My Phone Call with Councillor Henderson

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As a follow-up to my original letter to Councillor Henderson, a phone call and voicemail to his office, and then a subsequent phone call and voicemail on his cell phone did get him to call back on April 5, 2013. Here’s how the call went, along with some conclusions.

Councillor Henderson didn’t quite put my name and the letter together, so I refreshed his memory. He let me know he was driving to a meeting somewhere, so I told him I would do my best to keep the call short and not distract him. I cherry-picked a few questions to ask him, instead of going through one-by-one.

Henderson started explaining the whole fiasco by explainging that two years ago, extra money was allocated to councillor’s budgets. Currently there is a ratio of four councillors per secretary, which doesn’t provide much time for each councillor to get the help they need. Some councillors have used that additional funding to hire a secretary, as “we’ve been hobbling along” making do without dedicated staff. The aforementioned budget was increased to $15,000 per year.

Henderson said that in the last six months there’s been so much trouble, they can’t get their work done, and the City decided to hire some students(?). Council agreed they were going to provide an additional $7,500 per year for communication purposes – whether that’s getting training, hiring someone for help, taking out ads in the paper, etc. That money was finally appropriated last fall.

When I switched topics (or rather tried to get him on topic) to the recent video camera debacle, Councillor Henderson then harkened back to the revised smoking ban debate. He said he checked with clerk regarding the expenses, and then went into a rant about increasing the cigarette smoking ban from 2m to 6m, and that he didn’t want that ban approved. Henderson is the Councillor who suggested increasing ban from 2m to 3m, and that measure was approved. Then he mentioned that maybe we should talk about carcinogenics overall, and let’s look at Toronto. I’m not familiar with Toronto’s smoking bylaws at the moment, so I’m not sure what that means.

Henderson began breaking up a lot, but proceeded to talk about the smoking ban debate for two or three more minutes. He finally got around to his point where, because a bunch of different sound bites that went out via the press, he sounded like a nut case, and he know there was no way he was going to get re-elected again if things continued this way. He mentioned that Metro has a far more accurate article, which I’ve found here.

He finally circled back around to the camera and YouTube channel issue, stating that the funds were pre-approved by the City Clerk. He purchased a $1,000 camera, a couple of lights, and got a few good responses (responses to what, he didn’t elaborate). And as a follow-up to the City Council meeting that happened just prior to our conversation, he said that the City Clerk and Mayor have both confirmed that the equipment is Henderson’s to keep, despite the City reimbursing him for the purchases.

I moved onto the issue about comments being disabled on both his blog, and his YouTube channel; I didn’t understand how this was “engagement” when he’s not offering constituents the chance to engage using the very mediums he’s using to communicate with them. At this point Henderson went into a bit of a tirade, saying he receives 65 emails a day, along with phone calls. He said he doesn’t use a Twitter account because he can’t watch it for 10 hours a day. He didn’t address his blog or YouTube channel’s comments functions. But he did say that he uses email and phone only, as that’s all he has time for, meanwhile Councillors do just as much work as the Mayor.

I asked him about the ad distribution program with YouTube, to which Henderson responded that he didn’t know anything about the ad program initially, but that he saw the option for ads about a week after starting DaleTV. He said he’s going to keep any money sent his way from YouTube because it costs money to film, edit, and upload the videos (using equipment the City has paid for). He also went on to say that the City is going to start broadcasting more and more livestreams, bypassing the media, and that the media isn’t happy about it. I’m not quite sure how he reaches that conclusion, but it was very clear that Henderson dislikes most of the City’s press outlets.

The last thing I asked Councillor Henderson about was his comments about a ring road, annexation, and the need for “quietly deciding where road will go.”

He replied saying he wants to annex nearby communities, and get the Planning Department to decide where the best place for the ring road to go would be. It’s quite obvious he didn’t understand the legal implications of his statement. He does, however, think that a ring road north of the city would benefit people who live in the core. I’ve given this some thought, and haven’t been able to come up with any ideas as to how that would happen. Regardless, that’s his opinion.

We concluded our conversation with Councillor Henderson stating that his big focus (with DaleTV) is “definitely getting my ideas out there, no matter how crazy they sound.” And that, “I want to be a leader, and hear people say, ‘Hey, these are new ideas.’” He then attempted to prove his point by introducing me to the idea of a London Film Association, how it was going to kickstart job creation, that it wouldn’t have any membership fees, etc. He invited me to the launch on April 11, but it was scheduled during the day.

Conclusions:

  • The fact that the City Clerk pre-approved the purchase, and then stated the equipment was Henderson’s to keep, is very problematic. If the City pays for it, it ought to belong to the City.
  • Henderson doesn’t seem to understand the point of Twitter, and the fact that he does not need to monitor it for 1 hour a day, let alone 10 hours. The point is to be on there, response to questions/comments/concerns, perhaps provide a bit more insight into his thinking, etc.
  • There are a lot of issues preventing the Planning Department from simply putting a ring road wherever it wants, and doing so “quietly” without expecting any landowners not to ask for a decent sum of money to move them off their land. That issue alone is fraught with risk.
  • Henderson is definitely getting his ideas out there, “no matter how crazy they sound.” I still don’t think they’re helping his chances for re-election in Ward 9.

What do you think?

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