By MAGGIE M, Editor, Wedgee-in-Chief, theWedge.LIVE
It’s fascinating to watch a population rise en masse against their elected leaders this close to home. It’s happening in many corners of the world. In Smiths Falls, it is uncommon. Not anymore.
I got into the Council meeting by the skin of my teeth last night, in time to get a photo of Justin Duhamel, business owner, speaking to Council about the businesses’ grievances regarding angled parking.
Vince Hamilton, retired CPR Conductor, presented first including three sets of petitions numbering 2,607 signatures from residents, businesses and frequent local visitors. The number had climbed to 2,828 by March 10th.
“The Council did not say a word or ask a question,” Hamilton said after he spoke. “Was it a plan to get through it and not engage?”, he adds.
“At the council meeting I shared that fifty plus businesses downtown reject this change, because it will be crimping capacity at a time when businesses that in some cases have been there for decades are expecting dramatic increases in growth and demand,” says Duhamel.
“I said that making a decision like this that dramatically reduces capacity amounts to planning malpractice. I described the feeling among business owners that they are under attack after I mentioned that some members of council itself have felt threatened, and that the decision to reopen the parking has opened up a civil war in town, and the only way to rectify things and fix their legacy would be to reverse the new decision and go back to angle surface arrangement.”
“Council’s decision was to let the public ask questions. That (last night’s Council meeting) was the forum,” answered Mayor Pankow today to the wedge, when I inquired about holding a public forum. “They didn’t ask us any questions. They were allotted ten minutes more than the usual ten minutes and they didn’t use the time.”
And then I asked Pankow about a delay or reversal of plans for open public discourse.
“There is no possibility of a delay; it would put us in a less competitive position in terms of contractors [availability and costs.]”
It seems it was high-noon, both sides waiting for questions. The conflagration appears recalcitrant.
This Monday, March 18th, former Mayor Dennis Staples is expected to address Council about his impressions on the manner in which “Complete Streets” has evolved and angled parking devolved, after the former Council agreed to maintain the status quo.
Perhaps Staples will ask hard questions of the Council.