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Light went on but which one?

Our so-called nonpartisan majority on council has finally seen the light. The question is, though, what light did they see? The one that reveals this city needs more attention on attracting a broader financial foundation? Or the light that indicates it is an election year?
After many years of talking and hand wringing, last week’s headlines proclaimed council’s unanimous approval for the granting of funds from the incentive program for downtown development.
As happy as I am about this positive step, I think evidence of a leadership that is focused on the wrong end of the priority list peeked through again. Councillors and staff alike are reported as being surprised at how quickly the fund dried up. That suggests two possibilities to me. Either the incentive formula for developers was too generous, or it suffers from inadequate foresight and understanding of what is required for an effective future plan. Things like this have to be done right, the first time.
There are lots of people who don’t care about developing the downtown. There are probably an equal number who are unconcerned about our commercial/industrial development. It’s okay to have personal preferences, but our municipal leadership cannot continue to fail to understand the role of these two pillars of the economic heart of our city.
We need competent leaders who understand this and can be trusted to make decisions to ensure our well-being.
Winning awards for landfill diversion or having a LEED-certified city hall are important and boast-  worthy. In my opinion, though, we should first be able to boast about a healthy, expanding financial base that allows us to pay for the bonus stuff.
We all benefit when this is done right. If it is not being done right, we get to see it on our tax bills and in the delivery of other services that we depend on.
Downtown and brownfield development has been talked about extensively for the last two terms of elected leadership. Why has it taken so long to get a short-funded incentive plan for development in place? Understandably, due process can move slowly, but if decision makers are focused on a different agenda altogether, then, as we have seen, it takes even longer.
The library and police station each need a new vision or new facility. The Hanlon Creek Business Park project needs some action. The east side of town needs commercial and retail infrastructure. The south end is still waiting for recreational facilities. The downtown needs a definite plan.
Issues like these require intelligent planning and execution without the delays and frustration currently being experienced. Some of these needs have been bantered around for so long they are in danger of becoming crisis-driven. We need a council that is focused on the right agenda for the community. We need councillors who are capable of bringing creative, affordable solutions to these and future needs and making more unanimous decisions.
What I describe as social and environmental engineering can and will be done more appropriately by individuals and groups who have a true sense of community well-being.
If we don’t get first things first, we will eventually become a community of retirees, university students and minimum wage earners, watching the commuters heading up and down the 401 to where the real jobs are.
Bottom line, we voters need to do a better job of electing our next council.

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