Overseeing, or overbearing?
At the January 21st Council meeting, a proposal was made to amend the Port Perry Downtown Business Improvement Area (BIA) governing by-law without any supporting information.
Contrary to the language of the Municipal Act, staff had been told (by whom is not clear) to move toward directly appointing BIA board members, eliminating the electoral process for the membership. This extraordinary action was said to be prompted by problems with communications and bad relations among various parties.
After a mass resignation of BIA board members in 2016, volunteer members stepped in. They faced a significant financial deficit and governance issues, including the loss of some important records. Although they did not always receive full support from the Township, they resolved these problems, largely without due thanks. A critical summary of financial concerns was presented to Township staff in December 2016, with further explanation sent to Council in May 2017. The work to restore the BIA's status and credibility was done collegially, respectfully, and with every effort to be open and accurate, including a presentation to Council in December 2017. The Mayor is well aware of all these issues.
Our BIA members pay a special levy for improvements to the downtown business district. Flowers, benches, Christmas lights, and street cleanups are just a few examples benefiting local businesses, residents and visitors. The BIA and the Township have regularly interfaced successfully; for instance, in arranging special events downtown. If any misunderstanding is suspected, it is incumbent on both parties to recognize and repair it. However, some of the language used towards the BIA board, in the January 21st meeting, was accusatory, even authoritarian.
The Township may have oversight of the BIA, but it cannot arbitrarily change the rules to put “the right people” on a local board. Our business owners and their landlords deserve better. Our democracy demands it.
Founding Member of the BIA
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