A local citizen is calling on community members to sign an online petition encouraging municipal officials to "step up and help our city," in the face of escalating social issues evident in North Bay.
The author of the petition is Jane Kelly, who as a new business owner in North Bay made a scathing presentation last fall to Council raising concerns about the state of the downtown and the city as a whole.
See related story: Owners say new business 'is guaranteed to fail' in 'Walking Dead' downtown
The petition's author is "expressing concern for the total inaction of this City Council and requesting a possible audit of the North Bay Mayor and Council," by the provincial government. Comments "pertaining to the Mayor and Council on Facebook by concerned, local citizens," have been included in the correspondence.
"Our once fine City is currently under siege. The citizens of North Bay have slowly watched our City deteriorate as a result of crime, homelessness, addiction and mental health issues. The Mayor and his Council have remained silent despite the desperate pleas for help from the residents of North Bay who have been very vocal about wanting something to be done to help to reduce the issues we are currently facing on a daily basis," reads the introduction to the petition circulating on social media.
"Your signature on this petition will be forwarded to the Province in support of a request to hold North Bay City Council accountable for the safety and well-being of its citizens," it reads.
Some of the solutions offered by Kelly include closing several methadone clinics situated in the downtown core; centralizing support services to an area away from the downtown core; and, reopening the Ontario Hospital location in a "suitable" location — all of which would require cooperation between levels of government.
Kelly says she was advised by a local councillor they would speak to the police to see if there was a mutual interest in holding an open forum/town hall meeting but "no follow-up has been provided and it has been several weeks despite several reminders requesting follow-up."
Meanwhile, when contacted by BayToday, Mayor McDonald responded officials "recognize that there are concerns about issues of homelessness and addiction within our community and we have been actively working with our social services partners to help address these challenges.
"The challenges are complex and require a national strategy that will assist all communities struggling to find solutions."
In September 2019, Mayor Al McDonald held a three-hour closed session of more than 50 attendees from 30 local organizations to discuss issues including addiction, homelessness, mental health, discarded needles, and poverty.
See related: Mayor’s Roundtable brings a sense of hope
McDonald says the roundtable identified the need for transitional housing, implementation of needs-based planning and 24/7 community supports. As a result, North Bay has seen additional emergency shelter, support services and outreach within the community — including the Healthy Community Ambassador Program; low-barrier shelter; transitional housing units; four new police officers; and, needs-based withdrawal management services on King Street.
"We recognize more needs to be done and we will continue to work with other levels of government and with health and social services professionals to find solutions," added McDonald.