Letter: “Thunder Bay’s Democracy is Flawed” – Ray Smith

Thunder Bay City Hall in Winter
Thunder Bay City Hall in Winter

Thunder Bay – LETTERS – Thunder Bay’s democracy is flawed.  It all starts with the make up of city council.  Voters only get to vote for 6 out of 12 councilors. Many councilors elected in various wards only have a mandate from a minuscule of voters.

Apart from this flawed system, taxpayers’ opinions even though sought after regularly by city hall  for the most part have been disregarded and ignored by the majority of council.
Here are a few examples over the last dozen years or so.
1. Over 7,500 signatures were obtained to have a plebiscite on whether the city should sell off prime public parkland at the waterfront to a private developer.  Request denied.
2. Thousands of taxpayers wanted a plebiscite on a proposed $120 million dollar event centre.  Request denied.
3. Over 5,000 signatures were obtained to keep Dease Pool open.  Request denied.
4. Many citizens including hundreds of seniors lobbied to keep Municipal Golf Course open.  Request denied.
5. City residents have been asking for a plebiscite on a new proposed indoor turf facility that could cost close to $50 million dollars or more.
Request denied.
6. Residents with leaky pipes have been asking city hall to address this problem.  Request denied. (The city has just been served with a $350 million dollar dollar lawsuit by the Leaky Pipes group)
Here are some of the reasons the city  used to deny a plebiscite on   these projects.
 1.They didn’t know what question to ask. 2. It would be too expensive. 3. There wouldn’t be enough time to get it on the ballot. 4. The public wasn’t capable of making an informed decision
This year the city conducted a survey regarding the proposed indoor soccer facility. The majority of taxpayers stated they were not in  favor of moving forward with this facility.  The results of this survey were ignored and led by Mayor Bill Mauro  city council pushed ahead with their agenda.
More recently City Manager Norm Gale  recommended that any decision on a new soccer facility be postponed until next year.  Mayor Mauro shut this notion down and along with just half the council would not even agree to a 3 month delay as suggested by Mark Bentz because of his concern over the effects of  Covid 19.
As it turned out councilor Bentz was right to have cause for concern over this virus and its effect on  the public both financially and health wise. Today Covid 19 cases are skyrocketing and Thunder Bay just reported it’s second death due to this deadly virus. More lockdowns are a distinct possibility as this virus spreads and  many citizens are struggling to stay safe and make ends meet.
With all this going on and the city moving to code yellow during the second phase of  this pandemic city hall has stated that the public has two more opportunities to provide input for the 2021  budget.  It is quite clear that city taxpayers are stretched to the limit both emotionally and financially.
The last thing on their mind is pursuing a $50 million dollar SoccerPlex that will put more pressure on the city to raise taxes and take money out of  funds like the Federal Gas Tax Fund, The Renew Thunder Bay Fund and the Accommodation Tax Fund and require a large debenture of at least $15 million dollars.
Mayor Mauro has stated “That we must do everything to protect and support the lives of the most vulnerable citizens in our community including seniors, people with compromised immune systems and respiratory ailments ”  A good start would be for him to right the ship and take his number one priority now,  a $50 million dollar indoor soccer facility ( same price as a new police station) off the table as suggested by the overwhelming majority of city taxpayers.
Many of the city’s most vulnerable citizens, some with serious health issues are seniors on fixed incomes with no one to help them and are now faced with additional expenses due to leaky pipes.
Higher taxes is not an option for many seniors and others as they are at the breaking point now.
Ray Smith

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