Pay attention to issues and politicians (King Weekly Sentinel Editorial)

Pay attention to issues and politicians  (King Weekly Sentinel Editorial)

This editorial my Mark Pavilons, Editor of try King Weekly Sentinel is reproduced and appeared in November 21, 2012.

MARK PAVILONS

KING WEEKLY SENTINEL

 

“Three groups spend other people’s money: children, thieves, politicians. All three need supervision.”

Dick Armey

Here we are, just past the mid-way point of the current term of council.

It’s a perfect time to pause, reflect and evalu- ate the performance of the current crop of politicians – those who we entrust with our hard-earned tax dollars.

Being rather new to the King political scene, I have, nonetheless, had ample opportunities over the past 10 months to see and hear them in action. But I’ve been in the jour- nalism game for more than a quarter century and I even ran for Peel Re- gionalcouncillormyselfin Bolton in the 2010 munici- pal election. One thing I do know a fair bit about is people.

There is “history” in every community and even a fair bit of baggage, plenty of grudges and hard feelings. There are alliances and allegiances. While some of these have led us to this point in our history, progress is all about the future, not the past. The bottom line is we have to work with what we have and what we have was duly elected by the people of King.

Our newspaper asked readers, in our recent webpoll question, whether they believed the mayor and councillors were doing

a good job. The majority of respondents – 84% – voted “yes,” while the remainder – 16% – said “no.”

While far from scien- tific, if this is any indica- tion at all, then it seems most have faith in the cogs in the wheel that is King Township.

Conversely, in a similar poll in our sister paper, the Caledon Citizen, revealed very different results. The majority (76%) were not impressed by their mayor and councillors, while the minority (24%) felt they were doing a good job.

Again, it may not be definitive, but it does un- cover some of the public sentiment.

We’ve all heard of the “silent majority.” Most residents don’t attend council meetings or write letters to the editor. Most don’t participate in budget meetings or even vote dur- ing elections.

And that, my fellow citi- zens, has to change.

From where I sit and take notes, I can offer a few observations and per- sonal opinions. I wouldn’t elevate them to “in- sights” just yet and the call is ultimately up to the taxpayers.

There seems to be a general cohesiveness and camaraderie among coun- cillors and senior staff. I’ve seen dysfunctional councils at work over the years and nothing inter- feres more with progress than conflicting egos and self-serving mavericks. Ours seems to work, almost flawlessly. And that’s a rare treat. When politicians and staff are all on the same page – each keenly aware of the other’s roles, responsibilities and abilities – there is mutual understanding and respect. And I believe that’s largely the case, from what I’ve seen. Of course, I’m not privy to what goes on behind the scenes, but the public face of the Town- ship is aesthetically pleasing.

I find Mayor Steve Pellegrini to be very person- able, approachable and knowledgeable. He also knows the harsh realities of municipal and regional governments. His outgoing and friendly personality are complemented by his confidence and skills as a negotiator and spokesperson. Fortunately, he’s also King’s number-one cheer- leader – someone residents should be pleased to have in their corner. The fact that he responds to individual residents and even meets with them, is another rarity in municipal politics these days.

I find the council per- sonalities to be quite re- freshing. They provide a great mix of wisdom, ea- gerness, even excitement in their roles as politicians.

No one is perfect and I think the public has high expectations of their elected officials. They’re not superheroes, people. But, by the same token, with great power comes great responsibility and that duty to serve should always be paramount. In our system, the good of the many should always be the driving force.

Behind every strong council is a competent and hardworking staff of front-line experts. All de- partments, from planning to recreation and culture, involve constant balanc- ing acts to achieve com- promise.

What the public may not fully appreciate is that these staff have to wear many hats themselves. They have to have a keen eye for logistics; know the legislation inside and out; have a handle on costs and understand the needs and wants of the public. In many regards, their jobs are more difficult than public figures. They are the unsung heroes.

What’s important to the taxpayers are accomplish- ments, accountability, ease of access, progress, efficiency, attention to in- frastructure, public safety and fostering a strong local economy.

To those ends, King has some feathers in its pro- verbial cap.

First, the resident- driven Sustainability Plan, which addresses everything from heritage to economics, is a unique playbook for this Town- ship, one very few others have undertaken. Kudos to everyone who helped make this a reality.

Since its implementa- tion this spring, council has stayed true to its in- tent by constantly refer- ring to its guidelines when discussing issues of the day. This document is not sitting on the shelf – it’s pages are becoming doge- ared with use and that’s a very good thing.

King’s desire to remain “green” is a constant struggle, particularly as expansion pressures are mounting.

There has been much debate over growth, but the reality is, it’s here and it’s increasing rapidly.

King is changing. Like it or not, the township’s major urban centres are growing. In order for growth to pay for itself, what’s needed is an influx of retail, commercial and industrial development and that, too, is happening.

One key element is pub- lic participation. At most council meetings, you’ll find a select few and rep- resentatives of Concerned Citizens of King Town- ship. Thankfully our com- munity benefits from these “watchdogs.”

The Township does not employ psychics or mind- readers, so it’s vitally important that residents comment and provide input – on everything from the newest subdivision or commercial complex, to taxes, hard services and transit. There’s no such thing as too much public opinion on issues.

The doors are open at town hall why not walk through them?

There’s no sense com- plaining about this com- plex or higher taxes after the fact.

Elections are not the only time the taxpayers can make a difference. We all can, on a daily basis.

Just try.