The Blackridge Six? Councillor’s tweets confirm deep political divide at City Hall
LONDON, ONT -- A group of city councillors have been dubbed "The Blackridge Six" by one of their colleagues who is frustrated about a political power shift at city hall.
On Tuesday after an 8-7 decision against expanding the Tree Protection By-law to include smaller trees councillor Stephen Turner tweeted:
“Honestly, some days I think that just maintaining status quo might just be the best case scenario for this council.
Two years in— and no evidence of a cohesive vision for our city’s future. Blackridge 6 strike again.”
“It probably wasn’t the best-advised thing I’ve ever put out on Twitter, but it reflects a growing frustration,” admitted Turner after the meeting.
The name ‘Blackridge Six’ is inspired by the infamous Fontana 8 voting block that dominated decision making during the 2010-14 council term.
Blackridge Strategy is the political consulting firm behind attack ads against two female incumbents during the 2018 municipal campaign.
Six current members of council had hired Blackridge for campaign-related services, but all have denied knowledge and expressed disgust about the negative campaigning.
Despite cutting ties with Blackridge, the stigma lingers.
“It seems to me that there is a rather consistent voting block, and I suppose that’s part of politics,” Turner explained.
Council has been unified in its efforts to solve the housing crisis— but on many issues related to development, transportation, and the environment— debate is increasingly contentious, and votes increasingly divided.
“The debates right now tend to be fairly polarized, with much different visions of where the city should be,” he adds.
Turner wouldn’t identify the members of what he dubbed the Blackridge Six, but there are indications.
Mayor Holder and councillors Squire, Lewis, Hillier, and Van Meerbergen each hired Blackridge Strategy in 2018.
Councillor Morgan suspended his contract mid-campaign when he heard rumours of the attack websites.
Along with Councillor Steve Lehman, the loosely affiliated group have recently carried several divisive votes in council chambers.
Meanwhile, politically progressive Councillors Turner, Helmer, Kayabaga, Cassidy, and Hopkins are often aligned during debates, but increasingly unable to generate a majority.
The mayor’s opinion of Turner’s tweet was evident in his disappointed tone— if not his words.
“I’m aware of the tweet. AlI can say to you, at this point, is it’s going to be taken under advice and appropriate action will be taken. I don’t have any other comment,” explained Holder.
At 10:30 pm Turner tweeted an explanation to his colleagues including:
“I need to do better, and I will. Let the main takeaway here be that I think collectively we can all do better for #LdnOnt. It’s time to build a city we love and stop playing politics.”
There’s still a long road ahead.
Council reaches the half-way point of its four-year term at the start of December.