Donald McArthur

New town council sworn in at inaugural meeting

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

The new town council is officially on the job.

The Town of Amherstburg held its inaugural meeting for the new council with all seven members taking their oaths. Mayor Aldo DiCarlo was sworn in for his second term with Deputy Mayor Leo Meloche also being sworn in again, only this time in a new role as he was a councillor from 2014-18.

The five new councillors also were sworn into office with Peter Courtney, Donald McArthur, Michael Prue, Marc Renaud and Patricia Simone now officially elected officials in Amherstburg.

DiCarlo said “it’s a bit of a relief,” as “there’s a weird limbo from the day you find out you won to the day you are sworn in. Tonight is the night that makes it real for everyone.”

Calling it a “far cry from where we were four years ago,” DiCarlo said he likes who he will be working with.

“I’m very happy with the new council,” he said. “I’m very excited to be working with them. I think we’ve got a great new council. With the new council comes new ideas and perspectives. I think it’s going to work out really well for the town.”

The inaugural meeting for the 2018-22 town council was held Monday night at the Libro Centre. Front row (from left): Deputy Mayor Leo Meloche and Mayor Aldo DiCarlo. Back row (from left): Councillor Donald McArthur, Councillor Michael Prue, Councillor Patricia Simone, Councillor Peter Courtney and Councillor Marc Renaud.

There will still be tough decisions to make, DiCarlo pointed out, but “we’ll work through it.” Immediate goals will be to get some of the recently announced projects moving such as the hotels and the condominiums, something the mayor said is “very big news for Amherstburg.” He added that a business owner told him of the hotels that “you can’t build that thing fast enough.”

“I think we need to get some of the good news projects under our belt,” said DiCarlo.

There are also bylaws and procedures that still have to be updated with 2019 budget deliberations also looming in the new year.

Long term goals include upgrading roads and infrastructure, he said.

“Roads and infrastructure are going to continue to be a challenge for us,” DiCarlo stated. “I always hate passing the buck and I’m not going to in any respect, but I want residents to know that we are not alone with regards to infrastructure.”

DiCarlo said that many municipalities across the province are facing similar challenges and that with the current Progressive Conservative government, money may not be flowing as much as it once did to municipalities.

“We’re not sure how much government money is coming our way,” he stated.

Meloche said “it feels great” to be sworn in as the town’s new deputy mayor, noting that he likely wouldn’t have thought he would be in that spot four years ago.

“Hard work has got me here,” said Meloche. “I’m looking forward to working with the new council.”

Mayor Aldo DiCarlo (left) is presented his gavel by clerk Paula Parker as CAO John Miceli observes. The 2018-22 town council was sworn in Monday night.

The 2014-18 council “paved the way” for the 2018-22 council, he believed, and made a lot of progress in Amherstburg.

“I think the new council will continue the momentum, continue the progress and continue to show that Amherstburg is a good place to live, work, raise a family and visit,” he said.

Meloche is a new member to Essex County council and he said he has been through an orientation meeting there and has also had one-on-one meetings with the two candidates vying to be the next warden – Kingsville Mayor Nelson Santos and Tecumseh Mayor Gary McNamara. He also met with county administration.

“There’s an education process with regards to roads and the direction the county is going the next four years,” said Meloche. “It’s an exciting time for me.”

Deputy Mayor Leo Meloche is sworn in Monday night by clerk Paula Parker. Meloche will also join Mayor Aldo DiCarlo on Essex County council.

Meloche also thanked his supporters.

“Thank you to all of the people who put their trust in me Oct. 22,” he said.

CAO John Miceli addressed the crowd at Monday night’s inaugural meeting at the Libro Centre, noting that the new council has taken on “a very, very large responsibility, a responsibility that can’t be taken lightly.”

Amherstburg is rich in history, culture and tradition, said Miceli, and it is not an easy task to be an elected official. He said administration will support the new council and called for the community to support them as well. Miceli noted that the council members are also members of families and that they all want to make the town a better place.

“You cannot make progress without making decisions,” he said.

Councillor Peter Courtney puts his arm around his mother Joan following Monday night’s inaugural meeting of town council. Peter was sworn in as a councillor just days after his mother’s term as a councillor ended. Joan was a member of town council from 2014-18.

Clerk Paula Parker, who officially swore in the new council members, said there will be difficult times and there will be criticism levied by members of the public, but she pointed out public service is also gratifying. She said some decision of council will not be popular, but there will be successes that will be rewarding.

“Leadership is not about the next election,” said Parker. “It is about the next generation.”

Five new town councillors looking forward to the challenge

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

The 2018-22 town council won’t be sworn in until Dec. 3, but the five new incoming councillors are looking forward to the challenge.

There will be a new slate of councillors as three vacated those positions to run for deputy mayor (Leo Meloche, Diane Pouget and Rick Fryer), Councillor Jason Lavigne wasn’t re-elected, and Councillor Joan Courtney decided not to seek the job again.

Donald McArthur finished in the top spot among the councillor candidates with 3,508 votes, a position he admitted that he wasn’t expecting.

“There were so many good candidates,” said McArthur. “I’m honoured. I would have been very happy to make the top five.”

McArthur added he is also grateful and humbled, as he doesn’t want to let the residents down.

“I’m excited and a little bit overwhelmed by the support,” said McArthur.

Noting he is a runner, McArthur said he headed out about 7:55 p.m. on election night, something he thinks may have given him some good luck.

“I made sure that at 8 p.m., I was running,” he said.

After he got home, McArthur said he settled in to watch the results with his family. He believed he had “a good shot” after the first set of results came in and “it just got better.”

“I held my breath,” he added. “You never know what might happen but I’m grateful with the result.”

Now that he is a councillor-elect, McArthur said he won’t stop listening to residents.

Donald McArthur

“I told folks – I want to listen, learn and lead,” he said. “I’m still listening but I want to double down on learning.”

McArthur plans on reading everything from the Municipal Act to the Strategic Plan and everything in between.

“I’m really going to cram in as much learning as I can,” he said, but “I’m not done listening.” He said people can still contact him with their needs or concerns.

The new council will have to “hit the ground running,” he said, as there will soon be 2019 budget deliberations and other matters in which to deal with. The new council also has “a great mix of experience and experiences,” McArthur added.

“I think all of us heard loud and clear from the people that they want us to work together, put aside petty differences and work towards the good of the town,” he said.

Michael Prue, who finished second with 3,011 votes, said his election night was “kind of quiet” and waited for the results from the advance polls. He said he learned a long time ago that advance polls usually are a good indication of how the overall result will be.

“I knocked on almost every door in Amherstburg,” said Prue.

Prue estimated he knocked on 9,000 doors in Amherstburg over a seven-week period.

“I met a lot of great people and found houses where I didn’t know there were houses,” he said. “The people at the door were kinder than what I was used to in the past. They had some good questions.”

Michael Prue

After the incoming council is sworn in, Prue believes the next step will be to see where goals mesh.

“Obviously, economic development is key for many people, including me,” he said.

Prue indicated he would like to see the procedural bylaw changed to allow more input from citizens, for council to hire an economic development officer and “have a good look at the books.”

“We need to find more money for roads,” he said. “When walking the roads, you can see why people complain.”

Prue also hopes for council unity.

“I’m hoping this council gets along well together. There’s no reason we shouldn’t,” he said. “We need to understand different points of view and accept them.”

Patricia Simone came in third place, earning 2,966 votes.

“I am so humbled by this experience. Thank you to the Amherstburg voters for their support and confidence in me,” said Simone. “The whole experience has been very surreal. The victory is not just my own but belongs to my whole team. Thank you to my family and friends for their encouragement throughout the process. Thank you to all the volunteers that helped me knock on doors, put up signs and work hard to get me elected. I couldn’t have done this without you! Thank you to the candidates that ran in the election. It has been great meeting each and every one of you. Thank you for taking an interest in our community.”

Patricia Simone

Simone added that she will take advantage of all the training the town will provide to councillors “to ensure that I have all the tools necessary to be the best councillor I can be.” She said she looks forward to working with the members of council and administration” to continue to make Amherstburg a great place to live, work, and invest.”

Getting results and being accessible will be important for Simone, she noted.

“During the campaign, while canvassing and speaking with residents, I compiled a list of questions and concerns that the residents discussed with me. I will work hard to get the answers for the residents. I will ensure to always be available for the residents of Amherstburg,” said Simone.

Peter Courtney finished with 2,402 votes, good for a fourth place finish. He said he “was fairly calm for the most part as I did everything I could possible to hopefully get elected, and felt if it was meant to be, it would be.”

Courtney said when the final polls came in, he was “kind of in disbelief” and “everybody was jumping around and cheering.”

“A few minutes later and after I looked multiple times on the computer, it finally clicked in,” he said. “I was extremely excited, honoured and proud as my fellow residents trust me to represent them on council for the next four years. It was a great experience to have my mom (Joan) alongside me as her political journey is about to end, but mine was just beginning!  I am truly humbled by this election journey.”

Peter Courtney

Courtney said he wants to start planning on an interactive forum between council and the residents through the RTT, whether that be a Q& A segment or council meeting briefs “to keep everyone engaged and up to speed with the happenings of our town and their council.”  Courtney said he also planned to reach out to his elected colleagues “and I’m going to try and set up a get together so we can begin that ‘team’ aspect that I believe is a must moving our town confidently forward.”

During the first few months on council, Courtney said he “will be all ears as I learn the technical procedures and processes of a councillor. I’m eager to learn, and want to possess all the tools it takes to be a great member of council.”

Marc Renaud grabbed the fifth and final spot with 2,274 votes.

“I’m pretty happy,” said Renaud. “I put a lot of effort and commitments into learning about municipal politics and community needs. I look forward to the challenge.”

The next step, said Renaud, in terms of realizing his platform issues are to raise them with council and “build on common ideas.”

Renaud is optimistic heading into the new term.

“I think we have a good group on council,” said Renaud. “I think everyone should be able to work together. It seems to be a good group of people. We’ll get some different perspectives from people. They should be able to bring a lot to the table on the issues they are facing in the community.”

Marc Renaud

Renaud attended many town council meetings over the last four years to try and learn the issues. He spent three months campaigning to try and turn that knowledge into a seat on council.

“I like being busy and I’m looking forward to it,” he said.

Renaud thanked the community and said he is committed to working hard for the residents every day.

Other results from the councillor’s race saw Lori Wightman come in sixth spot with 2,241 votes, while Lavigne finished in seventh with 2,237 votes. Gregory Moore finished in eighth spot with 2,217 votes while Ron Sutherland came in ninth with 1,964 votes. In tenth position was Frank Cleminson with 1,889 votes while Lena Lazanja followed with 1,871 votes. John Menna finished twelfth with 1,483 while Pauline Gemmell and Libby Keenan finished with 1,288 and 1,125 votes respectively.

There was no race for Greater Essex County District School Board trustee in Amherstburg and LaSalle as incumbent Ron LeClair was acclaimed. Results from the Windsor-Essex Catholic District School Board race came in after last week’s RTT went to press, but those results now show that incumbent Frank DiTomasso won re-election with 2,329 votes. Kim Rathbone finished second with 1,482 votes and Francis Ducharme ended up with 1,281 votes.

 

 

 

DiCarlo re-elected mayor, Meloche narrowly wins deputy mayor

 

By Ron Giofu

Aldo DiCarlo is returning as the Mayor of Amherstburg.

DiCarlo was re-elected Monday night, as the incumbent finished with 4,576 votes. He was challenged by Glenn Swinton, who finished with 2,726 votes.

The race of the night was for the deputy mayor’s position. Leo Meloche topped his council colleague Diane Pouget by a mere four votes – 2,579 to 2,575 – with Amherstburg Police Services Board chair Bob Rozankovic finishing with 1,142 votes. Rick Fryer, a current town councillor like Pouget and Meloche, finished with 948 votes.

There will be five new councillors with former journalist Donald McArthur topping the vote-getters with 3,508 votes. Michael Prue finished second with 3,011 votes. In third spot was Patricia Simone with 2,966 votes while Peter Courtney came in fourth with 2,402 votes. Marc Renaud grabbed the fifth spot with 2,274 votes.

Lori Wightman finished just out of the running with 2,241 votes while Jason Lavigne, the only incumbent councillor seeking re-election to that position, finished seventh with 2,237 votes.

All results were unofficial as of press time. Voter turnout was roughly 42 per cent, but clerk Paula Parker told the River Town Times that figure was not exact as of late Monday night.

Aldo DiCarlo celebrates his re-election as mayor with wife Laura Monday night at Wolfhead Distillery.

DiCarlo, who will enter his second term, said he felt good with the result.

“I wouldn’t have signed up for it if I didn’t want the job so it’s good,” said DiCarlo at his victory party at Wolfhead Distillery.

Noting he felt “lots of relief,” he ignored people who were telling him beforehand that he was going to win.

“I am not one to take anything for granted,” said DiCarlo. “It’s never over until it’s over. Now it’s over and the results are in.”

DiCarlo said he hasn’t stopped working even though there was an election and stated, although people questioned the timing of last week’s hotel announcements, those were a “culmination of four years of working with developers.” He stated that the new council will have to deal with these issues right away but that, plus the forcemain, two condominium projects and finishing the fiber internet project, are “good news” issues they have to finish.

“There’s a lot of good things ready to go,” said DiCarlo.

However, the new council will soon have to go into budget sessions and that is a different process than many might be used to, DiCarlo acknowledged. Training will be big for the new councillors but said this council faces a better situation than the outgoing council, which had no money in cash reserves and other issues to tend to in 2014.

Councillor and Deputy Mayor-elect Leo Meloche (left) chats with Mayor Aldo DiCarlo at Wolfhead Distillery Monday night.

Retaining his seat as mayor also means DiCarlo is retaining his spot on Essex County council. With Warden Tom Bain not seeking that position again and Deputy Warden Ken Antaya not seeking re-election as LaSalle mayor, those spots are now available but DiCarlo is uncertain whether or not to seek them.

“My personality is to focus on what you can focus on,” he said. He noted with his day job as physics lab co-ordinator at the University of Windsor, his role as mayor and the fact he still had to campaign left him little time to consider anything else.

“I figured I’d have to get past this election first,” he said. “I haven’t made that decision (on seeking a further role on county council) yet.”

Meloche trailed Pouget much of the night, but surged ahead at the end to narrowly win the deputy mayor position.

“I feel elated right now,” he said, just after results came in at the Libro Centre. “I guess my hard work paid off.”

Meloche congratulated all who participated in the election and was confident DiCarlo would retain the mayor’s chair. He said he knew Pouget had a strong following but “I guess I have a strong following as well.”

“At the end of the day, I’m at a loss for words,” said Meloche. “I’m looking forward to the next four years.”

From a personal standpoint, Meloche said he wants to take a little break as he had to campaign, continue in his role as a town councillor not to mention having to recover after the loss of his wife earlier this year. He said he spent a year-and-a-half caring for her plus tending to his other responsibilities.

“I just want some me time to recharge my batteries,” he said.

From a political standpoint, Meloche said the town has to keep growing and they have to work with the developers to get shovels in the ground as it relates to the two hotel announcements.

“We have good things going,” he said. “The town has to expand and grow to relieve pressure on the tax base.”

Unofficial vote totals, courtesy of the Town of Amherstburg’s website.

Pouget wasn’t sure as of Monday night whether she would ask for a recount.

“The people voted. That’s what they wanted,” she said. “I did my best for 14 years. It’s obvious they wanted change. I wish them all the best.”

Pouget said she knew it would be a tough race.

“I accept what the people have voted,” she said, adding that if people knew that council didn’t know ahead of time of the two hotel announcements, the result could have been different.

“I think that would have made a big difference,” said Pouget.

In the other mayoral races around the region, Leamington Deputy Mayor Hilda MacDonald unseated incumbent mayor John Paterson, while Larry Snively won the mayor’s job in Essex. Marc Bondy will succeed Antaya in LaSalle while Drew Dilkens retained his job in Windsor. Bain was acclaimed in Lakeshore as was Tecumseh Mayor Gary McNamara and Kingsville Mayor Nelson Santos.

Ron LeClair was acclaimed as Greater Essex County District School Board while results of the local Windsor-Essex Catholic District School Board were unavailable as of press time.

CANDIDATE Q&A – Donald McArthur

 

The town is going through a re-branding process. How would you define what Amherstburg is and how it should be promoted?

Amherstburg is a small town with big-time potential. Our residents are proud and passionate and possess an easy-going authenticity that comes from knowing who they are and loving where they live.

We need to promote ourselves as a tourism destination – preferably one with a hotel – capable of hosting festivals and big-ticket sporting events. We need to tell the world about our stunning waterfront views, our rich and vibrant history and the fact we’re a cycling hot spot linked to a vast trail network and Essex County’s wine route.

The next council needs to make smart, strategic decisions with the goal of boosting tourism and attracting people downtown year-round for the benefit of local businesses and the residents they employ.

We need to promote ourselves as an affordable, livable community for young families and retirees and we also need to market ourselves as a great place to open a business by touting our strategic advantages, including our proximity to the border, our highly-skilled workforce and our quality rail and marine transportation linkages.

 

Donald McArthur is running for the position of councillor in the Oct. 22 municipal election.

Taxes and spending will always be election issues. What is the best way to spend money on roads and infrastructure while, at the same time, keeping taxes at a reasonable level?

The best way to spend money on roads is consistently so you can avoid the jackpot we’re now facing. Successive councils failed to invest sufficiently in our roads and now we’re left with a massive infrastructure deficit and a problem that can’t be fixed overnight.

Our concession roads are crumbling and the $1.4 million council just earmarked for annual repairs doesn’t even come close to making a dent in the list of roads requiring immediate repairs. Our roads are in significantly worse shape than neighbouring municipalities and detract in a very real way from the quality of our everyday lives.

The next council needs to find ways to direct more money to roads. We can free up some through the sale of surplus lands, but we need sustainable funding. We should consider earmarking the annual savings from the police switchover to roads or try and find savings in other areas, like operations at the Libro Centre. We should also consider a roads levy so taxpayers know exactly where and how their money is being spent.

 

 

“Transparency” and “accountability” are words often heard during election campaigns. What specific measures would you undertake to ensure town council lives up to those words?

I’ll be responsive and accessible, online and in person at town events. I’ll hold quarterly availability sessions in different parts of our community so residents can meet with me to talk about their issues and concerns.

I’ll use my website and social media to engage and inform residents prior to council meetings, seeking their input and ideas, especially when significant items are on the agenda. I’ll keep constituents informed through a digital newsletter and I’ll post my voting record online so voters know where and why I stood on any particular issue.

The more people who are involved in the political process the better so I’ll ask my council colleagues to support the live streaming of meetings so we can bring politics to the people. As a former journalist, I believe very strongly in the need for transparent government and will strive to keep meetings open.

If we don’t bump into each other at town events, residents can e-mail me, phone me, or connect with me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat or YouTube.

 

 

 

How would you encourage economic development for the Town of Amherstburg over the next four years (and beyond)?

We need to actively market ourselves as a place that welcomes commercial and industrial investment. We need to ensure we have the tools required to woo potential investors and help existing businesses expand and thrive.

I support the creation of a town position focused on economic development and I also support reestablishing a volunteer economic development committee comprised of residents with varied skills and experience.

Other communities have economic development officers and we need to promote this town as a place to invest while also highlighting the success stories of those who have already invested.

Amherstburg can look to other municipalities that offer incentives to attract development and boost job creation. Windsor’s downtown improvement plan, for example, spurred nine developments worth some $60 million.

The town has shovel-ready sites primed for industrial development. We have to spread the word about these opportunities and inform potential investors of our strategic advantages.

We also need an open and ongoing dialogue with existing businesses to see what the town can do to help them flourish year-round.

 

 

The policing issue is still top-of-mind for some of the electorate. Is providing services on a regional level a good way to save money, a detriment to the town and its identity or would you view it on a case-by-case basis?

Providing regional services is a good way to save money. Our ambulance service is regional and several neighbouring municipalities have already switched to the OPP.

Amherstburg’s contract with Windsor Police comes with annual estimated savings of nearly $600,000. That figure doesn’t include cost avoidance opportunities or the removal of $3.9-million worth of post-retirement benefits from the town’s books.

Regionalization of most any service is likely to provide savings by eliminating duplication and achieving economies of scale. The question is whether those savings affect service quality or come at the expense of a municipality’s identity.

If the policing contract delivers as promised, our service should not suffer. Our officers will benefit from technological upgrades and training. The town will gain improved access to specialty units and enhanced traffic enforcement capabilities.

Will the switch diminish the town’s identity? It’s hard to see that happening in a town with people so proud and passionate. Amherstburg officers will still be patrolling our streets in branded vehicles and uniforms and they’ll still be dealing with the same people.

 

Open government, active transportation and tourism among McArthur’s vision

 

By Ron Giofu

 

Donald McArthur has covered his share of council meetings and now is trying to be a councillor.

McArthur, a former Windsor Star reporter and former executive producer at CBC Windsor, is running in the Oct. 22 election.

McArthur said the people he’s been speaking with “want to see us grow. They want to see us develop. They want to make sure there are jobs in town for their kids.”

McArthur said he wants to build on the momentum that he said Mayor Aldo DiCarlo and the current council have given the town.

Tourism needs to be promoted further, he believed, including landing a hotel. With a hotel, he said people will stay and spend money in town, which will create jobs and expand the tax base.

“We have to promote commercial and industrial development,” he continued.

McArthur cited a downtown incentive plan launched in Windsor, one that brought nine projects worth about $60 million. He also noted that construction activity in Leamington tripled due to cuts in development charges.

Similar ideas could work in Amherstburg, he believes.

“We need commercial and industrial growth,” he stated. “We can’t have residents paying for everything.”

Amherstburg “is the sum of its unique communities,” he said. The Cypher Systems Greenway is a “gift,” he continued, and “we have to leverage it.” He advocates a paved shoulder on Alma St. from Fryer St. to Meloche Road and said that could connect residents from McGregor to the downtown core through use of trails and bike lanes.

Regarding policing, McArthur said he is hearing concerns including whether the service people are used to will continue.

“What people are saying is ‘let’s move on and let’s make sure it works for Amherstburg’,” he said. “They don’t want to rip up the contract and cause a big fuss. Let’s see if it works as promised for Amherstburg.”

Donald McArthur is running for the position of councillor in the Oct. 22 municipal election.

McArthur believes in open government and pledges to keep constituents informed through social media, a website and a newsletter. Having open meetings is key, he added, and that he will lobby for as many meetings as possible to be held publicly.

Live streaming council meetings is something McArthur wants to explore, so more residents can watch meetings online.

“The more people are informed and invested in the democratic process, the better it will be for all of Amherstburg,” he said.

As for the Duffy’s site, McArthur believes the best use is an amphitheatre and festival plaza as it will help tourism.

“I don’t want to pave paradise and put up a parking lot,” he said, adding he is open to a creative solution.

McArthur said he supports using Belle Vue for such things as weddings, showers, and conferences but noted “it doesn’t come cheap.” There has to be a solid business case for Belle Vue and that fundraising avenues such as grants as well as supporting the Belle Vue Conservancy should be done.

“I think if you ask yourself if Amherstburg is better off today than it was four years ago, there’s no question it is,” said McArthur.

McArthur said DiCarlo and council “inherited a mess” and turned things around.

“They had to fill key positions and shore things up to make sure the right things were getting done,” he said.

McArthur believes the town should have hired a communications co-ordinator to focus on economic development and celebrate local success stories that highlight the benefits of living and investing in Amherstburg. LaSalle, Lakeshore, Leamington, and Essex all have one and Windsor has several, he said.

McArthur also would like to see a seniors advisory committee established to ensure seniors are engaged in the town. He also supports exploring the feasibility of an outdoor rink that could be used for other purposes in the warmer weather. He also would like to explore an off-leash dog park, noting that Amherstburg is home to the Woofa-Roo Pet Festival.