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A bit of positivity would not hurt Nanaimo right now

By Merv Unger
Dec. 5, 2017

The city’s well-intentioned creation of a Facebook page where citizens could sound off turned out to be what was intended.

In politics we hear buzz words like “transparency” and “openness” and “accountability”. This was an attempt to do exactly whatever those words of phrases are supposed to represent.

The problem was the lack of supervision and/or control of comments from the public. Although the majority may be constructive all you have to do is take a quick glance to notice some of the moronic, imbecilic and vulgar comments some people feel compelled to post. Most of them make it personal, somehow believing that insults are part of the game.

As a friend of mine used to say, "Come and tell me to my face."

When this first surfaced I posted a note on one of the local Facebook sites suggesting that the city did not belong on this platform for exactly that reason. Of course the personal insults flowed freely.

Facebook is not a professional commentary and discussion site. It’s where people go to show pictures of their pets or their grandchildren, not a place for serious discussion. Besides, if you want an idea of what the public pulse is like, there are local civic commentary pages (A Better Nanaimo comes to mind). And even that one is moderated to maintain decency.

The city needs to have a public information distribution process on the official city website, and then needs to promote that site so the public goes there regularly.

All the best of intentions are not necessarily constructive. Direct contact with councillors by email or telephone is still the best way to conduct business, even though some of them don’t respond. That alone gives you and idea of their dedication or lack thereof.

And it wouldn’t hurt if councillors and senior staff co-operated with the news media. They might be surprised how the picture would become much more focused. A little bit of positivity would not hurt right now.

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Tracing your roots can lead to surprising revelations

By Merv Unger

1129 - Decades ago there was a country song entitled “I’m My Own Grandpa.”

I have been pursuing my ancestry for a number of years and just got access to a great online genealogy database of Mennonite ancestry, tracing families back to the 1500s in the Dutch Empire.

I have only just begun but already I’m convinced you may come up with some suprises, more than you might want to know – like I'm my own grandpa.

Up to my generation, Mennonites pretty well stayed on their own, not engaging other races, cultures or nationalities, based on a maintaining strict religious standards. Inter-marriage with outsiders was not the norm, but that has gone by the wayside and our greater family now boasts Chinese, Latinos, Africans and others.

The database allows me to input any name and trace how I am related to that person. Is that a revelation!

For Instance, Homer Simpson (creator Matt Groening) is my fifth cousin. Matt’s father’s name was really Homer and his grandfather was Abe. He has sisters Lisa and Maggie, and his mother’s name was Marge. Those names have all be transposed in The Simpsons, except Matt substituted Bart for himself.

I found my fifth cousin Henry John Deutchendorf, better known as the late John Denver. Too bad he didn’t pass on the musical genes. He is also my wife Marge’s fifth cousin.

Then along came Shannon Tweed Simmons, wife of KISS lead singer Gene Simmons. Not only is she a cousin, but her lineage shows up in no less than four lines of our family. 

Marge and I have a similar lineage, going back multiple generations, which is not surprising considering how Mennonites stayed within their own culture over the generations.

Who knows what else is buried in those roots? I'm still digging.

Mennonite history goes from it birth in Holland to Prussia (now Poland), to Russia (now Ukraine), and finally to Manitoba in 1873 in areas labelled the East Reserve and the West Reserve on either side of the Red River.

So grounded in Manitoba were the earlier generations that there is now a website

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Favourites starting to show in Liberal leadership race

By Merv Unger

1119 - As an old ink-stained wretch (retired journalist), I asked numerous people in the audience at the B.C. Liberal leadership debate in Nanaimo "whom would you write off your list, having heard all the candidates?"

The verdict was unanimous. All but one of the supporters I talked to said Dianne Watts is out of touch, not having a grasp of issues. When confronted with a "gotcha" question by one of the candiates she flubbed it miserably by trying to muddle her way through. If you don't know forestry in front of a Vancouver Island audience it will quickly show. Old rule of politics, if you don't know the answer, don't try to fake it. She looked uncomfortable in her surroundings.

The consensus appeared to be Mike de Jong, Todd Stone and Andrew Wilkinson  setting the pace at this stage of the race. If Sunday's event was any indication, it may be a three-way race to the finish.

De Jong’s 24 years experience in the Legislature, with numerous cabinet portfolios, show through. He is knowlegeable on any topic, his campaign appears to be “steady as she goes.”

Stone showed a vibrance you expect from a political leader, and he handled himself well when challenged by the other candidates. He had a number of issues to answer for from his days as transportation minister – ICBC, infrastructure, etc. – but appeared to come out unscathed.

Wilkinson comes as a breath of fresh air. He brought the candidates – and Liberals – back to reality when he challenged them how all their promises would be paid for. Politicans are so quick with promises they often forget that the bill arrives at the end of the month.

Mike Lee and Sam Sullivan both tried to appeal to a new audience – youth – in their presentations – technology and the internet generation. They may not be ahead of their time, it might be just the others have not caught up to the reality of that generation. It's there, the challenge is getting them involved.

Each candidate’s supporters are elated that their candidate is in the lead, as they see it. A word of caution, it’s a long stretch drive between now and February. 

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