BMRA holds public forum

The Blue Mountains Ratepayers Association has a bushel-basket of ideas to mull over after hosting an open house/round-table forum Saturday.

The goal, according to BMRA president Peter Bordignon, was to have the community members – and BMRA members – provide some valuable input on what the pressing issues are that are facing The Blue Mountains.

“We want to engage the public, find out what their feelings, and gauge the issues that are important to them. We want to know what matters to them. We want to know what their thoughts are on issues that we’re covering, and maybe issues that we aren’t covering.”

“We try to cover a lot of avenues, but we likely don’t get to anything.”

Bordignon noted the BMRA had presented two cheques to Beaver Valley Outreach and to the Events For Life centre before the meeting started. That was an outgrowth of input from the community, which had clamoured for more social-issue involvement from the association. He said the money came from the inaugural “Barn Dance” held in August, one of the first such initiatives organized by the BMRA.

While Bordignon said BMRA members were more than welcome to attend, he said he was really hoping to attract input more from the public-at-large than what could be called the “usual suspects.”

Bordignon noted that in any such forum, the chances of attracting the same people who regularly participate was high, and their voices are regularly heard.

The concept, he said, was to attract fresh voices.

“We just want an exchange of ideas, and I think we’re going to have a cross-section of people. We’re just letting people know what we do, and we’re looking for a change to go over for that as well.”

The BMRA has more than 200 family memberships, and another 1,200 through a condo association. That gives them a reach of about 2,000 people, which encompasses the majority of eligible voters.

Bordignon said he was expecting the upcoming municipal election to be a big topic, along with development and transportation issues.

One of the livelier discussions took place at a table devoted to town-county issues. Chaired by John Leckie, who manages county issues for the BMRA, much of the talk focused on how to properly determine the actual population of the town, the amount of taxation flowing to the county, and the possibility of becoming a single-tier municipality.

“We’d have plenty of money to address issues if we didn’t send $15 million to the county,” Leckie told participants.

He and several of the people discussing the issue expressed their unhappiness with official figures pegging the Blue Mountains population at about 7,000 people.

Their belief is that the actual population of property owners and family members would put the town closer to 50,000 people if part-time residents were included.

“Those official numbers change too when according to the argument they are making,” Leckie added.

“There is no trust with the county,” he continued. “It’s like a feudal system.”

Councillor Michael Martin, who sat in on some of the discussion, said he believed the town’s relationship with the county had improved since a joint committee was struck a few months ago.

He said he thought the county was now taking The Blue Mountains more seriously, particularly since it had been discussing becoming a single-tier municipality.

The forums generated a number of interesting ideas, and revealed some of the issues on the public’s mind. A list was generated, and one of the ideas questioned whether the chief administrative officer should undergo an annual performance review, with a request to make it available to the public.

All such ideas will be reviewed, Bordignon said, and considered by the BMRA.

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