Year in Review : We Grade Cornwall Ontario City Council and Management for 2011 – December 14, 2011

CFN –  Well City Council in Cornwall Ontario is done for 2011.   The last official non-secret meeting was held Monday night and it was a full agenda!   I thought it would be interesting to do a report card for the mayor,  council, and key city management.

Mayor Kilger:   B – In hockey parlance Mayor Kilger is a “Gamer”.   In spite of his medical issues he’s battled and kept his hand on the rudder of the ship.   While in politics people may not always agree with each other, and there may be partisan, and back door  issues I have to respect anyone with grit who follows their vision and reaches for their goals.

While there are a lot of issues right now in Cornwall that ultimately lie at “Builder Bob’s” feet he is still fighting the fight.

City Councilors:

Denis Carr:   C- Councilor Carr has his fingers in an awful lot of pies.   The biggest pie is money for Councilor Carr who when not closing city pools is busy with Heart of the City, Centretown, and the Farmers’ Market.   He has the longest tenure on council.   With the Diane Shaye and other cases costing the city as much as they are there simply are not enough swimming pools to close to compensate.

Bernadette Clement:  B+ – Ms Clement is in a key position to take the torch from Mayor Kilger as this most likely will be his last term in office.    She’s still a work in progress politically in spite of her two council terms.   She tries to please almost everyone.   Her strengths are listening (when she’s available) and being truly as fair as one can expect from a politician.

She seems actually willing to not go with the flow and sometimes stand up for issues that may not be the most popular; in other words; she has principles.    Weakenesses:  Won’t let go of an issue at the right time (the gym issue from last term as an example) She’s had a good first year on council.

Maurice Dupelle: B   The Rookie councilor who finally earned his spot after repeated tries has seemed overwhelmed at times, but has learnt much quickly, and is under the wing of Councilor Thibault.    He’s taken criticism well, and doesn’t have to speak on every issue at council like a few others.   It should be interesting to see how he performs in year two of his term.

Syd Gardiner:   D   Not sure what’s going on with Councilor Gardiner?  He’s not been his normal self with tirades and profanities spouted in session?  He apologized at the last meeting of the year; but I’m still not sure what for after reviewing the video?

Glen Grant: C   Glen represents a certain constituency.   He doesn’t swerve or deviate.   His voting patterns are very clear.  If the issue is regarding hockey or something the Guy Lauzon crowd agrees with he nods his head yes.  If it’s counter…well.   He does seem less feisty this year without sparring partner Mark MacDonald or its the nice new comfy seat.

Elaine MacDonald:  D   The veteran councilor and former school teacher still doesn’t seem to have recovered from her third place finish in the Provincial election behind Jim McDonell and Mark MacDonald.    It’s also not clear as to what she stands for?  Stating one thing and voting in another direction can be confusing; especially for her established base.

Of late she’s complained in council about Via Rail cutting service to Cornwall; a service that many in Cornwall can’t afford for travel any longer when available, but with her multiple pensions and council fees she can.

David Murphy: C   Councilor Murphy uses his oratory skills as a broadcaster to occasionally stand up and make statements.  He seems to be under Councilor Grant’s tutelage.  He has not shown the promise that Councilor Dupelle has in his rookie season.   So far it’s more “Style over Substance” for the rookie.

Leslie O’Shaughnessy:  B+  Returned to office this year after a failed attempt at being Mayor; Councilor O’Shaughnessy has shined.   Full kudos for being accessible, open; willing to listen and even change his mind and vote on issues.  One of the most principled councilors on this team and a true asset to the city.

Andre Rivette:  B+   People either really like or really dislike Councilor Rivette.   Never shy from a fight or to help someone that reaches out to him if he believes in the issue.  Not the most polished, but calls a spade a spade and then isn’t afraid to whack someone with it!  Council would never be the same without one of his arm waving, paper shaking tirades!

Denis Thibault:  B  You never know where you stand with Councilor Thibault?  Friendly; professional; and the best communicator of the group.   Most of what Councilor Thibault does is never seen at council meetings.  He enjoys the Elder Statesman role.  On the times that he stands to speak what he says is usually dead on target.   A strong voice in the back room.

City Management

CAO Paul Fitzpatrick:  C-  Is starting to take the heat on the Diane Shaye case; something that has blemished the City far and wide.   Ultimately a CAO is judged on the city’s financial health and perception of success.   While there are some real positives in Cornwall right now not many can be attributed to our CAO who has come a long way since working for Ed Lumley.    The cost of these court cases and his 14% raise have not made him popular with many.

Clerk Denise  Labelle-Gelinas:  B   Ms Gelinas gets a B for her grace under fire and being a huge team player for silently taking the hit in regards to the secret council meetings which violated the toothless municipal act.   I don’t think too many people really believed the statement that this savvy vet of over 3o years “forgot” to notify the public for those meetings.

Economic Development Team:  B –   It’s got to be a tough job working in that office.  I’m grading the team which for this purpose consists of head honcho Mark Boileau, Bob Peters, Candy Pollard, and Kevin Lajoie.    With the new distribution centre’s on their way the score is artificially high for 2011.   However are these a case of a job well done or as one person stated; “they ran out of space in Brockville to locate.”

Looking at the booming growth in nearby Valleyfield and Vaudreuil/Dorion Quebec and the $200 million dollars of development in Brockville there certainly is room for improvement by the Economic team in Cornwall. With Cornwall finishing 98 out of 100 in the CFIB (Canadian Federation of Independent Business) Communities in Boom report there are red flags about how the city is attracting growth and retaining its own businesses.   The fact that the City of Cornwall has a quarter as many CFIB members as nearby Brockville which is half the size speaks volumes.

The downtown core, and crisis for small business in Cornwall would normally push the score down.   The performance of Ms Pollard also pushes the score down as well; but this is just for 2011.  Hoping that with a year under her and Mr. Lajoie’s belt in their positions that improvements come and a better grade given for 2012.   One seed planted is the city is issuing press releases for new businesses that open in Cornwall.

Overall Grade:   B-   Cornwall is a city in transition.   This current council and mayor are most likely in a Legacy position with the vast majority being over 65 (many over 70) come next Municipal election.    Times are changing and the way things are done “successfully” change too.

If the goal is for Cornwall to grow; which it will, strong younger leadership will have to fill the mantle.   In the meanwhile we have three more years of this group’s leadership.   It should be interesting.

With the new bridge coming in and the huge swath of potential waterfront development coming down the pike this city could be completely different in 15 to 20 years.  It’s the seeds that are about to be planted that will determine takes root in this River city.

You can post your non-inflammatory comment below.

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1 Comment

  1. I can only speak from personal experiences and despite what all or any will say this was my experience:

    1 – The Cornwall Free News has been excellent to deal with in terms of price, contracts and overall performance. To date, I did not once have a personal or professional negative experience.

    2 – Candy Pollard and Keving Lajoie were both “EXTREMELY” professional with myself and everyone at Platinum Pools and Spas. They were eager to give advice, did exactly what they said they would do and were always available to help.

    Bob Peters gave some useful advice and recommendations despite his busy schedule worked very quickly to get a media announcement out thanks to Candy Pollard’s request. All in all, a great first impression.

    On another note the Cornwall Business Enterprise Center is there to guide you or point you in the right direction. They are a spring board to other groups etc. The offer marketing help and guidance.

    As an entrepreneur you must be willing to do anyhting and everything to become established. The Cornwall Business Enterprise Center is establsihed to “aid” not necessarily “do”. If you think any level of government is going to “do everything” for you then you are already “closed”!

    Thank You,
    Mike Bedard

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