Municipal politics: Step up or shut up - Denny Scott editorial
Politicians have lots of different backgrounds. While some politicians dabble in public relations or commercial endeavours before running for office, others consistently run business into bankruptcy after inheriting millions. Some, however, started out sitting in front of a computer (or with a pen and paper in hand) as journalists.
From the outside, some might think it’s easy to see why it happens. Journalists have to sit and cover meetings week after week, year after year, until they likely know the rules just as well, if not better than the politicians.
In every level of politics it’s easy to find some poor lost souls who used to be journalists who have joined the dark side.
Why the dark side? Well, we’ve seen what happens to journalists who have become politicians. At best, they’re quiet and do next to nothing because they know exactly how limited individual politicians are in their ability to effectively make changes. At worst we get senators embroiled in scandals because they thought no one would find out they broke the rules. They should know better than most that those kinds of transgressions always come to light. Despite that, there is some ineffable reason these journalists and retired journalists keep switching sides from those who tell the truth to those who spin it.
I’m not saying that I’ll never follow that path. Heck, once upon a time, I thought I’d try to follow in the footsteps of my great-grandfather, Senator William Golding. He was a municipal councillor and Mayor of Seaforth, member of the House of Commons for Huron South and Huron-Perth and eventually was named to the Senate. It’s not that I haven’t thought of throwing my hat in the political ring, it’s just that, after watching so many journalists fall off of that path, I’ve begun to wonder if answering the call to the dark side is worth it.
Take, for example, North Huron and Morris-Turnberry and the ever-present cross-border servicing discussion. You couldn’t pay me enough to be on either side of that discussion. North Huron Township Council is trying to protect and invest in the municipal water systems that exist in Blyth and Wingham while Morris-Turnberry is trying to get the least expensive servicing options for its ratepayers. Unfortunately, those two very reasonable goals appear to be exclusive.
Having reasonable reasons at odds with each other is a detriment to both councils, and it means that situations like the one unfolding surrounding Green’s Meat Market can drag on for weeks, months or even years.
For those unaware, Green’s Meat Market is a well-known butcher, slaughterhouse and retail operation. It’s an agricultural staple of the area located in Morris-Turnberry on the border of North Huron. The business’ primary structure, however, burned earlier this year.
While the location has relied on a private septic system and private well, the destruction of the building resulted in the Green family home, located nearby, being used as the business office. Due to the increased presence of people at the site, the Green family looked to hook into the North Huron water system, which abuts their property.
North Huron and Morris-Turnberry councils, however, were at an impasse with cross-border servicing and North Huron had issued a moratorium on answering any such requests until the issue could be resolved.
The issue is more complicated than what I’m presenting here. For example, there are reports that North Huron staff directed the Green family to start installing the infrastructure for the hook-up, leading to a potential wasted investment if the issue between the councils is never resolved.
Despite the intricacies of the situation, everyone seems to have their two cents about it and many people are casting shade at North Huron Council for not helping out the agricultural business.
However, it’s not as simple as North Huron simply agreeing to help out the company. To do so would be going back on a moratorium that was put in place for a good reason: to prevent any one-off hook-ups that are different from the municipalities’ eventual agreement.
There are plenty of customers of the North Huron water system who aren’t in North Huron. While they may pay more than North Huron residents, they’re also sheltered from any over-run in infrastructure expenses being paid for through taxation if reserves prove insufficient. Morris-Turnberry Council members rightfully don't want to pay more than necessary into infrastructure that isn’t controlled or owned by their municipality.
Despite how complicated it is, many people have said North Huron should just let Green’s hook into the system for the benefit of everyone involved, despite the precedent that sets. If you’re one of those folks, I’ll say to you the same thing that’s said whenever a decision made by a council is disputed: put your name on the ballot next time.
Last election nearly saw many acclamations as a result of people not wanting to be involved. If you know better than the people making decisions, feel free to try and take their jobs, just don’t be surprised if one or two of them give it to you willingly.