Looking at the future of Annapolis County and its three towns
© Lawrence Powell
A packed meeting in Bridgetown in late August of 2012 took a reading on how local people feel about municipal governance. Peter Nicholson, left, moderated the meeting which included three panellists who spoke on the subject. The consensus of the meeting was for change from the status quo.
By Anne Crossman
& Heather LeBlanc
Now that the New Year is here, it’s time to move onwards in our goal to have a better governance model for our area.
When we started this “process” last summer with the Future Forum in August, we hoped that other electors in Annapolis County were ready to talk about different ways of doing things in our municipalities. Over 150 people came to that meeting and said, quite clearly, that they were ready to discuss and move forward with some action
Here we are again – ready and willing to move on.
Before we do that, it would be good to see what’s been accomplished since last August. This is what it looks like through our eyes –
October’s municipal elections were the most exciting in recent memory. Eight of the 11 county districts were contested, as were all mayoral and council seats in both Bridgetown and Annapolis Royal. Several districts and all of our towns held all-candidates meetings, many for the first time ever. There are new faces around the council tables. Candidates, who campaigned for changes in governance structure, leading to better services for county residents, were among them.
There has been an Annapolis County council meeting with Annapolis Royal council. There is a meeting being scheduled with Annapolis County council and Middleton council. There will be one with Bridgetown (which is really brand new) later this spring. There have been the Mayors and Warden meeting in the past but they have not always been productive.
Our county is now recording its meetings. There is talk of broadcasting (in some fashion or other) their meetings so all can see and hear what transpires. At present these recordings are for the use of council and staff only. However, anyone can now record proceedings including reporters. We hope this trend of public accountability continues and we see either webcasting or video available online. Further we note that The Annapolis Spectator now has a reporter at both the county’s committee of the whole and the regular council meetings. We commend The Spectator for doing this.
The very tone of Annapolis County council meetings has changed – the bullying seems to have diminished considerably. There are councillors who are declaring a conflict of interest now. The committees are in the process of being changed and updated – some new ones being formed and others being dropped. Many councillors are meeting with their constituents to hear what their concerns are and are bringing those concerns to the table. While this did happen before, there seems to be more willingness to hear about these. There is time now at the beginning of each regular council meeting for recognition or kudos to be handed out by each councillor. Staff is being treated with respect and thanked appropriately.
So we’d certainly like to continue seeing the openness and spirit of cooperation and to that end we’d like to suggest that our councils start looking at different models which might better serve our community. The Region of Queens has shown how two municipal governments cooperated, creating a better model to serve its people. An extensive public consultation came first, resulting in savings, improved services and infrastructure. What is more, a new attitude emerged: the idea that a gain anywhere in the region is a gain for the entire region.
We feel the most important step is, with support from the province and without preconditions, to create an arms-length committee. Its task will be to seek public input, crunch the numbers and then determine what Annapolis County's optimal governance structure would look like. This must be an honestly open and demonstrably transparent process grounded in a clear-eyed view of what lies ahead.
And to that end, we will be starting the organization for Future Forum II to be held in March. Look for AFC Updates soon as well.
Anne Crossman is from Centrelea and Heather LeBlanc is from Granville Ferry. They are with Annapolis Future Committee, a group looking at moving towards regional municipal governance.