October 13, 2000 Halifax Herald

Time for a Change at the top in metro

The need for an experienced, visionary leader to combat a sense of decline poses this question for the voters of Halifax Regional Municipality: which of the mayoralty candidates are best suited to lead in a proactive, progressive style? In this regard voters are very fortunate - two excellent candidates are offering, Peter Kelly and Ken Ozmon. The other candidates are ruled out, because Fitzgerald's time has passed and Aaron Peters is inexperienced. That a change at the top is needed is evidenced by the fact that the city is fast loosing its lustre.

The decline is no better demonstrated than by the stagnation of downtown Halifax. This is driven home to citizens when they drive down Water Street and see the hugh apartment and parking complex rising on the waterfront, which, when completed, will remove from public enjoyment a marvellous view of the Harbour. This is an excellent example of a lack of leadership foresight. Most cities would, in order to improve the quality of life for their residents and to attract tourists, give anything to own what is being obscured on Halifax's waterfront. The squandering of a marvellous legacy by cluttering it up makes absolutely no sense!

This absence of vision in planning is apparent in many other ways. It comes through when one visits downtown Halifax and sees the crowds visiting there getting smaller and smaller. Why? Could it be that much of what attracts people to downtown areas has been removed? Most of the vendors are gone; most stores are gone; the Halloween Mardi Gras has been cancelled; the Buskers Festival has been restricted to waterfront locations; raves are being attacked, etc (the gatherings of young people at such things as raves are not an unusual occurrence among the young. The present council should remember how we behaved when we were young. I don't see much difference, except that we listened to rock and roll).

One cannot make a city exciting and attractive by killing everything that makes it so. Vast crowds do not patronize places that display the lifestyle of a Monastery where the vow of silence prevails.

Adding to sense of drift is a municipal bureaucracy that has developed a life of its own, and one that often seems beyond the control of Council. It has become so complex and remote that to make contact with one in charge of a specific responsibility is getting to be virtually impossible.

In this regard, I speak from personal experience. Recently, I had to contact twelve different people before I got to speak to the official I wanted. During this frustrating experience, some even tried to refer me back to officials that I had already spoken to. Before amalgamation, both city politicians and public servants were easily accessible. Now, at the risk of sounding irreverent, speaking to the Great Spirit face to face is probably easier.

It is an indicator of how serious the lack of control by elected officials is that some public servants even go so far as to state publicly that they give direction and the Council must follow. This needs to be changed, pronto.

Now for a short assessment of the leadership qualities of Peter and Ken. Both have displayed by their career achievements that they have the capacity to lead and to instigate positive change. The following are a few of their personal, proactive accomplishments which highlight excellent abilities to plan for the future.

Under the stewardship of Peter Kelly, the Town of Bedford developed to where it was picked as one of the best places in Canada to live. The Town was well-maintained; there were no traffic jams, other than at peak times; sidewalks were kept in good repair, etc. Kelly, not the bureaucrats, led the Town. Since amalgamation, Bedford has visibly deteriorated. Traffic lights have been installed on every corner by HRM's traffic engineer, resulting in frequent monumental traffic jams. This is the result of elected officials blindly following. Kelly, as evidenced by his record as mayor of Bedford, has displayed that he can lead and get results.

The growth of Saint Mary's University and its vibrancy are a testament to Ken Ozmon's leadership abilities. During his tenure as the University's president, Ken positioned the school to meet the needs of future generations of students for decades to come. Although not experienced in civic administration, he has shown by successfully managing a university the size of Saint Mary's, which is equivalent to managing a town, that he can get results from a complex entity. Thus, Ozmon also has displayed that he can lead and get results.

Both candidates are worthy of consideration for office. However, if you're satisfied with the status quo, Walter is your man. Then, of course, if you would like to see the whole system turned on its ear by sailing into unchartered waters, go for Peter.

Many citizens view municipal elections as the least important of the election processes in this country. This is a gross misconception. Civilizations developed around small groups that gradually concluded that they could more efficiently provide essential services in some areas by co-operating; thus, central governments. Local communities are the foundation that democracies are built on. On election day, select whom you deem best suited to lead. If you don't vote, without valid reason, then you don't have the right to complain afterwards about the operation of the municipality because, by your neglect, you have forfeited it.

Daniel N. Paul


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