Thursday, March 01, 2007

It Was Too Quiet....

Well, just when we thought we could breathe a sigh of relief that old feuds were beginning to die away in Montague, former councillor Lita Richards rises from the political grave to offer her unsolicited opinions to Smiths Falls This Week. Ms. Richards has 'concerns' about how the new council is, or is not, living up to election campaign promises. Let's take a look.

Firstly, she comments that the new council has as many in-camera sessions as the old, so far. This, it must be said, is indisputable, however, council is only going in-camera when legally required to do so. Rightly or wrongly, there was a perception that the previous council used in-camera sessions more liberally than they had to. The new council is at least open about when and why in-camera sessions are required. However, it does seem that this is a case where new councillors are discovering that their election promise might not be so easy to live up to. Score one for Ms. Richards.

Secondly Ms. Richards 'hears' that John MacTavish is relatively silent in council meetings; I have to agree that this has been my observation in the limited number of meetings I attended so far. I did not vote for Mr. MacTavish, and as I said at the time, I was very surprised by his victory. Score two for Ms. Richards.

Thirdly, Ms. Richards takes Peter Kavanagh to task for not following through on 'complete support for our seniors'. This from a woman who as a councillor voted not to donate a mere $25 to the Forget-Me-Not club. The fact is the new council is taking time to consider and develop a policy for funding of all community groups and organizations, so that situations such as the petty rejection of the $25 by bitter and vindictive councillors should not occur in the future. Support for the seniors is strong, but council wants to get this one right, and so they should. Score one for council.

Fourthly, Mr. Kavanagh apparently did not attend a meeting about Rideau Regional in Smiths Falls recently, and this is apparently evidence that he has abandoned a campaign promise to fight for the RRC. No word on whether Mr. Kavanagh was actually invited to, or notified of this meeting. No word on who organized it, or attended. It could have been anything, official or unofficial - we don't know. Nor do we know if Mr. Kavanagh had County business at the time. On RRC, we know that various groups are fighting for a future, and our council is among them. Ms. Richards attempts to make it look otherwise are at best disingenuous. Score two for council.

Fifthly, Ms. Richards seems upset about the appointment of a new auditor, and makes the bizarre claim that this will result in a 3% tax increase. Given the experiences of recent years with all levels of government, and the lax fashion in which parts of township business were handled under the previous council, with no accountability required of township officials for money spent, I'm happy to see more safeguards. The 3% claim is bogus, I suspect, but even if true, it's buying accountability and certainly buying more than the $60,000 Ms. Richards voted to spend on a doomed and unconstitional assault on free speech. Score three for council.

Then (losing count) we move on to the best... an all out assault on the Montague Ratepayers Association. And here Ms. Richards exposes her essential hypocrisy. As we all have seen (and welcomed) the MRA has changed its leadership and is seeking to re-invent itself as a community organization, pursuing a number of very worthwhile initiatives. Isn't this what Ms. Richards and her fellow councillors wanted? Council minutes from Ms. Richards' time are full of questions about the MRA's community role. Now it seems Ms. Richards has changed her mind and doesn't want the MRA to do worthwhile and constructive things.

She points out that the new council voted themselves a pay increase, but doesn't mention that this is only due to her and her fellow lame duck councillors being petty and vindictive enough to roll back compensation - earning a stern editorial rebuke from the very paper in which she's writing now.

Ms. Richards accuses Dianne Coates of wanting a comparative review with other municipalities to see if compensation can be pushed higher. Here, Ms. Richards has overstepped the boundaries - if she'd been to council meetings instead of relying on hearsay, she'd know that the opposite was true. Dianne Coates voted against the increase for the new councillors, wanting the review to take place first to ensure that the increase would be in line with other local municipalities and not too high. I know, I was there. But why let truth get in the way of a good old personal vendetta?

Overall then, it seems the intention was to stir the pot and to keep old emnities alive in Montague. Way to go, Lita, thanks for the contribution. I think This Week might have done well to mention that Lita was a member of the previous council and is the girlfriend of the previous Reeve, but a careful read of what she wrote, as compared with the truth, might reveal that anyway.