Russ Wyatt (Transcona) 3 years
Mike Pagtakhan (Point Douglas) 3 years
Franco Magnifico (St. Boniface) 1 year

Wyatt has been a poseur, a media hog long on noise and short on results.
Pagtakhan is fighting complaints that he's never there for the people he represents.
And Magnifico is gambling he can overcome the organized opposition to his principled support for Oly-West and the 1000 jobs it will bring to Winnipeg.

People grow into their jobs as they gain experience and knowledge. So let's forgive this trio for errors of commission or omission. If their constituents give them another term, so be it.

One seat is vacant. Peter de Smedt (St. Charles) chose not to run for relection after 7 years in office. How ironic is that? The one guy who did the right thing, and you can't even vote for him


When satire falls flat

We were too clever by half in our recent take on funding cuts to Literacy Partners of Manitoba. We went for a play on words and wrote "read and right" instead of "read and write".

We wanted to test how long it would take readers to correct our "mistake". But we couldn't agree on how to flag the test word (italics?quotation marks? a different font?) and before we decided, the item was posted.

Sure enough, we got caught. For the record, reader B.M. got back to us within two hours. We've learned our lesson. When in doubt, cut it out.


You know you've reached a certain level of notoriety when you have cyber-stalkers. Baby bloggers have taken to staking out public hearings in hopes of spotting The Black Rod. We're flattered, but how can we tell them the cell phone photos are not of us. It has given us an idea though --- The Black Rod t-shirts.

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