A Failure of Vision on All Fronts

Those of us who would like to see some progressive, dare I even say it  – visionary – change, the latest news is depressing as elected representatives at all levels back track and vacillate on important issues shaping our communities.

Innisfil Council Wants to Gut Urbanization Plan

In Innisfil, Council initially voted to remove the centre median design from the remaining “precincts” of the Alcona downtown urbanization in favour of a continuous strip of pavement. To her credit, Mayor Baguley had this motion deferred for further consideration at another meeting on May 4. (Medians may be axed from precinct plans, Innisfil Scope, April 27, 2011)

If town finances are the concern, I could understand postponing and rescheduling construction over a longer period. But gutting the whole design to opt instead for a stretch of sterile pavement shows that members of this Council have even less understanding of community building than the previous one. It shows an abysmal understanding of Smart Growth principles and total lack of vision for the future.

A couple of local businesses (Pizzaville, Home Hardware) are complaining that the medians are discouraging drivers from accessing their businesses. There is nothing more than anecdotal evidence to support this claim.  Personally, I have not found it difficult to access these businesses and fail to understand what all the fuss is about. Cars don’t shop. People do. When potential customers get into a car, they may just as well choose to drive to Barrie or Bradford – and many do. If all you offer customers is a driveway, it’s time to rethink your approach to business. If Council can envision nothing more than a utilitarian swath of pavement for a car-dependent bedroom community it can forget about being taken seriously.

Council’s lack of commitment is a slap in the face to all those who participated in the Inspiring Innisfil 2020 planning exercise. One of the key recommendations was to “Identify an urban core… The Town must assert itself to shape the kind of community its residents increasingly indicate they want.” If Council proceeds with this decision I anticipate that it will set back public trust for years to come. Having faltered so quickly and so completely on this challenge, the bigger outline of the Inspiring Innisfil project appears to be in jeopardy before it even gets started. On January 21 I described Inspiring Innisfil as a fragile start toward a new future: “I say this is a fragile start because, to be successful, this strategy will need thoughtful and unwavering support of Council and energetic participation from the residents of Innisfil. I’m not sure yet that we can count on either.”  Sadly, and regrettably, I was right.

Insights into a Lively Downtown

User Pay Garbage Collection is Shelved

Over at Simcoe County, that Council voted overwhelmingly to shelve the user-pay garbage proposal. This is in spite of the fact that existing landfill will be available for only 7 or 8 more years. Councillors balked when they found that bag tags may cost $3 under the user pay proposal.

It gets more complicated. County staff want to issue a single contract for garbage service to the whole county rather than having 3 private contractors, which is the situation now. That in turn would require a successful bidder to purchase a larger fleet of vehicles. But the type of vehicles needed depends on whether or not users pay. The result is a virtual  Gordian knot because Simcoe County Council will not approve user pay until costs are known , and costs can’t be known until Council approves user-pay. County staff failed to anticipate this deadlock. So now the focus may shift to putting more responsibility on packagers and manufacturers, and pressing for the ability to recycle a greater variety of items. In the meantime it’s more of the same.

Bradford West Gwillimbury Mayor Doug White’s motion provides that:

  • full user pay “not be implemented until further consideration and direction by county council,”
  • that the RFP for waste collection be rescinded, and
  • that staff be required to negotiate an extension to existing waste collection contracts.

(User-pay for waste collection runs into turbulence, Kate Harries, AWARE Simcoe, April 27)

 Local MPPs Pledge to Scuttle Places to Grow 

Simcoe Grey MPP Jim Wilson and Simcoe North MPP Garfield Dunlop demonstrated to Simcoe County Council how out of touch they are with Simcoe County communities by announcing that a Progressive Conservative [provincial] government would scrap the Simcoe County Growth plan and Amendment 1.

Wilson is quoted asking, “Are we out of water? Are we out of land? Do we not want jobs?” To which I would reply, “Should communities keep sprawling and wasting resources until we are out of land and water? Do we not want MPPs who are not as shallow and uninformed?”