If you believe elections are largely popularity contests, you would have to admit Doug Sulman has been a pretty popular guy around Chatham.
He’s been a council fixture since the 1980’s, topping the polls a number of times, so it could come as a surprise that he’s opening himself up to some decidedly unpopular feedback by wondering aloud if amalgamation should be scrapped.
Sulman isn’t pulling any punches in laying the blame on his council mates, particularly those in the outlying regions who he believes foster an “us vs. them” attitude which demonizes Chatham and uses their voting power to make sure each ward gets its cut of municipal spending.
He even mentioned the ‘A’ word, as in arena, something that just isn’t done in a nation where everyone believes they have a God-given right to artificial ice.
Sulman’s opinions are sure to earn him some hostility around the council horseshoe but he isn’t alone in his assertion that something needs to be done.
Counc. Derek Robertson has been chomping at the bit to get the issue moved to the province’s domain.
He believes there will be no change in attitude as long as councillors are elected in the current manner.
Robertson believes cutting council in half and making each member responsible for a wider area will decrease the pressure to get a share of the spending or services.
While it’s easy to get the idea across that Shrewsbury doesn’t need a transit system while Chatham does, the issues become murkier when you discuss arenas, libraries and the like.
As uncomfortable as these issues are, they need to be discussed along with all other municipal spending, ideally not during the few days of budget deliberations but as a mindset.
We need a council big enough to tackle the big issues from a bigger perspective than how they will be received at the coffee shop.
These are the decisions we’ve elected them to make.
If they are comfortable maintaining or increasing services they need to be comfortable enough to go back to constituents and tell them that taxes will be increasing.