Straight-talking senior sparks a revolt
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.