THUNDER BAY – Change is coming to City Hall in Thunder Bay. Officially, today, November 30th is the last day for the current Council. On December 1st, Mayor Elect Keith Hobbs will begin the process of moving into the Mayor’s office at City Hall. The official swearing in for the new Council, which in addition to Mayor Elect Hobbs will include Ken Boshcoff and Paul Pugh, as newly elected Councillors will be on December 6th.
The new Council will likely build on what past Councils have been doing. The Crime Prevention Council is in place with Amy Sicliano already busy engaging our community in discussions. The Anti-Racism Committee is set in place, and the various taskforces are going.
Hobbs will have a seat on the Police Services Board, and likely from there, within the confines of the Municipal Act will be taking a greater leadership role on the Board. It is likely that role will include going to the community to build support for efforts he sees as important.
The real difference most people in Thunder Bay are likely to see is that Hobbs is going to be more out in front in the community. That change will be
It is likely that Council may have in addition to Hobbs atop the Council as Mayor, its own version of a “Senate” in place. Ken Boshcoff who has experience both as a Councillor and as Mayor in addition to his service as Member of Parliament will likely be a strong sounding board for many on Council. Councillor Boshcoff will have a wealth of experience to share on Council.
Those who say that the voters are always right, likely would agree that in voting Boshcoff atop the At-Large Councillors were sending the long-serving politician a strong message as to where they want him to serve our community.
The new Mayor will also present a different style to the city. Hobbs appears far more comfortable in the public than Mayor Lynn Peterson did. Peterson’s strengths were, from all indications more of a behind the scenes player.
Hobbs came to office on the strength of the legion of “Hobbits” who have formed a powerful online presence as well. Mayor Hobbs will have, through social media on Facebook, and the Internet a far greater connection with people in Thunder Bay than any Mayor in Thunder Bay’s history.
That new step will likely offer the new Mayor an advantage over Councillors who are not as engaged with citizens in our city. It is also likely; as the new Council gets going that more members of Council are going to start to engage online with residents in a greater degree of communications than in the past.
It is my view that in many ways, the election results this year demonstrated a frustration from voters. However rather than result in wholesale change on Council, that anger found, in Mayor Lynn Peterson a lightening rod. That is how Mayor Peterson saw her vote total of over 26,000 votes fall to 11,000 votes in 2010.
It will be interesting, to say the least, to see how voters in Thunder Bay react toward provincial candidates in the October 2011 provincial election. At the civic level, voters seemed to focus on the Mayor. It is hard to tell if frustration over the HST, and hydro rates will impact our two MPPs.
I would suggest however it is likely by 2014 if residents are not feeling fully engaged by members of this Council, that kind of voter frustration seen in 2010 will probably expand if things in Thunder Bay are not moving forward at a pace pleasing to voters. Much of that will likely be solved if Councillors follow the lead of Hobbs in community engagement.
However that is a still a long ways away. Right now the task at the civic level is getting, and keeping our Councillors focused on the issues that are important to the people of Thunder Bay.
That appears to be happening right now. If Councillors and the new Mayor work together with the residents of our community it is likely that both the Council and the residents will end up happy.