As 2013 comes to a close and the challenges of 2014 loom on the horizon, it’s time to take a look at what can be expected from the municipal government over the next 12 months.
For years, Summerside has operated under the leadership of Basil Stewart. He was elected in 1985 and remained mayor of the Town of Summerside until amalgamation in 1995. He then went on to become mayor of the City of Summerside and remains so.
But the operation of the city changed somewhat between 1995 and 2010. It became more of a two-man show – the mayor was still the top dog but the city’s chief administrative officer Terry Murphy, was second in command.
This duo pretty much ran the show for that 15-year period. There were many good things that happened in those years: the wind farm and the boardwalk, just to name a couple. And there were some not so good things: the Dave Griffin affair and the Michael Jackson Tribute Tour fiasco.
But since 2010, Summerside has become a city in transition. It began with the 2010 municipal election that saw four sitting councillors defeated with a fifth not re-offering.
Discussions on council became livelier, more questions were asked and little by little, council became more accountable and transparent.
The voting public had a key role in helping with this phase of the transition.
Murphy retired as CAO and the city council had a major role in hiring Bob Ashley as the new chief administrative officer. The city also hired a new director of finance, Rob Philpot, to replace the retired Malcolm Millar. New faces, new ideas, new direction.
The public has also become a part of the transition process with its involvement in planning the future of their community.
While few attended a city pre-budget public meeting, which could have provided a keen insight into city finances, a meeting on the development of the city’s waterfront brought in a large group of people who offered their ideas on a master strategy for the area.
Their participation is a good sign for the commitment of the people to a unified plan to guide the city’s development for the next 25 years.
There will be issues coming up before council in 2014; the Smart Meter Grid Project which has divided council; the revamping of the Summerside Lobster Carnival; police liaison to Three Oaks; a new fire station; and many more that will develop over the coming weeks and months.
Council needs to continue this transition and can do so by becoming more accountable, more transparent and engage the public more in debate and discussion.