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Aug. 11, 2020 | Tuesday
Editorials and Opinions
Letter: 'Something is rotten' in Niagara politics

Dear editor:

In Shakespeare’s “Hamlet,” an officer of the palace guard says, “Something is rotten in the state of Denmark” after the dead king’s ghost appears.

I didn’t get beyond page four of The Lake Report's July 16 edition to smell something fishy emanating from regional and municipal council reportage. No mandatory Niagara-wide mask wearing is beyond reason, and a partial explanation why we remained in Phase 2 on our merry way to yesteryear’s promised land under premier Doug Ford.

I know that the seemingly interminable jail-like sentence due to the virus has rendered some antsy, but what’s up with duelling members of council?

With a huge property tax increase, it appeared that the largely rookie group might be in over their collective heads, but I was prepared to acquiesce and monitor future developments. Alas, a health crisis has buggered the works. Nonetheless, we were promised leadership at election time and this is certainly when we need it most.

However, it appears that we have an “executive” committee that seeks to call the shots, with council either ill-informed, non-informed or AWOL. It sounds like the committee is overloaded with senior staff and that the interim CAO and mayor are in charge.

This might work with veterans, but we have neither in each case. We have only one seasoned veteran on council and he and the mayor seem to be skirmishing over the procedural bylaw that regulates such niceties as “notice of motion.”

Last year, I encountered a nasty taste of the tail wagging the dog when I asked the council to intercede regarding shoddy staff decision-making in a parking issue that was part of their $2 million worth of yearly revenue.

I learned to distrust council, the mayor and staff in a process that lasted for months until I was exonerated at the regional level, the mediator telling me that the town had not seen fit to show up at the hearing and that it had submitted unsupported evidence that I knew was false – which was discarded. Hence my lack of trust.

The only councillor who saw fit to visit me, a bonafide lawyer, has resigned. I have served on four municipal councils, and resignations are rare and usually involve a move to another jurisdiction.

In that time I also witnessed more than one mayor calling secret meetings out of town (usually at the Niagara Parks Commission headquarters) and out of sight of both media and citizenry. I have observed situations where the mayor and finance chair try to run the show to the exasperation of committee members. I have never encountered a situation where senior staff seem easily to override elected members.

I trust that this smell might soon fade, but I am thankful that we have a local press that seeks to keep elected officials and staff honest and accountable. I trust that the local and regional council will not emulate the fiasco that exists in Ottawa.


Mike Keenan