Monthly Archives: September 2014

Status Quo

As we get closer to the municipal election on Oct 27th, I get a sinking feeling. As I knock on door after door, I hear some residents say that they want change in municipal government. However, I don’t hear it as often as I would like. I wish I was hearing that more people were tired of not finding out about public meetings in time to go to them. I wish I was hearing that more people were tired of not knowing what those meetings were about and how the outcome of those meetings would affect them. I wish I was hearing that more people were tired of special council meetings being called one or two days after committee of the whole meetings, so that council could vote something through without the public having any real chance to object or even find out what was being voted on. I wish I was hearing that more people were tired of hearing about a public meeting taking place about a bylaw, going to it to share their concerns and finding out that council was going to vote on it two minutes later and completely ignore the concerns of the residents. I wish I was hearing that more people were tired of inadequate communication from the municipality about what was happening, when it was happening and how it would affect residents. Finally, I wish I was hearing that more people were unhappy that they didn’t feel they had any input into what’s happening or that no one seems to care what residents think any more.

If you want change, Continue reading

Sign, Sign, Everywhere A Sign

I don’t want to go on a rant here, but now that the municipal election has officially kicked off, the spamming of our public spaces has begun. I believe in one spot in Kemptville tonight I counted 10 political signs. I’m all for political signs, but I don’t think that they should be allowed in public spaces.

If you put up a political sign in a public space, I kinda feel like it’s a lower form of laziness. It means that you didn’t go out and do the work of earning that space like you would have to if you were going to put up a sign on private property. It means that incumbents don’t have to go out and earn peoples’ vote again, they can just sit back and use name recognition without making the effort that they may have once had to make, to convince people to vote for them. Now, they can just stick signs in high traffic public areas and go home and have a drink and watch TV.

Every sign that I’ve put up so far I’ve earned with hard work by campaigning door to door and talking to people all over North Grenville. I believe that I’ve earned the space where my signs are. However, my supporters are telling me that I should be posting in public spaces. It just doesn’t feel right! I only have a limited supply of signs because of a very limited budget. So my supporters are telling me that’s even more reason to use high traffic public areas to post signs. It’s apparently a more efficient way of using my signs according to my neighbour. It still feels wrong. I may give in once I see even more incumbent signs go up in public spaces. Another one of my supporters says that I’m putting myself at a disadvantage if I don’t.

Well, we’ll see if I end up giving in. I still stand by my belief that it’s wrong and I may end up being a hypocrite and selling out. But wait! If I win a council seat, then I could propose a bylaw that prevents political signs in public spaces! So I guess, it might be worth it this time. But I still don’t have to like it!

 

Line Painting On County Road 43

For several weeks now, I’ve been emailing back and forth with the United Counties of Leeds and Grenville about the lack of line painting on the stretch of County Road 43 from Somerville Road to Actons Corners Road. It’s a five kilometer stretch that has been repaved recently and two turning lanes were added for the two developments, one on each side of the road. At first, there was only the asphalt and the occasional dot for the centre line. After emailing with the United Counties, they agreed to put some reflective tape down for the turning lanes so that people could see them. It’s been a very dangerous stretch of road without proper line painting, especially at night and even worse when it’s raining at night. If it rained at night, you couldn’t see the centre dots at all and therefore weren’t sure exactly where the road was and whether traffic on the other side would stay on their side. At the time of my first round of emails, the response from the United Counties was that the line painting had been contracted out and that the company was going to be away on another project for the next two weeks. It had already been some time since the turning lanes were added. So that’s an extra two weeks minimum of having unpainted lines on our roads. This is unacceptable when it is the major artery moving traffic through North Grenville from east to west. Today I was told by the United Counties that the line painting company was scheduled to resume tomorrow. Here’s hoping it doesn’t rain and that yet another contractor chosen by the United Counties doesn’t leave North Grenville in trouble like on Clothier Street and the bridge for County Road 44.

Incidentally, why has it taken years to add turn lanes for those two developments on County Road 43? These should have been done at the time the developments were completed, not years later. Are other municipalities within the United Counties encountering the same problems as we are? Is the problem the fact that we are not being well represented at the United Counties?

Nothing Personal, It’s Business

One of the hot topics of conversation for quite some time around North Grenville has been downtown Kemptville and what needs to be done to revive it.

Some people seem to think that Merrickville is an example of local success. However, having recently spoken to a couple of business owners in Merrickville, they say that their fortunes are on the decline. The loss of boating traffic due to reduced canal operation hours, less boaters in general, multiple businesses selling the same types of products, people visiting but not buying and people only visiting every few months, are some of the challenges faced by them.

When I ask residents if they shop downtown Kemptville, the typical response is ‘yes’. However,
they say that they would shop downtown more if they were given a reason to. The chief concerns are a perceived lack of parking (that issue could be a whole article in itself), limited business hours and a limited number of businesses to shop at. The list of businesses that are open downtown seems to be shrinking monthly.

I’ve spoken with many of the downtown business owners and they wouldn’t disagree with the parking concern. They also know the concern about the limited hours of the downtown. Some of these businesses have limited money for staffing and sometimes the owner is the only employee. These people are also parents, wives, husbands and community volunteers and can’t always stay open twelve hours per day, seven days a week. Some business owners are willing to be open later and to be open Sundays, but they say that if they’re the only business open, it’s ultimately not worth it.

I think there are several possible solutions for the limited downtown hours problem. One, if the BIA could convince its members to follow a standard ‘hours of operation’ for downtown Kemptville, it would help people to know when businesses are open. Two, shift individual business hours of operation to better accommodate the 2/3 of residents who work outside North Grenville. Maybe being open 10-7 would give residents a chance to make their way downtown after they get home and have dinner. Three, maybe have extended hours on Thursday and/or Friday nights only, to encourage more people to come downtown. Four, I think that being open on Sundays could be a good idea at least during the summer because of the success of the farmers’ market on Sundays. One downtown business owner says that his business on Sundays has increased greatly because of the success of the farmers’ market and his business is several blocks away from it.

There’s no doubt that all of the big box businesses along Country Road 43 have hurt the downtown area. But, I think that the downtown area can experience a revival. I believe that downtown can offer something that the big box stores can’t, a more unique and personalized shopping experience. Big box stores are designed to offer the same shopping experience no matter what city or town you shop in. Downtown businesses can offer personalized service (employees who know you by name and know what you like) and a more comfortable, hometown shopping atmosphere. Big box stores offer the same products and services at each location with little flexibility because of corporate policies and agreements. Downtown businesses can be more flexible and bring in the products that their local residents are asking for.

I’ve worked in business for years in corporate, franchise and small independent environments. Corporate big box businesses simply can’t offer what the small downtown businesses can offer. So instead, they use: lower prices, mass media advertising, extended hours, convenient locations, lots of free parking and marketing tactics to get people to support them. Sadly, these things are very effective in attracting people to their businesses. But to me, the most telling statistic about this situation of big box versus downtown is this information taken from a Canadian grocery industry study. The study said that for every dollar spent in a local independent business (like in a downtown), that single dollar can be recycled back into the community as many as six times. So the independent business owner will then spend that dollar buying a take out lunch at a local restaurant, then that restaurant owner will use that many to pay for groceries for their family etc. Whereas, every dollar spent in a big box store, gets sent out of the area to a head office in another city.

I’ll leave you with this thought: If we spent one dollar more on a better cup of coffee each day, we could keep a local coffee shop from closing. If we ate at local restaurants from now on, not only would we be helping those businesses, but we’d be helping the surrounding ones too. Did you know if we spent 5% more on groceries at that independent grocery store down the street, we would be helping to keep 50 neighbours and local residents employed? If we bought our vegetables at the farmers’ market every Sunday, we would be supporting local farmers and their families. Did you know that if we made these small adjustments, we just secured the future of downtown Kemptville?

So let’s start doing it!