And The Race is On! ...Sort of
Meaford voters will actually get to vote in the upcoming municipal election, but don't get overly excited just yet.
In the past week we gained a candidate in the run for council when local real estate agent Mike Poetker filed his papers with the clerk, formally declaring his candidacy.
While that would have given us three candidates seeking election to the position of councilor, and with just three more candidates we would actually have been able to vote for council, as of this moment we only have two candidates for council. Confused yet?
Councillor Harley Greenfield decided late last week to withdraw from the race for council and instead has filed his papers to run for Deputy Mayor leaving just current councillor Lynda Stephens and Mike Poetker in the run for a council seat.
So if we are going to be able to actually elect our councillors we still need at least four more candidates to declare. Anyone?...Anyone?
If there are other potential candidates out there, they had best get their skates on since we now have just 18 days before the nomination deadline.
What we do have at the moment is a race for Deputy Mayor, and it could prove to be an interesting race as both candidates have much in common, yet have some major differences.
Who am I kidding? There isn't really anything exciting about this race for Deputy Mayor at all.
Harley Greenfield and Gerald Shortt both failed in their election bids in 2006, but are both current members of council as they were appointed to their council seats after resignations of elected council members.
Both Greenfield and Shortt are lifetime residents of the municipality and both are experienced councillors.
Greenfield has more than 10 years council experience and has previously served a term as Deputy Mayor.
Shortt served five terms as councillor in the former St. Vincent Township and was also Reeve for six terms. He was also the first Mayor of the newly amalgamated Municipality of Meaford, and served in that role for three years.
Both of these candidates have expressed frustration with the size of our municipal staff, and have made it clear that they think that we could cut some staff positions to lighten the financial load a little.
Where these two candidates do seem to differ, is in how they view their role as members of council. While Shortt would like to have a finger in the pot of every project, and would be more than pleased if council were able to vote on every action that staff takes, Greenfield seems to lean toward trusting staff to do the jobs they have been hired to do, and sees the role of council as that of a governing body that makes decisions, offers direction, and then allows staff to get things done.
Greenfield's take on the role of council is much more in line with what the Ministry of Municipal Affairs says the council role is and should be. Shortt it would appear, doesn't trust staff much. He feels that spending had gotten out of line, and that the level of service has declined - particularly with regard to the condition of our roads - a popular gripe of Councillor Shortt.
Shortt in recent years has been the member of council who has been watching the pennies, and has continually found himself on the wrong side of a 6-1 vote count. But his lack of success in swaying his fellow councillors hasn't seemed to discourage him, and at every meeting Shortt arrives armed with a laundry list of questions and concerns designed to highlight what he sees as mismanagement of municipal funds. If the candidate you are looking for is one that will refuse to spend a penny on anything, then Gerald Shortt could be the Deputy Mayor for you.
Shortt's penchant for watching the pennies though, often causes him to miss the bigger picture. And though he most definitely should be commended for his dedication toward righting the municipal ship from a financial perspective, such a narrow focus can be a recipe for disaster.
Given that neither of these candidates for Deputy Mayor have released any literature, or outlined an election platform thus far, we only have their previous performance to base any decision on their worthiness of our vote.
How do we judge their performance though? They are two members of council that were appointed to their positions part way through what polite critics might call a less than stellar term.
If you have kept any of the campaign literature from 2006, we can always take a look at what these candidates were saying four years ago.
For his part, in 2006 Greenfield had put together a fairly comprehensive outline of what he would like our council to accomplish. Here are some of the things that were on Greenfield's priority list during the last election campaign:
Hold at least 4 council meetings per year in former Sydenham area; 2 in Bognor; and 2 in Woodford. Also increase number of committee meetings in western part of our great municipality.
Well, that hasn't happened, though this council has been clearly making an effort to ensure that special public input meetings have been held at Woodford Hall.
Harmonize Garbage and Recycling collection on same day, initiate cardboard pick-up in urban area.
We do have cardboard pick-up in urban Meaford now, and the garbage and recycling collection has been revised.
Examine possibility of early retirement packages for more veteran employees by bringing in younger staff. The municipality will reduce wages (and accompanying benefits), and eliminate lengthy Holiday periods that negatively affect work schedules.
We had an operations review that was conducted in part by an independent consultant as well as a citizen task force, and what was found was that the staff level in this municipality was adequate for the services and level of service being provided. The task force basically told council that if they wanted to cut staff, then they would first need to decide which services they would like to reduce or eliminate completely.
Ensure the Meaford Hall is a marketable facility for hire, with a level playing field for all potential customers, while guaranteeing the building offers attractions affordable to all members of our community.
Depending which camp you ask this has either been accomplished, or we haven't come close to accomplishing this.
Councillor Shortt on the other hand even in 2006 was focused mainly on finances, saying “After amalgamation, I was the first Mayor of the Municipality of Meaford and in those three years, we had significant surpluses of Municipal taxes because of very careful spending practices. The last three years when I was not in office, tax dollar requirements have gone up from $5,313,105.00 to $5,450,000, and a very small surplus in the year 2005. I believe in full Council participation in all issues that come before it, and not left to administration staff only.”
It might be of interest to some that our “tax dollar requirements” have more than doubled since Shortt made that statement. In addition, in the four years of this council we had three deficits that amounted to some $3 million, and we began the 2010 year with a debt load of $9,946,170.
Those are facts, and it is easy to point to, and complain about facts. But if you are going to declare your candidacy, and if you are going to express frustration with what you perceive as the failings of the municipality, then it would be wise to have your solutions clearly outlined and ready to debate. We haven't seen or heard of any solutions as of yet – aside from merely putting a stop to spending – which is not a solution at all.
We may finally have a race, and we may actually get to vote for at least one position on our next council, but something is lacking. Something is missing.
Perhaps I am being selfish and greedy, but I've been hoping for something more. I'd like some real choice. I'd like some candidates who have some fresh and progressive ideas for moving our municipality forward.
I'd like to see a candidate who when they file their papers already have their campaign platform ready to distribute so that those of us in the media can let the voters know what the candidates are all about.
This 2010 municipal election is shaping up to be a pretty ho-hum affair.
In the words of Melvin Udall- “What if this is as good as it gets?”