Editor’s note: This interview was done prior to the Oct. 7 release of a workplace harassment report involving Mayor Mike Bradley
Coun. Cindy Scholten-Holt says she is determined to cut costs at city hall and has no regrets about targeting the mayor’s office.
A collection of her motions that included counting the number of closets at city hall used for scrapbook storage (approved) and cancelling the mayor’s newspaper subscriptions (failed) produced an avalanche of criticism directed at her.
She’s defending her actions on Facebook, on Twitter and over the phone. But, she stresses, as many people are supporting her, albeit more privately.
Mayor Mike Bradley has accused her of trying to micromanage city hall operations. Scholten-Holt maintains her effort is aimed at saving money and modernizing city operations. And she says she won’t back down.
The Journal’s Cathy Dobson wanted to find out what motivates Scholten-Holt politically. This interview is edited for brevity.
CD: After the Oct. 3 council meeting you posted on your councillor’s Facebook page: “It’s easy to stand with the crowd. It takes courage to stand alone.” Do you feel like you’re standing alone right now?
Scholten-Holt: “After Monday’s meeting, I did have that feeling like I was standing alone. There have been a few times I felt that way.
“For me, these were really important motions, especially regarding the budget, so when you lose a motion 8-1 (to cut several thousand dollars for framed pictures) you’re kind of alone.
“But then I think, great, it’s telling the entire community that I stand for responsible government. I stand to protect the taxpayer, to protect the businesses and that I expect the city and its public servants to be accountable and to be able to answer questions without intimidation tactics.
“Keep bringing it and I’ll keep being the one standing alone. That’s fine.”
CD: You say you’re hearing from a lot of people who have never contacted you before?
Scholten-Holt: “Yes, I’m hearing from business owners who say they agree with what I’m trying to do and to keep going. I’ve had comments that these are sensitive issues that haven’t been brought up before and they’re glad I’m bringing them up.
“I’ve also been warned and they’ve told me to be careful. They’ve said not everyone is going to be happy with change.”
CD: Do you feel like your motions accomplished anything?
Coun. Scholten-Holt: “Although I didn’t feel very good after that meeting, five motions actually passed. I took out one (to limit spending on the Mayor’s Honour List reception) because there was obviously no support for it whatsoever… next time, I won’t do that … because it deserved to be on the table.
…“People ask me if I like my role on council. I really like the job and the opportunity to help people and make changes.
“What I don’t like is the drama going on. This wasn’t supposed to happen. I came on here to be a councillor. These are terrible things we’ve been dealing with. It’s been a terrible summer and it’s taken a toll on all of us.
“At the same time, too bad. Tough beans. Other councillors will say now is not the time to discuss something … well no; I need to be held accountable. A lot of people voted for me. I was a first-time runner and I was surprised I got in … so I have a job and a duty to fulfill and I don’t lose sleep at night because I feel I’m doing the right thing.
“We have a ginormous budget coming up and I’m keeping my head in the game. I’m keeping focused and I’m not going to back down…
CD: Any regrets? Is cutting $1,000 here or $3,000 there really going to make a difference?
Scholten-Holt: “No regrets. I think it’s a start because I don’t think anyone has questioned (the mayor’s office) budget in 30 years.”
CD: Some people might think you have some kind of vendetta against our mayor?
Scholten-Holt: “People definitely believe that and I don’t know why. He obviously has all kinds of fans and supporters. I even had my mom work on his campaign one year, so I get that.
“He obviously takes it personal … which it is not. What else can I say? It is not … I’m just trying to do my job.”
CD: Is all the debate and bad feeling on council taking away from the business at hand?
Scholten-Holt: “Absolutely. I get this sense that some councillors would rather just move on…”
CD: Do you want to see Mayor Mike Bradley replaced?
Scholten-Holt: “Well, that’s a weird question. I think what would be better for Sarnia is if the mayor and the councillors who have been around forever, if they could just relax and be open to change and open to new ideas, and not be so aggressively protective of the way things have always been done. That would go a long way to improving things in this community.”
CD: Do you think that’s possible?
Scholten-Holt: “From what I see right now, it doesn’t look possible. But there’s always hope.”