It’s raining and we are getting wet

By John Sigurjonsson

Psychologists would say that a person walking in the rain and getting wet who doesn’t relate the rain and his damp condition is operating in “logic-tight compartments”. He just doesn’t connect “rain” and “damp”.

Municipal Council meetings offer examples:

Example #1:

At the August 27 Council meeting it was reported that the Bradley Center operating deficit for 2012 could run to $660,000, plus the interest on the related $8 million debt. That makes the total loss for the year probably over $1 million. Operating losses are expected to continue for the next four years, hopefully at reducing levels each year. But operating profits of several hundreds of thousands are needed just to pay the interest on the debt. Will we ever get there?

Mayor Hope noted that the Bradley Center is an investment towards attracting people to live, work, and play in Chatham-Kent.

But any attendee at the Bradley Center who ventures more than 10 meters away from any of the center`s many doors is greeted by an ugly, unwelcoming environment: vacant industrial plants, undeveloped and untended properties, five-lane speedways with no pedestrian crossings, and an isolated strip mall with vacant store-fronts.

Does this seem like a good investment in selling our community to visitors?

It’s raining and we’re getting wet.

Where’s the umbrella?

Two possible umbrellas: 1) Fix up the immediate surroundings of the Bradley Center, and 2) Provide convenient ways for attendees to get to more attractive parts of our community.

Example #2:

At the same Council meeting it was reported that Chatham-raised youth prefer to live in communities that offer active, healthy lifestyles.

One Councilor speculated that transportation might be a problem for youth and we should look at the availability of transit services as a way to attract them.

But wouldn’t active, healthy transportation more likely involve walking or cycling?

It’s raining and we’re getting wet.

Where’s the umbrella?

Again, two possible umbrellas: 1) Complete the sidewalk network ASAP, and 2) Complete the cycling network ASAP. Make active transportation a convenient, attractive option for all Chatham-Kent residents.

A related example:

Another presentation at Council dealt with economic development. One of our declared economic development strategies is to attract and grow post-secondary institutions and develop creative economy enterprises. Professionals and students in these fields strongly prefer walkable, cycleable communities. Anyone familiar with real college towns or Silicone Valley knows that they swarm with pedestrians and cyclists. Waterloo Region, our own example of the synergy between colleges and the creative economy, is a leader in active transportation programs.

Yet there is no safe bikeway to our St Clair College campus and the McNaughton Avenue sidewalk doesn’t reach the school. New residential developments where young professionals newly arrived in Chatham might think of living have no sidewalk or bikeway connections to the rest of the city.

It’s raining and we’re getting wet. For umbrellas, see the preceding example.

How does it happen in Council meetings that related ideas don’t get pulled together to their logical conclusions? These are intelligent people. One reason may be that the Council format doesn’t support real sequential discussions, it just encourages disjointed speechifying. Early implementation of the proposed Committee of the Whole format with its freer give-and-take might help a lot.

Let’s get out of the rain.