Listen Up! Mr. Mayor, you can’t blame it on the other guy when you were there too

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Hugh Mackenzie Huntsville Doppler

Hugh Mackenzie
Huntsville Doppler

Some Other Dude Did It

It’s called the SODDIT syndrome and it seems to be endemic among politicians who assume power. When they screw up, under perform or can’t deliver, it’s almost always the fault of somebody else. One can get away with that I suppose at the beginning, but almost half way through your term of office, that doesn’t work and it is time to stand up and take responsibility for your actions or your inactions, which ever they may be.

There was a huge puff piece in the Huntsville Forester this past week on Mayor Scott Aitchison. There were very few hard questions and the Mayor was given every opportunity to pound his chest. I don’t blame him for taking them up on it, but while some of the points he made were valid, others were pure horse manure.

The Mayor was asked if he was leading a “do-nothing” council. Now, I don’t think he is. Some of those councillors work very hard. But instead of saying that, the Mayor chose to throw his two predecessors, Claude Doughty and me, under the bus. He wants you to think that any perceived inaction on his part is because of spending that took place during our terms of office.

For example, he refers to “Mackenzie’s train station” as a millstone around his neck. Clearly inferring that the $400,000 repair bill they are now facing is to be blamed on the SODDIT syndrome. But Aitchison forgets a few things. He was a member of that council and he fully endorsed the purchase and renovation of the CN station. In fact, it was a last minute addition, as a heritage component, to our Strategic Plan and he and former Councillor Fran Coleman led the charge to include it. He wasn’t wrong at the time but he can’t shirk off responsibility now. He also knows that the issues currently facing the train station did not exist or could not be detected at the time of purchase.

Scott Aitchison was only on Mayor Doughty’s council for one of his two terms, but during that time he strongly supported and defended almost all of the Mayor’s initiatives and I never heard him utter a single negative word about the Waterloo Building. If it was ‘Party’ time as Aitchison suggests in his article, he was one of the chief revelers. No wonder he says he is in “hangover” mode.

So, what is Scott Aitchison doing right? Well, a $400,000 repair bill for the train station trumps its value as a heritage site. Sad to say but true. And in spite of the good intentions to create a post-secondary institution in Huntsville, the Waterloo building did not live up to its potential. One of Aitchison’s election promises was to optimize the Waterloo Building for the benefit of Huntsville. That hasn’t been possible either. So yes, he should get rid of them.

The Mayor is also right that this is not the time for major capitol projects. That work has been done. It has also been substantively paid for and whatever is remaining is built into the tax base and has nothing to do with the tax increases that have occurred since Aitchison took office. In 2015, that tax increase was a whopping seven per cent. (okay, 6.97 per cent). My bet is that 99 per cent of Huntsville ratepayers did not see that level of increase in their personal incomes. Only Mayor Aitchison and the council he leads can take responsibility for the spending that took place to result in this bill to the taxpayers.

There is no doubt that Scott Aitchison has extraordinary people skills and a winning personality. It is fair ball however, as he is a public figure (and thankfully, those days are over for me), to ask what he has actually accomplished as Mayor and where he actually stands on key issues in our community. For instance, at the beginning of his term he stood strongly for two acute-care hospitals in Muskoka. More recently, he presided over and advocated a council decision to recommend one acute-care site and one geriatric/ambulatory site in Muskoka, without any guarantees that the acute-care site would be in Huntsville. He has also said that at the very least, we must have an emergency room here; hardly an acute-care hospital. So where exactly does he stand?

In my view, it is too early to say that Scott Aitchison has failed and it is certainly in our community’s best interest to see that he succeeds. But it is also too early to pat him on the back as the Forester article attempted to do.

Both Claude Doughty and I made our mistakes during our terms of office but we also did our best to leave Huntsville better off than when we started. Mayor Aitchison needs to do the same and we need to see some signs of it. He is a talented guy; in many ways he has what it takes to get the job done. But so far, it has been more talk than action. It’s time to start seeing the results. The clock is ticking. At election time, you can’t blame ‘some other dude”.

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2 Comments

  1. Well said, Hugh. We have always been justifiably proud of our Town and our Mayors (I remember fondly my times with Mayor Tibbett), and at the end of the day, our pride has been justified. It is long past time for re-writing ancient history and writing your own legacy, Mr. Mayor.

    My only quibble with the article is that I do not see any way to evade the $65 M-major sewage project.

  2. Very well put! All of our mayors have made both good and bad decisions, but when you mess up, ‘fess up, then – CLARIFY AND REPAIR, don’t mud sling. The moment that happens, credibility = 0 ! If I have one complaint about Huntsville’s decision making skills in the past it has always been that some organization or group seemed to be able to continually influence Council to act, make definitive statements, or hire consultants before the logical thought process is brought forward, made public, and taxpayer input heard and respected, even if it differs from your own. Over time, taxpayer interest wanes, and heads to the nearest Tim Horton’s, where you hear such comments as “why bother – you can’t fight City Hall” ?? Wrong – you can, and you should. Be part of the solution, not the problem…..
    Thank you Hugh, for another excellent article!

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