In the pre-election period Citizen Marat has tried to be as even-handed as possible and generally non-partisan. Now that we know the faces of our new council representatives (who, by the way represent and must work for all citizens now they have been elected – that, let us not forget, includes the 45% who wanted change on our town) the tenor of this website will shift emphasis a bit and concentrate on keeping a record of what happens in the months ahead and will remind citizens of Baie-D’Urfé just what we have been promised. As far as possible we will shine a light on the town hall – after all, someone has to “keep them honest” as the old saying runs.
We will continue the process started just before the election began, of attempting to take notes of council meetings that include useful information for readers about the nuts and bolts of important issues and a flavour of the discussions – these will normally be available within seven days of each meeting. If a rota of volunteer note-takers could be assembled that would take the pressure off an old revolutionary from the late 1700s a bit. Please send your offers to firstname.lastname@example.org
Firstly, Citizen Marat will henceforth eschew any continuing use of the term “TeamT” and face up to reality – they are now “The Council”.
Some members of the new Council promised us greater openness and a wish to be more “listening” in their new roles. It would be a symbolic gesture, but a hugely important one, if from the very first meeting of the new mandate the Council re-arranged the seating in the council chamber (assuming they are not going to move to a larger venue in future) so that the Mayor and Councillors all sit facing the citizens instead of continuing with the frankly disrespectful practice of sitting around the table with their backs to the people they represent. TURN THE CHAIRS ROUND.
It would be wonderful if the Mayor and Councillors would make themselves available to residents to meet and discuss issues of concern on a regular basis. How about setting aside a designated room, perhaps in the Fritz Farm community Centre or at the Red Barn, which Councillors could make use of to meet residents on a regular basis – maybe a commitment for all elected representatives to use the facility at least every couple of months. Comfortable chairs, a wi-fi connection, coffee perhaps. Somewhere to talk and listen and explain.
Now – here are some of the promises that the new councillors made in their election platforms:
Openness and Participative Democracy
Maria Tutino: … (will) work alongside citizens as partners in serving the Baie-D’Urfé community
Wanda Lowensteyn: Informing and involving citizens in decision making. An up-dated town website. Informing and involving citizens in decision making. An up-dated town website.
Andrea Gilpin: Posted a short video – http://wp.me/p9g4E4-az – in which she said she has heard people asking for better communications and that she has the ability to do something about it.
Thus, three members of the council, including the Mayor, made explicit statements of their intentions to be more open and to further involve citizens in decision making … encouraging intentions. I am saddened that the other elected representatives made no mention at all of this important subject. It is hard to believe that anyone in the town, whoever they voted for, would be against more openness and improved citizen participation.
News& Views is no longer adequate in 2017 – many citizens who have been discussing the future of our town in recent weeks have suggested the following. Will our new Council work to effect any of the following? We will be watching, but progress on the following ideas are a useful set of metrics by which to monitor progress.
▪ Finding ways to make News & Views available electronically, at first in parallel to the print edition and eventually to replace it. An electronic town newsletter has the benefit of immediacy, flexibility and reduced cost to taxpayers. An independent (electronic) town newsletter operating at arms-length to the council would be even better.
▪ Having informal notes of decisions taken at council meetings available on the town website (or elsewhere) no later than seven days after each meeting. These would not replace formal minutes, but would inform citizens of what the council is doing with minimal delay and they would include key points of discussion, pro and con, leading up to votes and decisions being taken. Everything must be out in the open.
▪ Some form of online topic-based discussion forum to inform councillors of the thinking of citizens.
▪ No major decisions, especially ones with financial implications, to be taken at any meeting other than a regular council meeting held in an evening to which a majority of people are able to attend.
Most new councillors have shown support for volunteer activities in the town – that’s no surprise and we trust it will continue. Not only saying “we support” but actively showing it by approaching volunteer groups and seeking to find ways to work together and provide much needed resources as required.
Parks and Recreation
Wanda Lowensteyn: Respond to community usage and needs while respecting neighbours
Linda Phelps: Review the Parks and Green Spaces plan with different interest groups.
There is a lot of interest in the development of this file. One very commonly expressed concern is that residents should have priority access to all sports facilities (especially tennis and swimming) over non-residents who happen to be members of clubs. A residents access ticket similar to the system in Beaconsfield has often been mentioned. Quite a lot of people are rather angry that we seem to be providing facilities for non-taxpayers … will this be addressed?
The idea of an extended season ice-rink and associated chalet facilities have not gone away.
Again, given the turn out at the earlier public meetings on the plans for our parks it is rather disappointing that councillors did not say more about this important issue in their election platforms.
This is the BIG one. Much is said – frequently said by the Mayor – of how lucky this town is to have so much green space and tree cover. And she is absolutely correct. For all that, words are not enough and the actions to counter the problem with ash trees was forced upon us rather than being a part of a tree policy.
The town must immediately set up a working group with a couple of councillors and several of the qualified, professional environmentalists/scientists in the town to start work on putting together a proposal for an Environment and Sustainability Plan for Baie-D’Urfé with specific one, five and ten year targets that we will commit to meeting. That means not just the human environment but also the wildlife and plant environment – improving and maintaining biodiversity and just making this town an even better place to live. This is not about politics – this is about the health of our environment and I am sure that everyone asked to become involved will set aside the past and work hard to make this a success.
Baie-D’Urfé has the experts who can do this living amongst us – seek them out and put them to work with an open and wide-ranging mandate.
I could go on … but these are enough of the more important items mentioned by our Councillors in seeking our support. Let’s trust them to get to work.
We will be watching.