I will ensure you are entirely heard, completely understood, and faithfully represented.
Open and approachable.
Municipal governments provide support and services that most directly affect peoples’ daily lives, the issues and problems that affect your home, your family, your neighbours and your community. It only makes sense that they should also be the easiest for residents to connect with. My commitment is to do that every day. Too often, residents feel they just can’t get the attention of those in a position to listen and do something; we can and must do better.
Here’s a story from my time as Alderman on East York Council. I got a call from an elderly woman who was clearly upset and confused. She said told me she had a big problem and didn’t know what to do. She went on to explain that her stove was on and she couldn’t turn it off. I tried unsuccessfully to walk her through resolving the problem. Eventually, I told her I would call the East York Fire department to have a firefighter stop by to figure out how to turn off the stove and to make sure she was safe. I knew that appliance safety wasn’t in in my Alderman’s job description but for that woman it was surely an important part of what I should be expected to do.
The Town of Halton Hills exists to serve you, to make your life better, safer, and more enjoyable. With few exceptions, we shouldn’t have policies and practices that cloud or cloak issues. Instead, we must embrace full and open communication. I’ll share an example. In preparing my campaign to run for Mayor I reached out to a senior Town staff member with a request to spend some time digging deeper into the most important issues. It seemed like a logical thing to do when you’re running for Mayor. Instead, I was told, “We do not meet with Candidates”, a policy of the current elected Council. How does it help lead to better government if incumbents have preferred access to important information? Maybe some of the very best candidates don’t get elected because they’re fighting elections at a disadvantage.
Listen to people and get things done.
The work of local governments covers a lot of ground and in some cases, it can take time to be sure we’re doing it right. But in lots of cases, it shouldn’t take much time at all. Got a problem, find an answer.
Take the e-mail I recently received from a resident with a parking problem on his street. There is no overnight parking permitted and during winter months it makes clearing the street a problem. He started e-mailing back and forth with Town staff but without resolution so after seven months he reached out to two of the Town Council members. One wrote back with a curt, dismissive note and refused any further communication. The other wrote saying, “Personally, I don’t have time for a meeting.” I thought, “how would that leave me feeling” and the answer was, “not very good”. I believe we need to make it clear that we’re here to serve the residents, not the other way around.
Remember, the money isn’t ours.
The Town needs to deliver important services, but we need to do it remembering that we are simply stewards of the money our residents work hard to earn. Don’t stop asking the right questions until we’re sure we’ve done our job and don’t forget to challenge the status quo. “We’ve been doing it that way for years” doesn’t automatically mean there isn’t a better way to deliver more for less money.
The few versus the many.
It’s important to keep the perspective that sometimes the imperatives of the few outweigh the wants of the many. We need to put ourselves into the other peoples’ shoes to really do our best to understand.
Here’s a story that makes the point. Not long ago, I read in one of the Halton Hills newspapers about a micro-brewery located beside a residential neighbourhood. The brewery was serving beer on an outdoor patio but was apparently doing so without an appropriate license. To rectify the problem, the brewery was applying for such a license. The patio is very close to homes where people live and some of the residents had been very unhappy with the noise coming from the patio in the time it was in use prior to the license application. The matter came before Council. There was a deputation from one of the residents who lives close to the brewery almost begging them not to support it. And what happened? All the elected members of Council voted to support the application for an outdoor patio license to serve beer; it was unanimous. I had to ask myself how I’d feel if my representatives on Council didn’t do something to try and preserve my right to the quiet enjoyment of my home. It would leave me wondering if there’s anyone out there who might care about us. And when I read that article, I made the decision to run for Mayor of the Town of Halton Hills so that I can work hard to make a difference.
With your support, together we will make Halton Hills a shining example for every other city and town that a Council driven by important guiding principles leads to the most vibrant, prosperous, safe and caring communities.