Deputy mayoral battle in Oro-Medonte
By JENNIFER BURDEN, THE ORILLIA PACKET & TIMES October 19 2010
While Harry Hughes has been acclaimed as mayor of Oro-Medonte Township, the race for deputy mayor is heating up.
Incumbent Ralph Hough is defending his position against Ward 3 councillor Sandy Agnew.
“My opponent is concentrating strictly on environmental issues. Of course, I’m very supportive of the environment, but there is more to running the township and the county than just environmental issues. I think that’s the difference. There are so many good things this council has done and so many things we need to finish off,” Hough said Monday.
Agnew has been an outspoken critic of the current council on multiple items. He criticizes council on environmental issues, but that isn’t all he has to offer, he said.
“The issues that I have been at odds with the rest of council (over) are in fact environmental issues and I think it is because of my knowledge and experience with the environment that I’m able to point out the issues and problems there. Certainly, there are many more issues than strictly environmental ones,” Agnew said.
He said you really can’t separate the environment from any other issue.
“The environment is tied to the economy, and the economy and the environment are tied to health issues. The three go together so you have to understand those relationships,” he said.
Hough said Oro-Medonte is in “excellent shape,” because of the work of the current council. But looking ahead to the next four years, he said the most important issues will be updating the township’s official plan to conform with the Simcoe County official plan, which is awaiting provincial approval, continuing with the development of the Lake Simcoe Regional Airport and the 200 acres of industrial and commercial land across the way from it, as well as completing the township’s road-paving program.
“(The official plan) will have an impact on all of the growth and development for the next number of years, not just for Oro-Medonte, but all of Simcoe County,” Hough said.
Agnew’s top issues are divided between the county and the township, because as deputy mayor, the winner will also sit on Simcoe County council.
At the county level, the most important issue for Agnew is waste management and waste reduction.
“We have to really take a very aggressive approach to reducing the amount of garbage we produce,” he said.
At the township level, Agnew is taking issue with what he calls a lack of transparency in govern-m e nt and the inaccuracy of information being provided to the public.
Agnew provided examples of misinformation being given to public regarding budget increases for the Nottawasaga Valley Conservation Authority and that the township’s planning and advisory committee disbanded itself when in fact it did not, he said.
“I have principles and accuracy and transparency is one of those principles. When I see those in jeopardy, I am certainly willing to go alone if I have to,” Agnew said.
Both Hough and Agnew have plans for dealing with their top issues.
Hough plans on establishing working groups made up of residents to examine the different aspects of the county’s official plan when it is approved by the province and look at ways Oro-Medonte can map its growth.
He also said the township has to be “very proactive” in chasing after appropriate development for the airport and 200 acres of nearby land.
Agnew plans to improve transparency on council by making council agendas available to the public on Friday when councillors receive it, rather than Monday morning, leaving them only two days to review it.
He would also like to look at adjusting meeting times from Wednesday mornings to accommodate residents more so than staff and consultants. Updating the website is another way he hopes to make information more easily and readily available to the public.