Coun­cil needs a sim­ple 2018-22 road map

Here are my thoughts on four stops that should be on that tour

Standard-Freeholder (Cornwall) - - FORUM - ED ALLARD

We’ve done our duty and a new mayor and coun­cil are ready to take of­fice in a few more weeks.

The ma­jor­ity of those who did vote clearly voted for change and some re­fresh­ing change is what we now have in the off­ing.

All of the can­di­dates have their own ideas on what they want to achieve over the next four years. It will be the mayor’s task to try to build a con­sen­sus among the group on ways to achieve some or all of them, some­thing I know she is ea­ger to work on.

What they should not do, though, is be­come over­whelmed with an un­man­age­able list of pri­or­i­ties, be­cause his­tory shows that doesn’t bring suc­cess. In­stead, they should fo­cus on a hand­ful of things to achieve by the end of term – a sim­ple list that vot­ers can use as a re­port card on their ef­forts come the next elec­tion.

Here are four things that I would put on that list. First: the water­front. It is our most prized pos­ses­sion af­ter all, even though most of it isn’t Corn­wall’s, yet. The time­line for trans­fer­ring the land is in the fed­eral gov­ern­ment’s hands, so be­yond our con­trol. Ide­ally, it’s within the next four years. Con­sul­tants are al­ready busy gath­er­ing in­puts for a re­port on what use can be made of the land.

Coun­cil it­self should re­ally fo­cus its ef­forts else­where to be­gin with. It is un­likely the land will come to the city with­out some strings at­tached and those strings will most likely in­volve Ak­we­sasne. Ak­we­sasne will have lit­tle in­ter­est in throw­ing a wrench into the city ’s plans or in ac­quir­ing the land for it­self, but that doesn’t mean it won’t have an in­ter­est in the process.

So, there needs to be some early po­lit­i­cal un­der­stand­ing with Ak­we­sasne on what sort of use would be ac­cept­able to and ben­e­fit both com­mu­ni­ties. That may not be an easy process, but it is a crit­i­cal first step re­gard­less. Some of it may be un­der­way, but it needs to be brought out into the open.

Sec­ond: the in­fra­struc­ture deficit.

As we learned over the past year, there is a back­log of road, street and side­walk re­pairs in the or­der of $40 mil­lion. Hav­ing some level of back­log is a use­ful part of work pro­gram­ming, but the size in this case is not healthy.

It sug­gests we will face a sig­nif­i­cant num­ber of bumpy, bro­ken roads for­ever, with an en­su­ing im­pact on car and tire main­te­nance and, pos­si­bly, a con­tribut­ing fac­tor in road col­li­sions. It also leaves a bad im­pres­sion on peo­ple or busi­nesses show­ing an in­ter­est in our city.

Even though some work has been done this year, more roads, etc. are be­ing added to the list so the back­log re­mains about the same. Re­duc­ing it to a more man­age­able size should be a long-term goal.

A good short-term goal would be to re­duce the back­log by 10 per cent over the course of the next four years. That is not un­man­age­able – it means find­ing an ex­tra $1 mil­lion per year to add to the in­fra­struc­ture bud­get or 1.6 per cent of the over­all bud­get.

Third: po­lice and fire ser­vice wages.

Even though Coun. Mark Mac­Don­ald will no longer be around to harp on salary is­sues re­lated to th­ese two ser­vices, the fact re­mains salaries are and will con­tinue to be an is­sue. The city can wait for the prov­ince to fix the real cause, the arbitration sys­tem, but that could be a long wait and may not de­liver in­tended re­sults.

Mac­Don­ald aimed to pun­ish the fire and po­lice chiefs by forc­ing them to shrink their or­ga­ni­za­tions to mit­i­gate the wage in­creases, over which they had no con­trol. That didn’t sit well with Mac­Don­ald’s col­leagues – although man­agers around the world are hav­ing to deal with sim­i­lar re­al­i­ties daily. The is­sue is whether the fo­cus should be that nar­row or whether city ad­min­is­tra­tion as a whole should make those ad­just­ments – there will al­ways be some room for some change in a large or­ga­ni­za­tion – or whether the in­creases are the price of do­ing busi­ness and should be passed on to the tax­payer.

Coun­cil should ad­dress this is­sue early on be­cause it will con­tinue to arise in ev­ery bud­get cy­cle. The staff mem­bers need some clear guid­ance on where the new coun­cil stands on the mat­ter so they can do some proper plan­ning. Fourth: an arts cen­tre. Sim­ply said, it’s time we had one. The city is look­ing for shared fund­ing from other lev­els of gov­ern­ment to make it hap­pen, so the time­line can­not eas­ily be con­trolled. In the mean­time, coun­cil needs to sort out how much debt it is pre­pared to take on given that we are still pay­ing for the Ben­son Cen­tre – the place that many were told wasn’t go­ing to cost us a dime. It should also let the arts com­mu­nity know just how much fundrais­ing would be suf­fi­cient to let the project pro­ceed.

And that’s the way I see it.

ALAN S. HALE/CORN­WALL STAN­DARD-FREE­HOLDER

Bernadette Cle­ment watches the re­sults of the 2018 Corn­wall elec­tion on tele­vi­sion, ex­pec­tantly, on Oct. 22. She will lead the 2018-22 coun­cil as mayor.

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