Murphy slams ratepayers’ group on Twitter
MUSKOKA LAKES - The mayor of Muskoka Lakes has made it clear what she thinks about an advocacy group that presents itself as the conscience of the lake community.
MAYOR ALICE MURPHY.
Mayor Alice Murphy tweeted on March 2 from an account named Alice Murphy @MayorMurphy, encouraging everyone to positively engage in promoting stronger communities. The tweet noted that it is easy to criticize, and much harder to participate constructively.
The tweet was followed by another one the same day, directed at the Muskoka Ratepayers’ Association.
“Mean spirited RatepayerAssocn hurts #Muskoka community. Running secret society w/ ‘chosen’ Board, yet positioned as ‘conscience’ of Townshp,” the tweet read.
The Muskoka Ratepayers Association is an advocacy group that attends township and district meetings and acts as a watchdog. According to the association’s website, they seek to protect and promote the interests of Muskoka Lakes property owners, support orderly development in the township, and encourage education in young people.
Two of its mandates, according to the site, are to encourage a resourceful and careful budget and to attempt to make sure tax loads are fair.
When asked about the comment, Murphy said in an email interview she applauds the Ratepayer’s regular attendance at Muskoka Lakes council meetings, but “I am amazed at the consistency by which TMRA chooses to take council discussion out of context, invariably only reporting the outcome from a negative perspective.”
As an example, she used the conclusion and sign-off of the township’s 2013 budget two weeks ahead of schedule on March 1.
“This is a good news story—a responsible budget, delivered on a timely basis, following extensive public input and detailed review by a finance committee comprised of financially astute members of the public, including a TMRA representative,” she said.
The tweet followed a letter to the editor in this paper by Liz Denyar, vice president of the ratepayers’ association, stating the ratepayers’ were alarmed at the speed at which the budget was being passed, and saying there were unanswered questions and inconsistencies that needed to be addressed.
Issues raised by the ratepayers included a significant increase in the budget for heritage matters, an alleged disregard for maintaining traditional reserve levels, additional consultant costs required because of the high staff turnover last year – particularly in regard to updating the Comprehensive Zoning Bylaw, and the association’s desire to know the total cost associated with opposing the Bala Falls hydroelectric plant.
In response to the mayor’s comments, Susan Daglish, president of the Ratepayers Association, said in an email that the ratepayers’ association disagrees with Murphy’s characterization of the association.
“But setting that aside, we cannot comprehend how we hurt the community – quite the contrary as we work hard to inform our members, to support initiatives such as the proposed nursing station, to encourage our youth through a number of bursaries, and to hold all-candidates meetings at election time,” she said.
The Township of Muskoka Lakes does not have an official Twitter account, which means council members tweet from their personal accounts. The mayor’s use of her personal account concerns Daglish.
“We are concerned that Ms. Murphy would tweet as “Alice Murphy @MayorMurphy” and would clearly identify herself as the Mayor of Muskoka Lakes,” Daglish said. “If this is a personal account, to all intents and purposes it has been made to look like a pronouncement of the mayor (and presumably the council).”
Murphy defended her March 2 tweet, saying the ratepayers’ board is pre-selected, and essentially closed.
“TMRA Directors are elected annually at the AGM, however, nominations for the Board are not taken from the floor, as per any standard of good governance,” she said.
Daglish said the board of directors is elected by the members at their yearly annual meeting, according to their bylaws, which she said are explained at the annual general meeting.
“We are not a “secret society,” she said. “In conclusion, we are disappointed that the mayor would make such comments about the Ratepayers Association in the social media, and would look forward to a more productive relationship with her.”