Sidney needs to renew its vision, says mayoral candidate Cliff McNeil-Smith.
The owner of Tanner’s Books on Beacon Avenue has thrown his hat into the ring in the Nov. 15 civic election and is calling for a review of the Town’s official community plan, if he is elected.
“The Town needs to engage the community and have an implementation plan,” he said. “Then, it’s important to report back on our successes.”
He notes preserving Sidney’s small-town character is important as the population increases and development pressure continues.
“We have tremendous community spirit and we need to consult with (people and groups) to ensure effective support to keep Sidney vibrant.”
McNeil-Smith said his first priority is prudent fiscal accountability “and a sound business approach to managing Sidney’s $19 million annual budget.” He has served on council before — McNeil-Smith was a councillor from 2009 to 2011.
He said he left politics at the time to focus on his business and his family, but remained involved in the community.
McNeil-Smith was, until he declared for the election, the chair of the Sidney Business Improvement Area Society (SBIAS). Asked is that involvement led his back into the political arena, he said it was one of the ingredients.
“The BIA is a business organization at its heart but is community-minded and involved with so many groups. It has an important role.”
While he is, as a business owner, still a member of the SBIAS, McNeil-Smith noted he’s stepped back from direct activity during the election. However, he said groups like the SBIAS and mayor’s task force on downtown revitalization need to engage the community at large on local priorities. Each has a role, he continued, on a number of Sidney issues.
McNeil-Smith said he jumped back into local politics this time because he sees the challenges faced by Sidney as opportunities.
Issues such as the Seaport East waterfront land and even Beacon Avenue’s traffic configuration need community involvement, he said, on what residents feel is important. Issues like that can’t be dealt with in isolation, he continued.
“We have an opportunity for this community, for local government, to take the initiative to engage all sectors on local issues. It ensures people are sharing how they think the Town needs to move forward.”
To that end, he also said there must be greater emphasis on municipal accountability. He said staff and council has in the past met the requirements under the Local Government Act in consulting with and informing the public, but suggested the Town can go further.
“There could be a greater exchange of information and input. And at the Capital Regional District level, which represents a significant portion of our tax bill, the mayor has the opportunity for accountability, bringing back more information to Sidney residents.”
While he said nothing necessarily needs to be fixed in Sidney, McNeil-Smith noted he would urge better communication between the Town and its residents.
McNeil-Smith said he will focus on leadership, if elected, bringing with him his wealth of experience in business, community organizations and local government.