CITY COUNCIL needs to rethink its approach on how to spend a surprise $375,000 provincial grant. The grant was intended to help pay for the Davis St. road project but came well after the city spent its own money, effectively freeing up the grant for other purposes.
Instead of deciding all by itself, council should throw open the decision-making to taxpayers.
First, hold a town hall meeting to establish by consensus a short list of possibilities. Three suggestions would be ideal. Five should be the limit.
Second, use the short list in a referendum accompanying the November municipal election.
A bit cumbersome for politicians, perhaps, but far more democratic. And in doing so, the strengths and weaknesses of proposed uses would be thoroughly aired out, something that at times is lacking when discussion is limited to six councillors and a mayor.
We might, for example, come up with a proposed use that goes beyond the traditional municipal mindset that grants of this size are best spent on construction or roadwork. A boost to efforts underway to grow more food locally, for example, would bring tangible as well as intangible returns to the community.
City council has a rare opportunity to do something creative in deciding how to spend the grant money. Its choice will certainly be something to consider heading into fall elections.