Vote with your head
It’s one town’s quandary but it serves to make a broader point. Mere weeks from now, municipal election campaigns across the province will be in full swing, and on Bell Island, the Wabana town council just accidentally sold part of its water supply to a local businessman.
The Wabana situation is still bubbling along, with the businessman arguing the town should pay him thousands in rent to use a drinking water source the town and the province paid for.
The $400,000 water treatment facility was accidentally included in land sold to Jim Bennett and Beachstone Enterprises last year. Council sold the town’s old fire hall to Beachstone in an effort to save money on upkeep and repairs, but apparently sold more land than they had planned to.
In July, Bennett notified the town that he wanted $3,000 a month in rent for the water supply operation and would be imposing a $50-a-day late fee if the rent wasn’t paid.
The council is trying to figure out its options — but pretty much anything is likely to cost money.
And that’s why the timing of this story breaking publicly is so important — because decisions have consequences.
Over the next month, people will be deciding who should be elected to run their towns and cities in this province. Those new councils will then make decisions on town contracts, tax rates, and the list goes on.
Being on a council is thankless job; voters expect you to be available and answerable at all times, and they are quick to pile on if you’ve made a mistake.
Council decisions are not small decisions. Even in small towns, they can have big financial consequences. In fact, the smaller the council, the less a financial cushion there is for serious mistakes. At the end of the day, taxpayers are left on the hook for the decisions their councils make on their behalf.
So take the time to educate yourself. Look at the candidates in your area, weigh their experience and particular expertise, talk to them about how they would run your town, and make sure that their vision for the place where you live is one you can live with.
Does their vision view all growth as a good thing? Do tax dollars and permit fees glisten in their eyes with the first words from a developer? Do they plan for great things, or see their jobs as responsible stewards for the existing structure and size of operations?
Have they done it before? Have they got new ideas? Do they want a town that can live within its means, or do they want more means?
The September election is citizens’ only opportunity for the next four years to make their voice heard in the 276 incorporated municipalities in this province.