Councillor Moss said at the Council meeting following the delivery of 749 counter petitions opposing the B2B borrowing bylaw that he understood that the community was saying something, but he wasn’t certain just what was being said. Councillor Hambruch seemed to believe that if only they were given the opportunity, the silent majority would throng forth and embrace the project.
Obviously neither they, nor the rest of their colleagues on Council (John Jackson excepted) had any perception of the popular mood concerning the issue, since even the scaled-down borrowing referendum at $1.3 million was soundly defeated.
I am concerned that Council will characterize this defeat as the work of a few rabble rousers. That would be a serious mistake.
My view is that the referendum was defeated because the electors did not want their taxes increased by any amount at this time; there is no appetite for further grandiose projects. B2B also became a symbol of a Town Council that refuses to accept that our community is in acute recession.
The project became emblematic of the failure of the Town administration to share the pain that the great majority of businesses in town are facing, and to reduce town expenditures, just as restaurateurs, professionals, retail outlets and hospitality owners have all had to do.
The referendum result demonstrates that Town Council is disengaged from the current mood of the community. Notwithstanding a late closing drive to sell B2B, including flyers, open houses and the like, the administration was unable to rally even 15 per cent of the electorate to support the project.
Despite claiming that it wishes to hear from the taxpayers and take their views into account, this particular Council seems to have developed a tin ear. It has, for example, no meaningful committees on which talented member of the public can participate to influence decisions , preferring to staff its committees with paid managers and councillors: the converted preaching to the converted.
If Town Council wishes to regain its leadership role in the community, then it must move now to address those issues that are troubling the electorate, of which the B2B debate was symptomatic. These issues include the unhealthy relationship with Urban Systems, the need for a fresh look at the OCP (official community plan), and the overstaffing of the Town office.
To assist in bringing forward citizen perspectives on these issues, a number of us intend to form an ongoing Committee of Responsible Electors (The CORE). The mandate of the committee will be to promote fiscal responsibility and accountability within the Town Administration.
The committee will probably work mainly through email and Facebook, but an organizational meeting will be held at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, September 25, 2012 at the Golden Seniors Centre. It is expected at this meeting that there will be discussion on current Town staffing levels and a report on Urban Systems billings to the Town will be presented for discussion and endorsement.
Bruce F. Fairley