By Stephen Vance, Editor
We’ve taken some heat recently at The Meaford Independent for our series of articles profiling municipal employees.
“What’s with the apologist crap in The Independent?” one reader wrote in a message in reference to a profile of Meaford Treasurer David Kennedy.
Some others have written to inform us that our municipal staff are nothing but a bunch of scheming crooks who are out to make our lives miserable.
I have to say that is just not the case.
Yes there have been problems in the past, there are problems now, and there will no doubt be problems in the future, but the folks that work for our municipality are just like the rest of us. They get out of bed every morning, walk the dog or get the kids ready for school, and then they head to work to do their jobs and to earn a pay cheque to support their families.
There will never be a time when everyone agrees with everything that any government body does, nor should there be such a time. It is not uncommon for The Independent to hold the municipal feet to the fire over a proposed policy, or a decision of council that we don’t agree with.
That is what democracy is all about. Everyone has the ability to express their views and to be critical about what governments say and do. But just because we may not agree with something that is being done by our local government, doesn’t mean that the people who work for our municipality are deserving of being demonized.
Our municipality has had a rough several years beginning with the amalgamation of three separate and distinct communities, and continuing through dealing with municipal deficits, increasing taxes and general turmoil.
At some point we all need to take a step back and ask ourselves if things are improving, or getting worse. At The Independent we feel that things are indeed getting better.
Where once our municipality was accumulating deficits, we are now running surpluses, where we were at one time experiencing a large amount of turnover in our municipal staff, Meaford is now attracting and retaining qualified, capable employees.
Does that mean that everything that is being done by our council and municipal staff is wonderful? Far from it, however slowly but surely things are improving.
It can be hard to let go of the past. Several people in our community have been neglected, shunned, hurt, and ignored by this municipality and it is understandable that it can take time for those wounds to heal.
But the time for healing and moving on is now. There will never be true progress unless even those of us who have felt betrayed by our local government are willing to set aside the negativity of the past and if not embrace the work being done to improve things, at least be willing to reserve judgement as our staff and council work toward implementing change.
The conspiracy theorists will tell you that Meaford is still running deficits, and has not actually cleared up the previous deficits that had accumulated to more than $3 million. While I love a conspiracy theory as much as the next guy, this view is not supported by facts. The fact is that the staff in our municipal finance department have not only cleared up those deficits, but they have also been working very hard to find cost savings in several areas including the recently reported savings found by renegotiating the municipal insurance plans.
Meaford’s financial state is audited each year by an independent third party, and it has been clearly stated by the independent auditors over the last two years that Meaford’s financial state is improving.
We may not agree with how municipal staff and council are doing their jobs, we may not like higher taxes, and we may feel that not enough has been done to cut wasteful spending from the municipal budget, but if we are better off today than we were yesterday or last month, or last year, then that is at least a step in the right direction.
I am not one to simply defend the municipal administration for the sake of maintaining a tranquil existence. On several occasions I have made it very clear that in the opinion of myself and The Meaford Independent the municipality has dropped the ball, or has done something that is well…just plain stupid, but with the right to be critical also comes an ethical duty to give credit where credit is due.
The sky isn’t falling folks. Yes it is still overcast, and there is always the possibility of showers that can build into thunderstorms. So we should all carry an umbrella, we should do our best to weather the small storms, but we should also realize that there are far more sunny days than there are cloudy days.
Does this mean that we shouldn’t be critical? Certainly not. When we are being critical we are making it clear that we want to be heard, we want our opinions to be recognized, we want to have our views respected.
I think the staff who keep our municipality running want the same in return.