Wednesday, July 07, 2010


In local politics issues can be grouped in three categories.


First you’ve got “potholes.” Used euphemistically I’m talking about any kind of issue constituents may perceive when roused from the backyard pool/barbecue and forced to venture round front to see how their hard earned tax dollars are being spent. The extent to which havoc has been wrought in these mean suburban streets by various miscreants, reprobates and the slapdash work of public servants is a significant aspect of any pothole issue.

Experience has shown that the most prevalent pothole peeves include:

• Garbage - not well collected/not collected on time

• Traffic - too much/too fast

• Cars parked in violation of the three hour parking by-law

• Various concerns related to neighbours’ inadequate property and yard maintenance and deportment.

• Improper or tardy removal of snow in winter and leaves in fall.

Cities have engaged qualified staff (mostly well paid) to deal with these matters but, you should know, these issues are best handled by the ward politician. He/she is only too glad to be of service and will usually resolve these matters and in return you will remember him at election time. (Please note the municipal election is two weeks earlier this year.)


A second category, call them neighbourhood issues, are planning matters that deal with minor modifications or significant changes to land uses. This is tricky stuff complicated by the neighbourhood’s perception of whether it is, in fact, a minor or significant change (it is almost always significant) and a lack of understanding of the fact that property owners have legitimate expectations of their rights under planning regulations.

The way neighbourhood matters get resolved has an important long term impact on the kind of community we live in.

Neigbourhood issues are the purview of the ward councillor (although sometimes the mayor “helps out”) who works with appropriate city staff and with a proponent who wants to make change which is at odds with the neighbours who are typically happy with the status quo. An outbreak of NIMBY inevitably will ensue.

Community Priorities

A third category is issues of broad community interest. Or, at least, issues that ought to be of broad interest as their impacts will be long term to all residents both from a cost and benefit perspective.

In my town (Burlington) I can think of at least 4 such issues. I’ll come back to them later this week.