Following a municipal election where a significant number of councillors are new it is expected there will be a learning curve as people settle in and figure out how they will navigate their new roles.
That being said, Cochrane’s new council seems to be settling into a disturbing track, one of indecisiveness and flip-flopping seemingly out of a desire to make everyone happy. Not only is that goal impossible, it will lead to an extremely ineffective term.
Bylaw amendments have been proposed and taken off the table prior to council debate, steps to take action on slowing community growth have been mired because councillors seem afraid to act, and what should be easy decisions are being tied up in red tape.
Take the latest and possibly best example – naming the new bridge. Two councillors came forward to propose the bridge be called Veterans’ Bridge to recognize those who have served in Canada’s Armed Forces.
This should be an easy decision but for this council it’s a nerve-wracking ordeal that requires surveys and public input. While this council’s commitment to public transparency should be commended, it cannot mask it’s own ineffectiveness under the guise of being accountable.
The public elects council’s to make decisions, and votes cast represent a trust in a person’s ability to do that. Sure the public wants to be engaged when it comes to tax increases, spending on big-ticket capital projects and new residential and commercial developments.
However, council cannot bring every little decision to the public. While councillors could tout it as democracy in action, it really is just laziness and ineptitude on display. There was no problem naming the new dog park after the late Jim Uffellman, which leads us to believe the problem is not the name of the bridge but a small minority of vocal dissent that seems to get this council running scared.
Public naming contests or surveys are notoriously ineffective and absurd. They have brought such suggestions as Boaty McBoatface for a high-profile science vessel and when the Northwest Territories polled the public for a less generic name the most popular choice was Bob.
If council is having difficulty naming its new bundle of steel and concrete, it should take steps to make this and future naming options simpler.
Establish a naming policy that outlines how new structures and building will be named. Through that policy create a list of appropriate names based on local figures, geography, wildlife, etc and then set out an order of naming. Simple. After that every naming instance becomes an easy application of policy.
We would really hate to have to drive over Bridgy McCrossypants every day.