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Councillor - Town of Blue Mountains

Mid-term and the need for a municipal election

President’s Report – Mid-term and the need for a municipal election

By Michael P. Seguin
We’ve just past the mid-way mark of this Council’s 4-year term and many people are already starting to think about the next municipal election in October, 2014 (only 19 months away, if you’re counting). Why? Are people disgruntled, disturbed and/or just fed-up with the lack of leadership of this Council in not being more proactive and receptive to the more important needs and the economic realities of the community? Or are people just tired of being ignored and being given “lip service” every time they express their concerns at Public Meetings – which I do believe are considered just mere gestures to the public to make it appear like an open and transparent process?
For the past two years of this Council’s term, I’ve been going to all Council Meetings (and many more before that) and I can’t remember too many memorable moments. In fact, many Council meetings have been outright boring, predictable and very disappointing, with the triumvirate of Anderson, McKinlay and McKean always voting together (en block) and only requiring one more vote to support their Agendas. It appears that the controversial issues are generally reserved for “closed” meetings, where everyone is sworn to secrecy – how convenient. There were 28 Council meetings in 2012, of which 18 or 65% of these meetings included “closed meetings”. Apparently, I’m not alone in my suspicions as the residents of Collingwood and Meaford are also questioning the number of “closed meetings” and calling for more open and transparent councils? You can read more about my opinion on the “Transparency Gap” in the April, 2012 Newsletter posted on the BMRA website.
Over the past two years, there have been many predictable decisions, including the last “don’t debate, don’t discuss and don’t listen” 2013 budget process, where this Council basically ignored the general public concerns. It appears that years of service and experience no longer add up to good leadership, good governance and finding workable solutions. In my opinion, this Council strikes me as a group that is tired, out-dated and out-of touch with the challenging issues before them and are continuing to lose the support of the public.
No doubt, this Council will totally disagree with me and feel that they should be rewarded for their efforts. In fact, at the March 19th Infrastructure and Recreation meeting, Councilor Ardiel, supported by Councilor Gamble, directed staff to investigate the “remuneration and expenses” of Council members in surrounding municipalities to determine if a raise was in order (since there was none since 2006). Councilor McKean voted against this proposal knowing that this “staff work project” would only lead to a great debate at budget time (remember, the consultant’s “pay-equity” proposal was a slam-dunk).

Although, we are only at the mid-term of this Council’s term, I do believe that the time has come to consider preparing for the next municipal election in 2014 and focus on a new Council. The community needs to find candidates, who care more about good governance than the money, and who can provide more open and transparent leadership and find more workable and affordable solutions to community needs. For those interested in taking a run at a Blue Mountain council seat in the 2014 municipal election, they should really get to work now on their campaign. The expectation that “I will learn on the job” doesn’t work anymore. You need to start getting familiar with the various policies and procedures that govern meetings, understand the issues and be prepared to provide a strong voice at the council table. That may sound like a “tall-order” but the BMRA is interested in helping members and is planning to set up an Election Committee to help future candidates gain knowledge and understanding of the process as they move forward to nomination day in January, 2014.
In other news, the Draft Short Term Accommodation (STA) By-law Public Meeting is scheduled for April 15th, 2013 at 7.00 p.m. in the Council Chambers at the Town Hall. I cannot emphasize how important this meeting is, to many of our members. We need to provide a strong voice in reminding this Council of the huge investment in terms of cost to the taxpayers, the favourable OMB and judicial decisions and more importantly, their commitment to move forward with licencing STA businesses in low density single family residential areas. An STA Licencing By-law is necessary to ensure compatibility in these residential areas and avoid serious conflicts, as well as ensure the health and safety of the travelling public. You can help by either writing comments in advance of the meeting or by simply coming to the meeting (further details can be found in the announcement box at the end of the newsletter).
On April 8th, 2013, the Town is holding a Special Meeting of Council to hear the OPP Deputy Commissioners present various proposals for a new 5 year OPP Contract as well as provide a comparison to the Section 5.1 “pay-as-you-go” alternative. As we advised you in the last newsletter, over 15% of the Town’s operating budget is due to OPP costs (>$2.3 million) and is expected to rise substantially if left unchecked. Members of the Budget Review Committee have provided an update in this newsletter, but I suggest that you try to attend this meeting and determine for yourself the direction that best serves this community.
On May 4th, 2013, we are pleased to announce the BMRA-AGM to be held in the auditorium at the Marsh Street Centre in Clarksburg. We want you to come around 8.30 a.m. for coffee and cookies, followed by a members-only business portion at 9.00 a.m. and questions from the floor. After a short break (more coffee and cookies), our guest program will begin at 10.15 a.m. with Grey County CAO, Lance Thurston, providing us a close look at what value the Town receives for its (or our) $13 million tax contribution. Warden Deputy Mayor Duncan McKinlay will provide a brief political viewpoint followed by a short question answer period. We will

conclude our meeting with a brief but important update on present and future resort activities (including the Orchard expansion) by Dan Skelton, COO of the Blue Mountain Resorts followed a short “meet and greet” session.
My rating of Council’s performance for the first quarter of 2013 has dropped to a: D
This is based on ignoring the economic realities impacting taxpayers and “ramming” through a 6.31% Town tax levy, and widening the “Transparency Gap” by continuing to have frequent “closed meetings”, approving the poorly planned and undesirable “Adult-Lifestyle” Telfer Land Lease Development and planning to approve a “banker-style” Town Non-Profit Housing Corporation and Land Lease Plan.
If you have any comments regarding my statements in this a report and throughout the newsletter, please do not hesitate to contact me through the web site (info@bluemountainratepayers.ca) or send me a message via the Association’s mailing address.
As I have always said and will continue to say: “You are the heart and soul of the Association and we value your opinion”.

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