Better together

It has been a year of conflict for Belfast Mayor Samantha Paradis but we are heartened to see city leaders working better together after a series of very public disagreements.

Early on, the mayor and city councilors butted heads on taking regular breaks during what are often lengthy council meetings.The most recent meeting, for example, began at 7 p.m. and didn't end until midnight. Paradis argued from a health care point of view, stating breaks are important when sitting for long periods — a valid argument.

But she also took the stance that the meeting should be stopped for those breaks, something we feel is a step too far. Many municipal officials simply get up and leave the room as needed for a variety of reasons and we don’t see that it should be any different for the mayor.

Yes, the mayor runs meetings. But in that capacity, she should be able to determine an appropriate time to step out and stretch her legs, use the restroom or get a drink of water. And, that’s where the two sides landed.

It appeared after a mediated session that all was well again — or at least that the mayor and council had come to a truce.

Until Paradis penned an opinion column in this newspaper expressing, among other things, personal challenges she feels she’s faced since being elected. Some of those challenges were directly related to councilors, she said later when faced with backlash, but not all of them.

It was interesting to hear from people on both sides of the arguments who were not directly involved. Some were of the mind that the young mayor was being kept down by the old guard, i.e., city councilors. Others thought the sitting councilors could offer the inexperienced mayor insights based on their own political experiences. Wider arguments looked at the two sides in a larger picture of a progressive newcomer versus a stuck-in-their-ways council.

We think the lessons learned through these tumultuous months come down to compromise and listening. Both the mayor and councilors took the time — eventually — to listen to what each other were saying. Neither side has to completely agree in the end; sometimes it is enough to know feelings and positions are acknowledged.

We hope city officials continue to work smoothly together for the benefit of the city and its people. In recent weeks, several new building owners and proposals for change downtown have come forward and will require the attention of the mayor and council. And let's not forget (how could we?) about the looming Nordic Aquafarms proposal, some aspects of which still will be addressed at the city level.

We admit they have only met a few times since the most recent round of public apologies and that they no doubt will continue to disagree on meeting management style, but the mayor's and council's focus should continue to be on what's best for Belfast.