Expert weighs in on Windsor mayor, CAMPP online feud

An expert in municipal politics is calling for decorum after tensions between city administration and the Citizens for an Affordable Mega-Hospital Planning Process heated up online this week. 

After CAMPP pushed forward with an appeal of the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal's decision, Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkens made his feelings public with a Facebook post that called the move "despicable."

Some Windsor residents felt that went too far, especially after a Facebook post by Windsor Regional Hospital CEO David Musyj collected comments posting the home address of CAMPP spokesperson Phillipa von Ziegenweidt.

Alex Soloducha/CBC

Von Ziegenweidt said she found the comments — which suggested everyone in favour of the mega-hospital site send her a Christmas card — threatening. 

Musyj pulled down the post after CBC News told him it was there. 

Mitchell Kosny, a professor at Ryerson University and expert in municipal politics said everyone just needs to take a step back. 

"I don't think there's any virtue on either side, whether it's the council or the public," said Kosny about situations like this. 

"Everybody ratchets everything up to 100 miles an hour in a heartbeat ... [there is a] total lack of civility that exists these days in decision making."

CBC

Kosny has run for office, watched family members in office, and sat on numerous committees, and currently teaches in urban planning at Ryerson.

"Before we need to call somebody [something like] an idiot ... there's a bit of decorum [needed], We don't need to go to the wall right away."

According to Kosny, this is especially the case when a citizen's group has the right of appeal. 

"It sounds old school but let's agree to disagree," said Kosny. "I don't think anybody needs to be name calling because [they] had a position that you don't agree with. It's part of the decision making process ... from either side."

Losing credibility

Kosny said when municipal or elected officials react by lashing out it's a bit like "crying wolf."

"I think at the local level, people's perception of government is not very high, for lots of reasons," said Kosny. "When you get this sort of stuff being the sound bite or the headline, it reaffirms that."

Kosny said there's no honour on either side — the fault in complicating a situation doesn't lie solely with elected officials. 

"But there is a power imbalance here, both perceived and real," said Kosny. "Council are in decision-making roles Community groups kind of react to that immediately, so whether it's violation of a code [of conduct] or not, can we all just cool our rhetoric a bit?"

Coming back from the edge

Kosny said maybe it sounds too easy to believe — but someone has to be the bigger person. 

"This isn't life or death," said Kosny. "A major hospital decision is real and it affects a lot of people and I'm not diminishing that, but it sort of feels like someone has to stand up and say 'You know what. Let's just move on.'"

According to Kosny, no one needs to say that they're wrong or back down from what they believe, but they need to act with civility. 

In a situation like Windsor's, Kosny said it will likely need to be an elected member who takes that step. 

Neither Dilkens nor Musyj responded to interview requests from CBC, but more comments on social media called for complaints to be made to the integrity commissioner. CBC reached out, but hasn't heard back.