The voices of North Grenville

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Social media is way for people to continue the discussions begun in newspapers, and the readers of the Times are certainly enjoying the opportunity the newspaper’s Facebook page presents. So,this week, the Editorial page is open to those readers who take time to comment and give their opinion (editorial perspective) on life in North Grenville. Here are some of the issues being debated there recently.

The role of the Kemptville BIA, and its relationship with the Municipal Council, continues to be a subject of sometimes heated debate. One poster, Jack Neelin, wanted to know what exactly the BIA had done over the past year to justify its existence. “It certainly isn’t bringing business to downtown”, he claimed.

The BIA were quick to respond and list some of what they had accomplished in that time:

  • Participated in increasing the occupancy of downtown commercial space and supported new business development in the downtown core;
  • Advocated for improved parking and signage for the downtown area;
  • Promoted Kemptville as a good place to invest through implementation of a 2017 Kemptville Pop-Up-Shop Program;
  • Participated as an active member of the North Grenville Economic Development Advisory Committee;
  • Continuously improved its communications with, and marketing for, members and stakeholders through social media and increased its e-newsletter subscriptions;
  • Worked with the Municipality to improve downtown walkability and bikeablility;
  • Made effective use of Eastern Ontario Development Program funding;
  • Achieved improvements to an expanded Community Improvement Program;
  • Supported the local community events, such as Kemptville Live and improved participation in its own family-friendly events such as the Easter Bunny Trail and Kreepy Kemptville.

Christina Charbel was in full support of the BIA. “The BIA has actually successfully organized multiple annual events to draw business to the downtown area. And perhaps you are not aware of the successful pop up shop program? A stroll along Prescott St. will provide further evidence of newer businesses in the area. I suggest you visit a few downtown businesses and ask the owners what the BIA has done to support their businesses.”

One of the major issues facing the BIA in promoting downtown Kemptville was the dilapidated state of the some of the buildings, left to their fate by their owners and making it almost impossible to attract new businesses. Christina commented on the problem: “Unfortunately, many of the available buildings for lease by businesses in downtown are so badly maintained (owner neglect), they are not feasible for the operation of a business and this is a big part of the problem. It is also the main reason my partner and I abandoned our plan to open a small business in the area.”

Another local business owner agreed and reported that she, also, had to look elsewhere for suitable property. “It is really sad that the buildings are not maintained; but how do you enforce that? I looked downtown when I opened my business, but just like you, none of the buildings that were available were maintained. I even had a real estate agent tell me that if I don’t mind the bugs… it’s a great location! It is too bad because downtown has so much potential.”

Some posters put the blame squarely on Council and Municipal staff for not enforcing property bylaws, and not supporting the BIA in their work. Greg King commented: “I’m amazed how many people talk about how tired the downtown looks and with the same breath complain about the BIA. I don’t know of any other group that has done more to help the downtown core, only to have council stick it to them in the last budget. Maybe council is threatened by the fact that they do more for downtown then the current council does.”

Parking downtown is often cited as a problem, but the moves by the Kemptville District Hospital to introduce new parking arrangements there, as reported in the Times, raised some negative reaction. Lisa Brownrigg objected to KDH praising their new system for being efficient and user-friendly. Lisa commented: “Know what’s highly efficient and easy to use? *free* Because when you’re sick and/or injured the last thing you need to worry about is parking.”

Tracii Holtom Reardon also disagreed that the new system was easy to use for patients. “Actually, it makes it more difficult for disabled people and anyone who has difficulty walking. You have to get a ticket and pay for 20 minute increments. Walk back to your vehicle and put it inside. If you think you will only be 20 minutes. And if you are in the building longer, chances are these folks won’t be going back out to the parking lot to buy another ticket. This was the discussion that was going on with the ‘older’ folks while waiting for Bloodwork at Dynacare.”

The recent election, and the upcoming municipal contest, will be a source of comments for some time to come, I think. Last week’s Editorial discussed the possible change in relations between the Municipality and the Province now that Steve Clark is Minister for Municipal Affairs. Shaun Vardon believes things may not be as cosy as some on Council think. “The close partisan ties between the current council and the Ford government will become a problem for them. For years “the province” read Liberals, were to blame for pretty much every problem. Who will council and the mayor blame now when they don’t get what they want?”

A reader who describes themselves as “a stakeholder affiliated with one of the tenants on the campus of Kemptville College, is hoping for a new Council that will be more open and transparent about how they go about municipal business. “I am very concerned about the lack of transparency, honesty and sustainability of that project. As well, the attacks on this newspaper and the BIA have been disappointing and unnecessary. Let’s hope local citizens vote for change!”

As always, the role of the media in all of these issues has been commented on once again. Following the article last week about the role of newspapers at the time of Confederation, André Chagnon commented: “Now if only there were a way to remove bias from the equation, thereby making the media report facts, instead of fabrications and opinions…” Fabrications aside, and you won’t find them in the Times, Willard Irven pointed out that: “There has always been bias in news reporting; it’s our responsibility as readers to filter out the manipulated opinion from honest, fact-supported opinion.”

This approach was met with some scepticism by André. “The problem is many readers–many would argue a majority–don’t have the ability to filter. People will believe what they want to believe.”  And former Mayor Bill Gooch was even less optimistic about the reading public: “The filtering mechanism does not work. People tend to believe what they see in print, on Facebook and other social media. I don’t think there are very many people who respect or believe mainstream media any longer.”  André had the last word on that subject (so far): “I think you’re giving people too much credit.”

Democracy and free speech in action. Have your say: write a Letter to the Editor, or post a comment on Facebook. If you feel strongly enough about something, write an article and send it to us. You will be published (as long as contains no fabrications!).

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