I believe that I am as ready as any potential first time Councillor could be and possibly even more so. I have been heavily involved in the politics of Torbay over the past 4 years despite not being on council. I regularly attend council meetings and have been using my website Torbay Today to pass along what I feel is important information concerning our town.
As a father with a young family I believe that it is our responsibility to be active in our community and try and create a town that fits the needs of current residents and those of the future. Over the past number of years I have been trying to provide the residents of Torbay with an overview of current events and the inner workings of council both in social media and throughout the community. The number of people who regularly attend council meetings is relatively low so I felt the need to get information out to our residents was very high. I have been very vocal in my support of the town of Torbay and also critical when I feel the situation warrants it.
One of the biggest criticisms I hear from many Torbay residents is that they feel council does not listen to them. I have great determination, drive and understanding of the issues in our town and would like to be a voice for all of the people of Torbay, especially for those who feel they have none.
I have heard many first time candidates in the past give endless lists of all the things they are going to do when they get on council. How they are going to get this or that done with no appreciation for how municipal government works. Yes you can get things done, but ultimately you are one voice on council and hopefully you can forge relationships with other members of council to try and move the town forward.
After attending many council meetings and witnessing what I would call clear divisions on council, I feel that on many occasions council may have gotten bogged down. Instead of completing town business there was a lot of infighting and pettiness going on which caused hard feelings on council and, at times, caused those of us in attendance to shake our heads in disbelief.
There are a lot of things I would like to see done in this town and I want to be on the forefront of trying to make them happen. However, I am concerned if we continue down the same path as we have in the past that we will forever be asking ourselves what is really getting done? Where is the progress? What are our Priorities?
Three things I would bring to the next council are:
New Attitude - I want to bring an attitude of inclusion and transparency to municipal government. A means of governance where council asks the people what they want instead of dictating to them. A prime example of this is Pre-Budget Consultations. I have been asking about this for the past two budgets and still there has been no real movement on it. There was a failed attempt before the last budget was delivered to have an information session but it was voted down by council. I find there to be an attitude around the table that the people who elected council to do this job should now leave them alone and let them do it, basically if you don't like it come back and see them in four years. Well it is four years down the road and this type of attitude needs to change, we need people to be involved and council should encourage it instead of dismissing it.
Considering that the budget is one of the single most important pieces of legislation that council passes each year, the process should be inclusive of what the citizens of the town want. Council should tell the residents how the money is going to be allocated before the budget is actually approved so people can give feedback and provide direction. This enables the people of the town to have an actual say in what our tax dollars are spent on. If we had done this in the past maybe some of our spending priorities would have been different. That is certainly an issue I have been hearing from people who wonder why our money is spent on certain initiatives and not others they view as more important. If they had been consulted they may have had a better understanding.
Another problem that I see is that the Town of Torbay does not do enough to work with our regional neighbours. I hear a lot of people talking about various facilities they would like to see in Torbay such as Swimming Pool, Community Center, Recreation Facility or Water and Sewer improvements. Any of these large scale projects is going to cost in the millions of dollars and a town our size stands little chance of getting that kind of funding from the provincial government. However if we work together with our neighboring towns and propose regional projects we may have a better chance to get the money we need. That doesn't mean we have to move forward with every project but neglecting to even explore regional cooperation is not doing the Town of Torbay justice. There is a very real perception around our region that other towns have no interest in working with us and that has to change.
New Approach - A new approach to how decisions are made in Torbay and specifically how the citizens are engaged in those decisions. All too often I hear that many residents feel they have no input into what types of initiatives the town undertakes or the types of projects money is spent on. When residents feel they are part of the decision making process I believe they are more likely to be involved and supportive. When they feel they have contributed to the planning of a project it may prove more likely that they will participate in it to make it a success, which is comparable to pride of ownership.
People like to be informed and, with the technology available to us today, there should be no reason that cannot happen. Residents simply want to feel like they are being listened to and the more people I speak to the greater the impression I get this is not happening. One of the biggest complaints I hear in this regard is in relation to communication. I have heard so many stories of people contacting the town for various reasons and never getting a response. This to me is simply unacceptable and I know the town is working hard on improving communications and have come a long way but we need to make it a priority to work out the remaining problems. Citizens who feel they are being ignored quickly become disengaged and lose interest. How can we ever hope to build an inclusive community where people take pride in living in Torbay if we don't communicate?
New Ideas - Torbay is a growing community with people moving here from inside and outside the province. Each new family that comes here brings a unique perspective from where they lived before and ideas of what they would like to see in their new community. Many life-long residents of Torbay also have their own opinions and ideas for how they would like to see the town move forward. As a town and a community we need to encourage these people to share their experiences and ideas with the town. It is not fair to our residents to solely rely on Torbay council and staff to come up with all the new ideas for this town, and then turn around once the decisions are made and have residents complain about it. We as residents should have a forum where we can come forward with ideas and our town must be receptive to those ideas and give them the consideration they deserve.
If we want the Town of Torbay to be the community we all wish it could be, then we need to be proactive. Ask people for their input before we decide to go ahead with a plan. Maybe someone in the community has a unique perspective that they can offer and improve on an idea, or even make us rethink it completely. We are the people living here and may be here possibly for the rest of our lives, so we should be helping to make these decisions instead of consultants and other professionals working from an arms-length perspective, who have no real connection to the town.
Here are a couple of specific projects or issues I think are important:
Education - Plans are currently under way for a new middle school to be built in our community and $3,000,000 has been allocated this year for design work and site preparation. Although this is primarily a provincial government responsibility, I think it is important for the Town of Torbay to be engaged and work closely with our MHA Kevin Parsons in this regard. Education is such an essential part of any community and we can't leave anything to chance. Mr. Parsons has been able to deliver so far on this school but we can't stop pushing and he can't stop advocating on our behalf. We shouldn't just sit back and hope everything works out for the best. We need to be there on the front lines pressuring the government to convince them how important this new school is for our area.
Recreation Facilities - I would like the town to seriously consider building a new recreation facility at Upper Three Corner Pond Park. An ideal facility would have access to washrooms from the outside and also a multi-purpose room that could be available to the public or community groups. We could also provide an area for our minor sports leagues like soccer and softball to operate from and even some recreation employees could relocate from the overcrowded town hall. As I understand it, there is already money available from both the Federal and Provincial governments for this project. This includes $150,000 from ACOA and another $150,000 from Torbay's municipal operating grant that the province has approved to be used for this project. Add another $150,000 from the town on a 1/3 project share and we have 450,000 to construct a new facility. If this money is available and the facility is needed then the town needs to move quickly on this project and get it done before the availability of this money expires.
I would also like to see the Camp Carey building at Upper Three Corner Pond Park refurbished. It has been neglected for years and it currently being used by the town for storage. It should be fixed up and made available to residents and youth groups like Girl Guides and Boy Scouts. There were once plans to put some small camp sites in that area and a trail around the pond that fell by the wayside. That is a beautiful area and a terrific green space that we should be utilizing to its full potential.
I would also like to see some consideration of walking trails around one or more of our ponds. My preference would be to start with Great Pond. I don't believe it is a viable water supply and we should take advantage of this location. It can be accessed from several places along Bauline Line and also from Whiteway Pond Rd. It would be nice to have a walking trail around one of our local ponds instead of residents having to go to St. John's.
I have also floated an idea about how to improve the local swimming hole at Whiteway Pond. That area is well used and could use some upgrades. I would like to look at cutting back some of the trees to make the pond side area bigger and bring in some sand to create a beach. In addition to making the space bigger it would be nice to put a few fire pits there so that families can go there in the evening and have a camp fire. This is a great spot like it is but with some modest investment it could be made even better. This idea may not be for everyone but we will never know if we don't ask the questions.
Recreation is an important element that can transform our town from a bedroom community into a place where we can also spend our leisure time. As our town grows, the demand for enhanced recreation facilities and green space also grows. The Town of Torbay has an extensive Recreation Master Plan and it has some wonderful ideas in it. The problem is that many of the high priority needs identified are very expensive and years away from ever being done. That is why we need to take advantage of smaller projects that can be completed with the money we already have instead of money we wish we had.
Waste Water Treatment - There is currently a Best Available Technology study underway to try and find a way to address this serious issue. Until we find out exactly what the best approach to take with this, it is hard to know when or how much money this is going to cost. I hope that one of those options includes hooking up to St. John's, which is largest waste water treatment facility in the province. I don't know if it is even feasible to go that route but unless we ask the question we will never know the answer. No matter what happens at the beach long term, we need to make sure that it is safe for residents and visitors. The town currently monitors the quality of the water and that needs to continue and we need to ensure our signage on the beach reflects the realities of the situation.
Municipal Water Supply - The town really needs to start looking at alternatives to our current water supply, North Pond. That pond is at or near capacity and I think we really need to look at regional options. I don't believe that there is another viable option within the town boundaries that has been brought forward. I don't know if the town has ever seriously pursued connecting to St. John's water supply or if they even have the capacity. However for a town like Torbay, this close to the city, it would certainly have to be a desirable solution. If St. John's is not an option then we should pursue a partnership with a town like Pouch Cove or Flatrock to see if they would be interested. Medalsis Pond which is located in Flatrock and between Pouch Cove and Flatrock may be a great solution. One water treatment plant servicing multiple towns instead of each town proceeding on their own. I have heard that this is not an option but I have never heard the reason. I have heard that Flatrock is not interested in water and sewer, it is too far, and various other reasons but unless we really sit down and discuss these issues and look for new solutions we will never advance. The water and sewer situation in Torbay hasn't really changed in 30 years and the time has come to do something about it.
Sidewalks and Curbs - This is an issue that I have heard a lot of people talk about. I also know that it has been on the radar of council in the past but nothing seems to really get done in this area. I know that cost is certainly an issue and jurisdiction over certain roads is also an obstacle. I am not sure what the answer is when it comes to sidewalks but I do have a few ideas that I would like to investigate. For instance why do we need open ditches along the side of our roads? If we have a curb, couldn't we just put a full culvert in the ditch, cover it in and have a storm drain running from the curb into the covered ditch? Even if the sidewalk portion wasn't concrete people could still feel safe with a few extra feet to walk next to the road. I don't even know if this is possible to do but it seems quite simple and we will never know if it can be done until we ask? I also find myself wondering why we permit developers to put in new roads without curbs? If the curbs were installed when the roads are created it would save a lot of road repair work for the town years down the road. Every road in Torbay that doesn't have a curb suffers washout damage and has to be fixed, some of them on a yearly basis.
Development - I would like the town to continue to promote development and work with developers for Torbay to move forward. We need to make sure we proceed with care and in the best interest of the town, but that should not mean slowing or even preventing developers from doing projects. The town plan is currently under review and will be in place for the next council, as long as we operate within our guidelines and make sensible decisions there should be no reason for some of the animosity we experienced on this current council.
I realize that all of these things I am talking about cost money but I believe if we proceed in a sensible fashion many of these things can be done without breaking the bank. As a municipal government one of the most important things we need to do is spend tax payers money wisely. We need to try and expand our tax base to reduce the burden on current tax payers. The only way to do that is to attract new business to the town or through residential developments. Either way Torbay needs to be a place where people want to live or set up businesses and it is the job of the town council to create an environment for this to happen.
If you have any suggestions or questions for me please feel free to contact me either by phone 697-3297 or email email@example.com
If you think you can support me please tell others, if for some reason you don't please tell me.