Democracy needs choices in order to work says reader

To the Editor:

In the forthcoming municipal election, October 17-24, we have an opportunity to change the future of our community, and a responsibility in voting to remember the past. In my opinion, current council has failed the public. It has failed:

… because of its support for the use of museum trust funds to purchase a property with a historic house for demolition and development by the nuclear industry in an inappropriate part of Southampton, despite public opposition by 86% of 1,600 respondents to a public opinion poll. The use of the trust fund for this purpose was later determined by the Ontario Superior Court to be a breach of trust;

… by not protecting the 19th century streetscape of Southampton, resulting in the painting of a mural that defaces the historic streetscape;

… by its decision to redefine Significant Woodlands and Environmental Hazard Lands in Southampton to allow for more residential development;

… by its decision to build a splash pad in the North Shore Park, despite opposition by over 1,700 respondents to a public opinion poll;

… by the offensive way in which it dealt with people while having the steam train removed from the Main Beach in Port Elgin;

… by its decision to select private investors with no prior experience in such an undertaking to commercially develop the Main Beach in Port Elgin; by its continued support of a development that has been ill-defined, fluid and more industrial in appearance than beachy; and by its failure to engage the public in decisions about the location, functions, footprint and design of that development;

… by its continued support of commercial development along the Highway 21 corridor through Port Elgin resulting in unrelieved ugliness of the commercial strip, despite the existence of Design Guidelines that could be used to mitigate the impact;

… by its support of large expanses of dense housing, such as near the Independent Grocer, which is creating suburban sprawl and turning Port Elgin into just another mishmash that can be seen anywhere and everywhere; and, finally …

… by its support of a “culture” in the municipal offices that celebrates the number of building permits awarded and the monetary value of those permits – as if a scoreboard of success. The result: ad hoc growth (building lot, by building lot, by building lot) that is ruining the character of what used to be a desired place to live on the coast of Lake Huron.

On these issues, some members of council and senior members of municipal staff have been autocratic, arrogant and both dismissive and insulting to those who disagree with them; critical council decisions have also been made in secret.

The next council will see the return of several previous members – the Mayor, Vice Deputy Mayor, and both Southampton councillors, all “re-elected” by acclamation (not to be construed as an indication of public approval). So the opportunity to change the direction of council hinges on five contests: for Deputy Mayor and four council positions representing Port Elgin and Saugeen wards. The question for those running for office: what will you do to shape change and growth in ways that would protect the original character of the community?

For democracy to work there must be choices. There may not be enough choices in this election.

Peter Storck


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