When an opportunity came along for Duane Moleni he jumped at it. Moleni announced last week via social media that he was leaving his position as Manager of the Queenstown Business Improvement Area for a new position in Red Deer Alberta. He leaves next week.
“I didn’t go looking for it”, Moleni told SaultOnline.com, “it was an opportunity for me to advance my career.”
Moleni stepped into the position of the troubled downtown association last April, soon after there was a push from certain downtown businesses to disband the association. The move eventually led to a vote of the local business owners , but at the end of the day the vote was in favour of keeping the association and working better with the stakeholders.
Moleni’s resignation is bittersweet, “I’m leaving on good terms with the board”, though he is saddened that he wasn’t able to implement the direction he wanted the board to go.
Moleni, who came to the Sault from New Zealand 10 years ago to head up the New to the Sault program at the Sault Community Career Centre, acknowledges that there is much more work to do with the downtown.
Most of the future problems facing the downtown association will be up to the new board that will be elected in June, he says the new board will pick his successor.
The transitional board however have approved a budget of $20,000 to bring back some of the events postponed last year such as the Summer Street Festival.
Moleni believes the Sault isn’t doing enough to promote itself and the fact that it is a Winter City. “We’re not a destination” Moleni said, “come the end of Fall the public work crews are removing the flower boxes and giving the impression, it’s over until Spring”
Moleni says the City isn’t serious enough about change, posting this message on Facebook.
“It is in the same spot it was when I arrived here in 2006. Until it is ready to ask the tough questions, and more importantly, ready to hear the harsh realities, and do the tough work that is required to change, this city will continue to lose out to other cities.”
“You have to be able to try different things , pointing out Timmins Ontario for example, I think on Friday, Saturdays and Sundays, they make the downtown a pedestrian mall, eliminating the vehicles.”
Paid parking has always been a contentious issue with the public, though Moleni doesn’t see paid parking as a deterrent. “People like to drive up to the store they are going to and step inside, they like that convenience , in other city’s like Toronto you have to pay” Though he does point out that malls and big box outlets provide free parking.
He applauds the idea of moving more residents downtown to make it more inviting for people but points out that the board still does not have a concrete plan to move forward. He blames the city for rehashing old ideas with the same people and not moving forward to implement any changes, basically the city is spinning its wheels and not getting anywhere. “Isn’t this the pure definition of insanity – doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results? Why aren’t we tapping and supporting and developing those who are creating change”, Moleni said.
Moleni said he hopes to visit the Sault again and when he does he wants to see some big changes in the downtown.