Straight-talk­ing se­nior sparks a re­volt

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - Opinion -

She never raised her voice or cussed.

She never slammed her fist on the ta­ble or called any­one names.

She never waved a plac­ard or threat­ened le­gal action.

In fact, she never made any de­mands at all. Gla­dys Bryan sim­ply told her story. And when she did, the 92-year-old widow sparked a re­volt in Summerside that very well may lead to a mu­nic­i­pal pol­icy change that many feel is long over­due.

Af­ter get­ting an ear­ful from more than 40 res­i­dents at a meet­ing on Wed­nes­day, city coun­cil­lors opted to re­view a ditch in­fill­ing pol­icy that’s sud­denly con­tro­ver­sial. But it all started with Gla­dys. She told the me­dia ear­lier this week she re­cently got a bill for well over $1,000, her 10 per cent share of the city’s cost of fill­ing in the ditch in front of her house. She al­most fainted, she said. She never asked for the work to be done. Liv­ing on a fixed in­come, she knew she couldn’t af­ford it.

Still, when the work was be­ing done on her street, the ditch in front of her home was filled in and she was ex­pected to pay up.

And even if pay­ments were spread out over 10 years, as city of­fi­cials of­fered, she said she’d still have trou­ble com­ing up with the money.

She doesn’t want to leave her home but with th­ese kind of un­ex­pected bills, she fears she may have to.

“(My hus­band) and I worked too hard to get it and we planned on our lit­tle bun­ga­low all our life so I’m go­ing to stand here as long as I can.”

Gla­dys fig­ures she’s paid enough taxes in her 92 years and that the city should be able to fill her ditch without send­ing her a bill.

So would she fight city hall, she was asked. No way, she replied. “I wouldn’t do that. I’m too old and I’ve got a ter­rific bad heart, pretty near blind. All I can do is talk and tell my story.”

Well, Gla­dys, that may well be enough. Af­ter her story was pub­li­cized, she soon found she had a lot of sup­port.

Two nights later, about 40 res­i­dents made it clear to city coun­cil they don’t like the pol­icy ei­ther. Some of them threat­ened le­gal action and oth­ers vowed not to pay the un­wanted bills.

Pru­dently, the city is tak­ing some time to re­think its pol­icy. Gla­dys and the oth­ers should get their an­swer be­fore Christ­mas.

In the mean­time, they won’t have to pay their bills un­til the pol­icy is set­tled, and new bills will not be is­sued. Who says you can’t fight city hall? I found Gla­dys’ can­did ap­proach to her prob­lem most re­fresh­ing, es­pe­cially on the heels of a suc­cess­ful pub­lic­ity stunt by anti-seal­ing pro­test­ers in Char­lot­te­town this week.

The anti-seal­ers crashed a fisheries meet­ing, climbed onto ta­bles and yelled and waved plac­ards to get their mes­sage across, care­ful, of course, to rant di­rectly into the rolling TV cam­eras.

Not only did they break the law but they man­aged to ma­nip­u­late the me­dia to get their mes­sage out. They re­sort to th­ese tac­tics, I guess, be­cause they usu­ally work.

All Gla­dys did was tell her story, al­beit with the cam­era rolling. I sup­pose it could be ar­gued there was me­dia ma­nip­u­la­tion there as well.

Per­haps, but the city was given and ac­cepted an op­por­tu­nity to re­spond and at least a few coun­cil­lors of­fered a spir­ited de­fence.

Fac­tual story-telling is al­ways good jour­nal­ism. A pub­lic­ity stunt like the one cooked up and car­ried out by the anti-seal­ers, not so much.

I hope Gla­dys doesn’t have to pay that thou­sand bucks and that she’s able to live in­de­pen­dently in her lit­tle bun­ga­low for many more years.

Clearly, her story won me over.

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