An incident at the November 6 meeting of Town Council in Essex should be disconcerting to citizens who think their elected representatives run their municipalities. If only it were true.
These days, administrators keep pushing for more and more power and most councils in the region too readily give it to them. Few councilors seem willing to question administrators knowing they’ll be quickly taken to task.
In the Essex case discussion revolved around development charges for a plot of land in Essex Centre. After a presentation by planner Jeff Watson, no-fadoodle councilor Randy Voakes sternly told his fellow councilors that he was unable to understand anything Watson had said.
This caused the others to draw their wagons around him. One called such blasphemy disrespectful.
Mayor Ron McDermott asked CAO Donna Hunter to weigh in. She was perturbed and couched her response by not talking of the matter, but of all the hours and the number of people who had lent a hand in preparing Watson’s report.
While it is not unusual for a CAO to defend those working under her, it should be equally usual for a councilor to question administrators.
Therein lies one of the greatest problems with modern day democracy.
Councillors seem no longer willing to question what they are told. To reach a better democracy, there should be much more questioning. In this situation, Voakes should not have been treated to a cold shoulder. He had good points.
When Council approved the 2018 budget, McDermott told CTV News on November 13 about all the work the administrators did to create the budget. He argued that councilors, “don’t know what’s going on in here. I’ve always said, let administration do their job. That’s what we pay them to do.”
Well, yes and no.
In a true democracy, administrators are paid to carry out the wishes of the council. If they are setting the budget, whose wishes are they carrying out?
In Windsor, administrators put in two and a half years to develop a downtown enhancement plan. When it was released, the councilor responsible for the work admitted it was sans solutions. It did have ways to offer landlords money to repair their facades, but no plan to go with it.
Windsor Council, by accepting rather than rejecting the plan, was not operating in the best interest of taxpayers. In fact, spending years on a plan with no solutions is simply a waste of time and further delays solving downtown’s problems.
Unfortunately, Windsor does not have a Randy Voakes. It needs at least a few like him willing to ask pertinent questions of administration.