Downer refutes McKay’s points
By Douglas Glynn Midland Free Press May 20 2010
“Take me on, but be factual!” That’s Mayor Jim Downer’s response
to comments made in a statement issued last week by Ward 2 councillor Gordon McKay who announced his candidacy for mayor.
“I won’t get critical of any individual,” Downer said in an interview during which he avoided any direct mention of McKay.
“All I’m saying is take me on, but don’t be making stuff up. Get your facts straight.”
Downer challenged the suggestion that in some areas of town parents are afraid to let their children play outside for fear of local drug activity.
“Do we have drug issues? Of course we do,” Downer said. “Illicit drugs are a problem in every small town in the province. To say your kids are not safe on the streets. That’s a fallacy. That’s not true. I know that’s not true. If it was true, I’d put the hammer down quicker than you can blink an eye. Our town is safe and I’ll stand behind that!”
Downer denied that heavy garbage pick-up was stopped to save money.
“That wasn’t the case. Everybody who sat around that council table knew that wasn’t the case.
We eliminated heavy garbage pickup because the town looked like a war zone for three months. I`ve been the enforcement route. I’ve been there and heard people being told: sir, you have 60 items in front. But they are not my items. Well, they are in front of your home. Well, prove they’re mine!’
“We had to use our public works crew for two or three weeks; two guys and a front end loader and a dump truck to clean up the town up. The voucher system -despite what people say -is working.
We`re going to have two treasure days a year (when people can put items out for others to take free). We met in the middle on that issue.
“As for leadership, you judge a leader by what he achieves for his community. And I can stand proud of what I’ve achieved with the help of the majority of council and staff.
“Yes, there are some problems on council. Yes, I did have a special day with a facilitator to try and work through those problems. It worked for a while. But we seem to be right back where we were at the beginning. And you know what? I’m not going to accept responsibility for that because I don’t think it’s my fault.
“We’re still advancing the work of the town. Some councillors don’t agree with the direction in which we are going, but I feel we’ve achieved some great things for the town. We have a new cultural centre about to be built, the library, expansion of our town hall facilities, soccer fields and we’ve received grants to enhance Little Lake Park.
“We have received over $11 million from both levels of government and that just doesn’t happen. There was a lot of work involved to obtain those grants,” he added, noting the support received from MPP Garfield Dunlop and MP Bruce Stanton. We’ve been very successful.
“I`ve been through some tough issues with this municipality -the smoking bylaw, the dog muzzling bylaw; issues that have not always been popular. But that`s what a leader does. A leader leads. He`s not afraid of the tough issues. He meets them head on.
“Sometimes I get my back up when I hear people attacking me personally. I’m not going there with anybody. I’m running on my record. On council’s record. It’s not a one-man team. It’s a nine member council. And I’m one voice on that nine-member council.
“I’ve lost a lot of votes at the table. But I don’t go out and pout and organize a committee to rebut what has happened at the council table. I live with the decisions that my council makes. If they tell me by way of a majority that we are not doing something, then we are not doing it. I don’t mope around and look at myself in the mirror and go; you’re a failure. You regroup and you move on.
“I’ve always been a team player. I’ve never been an individual entity. That’s not what it’s about. I hold the best of this community in my heart. I love this community. And think we’ve done a great job.
“There’s a lot more work that can be done. But we are in the middle of a recession.
“Whether we like it or not, the facts are this year and next year are not going to be good years. I had to propose a wage and hiring freeze on. Was it popular. No! But six months after I did it the province of Ontario did it.
“I took great criticism from several members of the community. How are you going to do that?
“You have talk to your bargaining units. You have to make them understand that we’re in very tough circumstances and everybody has to come to the plate. I don’t want to have to lay people off. We’re asking for 2010 that we show great restraint in bargaining and hiring. Is it popular. No it’s not popular. I’m the first to admit that.
I’ve taken a lot of hits on it; a lot of push back. But, you know what? That’s leadership. That’s something you have to do. People expect that. It affects a lot more of the population than you realize. There’s a lot of people just hanging on.
“At county council I’ve worked tirelessly to secure funds for the Children’s Aid Society of Simcoe County. I’ve had countless meetings trying to convince the provincial government to increase funding to keep the CAS afloat. And we’ve been successful in doing that. These are things that people don’t see.
“I feel I was instrumental in getting Site 41 stopped, although I didn’t get my name in lights. I lobbied other council members who were for Site 41 to persuade them to close the site and I was successful in doing that with my peers and colleagues.
“I don’t beat the drum about that. If the people give me another term or
two I will work hard make this a better community for everybody.
“And I will work hard to bring new business here. It’s a tough situation. We try to attract industry. We aren’t really successful sometimes, but we are trying. And to say we are not is a complete falsehood.
“We have a very competent planning staff working diligently to keep this viable. We have a business section that’s the best in Simcoe county -very few vacancies downtown -there’s more businesses opening than there are closing.
“I’ve enjoyed serving the people of Midland since 1994. I’ve been upfront on every issue. As a leader all subjects are not popular. You are making decisions that affect a lot of people. I always try and make a decision that I think is right for the town of Midland; right for all the population -not just a group of 28 or 100 people.
“I’ve enjoyed working with the seniors groups, veteran and the disenfranchised. I like all people and my door is never closed for any issue. I get an average of five or six people a day in my office and I’m proud to talk to people because to them their problems are big problems. I’m glad to try and help them work through anything I can. Sometimes I am successful; sometimes I’m not.
“I have the energy and dedication to serve this community.
“I welcome all comers; anybody who puts their name forward,” he added. “The citizens of this great community will make their choice.”