Editorial: Barriers to governance

How much attention can a government give to one issue? Depending on the issue in South Dundas, quite a lot. But is all that attention warranted?

At the last council meeting, the issue of a barrier that was removed was brought to the attention of council, and it was discussed fully, for over 10 minutes. The problem is, did it need to be?

There was a barrier at the end of a road that divided it from a private lane. That barrier had been removed. Residents wanted it put back. The resident’s issue wasn’t the problem. It was that staff could not, or were not allowed to, deal with it without council input.

Instead the issue merited serious consideration by council. The confusion was compounded by incomplete information provided by municipal staff. No one could answer definitively who removed the barrier or why. When asked to make a decision, council chose to put up the barrier. Why did this issue make it to the council table at all?

Earlier in that same meeting, a discussion about a private sewer and water line across several properties devolved into questions and speculation about events from 60 years ago. Council directed staff to research the issue. This should have been done before this issue was brought to council. Not that it matters.

When council has received recommendations from staff, in some cases well researched recommendations, those are ignored either for political expediency, or the need to be everything to everyone. Landfill management plans and replacement campground buildings are but two recent examples of this. In the end, staff’s work is disregarded or sidelined because council had a better idea; or did not want to be seen playing favourites between groups; or wanted to be cheap. In each example, this dithering has cost citizens time, money and clarity.

How can this barrier to good governance be dealt with? For starters, when staff presents a report, it needs to be well researched. South Dundas has a well organized archive in Iroquois now, use it. When staff presents a report or plan, council has to be prepared to listen, and trust the staff are competent people doing their job and presenting something based on their experience.

If administration and council do not have that trust and respect between them, then that truly is a barrier to good governance.