This Council’s first six months ended at the close of May.
December was a wash, however, as the new Council got used to the different mix and a few got the feel for the job for the first time. But once all the seat-picking was done and the post-election nonsense disposed of, including a ruling by the Ombudsman that the Mayor’s meeting individually with each Councillor-elect not only wasn’t improper, it was healthy, they got on with things So what have they done so far?
Well, they passed the budget for the year and made pretty close to the budget goal set by the previous Council. Although I know some of you wanted no increase at all, it ended up being a lot lower than I expected for the first year although, like Councils before them, they may just have been postponing the pain (which will grow with every passing year). There were no cuts to go with the tax relief, just more postponements.
They’ve gone through the most extensive training I’ve ever seen given to any Thorold City Council. At least every other meeting had a training aspect, some of them in public, some of them in camera, depending upon the subject matter. In all, they’ve been brought up to speed on their legal, fiscal, procedural, and legislative responsibilities. And they’ve also had sessions on health and safety and employee relations, as well as Staff and Council procedures and their separation. In all, this is probably the Council with the best training for their jobs that I’ve ever seen.
So what? I’m not sure exactly. Most of them knew these things from previous terms, some the hard way. But at least they can’t say they weren’t told I suppose. But Council did finally adopt a code of conduct for themselves, something that had been resisted in past Councils.
But, back to speaking of up in the air, Council had a meeting earlier to review what had to be done with all of their decrepit properties. Now they’re in the process of scheduling another such all-day meeting to prioritize and plan a course of action. This seems to be a painfully slow process and it is but, in terms of Council action, this is light speed.
They did manage to get started finally on the arenas. They made a decision to spend in the neighbourhood of one million each year until at least the New Arena is up to snuff. But the fate of the Old Arena is still up in the air. And the floor in Fire Station #3 (Port Robinson East), which has been known for years to have structural deficiencies, was finally shored up by this Council. In addition, they’ve OK’d repairs to the Port Robinson Community Centre roof.
They came up with a plan to save money by selling the Allanburg Community Centre and use the proceeds to create one to be used jointly by Allanburg and Thorold South residents at Fire Station #2 (Thorold South). It wasn’t well received at the public meeting but that was to be expected. More on that to come in the future if Council hasn’t been scared off by the experience.
Council formed a new Fire Services Review Committee (which, last I heard, hadn’t met yet) and a City Services Review Committee (which also hasn’t met yet, and which may or may not be the same committee as the Fire Services Review Committee), and a Parking Committee (which may have met, the last I heard). They gave the OK for a Canada Day Committee to take over for Staff next year, but no one’s been appointed as yet.
They’ve hired Venture Niagara to run Thorold’s Tourism in a type of partnership with the Thorold and Beaverdams Historical Society, who are in the process of moving their museum in there. Council also gave them the money for their move and will soon be starting the foundation work that has been necessary for some time.
They have come up with a plan (which is starting this year) to surface the last few gravel roads in Thorold in order to eliminate the cost of a new grader. They almost got tough with community groups that didn’t hand in their paperwork (almost). And some of them got into a very public row with Professional Firefighters over their raise that almost got ugly before it petered out.
They’ve put forward motions to support Regional Transit (which not everyone likes), to fight for the right to control placement of community mail boxes as Canada Post takes away our delivery, to control the locations of marijuana grow-ops through zoning amendments, to limit the number of bedrooms in a house also through zoning, and to ask for more say in school closures.
All in all, they’ve done a lot better than you might expect for the first six months of a Council term but not as well as you might expect of a Council in which all but two members are veterans from previous Councils. Still, I’ve seen a lot less done in much longer periods of time.
So, what can we expect in the next six months, to end November 30?
Who knows? They should be starting another budget session before the end of it if they stick to their own schedule. Maybe they’ll meet or beat the 2.5% target for 2015 – it can be done as long as you don’t mind slashing and you remember that you can only slash so far before the city’s no longer viable. Maybe Council will resolve parking issues, come up with a better Fire Services plan, decide what to do with their buildings, streamline City Hall, crack down on community groups not following the grant rules, change Thorold’s zoning rules to curb unwanted types of growth, and all those other things they have on the go.
And, then again, maybe not.