A little off the top - Shawn Loughlin editorial
There’s no chance I was the only one who read over that quote from North Huron Reeve Paul Heffer in Scott’s budget story last week more than once with confusion and, frankly, fear when thinking about what the next four years may hold.
On that note, a few thoughts about the chaotic circus that has made North Huron a laughingstock among other municipal council members and neighbouring residents and anyone who reads this fine newspaper.
Back to Heffer. “We must remind ourselves that we are here to make the best decisions we can for all of North Huron,” he said. One has to wonder who exactly needed to be reminded of this. As someone who has unabashedly been gunning for the Blyth and District Community Centre since being elected to the big chair, perhaps Heffer is referring to himself? That’s a scary proposition. If a newly-elected reeve, with nearly his whole term ahead of him, needs to be reminded that it’s his job to serve the people of the municipality he was elected to govern, it’s going to be a long four years. But, then again, we have members on that council who are more concerned about gender-neutral language and blocking Pride flags than they are in preserving basic service levels, so I suppose anything is possible at that table.
I also got a kick out of Heffer, who declared himself as the unofficial Mr. North Huron in the year’s first chaotic budget meeting when he directed council to look beyond wards and think about the township as one community, later voting in favour of a motion to, basically, keep Wingham money in Wingham. Not-so-hot-so from North Huron’s Great Unifier.
Now, onto the budget. Again, I can’t have been the only person to get to the end (maybe; with North Huron Council, there always seems to be some unexpected drama lurking just around the bend, in addition to the status of Heffer’s tremendously leading and overly transparent request of a review of township arena costs) of this budget process and wonder what we were all doing here in the first place.
Sure, there are ups and downs in all budget processes: start high, end lower, add things, drop other things, please this department, disappoint that neighbourhood, etc. But what residents had to endure this year was a bit much. What a leap it was for us to go from a 21 per cent tax rate increase with no way around it whatsoever, aside from gutting everything that wasn’t a road or a piece of land where a house could be built, to where we are now. (Not in Blyth, of course, where the roads are in a state that’s shameful to the degree of embarrassment. But, right now, my daughter likes playing in all the puddles, so, I guess, keep up the good work - they might be all she has to play in by 2026.) Staff came in with a proposed increase of just over four per cent (which would have been a swing from the laughably-highest tax rate increase to among the lowest in the county), but, after correcting an error, settled at just over seven per cent.
How did they get there? Well, it appears they trimmed some things and reallocated others. Sounds like standard, budgets-gonna-budget stuff that perhaps could have been employed before whipping everyone into a frenzy and threatening to snatch from them everything they hold close - but hey, that’s just me.
So, not to fly the ill-fated “Mission Accomplished” banner just yet, but it’s nice to see that Heffer and other council members have been reminded (by the sounds of it) by many, many residents that council works for them, not the other way around, and that our money should be spent on the things we want.