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Deadline extended for public opinion on council size

UPDATE Sept. 8 – The survey deadline has been extended until Oct. 5, to provide participants at public meetings held later in the month adequate time to review proposed options prior to completing and submitting the survey.

first-council-size-meeting

SEPT 1 – The first of several sessions seeking County residents’ opinions on the size of council issue was held Tuesday night at the Bloomfield Town Hall.

Ron Broadbridge welcomed about 40 people to the hall – including the mayor and almost all the councillors – and summarized the four options being considered.

A half dozen citizens shared their preferences, and concerns, with the options.

Larry Spencer, of Bloomfield, said he would like to see an urban/rural distribution, or a ‘none of the above’ option on the survey.

John Inrig, of Wellington, said he favoured the two-ward system as it achieved the targets set by the citizens assembly meetings held in 2013.

“Who cares how many (councillors) we have?” asked Don Williams, whose family has been in Bloomfield for the past 200 years. “We won’t save a cent. Amalgamation was going to save us money but it didn’t… Also, no matter what you decide, boundaries are important. There is a real deep pride among families here and boundaries mean things. They are very deep in our blood and need to be respected. We have to live and work together in our incredible county and it’s important our councillors are able to do the same.”

Williams also noted downsizing would limit the number of young people who would have time to take on a position of councillor as it would become a full-time work load.

Lynn Leavitt, an Athol farmer, echoed Williams and noted participants in the survey should remember not to lose sight of the rural way of life.

“Farmers have unique needs. Picton needs the food I produce. So many people whose roots are so far away from the farm now, have no idea what we do. Everybody has their opinion. I know my councillor. When I want to speak to him, I wave at him when I see him drive by.”

Council is bringing forward the following options for public consultation:

– 2 electoral wards – 10 councillors and mayor – 3 electoral wards – 12 councillors and mayor – 9 electoral wards – 13 councillors and mayor – 10 electoral wards (Status Quo) -15 councillors and mayor

“We know that the public wants us to address the size of council and electoral ward
boundaries, and the consultation process will help us to further understand how to best do that,” said Mayor Robert Quaiff. “This has been an ongoing issue for a number of years, and resolving it once and for all is a priority for Council in 2015. Public consultation will help us achieve this important goal.”

TWO ELECTORAL WARDS:

Two-Electoral-Wards-Map

2-Wards-RobertQuaiffProsandCons_000

 

THREE ELECTORAL WARDS:

Three-Electoral-Ward-Map

Three-Wards-GaryMooneyProsandCons_000

NINE ELECTORAL WARDS:

Nine-Electoral-Ward-Map

Nine-Ward-JohnThompsonProsandCons_000

STATUS QUO:

Status Quo Ten-Ward-Map

StatusQuoProsandCons_000

The municipality is continuing to collect feedback on council size and boundaries throughout the month of September.

Public sessions are set for 7-9pm at:
Wellington Town Hall – Thursday, Sept. 3
Athol Town Hall – Wednesday, Sept. 9
Kente Public School, Ameliasburgh – Thursday, Sep. 10
Wellington Community Centre – Tuesday, Sept. 15
Sophiasburgh Town Hall – Monday, Sept. 21
North Marysburgh Town Hall – Wednesday, Sept. 23
Picton Community Centre – Thursday, Sept. 24
South Marysburgh Town Hall – Wednesday, Sept. 30

Background information and a public survey is available online at www.thecounty.ca/sizeofcouncil, or by hard copy – available at all public consultation sessions listed, all County libraries, Shire Hall (332 Picton Main St) and the Edward Building (280 Picton Main St).

Clerk Kim White noted the tabulations are being computed on a ranked ballot system and the online survey, using the Survey Monkey program, will require participants to rank their choices from one to four. Those who use physical hard copy surveys are also asked to rank the options in order of preference. Any surveys on paper that are not ranked will be incorporated into the results.

As asked by a resident of South Marysburgh, she noted she would also point out to council that the Sept. 30 deadline for surveys is the same date as the final meeting, in South Marysburgh. She noted all surveys collected that evening would be included.

Survey feedback is to go before council at a special committee of the whole meeting set for Oct. 29.

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  1. Marnie says:

    You could be right,Susan. How much longer can this drag on?

  2. Susan says:

    Marnie, perhaps that was Council’s strategy!

  3. Marnie says:

    This has dragged on for so long that it has become a colossal bore. Will we never move on?

  4. John Thompson says:

    The 9 ward plan came into being without any preconceived notion of what the size of Council should be. The only criteria used was to maintain the former township boundary lines as the electoral wards and see if it was possible to get into range on rep by pop. The result of this spreadsheet was to show that it can be done but only with 13 Councillors. Those who want a smaller Council need to support a plan which changes the ward boundaries by combining wards.

  5. Chuck says:

    You are right Susan. And to add to that, Hallowell farmers soap boxing about Bloomfield being in their blood is sheer nonsense. I guess their native township took a back seat! I want a representative that cares for and takes into consideration the entire County and it’s needs.

  6. Susan says:

    Why would plans that maintain 16 and whittle to 14 and 13 even be under consideration? That’s not change it is tinkering. If the Mayor’s 2 Ward Plan doesn’t get installed there will be a complete loss of faith and trust. These little township meetings only bring out mostly the one’s that think we still have township governance.

  7. Lena says:

    You’re right John. I hadn’t noticed that the plan where Bloomfield is merged into Hallowell also removed an additional councillor from Sopiasburgh.
    I guess that was done because it would be ludicrous to offer a plan with only one councillor less, and cutting two positions is totally different.

    My point really is that the people want council size halved or close to that number, anywhere from 8-11. The Citizens’ Assembly worked hard to come up with they felt was the best solution: a council size of 11. As is usual, council is ignoring the recommendations they paid for and are obfuscating the issue with plans that rework the ward boundaries but keep as many councillors as possible.

    And the only reason for the odd number was to avoid tie votes, but we have survived with an even number on council for many years without falling apart, I don’t think it is that important.

    The only plan that adheres to the recommendations that is the 2-ward plan, although I would prefer it with 4 councillors instead of 5 for each ward, for a total on council with mayor, 9.

    The other ward confgurations would also fall into line if the number of councillors were reduced. The 3-ward plan should have 3 councillors per ward plus mayor for a total of 10. For the 9-ward system, each ward elects one councillor, totalling 10 with mayor. Any plan with more than 11 total on council should not have been put forth.

    If there is that much concern over having an odd number, make it so the Mayor’s vote is only cast as a tie-breaker. If we really must have an odd number, add an extra councillor to the ward containing Wellington, with all the future housing construction planned there.

  8. Gary says:

    While the prior council dithered and this one may be heading down a road of status quo, it is an example of how ineffective governments can really be. Had options including an “at large option” been put on the ballot in last falls election this issue would be resolved and by the ones that should be making the decision, the constituents.

  9. John Thompson says:

    Lena, there is no proposal on the table to reduce the Council by just one, in spite of what you must have heard.

  10. Lena says:

    Even though all councillors vote on all issues for the County as a whole, I like the idea of a councillor that represents a particular segment of County constituents. I would like to see that a councillor that represents a ward actually lives in that ward… we don’t need any Duffys here! My preferences lean toward the three ward version. Most people I have spoken with, want a much smaller council, not just reducing the size by one or two positions. They don’t care as much about the boundaries as they care about the number that sit in Shire Hall. There is only one option fitting the bill presented to us here. If this council was really serious about reducing council size they would have included more options with fewer councillors. They are not willing to vote themselves out of a job and we are getting so tired of this game, so I am not the least surprised at the reported poor attendance.

  11. Wolf Braun says:

    If the job of a councilor is to represent ALL County residents why do I need to have “my” Councilor?

    Seems to me that if we had 8 Councilors plus a Mayor ALL working for me all I need to do is call anyone of them. Or I could email the Mayor (which I do now anyway) and copy the Councilors.

    I don’t I’m missing anyone.

  12. John says:

    Vic – council paid nothing towards the OMB challenge than its own expenses. They chose to make those expenditures instead of negotiate an alternative.
    The OMB hearing was rife with legal flaws that could have been successfully challenged had the money been available. The most glaring was the commissioner pre-judging an aspect of the challenge before it was even presented. And just like in the current ERT she refused to exercise her managerial responsibilities and impose a solution.

  13. John says:

    A big problem with the current and 9 ward system is still the lack of voter parity. It is possible to get 6000 votes and lose in Amiliasburgh, while a candidate in several wards can get 600 votes and not lose. Only the 2 ward and 3 ward system eliminate this problem. It is not fair to voters but even more unfair to candidates.

  14. Chuck says:

    The problem being we are represented on a County council by all elected councillors not just the one or ones in a ward. So some constituents such as Ameliasburgh have a much more heavily weighted vote than others.

  15. John Thompson says:

    The 9 ward plan maintains a balance of Councillors elected by rural and urban voters while coming close enough on rep by pop. The balance can be lost in an election with 2 or 3 wards.

  16. Gary says:

    Judy, nothing against farmers but on the other side of your point, perhaps urban dwellers in Picton do not want to be represented by farmers from North & South Marysburgh and Athol that may not understand urban issues. That could be the case under the NEW plan. Works both ways.

  17. judy kennedy says:

    what a tempest in a teapot! Representation by population would seem to be fairest option, but where does that leave the farming/rural areas? There are different needs and concerns there. Farmers don’t want to be represented by councillors who have no agricultural knowledge. For example, land use is not comparable.

  18. JDVC says:

    In my opinion, council should not have been allowed to decide on the acceptable proposals. They have too much interest in saving their own positions. Because of their choices, the public has lost confidence in them! The feeling is, “they are going to do what THEY want, not what we want”. To me, and a lot of people that I have spoken to, the easiest and fairest way is to have one representative from each of the existing wards. When there is some areas with 3 or 2 reps, it is too easy to band together and swing votes to favour their areas. Changing boundary areas is going to be expensive and very confusing! I believe that the “wards” were changed at one time. How did that work out? We have reverted back to the historical wards.
    One councillor for each ward. Doesn’t reduce the size a lot, but give fair representation to each area. But, oh, I forgot! Council didn’t like that one, I guess.
    I, like so many, have now lost confidence that this will be settled in a way that is acceptable to the local population.

  19. Gary says:

    That is the point John. Councilors sit on a County government not a township model. Their decisions affect everyone. However some voters only get to elect one while others get three to represent their viewpoint. That is not equality in the voting system. As it stands now 4 wards hold the majority of council seats. I would like to see everyonès vote carry the same weight.

  20. John Thompson says:

    Gary, Ameiliasburgh would get 3 Councillors and while Picton and Bloomfield/Hallowell each 2 in order to establish rep by pop. Those voters get more than 1 vote as dividing the wards into sections may not be practical.

    A larger problem could happen with the 2 and 3 ward systems as this may result in them having elected most/all of the Council. County vision could be lacking without rural representation. No proposal is perfect.

  21. Gary says:

    Tell us John why someone in Ameliasburgh gets to vote for 3 reps while in Athol we get to vote for 1? Is that not populace advantaged presently and under your plan?

  22. Susan says:

    I disagree. No one is advantaged other than those that can put forward a platform that places the County first ahead of selfish local issues. At least at large everyone’s vote carries the same weight unlike presently and unlike the 9 ward plan.

  23. John Thompson says:

    I see the best County vision coming from a Council composed of reps from all areas of the County. The 9 ward proposal delivers this but the large ward proposals favour candidates from the most populated areas.

  24. Susan says:

    Perhaps the best solution would be for the OMB to rule a decision that brings equal voter representation to the County. We have been at this far, far too long and there does not appear to be the political will. The big mistake at amalgamation was maintaining former townships that no longer held any governance. We have farmers in Hallowell on a soap box preaching the importance of their Bloomfield. Give me a break. The townships and villages no longer hold governance. It is a County government and if individuals cannot get their head around that they should not stand for office. A lot could take a lesson from Mr.Roberts who seems to be one of the few that can see the need for a County vision and not protecting former townships.

  25. Chuck says:

    Gary; some valid information. However Picton the largest urban area is totally surrounded by Hallowell and a different ward. It’s like they are a sattelite for 3 small disconnected rural areas. Hallowell is a growth partner for Picton.

  26. ADJ says:

    Gary,, this question has nothing to do with the division of wards. I’m just interested to know why (your quote) North/ South Marysburgh and Athol “depend heavily on Picton for service and facilities” Do you mean fire protection or just what would this refer to?

  27. Gary Mooney says:

    Chuck, two points re your comments:

    John Thompson’s proposal attempts to solve the rep by pop problem. Currently, Wellington has 3.8 times the number of voters in Bloomfield making a Bloomfield vote worth 3.8 times that of a Wellington vote.

    His plan would result in Sophiasburgh (with one rep) having 2.1 times the number of voters in South Marysburgh (also with one rep) — still too extreme.

    Both the North/South Plan and the N.E.W. Plan (proposed by me) have a ratio of 1.0 to 1 — i.e. perfect rep by pop.

    Re your comment about the N.E.W. Plan, the reason for including North and South Marysburgh and Athol with Picton is that these three wards depend heavily on Picton for services and facilities.

    The N.E.W. Plan has an advantage over the others in that it recognizes the three main geographical areas of the County, in particular the north, which needs additional facilities and services from the County.

  28. Chuck says:

    Why would a proposal that cuts just one councilor position and removes a village even be on the table? Cause a former Councilor put it forward. It is virtually no change other than removing a tie vote. Why could Council not put out an at large option? The new plan is a wreck as well sticking an island called Picton surrounded by non associated wards and sticking them out with small rural wards. How would that get on the table? The Mayors proposal is not perfect but is head and shoulders above others.

  29. Gary says:

    Harrison, Forrester and the heavily vote ridden Ameliasburgh gang will not support change. A real mess.

  30. Susan says:

    I think the low turnout is due to apathy and a result of a lack of action since the vast majority of voters indicated they wanted change. The only reason change has not taken place is because it is in politicians hands and not the electorate. They have a vested interest and are in conflict. Under our present system a person’s vote in Athol for example votes for one councilor while a person in Ameliasburgh gets to vote for 3! That is not equal weighted voting and should not continue.

    On another note, the prior Council was comprised by 34% that did not live in the ward they represented.

  31. Vic says:

    I believe that the very small turnouts at the recent consultation sessions so far reinforce the fact that this council size issue is and has been a terrible waste of tax dollars. The two individuals who went the unsuccessful OMB route a few years ago should have had to pay the OMB costs assessed of them not the taxpayers. The Council at the time was too kind to them and paid their bills for them.The current council needs to get on with more important stuff e.g. infrastructure, etc.

  32. John Thompson says:

    Although anyone in the County can run in any ward, in most cases they do live in that ward and in all cases they are elected by the voters of that ward so familiarity with those issues is assured.

    My view of real County government is one where each area as defined by the former townships elects at least one, hence the 9 ward proposal.

  33. Lena says:

    I disagree with many of the assumptions made of the pros and cons on the charts prepared for this process. For example, there is no ‘pro’ in the current system for residents to know their councillors, as anyone who lives in the County can run in any ward. I’d prefer the first option offered with 4 per ward pus mayor for a total of 9 on council. Similarity for the second option, 3 councillors per ward plus mayor for a total of 10. I can’t begin to understand the logic of the third option. Since the mayor is voted at-large, s/he should be above the interests of each ward and should be focused on the business of running the council effectively, only voting to break a tie vote.

  34. Chuck says:

    Some seem to be stuck in the old Township/County governance model and find difficulty with a one tier County governance. In Bloomfield a farmer speaking about it being their blood! My grandparents lived in this very small village and I do not recall a farm within. Must be in Hallowell. We need the best persons County wide to represent us and build a better County. Hanging onto Townships and Villages does not move us forward. Good sincere, intelligent representatives can make decisions that are for the betterment of all. We don’t need reps looking for $$ for their their own turf when there is a bigger need elsewhere. It takes dedicated and people with a vision to move beyond the old system. We have a few that have shown a desire to move forward but we have too many that think they are at the horseshoe for their little turf. My take on things.

  35. Gary says:

    If we assume we are at 8-8 presently which is a very good guess then to get a change vote either Hillier, Bloomfield or South Marysburgh would have to swing. I don’t think Ameliasburgh, Athol or North Marysburgh would change as they are dug in to protect old townships and lack the vision for a true County government.

  36. Emily says:

    Yes Bill, I realized I had erred on that one. That will make it a very close decision either way or a split. Thanks.

  37. Bill Roberts says:

    Emily, there will be two votes for change in Sophiasburgh.
    That is virtually certain… both Councillors want a reduced size and more effective Council.

  38. Snowman says:

    The size of Council has been a favorite topic of every Mayor. No big surprise there. Too many voices, to much time spent talking/grandstanding,esp. on hot button issues.
    Kevin Gale has always been a supporter from within council.
    When council failed to downsize in 2009, a group of mostly “newer/recent” ratepayers launched an OMB challenged that failed.
    I really don’t see where Council is legally bound to do anything to change it’s size, and it appears that there is little support for it from within current council members. I wonder why they are wasting time and $$ on this. The Public should vote out those 2014 candidates who appear to have quickly changed their minds now that they have been elected. I’m sure THE WELLINGTON TIMES will remind us all who they are when the time comes to vote.

  39. Emily says:

    I think Council has for the most part already decided and I fully expect we will see no change contrary to the voting publics desire.

    Here is my early take on the vote;

    I think 5 showed it right up front by their planned walk out if anyone provided reasonable discussion like Wellington’s rep.

    Status Quo

    – Amelisburgh 3 votes
    – North Marysburgh 1 vote
    – Athol 1 vote
    – Hillier 1 vote
    – South Marysburgh 1 vote
    – Bloomfield 1 vote
    – Sophiasburgh 1 vote

    Total Status Quo – 9 votes

    For Change ( but which one?)

    – Picton 2 votes
    – Wellington 1 vote
    – Hallowell 2 votes
    – Sophiasburgh 1 vote
    – Mayor 1 vote

    Total change vote – 7

    Result – Status Quo

    Reaction – outrage and an OMB appeal

  40. Marie says:

    Less is more. Retain historic wards.

  41. Susan says:

    Because the public felt no need for 15 Councilors for a population of 26,000. No comparable municipality has that many. They also do not wrap themselves around Townships that no longer exist.

  42. Wolf Braun says:

    Just returned from Wellington meeting. Small turn-out. Members of Counail were asked to just listen. Four people spoke. One question from the audience. Meeting lasted 40 minutes.

    Somebody please remind me why the issue of Council Size ever became an issue in the first place.

    No matter which option is selected I don’t see how better decisions will result. Or how productivity will improve. It will still be ineffective and inefficient IMO.

  43. Gary says:

    So next meeting tonight in Wellington. Wonder if Councilor Maynard will be selling the status Quo in Councilor Dunlops backyard. Lol.

  44. Chuck says:

    Elsie; don’t hold your breath. This is why a decision like this should be with the constituents and not politicians with their own bias. I expect that they will be unable to make positive change when the populace could have. Really, 3 of the 4 options Council approved offer very little change and not worthy of the time and expense.

  45. Elsie says:

    Seriously, are there not other things to spend our time and tax dollars on? Listen to the people, downsize council and move on. Enough already!

  46. Susan says:

    The voters voted overwhelmingly for change. This is another example of why what we have now is not working. Many still want to protect their little townships turf. Well you know what, townships went by the wayside with amalgamation. We now have a County government not an Ameliasburgh one and a North Marysburgh one etc. The only proposal that offers any real change and reduction is the Mayors proposal of 2 wards, 5 Councilors each and a Mayor at large. Other than that one the rest are just an exercise. And I agree with Emily, it’s the constituents that should be deciding their governance model not the councilors who have a direct conflict. That would be democracy working as it should.

  47. Wolf Braun says:

    Mayor and Council as well those who are pushing their plan should sit back, listen and really hear what people want. Keep your bias to yourself and give people what they want.

  48. Argyle says:

    This fiasco is just another indication that council has to many blow hards who are simply out to save their own position and skin. One representative from each ward and a mayor is more than enough members to form a council. This process is turning into a circus. Fulfill your mandate and down size now…….

  49. Emily says:

    Mr. Ford was correct in his assessment that this process is flawed and biased. A community consultation process encumbered by Councilors dominating the forum and pushing their own agenda. Councilors were to gather community input in order to assist them in making a decision and what we find is Councilors with their minds made up and trying to sell it to the public. This is now a real mess. It should never have been Council deciding in the first place but rather the constituents.

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