The following was released to SaultOnline.com from the Association of Sault Ratepayers. The open letter to the Mayor and council outlines some concerns about council’s plan to reduce representation from 12 councillors to 10.
Dear Mr. Mayor and Members of Council,
We as ratepayers are writing you today to address the topic of proposed council representation and ward boundary changes. We are aware that the changes proposed are within council’s purview as allowed under the municipal act.
We as a network of ratepayers believe strongly that a decision of this magnitude and scope to our municipal governance be made fully with the support of the voting populace.
The direction being discussed fundamentally change our council structure will impact our future.
There is strong support for the process you have embarked on to proceed in gathering all information pertaining to the topic including which wards currently will be effected under the new boundaries and all costs of the changes being made.
When practicing a continuous improvement model, after the topic has been identified a lengthy process of study is undertaken so that when action steps are taken there is a clear understanding of pertinent information clearly documented for all.
We live within a system of governance hallmarked on representative democracy. We elect advocates/ representatives to municipal councils and other levels which follow written guidelines under various acts.
Our role as ratepayer is to participate with and lobby local government on issues of concern and seek changes through petitions and delegations to council as well as disseminate information on local government issues to create and ensure awareness.
It has been our experience that study and open discussion, following process and procedures leads to satisfactory conclusions.
The general consensus gathered is that the proposed change to council representation and ward boundaries without a plebiscite vote is circumventing the ratepayers of Sault Ste Marie. Section 224 of the Municipal Act, 2001 states that the role of council is to;
• uphold and promote the purposes of the municipality
• promote public involvement in the municipality’s activities
• act as the representative of the municipality both within and outside the municipality, and promote the municipality locally, nationally and internationally and
• Participate in and foster activities that enhance the economic, social and environmental well-being of the municipality and its residents.”
At this time we are submitting this request to Mayor and Council that a process of discussion and an action taken under process and procedures to bring forward at the next election a clear concise and neutral question along with proposed by-law and ward map changes to the eligible voters of Sault Ste Marie to if they wish to change their governance model and representation.