Sustainability discussion heartening

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Sir: If you care about Chatham-Kent, pay attention to the Sept. 16 committee of the whole municipal council meeting. Audio recording is available on the council website and video will be available there eventually as well.

Our chief administrative officer Don Shropshire and general manager of corporate services Gerry Wolting gave an excellent summary of our municipality’s status, and challenged council to rise to meet our long-term goals. Council discussion indicated eagerness to do that.

Wolting was able to report that our municipality is in excellent financial condition, with our credit rating recently raised to A+, debt-to-borrowing-capacity ratio below average (in good shape) and a budget surplus to be reported at the next council meeting.

Alarm cries about our financial condition from some commentators seem to be unjustified.

Shropshire gave an excellent review of our municipality’s goals and challenges and potential responses, and many councillors expressed thanks and appreciation of that.

Some repeating themes:
• Council needs to come together around a consistent set of strategic priorities.
• Budget decisions and votes throughout the year need to be consistent with those strategic priorities. (Note: in most deliberative bodies the understanding is that you can disagree until the vote is taken, but then the decision of the majority becomes a commitment of the whole body. You can’t continue to sabotage the strategy after the decision is made. That’s treachery. That’s the meaning of a strategy.)
• A long-term focus is needed. Do what is best for future generations.
• Our demographics have an hourglass shape – lots of young people and a good population of older adults. We need to retain and attract more in the 18 to 45 age brackets
• Community involvement is essential; more interaction with council, more voter turnout, more volunteer participation in community causes.

Mayor Hope supported the focus on strategy: “Business comes before budgets … We need to be more strategic.” He also reminded council that it hadn’t faced up to recommendations for restructuring to a smaller body (fewer councillors).

Councillor King advocated focus on our strengths: Closeness to major water bodies, healthy aspects, attractiveness of our communities, importance of the agriculture industry.

Councillor Bondy got clarification from Shropshire and Wolting that our tax charges on a particular level of housing are about equivalent to other areas, but the price of that housing is generally much lower so the C-K homeowner is much better off.

Councillor Crew re-emphasised that council decisions should consider future generations.

Councillor Robertson recommended a periodic council review of progress toward the objectives set.

Councillor Fluker emphasized the need to make municipal government easy to do business with.

Councillor Herman advocated for a 10-year plan: “The year-to-year isn’t working.”

Councillor Sulman stated, “I’m not disturbed by spending. We can increase it if it improves our community.”

Councillor Gilbert again emphasised the need for development of and commitment to strategic plans.

All in all, this was an outstanding session for administration and council. Congratulations.

Now let’s all walk the talk.

John Sigurjohnsson

Chatham

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