The Dryden Observer

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EDITORIAL: A return to form and function

Chris Marchand

Chris Marchand served as editor of the Dryden Observer from August 2009 to April 2018.

By Chris Marchand
It needs to be said, I think, after a bit of a rocky start, that Dryden City Council seems to have regained a functional tone.

That’s worth bringing to the attention of the public, especially considering my years of bemoaning the dysfunction that has presided over local municipal affairs.

While councillors remained split down the middle on the prospect of a cost-of-living tax increase during a recent budget discussion, the conversation that ensued was conducted thoughtfully, respectfully with restraint and concern to the future of the community.

It makes all the difference in the world.

There have been times in the past few years when you could accurately predict the outcome of a council vote without even showing up at council.

While the problems facing the town are exceedingly difficult ones, discussion was often laced with personal barbs and subtext (whether real or imagined) that would illustrate the divide in thinking and the lack of any communication between some members of council outside of these terse, televised exchanges.

It was a telling revelation when the Dryden Chamber of Commerce’s recent Business Retention and Expansion (BR+E) survey named ‘Municipal Government’ as the second leading disadvantage of doing business in Dryden.

It’s a message that council seems to have heard loud and clear and to their credit are making a concerted effort to address.

How to address the tone of council interactions moving forward was also a prominent issue in the recent elections.

It’s a dangerous game when you seek to placate those voices calling for an end to the ‘negativity’.

I propose that this should not be anyone’s goal. The seriousness of Dryden’s situation has not diminished, only stabilized under close management. With two years of punishing debt repayment set to grind city spending to a halt in 2016 and 2017, the road ahead is sure to require many difficult discussions and disagreements, some of which are certain to be interpreted by the public as ‘negative’.

Trying to ‘manage negativity’ to spare some people the inconvenience of looking at their community’s problems head-on is unreasonable and a mechanism to withhold information that is in the public’s interest to know.

It can be argued that we have arrived in this predicament because of that impulse to sanitize council’s proceedings in front of the public for many years.

Asking councillors to maintain open working relationships with each other, to listen what each other have to say, act in a respectful manner and to vote for what they feel is right is all we should be asking of them.

I hope they keep it up.


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