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Opinion, Dave Dale: Going for a stroll

It was a wild and woolly 85-column run, though, something I’m proud to hang my fedora on
It's hard for reporters and columnists to compete with a good cat video for clicks. This lynx crossed a backyard in Corbeil Wednesday afternoon, Feb. 15, 2023.

I’m putting my BayToday column on ice while focusing on several other priorities this spring. There is a possibility it will return, perhaps in a different form.

Some might think it’s a shame to stop now as the new city council begins to show some of its true form. I won’t get to write mischievous headlines like, “Mayor Chirico tenderized by council vote,” or “Mallah puts King in checkmate,” or better yet, “Vrebosch hammers Lowery’s twin pad plan.”

By the way, I’m almost positive delaying the vote to put the project to tender drove up the cost by pushing it further into the building season — as interest rates rise. The “no go” side likely won the chess game here, we’ll see when the quotes come in and at what price.

As for me, it’s hard to tell the future. I have so many dreams to fulfill and only about 15 more years before retirement (Freedom 72 has a nice ring to it).

It was a wild and woolly 85-column run, though, something I’m proud to hang my fedora on. It’s a decent collection, minus a couple of dogs.

Hard for me to judge whether this first Village Media package matches the overall impact of previous column runs, mostly with The Nugget. Mixing in videos of candidates before the provincial and municipal elections was a big score.

Column-wise, the most fun was stirring it up with a sports editorial at the Kapuskasing Northern Times, not long after touchdowns with the North Bay Independent. And you should see the editorials I wrote for the Anishinabek News for seven years.

Nugget columns started 20 years ago with the Inside City Hall series after a full year of cutting my teeth on the municipal beat, which included North Bay Hydro and North Bay Mattawa Conservation Authority during electric times. We switched it up later to Beyond City Hall, and I remember a lot of board meetings at Canadore College, Nipissing University, joint hospital and health unit (remember the turbidity of Trout Lake water leading to a $40-million filtration plant?). No lack of news to comment on those days.

Funny how tagging names to the series helped shape the general sense and expectation, although I am guilty of going far afield at times.

The Soapboxing series also had a certain style all of its own. Maybe it was my imagination.

Each of them ran for a couple years — including a twice-weekly marathon of creative ‘opinionating’ for at least a year. I’ll never brag, though, about my first online blog, Connecting the Dots, even though there were some interesting clashes with big personalities that made me giggle. In my defence, it was written while stoned on prescribed oxycodone most of 2007 and 2008 following a botched hip replacement attempt.

My final irritation, I mean, iteration of columns during my last couple of years with Postmedia was a regrettable roller coaster punctuated by institutional betrayal.

As for cooling my jets here, I knew it was a good decision on Wednesday afternoon when a lynx strolled through my Corbeil hacienda backyard. Perhaps it was a sign that moving along is part of the natural order.

I always said reporters and columnists shouldn’t be expected to compete with the clicks a good cat video drums up.

Weird that this BayToday series didn’t have a tag name, maybe next time. Suggestions are welcome, but better email them as I might not see your comment underneath. If real names were required to comment, I’d consider more interaction and readership debate that might make it more worthwhile. The current system doesn’t work for me.

And no, I’m not debating people on Facebook anymore. Why give that energy to the Meta machine? The goal is to build up news website visits so the advertisers get their bang for the buck (so journalists get paid). Time spent interacting under stories posted to social media doesn’t come back in revenue.

But that’s not why I’m taking a break from my BayToday missives. The brain capital spent on a weekly commitment like my column, which benefits from investments of time and effort, is significant. It gets in the way of the paid work I need to float the boat, so to speak.

Still, that’s not the lead reason to spike the series now.

Change is a constant spice in my life and I’m especially open to transition as the winter months begin to slip away. Call it a compulsion to redefine myself, polish the edges and plot a new course. And I’m not far from figuring out how it may all gel together as an optimum work/life balancing act — very close.

I certainly want to thank editor Jeff Turl for the opportunity to write the column, as well as the six-month stint from September 2020 to April 2021 as the Local Journalism Initiative reporter. I also appreciate reporter Stu Campaigne as my go-to for fixing typos and things that made their way past Jeff and me. Thanks also to Chris Dawson for his feedback and background.

Essential, as well, is the encouragement from BayToday readers who emailed me directly to share their appreciation, suggestions or constructive criticism. Even angry letters are good fuel, it shows people care.

One of my reasons for putting the series on ice was to reduce my overall workload to focus on my looming magazine deadline for the spring edition, on top of some other projects. Normally, I just pile the stuff on and trudge forward. Truth be told, I’ve been running on half a tank since an odd viral infection in early December. It was body pain and headache, no sinus or lungs and RATs were negative. It felt similar to the COVID in late September, although that featured fever too.

The headache remained through Christmas and didn’t leave with the New Year’s Eve hangover. January was like wading through a pool of Elmer’s glue. It gets worse the longer I’m on the computer, bend over to pick up something or exert myself (like shovelling snow, moving wood, etc.)

After seven weeks, the problem was bad enough to see a doctor for the first time in three years and had a CT scan Monday night (results not in yet, my buddy says they’ll find nothing, then giggles).

I’m betting it will dissipate if I stop watching council meetings on the city’s YouTube channel.

Asked for a leg x-ray while I was in the health care mood, the first time in 10 years. Felt a little wobbly a couple of times a few weeks ago. Also got my tri-annual blood work done.  My hat is off to the staff, nurses and doctors for gutting out the past few years and still managing a polite smile while dealing with the next wave of us coming out of the woodwork. Must be frustrating to endure the impacts of politicians creating a problem so they can impose a solution beneficial to their supporters.

Nothing but professionalism that I saw, albeit a limited exposure to only a couple of the many departments.  

There is one municipal issue, however, that I will follow through to its end whether writing for BayToday or not – and that’s the Stuffles Street road allowance off Ski Club Road, you know, the one between Mayor Peter Chirico and Sylvia Ross.

I’m standing beside the elderly but strong-in-spirit long-time resident who can demonstrate she has been given the short end of the stick in this situation.   

And believe me, I can understand the Mayor not wanting to give up the extra cushion of free public land between him and Sylvia. I moved out of Graniteville after six years because I am not good with neighbours, I get it. But right is right, between the two of you, there is a surplus building lot potentially worth more than $100,000. It seems ripe to be sold for the public good, as she contends.

My head would certainly explode if not one member of this new council has the backbone and ability to sort this out sooner than later. Give it some thought while digging into the sofas of the taxpayers for nickels and dimes.

I’m pretty sure my columns on this issue outlined quite clearly that the property is not needed for public access, it isn’t even on the new maps as such, and there is public access just a few doors down Ski Club Road on the utility line. There’s also the curious flip-flop in status documented in the letters from 2002 and 2005 giving off a pungent odour.

See: Glad to help busy council, staff

Nobody I know likes foul smells.

Just last week, the 84-year-old Sylvia limped into city hall again to drop off a letter asking the mayor and council to have staff reassess the property status. Her first request was on Dec. 5, 2022, and it went unanswered. I can only assume a higher priority got in the way — perhaps it was negotiating a retirement settlement with the now-former CAO (which the Stuffles Street sale could have covered).

I suggest, for what it is worth, the interim CAO not try to fast talk her, either. She isn’t to be trifled with, ask the Mayor.

Her latest letter, in case this one also doesn’t get in front of the elected officials as addressed:

Dear Mayor and Council:

This is a follow-up to my letter of 5 December 2022.  I hand-delivered my letter to City Clerk for processing to Council.

Although I have had no response to my letter, in early December I did observe surveyors on both the road allowance and on my property.  The surveyors appeared to be attempting to locate and mark survey pegs.


Two months have now passed.  May I ask whether there has been any progress by staff to declare the road allowance as surplus to requirements and/or any recommendations regarding a public sale?

Both as a taxpayer and as an abutting owner, my interest in this road allowance is continuing.  It is my understanding that no exemption can be allowed for private use of public property.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Yours very truly

Sylvia Ross 

I think that’s a good enough place to leave things for now. A bit spicy at the end, although that tracks with me. Thanks again to all those who encourage me to share my perspective while walking down this story-telling path. It keeps me going.

You’re welcome to drop by my booth at the North Bay Home and Garden Show at Memorial Gardens Feb. 24–26. You can share your story with me as I hawk magazines.

Dave Dale is a veteran journalist and columnist who has covered the North Bay area for more than 30 years. Reader responses meant as Letters to the Editor can be sent to [email protected]. Contact the writer directly, email: [email protected] or check out his website