When speaking with citizens of Almonte, one theme was stressed to me over and over: public consultation.
When was the last time your councillor sent you an email or phoned to say “Hey, I’ll be at (old town hall/local restaurant/library/Legion/other) on Saturday morning if you have concerns about that proposed (Official Plan/park sale/OVRT/zoning change)?” Or, “send me an email about (snow-clearing/traffic speed/crosswalk/water overcharge)”?
There may have been troubles with the bandwidth at the Municipal office a year ago when the cabling went in, but what has been holding your councillor back lately?
Informal consultation can be frequent; formal communication needs to be regular.
The problem I heard with public consultation was not just that it was infrequent and amounted to lip service; it was that few on Council listened. At the August 9, 2016 meeting where staff and Council proposed selling Don Maynard Park, only one Councillor waded into the crowd outside and spoke to people, and that was Councillor Paul Watters, who represented Ramsay. The Almonte councillors didn’t: apparently, they knew better than more than thirteen hundred of their own citizens.
You can expect me to ask you for your advice and your preferences in a number of ways. Let me know what kind of contact you prefer.
Improve the Democratic Process in Mississippi Mills:
more public input into council and committee meetings
elections, not appointments, to be used for Council vacancies
see that residents’ fundamental freedoms and democratic rights under the Bill of Rights 1960 and Charter of Rights and Freedoms 1981 are supported
improve accountability through recording of all public and closed meetings (including committee meetings) as recommended by the provincial Ombudsman
amend municipal bylaws and policies to be consistent with public rights and freedoms under provincial and federal acts; remove any provisions that attempt to suppress them
implement a redress mechanism used by other municipalities that empowers citizens between elections
Improve the Service Experience in Mississippi Mills:
codes of conduct that deal with service to the public by Council and employees and a user-friendly recourse process
institute a hierarchy of response by elected representatives so that queries no longer fall through the cracks
promote problem-solving, time management, quality control, accessibility services and resolving issues to staff and train if necessary
Improve Roads and Public Works
seek input from residents on the future of sidewalks and roads
seek a heavy vehicle and dangerous good transport route through consultation with the public, commercial users, the province and federal government
pay attention to public needs, such as placing municipal trash receptacles in areas where people need them, not just downtown
Deal with Conflicts of Interest:
require annual declarations by council, public board and committee members, and employees of their pecuniary interests and those of their family/conjugal relationships that may cause actual or perceived conflict
corrective actions for violations
support the new Integrity Commissioner and seek her/his suggestions
Improve Communication and Critical Information
ensure public access to recordings of Council and Committee sessions (except those closed under exceptions in the Municipal Act, which will be recorded for the purpose of potential investigation)
improve web services
meet with residents regularly
digitize and organize by-laws, policies and financial reports
allow public message access to non-profit community organizations
Improve the Business Environment
seek advice and vision from all businesses in Almonte and consult with our neighbours in Ramsay and Pakenham: what works? What doesn’t?
If expanding the settlement areas, where does business fit in? Is there a better place for more industrial-type use (instead of over the groundwater protection area)?
Improve the Fairness and Management of Heritage Buildings
establish priorities through municipality-wide consultation on support from public funds (such as community-owned, service organizations, commercial, residential)
encourage arms-length management and distribution of any financial heritage support and resources chiefly through owners, with municipal support as available and needed
Respect Parks and Recreation
no parks will be sold for residential or commercial development without public support
make park access, maintenance and development equitable
establish consistent and reliable information for residents on scheduled events and servicing
recognize and train volunteers who help the community by providing services and sitting on boards
seek advice from volunteer groups, including firefighters
Mentor young people in civic government through volunteering and shadowing
Enhance a Variety of Tourism
Tourism investment and support of festivals and the arts will be available and equitable to all in Almonte and Mississippi Mills.
Give You a Voice in Planning
As recommended by the Planning Department, over the next two years, look at expanding the settlement boundaries of Almonte.
Collect input from residents on what changes to the Community Official Plan they envision, and what requires clarity and certainty for their own future planning.
Discuss youth projections and needs with schools, parents and planners
Consider moving commercial and industrial business away from the groundwater protection area.
Explore transportation to Ottawa with neighbouring communities
Consult more formally with residents on senior services needed in future
A community conversation needs to happen around drug hazards, addictions, policing and the effects of marijuana legalization in Mississippi Mills: what do we want from provincial services?