Last Thursday, October 25th, I attended a Ward 4 meeting hosted by the Sault Ste. Marie Ratepayers Association. Along with about 18 other residents from Ward 4 and councillors Rick Niro and Ward 5ís Frank Fata, we gathered in a City Hall meeting room to be introduced to the Sault Ratepayers Association and to be encouraged to re-engage with democratic process.
From a personal point of view, this meeting was timely. The proroguing of the Ontario Legislature made me realize just how isolated I had become from the democratic process that we, as Canadians, seem to be so proud of. Sure, I cast my votes in all of the elections, but that is the extent of my involvement. I have never attended a City Council meeting, or visited our MPPís office, nor have I written to express my concerns to either our MPP or MP - until the proroguing of the Legislature. Perhaps this was the straw that broke the camelís back. I realized that it was time to get involved. What better place to start than with our municipal government.
So the Sault Ratepayers Association meeting was a natural next step. Volunteer organizer Ted Johnston greeted everyone and explained the goals of the Association, goals that pretty much fit with my new desire to get involved with the democratic process of government at the municipal level. He spoke about the need for ratepayers to work in partnership with City Councillors, assisting them in the work of running this city effectively and efficiently. Councillor Rick Niro then gave a quick synopsis of his own involvement in Council and his goals related to serving the residents in Ward 4.
With the meeting opened up to questions from the residents of Ward 4, concerns were expressed about how work was accomplished by the City, especially with regards to roads maintenance and repair. Discussion around this issue actually turned into a teaching opportunity. Information was shared that described the role that our City Councillors play with respect to such concerns. Information was also shared regarding the legal restrictions placed on Councillors - what they can and cannot do. But perhaps the most important information shared was the process whereby individual residents can be involved in making sure that their concerns are being addressed by city staff. The ratepayers attending were shown how they can really help the City Council and the City staff do their work more effectively and efficiently. Ratepayers can help by being the extra eyes, hears, hands and feet in the wards, collecting information, sharing it with the appropriate councillors and staff and monitoring the accomplishments.
The essence of the Ward 4 meeting was that there is a way to become re-engaged with the democratic process that is responsible for the management of our city of Sault Ste. Marie. Here is a way to enter into a partnership with elected officials and staff to ensure that the taxes being paid by ratepayers are being used in the most effective and efficient way.
Our city has changed a lot over the past few years. Many folks look at the decline of some of our biggest employers and a decline in population as a sign of failure. Others look at the changes that have been happening as a signal that the city is advancing as new technology and processes come into play in this 21st century. With the development of the green economy as witnessed by our solar and wind farms, to the establishment of Algoma University, the Sault is changing in a positive way. As ratepayers, we can play a role in that continued development. We can play a role in the future of our city.
Volunteer Organizer, Events Group SSMRA