- by Anne Finlay-Stewart

A member of city council wrote to me the other day to tell me that I need more nuance and balance. Specifically they said, “I don’t think you have uttered a single positive thing about any councillor, any council decision, anything.”

I respect constructive criticism, so I reviewed all the articles I have written during this council's term in office.

There were 9 pieces authored by me  in the Opinion section over the past four years that could be considered to be about the actions of council. One each about lack of access to public drinking water during heat alerts, especially on Sundays; the importance of diversity on council; the municipal election process (I liked that one so much I re-published it this week); the vacant commercial property tax rebates (I was opposed to them); and the all-white Community Video.

I also wrote three editorials about actions concerning Truth and Reconciliation, including one supporting the naming of the Gitche Namewikwedong bridge and one encouraging the renaming of Ryerson Park.

Of the 644 articles over this term in the City section, 34 have my name on them. They include such articles as “Owen Sound City Council passed the anti-racism motion  8-1 in a recorded vote” - hardly a stinging criticism.

The other 610 City articles are based on news releases from the City, informing residents of services, events, closures, deadlines and opportunities. Some are written clearly more as PR than news, yet we rarely remove the self-congratulations - "The City of Owen Sound has gone green with the arrival of two Hyundai Kona’s. These two vehicles for the Building Division are the first two electric vehicles in the City’s fleet”,  or "Recognizing the importance of residents having a safe place to seek shelter, the City has partnered with Safe n’ Sound to extend operating hours..."

We have also published hundreds and hundreds of releases from the Police, Library, Tom Thomson, Farmers' Market and River District on our own time and dime,  in support of our City.

I wish I could have written far more articles. It is what I have been doing for over 17 years since I first wrote my Orange Crate column for the Sun Times, and it's the part of this job I love the best. I believe it is the responsibility of the media to hold power to account.

But the mandate of the Owen Sound Hub is to build community, seek solutions to our common problems, and amplify the voices of those who are not often passed the microphone. So I have spent most of the past seven years at the Hub  editing and publishing the work of others.

And here might be where the council member's misperception lies. There have been hundreds of letters to the editor and opinion pieces submitted to the Owen Sound Hub over the past term of council. Some of those have been letters of thanks or congratulations, but many have questioned or been critical of the decisions or direction of our municipal leaders. If memory serves, we have published all but three or four – and those because they were either thousands of words too long, or libellous.

Only two members of the current council have ever submitted anything for publication in the Hub, except in answer to a direct question – and not always then. Neither the mayor nor deputy mayor, nor either candidate for those positions in 2022, has ever sent us an editorial, an update or feedback. Mayor Stew Taylor used to have a regular column in the Owen Sound Tribune over 25 years ago, and I don't think we have seen anything like that since.  We would welcome it.

The Owen Sound Hub does not publish "gotcha" pieces; it is a public square, not for donnybrooks, but civil discourse.

We remain open to information, questions and opinions from all members of our community, including City staff and all candidates and members of council. These are the materials of which constructive engagement and community are built.







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