SooToday.com received the following letter today from Ward 5 City Councillor, Frank Fata.
In a December 10 article, Sault Star journalist Elaine Della-Mattia was discussing the issue about our current Council, with the headline, Council gets along, but where are the big projects?
The article has some validity and the question definitely has some merit.
It should be pointed out that it's often been said that the best thing politicians, especially Municipal ones, can do is stay out of the way of free enterprise and let the process take its course.
City Council can pave the way, do the proper rezoning required to allow development to move forward or expand and simply be the catalyst that's required to create progress and growth in our Community.
The end result, we have to hope and expect to work towards, is a greater tax base and job creation, especially for our youth to land reasonably good jobs and remain in their home town.
But, City Council can't do it on its own.
For projects to move forward, cooperation is required from other factions.
These include developers with viable ideas, support from upper levels of government, and eventual decisions made by City Council where local tax dollars may have to be put on the table.
But, before City Council can make any kind of move resulting in solid decisions that will move this Community forward, another faction has to be included in this equation and that is the expertise and support from a well funded agency, the Economic Development Corporation (EDC).
The EDC has to be a major player in this whole exercise, because, after all, they are the experts and reducing the risk of failure is extremely important for our Community's financial welfare.
As we approach the end of 2012 and the beginning of 2013, I do believe we have to be aggressive in moving this City forward.
But we need further cooperation.
This time its from our neighbours.
This includes all residents, but especially their leadership, from Prince Township, Dennis Township, Aweres Township, Echo Bay and our First Nations neighbours.
Many of you work in Sault Ste. Marie, use our infrastructure, such as our libraries and arenas and contribute to our health services (SAH).
So, it is important for all of us to work together, combine our resources and ideas so we all can benefit from whatever good fortunes come our way.
In other words, if there is economic development and job creation, we will "all" benefit, as a larger community.
Now I would like to take a moment and reference a few goals during these final two years of this term (in no particular order) that, I feel, we either can complete or continue to work on:
1. Continue to create a positive environment for our major employers (ie. Essar Steel, Flakeboard, Boniferro Works, etc.) We must sustain what we have as well as move forward on other potential projects.
2. City Council, with the EDC, must continue to be aggressive to keep or expand on the employment front in our Government agencies (ie. OLG, Passport office, Immigration office, etc.) We can't sit back and be complacent. Otherwise, I can assure you, we will be left behind. Our MP and MPP have and must continue to play a major roll in this very important sector of our economic well being.
3. There has to be plan for a solid level of cooperation between Sault Ste. Marie and its neighbours. We are isolated, as it is, so it is important that we come together and work as one entity. Working in isolation or being self serving will not work. As an example, to improve our traffic flow, I think we must sit down with our First Nations neighbours and MPP and see if we can get the bi-pass through that, I'm sure we all agree, has been long over do. Also, we need cooperation to develop our lands adjoining our First nations properties. Cooperation is vital. If the City benefits and expands, we will all benefit, especially in job creation. Clearly, it only makes common sense for the City and its neighbours to work together.
4. We lose a lot of our disposable income when people travel over the International Bridge because of such things as lower gas prices and multiple casinos. Sadly, this is not reciprocated from our Michigan neighbours to the same degree. This again, is a personal choice and part of free enterprise but perhaps Tourism SSM, along with the Chamber of Commerce, can come up with some creative ideas. We must continue to work on becoming a destination location (ie. from towns like Wawa, Chapleau, Thessalon, Blind River, and SSM, Michigan).
5. We want to continue to encourage development on various sites in the City. These include the St. Mary's Paper site, the old hospital site, the brewery site and of course, the Gateway site. Though we can't control the actions or inactions of the potential developers, we can pave the way in any possible way we can (ie. rezoning, severances, bringing developers together,etc.). Again, the EDC must play a very vital roll in this extremely important exercise.
6. Our work continues and is on going in the ever important areas of Doctor Recruitment, the Arts, Alternative Energy and again, youth retention. This has to be an ongoing program which we can not let up on.
7. Property taxes must be a priority for this City Council. We must be diligent, transparent and accountable for our actions. It's obvious that taxpayers have continued to send us this message, loud and clear.
Yes, Elaine, I agree that this council has truly left the impression that they work as a team.
I can certainly agree that there has been a very healthy level of respect and cooperation within this current Council.
Personally, I have found it to be an honour to serve with these members.
On a more personal level, I have enjoyed a very positive level of respect and teamwork between myself and my Ward 5 colleague, Councillor Marchy Bruni.
There are a number of potential projects that are at various levels of completion.
We have to remain steadfast and apply full cooperation.
We may not control 100 percent of the outcome, but City Council can and must be a major player in the process, every step of the way.
Complacency is not an option.
Tax payers should expect nothing but an all out effort from each and every Councillor.
Otherwise, I'm quite sure, the taxpayers will express their dissatisfaction come November, 2014.
I'd like to thank Elaine Della-Mattia for the opportunity to respond to her article.
From my family to yours, I'd like to wish everyone a belated Merry Christmas.
I also wish you a New Year that is filled with health, peace, prosperity and happiness.
Ward 5 Councillor
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