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Neighbourhood strategy ideal way to be heard

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In Barrie
Oct 4th, 2009
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Barrie Examiner Oct. 3, 2008  
A common complaint to politicians from their constituents is ‘you don’t listen’ to me, to us, our group, etc.).
Simcoe County councillors certainly heard this during the Site 41 debate.
They heard it so often they did respond and killed county council’s plans for the controversial dump site (but not, as of yet, the Certificate of Approval which still allows this Tiny Township property to become a landfill).
Barrie councillors heard ‘you don’t listen’ during the debate surrounding the redevelopment of the old Allandale station. And they’ll hear it again as plans proceed (or stall) this fall with the YMCA/Correct Group of Companies.
Of course, ‘you don’t listen’ is only the literal translation.
What it really means is ‘you don’t listen because you heard my argument and didn’t agree with it, thereby not doing what I want’.
Sometimes the message sinks in and politicians are deemed to have ‘listened’. Such is the case with Site 41 (but not with its Certificate of Approval).
A majority of Barrie councillors, however, have not yet ‘listened’ to the arguments against allowing the Y to redevelop these Allandale lands.
Council is still going ahead with its plans, and it will probably take a provincial judge or the Ontario Municipal Board to change its collective mind.
This also becomes a little sticky when constituents claim their politicians are not representing their point of view, not voting how they would vote.
The politicians, in return, can say they were elected to make decisions in the best interests of their constituents, and they are doing that, in spite of what some constituents might say.
The real problem is that most constituents don’t get involved in the decision-making process until it’s well underway.
They weren’t paying enough attention or couldn’t attend all the meetings or there was a change in direction in where things were going.
So by the time they do notice and don’t like the direction things are heading, it’s almost (but not always) too late.
The point of this long preamble is that it shouldn’t be this way with a plan for what’s being called people-led planning of Barrie’s older neighbourhoods.
The Historic Neighbourhoods Strategy is to be an action plan that is developed by residents, to address the livability and sustainability of their part of Barrie, even as the city grows.
There’s already a committee, with Ward 2 Coun. Jeff Lehman as chairman, of 17 members looking for input from city residents, to name and define their neighbourhood boundaries.
Seven key landmarks — Berczy Park, Milligan’s Pond, Shear Park, the downtown, Brock Park, Queen’s Park and Blair Park — have been identified, with the historic neighbourhoods deemed to be surrounding them.
Neighbourhood meetings have already taken place and there’s an online survey, where a great deal of other information can also be found.
The idea is to formulate a final strategy and action plan to present to city council next June.
So despite regular municipal elections (there’s another one in November of 2010), councillors who represent every ward in the city and a pretty (but not entirely) transparent local government system, Barrie residents can still get even more involved in the process.
They could always pick up the phone and call their councillor, send him or her an e-mail or just wander down to Barrie City Hall on most Monday nights.
But the Historic Neighbourhood Strategy is one more way to be heard, and listened to.

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