Two terms ago, the public and media often referred to council as “the gong show” – no doubt from the number of inane comments and witless questions made at the table. One wonders if that nickname should not be revisited for this term.
This week’s gong for inanity goes to Deputy Mayor Brian Saunderson for his comments after a public presentation by a local developer about purchasing an unused bit of town land.
Saunderson clearly hasn’t grasped the procedure by which council members should not comment on or to delegations, and only ask questions of clarification. But why should he bother with such a subtle process when he can loudly alert his block of followers at the table how he intends to vote – in case they might stray from the party line.
Saunderson made his opinion about the delegation’s request known before council has received a staff report on it. He even voted against receiving a staff report. Don’t confuse me with facts, my mind is already made up… so much for that openness we were promised.
According to the story in The Connection, Saunderson said,
“My concern is not so much around the council table, but from the public. We have our strategic planning process out there and are very much hoping we will move forward with a harborfront (sic) plan as well. My position is I don’t think that timeline is fair to the public or achievable, I wouldn’t be supporting any idea moving forward with this until we’ve done our strategic plan or waterfront plan.”
One can only shake one’s head at this muddled statement.
First, it is disingenuous for Saunderson to profess to speak for the public when the delegation only presented the proposal on Monday and no one in the public has had time to comment. Not even his treasured strategic planning committee had any chance to comment.
Second, he shouldn’t be speaking in the the royal “we” since he only represents himself and his own perspective. One is reminded of a former mayor whose autocratic approach to politics proved highly unpopular with residents. No one likes autocrats who profess to speak for others without even the courtesy of consulting them.
Third, no matter how far “out there” the strategic plan is, it isn’t relevant. Nor is the habourftont plan. Raising these is merely a canard.
The small slice of empty property along Huron Street proposed for acquisition – Block 9 – is in the 100-year-storm drainage floodplain of the Nottawasaga Valley Conservation Authority and cannot be built on without considerable effort and approvals. It is a utility corridor, too. No sightline would be affected by turning it into a parking lot. Plus, under private ownership there would be public access through it where there is none now, and there would be a parkette for public use built at private expense.
It is the only piece of public land in that space, has no waterfront access, and is surrounded by private property. It’s a dead piece of land that has been unused and inaccessible for decades. Here’s the first chance we’ve been offered since the shipyards closed to change that.
All of the property in the harbour east of the berm and west of Sobey’s – aside from the narrow piece of roadway known as the spit – is private property. That property is already zoned, its uses listed in the official plan, and much of it has construction permits on it. It has been thus for the last decade. Neither council nor any “plan” can change that.
Here’s a local developer building on nearby private lands that were eyesores under previous councils, turning them into useful and attractive commercial properties that provide jobs and revenue for the town.
The town’s little, vacant property, as it is, currently generates neither. The town can’t afford to develop it or make its own park there. And as icing on the cake, the developer is willing to either buy Block 9 or trade it for a six-acre parcel behind the courthouse that could be used for public access to the water! This is a win-win for the whole community, the sort of proposal wiser folk would call a ‘no-brainer.’
But the Deputy Mayor made his negative comments and even refused to vote for a staff report that could answer council’s and the public’s questions about any issues and concerns – and provide suitable information for proper, informed decision making.
You think maybe there’s some dogmatic reason behind his comments, some hidden agenda driving him? That maybe the rabid anti-Liberal ideology that infected a previous term still determines how some members of council treat issues and development? That someone in the shadows is calling the tune? Or that personal agendas and private vendettas are still in play?
Why else make a snap judgment on something that would benefit the town – without even having all the information?
Fourth and finally, council was elected to lead, not grumble from the shadows or procrastinate over issues. The Deputy Mayor should stop trying to hide behind his fabled “plans” and make decisions. The town cannot stop its business and wait while his unelected friends cobble together their “plan.” Besides, that “plan” should be a high-level approach, not one that attempts to micro-manage individual pieces of property. That’s what the word “strategic” means.
Being negative for ideological reasons doesn’t make a good politician and certainly doesn’t make anyone a leader. It just means someone behind the scenes is pulling the strings and you’re just a follower dancing to another’s tune. Is that being responsible to the people who elected you? It certainly isn’t being accountable or transparent.
Unsurprisingly, neither of the local papers bothered to point out the positive opportunities of this offer, the history of the property, its current inaccessibility or the inanity of their beloved Deputy-Mayor’s comments.