The sound of crickets chirping.
The phrase accurately captures the public gallery at Monday’s district council meeting. There was that one guy, sitting on his own, seemingly comfortable in his role as the sole citizen at the party.
The media table was full, outnumbering members of the public four to one. Not that we claim any superiority; if it wasn’t our job we likely would have been at home on a dark Monday night as well.
And we’re honoured that you look to us to bring the reports back from council that will inform you of their actions. We are, after all, the fourth estate and that’s our role in society.
It demonstrates the kind of political nerdiness that fuels journalists that we enjoy council meetings. We get a kick out of seeing our representatives in action and watch them closely throughout the proceedings to try to glean some insight into their personalities and their possible agendas.
You could argue that Monday night’s meeting was a real snore, with little entertainment value or controversy to bring out a crowd – put bums in the seats, as it were. Still even on a slow night, council decided to spend almost a quarter of a million taxpayer dollars on computers and to up the rent in district market value social housing by 2.5 per cent come the dark days of January. This just minutes after Huntsville Coun. Fran Coleman spoke passionately about the severe shortage of attainable housing in our region.
Coun. Bob Colhoun of Gravenhurst was the only one in the room interested in delving into the question of the affordability of the increase for the tenants involved. That tells us something about Colhoun.
Coun. Scott Young of Bracebridge seemed to voice the sentiments of the rest of the councillors when he pointed out that it is market value and not geared-to-income units that will have their rents raised. So, apart from Colhoun, the councillors voted to raise the rent of the district’s tenants, seniors and people with disabilities for the most part, without much discussion.
Muskoka Lakes Mayor Alice Murphy was there with bells on. If anything the meeting was the Alice Murphy Show. She brought the passion to the play, and when she discussed the issue of streamlining a bloated planning process, cutting the red tape as our federal representative would say, she worried that bone past other councillors’ patience.
We can’t help but like Murphy’s tenacity. Does she make a meeting long? Well, yes she does, but it’s all in the spirit of doing the job right. She’s not prepared to let an issue die without a fight.
In the end, the meeting wasn’t high drama. But it was interesting and attending the meetings, even the quiet ones, gives us insight into the process and the players. An insight it might help to have as a voter when election time rolls around again.
Think about it. The next district meeting is Monday, Oct. 22. If you’re not doing anything, join us in the gallery.