Calculating the ‘silent majority’

I may have to get fellow blogger Steve Berman a calculator for Christmas; his manipulation of numbers the last week or so has even my math-challenged brain weeping for a sense of perspective.

Let’s start with his listing of the expense accounts of council members. First off, there’s no context to any of these numbers; I have no idea whether Mayor Sandra Cooper has used her expense account to travel to the Association of Municipalities of Ontario annual conference, numerous meetings with the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative, or if she’s used that $6,335.46 spent so far year on 396 glasses of orange juice from The Savoy.

Ian Chadwick’s expenses in 2012 are $5,100 (he’s gone a little overbudget this year). I can only assume he was using the money to feed his ukelele addiction, as there can be no other explanation for it.

In total, councillors have spent about $33,000 on expenses and professional development (I could be off; I ciphered it in my head as I was too lazy to break out a calculator). Total – for nine people. Measured against the entire municipal budget, it’s less than a tenth of a per cent. On my total tax bill, just to put it into further context, it’s about $1.75.

It’s not a lot. And it can be explained – conferences, councillor Blackberries, etc., etc. And it’s not a secret – I’m pretty sure I see updates on this on the council agenda every three months.

But what’s really got my brain exploding is his latest post on the so-called silent majority. Steve has come up with 1,500 potential ‘votes’ from people unhappy with the rec centre decision: that includes 10% of the Y membership (350); 600 people who signed the petition; 250 who showed up to the first protest at town hall; 200 who showed up to the second protest; and 100 who were at the October public meeting  at the Legion hosted by Why Can’t We Be Friends of Central Park.

Excluding the Y votes (because those could be any 350 members), I want people to think pretty hard about the supposed remaining 1,150 people. For instance, let’s take Steve, for instance. I’m pretty sure he signed the petition, took part in both protests, and was among the 100 at the Legion. In which case, he just counted himself four times – maybe he gets four votes in 2014? And I’m pretty sure he’s not the only person who did all four. Unless we’re starting to count people the same way the Elvis Festival used to count people (50,000 in the downtown? Really?) it just blows that whole theory to smithereens.

As for the other 1,000 votes based on the other issues, I suspect it’s the same 25-to-50 people upset with some or all of those decisions (which may or may not be actual ‘decisions’, as opposed to a perception certain people are trying to generate in the community).

I don’t mind community activism; in fact I encourage it. Every municipal council needs a voice of conscience, someone to say when the emperor isn’t wearing any clothes. But really – it has to have some semblance in reality…