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Tim Ford @TheCaNerdian
, 23 tweets, 7 min read Read on Twitter
So, I see a lot of people - including a lot of media - lining up to cry VINDICATION on the Jeromy Farkas story. Here's why this is terribly wrongheaded.
Let's start with the facts. On Dec. 17's regular Council session, part of the agenda included a motion from Councilor Sutherland (@Ward4Ward1), which called for a salary freeze for City Council. Here's the full text of that:
During the debate on this motion, confusion arose over Council salaries, which are tied to the average weekly earnings of Albertans. The city's Chief Financial Officer, Carla Male, seemed to indicate that voting in favour of the motion would actually result in a net GAIN.
I think what's telling as well is Councilor Demong (@peterdemong)'s apt observation that any savings that MIGHT have resulted were squandered by the time council spent debating the motion to begin with. I'll come back to this later.
Here, for me, is the key moment from council, where Farkas presents his emailed figures, and Nenshi clarifies the figure from Carla Male:
Farkas also tried to postpone the motion, but nobody seconded him. Following the clarification from Male, the council voted down Sutherland's original motion, including Sutherland himself. Here's Sutherland closing (sorry for the lags, my computer was being awful):
About an hour later, roughly 3:30pm, Farkas went on Facebook and posted this:
There's a couple issues with this.
1) Farkas claims council is due for a 2.3% raise, even though an hour earlier he was repeatedly told by the CFO that it would be 0.2%
I don't get how the media aren't making this second point more of the focus of this story, given how wrong it is. What Farkas is referring to is an amendment he tried to move to change Sutherland's motion to a 5% reduction. Nobody seconded the amendment, so it was never voted on.
That may sound like a pointless quibble, right? Nobody seconding = everyone voting against? It's not, though. Consider: Farkas created a prop ballot by "x"-ing everyone's names off against him, just for social media. Here's a clip of the amendment not getting support:
I use the word "prop" deliberately. And I also want to draw attention to Farkas' use of the word "demonstrate" in his pitch for the amendment. Again, I'll come back to this, but first, let's wrap up the facts.
Hours after Farkas had posted on FB, Council had caught wind of it and returned from an in-camera meeting to address the issue and ask that Farkas apologize. I'd upload that clip, but it should be seen in full and is over Twitter's video limit as a result.
So now, to my own opinions on why Farkas is a goon, and the media and his followers are playing into the hands of a con artist.
Let's start with how I think the mayor @nenshi made an unfortunate choice here. He placed the focus on the dated/not dated info, when the issue really rests on one thing: Farkas' insinuations that his colleagues were somehow trying to give themselves a raise.
That's the issue Council had, but Nenshi said that by code of conduct they needed to demonstrate, as he said, false statements. But in the view of Farkas Fans, the weird nebulous world of "just how much did Albertans make" is enough to "vindicate" him.
Now, Nenshi had no way of knowing that the CFO would come out today and flip-flop to the public over what the final numbers will be. And Farkas is not some machiavellian genius who was eagerly anticipating those numbers either. He got lucky, plain and simple.
What Farkas IS, is a manipulator. He went to Facebook with his message of "I'm the only one on council on your side" because it's the message he ALWAYS has. There's no substance behind it of course.
And I can authoritatively say there's no substance because, as I mentioned WAY back, of Peter Demong (@peterdemong)'s observations that the meeting itself was costing more than any of these piddly amounts would even save.
A 5% cut? That's a savings of less than $100,000 a year (or less than a dime per Calgarian). But the figure itself doesn't matter. The PROP does. The DEMONSTRATION does. Farkas' actions are not about concrete action, they are about manipulating public opinion.
There's something inherently dangerous in proclaiming yourself the Solitary Wise Man, the Outsider, the Rebel Who Knows Best. You can absolutely make political hay out of it for major vote payoff, sure.
But democracy is consensus, in finding the path forward that benefits the many, not the few, and the actions of a community, not despots. We ought to have learned by now from real-world examples that Strong Men are the most dangerous threats to democracy worldwide.
With a council of conservative-leaning folks like @seanchucalgary @Ward4Ward1 and @Joe_Magliocca there's no way that salary increases were on the table. But working WITH these like-minded individuals wouldn't get Farkas the political hay he has now. Better to take all the credit.
And here I will finally address him by tag. @JeromyYYC , Mr. Farkas, is committing inherently dangerous moves against democracy. I think he knows this. But I don't think he cares.

We should.

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