Monday, February 27, 2012

Profiling Community Councillors

Monday morning and a chance once again to browse Iain Bain’s editorial “The Usual Suspects” (February 21,2012). Iain Bain sees this phrase as “developing a certain amount of notoriety locally.” He sees the make-up of the usual suspects as something rather more fluid than this observer might: “It depends on who you think is in your circle , and who you think is outside – in or out of groups,” he suggests. Here we would think that the usual suspects comprise generally the community councillors and the NICE folk plus the Concerned Residents group and one or two others that gravitate along this axis of protest and debate. For some prominent individuals who have multiple memberships of those groups it is perhaps hard for the untrained observer to distinguish what hat they are wearing sometimes. However, it was revealing when Provost Laurie Fraser recently addressed Jeanne Tolmie at the event to celebrate her 34 years on River CC.He said; “We refer to you as the usual suspects, you refer to us as the guilty party.” He said it in good humour and it was received as such. Popular myth has the current usage of this phrase originating from Oor Sandy at a ward forum meeting in reference to some of the more vocal of his community council sparring partners at these events.

Iain Bain’s analysis last week looks too at recent consultation events and raises the concern that the usual suspects “may represent very particular points of view and by dint of assiduous attendance in lieu of others, their arguments assume undue importance.” This is a view held by some and it is painfully obvious unless those with alternative points of view in the community can find the common ground and means to express them then it will be those who are presently to the fore that will have first say in articulating their thoughts and it has to be said in recent years the usual suspects have generally served Nairn well.

It is with Iain’s profile of community Councils that perhaps a few eyebrows will perhaps be raised: “The usual suspects have sometimes been described as well-heeled, older and with plenty of time on their hands. We have certainly noted this and been disappointed ourselves that other aspects of local society tend not to be represented at meetings from community councils to consultation sessions.”

These observer would suggest that perhaps Iain is a little off-beam here, older maybe yes ok, and while the West CC might conform most to Iain’s template, within the new make-up of Suburban and River CCs there is a fair mix of the social strata.


Bystander said...

"Profiling of suspects" is of course a stock technique for PC Plod, his plainclothes colleagues, and every airport security officer and border customs official. Unsurprisingly, those singled out - whether on grounds of age, skin-colour, beard or style of dress - are quick to complain of prejudice....

So the observant Gurn is right to raise an eyebrow, and indeed to question, Ian Bain's generalisations.

"Well-heeled"? Hmm, not many of the wealthy folk of Nairn (and there are many, both local and incomers) seem to show up as community councillors.

"Older"? The average age of current community councillors is almost certainly younger than the average across Nairn as a whole - and quite possibly younger than Ian Bain!

"Plenty of time on their hands"? Many - perhaps most - have regular day-jobs.

What distinguishes the usual suspects is none of these characteristics. The key point is that - unlike others - they seem to be willing to devote time and energy to local community matters not because of political ambition or self-interest, and not for payment, but for the good of the town.

Credit to the Gurn for recognising their contribution. Ian Bain's oblique disparagement of the usual suspects for being conscientious citizens is ill-judged.

45p! said...

It's time Iain actually attended a few more functions in Nairn before tapping out his fanciful prose from his keyboard, or has the Nairnshire gone the way of a certain Wapping newspaper group?

Levison inq said...

The Nairnshire like News International? I can just see the revelations of their ace reporter pressing a glass against the back of a phone box and Sandy the traffic warden being given the bung of a free copy for letting an important editorial person off a parking ticket

Graisg said...

What a fertile imagination there.
I'm sure there are other Journals in the North that envy the respect that the Nairnshire enjoys from its faithful multitude of readers.