Thursday, 28 August 2014

The Fork in the Road

Last fall, city council approved what is likely the most expensive public works project in Peterborough history – a $100 million extension of the Parkway right up to the north end of town – and right through Jackson Park.

In doing so, councillors ignored the 2003 referendum on the Parkway in which voters shot down the idea – even though the plan at the time didn’t include the bridge, and was pitched to the public at the ridiculously low estimate of $28 million.

They also ignored the voices of hundreds of Peterborough citizens who came out to speak against the project at public meetings last year.

To complete the hat-trick, they ignored the basic principles of financial common sense in approving a project with no hope of recouping the tax dollars it will cost to build and maintain.

What could have made councillors so deaf? Were they drunk out of their minds? Ears plugged up after a swim in Little Lake?

Or were the voices of reason and public interest drowned out by the sound of Ferraris and BMWs driven by millionaire developers from out of town?

In voting to approve the Parkway, councillors created the number one election issue for 2014 – and motivated citizens to step up as candidates for council.

The upcoming election features a clear-cut choice between two visions of “progress” for Peterborough.

In one corner, we have a range of incumbents and new candidates aiming for a sustainable city equipped to weather the storms of the 21st century.

In the other we have mayor Bennett and his posse of councillors acting as foot soldiers for millionaire developers eager to have our tax dollars build driveways straight to their new subdivisions.

Bennett, beset by bad news headlines regarding his conduct on the Police Services Board, delayed declaring his intention to seek a second term as mayor until last week.  

What do we have to show for Bennett's first term as mayor?
  • Peterborough now has the highest unemployment rate in Canada. We lost downtown industrial employer Baskin Robbins. After losing PCVS, we're now the only city in Ontario with a central area entirely empty of neighbourhood schools
  • A plan for a civic square at Charlotte and Aylmer was delayed, then botched when councillors refused to cough up the money to buy the vacated Shoppers Drug Mart at the corner. Instead, a methadone clinic is slated to take over this prime space. 
  • As the city core and economy declined, council approved big new sprawling subdivisions in the south-east and north-west corners of town.
Achievements? Well, you might call approving a bridge and roadway likely to cost as much as Peterborough’s entire annual budget and benefit only out-of-town millionaires an "achievement." Especially if you happen to be an out-of-town millionaire yourself.

Like Daryl Bennett.

At this fork in the road, we have the opportunity to elect pathfinders to a sustainable future – or wind up stuck in a fiscal and cultural cul-de-sac

In next eight weeks, the Natural Path Crew will be posting regular updates here on the campaign, including:
  • features on council candidates 
  • data on the influence of developers at city hall
  • information on what we should be doing with our tax dollars instead of shipping them out of town in exchange for thousands of tons of concrete to pour over our dwindling greenspace.
Which vision of progress will emerge on top on October 27th?

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