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Rude behavour is unacceptable

Web posted on June 07, 2006

There are certain members of Guelph city council who seem to feel entitled to behave rudely. Doubtless they would disagree with this assessment. However, from the perspective of an observer, when one sees the same councillors making rude comments or acting in a bullying manner again and again, it is the only conclusion that can be reached.

Two of the worst offenders are councillors Rocco Furfaro and Dan Schnurr who, coincidentally, sit side by side around the horseshoe. Sadly, they are also two of the longest-serving members of council and, as such, should set a better example.

It's one thing for a councillor to have an opinion and express it. Councillors are supposed to reflect on issues, perhaps consult their constituents, present reasoned arguments and then vote for or against the issue. It is quite another matter for councillors to make personal comments or disparage the opinions of others. Too often both Furfaro and Schnurr will wait through a discussion and then weigh in at the end with rude remarks. One of Schnurr's favourite comments is: "Madam Mayor, this is ridiculous.". It's not necessary here to cite what is 'ridiculous' - suffice to say that Schnurr says this frequently. Does Schnurr value the views of his fellow councillors so little that he places their opinions in this category?

One of Schnurr's most petty acts of bullying took place recently when staff suggested rescheduling a meeting to allow Guelph councillors to attend the annual meeting of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities at which one of our own (Councillor Gloria Kovach) was to be installed as president. WhileThe Fountain Pen did not hear Schnurr's comments first-hand, it has been widely reported that Schnurr vehemently opposed any change to the regular meeting, stating that no one had asked him or others if they would be available on the proposed new date. The outcome was that the meeting date remained unchanged and FCM delegates had to return to Guelph early to attend a very routine council meeting.

Furfaro usually does not speak so rudely to his fellow councillors, but he is known to give short shrift to many delegations. His perceived modus operandi is to ask a brief question in the manner of a cross-examining lawyer and then all too obviously dismiss the delegation.

One need only review Furfaro's voting record on many major issues and see that he generally votes against the position of the majority of citizen delegations. He has been pro-WalMart when most presenters have opposed this development. He voted for the new commercial review policy earlier this year after upwards of 20 delegations pleaded with council to reconsider four large retail pods at the four entrances to the city. He voted for the demolition of the Mitchell farmhouse despite pleas from numerous delegations that the city move to preserve this example of historic architecture.

Furfaro is at liberty to vote as he sees fit or at the behest of his constituents. What is not acceptable, however, is the disdain he shows for those who do not share his views. As we stated earlier, one would expect better from someone with Furfaro's experience around the horseshoe.

You've heard this refrain before, and you'll hear it again many times in the next few months. Municipal elections take place in November. Think carefully before you vote. Demand more civility from your elected representatives.