No need for a course correction in Stratford

Being a fan of municipal politics, I follow a lot of races. And, of course, Stratford is at the top of the list. I read with interest what locals are saying. Having kept up with the race online, I found it interesting letter writer Scott Rutherford (Sept. 9/10) was upset with the Mayor’s treatment of his opponent at the recent debate.

The mayor should represent the city well, but when your opponent doesn’t do their homework (the budget is open to everyone), makes wild accusations and criticizes without offering solutions, I believe many would call them to account.

The reality is Stratford has a lot going for it. Yes, there are issues that need to be addressed, including improving the local environment, addressing local social issues, and building on recent economic development successes. No community is not without its challenges, but it’s about having competent leadership that does its homework that is the differentiator between great communities and those that struggle.

Under the leadership of Mayor Mathieson council has had a good run – the Cooper Site issue is coming to a close, an exciting new future with the university is underway, and many of the large infrastructure projects of the past few years are coming to fruition.

Many of course point to the city’s debt as a sign of bad management. But I would challenge any candidate to spell out exactly what infrastructure investments they would not have made. Would it be the recreation centre, the sewers, or the university?

Unlike the province or feds, municipalities cannot run a deficit. This means they cannot borrow to pay staff wages or fund social programs. They can borrow for infrastructure investments (like sewers and community centres), as paying for these items over their lifetime ensures future generations who benefit from these investments also pay some of the costs. After all, most candidates who complain about the city’s debt no doubt have a mortgage, so they too practice the same financing approach.

At the end of the day, many municipalities could only ask for the competent leadership that Stratford has seen under Mayor Mathieson. The last thing Stratford needs now is the reactionary, no solution, no investment mentality that is sweeping other communities, like my current home in Toronto. Great communities need leadership that understands the challenges of tomorrow and makes the investments to address them today. Don’t change courses now Stratford.