Starting 2014 with a clean slate…

OK, so I took a few pokes at people on Tuesday; today, we’re going to look ahead*.

This council has made several advances in its first three years, as noted by Councillor Chadwick: new rec facilities (leaving aside the process), improved public transit services, both in town and regionally, a fire hall designed for the next 30 years, and the beginnings of a road map for economic development.

And, to lead the municipality on the administrative side, a seasoned chief administrative officer with strengths in economic development and strategic planning, in place for the next two years.

So, what do we have to look forward to in the new year? Here’s what council will be focusing on in 2014:

Economic Development: Councillor Kevin Lloyd’s proposal to merge several organizations (Centre for Business and Economic Development, Small Business Enterprise Centre, Georgian Triangle Tourism Association, BIA, Chamber of Commerce) is an excellent first step, along with the development of a community profile, dedicated website, and a marketing plan (also in the councillor’s plans).

The key is the marketing plan; the Municipal Act is very prohibitive when it comes to what a community is permitted to do to bring business to the community (for instance, I don’t believe waiving development charges or offering other economic incentives would be allowed).

However — as Nobody pointed out in later posts, and what I believe is the goal of Councillor Lloyd’s initiative — it’s about positioning and marketing the community, and having a individual with strong marketing skills as the point person, and tapping into the combined expertise of the organizations that will be coming together under the umbrella of a regional business centre.

The key will be the marketing strategy to address growth opportunities and target businesses in that sector, ensuring industrial and commercial taxes are competitive, that a supply of serviced land is available (such as the DiPoce lands in the south-east end of town), and working with industrial landowners to market their properties.

There may be other innovative ideas out there beyond my ken; I do know an individual with expertise in municipal planning has launched a ‘think tank’ specifically to contemplate an economic development strategy for the municipality. It could be worth exploring, and it’s quite possible a hybrid of the proposal before council and what emerges from the think tank could be contemplated…

Budget: Will it be a 10%, or a 2% increase? Councillors — and municipal staff — will have their hands full over the next three months to pare down the increase in spending. Deputy-mayor Rick Lloyd has already cautioned it could mean a reduction in services, a municipal operation that can no longer be all things to all people. Will residents be ready to balance the demand for minimal property tax increases against the desire for enhanced services?

And, a few matters that remain unresolved…

Sprung Shield: I hate to hammer on this one, but it’s disappointing to see council — as a group (not individually) — bury their heads in the sand on this topic. Council needs to address the fact that it was not given accurate information the night they voted in favour of purchasing the Sprung buildings, that decisions had been made leading up to that night that were not communicated to council.

And then, to present the Sprung Shield to the community as a component of the building — without even any kind of apology or acknowledgement.

Community Unity: Yeah, like we’ll get that in an election year. A few of us who hang around the three-point line (out of necessity, such as local journos, or by choice) sense that this will likely be the nastiest, dirtiest municipal election in — at least — our memory. It will not be merely mudslinging; rocks, more likely. With pointy edges.

In 2014, my vote will go to the candidates who refrain from the smears and innuendo, the dark whispering behind backs. Let’s hope I don’t have to spoil my ballot…

OPP Investigation: Unfounded? No. More likely that allegations remain unproven, or, perhaps more appropriately, to be disproved. To claim them as unfounded would be to presuppose the investigation by the OPP’s anti-rackets squad.

But as long as it’s out there, it remains a dark cloud hovering over everything this council does. Let’s hope the police come to a conclusion sooner than later.

And personally

• In July, it will be the 70th anniversary of the crash of my grandfather’s Lancaster, and his incarceration by the Germans; it will also be 10 years in October since his passing. Gotta get this completed

• I think I’ve got my recipe for pork ribs mastered; time to take on the next challenge: pulled pork. My first effort on New Year’s Day wasn’t bad, but definitely some lessons learned for the next attempt.

• In 2013, I chopped nine minutes from my time over 10 kilometres in an outrigger canoe. I’m certain I can slice off another five in 2014…

• In 2014, I resolve to not rise to the bait (see below)…

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* Almost…

I have to address this one comment in Councillor Chadwick’s review of the year:

The incessant (and continuing) ad hominem attacks from local bloggers, political opponents, and, sadly a former, once-respected and admired friend, hurt and disappointed me personally, but the rest hurt the whole community.

As the ‘friend’, let’s remember this — the councillor started it with this post about media credibility and questioned my integrity as a journalist. He’s told mutual acquaintances that I’ve gone to the ‘Dark Side’, that I’m the Enemy. He may be the one to protest, but he’s also the one who jammed the knife into my back in the first place. Yet he gets to claim being hurt and disappointed…

The ad hominem attacks (publishing the opinion of friends as front page news) have only come from one direction; all I’ve done is present his words and actions in the context of things he’s said and written.

Fine then — I apologize. I apologize for thinking he should be held to account. After this, the resolution in 2014 will be to leave him alone…

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