5/13/11

Reducing Council Size-Thoughts and Ideas

At the Finance and Admin (F&A) committee meeting in April, Mayor Levi stated he wanted to discuss downsizing Council before the next election. His choice is 7 members: mayor, deputy-mayor, 5 councillors (Almonte 2, Ramsay 2, Pakenham 1). The mayor and deputy would go to County council.

On May 19, Mayor Levi officially introduced a motion to discuss reducing council size. He also added eliminating the wards to his motion.

A subsequent meeting at the F&A committee June 23 resolved nothing. Council met again October 24.

At present we have a mayor and 10 councillors, one who is elected from within to go to County council. The mayor’s proposal would reduce the rural councillor component from a majority to a minority.

I posted this info on two local chat groups in late April and got some great responses. There was general support for a smaller council, though no one could nail what value that would bring. Opinions were mixed on getting rid of the wards. And many discussed their dislike of the rural-urban split on Council.

Here is where I stand on these three points at present.

Smaller council: Yes, though not necessary the mayor's 7 plan. I favor 8 (like Tay Valley). I mostly favor the elected deputy-mayor to avoid the undemocratic appointment of the second county rep, as we do now.

Rural-urban split: I campaigned on trying to remove it once we broke down barriers to trust. (See Trust below).

Wards: The ward system (IMHO) has one major benefit—it helps new candidates get on council. You cannot get elected in MM unless you meet people. It took me parts of 53 days to visit the 1750 homes in Ramsay. If there were no wards, how would a new candidate visit 5000 homes? It would be rare for new candidates to unseat incumbents if we had a smaller council with no wards.

Trust: There is distrust on council over the sharing of resources. No where is it more evident than in sharing hydro revenue. At present, all profit from the hydro plant goes to Almonte ward and that payoff is jealously guarded. The other new councillors and I have made some progress on bringing this issue to Council for debate. (More on that soon.)

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