Not too long ago I penned an article offering my opinion that it would soon be time to oust a dysfunctional, ineffective council and elect people who will have the moral turpitude to make serious changes to get this city moving again.
That day has come and I’ve been caught in the awkward position of writing this piece before the election but will only see it in print after the election.
A rather strange situation because I can’t try to influence the outcome (which newspapers are not allowed to do anyway) and it’s not of much use to make predictions because the election will be over when you read this.
But before I launch into another of my rants, I would offer my thanks to the many friends and acquaintances who called to ask me to run for the position of mayor, and to offer their support.
After a few sleepless nights of contemplation, and after the present mayor opted out of the race, I decided that, as one of the “working class,” I could not devote enough time to do the rebuilding job that has to be done. Instead, I decided to support Charles Pender’s bid for the job.
I believe Charles has had a four-year hiatus in which he gained great insight into what needs to be done to move our city in the right direction. In that regard, the former council has been ineffective and perhaps even a total failure. While other communities are growing by leaps and bounds, Corner Brook remains stagnant.
Council can argue that a new city hall has been built, a new water treatment plant is now under construction, O’Connell Drive is torn up for a new waterline, etc., etc.
But the fact remains — not one of these projects adds one red cent of new revenue to our coffers.
The new council will immediately have to take control of city hall and let everyone in that building know that the days of the tail wagging the dog are over, and that rules and regulations will henceforth have to be bent and twisted to get development moving, instead of being used as weapons to stop development.
In a recent editorial in this newspaper, it was noted that other municipalities would have similar types of rules, but don’t seem to have the same problems getting projects underway.
The rules are not the problem. Attitudes are the problem. This will be council’s biggest job — changing attitudes. But before this can be done, council will have to reorganize and simplify the organizational structure within city hall. Most people are unaware that in that structure there are many directors, managers and supervisors. This makes little sense in a city of only 20,000. Much of this bureaucratic growth has happened in the past eight years and coincides with Corner Brook’s downward economic spiral.
In that period we also lost two sports-related economic generators in the form of ITU Triathlons, which gave us priceless international exposure, and of course the Corner Brook Royals. It’s interesting to note that the 2012 Pepsi Centre financial deficit ($114,000) roughly corresponds to the revenue lost by the departure of the Royals ($140,000). Both losses could have been prevented. City hall let it happen.
And it all happened on the former council’s watch. They allowed themselves to be controlled by an out-of-control bureaucracy.
And they had the timerity to ask us, their paymasters, to give them four more years in office. A vote for these councillors would have been a vote for status quo and that should not be acceptable to any taxpaying citizen of this city.
I would have made one exception and supported Leo Bruce who did try to help his constituents and did try to do something about the permitting process, albeit he was unsuccessful in making any progress toward meaningful change.
It’s interesting to note that in the recent candidate forums, everyone, including the incumbents, stressed how important it is to get the economy of our city moving. Where have they been for the past four years? Asleep at the wheel?
Change, however, is what we need. The day of reckoning has come and gone. Did we do the right thing and get that change? Will the new council take control of city hall before we become an economic basket case?
Can they turn this rudderless ship around? I, for one, hope they can, but it will take sweeping changes and much hard work.
Now let’s see — who will I vote for? Charles Pender for mayor? And for council ... Keith Cormier, Leo Bruce, Josh Carey, Bern Staeben, Dave Wells, Gerard Lee, Trent Quinton? How did I do? Was I close?
Well, whoever won, I pray and hope they know what has to be done, and done fast.
Donald J. DiCesare lives in Corner Brook and is a member of The Western Star’s Community Editorial Board.