More with Thunder Bay Mayor Keith Hobbs!
Mayor Quimby Or Mayor West - Thunder Bay’s Keith Hobbs answers.
LopLop’s doesn’t look like much from the outside, but it is a wonderful place to be. The owner is a retired teacher named Bob, who runs it with his son Steven. When Mayor Deb arrived, Bob walked up to our table and chatted with her.
They clearly knew each other, and it felt great to watch the two of them have such a candid and friendly conversation. We asked her how she got into politics, and her answer surprised us. She had been layed-off and was searching for a new job. Her first campaign was for a councilor position, which she didn’t expect to win. Her motivation for running was to gain some name recognition in the course of the campaign, which she hoped would give her an edge when applying for a new jobs.
Her familiarity with her city and its citizens was apparent from the local bands she named (Mustang Sally and the Cool Jerks and of course Treble Charger), her knowledge of the Sault’s issues (the placement of a religious statue on public property is being debated, and the Sault’s industry is in need of constant consideration), as well as the way she knew every single person that walked into the bar during the course of our meeting. When we asked what the most fun thing she has done as mayor, she told us about climbing the beams of the bridge that connects Canada with the US. She clearly has no fear of heights, and her overall tenacity is apparent.
Mayor Deb is without a doubt a cool Mayor. When it came time to do her section of the Mayor’s poem she said we had better order a glass of wine so, and then proceeded to order us a round of very civilized tasting Pinot Grigio. Then we hung out for a bit more and then we all had delicious meatball subs! The Mayor told us that there is a huge Italian population in the Sault, so that’s why there is such delicious food. (later that night we had pizza from Mrs. B’s and it was maybe the best slice of Sicilian style pie we had ever tasted.)
She also told us that she thinks that Toronto’s mayor Rob Ford made a huge mistake when he refused to make an appearance at Toronto’s Gay Pride Parade. Then she offered us to use her season tickets for the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds next time we came through town. A hockey fan to boot!
The conversation turned to our families and we invited the mayor’s daughter, who lives in Vancouver, to our show at Venue on Sept 21. Turns out that mayor Deb is going to be visiting her daughter in Vancouver then, and they are both going to come to our show. Maybe she will be able to talk shop with Vancouver mayor Gregor Robertson. Looking forward to that show!
After the mayor left we had the first rider dog of the tour. We are all dog lovers, but one of the only sucky things about being in a band is that, it is really hard to take care of a dog. We can barely feed ourselves!
So to make up for that we put on our rider that if someone from the club has a dog we can walk after soundcheck, we would love to do that (and we promise to clean up its poop!). In Sault Ste. Marie,we got to walk our first dog of the tour, a funny little guy with a scruffy beard named Killer. We took Killer for a walk to explore the shops and restaurants of downtown’s Queen St. It was obviously Killer’s first time there too, cause he peed on everything.
Last night we stayed at the house of some relatives of our tour manager, Vince. It was a nice neighborhood where not a lot happens out of the ordinary, so when our hippy painted tour van was parked out front overnight the neighbors got curious.
Early this morning the police rolled by to investigate the reports of the “suspicious vehicle”. Now call me crazy, but if I was up to something sketchy, I giant white van that looks like it was spray painted every color known to man by a bunch of toddlers on acid, is the last vehicle I would choose to conduct my sketchy business in.
It’s only fitting that today we meet the mayor of Thunder Bay, a retired a Police officer named Mayor Hobbs. The first question we asked him was “does our van look suspicious?”
Mayor Keith Hobbs was on the Thunder Bay Police force for over 35 years before becoming mayor. Thunder Bay is a gritty city, facing more than its share of challenges, and in our opinion, they could not have picked a better man for the job of mayor. Keith, as he insisted we call him, is the type of person you want living next door to you. A strong man, with a great sense of humor who likes a cold beer; A rabid hockey fan who will bend over backwards to help you out or maybe shovel your driveway just because he was already out there doing his.
But god help the person who tries to mess with him, the Bruins or anyone he cares about, and in this case the people he cares about are the citizens of Thunder Bay. Not just the wealthy, the business owners and his voting base. Keith is a fighter for the marginalized, the poor, the addicted, the out of work, even for many of the Native communities on reserves hundreds of miles away from the city which he was elected to serve.
One of the first things he told us was that he is a conservative. I must admit that we were a little thrown off by this information, as this word conjures up images of Stephen Harper, George Bush and Toronto Mayor Rob Ford. What we soon learned from Keith is that there is a such thing as a compassionate conservative. Who knew that you could be a conservative and still care about the environment, still care about social services, not to mention fight actively for the right of the poor and marginalized.
The mayor spoke to us passionately about the First Nations communities in the remote areas surrounding Thunder Bay. Many of these communities are only accessible by roads during the icy depths of winter and are living in third world conditions, lacking proper housing, sanitation and basic medical services. One particular community has a population of 800 of which 150 suffer from diabetes.
The mayor spoke to us about the need for proper education in these communities, pointing out how the majority of kids there get a grade 8 education or in many cases even less. Those that wish to go to high school must leave their families and communities and move hundreds of miles away to Thunder Bay.
These kids in their early teens are often billeted with families who don’t really care about them and are just having them in order to collect the government stipend. In a completely foreign environment, with no support network, these kids too often turn to drugs and alcohol abuse. The huffing of solvents (gas, paint thinner, glue) is a particularly nasty addiction that is prevalent in the community. The mayor is fighting passionately to set up addiction treatment centers in his community. Our jaws dropped when he told us of the 7 teen suicides in the last month alone.
He told a story of being chased by bullies as kid. The bullies were after him because he was an “Indian Lover”. They chased him into a busy street where he was hit by a car and had to spend several weeks in the hospital. He became visibly upset when he told us this type of racism is still prevalent in Thunder Bay.
In his mind, education and addiction treatment are two steps towards lessening this problem. In a city that is suffering from numerous shut downs of factories and mills, it not easy to get the money for these kinds of things. One opinion he had blew our minds. Now remember this man is a conservative politician who was a police officer for over 35 years. He said that the legalization and government of marijuana could provide government tax revenue that could be used to treat serious addiction to solvents and alcohol. This is coming from a man who was the head of the drug squad in what is one of the most dangerous cities in North America, per capita.
He then went on to say….if it turns out that that strategy doesn’t work then, try something else, but as it stands now, the money that is spent enforcing these laws and fighting the biker gangs that control the marijuana trade could be better used somewhere else.
Meeting Mayor Hobbs was inspiring. He spoke to us candidly and sincerely. He made jokes. He was the first mayor to know what we were talking about when we asked him, “Mayor Quimby or Mayor West?” He picked Mayor West (Referring to Peter Griffin as “the guy with the balls on his chin”) because mayor Quimby is corrupt and Mayor West is just a weird guy who says what’s on his mind. He was the first mayor to stick around and watch our show! He even bought a T-Shirt.
Still, the thing that struck us most about this meeting was that despite all the challenges he faces, he spoke proudly of Thunder Bay and its people. He conveyed the character and charm of a unique city that is quickly becoming one of our favorite places to visit. Dare I say we want to be more like Thunder Bay?
In his inauguration speech, Mayor Hobbs compared the city to boxing great George Chavallo. It takes a lot of punches but has never once been knocked down. We learned a lot from Mayor Hobbs, and I think he inspired us to play our hearts out that night in Thunder Bay. He is a very cool mayor.
Allow us to share one more anecdote. Thunder Bay is home to a Bombardier Plant that employs over 1000 people. Bombardier makes public transit cars. (subway and light rail) Mayor Hobbs took a trip to Toronto to discuss public transit plans with Mayor Ford on behalf of the workers in the Thunder Bay plant. He showed up at the scheduled time and waited for an hour outside mayor Fords office. Then someone came out of the office and said that mayor Ford had to go somewhere else and would not be able to meet.
Hmmmmm, I wonder if we will get to meet mayor Ford.
We left Toronto at 9am yesterday morning in order to get to Sudbury for our first stop on the Meet the Mayor Tour. Unfortunately, the Mayor of Sudbury was unavailable.
Fortunately, the deputy mayor, Joscelyne Landry-Altman agreed to meet with us. As this was the first meeting of the tour, we had no idea what to expect.
The deputy mayor arrived exactly on time (not something we are used to in our line of work), shook our hands, and ordered a Chai Latte. We did the same and it was the appropriate drink to be clutching sitting on the back patio of the Laughing Buddha, as Fall had clearly already asserted it’s presence just 4 hours north of Toronto.
Within 3 minutes we could tell that she was cool. She had been a light attendant for Air Canada for 30 years, living in what she described as a “SHI-SHI” Vancouver suburb of White Rock. One day she decided that her kids should grow up around “real” people and they picked up and moved to Northern Ontario.
As she explained some points of pride along the way of her still very active career in government, we quickly realized she had a knack for thinking outside of the box when it came to effective problem solving.
She decided to take on an outdoor stairway she described as a “cesspool” and no longer safe for the general public to use after a man had been beaten and robbed for a pack of cigarettes and left for dead.
Among various measure to deter criminal activity, one particular measure involved a type of plant that attracted bees by the swarm. Loitering soon became almost impossible and the stairway was revamped into a now thoroughly enjoyed art space and public garden.
A mother of two, Joscelyne mentioned that her son Stephen recently dropped out of a Mechanical Engineering program to spend time focusing on playing bass in a rock band.
A career move our very own Nixon Boyd had taken on. While many parents would be weary of a similar decision made by their kid, Joscelyne, much like our own parents, was clearly very proud of her son’s musical ambition.
We quickly decided to extend our invitation to the show to Joscelyne’s son, and put him on our guest list for the Townehouse.
Turning the conversation around and wanting to know more about us than talk about herself, she revealed that she was under the impression that as “Indie rockers” we played a sort Indian infused rock music and pronounced our band name with such a flare of exoticness that to try and write it as she said it would involve a number of accents that have yet to be invented. It was the most beautiful word of the day.
She told us about a group in Sudbury that she endorses called Sudbury Rocks, which is a program that provides instruments and a facility to practice for kids who would not have access to these things otherwise. She seemed to care a lot about her community.
She said that if she wasn’t in politics now, she would start a dating service to help connect the kinds of people she met when she canvassed door to door during her campaign, and she seemed the type of person that if he put you together with some one, chances are it would stick. Cupid’s intuition let’s call it. She figured most people should have someone to enjoy life with.
After our meeting wrapped up, we all ate the food at Buddha Bar. If you’re ever in Sudbury, you should try this place - they have unbelievably good pizza, the walls are covered with local art, and they have a solid wireless signal.
09/14 Sudbury, ON @ The Townehouse
09/15 Sault Ste. Marie, ON @ Loplop Lounge
09/16 Thunder Bay, ON @ Crocks
09/17 Winnipeg, MB @ West End Cultural Centre
09/18 Regina, SK @ The Exchange
09/19 Lethbridge, AB @ Tongue & Groove
09/21 Vancouver, BC @ Venue
09/24 Victoria, BC @ Rifflandia Festival
09/25 Cumberland, BC @ Waverly Hotel
09/27 Nelson, BC @ Spiritbar
09/28 Fernie, BC @ The Grand Central
09/29 Calgary, AB @ Republik
10/01 Saskatoon, SK @ Amigos
10/07 London, ON @ Call The Office
10/08 Hamilton, ON @ Casbah
10/09 Barrie, ON @ The Mansion
10/12 Peterborough, ON @ Market Hall
10/13 Kingston, ON @ The Mansion
10/14 Brantford, ON @ The Alexander
10/15 Toronto, ON @ The Opera House
11/23 Waterloo, ON @ Starlight
11/24 St. Catharines, ON @ L3
For more information: http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=195343143855121