Democracy or self-serving haven?


Sir: Seven out of 18 councillors voted to have the following question be placed on the 2018 fall election ballot – “Effective the term of Council beginning 2022, the number of councillors be reduced.” YES or NO.

Some opposing arguments: (1) councillors are already spread too thin; (2) wouldn’t save money anyway; (3) we are being represented just fine as is; [4] need more information before we vote.

Please consider the following. Amalgamation was intended to bring us a single-tier municipality, one jurisdiction in all areas of C-K governance, with one of many end results of having to file only one annual tax return to the province. Unfortunately, it has resulted in a two-tier council system in a single-tier municipality.

Coun Sulman’s well-intended statement implying that democracy “has left the building” has laser accuracy. What we were left with is democracy for the “municipality of the City of Chatham” with our rural areas as an optional side order.

During the recent dissenting vote, the rationale by those councillors disallowing citizens to have a say, whether to reduce council or not, is akin to the same rationale used to not have a free Ontario Provincial Police presentation to council on the cost of policing done their way. Council’s rationale at that time cited better local policing with better control. In fact, there is no loss of calibre of policing levels or control. Both OPP and municipal levels of policing are legislated under the same policy and would allow C-K to retain its local police board.

Despite these facts, councillors created skyhooks and fantasy tablets, replacing facts with conjecture regarding the OPP project.

This same mentality was demonstrated recently with the YES! or NO! question to consider a council reduction. In other words, the vote was only asking for the question to be placed on the ballot, nothing more. Those councillors voting no, prohibited residents from voicing their opinions.

When amalgamated in 1997, Chatham-Kent had 110,000 people with 17 councillors, or about 6,400 people per councillor. Today, we have about 101,500 people or about 6,000 people per councillor governed under an urban council (Chatham) of six votes and a fragmented rural representation of only an average of 2.2 councillors (votes) per rural ward. Yet we are supposed to be amalgamated (meaning to combine and unite to form one organization and structure).

Our current set up allows for what is known as “a deal-making” system. In order for individual wards to get what they want, it becomes a “you scratch my back and we’ll scratch yours” routine. This creates a potential for a very prejudice system, invariably costing taxpayers more than it should. Even the province admitted they did not consider the deal-making potential when amalgamating.

In order to have an amalgamated council to match an amalgamated jurisdiction absent of bias between urban and rural and create balanced and fair representation, Chatham-Kent would require a six ward system, having two elected people per ward. Each ward would be comprised of urban and rural population where each rural ward would take a bite out of urban Ward 6. The City of Chatham would be proportionately displaced and not be able to have a majority vote, subsequently we would have all of Chatham-Kent equally represented.

The two elected people in each ward would have to equally and fairly represent their respective urban-rural riding or not get re-elected. Each councillor in each ward would have about 8,400 people to represent- well within practiced guidelines, compared to our current ratio of 6,000 people per councillor.

Geographic size will always be an issue unless we go to a seven- or eight-ward system.

Reducing council by six would save about $168,000 annually in base salaries. Councillors get paid expenses in addition to a base salary of $28,000. Part of the money savings through reducing council could be tacked on to the remaining councillors for looking after the additional 2,400 people per ward. Councillors could then be paid $ 35,000 each annually plus expenses. This still would save us $114,000 annually in base council salaries, all the while giving us equal and mandatory shared representation for everyone and every community in Chatham-Kent.

I may not have all the answers but I sure have a lot of questions as to why those councillors that did not want the question placed on the ballot to allow the public to say YES or NO.

My guess? They were afraid of losing their seats, placing their loss ahead of the taxpayers they are supposed to represent.

John Cryderman




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