Midlandcommunity.ca APRIL UPDATE:
April was a busy month for Midland Council.
Council had a number of important agenda items to consider including financial matters, strategic plan etc. For a variety of reasons, less important or completely avoidable items often consume a disproportionate amount of meeting time.
When regular meetings of Council are not optimized, it results in “special” Council meetings. Our concern with “special” meetings is they are often not attended by all members of Council and are equally difficult for members of the public who have their calendars booked weeks in advance. They come with minimum notice to the public and are never televised – resulting in the public being ‘kept in the dark’ on important issues. By definition “special” meetings always deal with important issue(s) or they would not be held at all. Council owes the public better than this.
This also illustrates the need for Council and staff to have a laser-like focus on advancing the agenda, discipline to defer items that are not time sensitive and an obsession to prioritize things that matter most to the people of Midland.
1) Three deputations to Council – April 27th: a) Healthy Community Design b) Huronia Airport Operations c) Waypoint Centre for Mental Health
2) Public meetings: The Public spoke to two important By-laws affecting transparency, efficiency, our cost base and in one case our desperate need for growth.
a) Procedural By-law amendment: The writer personally addressed Council on this item. Council is wrestling with the notion of using technology to accommodate councilors where work conflicts make it impossible for some to attend every meeting. The issue here was whether to allow a councillor who was not physically present to make his or her views known to the others through using conference calling, Skype or similar electronic solutions.
In response, staff prepared a less than satisfactory report and corresponding By-law, which if approved, would have made the process of engagement and transparency even more restrictive. It is our view the proposed By-law should be ignored and Council should direct its efforts to getting more important work done. This is an item Council doesn’t need to talk about again this year.
b) Backflow Prevention: We have written numerous times on this By-law and the suggested amendments. This and several other Town By-laws exceed Provincial regulations for the exact same subject matter. This harms Midland’s prospects for business development and growth.
Several concerned citizens spoke eloquently to the issue and Midlandcommunity’s full deputation can be found by going to our website –midlandcommunity.ca. The speakers were passionate, on point and in the final analysis clearly demonstrated to Council this additional backflow regulation is unnecessary, costly and fails to do what it purports to do.
In our view, the By-law should be repealed in its entirety and Midland should take its guidance from the Ontario Building Code requirements. Thank you to the members of the public who took the time to address Council and those who participated in our poll – in addition to the speakers, 85% of you agreed with our position at the meeting. We look forward to Council’s positive and progressive decision on this item.
3) Fire: The Town is currently looking to fill the position of Fire Chief. We understand discussions are being held with neighbouring communities to explore a model that would see Town Fire services managed by a single Fire Chief. We welcome this kind of creative thinking around shared local resources given the interdependencies and the common economic challenges facing smaller communities.
4) Police: The Midland Police Service continues to struggle with plummeting revenue, high costs, protracted drama around the outsourcing of dispatch and other internal matters. We are concerned that legal costs in 2015 will continue at the unprecedented levels seen in 2014. The new Police Services Board seems motivated to take us to a better place and we hope it can successfully reduce spending here.
On behalf of Midland residents we appeal to the Chief, the Unions and the Board to reduce the noise and figure out success the old fashioned way by putting customers first and embracing timely, respectful and honest conversations to solve problems.
Once again the Police budget is the “outlier” in the Town’s pursuit to reduce spending while maintaining services. Midland Police have consistently seemed unable to play ball on the bigger Town team. This puts enormous pressure on other departments and their ability to deliver services to our citizens. Council and the Police Services Board need to pursue every reasonable opportunity to reduce the cost of policing our Town.
Roy Ellis on behalf of Midlandcommunity.ca