In a few months, Sarnia voters will take to the polls in an exercise that at the end of the day may result in many changes to the present makeup of our City Council. Whether or not any change at all will occur is anyone’s guess. What I as a taxpayer am concerned about, is the ongoing myth that our present council may be the worst council ever. I also get concerned when some suggest that our administration at City Hall is virtually incompetent when any evidence one comes across very clearly indicates quite the contrary. Having spent nine years on council, I can suggest with much confidence that the council today is one of the best that our City has had the good fortune to have elected. What our council has done, with one or two exceptions, and with the leadership of CAO Margaret Misek-Evans and her team have taken strides to bring Sarnia out of the past, and into a new and positive path to progressive prosperity. Our council studies and acts on solid recommendations from staff which have resulted in several new developments being proposed, the re-purposing of the former Sarnia General Hospital site, a new committee to study the future possibilities for Mitton Village, and the proposals being considered for Bayside Mall. A wizened group of individuals are leading our city into positive and well-managed waters, which are showing the results of collaborations between staff, and our council.
Recently, there were two documents prepared and released for the public…one, referenced as the “2015-16 in Review”, is a compilation of the accomplishments realized in Sarnia from exercises in internal briefings of the City Hall managers/staff. And there were many to be sure, notably in the way of road repair and reconstruction, as well as sewer and water main completions. One of the most major undertakings was the Sarnia sewer upgrade project regarding the Brights Grove Lagoons, which alleviates concerns as the proposed development of the former Brights Grove golf club continues its path forward.
Other asset improvements include items such as the purchase of four buses, improvement to parks and trails, including armour stone installation at Canatara Park to protect our beach, upgrades to the picnic pavilion and a general cleanup effort in the Tarzan lands.
It may not be general knowledge that in 2015-2016, completed subdivisions in Sarnia added 227 lots in various parts of the City.
Aside from the 2015-16 review, under the combined efforts of staff and council the 2017-2020 Corporate Strategic Plan has been adopted. This document highlights progress being made by our City to achieve various accepted goals, which is a factual living working document. Consisting of some 23 pages, it most assuredly accentuates the works being accomplished by City Hall staff, be they regular employees or Department Heads. As a matter of fact, when reading both documents referenced, one might be truly amazed by the good things occurring in our City Hall and spilling over into the City itself. The mantra of “Strength Through Collaborative Leadership” stands out in this document. A major change in 2016 was the Council decision to again become a member of the Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO), allowing for municipalities to inter-connect and renew the sharing of information with each other.
It is clear from present and projected private sector investments that Sarnia is on the right track, and so much of the success can be attributed to the inner workings at City Hall, where collaborations within and with our Councilors has been, and continues to be, ever-growing. While all projects having been completed or on the drawing board cannot be listed here, a quick count shows that in the past few years some 328 initiatives have been introduced, completed or on the agenda to be attended to.
For a comprehensive review of the two reports, and thus a reliable look at the accomplishments of your council and staff, both documents are available at City Hall or on the City website.
Perhaps the one clear negative feature of our Council, and our City as a whole is the continued reluctance of Mayor Bradley to become a true member of Council. His decidedly petulant attitude of possible elitism has preempted the need for him to address the sanctions placed on him by this council, resulting from his found responsible for the bullying and harassment of some of City Hall staff, and I strongly dislike revisiting the sad commentary associated with the resurrection of the said violations. Nevertheless, the Mayor’s refusal to attend any of the recommended classes is a slight to those affected by his actions, be they the injured staff and former staff, Council, and quite frankly the citizens of Sarnia. By not opening up the daily dialogue that could be of a constructive nature between himself and our CAO Ms. Misek-Evans, he disallows himself to be a part of the complete operations that are occurring on a regular basis within the City Hall proper. When observing certain comments made by the Mayor in various media sources, it is reasonable to suggest as clear that Mayor Bradley is awaiting his possible re-election, suggesting in the most recent issue of First Monday that “if re-elected, Bradley says his first recommendation to the new Council will be to hit the reset button by ripping down the wall and creating greater public access.”
An Opinion piece addressing the criticism of councilors years ago regarding the debates on purchase of CN waterfront lands provided insight to what the council of the day was experiencing at the hands of Mayor Bradley then, when the writer opined that “perhaps the mayor, for one, could try putting his ego aside once in a while and consider what’s best for the community.”
Operations and understanding of the various positions at our City Hall have been altered, in a positive manner since the revelations found in the Integrity Commissioner’s Report, and that of Lauren Bernardi, and changed for the better in clear and definitive ways.
“The Past does not equal the Future”.