by Deron Johnston
There are a number of important initiatives that the newly-elected municipal council could tackle right out of the gate and set the tone early in their term of office. This would differentiate them from the previous council, which was considered by some to be light on action taken. Some examples of these “low hanging fruit” are:
Direct municipal staff to add temporary lighting to the bridge on County Road 43, by the Creekside Mall, as soon as possible. A local resident and municipal employee, Gary Boal, was struck and killed one night on the bridge last summer. Despite an outcry from North Grenville residents for safety measures to be improved on CR 43, the situation remains unchanged over a year later. Though CR 43 is the responsibility of the United Counties of Leeds and Grenville (UCLG), they have failed to act. UCLG should be responsible for the cost of the lighting, but who pays the bill can be decided later. The safety of residents should be the #1 priority of any government. This is an opportunity for this new municipal council to demonstrate their commitment to that principle.
Direct municipal staff to begin creating a Municipal Communications Strategy. Fundamentally, this municipality needs to re-evaluate how it communicates with residents. It needs to significantly increase the amount of information it shares, and must decide how best to share it. An ad-hoc Communications Advisory Committee could help guide this. There’s lots of communications and marketing expertise in the community that could make a major contribution to the development of this strategy. Creating spots for local media sources on the committee might also be a wise strategic decision. Inviting them to get directly involved in improving municipal communications could be critical for getting their buy-in for this initiative and creating potential partners.
Formulating this strategy would show everyone that this council was actually serious about improving communication and transparency, rather than just using a serious issue to get elected and then forgetting about it or de-prioritizing it.
Create municipal advisory committees to harness some of the talent, expertise and passion in North Grenville that has been relatively untapped to date. One important committee to consider would be a Rural Affairs Committee. Creating one permanent spot on this committee for each of the hamlet community associations may help in bridging the divide between urban and rural.
The rural areas have long been frustrated with the perceived lack of consultation on decisions that directly affect them. Being involved in meaningful dialogue and having real influence over what happens in their communities could be very beneficial to both the residents and the new council. Fostering partnerships and building trust in this way are necessary to forge a new path of community building. Some other committees to consider: Environmental and Sustainability Advisory Committee, Transportation Advisory Committee (to review or analyze projects such as CR 43 expansion, improving the trails system, and, potentially, the creation of a local transit system), and Parks, Recreation and Culture (include one permanent spot for each of the larger minor sports associations – hockey, soccer, baseball etc.).
Create Community Design Plans (look for separate article in this issue on this subject) for each one of the hamlets, for Downtown Kemptville, and any other area of North Grenville that is willing to make the commitment.
Create a schedule of town hall meetings. This was discussed by several candidates in the municipal campaign. Host one in each of the hamlets every three months. To encourage meaningful engagement, keep the meeting informal. Many people are not comfortable speaking in formal settings. Though they could have a focus on a particular issue relevant to that area, they should be open to discussing any subject. Once again, this is an opportunity for those elected, who talked about improving communication and transparency, to demonstrate that commitment. It would be natural to assume that these should be attended by all members of council.
These are merely suggestions based on community feedback (or at least a small sample of the list). Though there are many more items for the new council to consider, hopefully they will have their own ideas on what’s important and will get to work right away.