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Council must move forward, not backward: Mayor Mertens

To the Residents of Prince Edward County,
Our County is at a crossroads—a crossroads in the way your municipality is governed, how it makes decisions and the way it represents your needs, your interests and your dreams for this community.
As Mayor and head of Council, I am the only elected representative of all residents of Prince Edward County and have an obligation to speak out.

For more than seven years, a great deal of effort, time, money and precious resources has been spent on the size of council and method of representation. Various committees have investigated, analyzed and examined the issue and have made recommendations. We have received opinions and endured a challenge to the Ontario Municipal Board.
In the absence of a decision we asked you to decide. The issue was put to you, the electorate, in the form of a question on the ballot in the municipal election in 2010 that asked:
“Are you in favour of Council commencing a public consultation process to review the size of Council for Prince Edward County?”
Until then, many said the size of council or the inequity of representation didn’t matter to you. They said you were content with the arrangement established at amalgamation.
But you told us in a very clear way on October 25, 2010 that this does matter to you. Eighty one per cent of those who answered the question said they wanted this term of council to review the size of council.

This is an issue that has consumed council and Shire Hall long enough. Time is running out if we wish to make a change for the next election. It is an issue that threatens to hang over another term of council unless we act.
In response to the wishes of residents, earlier this year Council agreed to embark on an innovative method of public consultation. Over three Saturdays this past summer a group of randomly selected County residents gathered to consider this issue and make a recommendation to council on the size of council. The Citizens’ Assembly was a very good cross section of our community—balancing gender, geography and demographics.
They recommended 10 councillors and a Mayor. This was the view of 81 per cent of the Citizens’ Assembly members.

I am taking this rare opportunity to speak to you directly about why I believe it is important for this council to move forward and not backward.

• The first, and by far the most important reason we must move forward is because that is what you have asked us to do. We asked you for direction—you answered. Now we are morally compelled to listen. Our credibility is at stake.

• A random selection of County residents whom we have asked to consider and deliberate on this single issue have recommended a smaller council

• Council can and should work more efficiently and effectively

• We must do a better job of balancing representation between wards—otherwise outsiders will do it for us

• A five-ward electoral system will ensure all residents have more than a single councillor to speak to and represent them at Shire Hall

• Historical boundaries are not, and will not be affected by revisions to electoral districts. Council is moving to enshrine our traditional communities to ensure they retain the very important role they play in delivering municipal services, programs and the County’s rich cultural identity.

• We have more representatives per person than any other local government in Ontario. With this large and unwieldy group it is difficult and slow to reach consensus and make decisions. A more appropriate council size will enable us to make decisions more efficiently without sacrificing appropriate deliberations.

It is time we acted. It is time for your council to listen to you. We have done the exhaustive research. We have consulted widely. We have debated long and hard. If council is unable to make a decision in this community to fix the imbalance in representation this time, it is likely that outsiders will impose a costly solution upon us, without our input and without our approval.
It is in our hands. I ask each of you to talk to your member of council. Tell them what you want for Prince Edward County.
Peter A. Mertens, Mayor
County of Prince Edward

Filed Under: Letters and OpinionNews from Everywhere Else

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  1. Mark says:

    Well as I predicted it sat on the back burner far too long and time ran out to devise an effective plan to reduce council size and keep those old wards happy. I guess the only question left unanswered is if a plan to address the imbalance will be forced upon us.

  2. Brian says:

    Mr. CAO/Mr. Mayor Its times when we pick up the Wellington Times and read such articles as Lunch Break (this weeks story from Merlin Dewing) that only proves why there is such lack of credibility from Shire Hall….
    Paid lunch – note1) Merlin says that individual employees are giving up their paid lunch. In fact it was only Shire Hall staff and mngt. that had this paid lunch.
    2) Merlin says that such saved money will be going towards and reinvested in training programs? In fact ever since Merlin came to town he has been saying this and yet only a couple mngt positions have had this opportunity. When the unionized employees filled out the paper work in regards to hoping to get this opportunity they have been denied. Thus loosing good employees.
    3) Merlin says its cheaper to contract out many jobs? Fact it cost approx. $95.00 with a dump truck and plow at overtime rate. When speaking with contractors there price is $150.00 plus a standby rate of $200.00. Well I don’t know about you but I can add and this is no savings to the people. Other municipalities have tried this and soon realized that after loosing their employees and selling off equipment it.
    So Mr. CAO/Mayor continue to TRY and pull this crap over our heads its not working the only thing its doing is proving a point that you continue to fill us with propaganda and you wonder why we question each and move yous make. Credibility is nil…..

  3. Mark says:

    I had read the NEW Plan 3 pager. It does not address the concerns I have in regards to the Picton Ward i.e. possibility of no local urban representation resulting in Picton being reptresented by 3 rural councillors,it could work opposite and the 3 small townships could be represented by 3 councillors from Picton, and the disconnection from Hallowell which surrounds it and is the natural growth and expansion area. If the largest urban ward in the County is left unrepresented I would much prefer to go to a County wide ballot.

  4. Wolf Braun says:

    >>>Prince Edward County needs a good solution, widely supported, not just a fast solution.

    Agreed.

    A good solution would have to be in keeping with the core purpose of our municipal government. In other words, a good solution has to adhere to the key reason why we have a municipal government. We also need a set of principles to guide our councilors when making tough decisions. I don’t see either a purpose and principles for running our municipal government.

  5. Wolf Braun says:

    That would have been my first guess Gary. But, I dislike guessing. I like my elected officials to be very clear in their communication.:-)

  6. Gary Mooney says:

    I’m afraid that some members of Council are trying to move this process along too quickly, in particular before there is adequate public input.

    The motion presented by Bev Campbell on Sep 19 at Committee of the Whole — to endorse 10 Councillors and Electoral Ward plan 5B — came as a surprise to some Councillors, and before any public meeting of Council to receive input from the general public.

    The Citizens’ Assembly’s report is useful, but it’s not sufficient. In fact, Jonathan Rose, the political scientist managing the CA, recommended additional, wide public input.

    Now Council is going to receive public input on October 9, but then they will vote immediately after. The result will be that many people will assume that the members of Council came to the meeting with their minds already made up.

    Because of the haste with which the Mayor’s plan is being pushed along, there is a growing backlash, which may result in a final decision that is made, not on the merits of the plans proposed but on political maneuvering.

    Prince Edward County needs a good solution, widely supported, not just a fast solution.

  7. Gary Mooney says:

    Mark: I have addressed the issue of Picton being bundled with the three townships. If you read my three-pager, it’s all there. See http://tinyurl.com/pxgnv3e .

    Judy and Wolf. I believe that the Mayor is alluding to an appeal to the OMB, perhaps on the major rep. by pop. problem. It could well happen that such an appeal could result in a single OMB adjudicator deciding how to carve up the County.

  8. Wolf Braun says:

    Judy Kennedy asks: “Just who are the people from outside the mayor says might impose their wishes on us? Is there any substance to this statement?”

    It’s a good question Judy. Unfortunately, the only person who can give a correct answer to that is the mayor himself.

    We can only guess. Maybe that’s what he meant us to do. 🙂

  9. Argyle says:

    Our major,council and administration is a disaster. The whole organization has raised the bar for incompetence. It is time to get the broom out, certainly no one deserves re-election.Just a sad situation.

  10. judy kennedy says:

    Just who are the people from outside the mayor says might impose their wishes on us? Is there any substance to this statement?

  11. Mark says:

    The NEW Plan would have some merit except for isolating Picton Ward totally surrounded by Hallowell but tossed to the rural south-east. It makes absolutely no sense other than achieving electorate numbers to disconnect Picton from it’s natural growth and expansion partner. And if I am repeating Gary, it’s because you continue to advertise and push your plan but not address any concerns.

    I am really thinking that this issue was left simmering on the back burner too long and will die as time runs out.

  12. Gary Mooney says:

    The Mayor said: “Historical boundaries are not, and will not be affected by revisions to electoral districts. Council is moving to enshrine our traditional communities to ensure they retain the very important role they play in delivering municipal services, programs and the County’s rich cultural identity.”

    The fact is, the Mayor’s 5B Electoral Ward Plan carves up the 10 Historic Wards into 19 pieces and reassembles them into 5 Electoral Wards. Three wards are split into 2 pieces, one into 3 pieces, and one (Hallowell) into 5 pieces. Five other wards will be allocated in whole to the new Wards.

    Because of this carving up of Historic Wards, there will be poor linkage between new Electoral Wards and the existing Historic Wards, with the result that memory of, and attention to, the Historic Wards will fade away within a few years.

    Contrast the with the N.E.W. Plan, proposed by me, which specifies 3 Electoral Wards:
    * North E.W. = ALL of Ameliasburgh and Sophiasburgh.
    * East E.W. = ALL of Picton, North Marysburgh, South Marysburgh and Athol.
    * West E.W. = ALL of Hallowell, Bloomfield, Wellington and Hillier.

    Why choose something complicated when something simple is available and better?

  13. Brian says:

    The superior leadership and competent management went out the window when council agreed to the terms of handing all their power over to one individual. Why? because they didn’t want to get their hands dirty! What’s left? Shire Hall that has become the laughing stock of its residents, they seem to have forgotten what they were hired to do in the first place. I just cannot get past the fact that the Mayor has allowed a piano to enter the municipal building not to mention a wet bar(apparently)?? Its really hard to have faith in anyone that has allowed things to get so out of control with his own people. Clean sweep was suppose to happen but as usual it did not and will not until the people have the opportunity to do it themselves on election day!!!!!

  14. Doris Lane says:

    I love the statement of one person who referred to the brain power of council!!!!!!
    Maybe one criteria for running for council is that an IQ test is required.

  15. Wolf Braun says:

    Bill McMahon is right when he writes “This is up to the Mayor/Chair to show leadership, to manage and direct “this large and unwieldy group” into an effective and efficiently run council.” I agree with Mr. McMahon’s statement

    Operational council success depends on having inspirational leadership, competent management and a breadth of experience and skills on a team that is performing at its best.

    Does ‘this’ mayor have the inspirational leadership skills? Do the results show this?

  16. Bill McMahon says:

    Council have chosen to ignore moving forward, rather council have chosen to stand still. The size of council issue died in October 2010, yet there are members of council who refuse to believe it so, they refuse pull the plug and have kept it on life support for almost three years. The County is not at a crossroads, council is in stagnation.

    Half of our present council Mayor Mertens included, seem to want to ignore the fact that 22,403 eligible electors entitled to cast a vote on the question on the ballot of the October 25th. 2010 election, had overwhelmingly told council, by either withholding their vote, or by voting no to the question, to leave the matter of size of council alone.

    The ballot question being:

    “Are you in favour of Council commencing a PUBLIC CONSULTATION PROCESS to REVIEW the size of Council for the County of Prince Edward?”

    Based on the principle “that perception is everything,” these members of council falsely accept as truth, that which isn’t,

    The simple fact is that of the 22,403 eligible voters in last the election, only 9,381 chose to cast a vote on the “Question on the Ballot.” Less than 42% of those who were eligible to vote. Of those voters, 7,578 did vote yes, which by the way is less than 34% of the eligible electorate. I don’t care how the math is done, but 34% of those eligible to cast a vote, and to vote yes, does not equal an 81% yes vote.

    “The Municipal Elections Act, 1996 establishes rules and processes for placing questions on municipal ballots and regulates campaigns that arise in support of or in opposition to questions on the ballot.” The act is also very clear on the results of such a vote. “The results are binding on the council, if at least 50 per cent of eligible electors in the municipality vote on the question.”

    Let me repeat that:

    “The results are binding on the council, if at least 50 per cent of eligible electors in the municipality, vote on the question.”

    Not 41.87%. No, it reads, AT LEAST 50 per cent, of eligible electors in the municipality.

    And the act further states:

    “If there is a “YES” vote, with 50 per cent or greater turnout, council must do everything in its power to implement the results of the question within a timely manner.” Not what they think that those 58% who didn’t vote might want. It couldn’t be clearer!

    “IF THERE IS A YES VOTE WITH 50% OR GREATER TURNOUT”

    Where is this push on council to ignore the obvious coming from? Withholding of a vote, abstention is the equivalent of a no vote. As councillors they understand that fact, they’re often faced with this reality during the voting procedure at council.

    Mayor Mertens is correct, this issue has consumed council long enough. But why? The results of the 2010 vote were clear, this issue was in fact a non issue and wasn’t important enough to the County’s electorate to see the need to commence a PUBLIC CONSULTATION PROCESS to REVIEW the size of council. Yet council have turned a blind eye and half the members of council have done everything in their power to implement something which didn’t receive the required majority vote.

    One has to wonder where this unwavering drive to reduce the size of council originated. This has been an issue for Council for eight or nine years now. And as Mayor Mertens has stated, just imagine all the time and expense that has been spent to date by council members and staff, on consultations, arranging of public meetings, OMB hearings, questions on election ballots, in an effort to save on the expense of four or five seats on council. The Citizens Assembly, of which I was one of those randomly selected 23 members, cost the County some $25,000.00, and while I enjoyed being a part of the process, and learned a great deal about municipal governance, this task to be considered Public Consultation, is idiotic in the extreme.

    When the province virtually forced amalgamation on the County some 16 years ago, provincial officials had high praise for Prince Edward County’s choice of a single County level, so much so it was often referred to it as a model for other areas to follow. Part of that arrangement then, was that each former township would retain its own name, and that the representation established at the time of amalgamation was also to remain.

    As for comparing Prince Edward County council in size with other municipal councils, such as Trenton or Belleville, or the Citizens Assembly’s comparison model of Stratford with an area of some 22 square kilometres, is absurd. The County’s area is far more massive, taking in almost 1050 square kilometres, including many sensitive land use issues – agriculture protection, waterfront, wetlands, wildlife and habitat concerns, safe drinking water sources, wind and solar energy, economic development, historical tradition, and much, much more. A municipality with this much territory, diversity, and historical importance needs “people on the ground.” And for the sake of possibly saving a few thousand dollars a year, this is hardly the time to be cutting municipal representation.

    Prince Edward County is presently well administered and well served by its present council and I believe that the more brainpower you can bring to the table, the healthier the outcome. Debates can be time-constrained and business can be processed faster. This is up to the Mayor/Chair to show leadership, to manage and direct “this large and unwieldy group” into an effective and efficiently run council. If initiative is not exhibited, indifference will prevail. Any potential savings are hardly worth the effort, time and more money being needlessly spent. I think cutting council size and reducing the traditional wards against original promises will lead to far more problems than can be imagined.

    Municipal governance has a greater impact on our everyday lives than that of the provincial or federal levels of government. And since our representation on those levels has been in effect done away with, this is certainly not the time to condense our representation on the County level.

    And while it is true that the Mayor is the only member of council who is elected countywide, stating as much, I feel is an affront to the rest of council who do represent their respective wards, and their responsibility to the electorate is every bit as important as the Mayor’s, Mayor Mertens is correct. It’s time for you, the electorate to share with your members of council your feelings and desires as to how you want Prince Edward County to move forward with respect to size of council. It’s time to break your silence, if you care, show you care, get out to these Town Hall meetings and let the councillors know how you feel about this issue. Your continued silence speaks volumes, don’t give your permission to restructure the size of council and implement new electoral districts based solely on what they think you want. No matter what you thoughts are don’t go unheard.

    It’s time to alert council when enough is enough, you either want this change or you don’t, Council cannot continue to belabour this issue. Encourage them to make the informed decision, let’s put this thing behind us. Let’s not have the decision imposed on us by some outside body.

    The Ontario Municipal Act 2001 states the following as the Role of council.

    It is the role of council,

    (a) to represent the public and to consider the well-being and interests of the municipality;
    (b) to develop and evaluate the policies and programs of the municipality;
    (c) to determine which services the municipality provides;
    (d) to ensure that administrative policies, practices and procedures and controllership policies, practices and procedures are in place to implement the decisions of council;
    (d.1) to ensure the accountability and transparency of the operations of the municipality, including the activities of the senior management of the municipality;
    (e) to maintain the financial integrity of the municipality; and
    (f) to carry out the duties of council under this or any other Act. 2001, c. 25, s. 224; 2006, c. 32, Schedule. A, s. 99.

    Sometimes members of council have to give up the fight, especially a fight that was clearly not mandated in the 2010 election, to walk away, and move on to something that is more productive that truly represents the well being and interests of County residents. That time is now.

  17. Doris Lane says:

    I am proud of the message the mayor has sent to the people.
    Council needs to make this decision and make it now

  18. Wolf Braun says:

    Many accomplishments are achieved during a meeting of council, even when no resolutions are passed. Meetings allow for the simple dissemination of information, the exchange of ideas and experiences, communication of internal or external changes to the work environment, and the growth of council as a team. Emphasis on “team”.

    Whatever the accomplishments at a meeting, the mayor and the council need to be very clear about municipal decision making and the intended goal of responding to the needs of the residents in a meaningful manner.

    The mayor is responsible for the involvement of group
    members. A mayor should include and motivate, as well as educate, the council. The members should be informed specifically what will be expected from them, the time-frame in which they are to accomplish the task at hand, and any budgetary constraints they may have. Also, the mayor is responsible for delegating tasks according to the skill sets of the group members, and to encourage –
    and where necessary assist – each group member to contribute to the overall success of the project.

    Is ‘this’ mayor really leading, motivating as well as educating by now asking each of us to speak to our council members on the size of council?

    Regardless of geography, population or budget, pretty much all municipalities follow similar general principles when conducting meetings. Heck, the same principles apply to meetings everywhere.:-)

    Effective meetings positively impact an organization’s resources, ensuring that time spent in meetings is productive, efficient and rewarding. Regardless of geography, population or budget, ‘this’ mayor must follow similar general principles when conducting meetings. Holding effective council meetings positively
    impact an organization’s resources, ensuring that time spent in meetings is productive, efficient and rewarding.

    Does ‘this’ mayor measure up?

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