Let’s park the strong adjectives and adverbs about the emerging discussion about ward systems, (Letter, Sept. 1, “A ward system is an absurd proposal for NOTL“).
Let’s try a reasoned response with a look at how to organize ourselves for good municipal government in the future.
First, I think that we can agree that the six urban areas and the rural area that make up Niagara-on-the-Lake each have different priority issues.
Vacation rentals, municipal accommodation taxes, hollowing out of the heritage district are important in Old Town, but not on the radar elsewhere.
College student behaviour and housing, on-street parking are issues specific to Glendale.
Drainage, other vegetation issues and “commercial” signs are at issue in the rural areas. And so on.
It seems to make sense to have voices from all the communities on town council. But that hasn’t happened in my experience.
Anecdotally, in my 20 years of observation (that’s elections in 2003, 2006, 2010, 2014, 2018), Glendale has never had a resident elected to council, St. Davids has had one (former lord mayor Pat Darte), Queenston has had two or three, the rural area has had two.
In my recollection the remainder have been from Old Town or Virgil.
But things are starting to change and the population locus of Niagara-on-the-Lake is moving.
Your contributor may have missed it, but St. Davids has grown from 700 to about 3,000 residents in the past decade and once the Queenston Quarry is built out could have as many as 5,000 residents.
In a recent media article, Steve Hardaker from Glendale noted that the population of Glendale could be as high as 15,000 in a decade or two. We need to prepare for that.
It’s clear the town’s at-large electoral system has been good for some but not others.
Case in point is St. Davids. We have no parks, only parkettes, no splash pads, no two-pads, no recreation centre, no library, no meeting place, no designated dog walk area.
That could soon be the recreation inventory for 5,000 people.
Our pool was a gift to the town from the Lions Club that the town’s recreation department deliberately under-maintained. The tennis courts belong to the Lions Club.
Finding a “champion” for St. Davids on council has been frustrating.
And the biggie? Niagara Falls’ decision to revert to an at-large model for its council in 2002 didn’t exactly start a stampede here in the region.
And unless the alleged extra administrative burden on town staff is described, I don’t share that concern.
I for one think a conversation about a ward system beginning in 2024 is worth having.
Want to hear my thoughts on how many councillors we might need in a ward system?