Get­ting down to work

Brief Brockville coun­cil in­au­gu­ra­tion fo­cuses on busi­ness

The Recorder & Times (Brockville) - - FRONT PAGE - RON­ALD ZAJAC

“Tonight my glass is half full.” With a speech in­fused by cau­tious op­ti­mism, Brockville Mayor Ja­son Baker hit the ground run­ning Mon­day night, putting through a new, cit­i­zen-in­volved com­mit­tee struc­ture, an­nounc­ing a new spe­cial com­mit­tee on the fu­ture of the tran­sit ser­vice and promis­ing a new “cit­i­zen fair” to make city hall more ac­ces­si­ble to the pub­lic.

The city joined mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties across the area Mon­day in swear­ing in new coun­cils elected in Oc­to­ber.

Brockville’s new city coun­cil was in­au­gu­rated in a brief meet­ing that was short on pomp and pro­jected a get-down-to-busi­ness at­ti­tude, with a piper and three red-serge-clad mem­bers of the Brockville In­fantry Com­pany his­tor­i­cal re-en­ac­tors pro­vid­ing the only ex­tra trap­pings of cer­e­mony.

City lawyer John Simp­son quickly ad­min­is­tered the oath of of­fice to all present, leav­ing Baker to make what he promised will be his long­est speech of the term.

He struck an op­ti­mistic tone while ac­knowl­edg­ing he has of­ten ap­proached life dif­fer­ently, see­ing the chal­lenge be­fore the op­por­tu­nity.

The city, added Baker, seems to have the same strug­gle, see­ing “the glass as half empty” while new­com­ers and vis­i­tors see Brockville in all its beauty.

The new coun­cil in­cludes three new mem­bers, Nathalie Lavergne, Cameron Wales and Matt Wren, as well as a re­turn­ing coun­cil vet­eran, Larry Journal, who is back af­ter a seven-year hia­tus.

Coun. Jeff Earle re­turns as the long­est-serv­ing city politi­cian, along with Coun. Mike Kali­vas, Jane Fullar­ton and Leigh Bursey.

“As a new mayor I am blessed to have a wealth of ex­pe­ri­ence to draw on,” said Baker, “Your ex­pe­ri­ence lets this coun­cil truly hit the ground run­ning.”

One of the out­go­ing coun­cil’s fi­nal acts was to ap­prove a new stand­ing com­mit­tee struc­ture in which mem­bers of the pub­lic will join elected of­fi­cials as mem­bers.

At the out­set, the cit­i­zen ap­pointees were all can­di­dates in the Oct. 22 mu­nic­i­pal elec­tion.

Journal will be chair­man of the new fi­nance and ad­min­is­tra­tion com­mit­tee, which will also in­clude Earle, Lavergne and cit­i­zen mem­ber Cec Drake, who ran against Baker for mayor.

The plan­ning and op­er­a­tions com­mit­tee will be led by Kali­vas, with Bursey and Wales as the other coun­cil­lors and Joy Ster­ritt as cit­i­zen mem­ber.

And Fullar­ton will lead the eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment, recre­ation and tourism com­mit­tee, joined by one other elected mem­ber, Wren, and ci­ti­zens Jes­sica Barabash and Tony Barnes.

As mayor, Baker will sit on all the com­mit­tees, which hold their first meet­ings Tues­day and Wed­nes­day.

The new mayor also an­nounced a new “tran­sit task force” is to be con­vened, with the job of mak­ing rec­om­men­da­tions “to help en­sure the sys­tem is main­tained and op­ti­mized both in qual­ity of as well as cost of ser­vice.”

Bursey, long an ad­vo­cate of the bus sys­tem, is to be the “point per­son” for the group, which would aim to get in­put from rid­ers of and front-line staff at both the reg­u­lar and para tran­sit ser­vices.

Dur­ing an all can­di­dates meet­ing in September, Baker was the only can­di­date who would not rule out a pri­va­ti­za­tion pro­posal for the city’s tran­sit sys­tem. He said at the time he does not nec­es­sar­ily favour pri­va­ti­za­tion, but stressed he wanted to know all the de­tails first.

Af­ter Mon­day’s meet­ing, Baker cited con­cerns about the tran­sit sys­tem dur­ing the re­cent cam­paign.

“Let’s have that dis­cus­sion and al­low them to have the in­put that they asked for,” said Baker.

The task force, which is to re­port by next Sept. 1, will not ask the ques­tion of whether to have the tran­sit sys­tem, but how to make it bet­ter, he added.

The new mayor drew on an­other part of the re­cent cam­paign for the idea of a “cit­i­zen fair”: A meet-and-greet style of can­di­dates meet­ing which he funded at the Me­mo­rial Cen­tre hall, also in September.

Baker said he is still fi­nal­iz­ing the de­tails of the meet­ing, which will al­low res­i­dents to speak not only to coun­cil­lors but also to staff mem­bers.

And he drew on com­ments made at a re­cent Com­mu­ni­ties in Bloom pre­sen­ta­tion to city coun­cil to an­nounce a new ini­tia­tive.

Be­gin­ning this year, the mayor noted, each coun­cil mem­ber will nom­i­nate and rec­og­nize a cit­i­zen, a busi­ness, fes­ti­val or or­ga­ni­za­tion to be rec­og­nized for their pos­i­tive con­tri­bu­tions to the city. Coun­cil­lors will present their awards at the fi­nal meet­ing of each year, with next Tues­day (Dec. 11) be­ing the first such oc­ca­sion.

“Although the chal­lenges ahead are daunt­ing, and we may not al­ways agree on the cor­rect path for­ward, we start this quest unan­i­mous in this one thing: Brockville is worth the ef­fort,” said Baker. Rza­[email protected]­


Brockville Mayor Ja­son Baker reads the oath of of­fice as he is sworn in by city so­lic­i­tor John Simp­son at the new city coun­cil's in­au­gu­ra­tion on Mon­day.


From left, Coun­cil­lors Nathalie Lavergne, Mike Kali­vas and Cameron Wales read their oaths of of­fice as the new Brockville coun­cil is in­au­gu­rated on Mon­day, Dec. 3, 2018 in Brockville, Ont.

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