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Niagara Falls
Wednesday, March 29, 2023
Letter: Yes, NOTL really needs to adopt a ward system
Richard Harley’s editorial “Short-term rentals: Part 2: Too much industry influence,” won first place for best local editorial in all of Canada in 2021. Harley was awarded second place in the Outstanding Reporter Initiative category for 2020, for his series of stories on how COVID-19 travel restrictions affected farms and seasonal workers. File

Dear editor:

Moving from the present “at large” system of electing our town council to a new ward System as proposed in your editorial, (“A new NOTL, wards and all,” Aug. 18) is long overdue.

On this matter, NOTL is behind the curve compared to other expanding localities across Canada.

Accordingly, our upcoming municipal council candidates should be asked to declare and express publicly their positions on adopting a ward system.

It should be a priority question at any all-candidates meetings. Additionally all mayoral candidates, who would continue to be elected under the at large system, should voice their opinion.

This change appears to be well-received and would most likely gain the support of the community as a whole.

Having wards would address the many issues concerning residents from outside Old Town – those in St. Davids, Queenston, Glendale and Virgil – who feel underrepresented and disenfranchised by the way council is currently elected.

They are fed up with the council narrative always pandering to the Old Town, heritage district and tourism crowd at the exclusion of tackling critical concerns in their immediate neighbourhoods.

Lord Mayor Betty Disero, at a previous council meeting, was incensed and vigorously opposed these views. However, as they say in politics, “Perception is everything,” and her comments changed nothing.

Under the current system, the town is a single district in which all eligible voters vote on the same list of council candidates including the mayor.

Wards divide the town into smaller geographic areas, generally of equal population.

The residents in the ward vote for their council member or members, who reside in the ward and are more attuned and in concert with the community’s priorities.

This is similar to the electoral system in which each MPP represents a specific riding.

In his opinion piece, “Glendale’s long-term needs are much different than Old Town’s,” in the same edition, author Steve Hardaker made some excellent points. Truer words were never spoken – and so too are the other communities’ needs that make up NOTL.

A four-ward system would put most probably two council members in each ward acting in the best interests of the community as a whole , and eliminate the at large voting numbers that heretofore have been skewed in favour of the Old Town cabal, a term used recently by Mayor Disero.

Purportedly 41 per cent of all NOTL votes are cast in the Old Town.

So, new residents, get out and vote. Elect officials who will represent their constituents, not march to their own drummer as we often observed with the current council (plus their aversion to transparency).

Advocate for this new and timely change in our voting structure, be proactive and be prepared to address our challenging population growth needs.

Samuel Young




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