Sign up for our free weekday bulletin.

OPINION: Why did the chicken cross the road? To get to City Hall

Published on

Bryan Trothen

Sarnia councillors are now into their second year of decision-making, and one item they accepted without comment recently was their own attendance report.

Two members of council attended all 39 regular and special meetings in 2019, and none missed more than three. In terms of attendance, all nine have been exemplary.

But attendance isn’t a great indicator of performance. They got to the meetings, but how did they conduct city business?

A year ago, consecutive council meetings on Feb. 11 and March 4 seemed to point to a less than harmonious future.

In fact, if Aesop, the famous writer of fables, had come to Sarnia he might have found inspiration for a new story.

At that first meeting, the big rooster had to leave the chicken coop and some of the cockerels became unruly – crowing loudly, clucking names at one another, and making the deputy rooster’s job difficult. Chaos broke out and no one seemed to understand the pecking order.

Luckily, the mother hen began clucking and restored calm; and the next time they got together she reminded them of their bad behaviour and made them promise to behave.

Aesop aside, here’s a condensed account of those two meetings.

With the mayor out of the chamber on Feb. 11 an important topic arose. The discussion became inflamed. Counter motions followed motions.

At this point, proceedings in the chamber broke down in disorder for several reasons – procedural confusion, hesitant chairmanship, and overall frustration.

One councillor felt compelled to speak on behalf of the acting mayor, and calm was restored. At the next meeting, on March 4, things were much more civil. Of course, the councillors were scolded into promising to follow the rules and behave themselves respectfully.

Between those two meetings, some City Hall watchers feared the divisions that had split the previous city council apart were beginning to reappear, and that future council business would be characterized by recrimination and bad temper.

But after the March 4 debate it seemed peace had been restored, that members of council were ready to move on, put the past behind them, get on with city business.

The mother hen had spoken and the chickens had taken her words to heart — as well scolded chickens should.

Now, it’s a year later. And though the chickens all dutifully gather to discuss coop affairs, some feather rustling, wing flapping, and competitive crowing does suggest not all is as quiescent as it seems.

And the moral of the story? Manners can be learned but respect is earned.

Bryan Trothen is a long-time observer of city politics

More like this