By Stephen Vance, Editor
With slightly less than seven months until the municipal election, just one candidate has formally declared that their name will be on the ballot, that being current Councillor Harley Greenfield.
A couple of others have been kicking the tires, or dropping hints that they will run such as Councillor Gerald Shortt who back in January said that if he does run, he will be campaigning for the Mayor’s chair.
When looking at the make-up of the current group of council members, I can’t help but think that there is something lacking.
There is certainly a nice mix of male and female councillors, though it wouldn’t hurt to have one or two more of the fairer sex taking a seat at the council table.
The representation of rural and urban Meaford is also in pretty good shape with two of the seven members of council living in Sydenham, and one other on the fringes of urban and rural Meaford. I’d suggest that it would be a benefit to have an additional representative from outside of the urban area, and I often wonder why this municipality doesn’t utilize a ward system to ensure a fair distribution of council members throughout the entire municipality.
What seems to be lacking though, has to do with something that all seven of the current council members have in common- they are all over the age of 50.
Nothing against the over 50 crowd, but to have a truly balanced council it would be nice to see one or two members who are in their 30’s or 40’s. This issue has even been raised by some current councillors who have expressed a desire to see some young guns around the table.
Our modern world moves at a fast pace and is ever changing. Technology has completely transformed how every day jobs get done, and that will continue. Some younger blood on council could help provide insight and understanding of how best to utilize modern technology to the advantage of the municipality.
It would be refreshing for example to have a councillor who would provide residents with updates and information by using vehicles such as Twitter, or even Facebook. Or imagine a councillor encouraging their fellow members of council to consider having council meetings available through webcasts.
The new municipal website that is in the works could offer an excellent opportunity for councillors to hold virtual town hall style meetings where residents could log on and participate in a discussion with one or several council members about local issues.
One of the problems that has been pointed out time after time with respect to our council is the lack of communication with the public. If we had some younger representatives at the council table there would certainly be some fresh ideas, and some creative solutions brought forward that could produce effective communication strategies that wouldn’t involve creating mounds of paper, or require residents to fire up the car to drive to a public information meeting in the frigid winter months.
There is also something to be said for having members of council with school aged children as it can be all to easy for a council consisting of only members over 50 to overlook, or not understand the needs of working parents in the community.
A perfect example of this lack of understanding occurred when a delegation came before council last year to request that the municipality better utilize the arena, and at the same time better serve the youth in our community by opening up the arena to host youth oriented activities such as roller blading during the summer months.
Here was an excellent opportunity to provide a safe venue for youth to get away from the X-Box and instead get some physical activity, yet the response from council was rather ho-hum. The only member of council who exhibited any sort of enthusiasm for the proposal was also the only councillor who has young children. Add one or two more 30 or 40 somethings into the mix, and I would suggest that there would have been not just interest, but people to champion the concept.
One of the challenges of a small town like Meaford is providing activities and venues for school aged children, and high school youth that will interest and engage them. A younger member of council would not only understand this, but would also bring to the table ideas and suggestions of what those activities should be.
I’m certainly not suggesting that we want seven 35 year old councillors. What I am suggesting is the need for balance. The demographics of this municipality are such that we’d be foolish to not have significant representation on council by people in their 50’s and 60’s (and beyond). But we also need to have some younger councillors with fresh ideas, modern perspectives, and refreshing energy.
So as we move ever closer to the campaign season, if you know of a bright, articulate, energetic resident in their 30’s or 40’s who has some street smarts, some tech smarts, and a love for their community, why not suggest to them that they consider putting their name forward for a seat at the council table.
Our community would be the better for it.