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Stevie’s Wish List for the New Council

Steve Campbell

Steve Campbell

Well, there were a few surprises in the recent election, but there will, in fact, be changes in the faces around the Council table. Now we get to see what the electorate has wrought, and whether our choices were wise or misguided.
It’s possible we might all run for cover – like the Brian Mulroney landslide victory in which everyone voted for him, but you couldn’t find anyone who would admit it 12 months later.
I know the councillors don’t have their chairs warmed up yet, and are spending most of their time trying to find Shire Hall on their GPS devices, and Googling to find out why it’s called Shire Hall, since we don’t have any shires, and it’s not a very big hall. (Answer: Because someone carved it into the face of the building, and it would now cost $4.5 million to change it.)

But I will jump the gun and provide Council with some ideas I have, which should be addressed in the near future. If councillors want to pretend these are their own ideas, I don’t care. As long as the job gets done.
Item 1: Council Size. I firmly believe we should have 31 councillors, as the 15 we have don’t seem to be enough to do the job. Ha! Just kidding! I just wanted to get a rise out of the ‘smaller council’ crowd.
Really, this is easier than it looks. There is no issue with historical township boundaries. I haven’t even got around to memorizing the Ward Numbers. (Replacing names everyone knows with numbers no-one can remember is a concept only a government could imagine. So says my friend Dave, also known as 1345982.)
So drawing up an ‘electoral map’ which splits the County into quadrants – strictly for voting purposes – should be no problem. Look what the feds did! They moved us into a whole other riding: ‘Belleville plus other people we don’t care about’.
I still don’t think there’s enormous cost saving in cutting councillors, unless they replace the fancy oak horseshoe with a card table. But it might be a little more efficient.

Item 2: Let’s get control of liability insurance. Sure I know, it’s a modern age in which everyone deserves the right to sue someone they love, but County staff’s night sweats about liability is costing us big money … and something worse.
I have heard two detailed reports in which volunteers have shown up to work on community projects, and have been turned away by County staff, or had the work refused unless it was done by County staff.
Why? Liability. What if someone gets hurt and sues the County? That would be bad news.
Still, a lot of the people I’ve worked with in the County are very good at what they do – say carpentry, drywall, painting, laying concrete – and they know how to do it safely. Some of them are retirees who have worked in the trades, and some – like me – grew up on farms where you learn a variety of skills, including keeping yourself alive.
But that’s still not good enough to chase the Liability Boogieman away. Lots of County dollars go into insurance, but there’s more than money involved here.
Trouble is, Prince Edward County was built by volunteers, and it is part of our essence.
Town Halls, churches, museums, even roads were created by volunteers. In a day when the County didn’t run everything, the Women’s Institutes, Hospital Auxiliaries and numerous clubs, organizations and neighbours made these things happen.
Even today, look at the work done by the Loyalist Humane Society, Friends of Museums, Friends of East Lake, Field Naturalists, hospital volunteers, Regent Theatre volunteers, Marc Seguin’s attempt to Save Our Lighthouses … the list is endless.
Volunteers like these run the County and, if governments are smart, they will keep their hands off. Because governments like to control these things. A perfect example is the province’s bone-headed idea to ban the sale of food cooked ‘off-premises’ in rural kitchens, which killed bake sales and smorgasbords across Ontario. Not much is heard of this now; perhaps they backed off.
I would like to offer a possible solution. Why don’t we do what they do in Mexico and most of the Caribbean islands? Just have the volunteers sign a waiver to exempt the County from liability in the unlikely event that an accident occurs.
I signed one when I went Zip-lining in Puerto Vallerta. And really, that wasn’t necessary … if you’re crazy enough to pay money to throw yourself over a rocky ravine above the trees on a wire made in Mexico, I don’t think “I got a boo-boo” would stand up in court.
Having volunteers sign a waiver is clean, simple, and the job gets done in less time, with more hands, at less cost. Seems reasonable to me.

Item 3: Stop lowering speed limits. In the last few years, I have watched the speed limits change on many County roads. For safety? I don’t think so. We know what you’re up to: speeding ticket revenues!
Case in point: I heard on the radio that the speed limit had been lowered on South Big Island Road. Think about it. Is there something I don’t know?
In my experience, even meeting a car on SBI Rd. is a startling event. I travel it a couple of times a year (in the summer), and I have to say the road condition is enough to slow me down.
Is this where Nascar drivers go to blow the carbon out of their turbos? Is there any driver in the County who says: “Hey, I’m on the SBI, let’s put the hammer down!” Seriously, you’d be in Big Island Swamp in a heartbeat.
When I scroll back through my memory (to save the long drive up there), I recall seeing two houses on the SBI Speedway, so I wonder who even put this on the table as a major concern.
“Yes, gentlemen, I’m here to say I saw a car yesterday … wait, no, last Thursday, wait no, in March … and he seemed to be doing 75 kph. This kind of craziness must stop! I insist you lower the speed limit and send an OPP officer up here each and every day, with a big keg of Tim Horton’s coffee, to monitor the situation, in case another car goes by.”
I suspect the secret plan is to lower all road speeds in the County to 10 kph, and ticket everybody! Our policing budget is already outrageous … let’s help pay for it!

Filed Under: News from Everywhere ElseSteve Campbell

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  1. Gary says:

    I am excited about the election of Brad Nieman from Hallowell. A great addition. He is a former public works employee for the County that is well aware of how administration has functioned. He also brings a wealth of public works experience to the horseshoe that was lacking. I doubt that infrastructure projects pushed by management to the unknowing will go unquestioned.

  2. Susan says:

    I think the new Council should question Administration if all Manager’s have been and continue to be trained as to their responsibilities under Bill 168 which addresses harassment in the workplace. It would be prudent upon them. We may have the new councilors coming in that will ensure County administration are meeting their legislative requirements.

  3. Gary says:

    Well the County has released the 2 Manager’s from the McFarland Home. One has to wonder how many take the walk under the watch of the present Corporate Services and Human Resources without question of their own capabilities to effectively and appropriately oversee personnel issues. This is another dark mark on the County and continues to emphasize the fact that professionals avoid this municipality if any other options are open.

  4. sundyal says:

    Insurance: I’d like to know if anyone at all has sued the county due to an accident in parks while playing a game, or skateboarding, etc. ?

    I hear all the time, NOPE, you can’t do that, the insurance, the insurance claims and costs.

    really? show me!

  5. Gary says:

    I think the public would feel more comfortable with an independent investigation. Shire Hall managers have historically covered their own butts first even when allegations of harassment and abuse have been alleged against themselves. It’s kind of like allowing the fox to investigate the chicken killing.

    It is just ironic that this week’s Mayor Mertens article quotes him as saying we have the best management in the region! We all know that every good manager from engineering, human resources, planning, corporate services have left with joy to get to a responsible municipality.

  6. Emily says:

    I am fine with that Chris. I just didn’t like the “dramatic touch” you laid out! I have seen internal County investigations prior and the top dogs always come out on top and unscathed.

  7. Chris Keen says:

    Emily – Let’s agree to disagree!

  8. Emily says:

    Chris: “Is this a dramtatic touch”. Why would you suggest that I was fluffing up the information? Why are you so critical of the defense of staff’s personal rights. They have a contractual agreement with the employer and they have a right for any inquiry/investigation to be handled discreetly. The public has no urgency to know who or what until such time an investigation is handled professionally and outcomes determined. I believe at this time their professional reputations have been harmed by the uneeded release of their identity.

    I do not create dramatic touche’s to defend the individuals right to privacy and be treated fairly. You may want to read the Wellington Times article which states that they were escorted out of the building. Escorted out but no wrong doing is implied! Hmmm.

  9. Chris Keen says:

    Emily – I think in the case of civil servants the public has a right to this information. In this situation, in a mall community where the information would be on the County “grapevine” in seconds, it also precludes the idle speculation a “no comment” would arouse. If no wrong is found, no damage will be done to their reputations. (I failed to find any reference to them being “escorted from the building” – is this a dramatic touch?)

  10. Emily says:

    So you feel it is appropriate to release the names regardless of the public damage to their professional reputations. Particularly when no wrong doing is implied. Would you feel at all differently if it was yourself being escorted out of the workplace and your name publicly released? Typical protocols would be that there would be “no comment” whatsoever pending an investigation.

  11. Chris Keen says:

    Emily – You do not know what is being investigated, so your suggestion than Mr. Hepburn is incapable of investigating whatever it is they are looking at seems premature to say the least. Your suggestion that he would be biased is also uncalled for.

    This is a case of the employer (Council in the person of Hepburn) looking at the actions of two managers. He has made it very clear that no wrong-doing is implied by the suspension of these two individuals. Having them “out of the building” (so to speak) allows for full and frank discussions with the rest of the employees about whatever area he is examining.

    Naming them is the Corporation’s right since this could hardly be kept quiet and, as a taxpayer-funded institution, we have a right to know what is going on there. Remember, he has made it clear that no wrong-doing is implied.

  12. Emily says:

    Perhaps the new Council will look into why the County chose to release the names of employee’s placed on leave from McFarland Home pending an investigation. And why the Corporation would feel confidence with internal manager’s undertaking that investigation. I would think an independent inquiry separate from corporate County employees would be in order. How are the County investigators qualified to investigate or have credibility of no bias?

  13. Wolf Braun says:

    KJB: ” I would love to be able give myself or any employee who is retiring in a month, the month off with pay ”

    Outgoing Brampton Mayor Susan Fennell was trounced in the October election but she will leave office with a $375,000 package including benefits. On the other hand, someone who has been injured in the Iraq war gets a one time settlement of $20,000.

    What’s wrong with this picture ???

  14. KJB says:

    I find it strange that council decided not to meet in the month of November….Does this mean they will not be accepting any pay for the month….I would love to be able give myself or any employee who is retiring in a month, the month off with pay

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