Rhino's Ramblings: A Not-So-Noble Affair

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Robert Thomas

For most Council watchers it comes as no surprise that former City Manager Matt Noble has launched a lawsuit against the City of Moose Jaw. It's something he told Discover Moose Jaw he was going to do when he resigned. For many Council watchers, and in this scribe's opinion, it is so classic of the man described by more than a few as "My Way or Hit the Highway Matt Noble".

Is the lawsuit warranted and will he be successful? Well, that's something yet to be determined by a court of law or should we say at least settled, behind closed doors, between lawyers.

In the past few days though, the majority of people I spoke with said that this is one case they hope the City takes all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada and Mr. Noble receives nothing.

It's no secret that Mr. Noble and I didn't get along, it really had nothing to do with a personality clash but rather, in my opinion, Mr Noble's lack of understanding of what democracy should be about.

Unlike most Moose Javians, I had my experiences with Mr. Noble pre-dating his tenure in the Friendly City but first encountered him an hour-and-a-half to the west, in the city "Where Life Makes Sense" or Swift Current. But in those days it was known for something else, as the rats literally took over that city.

But back to what I personally saw, and in my opinion Mr. Noble's failure when it came to democracy.

I remember sitting in an Executive Committee meeting, when the committee was discussing how to encourage citizens to come forward by including a five minute informational forum at the end of the regular Council meeting and Mr Noble's comments that Council had to be careful or they would have "all sorts of fringe groups" taking advantage of it.

It left me personally thinking two things "am I hearing this?" and "who decides who are fringe?" It's a very slippery slope.

For myself, it seemed that Mr. Noble lacked a true understanding about what local politics was supposed to be about. It's called the easiest access to politicians and decision makers. It's something Councillor Brian Swanson commented on at the time saying, it's just "part of the job."
When it came to Mr. Noble's treatment of former Moose Jaw Times-Herald City Hall reporter Will Stoldaka, in my opinion, it went beyond the line of acceptability. My own personal thoughts on this are what gave a City Manager the liberties he took in this regard?

But by far the issue which gave the former City Manager the most notoriety was his attempts to bring forward the Local Improvement Program, when it came to the Cast Iron Water Main replacement (LIP).

It's something Matt Noble dug in on and quite frankly refused to let go.

The great crippler in all of this was the fact that the majority of the LIP discussion occurred behind closed doors or "in-camera". Really, what were the true motivations and who on the Council of that day were for and against and what was said is something we will truly never know.

Was the entire LIP implosion Mr Noble's fault? Or were there some underlying factors which drove him with such intensity?

One needs only to look at Mr Noble's reports when it came to the state of Moose Jaw's infrastructure; but most importantly the major financial hurdles involved in replacing it. He gave dire warnings about the fact that there would need to be massive financial assistance from upper levels of government to replace existing infrastructure, as it was overwhelming for the City.

Perhaps this is why he held onto the LIP so adamantly; he knew that, financially, the City needed every dollar it could find to get the necessary work done.

But Mr. Noble's true undoing was the lack of a clear communication policy; and when it came to the attempt to institute citywide curb side garbage collection it showed. Meeting after meeting, the issue was debated, and despite protests which saw him continually enter the debate, curb side never stood a chance.

As I wrote at that time, in the now defunct Moose Jaw Times-Herald, it was obvious Mr. Noble's tenure was done. He had, in my opinion, lost two key issues plus so severely damaged his image, locally. The writing was on the wall.

So what is next in this saga? Well, if you take a really good look at Monday night's Executive Committee agenda, there is going to be some in-camera discussion surrounding what looks to be a legal matter and there is a slim chance the Committee may break out of the in camera portion and vote on what to do next. If it happens, this would be the big scoop of the entire meeting, so a good reporter would wait until the very end to get the story.

It's something I will update you on.