THUNDER BAY – I appreciated the comments by Councillor Frank Pullia, in his recent column, but I must disagree with the conclusion he presented.
Yes, everyone who is fortunate enough to be elected to office does bring with them their own unique perspective. However, the challenge of holding office is in ensuring that your own personal objectives do not take priority over the objectives of those who elected you to office: the voter.
As I canvass door to door I am inundated with concerns on the topic of voter disconnect. The voters I have spoken to certainly believe that their municipal officials either have not heard, or do not care about the concerns they, the voters, have about this community.
I do not believe a meeting that starts at the supper hour can remain productive into the wee hours of the morning. Some might suggest it shows an effort to reach desirable conclusions, but more likely it can lead to just the opposite. Human nature creates frustration, fatigue and a general desire to come to any conclusion at those hours. That can often lead to rash and ill-conceived decisions.
I believe the current wind farm debate is but one example. I believe every member of council except Larry Hebert who has declared a conflict, voted to proceed with this project. Why are we now dealing with issues/challenges that should have been discussed before an agreement was reached? I think it is short sighted to not recognize the increased likelihood of errors taking place during these marathon meetings.
Another drawback of meeting past midnight is how that information makes its way to the voting public. We receive our information from media sources, word of mouth or by attendance at council itself. Media deadlines prohibit complete coverage of council meetings.
I also do not believe many in attendance will stay until midnight, nor will many likely spend five or six hours watching council meetings on television.
Improving the efficiency of these meetings creates a more informed electorate and could increase the acceptance of council decisions by those same people who feel they are not being heard.
There are a number of contentious issues that currently exist and it is not my intention to debate the pros and cons of those in a column. My concern continues to be a lack of leadership with regard to how our community is conducting business and the vision we have for our future.
The continuing burden on the taxpayer to fund year after year increases is not what the majority of the voting public wants nor believes in.
That single issue demonstrates a strong disconnect within our community.
Most people realize that taxes are the foundation of the services we expect and rely on. We all accept the need for property taxes when we know they are being used in an efficient and effective manner. So why, when our community has benefited by an unprecedented influx of provincial dollars, and unprecedented funding from TBayTel, have our tax rates risen each year?
Many believe they have reached a breaking point.
I have spent most of my working life within the City of Thunder Bay, and I have had meetings with many different department representatives over the years. It is clear to me and to many who work within the city, that this disconnect also exists between management and employee.
We certainly can do a better job of utilizing our front-line resources and listening to our employees to improve service and reduce the burden on the taxpayer. There are ways to reduce the costs of running this community without sacrificing service or jobs. Fiscal responsibility must come back to City Hall by working together to build the kind of future we all want.
The citizens of Thunder Bay want to live comfortably in our city, pay their share of taxes, receive a reasonable amount of affordable services, and raise their families in a safe and caring environment. I do not believe those needs are being recognized. That is where the true disconnect exists between the leaders of our community and those they are entrusted to serve.
I know we can find a better way.
Candidate for Mayor
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