A Bet­ter Ni­a­gara looks to its fu­ture

The Welland Tribune - - Local - DAVE JOHN­SON Nathaniel.John­[email protected]­a­garadailies.com 905-684-7251 | @DaveJTheTrib

A Bet­ter Ni­a­gara was a voice and watch­dog for Ni­a­gara res­i­dents in the mu­nic­i­pal elec­tions last year, but what its fu­ture holds is up to the cit­i­zens of the re­gion, says Liz Ben­neian.

Ben­neian and other di­rec­tors of the com­mu­nity group, in­clud­ing ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor Ed Smith, Den­nis Edell, Ken Kawall and Ha­ley Bate­man, were at Wel­land city hall Sun­day af­ter­noon for the group’s first com­mu­nity feed­back ses­sion.

“We want to touch base with cit­i­zens around the re­gion as we pre­pare to plan for the next four years,” said Ben­neian.

With nearly 30 peo­ple from the com­mu­nity present, in­clud­ing Wel­land re­gional and mu­nic­i­pal coun­cil­lors, Ben­neian and Kawall gave a brief pre­sen­ta­tion on A Bet­ter Ni­a­gara and its ac­tiv­ity up to last year’s mu­nic­i­pal elec­tion.

“We sup­ported 93 can­di­dates and tar­geted some re­gional can­di­dates we wanted to be un­seated. Of the 11 re­gional can­di­dates we cam­paigned against, nine were un­seated,” said Ben­neian.

Of the 93 can­di­dates the group sup­ported and en­dorsed, 47 were elected. The group had more suc­cess get­ting en­dorsed can­di­dates elected in the north half of Ni­a­gara than it did in the south.

“I think we had a pretty pro­found im­pact on what was dis­cussed dur­ing the elec­tion. Trans­parency, ac­count­abil­ity and in­tegrity were our fo­cus and it re­ally changed the con­ver­sa­tion dur­ing the elec­tion.”

While there wasn’t a huge jump in the per­cent­age of peo­ple who turned out to vote, Ben­neian said the group be­lieves what was seen was a more ed­u­cated elec­torate. Vot­ers knew more about the is­sues sur­round­ing the elec­tions.

“To­day, we want to hear from the com­mu­nity and what it thinks we should be do­ing to try and get bet­ter gover­nance in Ni­a­gara,” she said, adding the di­rec­tion taken will de­pend on com­mu­nity feed­back.

The group it­self had no set ideas but said it will keep on eye on all coun­cils, Ni­a­gara Penin­sula Con­ser­va­tion Au­thor­ity and the Ni­a­gara Re­gional Po­lice board.

After talk­ing about the group’s past, peo­ple were bro­ken out Sun­day into groups with a di­rec­tor to talk about ques­tions A Bet­ter Ni­a­gara had put for­ward.

Some of those ques­tions in­cluded: should A Bet­ter Ni­a­gara work to iden­tify com­mon is­sues through­out Ni­a­gara; should it pur­sue/ad­vo­cate for pol­icy is­sues; should it ad­vo­cate for a re­gional sus­tain­able de­vel­op­ment com­mit­tee; should lo­cal com­mu­nity groups be es­tab­lished in each mu­nic­i­pal­ity to mon­i­tor lo­cal coun­cils; should there be whistle­blower poli­cies in each mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties, among oth­ers.

Ben­neian said there are plans to meet with res­i­dents across Ni­a­gara. The next com­mu­nity meet­ing will be in St. Catharines. She didn’t have a date or lo­ca­tion for the meet­ing.

DAVE JOHN­SON THE WEL­LAND TRI­BUNE

A Bet­ter Ni­a­gara ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor Ed Smith talks dur­ing a com­mu­nity meet­ing in Wel­land Sun­day. The com­mu­nity watch­dog group was seek­ing pub­lic in­put on what it should plan for the next four years.

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