KEEPING THE POLITICIANS IN LINE: WAS THERE ANOTHER WAY? Long before we brought the political fight out in the open, attempts to get our politicians to make a concerted effort to control the Town’s operating costs turned into an exercise in futility. I was naïve in thinking that at least some members of the Administration were genuinely interested in reducing costs but after months of private emails I realized that taxes and cost cutting were not their major concern. The experience of other residents who were trying to privately appeal to some of these individual councillors was similar to mine and soon we all learned that, despite the rhetoric, they had little concern about runaway municipal spending. During the 2010 campaign I was in email contact with Councillor McMillan, primarily discussing Policing costs; he maintained that there was absolutely no way we could save money by contracting our policing to the OPP and I was back and forth in in emails with him citing statistics indicating that there was ample evidence that would indicate huge savings. I began asking him if it was absolutely necessary to have our own K-9 unit since the OPP can supply that and many other services with their vast resources to which McMillan said that the police dog is almost cost free to the taxpayer since veterinary care and training are all taken care of free of charge. In response I asked him if he was telling me that, since veterinary care and training were not a cost to the taxpayer, the only thing remaining was food which would mean that the police dog ate almost $100 worth of food each week and I reminded him that we have individuals in our town who cannot afford to spend $100 on food in one week! His response was that it was good chatting with me and good bye. My numerous emails with Jill Beer regarding policing costs did not fare much better than with Jack McMillan. Jill had campaigned on pushing for an OPP costing proposal and I, as many others, were fooled into supporting her because we thought she was an ally in helping to reduce operating costs. In her case as well, I naively thought she was genuinely looking for ways to reduce costs and in that effort I was giving her statistical information which clearly indicated that our policing costs are far out of line with other communities. Following months of emails she finally told me that she had been “educated” by the Espanola Police Service Board that the best option for our policing is the Espanola Police Service and that there are no advantages, financial or otherwise, to contract our policing needs to the OPP. She went on to condescendingly tell me that it was time I “got myself educated” on the policing issue! I told her that I was quite well informed about this issue and that she should have expected that the self-serving PSB would do a sell job on keeping the EPS as our police force forever, regardless of the cost and that she should have done her own research on policing which would have brought her to a different conclusion. The Mayor totally ignored my appeals, I knew Howard would be a complete waste of time, Farbairn was weak, rarely responded to emails and eventually resigned. Newcomers, McMaster and Meikleham were the “odd guys out” who probably felt intimidated and bullied, who may have had honourable intentions but they were of not much help on anything. Out of the three main levels of government in our system (Federal, Provincial and Municipal), it is the municipal government which is the closest to the people, most accessible and should be the most responsive but that is not the case in Espanola. The various council members knew there was widespread opposition to spending $5-10 million on new municipal buildings and council was quite aware that the taxpayers want an OPP costing proposal but they ploughed ahead with the spending plans and did what they could to ensure that any future council’s efforts to reduce our policing costs will be expensive and complicated. For those who think that the solution to the political acrimony in our town is to simply communicate with our local politicians; believe me, we have tried, and my experiences, some of which I have referred to above, are similar to anyone who has asked these politicians any hard-nosed questions. They will tell you all about the Pumpkin Festival and the Rivermen and all the good things the Town is doing but, ask a question about all the restaurant eating on the Town’s VISA account or any other question regarding spending and see how far you get. When it became obvious that dealing with the issues privately was getting us nowhere, the time came to use the MNM as a sounding board in the letters to the editor section. The Administration must have felt the pressure because they soon met with the two local publications and now, the MNM, in which the Town advertises, no longer prints the ECG’s IN THE LOOP and ceased the printing of any letters which were critical of the Town. The Administration did its best to ignore us, we are cut out of the media, and that left us with FaceBook and the ECG’s website both of which can be effective but have limited access in our town. Many seniors and others do not have internet access and that makes it difficult to keep people informed as to how the Administration is spending our money and about our council’s unwillingness to make a concerted effort to bring our tax rate in line with other communities. Fortunately, the Around&About has started to engage in some political reporting and when the A&A printed a summary of Bill Foster’s studies on Public Works and Policing costs, it rocked our town. Now our residents are getting a clear idea of why our taxes are high and residents now know what has to be done. It has not been easy challenging our politicians…..they are our acquaintances, neighbours, co-workers and now, former friends. We all reluctantly got involved with this movement to hold our politicians accountable and to pressure them to make financially responsible decisions. The option of saying nothing, as we have for decades, had helped get us into this present mess and more of the same would further harm our town. What you see in the Facebook Group- We The Espanola People, the ECG website and the letters to the editor that were printed in the MNM are a direct result of our Municipal Government focusing on doing things for themselves or their friends and ignoring the wishes of the taxpayers. This Administration has brought all this acrimony down on themselves, which was totally unnecessary, and is completely of their doing. We would rather have not involved ourselves in the politics but we are no longer willing to stand by and let any politician recklessly spend tax dollars and further harm our community with high taxes which cripples our ability to grow. Fortunately, we have an election approaching which is our chance to bring some long term fiscal sanity back to Espanola. We have some excellent candidates who share the resident’s concern about taxes and those are Ron Piche for Mayor, Ray Dufour, Ron Duplessis, Heather Malott, Bob Sinclair, Bob Yocum and Bill Foster for Council. These individuals are well aware of what is on taxpayers’ minds and are committed to do what is needed to secure the long term financial health of our town.
Posted on: Tue, 20 May 2014 13:57:20 +0000
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