Beatty blended CEO thinking with community-mindedness



It may be a little early to sing the praises of a departed city councillor, since the election is still three months away.

Nonetheless, the Brockvillian in me is disappointed to learn Councillor David Beatty will call it quits after one term.

When one thinks of a businessman dabbling in politics, one's thoughts turn to large-scale examples – and political disasters – such as Ross Perot, Herman Cain and Donald Trump south of the border.

On the micro scale that is local politics, however, the results can be different, as Beatty's single term on council illustrates.

The Canarm CEO's entry into the political fray in 2010 brought us the closest thing we've had to a “big business” politician. (Sitting at a table with other candidates preparing for an all-candidates meeting that fall, he mentioned casually that he had just bought a million American dollars that day, a detail that does not creep into the conversation of most local reps.)

On election night, one colleague observed Beatty would lack the patience to be an effective councillor. As a captain of local industry, the argument went, he is used to issuing orders and seeing them followed yesterday – quite a contrast to the committee and staff report driven process of municipal government.

My own expectation was to see a fiscal hawk, in the same mould as Tom Blanchard or, on councils past, Tony Barnes. He would expect the city to be run like a corporation.

In fact, Beatty, though a vocal critic of high tax increases, has shown an ability to temper fiscal hawkishness with community-mindedness.

I am thinking of his motion, three years ago, rescinding cuts to the St. Lawrence Park lifeguard program after a plea to council from one student's father.

I do feel that we're being unfair to the most vulnerable population and the ones that require a few extra dollars the most,” he said at the time, before council reinstated the students' chopped hours.

And sometimes, corporate thinking takes one away from spending cuts and toward the traditionally socialist preserve of revenue generation through user fees.

Witness Beatty's support Tuesday night for reinstating development charges, a revenue generation tool opponents consistently painted as an unfair big-government grab on private business.

Beatty's logic for backing the measure was pure CEO reasoning: city hall spent valuable dollars to get an expert opinion on the matter, and would be foolish to turn around and ignore that advice.

I am disappointed by Beatty's decision not to run again, although I do understand it.

As a reporter, of course, I regret not getting to cover what I expected would be a Beatty-Henderson battle for mayor.

Beyond this, however, as a Brockvillian, I find Beatty's blend of CEO thinking and community-mindedness has served the city well.

Too bad it will only last one term.