When I heard that Mayor Charlie Clark is having some renovations done to his office, I was shocked. No, not shocked that he was sprucing up his City Hall digs; shocked that I heard about the renovations in a news story.
Still egregiously wounded by Clark’s election win, which saw Don Atchison removed from the office in question, a few members of the local media, still loyal to the former mayor, seemed to feel that not only were the renovations newsworthy, but also worthy of scrutiny and perhaps even outrage.
The premise being, of course, that the rest of the media was giving Clark a free pass on the expense, and that Clark is spending on himself like a drunken sailor while the rest of the province scrapes together their pennies to make payroll.
Atchison was famous for never being in his office. He wasn’t playing hooky, though. Rather, he attended hundreds of community events per year. He was constantly on the go, out and about around the city shaking hands and kissing babies.
In fact, I think I saw him more driving his SUV than I did on TV or in the newspaper. That was a very good thing, don’t get me wrong – it makes people, especially those who’ve worked really hard to launch a new project or announce something important, feel really good when the mayor takes time out of his schedule to join them to mark the occasion.
Atchison’s schedule was notoriously intense. I don’t know when he slept or took a vacation, or if he ever did either. Clark, especially with small children at home, likely has a different way of governing. Perhaps he is more prone to be found at City Hall than cutting a ribbon.
Meetings come to him instead of vice versa, and in larger groups for broader discussions instead of a bunch of one-on-one meetings. Like Atch, Clark has his own unique style of connecting with residents, and this is also a good thing.
The carpet in the Saskatoon City Hall mayor’s office was allegedly more than 30 years old. The office walls are getting painted. Clark commissioned a local community youth group to make him a bigger table for in-office meetings.
I remember a time in this province, not even a decade ago, when we outright rejected the idea that in Sas-katchewan we were perfectly happy to patch up our spaces – whether a stadium or a government office building – with duct tape and binder twine.
Then we started calling that the Old Saskatchewan. Suddenly, we demanded more from ourselves, and in part, that meant looking the part – a New Saskatchewan.
Today, at times, it feels like we have reverted back to those bad old days, but with a twist. Old Saskatchewan supposedly loathed anyone getting ahead. In New Saskatchewan, currently unemployed oil workers want public servants to take a pay cut out of fairness. In Old Saskatchewan, we patched things together instead of building anew. In New Saskatchewan, capitalists object to building improvements. I just don’t get it.
In a depressed economy like ours, at a time when governments are being forced to scrutinize every penny they spend, Mayor Clark will serve himself, and the taxpayer, well by being efficient and transparent about the final cost of his office renovations. He might want to share a few pictures, perhaps even of the before and after, with the general public. That will at least confirm to Clark’s detractors that he didn’t paint the walls with gold leaf, although that would look really cool.