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Taking it to the Fifth

I refuse to answer on the grounds that I don’t know the answer . . .
20180902 city hall walton

The candidate Question and Answer series in the local paper has made interesting reading the past few weeks. While some candidates seem to be more articulate than others, having set questions that you can hone your story for is one thing – quite another to think about and answer the questions that will suddenly arise in overseeing even a small city like North Bay. The questions seemed fairly unbiased in the paper and it was good to see that there were a few differences in the candidate’s platform of ideas.

Thank heavens most candidates do not favour a ward system. We may be a geographically large city, but a town of 50,000 surely doesn't need the divisiveness that ward politics can bring to issues. Yes, the City fathers and mother seem to have ignored the old Ferris region at times, but in truth, it was the business community that left that area and moved to the north end of the city. However, in the case of the new ice pad(s) the mayor and council (and staff) seem hell-bent on moving it to the extreme south of that region. Funny, isn’t it, that the business community is going north and the council south.

The confusion about just which floor the Mayor’s office was on was interesting. Part of that goes back to the original design of the building. The City could not get funding approval for the project unless they added two floors (for rental) and gave up underground parking. Uninteresting as that is, what was interesting was that the original Mayor’s office was on the second floor, nearby to the committee rooms in the council pod. Now, this harkens back to the day when Merle was Mayor of All the People and his office door was open to everyone. The City Clerk and Administrator were all on the second floor as well. Times change and security dictated that they move away from the easy public access. Which in today’s era of protests is likely a good thing.

But taking the Fifth to the top where the buck stops, has become a bit of a problem lately. We understand that personnel and property matters are confidential but tying up the Memorial Gardens fiasco in a personnel issue just didn’t smell right to the curious watchdogs of our money. Virtually selling the Gardens to a businessman somehow appealed to the old guard. Make no mistake, it is not about the hockey, as entertaining as it is, it was and is about the money. How is that investment of public funds working out, you might ask.

Which brings me to the Baylor Study. Of course, all candidates have read it and understood what the report was saying. It was good stuff – all except the public perception of Council’s openness and transparently.  At least one of the old council had the gonads to say that was not true – council never hid anything from the public. It was the public’s job to sort out the facts, if you could get them. Unless you were the dreaded former Taxpayers Association.

Strategic plan – sure, everyone read it and understood it. Every organization should have a strategic plan and cities are no exception. It is good stuff for staff and councillors, along with a consultant or two, to do a strategic plan every five or six years. You get to write all these dreams of what a city should be and how, magically, you can make them happen. Then after it has been duly published, you put it on the reference shelf.  On to the next project – maybe a staff evaluation of procedures and efficiency would be a good idea.

I think all of the candidates have come to the realization that we are not going to attract that ’big’ company to the Near North which is just south enough to be perfect. One thing we have going for us is that we are an aging population. Not just here but especially in the GTA. A recent news piece suggested that seniors are finding it too hectic and too expensive to live in the Golden Horseshoe and are looking for a retirement haven. Why not encourage some of that money to come north? The tradespeople will love it; the health and exercise community will prosper, and drug stores will be filling prescriptions like never before. Shucks, we might even be able to open up some beds at our hospital to repair those old bodies. Okay, that might depend on Doug and Vic.

Anyway, interesting times with less than two months to the election. I’ve removed one name from my list and added one other. I still have room for one more X – just saying.