Opinion: Are Council Members the Deciders?

By John Swartz

Opinion: Are Council Members the Deciders?

By John Swartz

Thursday afternoon’s Orillia council regular meeting is illustrative of the power of administration to lead council where it wants to go, rather than what council would like to see happen.

Two issues were on the agenda, one initiated by a councillor, the other from a business owner asking for accommodation subsequent to other City action.

Perry Maksymiw, who operates Sweet Dreams Ice Cream stand which has been located for many years on the old railway land opposite Centennial Park wrote a letter to council last November asking to be able to move the stand to one of three locations near the Port of Orillia building because the City is taking back it’s piece of dirt for Centennial Drive reconstruction.

On one hand, it would be reasonable to expect someone involved in the planning for reconstruction of Centennial Drive to wonder what to do about the ice cream stand that’s operated for over 30 years on the rail land. Instead it seems to be of no concern to anyone at City Hall to figure this out and ending the lease with no further consideration is the only option.

Anyone who has attended any of the event weekends at the port from Christmas in June to the boat and cottage shows or any other event will be familiar with the Sweet Dreams Ice Cream stand being temporarily located on the north side of the plaza around the port building, you may have even bought an ice cream cone on one of those hot days. So, the idea it can’t be accommodated is fiction.

Sweet Dreams Preferred Re-Location

Maksymiw suggested three alternatives for location with the preference for a more long-lasting than one-off events being closer to the building on its west side. He also would pay all costs for water, sanitary and electrical hookups.

Council with its first crack at this issue on Monday voted to direct,

“staff be authorized to negotiate and execute a lease with Sweet Dreams to
locate one Refreshment Vehicle establishment within Centennial Park for the remainder of 2022.”

Staff came back with relocating to any of the three options near the port building being unsuitable because they plan some underground storm water sewer work underneath the parking lot as part of the road construction and public safety was an issue, so we’ll give them that. But they also rejected the other locations, which as noted, have served suitably well many times.

Counicllor Cipolla asked if the circumstance regarding public safety would be the same considering Mississaga Street is also being rebuilt and establishments like Studabakers will have the same issue, but staff said that area was different because among other things they were going to keep one lane of roadway open

Staff’s solution was to offer up a spot where the Island Princess ticket booth was located at the foot of Mississaga Street. This is directly opposite the rejuvenated excursion boat where ice cream has been sold of late. But, staff’s concern was not putting two ice cream stands within melting distance of each other, but the proximity to Studabakers; the City has policy food vendors cannot operate on public land with 90 meters of a restaurant.

Looking at Google maps and measuring to their scale, while not entirely accurate, shows if it’s within 90 meters, it’s a matter of inches – that’s being generous because it appears it’s several meters further than 90.

Furthermore, councillor Ainsworth in his remarks said he spoke with the owner of Studabakers and there was no concern made about locating where the ticket booth was.

Staff also said 4 policies and by-laws would have to be amended to make it legal. The implication being it’s a lot of work, but when staff puts a mountain of changes to old by-laws with inconsistencies or irrelevancies because of the passage of time, that’s no effort.

One of those is about bypassing sourcing rules under the purchasing by-law and giving the nod to one vendor to operate without opening up the opportunity to other vendors to apply. Here, we have the letter of the law being rigid and not the intent. First, he by-law is about purchasing goods and services and while the argument can be made the City would be getting a service by way of the lease agreement, it’s a stretch. Secondly, accommodating new circumstances in light of your own other action only seems fair and easy enough to rebuff objectors trying to wedge their way into getting a similar opportunity. Not all old pegs fit into the holes one has created.

Ainsworth proposed deferring a decision – and that amendment to the motion was made and carried. Not before councillor Fallis asked,

“Is the idea to bring it back to council at a later date, or just to kind of let it go?”

Fallis also asked a question which speaks to a broader consideration, creative problem solving.

“It caught me off guard there is no other location except for the one in front of the ticket office. It’s one of our biggest parks, it seems unusual to me there wouldn’t be another space,” said Fallis.

Typical of bureaucratic thinking, which is not unique to Orillia City Hall, the first reaction is no, you can’t do that, instead of, how can we find a way to make this work and all the creative thinking goes into justifying the no answer.

It’s proven the ice cream stand can operate near the port building and the owner said he’d cover the cost of making service hook ups more permanent than temporary. Effort should be made to see this venture continues.

Council voted unanimously to defer with no deadline for it to come back to council, so it looks like Sweet Dreams is out of luck for the rest of this summer.

Any Colour You Like

The other item was Counicllor Pat Hehn’s motion from months ago to have each of the crosswalks at West and Mississaga Streets painted – in time for Canada Day, or alternatively the Civic Holiday weekend in this manner:

– Stripes of red, yellow, black and white to represent the colours of the four races
– Stripes of violet, indigo, green, yellow, orange and red to represent the Pride flag
– Stripes of orange to honour children who attended residential schools
– Stripes of red and white to represent all Canadians
– A maple leaf situated in the centre of the intersection

Staff have punted this one forward twice in order to get input from the new equity, diversity and inclusion roundtable committee and said the committee hasn’t had time to look at it yet.

One wonders why a second opinion is even needed to do some painting. It’s a noble idea and gesture which, outside of Alberta, one would be hard pressed to find legitimate opposition (not that any opposition in Alberta would be legitimate).

Here’s the other thing about bureaucratic thinking, no one wants to make a decision that might be perceived as offensive to anyone, real, imagined or grounded in ignorance. This leads to getting another opinion about the colours of paint, or possibly putting a target smack in the middle of the main intersection of town.

Councillor Ted Emond raised the notion about what is the plan for vandalism. Several other cities have done similar things only to have Neanderthals deface such gestures almost before the paint is dry.

The obvious answer to that is to buy extra paint and be ready to go out and remove tire rubber and repaint right away so as not give cretins the satisfaction to revel in their wilful ignorance for any length of time.

Hehn, who is on the committee, did say there was discussion there might be a better place to do this kind of thing.

However, our argument is, go big or go home. If one is going to worry about vandalism of something we should be proud to have, don’t shunt this thing off to some less conspicuous spot, put it front and center and if there is vandalism, the whole community should know it and see it. In a way it would be a public service to know who and what our neighbours are.

Council finally voted on the motion, only after it was amended to formally send it to the new committee for a report and to remove the deadline of May 9, 2022 for that report to come back to council, which means, it’s not going to happen any time soon.

(Photos by Swartz – SUNonline/Orillia)


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