Opinion: Grimsby 5 back wrong horse

By Mike Williscraft

The lack of decorum and etiquette among the Grimsby 5 is quickly becoming the stuff of legend. They simply keep trundling on, bulldozing as they meander their way through their term as elected officials.

There have been many instances where logic was chucked out the window at town hall in favour of sticking it to one person or another who are not part of the pack at the Grimsby council table.

On the sacrificing block was arguably the most effective councillor Grimsby has in Dorothy Bothwell. Bothwell has been able to be effective because her bailiwick is planning and her level of understanding and comprehension is far superior to all others in that domain.
Because of that, others almost have to defer to her knowledge.

In other areas, it is pretty much fair game when Coun. Reg Freake or Coun. Lianne Vardy – and often Mayor Jeff Jordan – speak up, their opinions are either shot down in a blaze of glory, or simply disregarded entirely.

Last Tuesday’s situation with Coun. John Dunstall ascending to the thrown of Grimsby’s Heritage Committee chairman was entirely laughable if it was not so sad.

Of all people to leverage into the chair, being all high and mighty about Dunstall’s credentials in the heritage field is laughable – unless you count being Second Mate to Michael Seaman, Grimsby’s former director of planning who captained the previous Heritage Advisory Committee into oblivion counting as experience.

Yes, Dunstall accessed a regional program to rebuild the facade of a building he owns downtown – and it looks great, by the way – when I asked several members of the Grimsby Historical Society, Grimsby Archives and those with heritage interests about Dunstall’s involvement…let’s just say there was a lot of eye rolling and leave it at that.

But, regardless of who the person was that the Grimsby 5 installed as the new chair of GHAC, the manner in which they conducted themselves was just plain wrong.

The committee held a meeting, had nominations, a vote was conducted and the committee chose Bothwell over Dunstall.

So, licking his wounds, Dunstall waited until his four compatriats were all perched around the council table before he piped up that he was still interested in being chair of the committee – this although Bothwell’s appointment was sitting right in there in minutes waiting to be approved by council.

No doubt, the Grimsby 5 saw this as an opportunity to get back at Bothwell, who regularly runs circles around the others on planning issues.
An example of that came later that night when it seemed the Grimsby 5 had their sights set on the Main Street East heritage study.

Coun. Kevin Ritchie could not seem to get that a heritage study is different than a land use study (such as a Secondary Plan Study) and was citing several points he “looked up”.

After explaining all the things he wanted to see as part of the study – a $100,000 budget item – Bothwell, as she had done previously, referred all councillors to the Town’s Official Plan which already cited all the items Ritchie said he wanted.

That little ditty pretty much sums up how things are going these days. You have a group that is putting in the work, understanding the issues and trying to move the town ahead, while you have another group (the five forming a majority) who would rather settle cheap personal vendettas and scuttle well-meaning initiatives in favour of whatever their flavour of the month is.

Now, it is hard to believe I am burining this much space on a chairmanship of a sub-committee while we have a 16.7 per cent tax increase coming up at council this Monday night. The reason I went this route, though, is the two are connected.

The subversive tactics repeatedly shown by the group popped up throughout the budget process. The couple of minor deferrals from the original budget proposal were purely for optics. The 5 would have passed the entire document with little or no debate…in my best Donald Trump impression voice, “It was a perfect budget.”

Even the most elementary action was not considered. One employed by previous councils was starting new hires half- or more than half-way through the year so they get started, but at 50 per cent of the budget impact.

Nope, full speed ahead.

Aside from wanton disregard for taxpayers, it seemed they wanted to get the large hit in place just in time to get rolled up in the pending MPAC reassessment hit. It should be an interesting council meeting on Monday.

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