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Niagara-on-the-Lake
Monday, December 5, 2022
Letter: NOTL mayor and council are poor fiscal managers of the public purse

Dear editor:

Some advice to Lord Mayor Betty Disero and councillors: Accept the things that cannot change, have the courage to change the things that can and the wisdom to know the difference.

With unprecedented and mounting legal costs the lord mayor and councillors need to rethink their strategy of fighting every planning issue, with many ending up in court or at the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal.

They also need to rethink hiring lawyers from outside Niagara Region lawyers at double the cost of their own legal team on retainer and considered one of the top municipal law firms in the region, representing three municipalities.

Shopping for a planner or lawyer who will tell councillors what they want to hear is not a winnable strategy in court or at LPAT. It leads to excessive cost and a losing battle in the end. NOTL needs to enter into dialogue and negotiate solutions.

This council is unsustainable when its budget for legal fees for the upcoming year is $1.2 million or 10 per cent of the municipal operating levy of $12 million.

There are three principles of sustainability: people, planet and profit (financial). NOTL cannot claim to be sustainable with the largest percentage of any municipal budget in provincial history dedicated to legal costs. The present emptying of municipal reserves and cutting of infrastructure is definitely not sustainable.

With one of the biggest court challenges finished last week it is hard to fathom that 10 per cent of the municipal budget starting April 1, 2020, would be needed for legal fees. Was not the promised new official plan passed last year supposed to have resolved all future planning problems?

As a former chair of finance for NOTL, and a councillor of four terms, this forecast level of legal spending is not only unprecedented and unnecessary, but is also a historic first for the province. Not the kind of history to be proud of or a need to repeat every year.

I am not running for any office so the mayor or council need not feel this is politically motivated or personal. I care about my community. I gave the same advice to this council's unsustainable spending during the official plan update nearly a year ago and it went unheeded.

Jamie Slingerland
NOTL