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aerialsound

Can growth and expanding the tax base save Owen Sound from decline? Many candidates including incumbents in this year's municipal election have set these particular goals as the foundation of their platforms. Is this really the direction we need to pursue?

There is a tendency in Owen Sound to be wistful about the good old days when our harbor was bustling with ships and our factories were abundant and booming. Many people want to get back to those great times but can that dream be possible in our modern world? Or do we have to do something else that is really forward thinking and that will lead us to a new future and a new vision for Owen Sound?

The real reason Owen Sound has no money is that it keeps banking on the future to get it out of its predicament. It has been pursuing growth and doing it unsuccessfully for well over 100 years and nothing has changed. The fact is that buildings and other infrastructure are going bad faster than we can fix them. Raising taxes every year slows the rate of failure but sadly does not reverse it. New growth generates less revenue than from that which already exists. Growth and a new tax base is not the answer to future prosperity. We end up taking short term gain for long term pain and eventually will spend ourselves into bankruptcy. We need to start investing in our existing infrastructure - not in new growth. We need to stop subsidizing our dreams and start collecting reasonable taxes and fees from all property owners and developers instead of increasing the taxes of ordinary home owners every year to cover our losses.

The city has no shortage of Master Plans that cover recreation, trails, parks, the harbour, downtown, culture, heritage, transportation, beaches, rivers, and cemeteries, They are all good and they are all needed. We have to pursue them.

But where is our "now" master plan? Where is the "now" master plan that says our priority is to fix all of our failing roads and sidewalks that have weeds growing through all of the cracks? Where is our "now" master plan that says our crown jewel, Harrison Park is our only park priority at the moment? Where is the "now master plan to preserve whatever heritage buildings we have left that are not parking lots or information plaques? Where is our "now" master plan for bike lanes, e-bikes and scooters? Where is our "now" master plan that says crime and safe neighbourhoods is our immediate concern? Where is our "now" master plan that says taking care of what we already have is more important than new growth?Following our existing pattern of growth at all costs means no Owen Sound politician will ever to be able to say that "we now have enough revenues and further tax increases are no longer needed". No Owen Sound politician will ever be able to say "our city is no longer in decline".

We can continue to be that little hamster running on a wheel to nowhere. Or, you can jump off that wheel to nowhere, invest in what you have, and create a beautiful city that will attract people and become their home. You can say "my top priority -- with no close second -- is to create value throughout the existing neighborhoods of this city. Not new neighborhoods on the edge of town. Not new growth out along the highway. Not to help people get to WalMart more quickly."

Richard MacDonald
Owen Sound

photo source: Owen Sound Flight Services

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