Coffee shops in Sarnia are thriving since Mayor Mike Bradley had his key to Sarnia City Hall taken away three years ago.
“Business people, developers and taxpayers prefer to meet me at coffee shops rather than go through the security and hassle of City Hall,” says Bradley. “Sometimes people in the early stages of a project want to meet with me before involving City staff,” says Bradley who is only allowed in City Hall during business hours.
Bradley hasn’t had a key to the building since being charged with harassment by Chief Administrative Officer Margaret Misek-Evans and Clerk Dianne Gould Brown. The City spent $411,000.00 on lawyers and an Integrity Commissioner to resolve the matter.
Since then City Hall has been turned into a “fortress” says Bradley with security cameras, a wall separating his office from Misek – Evans and pull-down bars so there can’t be any entry to offices after hours.
“I’m getting a sense the public disagreed with the Integrity Commissioner’s verdict and Council’s decisions and they want change,” says Bradley noting 28 candidates are seeking four Council seats and 12 are seeking 4 city/county seats in this October’s election. “That is unprecedented”.
He says the election is a referendum on staff, spending and how this Council ran City Hall and he predicts the outcome could be tough for the four incumbents. Anne Marie Gillis is running against Bradley, Cindy Scholten – Holt and Mike Kelch aren’t seeking re-election but Matt Mitro, Brian White, Bev MacDougall and Andy Bruziewicz are back on the campaign trail.
They along with Gillis were instrumental in docking Bradley’s pay for about $20,000.00. installing security cameras and building the much-debated wall on the second floor of City Hall.
Through it all Bradley says he kept doing his job.
“Look I’ve made mistakes but I’ve never forgotten I work for the people. Sometimes I think the top administration and this Council think the public works for them. That’s why there are so many candidates this year, change is in the air”.
Bradley says, “every City Manager in the past would seek my advice and the advice of Council but that hasn’t happened with this administration, and that’s what I objected to. We had an open City Hall. It was open to the public. Now, we have a wall and security cameras everywhere. People can’t even call in and get a human being on the phone”.
Over the past four years this Council has opted for more debt, less service and more employees,” says Bradley adding, “I could go on. There is a toxic hill next to Centennial Park, the park is an eyesore and the boat ramps should have been upgraded but instead were ripped out and rebuilt at some outrageous cost”.
If re-elected Bradley says he will push to have the wall removed, the reception desk reinstalled and will suggest to the new Council that during summer months City Hall be open on Saturdays.
“Before all this happened we had an open City Hall and I want to go back there. Out of this election I hope we get a new Council that works for the people”.
Bradley says the mood in the community is one of change. “People are cranky. They want a Council with common sense and I think they are going to get it”.