Linda Mosher and the council dynamic

Despite whatever bridges Mosher may have burned with other councillors, her colleagues should support her latest effort to make council appointments public.

Last month, Halifax councillor Jennifer Watts raised the issue of bottled water being provided at City Hall, but I was apparently too busy to do more than a couple of Twitter posts about it.

In typical Watts fashion, she approached the issue from a human rights perspective-- clean water should be available to everyone, so if there's a problem with the tap water we should fix it. Past that, there are so many environmental problems with bottled water, the city should avoid providing it.

Watts got buy-in from enough other councillors that the motion passed. This of course was spun as "banning bottled water," but it was nothing of the kind-- anyone who wants to bring their own bottled water to City Hall is welcome to; it's just that the city itself will no longer provide bottled water.

Part of Watts' motion essentially has the city taking a slow-motion assessment of other city facilities, upgrading the tap water when needed and eliminating city-provided bottled water, including water for sale in vending machines.

This is where Linda Mosher comes in.

Mosher pointed out that in recreation facilities, if there isn't bottled water available in the vending machines, people will instead buy the Coca Cola and other sodas, rather than using water fountains (the public still believes a lot of nonsense about water fountains being diseased-ridden and such).

We should also ban the sale of "sugary drinks" in city facilities, said Mosher.

It's a good point, and I agree with Mosher.

I am continually annoyed when I go to the Sportsplex and see the little kiddies running out of the pool and straight to the soda machines. Our rec centres are there to provide for the health of the citizenry, not to degrade it.

No doubt the Sportsplex and other rec centres derive much-needed revenue from sales of sugary crap, but that's no excuse for providing it-- we should remove the machines and, if need be, replace the lost revenue with a public subsidy.

The schools successfully banned the sale of sugary crap some years ago, so perhaps they can provide some guidance on the matter.

Anyway, back to Mosher.

The night council considered Watts' motion, Mosher attempted to amend it to include sugary drinks, but she was ruled out of order. Watts motion passed, and the next week, Mosher put forward the sugary drink issue as a stand-alone motion. That failed, for want of a second, as I recall.

I was disappointed that Mosher wasn't taken seriously. But I suspect that had less to do with the content of her motion than with council dynamics---from the outside looking in, it looks to me that Mosher has burned bridges with councillors who might have been potential allies on the issue, including Watts. I could equally fault Watts for not trying to cultivate a dialogue on the sugary drink issue, but as things unfolded, it looked as if Mosher was at the last minute trying to disrupt Watts, who had obviously put many hours into the bottled water project. Of course, Mosher has in the past accused Watts of doing the same.

Maybe with some prodding from the public, the issue can be revisited without the petty personal politics of council interfering.

Moving forward, Mosher surprised me this week by announcing she will at next Tuesday's council meeting move that in the future, all of council's appointments to boards and commissions be made in public.

I've argued as much, and I'm again supporting Mosher's aims.

Unlike the sugary drink issue, Mosher will find many councillors supportive of her appointment motion--- I've talked with maybe a half-dozen councillors from across the political spectrum who are on board. This is actually what surprises me; I assumed that one of those councillors--perhaps Gloria McCluskey, who has raised the issue at council many times--- would take the lead on the issue.

Hopefully Mosher is consulting other councillors and laying the groundwork for a cooperative effort to implement the right policy.

She deserves to win this one.

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