VOCO Update
by Lynne Boldt

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September 20. 2002

      The Fall of 2002...who'd have thunk it? Just two months shy of the third anniversary of the outbreak of Kitchenitis here in Victoria County, the cure is closer than ever!!!!

      When the senior sitting MPP's at Queen's Park picked up their pens and signed the Order in Council appointing Harry Kitchen as the one man Restructuring Commission to ride into Victoria County and obliterate the 16 municipalities that made up the County and turn them into a single-tier governance of wards in a city, I bet they thought that was the end of it.

      Well, guess what people? The citizens of Victoria County, albeit mainly "easy going, country folk" are not that easily dismissed. It has been heard throughout the County over the past three years, that VOCO was originally perceived as a 'Handful of Naysayers', who then progressed to a 'Group of Dissidents' and more recently a 'Destructive Force'. While I personally have a problem with the destructive force label, as I believe the destruction was intended to come with the Harry Kitchen order, I don't think anyone can fail to see the progression in the ranks. The really frightening part is, if Queens' Park and even our own City Council could have heard even part of what I've been hearing since last week when the Final Tax Bills were issued - I can only cringe to think what the residents would be labeled now.

      When I leave my home for a total of 5 hours and return home to 18 phone calls and numerous email messages, you've got to believe me when I say people are ummmmmm...upset??

      And when people are upset, they tend to demand AND deserve answers. They don't want the smoke and mirrors that Queens Park are so adept at spreading, they don't want the "no, no I'm afraid you're mistaken" responses they get after spending a good chunk of their time on "hold" down at City Hall. These people, while mainly "country folk" are, believe it or not, the same blend of "country folk" that make up our local Council - a council that was elected BY the people FOR the people, but seem to have difficulty sometimes remembering that.

      Three years ago most of the residents in Victoria County knew "something" was in the wind but I don't believe many of them knew then that it wasn't wind at all but hurricane force gales that were blowing into their quiet, comfortable County. Well the lightening has struck and the thunder is now being heard. The thunder of thousands of disgruntled and unhappy taxpayers continues to roll across this County day after day, week after week, and shows positively no signs of letting up. In fact, it only seems to be growing louder.

      For those of you who follow this column each issue, I am glad to say I was wrong in the last Update. Following the introduction of the $97,000.00++ "Vision" to Council on August 27, I mentioned that Council had voted to hold a SPECIAL COUNCIL meeting to deal with this report. I incorrectly expected the Mayor to call this meeting after our seasonals were long gone, but lo and behold, the meeting was called for THIS Tuesday, Sept. 17.

      While this was good news because our snowbirds have not headed south just yet, the bad news was it was scheduled for 3pm in the afternoon. Why was this bad news? Here's a hint.....MOST people struggling to come up with the extra dollars needed for this year's tax payments are either a) at work, b) at school or c) in transit between one or both of these places at 3pm on a Tuesday afternoon.

      Howdoes one attend a "Special Council" meeting that will deal with the next ten years in their County AND earn those much needed dollars at the same time? Guess what? They can't and they don't....how convenient for Councillors that don't like the heat eh?

      Due to publication deadlines I can't give you all the scoop right now, but just wait 'til the next edition... If you REALLY can't wait, you can get a sneak peak on the VOCO website at www.geocities.com/vocomail and for those without access to the 'net' you are always welcome to call (705)738-6039, (705)887-4797. Oh yes, you can also call your Councillor or the Mayor too, I'm sure they'll be happy to give you the whole story.

      The $250,000.00 Business Incubator (plus $350,000.00 land donation) proposal held its final public meeting last Thursday evening in Lindsay. This business incubator has been discussed in this paper, and others, countless times in the past, so I'm not going to go through it all again. I'm going to wait until I see the $1.1 million from the Feds with a matching $1.1 million from Queens Park, and the additional "in-kind" contributions from the private sector.

      With all the hoopla these days over amalgamation saving us money, many still wonder why they haven't seen the "audited" figures to back these claims up yet. They don't want to hear that we saved "X" number of dollars by eliminating 16 smaller Councils, they want to know after hiring all the new Directors and staff what are the 'NET' savings. Where are the audited reports? Where are the staff numbers? After all, they have only been waiting since last November........what's the rush?

      Oh, and taxes??? I'm not even going to go there today. With rural taxes going up $8.6 million and urban parts going down $5.4 million in just two years what can anyone say that isn't being said on every streetcorner in the "city"?

      Perhaps some of the above is the reason the last VOCO meeting was as full as it was... It's great getting to know you all, and if you'd like to drop by the next meeting it will be on Thursday, September 26, at the Full Cup Cafe in Bobcaygeon beginning at 7pm.

      Due to the increase in attendance we are actively pursuing other venues and as soon as they are confirmed it will be announced here and on the website. Please keep watching for further information.

      If you have any questions you can visit the VOCO website, call the numbers listed above, or email: info@voconews.com any time or drop by the next meeting, we'd love to see you.

      Final note for this week ... Queens' Park is scheduled to resume sitting on Monday, Sept. 23 (although they may delay until Monday, Sept. 30) but our MPP WILL be back at work very soon.....more trips to the Legislature can't be far behind! Keep watching for details.

      "People don't care how much you know UNTIL they know how much you care" and trust me, the Voices of Central Ontario care very, very much.

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