The following letter was sent to members of town council. A copy was submitted to The Lake Report for publication.
For sure this letter is just a blip among those you are receiving from the good citizens of Niagara-on-the-Lake who are distressed, disappointed, even bewildered by council’s decision to meet privately and choose to offer a goodly section of our Upper Canada Heritage Trail to the developer of the Rand Estate.
I understand the role of our councillors and wish to thank you for standing for election and for serving.
I know you all and I had the privilege during the last two elections to MC a few of the candidate meetings at the Legion Hall. I have contributed to the financial support of the trail development and fortunately, too, I am a regular user of it.
In my own career I was a chief executive officer and required to make decisions daily, embody the values of the organization, articulate the vision, and deploy the strategy and tactics to progress and keep up the chase for excellence.
Now retired, I say honestly that I made good decisions, but not always.
You, too, are subject to many influences that affect one’s judgment. I have good knowledge of the issue, the context and the processes by which you acquired the knowledge to vote on the heritage trail proposition.
Hence the purpose of this letter is to gently, but unequivocally, convey directly that in this case you have made a blatant mistake.
It is in the process you used to reach the decision and the consequences of the decision itself.
The in camera Dec. 15 decision is rightly being and viewed by the hundreds of citizens I know as undemocratic, a sop to the developer, plus bad for heritage, and the social and cultural ambience of our little town.
I see also collateral damage to the respect and integrity for the institution of the council and, personally for each of the councillors who voted in favour. I find it sad that your dedication and endless hours are now viewed this way.
We now know that sober second thought has led to a review of the December decision and, thankfully, council has withdrawn the offer to the developer to make use of a good portion of the heritage trail as an entrance/exit and road to the Rand subdivision.
It is the expressed ask to our council that it make less use of in-camera meetings and to seek and listen more to the advice of the expert community volunteers on the town’s various committees.
Public officials and processes are held to a higher standard and when deviations occur it’s unacceptable.
I believe this issue should have never developed and, unfortunately, this is not even near the end of this saga.
Since the message has been delivered that the trail is available under the right circumstances, I bet the developer will return with an offer that “can’t be refused.”
In the coming months we will be confronted with this all over again unless council changes processes and messages.
Please learn from this debacle and apply the lesson that there is a principle involved: namely this highly utilized, publicly subscribed, heritage trail is just not available, no matter the price.
Yes, in future please be principle, value and ethically driven in the important work you do on behalf of all citizens in this role as councillor.