03:13:36 am on
Wednesday 29 May 2024

A Thrilling Week
David Simmonds

I knew last week was going to be a tough one when I was shorted on my box of Timbiebs at Tim Hortons in Bancroft.  I discovered, only when I was half an hour out of town, that my box of ten only contained eight of the tasty treats.  Thus, I made up for it by treating myself to a thrilling three-day video adventure: watching our municipal council go through its capital budgeting exercise. 

Watching paint dry.

As a recreational pursuit, watching budget deliberations on YouTube ranks right up there with watching paint dry; the difference being that, at least with paint, you don’t have to listen to anyone else.  If there is a more boring spectacle than a municipal council going through a budget-setting exercise, I’d like to be warned about it.  I wonder if the province has ever considered making people sit through budgeting meetings as an alternative to incarceration, 

That’s not meant to condemn the proceedings as inconsequential.  Council went through the list of items one by one. Expenditures totalling a big $49.5 million were approved for Wellington to fund new water and wastewater plants, a new water tower, sanitary sewers and an equalization tank.

Relax, most of that money is being paid by developers through development charges. Other noteworthy items include $315,000 to renovate the Crystal Palace in Picton. There’s a new bus shelter in Bloomfield for another $50,500, too.

These items sound humdrum, but they are not.  We expect our County  equipment to be in good working order when we want timely emergency services and snow free roads.  Decisions on capital projects entail long term commitments that need to be thought through carefully.

That was just the capital budget. In early February, council will set aside another three days to set the operating budget for 2022.  The councillors must be gluttons for punishment. 

Adding to the pressure, the province sets many standards that leave the municipality little choice but to budget accordingly. It publishes a lengthy Municipal Councillor’s Guide, which details the myriad duties that a councillor must fulfil. It’s enough to scare away dilettantes. 

No lampooning, only facts.

I am not here to make fun of the budgeting process.  Instead, I am here to appreciate just how hard our councillors must work to stay on top of the issues.  They drown themselves in briefing materials hundreds of pages long, fully earning their $25,300 annual stipend.

The level of courtesy and mutual respect councillors show to one another is commendable. Credit must go to Mayor Steve Ferguson for setting the tone. Maybe it helps that the proceedings are conducted with a certain degree of formality: there is very little dialog in the ‘what do you think of this one, Bill’ variety. 

Councillors must wait their turn to be recognized; staff speak to councillors through the chair. Somehow, the councillors manage to swallow their bile in public.  I just hope they don’t compensate by screaming at their goldfish when they get home. 

Public service at the municipal level is hardly a glamour undertaking.  And as first-time councillors Bailey, this year, and Harper, last year, discovered, local issues can become viscera and wreak havoc on your personal life. Being a city councillor is no walk in the park.

It’s right about now that our sitting councillors will be mulling over whether to throw their hats into the ring for another four-year term in the October province-wide elections.  I wouldn’t blame any of them for deciding that one term of four years is enough.

It’s high time that people like me got off their duff, stopped complaining and stood for office.  If you are interested in vying for a seat on council, you can file your nomination at the beginning of May. There are thirteen council positions open in nine wards, as well as a mayor that is elected on a County wide basis.

In 2018, it cost $100 to register as a candidate. You had to get twenty-five signatures to support your candidacy and the last day to file was in late July. The 2022 election guide has not yet been published by the province; it should come out shortly.

My odyssey ends.

That’s my three-day video-watching odyssey out of my system.  Now back to getting my two Timbiebs.  I paid for them out of my operating budget. 

Some readers seem intent on nullifying the authority of David Simmonds. The critics are so intense; Simmonds is cast as more scoundrel than scamp. He is, in fact, a Canadian writer of much wit and wisdom. Simmonds writes strong prose, not infrequently laced with savage humour. He dissects, in a cheeky way, what some think sacrosanct. His wit refuses to allow the absurdities of life to move along, nicely, without comment. What Simmonds writes frightens some readers. He doesn't court the ineffectual. Those he scares off are the same ones that will not understand his writing. Satire is not for sissies. The wit of David Simmonds skewers societal vanities, the self-important and their follies as well as the madness of tyrants. He never targets the outcasts or the marginalised; when he goes for a jugular, its blood is blue. David Simmonds, by nurture, is a lawyer. By nature, he is a perceptive writer, with a gimlet eye, a superb folk singer, lyricist and composer. He believes quirkiness is universal; this is his focus and the base of his creativity. "If my humour hurts," says Simmonds,"it's after the stiletto comes out." He's an urban satirist on par with Pete Hamill and Mike Barnacle; the late Jimmy Breslin and Mike Rokyo and, increasingly, Dorothy Parker. He writes from and often about the village of Wellington, Ontario. Simmonds also writes for the Wellington "Times," in Wellington, Ontario.

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