Midlandcommunity.ca - 101
It is important return to our roots now and again to make sure we remain aligned with things that mattered in our early days while recalibrating with those that matter today.
Five years ago, a small and caring team of 8 individuals formed a group called Midlandcommunity.ca. Today we enjoy a monthly communication to over 800 concerned residents.
Below is our “purpose” statement as it appears on our website:
“Midland Community.ca” is a community–based citizen’s group interested in:
– A tax and policy friendly community
– Accountable and competitive delivery of municipal services
– Providing timely and relevant communication to the community-at-large through its website http://midlandcommunity.ca
Through its actions, “Midland Community.ca” strives to promote and influence fair taxes, efficient municipal services, sustainable growth and economic development. In short, maximizing Midland’s magic.
Guiding principles: Transparent, selfless, respectful, involved, supportive, constructive and responsive to community needs.
Since our inception, we have participated in two municipal elections. As a result of greater community engagement in local affairs we have seen our elected representatives focus more keenly on things that matter.
When we reflect on our purpose statement, we conclude our key goals remain relevant today.
1) Tax friendly and competitive: While tax increases now average 2% or below, the previous decade of excessive spending added $2-3 million to the cost base - this despite no growth! We must remove this excess spending to create a resident friendly and business friendly environment. Police, Fire, Parks & Recreation (including NSSRC) together comprise almost 60 % of the operating budget. It is clear all three operating models require a major review and overhaul.
2) Policy friendly: We have been very critical of previous councils and staff for introducing new policies that often exceed provincial standards. The septic inspection policy, back flow prevention and the SPP (Source Protection Plan) are three examples. The first two have been debated and should be fully corrected in the weeks ahead. The SPP is still in front of the OMB (Ontario Municipal Board). We are not yet convinced staff is motivated to get this one right.
Businesses do not like unnecessary complexity as it burdens them with additional administration and other hidden costs. Imagine Midland having different safety standards for vehicles before the Town let them operate on our streets.
3) Speaking of business, our third priority is to foster an environment that promotes economic development. Only when we get the first two imperatives right (fair taxes and friendly policy), can we truly advance the business of economic development.
Recall a well-known definition of insanity: do the same things again and again but keep expecting a different result.
The press and some interest groups have recently slammed Council pretty hard for looking at non-traditional opportunities to move the Town’s business forward.
This self-interest is unfortunate as we need real and meaningful change to get Midland back to work and recapture some past vitality and prosperity.
Appreciating the need for change and in light of our stated goals, I think it is timely to weigh in on some current issues:
- We support re-purposing the waterfront from industrial to mixed-use and the recent plans for development.
- We support looking at MPUC and deciding whether keeping it or selling it best advances the public interest especially given the Province’s direction to rationalize the number of electric utility providers.
- We support outsourcing Police dispatch given the high costs of local policing and the fact the Chief himself reassured the community there is no risk to public safety.
- We support Council’s resolve to reduce taxes and do not believe it is appropriate for Council to exempt charities, neighbouring towns, community groups, etc. from fees that others are obliged to pay. Local taxes place a burden on everyone and unfortunately place an even greater hardship on those who can least afford to pay.
- We support greater transparency in government and a higher standard of community engagement.
Quite frankly we find our ambitious Council, now six months in office, spending too much time in closed meetings and often lacking effective communication with the public. Citizens understandably become distrustful of governments that want to make all major decisions out of public view.
Just because Council can close meetings in some circumstances does not mean it automatically should. Midland Council should only close its meetings for very good reasons and should be able to fully explain to the public before the doors are closed exactly why Council thinks the meeting needs to be closed and what harm would result from keeping the meeting open. Mumbling magic words like ‘legal advice’ don’t explain to anybody why Council must close the meeting and nobody should be surprised when the public treats decisions that come out of closed meetings with a measure of skepticism.
We believe habitually closing meetings contributes to a lack of understanding by some in the broader community about the changes Midland requires and the good reasons for them. Council must always aim to over-communicate the facts and rationale behind its vision for Midland and its decisions to realize it. Conducting business in public whenever possible and offering open, full and timely communications is the very best way for Council to deal with those who would try to undermine real change and hinder prospects for sustainable growth.
Finally, a very special group of people in our community needs our help to realize their dream to compete in the Special Olympics national championships.
Town Council chose not to waive the rental fee for the Midland Civitan Hawks to support additional practices. Instead they instructed staff to find the funds within existing budgets: this was the right decision! In the meantime the community has stepped forward to financially support the Hawks’ bid to travel to the championships in 2016.
We encourage all readers to step-up and contribute whatever your budget allows to help these athletes realize their dream.
Please send your donation to:
People can send e-transfers to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Or directly into a bank account set up for Midland Civitan Hawks with the TD Bank downtown Midland: Account info: 3032-5233896
Roy Ellis on behalf of Midlandcommunity.ca