Time and conflicts in mayoral politics

No time?Being a mayor today, even in a small town like Collingwood, takes time. A lot of time. Time that working people are hard pressed to find in their busy days. I know from the experience of three terms that even councillors who work cannot attend every meeting, every event, every activity they are invited to.

Mayors have to be on call, doing town business and dealing with residents’ calls during every day, and many, many evenings. Even on weekends they have little to no free time outside their mayoral duties.

They have to attend meetings with staff, with residents, local associations, with developers and businesses, and be at the county and on county committees often several times a week. There are also the extras – meetings with school boards or provincial representatives and politicians, even ministers and their staff. Plus there are the additional boards and committees a committed mayor will join – such as the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative that our current mayor chairs.

And then there are the frequent social demands: visits to seniors’ homes, cutting ribbons at business openings, giving congratulations in person for fiftieth wedding anniversaries and 100th birthdays, the mayor’s levee, Legion events and so on. There are the regular media interviews, radio shows and TV broadcasts, too.

All in all, it adds up to more than a full-time job, even though it’s only paid as a part-time effort. It’s very demanding to be the mayor today. A part-time person cannot effectively fulfill that role nor fully represent the town or the council.

We need someone who can do the job without having to beg off from municipal duties to attend to work or to leave town hall to go skiing during budget meetings (yes, that did happen this term!). We need someone who can’t beg off their mayoral responsibilities because they’re “too busy” elsewhere. Someone who doesn’t have to choose between personal work (or play) and representing and attending to the community. Someone who can be called up at all hours and every day to perform those tasks.

We need someone who has the time to live up to the requirement in the Code of Conduct to educate himself by attending workshops and seminars. We need someone who can take off afternoons or sometimes several days to attend conferences like AMO (where municipal representative get to speak with ministers and their staff) without being pressured by employers not to attend, or to cut it short to get back to work.

One of the reasons retirees and seniors tend to get involved in municipal politics is because they have the time to dedicate to an increasingly-demanding job. But it’s also because we want to put a lifetime’s experience to use. We want to apply what we’ve learned in both careers and personal life. And we have the time to do so.

Even deputy mayors have demands on their time that are above and beyond any daily working role. When mayors cannot attend events or meetings, it is usually the deputy-mayor who gets called on to fill in.

Doesn’t Collingwood deserve a mayor and a deputy-mayor who are accessible, available and who can participate fully in the town’s business?
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My answers to residents: 5

This is a somewhat edited response to a resident who asked about a splash pad. The resident also commented that, “As nice as Collingwood is, we feel that this town is falling behind the times compared to other towns close by and the advancements they have achieved.”  Here’s in part my reply:

Yes, we need a splash pad here. The WaterFront Master Plan has a proposal for one at Harbourview Park (along with a winter skating trail) for about $3.6 million. See here:

http://www.collingwood.ca/files/2016-11-09%20Collingwood%20Waterfront%20Master%20Plan%20Final%20Report.pdf

I have not had the opportunity to discuss this plan with the current PRC director, Dean Collver, or discuss any potential alternatives or phased solutions or even a less expensive option (staff are forbidden to talk to candidates until after the election). Until then, I can only reiterate my support for a splash pad located in one of our two major waterfront parks.

The Master Plan is ambitious and has a lot of amenities and enhancements in it, but they come at a cost – and that means tax increases. We have to be careful about how we spend our money – it’s a balancing act. But I don’t see why a splash pad couldn’t be installed as the first phase of a larger project that gets built over several years.

I currently work with the Ontario Municipal Water Association and am aware of how other municipalities are working to create similar water facilities and features. I am also aware of the combination of challenges for health and safety and how such splash pads must be both hygienic and monitored.

NB: I should have added that we could have had the splash pad and the skating trail and more for what the cost of Saunderson’s self-serving Judicial Inquiry is likely to end up costing taxpayers.

My responses to residents: 4

Questions? I have answers.NB: As a candidate for Deputy Mayor in the upcoming municipal election, I receive questions from residents about my stand on various issues and policies. I will post my responses here for everyone to read. My responses are in italics, below.

Please keep your answers short and to the point. The following are my questions:

1.What do you see as the main issues in this upcoming election campaign?

Answer: A return to open, accountable and ethical government to regain the trust of the people and staff is the first priority.

2.What experience do you bring to the office of Deputy Mayor?

Answer: Three terms on council, a dozen years before that in local media covering regional councils and politics, two decades serving on municipal boards and committees, serving the last four years on the county’s library, museum and archives board, serving the past two years on the local source protection committee. Plus being a contributor to Municipal World as both feature writer and book author on municipal issues. Plus owning and operating a successful local retail business for a decade which taught me much about financial management and budgeting.

3.What is your vision for Collingwood?

Answer: A return to open, accountable and ethical government will allow us to rebuild our tattered reputation, and restore public faith in town hall. A return to proper fiscal management will allow us to take on projects and initiatives for the betterment of the people and the town.

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My responses to residents: 2

Questions? I have answers.NB: As a candidate for Deputy Mayor in the upcoming municipal election, I receive questions from residents about my stand on various issues and policies. I will post my responses here for everyone to read. My responses are in italics, below.

Hi Ian,
Where do you want the hospital to be built ?

It’s not where *I* want the hospital built that matters – it’s where the hospital’s staff, consultants, planners and board identified as the best place after many months of surveying, studying and planning. They are the experts, not me, not anyone on council.

It’s the site with the best access for ambulances and helicopters, land to grow in the future, and which serves the region best. The current site would lose its helicopter landing access if it built up on that property.

The hospital consultants and planners said that the best site was on Poplar Sideroad. And that’s the site the council should have supported. It’s a mere two minutes from the current site by car, but it addresses the hospital’s plans for our future healthcare best of all three sites surveyed. And because it’s beside Georgian College, it provides an opportunity for the college to expand its own healthcare education programs in concert with the hospital.

Site number two was in Wasaga Beach, but I would hope that it stayed here. Council should have supported the hospital and not have hired lawyers and consultants to contradict the board’s decision.

My responses to residents: 1

Questions? I have answers.NB: As a candidate for Deputy Mayor in the upcoming municipal election, I receive questions from residents about my stand on various issues and policies. I will post my responses here for everyone to read. My responses are in italics, below.

One of my main concerns is development in the area. I do understand that development is important for the economic growth of Collingwood and builds a tax base. My concern is the natural area that makes Collingwood beautiful is shrinking especially with the future housing plans.

Is this a priority for you? If yes, what will you do to ensure protected areas remain protected and the natural beauty remains? If not, please explain.

Response: I too am concerned, but there’s not much any municipality can do because planning is controlled predominantly at the provincial level. Collingwood was designated as a growth area several years back, as part of the provincial plan to limit sprawl in more rural areas. The county also supports this, by the way. It means we see more residential growth than most of our neighbours. And yes it means increasing loss of greenspace.

Compounding this is the shift in real estate that has driven many homeowners in the GTA to sell and move outside the city – and with it a demographic change because many of these new residents are older and retired. That has driven up the market for housing and accelerated the growth in some areas.

Although growth brings in new money – and for a council that manages its finances carefully, that helps keep taxes low – it also means more demands on infrastructure and services, which can also raise costs for them. And few if any of the new homes are in the “affordable” range for many of our residents (especially seniors and low-income earners).

The Planning Act, the county’s Official Plan and our own Official Plan lay out what can be developed and where. Since all of this land is in private hands, we can only regulate it according to these documents: things like servicing, density, setbacks, roads, tails, parkland, etc. We can slow growth down through bureaucratic means, but not stop it indefinitely.

We even have little to no control over things like style and design (although last term I did manage to get a change to stop the building of ‘snout houses’ here). Last term I also raised mandatory tree planting in new developments, but it didn’t gain traction (I’ll try again next term).

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