Some city councillors are learning things that anyone with a comment board on a website has known for years— haters are gonna hate, don’t feed the trolls and give people the opportunity to comment without attribution and the idiots have a heyday.
I’m referring to the city’s much-ballyhoo’d City Services and Taxpayers Bill of Rights Survey, which ran through August and September and whose initial results were shared with the finance committee on Oct. 17.
In the 376 comments received to the services portion of the survey and the 125 on the taxpayers bill of rights, many show a palpable anger and frustration with city government. Leading the way is frustration over taxes— not in and of itself a surprise as asking someone whether they think their taxes are too high is like asking them if they like being given free money.
Amongst the signal-to-noise ratio of about 1:5, there are some valid comments where respondents speak to the issues as they understand them. A minority shows a misunderstanding of what the city does or how the city works, or attribute things to the city’s control that council cannot change alone without the involvement of the provincial government or its neighbours.
One comment we all noticed, which has been quite educational for this reporter, was simply “I like turtles.”
Educational because, as many of the council members who’d read it, I assumed it referred to the 1980s-era commercial for the chocolate-covered nut and caramel confections.
Needless to say, I was wrong, and the more appropriate pop-culture reference may have been this viral video from 2007, where the boy completely ignores the question asked by the reporter and provides a completely unrelated answer.
So, other than sharing my “a ha…” moment, why even mention this comment or place any real focus on other equally useless ones when it comes to the point of the survey? We can’t let council get distracted by these comments, for it must focus on the broader results of the survey and the more meaningful comments therein. Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.
Though, if you do want to continue the fun, the TV station where that clip aired found him and interviewed him about the viral video about a month later.
Given the mayor was already worried the significance of the survey was being challenged and other members were already lining up to defend their interests, it’s important to keep everyone’s eye on the ball.
Regardless of what you may think about this survey’s design, its questions, the way services were grouped (or excluded), council has the varnished and unvarnished clicks of over 1,000 people who responded to this survey. It’s unlikely that number of people have ever provided feedback to the city on any budget.
Council would do well to pay attention, even if it must ignore the occasional comment.