The public notice for public input on the 2017 Sarnia City Budget stated that any citizen, group or organization who wished to make a presentation on the 2017 budget was invited to the November meeting. They were ‘requested’ to notify the city clerk but ‘anyone in attendance will be given an opportunity to address Council on this matter’.
The public notice for public input on the 2018 budget ‘requested’ that any citizen, group or organization who wishes to make a presentation on the 2018 budget should ‘please register with the city clerk’s department’. Nothing stated that persons who did not register would not be allowed to speak.
Several organizations, who registered, were allowed to address Council. Others, who sat through five or six hours waiting for their turn, were not! The meeting was adjourned, leaving those who had concerns about the upcoming budget, frustrated and very dissatisfied. A gentleman who tried to speak to the chair over the din caused by the exiting councillors and staff was ordered by Councillor Scholten “Don’t you yell in my council chambers”.
Mr. Ken Swirsky, a long time resident of Brights Grove, was advised by two members of council that this was to be a ‘town hall’ meeting where people could address Council from the floor.
He had questions with respect to costs regarding the lagoons in Brights Grove where between $1 –2 million was estimated as cost to remediate the lagoons, or to spend $13M for a treatment plant. In the end, the $1-2M wound up at over $8 for the remediation.
Similarly, what was to cost $4.5M for the work at Centennial Park could end up costing $15M and “there are still no boat ramps”.
He queried that, based on the track record of the past 4 years with cost overruns and miscalculations of plans, what might happen with e-voting? He noted there are programmes costing as little as one hundred dollars. that could hack systems. He asked if there were safeguards in place for those who have pre-approved bank withdrawals. Also if there was an ‘emergency budget’ for the election in case there were problems.
Mr. Swirsky referred to the statement of Finance Director Lisa Armstrong who said that she was satisfied that staff revealed the cost and managed it as best as they could and that it was now in Council’s hands. He wanted to know if staff was qualified and experienced in the management of a big corporation or if the cost overruns could be attributed to ‘on the job training’.
As you can see, from the above, he had these and other valid concerns which Council ought to take into consideration in the upcoming budget.
However, he was not given this opportunity as were several others who were denied their right to speak.
The press left at 6 just as the public input session began.
Why were the mayor and councillor Dave Boushy, who chaired the meeting, not made aware that only persons who registered could speak? In the past, this has always been allowed.
Has the administration taken complete control of the city? Public opinions are suppressed and, it appears that the administration has the power and control. Aren’t administrators there to serve, not to control the city’s business? It looks like lines have been crossed as to who is in charge. People have to jump through hoops to be allowed to speak at Council meetings. What has changed in Sarnia and how does this compare to other cities and towns? How can a taxpayer be turned away? These new ‘rules’ have to be changed. Unless taxpayers get involved and refuse to allow things to be as they are, this situation will continue.