submitted by Victor Jarjour
For some reason, I cannot get out of my mind Brandon Mayer’s editorial of November 3 entitled “Much to be Proud Of”. I generally agree with his conclusion. Or do I and is that why it sticks in my head? Things are pretty good in North Grenville, but is pretty good good enough? Should we be satisfied with mediocrity?
There is no doubt that the municipal election of 2018 was a turning point when the entire Council was booted out of office. I remember referring to that administration as a tax and spend Council after its decision to increase our taxes by 6%. The Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) of the day defended that decision by arguing that the only alternative to increasing taxes was to borrow more money. I was stunned by that statement and that Council would turn to the CAO to defend its own decision. Clearly the tail was wagging the dog. They totally lost me after that debacle, and it seems the majority of the electorate felt that way as well.
I sensed that the new administration that we elected in 2018 was well intentioned and sensitive to being judicious with our tax dollars. Certainly, they accomplished a good deal in their first term, and most of Council warranted being re-elected. I could not vote for Mr. Barclay, however. I had dealt with him on an issue affecting our neighbourhood and though he seemed sympathetic, he fell for one of the oldest tricks in the bureaucratic handbook. That is, take a small problem and make it look so big that it’s best to do nothing.
Also, I thought Mr. Barclay was too quick to espouse the efficiency of the Public Works department, to which he was named the Council liaison. He wrote in this paper not long into his mandate that they “run a tight ship”. That may well be the case, although the experience with the issue mentioned above argued otherwise. But when I asked how he assessed that, nothing. He did not point to any performance measures to back up that statement. He simply ignored the question. So, to me he became a Councillor prepared to defend the interest of the bureaucracy over the interest of the taxpayer i.e., the tail wagging the dog yet again. But democracy has spoken and I need to grin and bare it.
We are faced with important challenges. The location of the Ottawa prison on prime agricultural land, across from schools and a daycare and near more schools and daycares, is unjustifiable. The expansion of 43 is long overdue. Can our infrastructure, which in my mind includes schools and health care, handle the huge growth in our population that will result from the developments? Don’t these housing developments contribute to more commuters and is that consistent with our self-described green image? It seems rather duplicitous to me.
We are seeing huge swaths of trees being cut down in the municipality. How does that fit with the green image? My daughter refers to some developers as climate change buffoons! Is she wrong? The development that I am well aware of included a tree protection plan, yet the red pines were essentially clearcut. It is abundantly evident, now that most lots have been developed, that many trees should have been left standing. Complaints to the municipality at the time of the carnage were ignored. Are we really doing justice to the green image that we are trying to portray in NG?
While we may have much to be proud of, this is no time to be complacent. We need to expect more accountability from our representatives at all levels of government. Mediocrity is not enough.
While I disagree with Mr. Jarjour’s assessment and conclusion of the neighbourhood issue he writes about, I agree with the thrust of his Op-Ed. We need to strive for excellence (not perfection) as a Council and a community. As far as representing the interests of an individual or neighbourhood against the community as a whole, I wrote about that fine balancing act here: https://ngtimes.ca/being-on-council/