27 C
Niagara Falls
Friday, July 12, 2024
Editorial: NOTL mayor and council can do better
Being a member of NOTL council is a tough and thankless job, but people don't feel they are being heard or listened to, writes Richard Harley. FILE PHOTO

Much of Niagara-on-the-Lake, it seems, is at loggerheads with its municipal leadership.

Not all, but a majority of councillors seem opposed to listening to the people who voted them in. Or, if they’re listening, they’re not supportive of what “the people” are telling them.

It’s a tough and thankless job, one that pays peanuts and there is always a long line of people telling you you’re wrong.

That’s democracy.

NOTL has a lot of contentious issues on its plate, issues that will forever change the town.

So informed by comments from The Lake Report’s survey of constituents’ feelings about council, let’s look at the top dog, Lord Mayor Gary Zalepa.

Here’s a mayor who, as a regional councillor, had a track record of doing whatever he thinks is best.

Here’s a mayor who prefers to leave work to staff “experts” instead of sometimes finding a middle ground that works for residents.

Here’s a mayor who said from the outset it would be a part-time job, but hired a full-time assistant after realizing it is actually more like two full-time jobs.

Here’s a mayor who has appeared to talk down to some fellow councillors.

Here’s a mayor who thinks he is always right, while opting not to fight for what people in the community actually want.

Here’s a mayor who declared a conflict on the Rand Estate simply because he lives in the vicinity of the proposed development but appeared to not flinch when the deputy lord mayor voted on a hotel project proposed by his first cousin.

Here’s a mayor who calls colleagues out of order for questioning his or staff’s information.

Here’s a mayor who needs to be a better leader for our community.

And if that sounds harsh, or like it’s coming from a disgruntled resident, that’s because it very much is. The Lake Report’s survey of residents shows a high level of discontent with the mayor and several members of council.

And it’s not just because of the Parliament Oak hotel. That’s only one part of a pattern of indifference and nonchalance when it comes to supporting what residents want for NOTL.

This is about having representation. A voice. A politician who listens.

The mayor might argue that he does indeed listen, weighs all the pros and cons, and then acts in what he thinks is the best interests of the community.

But people don’t feel they are being heard or listened to.

We live in this town, too. And one thing we should all hope for as residents of a democratic country, is that our voices are heard.

That simply isn’t happening.

We believe the role of a politician is to be the voice of the people on many subjects, including sometimes challenging staff reports.

We need a leader who will do that, when necessary. This is not to say staff reports are not valuable. They can be.

But we, the residents, have to live for years with the outcomes of council decisions and as a result should have some say in what happens in our town.

The people of NOTL want a leader who works for them.

For example, Niagara Region (and no doubt the builders who hope to get the contract, wink wink) thinks St. Davids needs a roundabout.

But those traffic “experts” aren’t experts on what makes a healthy community, or on heritage, or really anything else besides traffic — if they’re even “experts” on that.

Nonetheless, if the professional staff says so, Zalepa supports it. His constituents be damned.

Why care about destroying the character of a neighbourhood when we can save 25 seconds of driving time?

Here’s the thing: There is almost never traffic lined up St. Davids’ sole intersection. And when there has been, it’s because the region was fixing Concession 6 for the second time (you’d think if those experts were so good it would have been done right the first time).

This is just one small example of a pattern of unwillingness to support residents’ concerns. And it’s having a negative effect on our town.

Ironically we are aware Zalepa is a big fan of “Star Trek: The Next Generation.”

Well, we suggest he take inspiration from and adopt some of the leadership qualities of Capt. Picard. Because right now he’s more like the Borg — assimilate or get left behind.

We are almost halfway through this council’s mandate. It’s not too late for the mayor and others to recognize where and how they can do better.

Then, in two years, if voters don’t like the job council has done, they can express themselves at the ballot box.

Subscribe to our mailing list