Sunday, January 28, 2007

I Feel Good!

Thanks for the title to the late James Brown…but a story with a completely different twist.

I’m just come back from my thrice-weekly workouts at Oshawa’s recently opened phenomenal multi activity Legends Centre and while there was inspired to think about the theme for this article.

The Legends Centre, the new recreational facility in the south end, and the GM Centre as well as renovations to the Donovan Complex are tributes to Oshawa’s recent entry to the recreational and development “big time” which has occurred under the leadership of an Oshawa Council elected under the ward system…a system that guarantees that politicians have to deliver services and these kinds of amenities to the people to insure their election.

The development of this kind of infrastructure contributes to the quality of life for all Oshawa Citizens, contributes to rising real estate prices by making Oshawa a more desirable place to live, and contributes to Oshawa’s economic growth through attracting frequent Province-wide hockey tournaments and “big name” entertainment presentations. As Oshawa is the highest income census area in Canada according to the 2005 income tax statistics, it is fitting that Oshawa citizens should finally start to enjoy these “quality of life” features that are available in every “large-size” community in the country.

The existence of these facilities also has “big time” payoffs for our economy and for our health care costs as healthy and in-shape people are likely to have less time off and spend less time under medical care. So money spent on these centers has far reaching repercussions to society at large.

Because the city has ward voting with politicians accountable to all of the areas of the city, these facilities are also spread across the city making them convenient for all no matter where you live.

The development that has taken place under Ward Elections contrasts sharply with General Vote Elections where politicians were not accountable to the people and got elected only by generating high name profiles at the expense of real service to the people. There were two “disasters” under Oshawa General Vote Councils that illustrated their inactivity and even refusal to provide “quality of life” amenities for the people.

The first illustration has to do with the old Oshawa Arena. Built largely from funding by Col. R.S. “Sam” McLaughlin and home to the Oshawa Generals, it burned to the ground on Sept. 15, 1953 causing the Generals OHA franchise to fold. Oshawa’s “General Vote” Council took no role in a rebuilding which was left to Civic minded citizens like Terry Kerry, Dick McLaughlin, Bill Kurelo, Chris Mason and Robt. Nicol to start a “Build Ourselves for Ourselves” fund raising campaign for a new arena. At the same time, they arranged for Oshawa workers to contribute through payroll deductions to the build fund. This citizen effort culminated with the opening of the New Civic Auditorium on December 11, 1964 and the Generals were brought back to Oshawa. At the same time, Oshawa resident, Norm Wilton (Alnor Construction) salvaged the cooling plant of the burned out arena and moved it at his own expense to North Oshawa Park where he installed it as the basis for the up-to-recently existent arena.

The second illustration has to do with a story former mayor, the late Christine Thomas related to me when I visited her at home as I often did to listen to her interesting story-telling about Oshawa’s history. Following the loss by fire of the Oshawa Public Library, Oshawa’s “General Vote” Council repeatedly turned down the funding of a replacement library. At this inaction by the General Vote Council, Mayor Thomas was summoned to Col. Sam’s estate where he admonished Council stating that the citizen’s of Oshawa "deserved" a public library. In the discussion, Col. Sam offered to fund a new building if residents could sit in the library and look out a window on its east side to see the steeple of his church, St. Andrews United, which still stands on the east side of Simcoe Street just south of four corners. The agreement was made and you can still see the church steeple out of the huge stained glass window out of the main reading room.

While General Vote Politicians did fund a satellite library and Senior’s Centre adjacent to North Oshawa Park. It was left to members of the Hann Family to personally fund the rental of space in South Oshawa for a library to service those residents through the Jess Hann Branch of the Oshawa Public Library and recently the Ward Politicians have started to upgrade this library out of the tax base. General Vote Politicians built a new library and senior's centre in the north end since that is where they all lived. They did not invest in the south end since none of them lived there.

So the history of the General Vote in Oshawa is clear. General Vote Councils were an absolute failure for Oshawa. General Vote Politicians were reluctant to fund amenities for the people of Oshawa out of the tax base and it was left to private citizens to give this leadership to Oshawa. Under Ward System Voting, Politicians have provided these amenities and have distributed services across the entire community to serve all residents no matter where they lived.

Why ever would politicians want to change a system that is obviously working for Oshawa to the GENERAL VOTE, a system of demonstrated failure, if not for their own self interest in ensuring their own political futures? This is a question that every Oshawa voter should ask themselves.

Oshawa history shows that the only beneficiaries of the General Vote were the incumbent politicians. Oshawa experience proves General Vote politicians were guaranteed a permanent seat on council until their death or resignation. We need a system that serves the people and not the politicians.

Oshawa voters must resolve to work toward the defeat of self-serving politicians in the next Municipal Election.

A future article will publish our "hit list" of self serving politicians who do not deserve our support because they are more interested in their own interests rather than the interests of Oshawa. We will continue to publish this list over the term of council and actively organize to target these self-serving politicians for defeat in the next election.

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