My open letter to the candidates running for mayor of Montreal
First, it’s all about infrastructure. If you believe that whoever becomes mayor needs to reflect the will of the population, - and you all say they do - then it’s hard to ignore the continual cry to fix our roads. It’s all everyone ever talks about, and it’s what everyone wants done first.
Second, traffic. The congestion and lack of forethought given to major construction projects and how they affect people on a daily basis, have both reached nightmarish proportions. Promise you’ll at least study the situation in an effort to find a better way to get this done. And how about getting the police to work WITH the public for a change, by helping them get through the detours and the resultant mess, instead of seizing the opportunity to treat those stuck in this traffic hell as easy ticket prey. The notion of serve AND protect as it applies to police, seems to have evolved into one that serves the government and protects its finances, with the citizens getting the short end of the stick. There’s something wrong with that picture.
Third, the subject of smaller city government has been brought up enough times, that you would have thought someone, especially someone NOT from a political background, might have made it a central part of their election platform. Promise you can do more with less. Other cities bigger than us do it, so there’s no reason we can’t. You’re a politician, you need to be willing to at least consider that. If you don’t, you’re part of the problem not the solution.
Fourth, admit the system set up to weed out corruption in the awarding of contracts in Montreal, is so stringent and unfair, that it’s having the unforeseen result of getting NOTHING done. Acknowledge that what happened in the past was a disgrace, but what’s happening now is an overreaction to that problem. Somewhere there is a middle ground, and you will implement it. At the same time, stop talking about restoring Montreal to its glorious past. That message doesn't resonate. Go about fixing the problems that DO exist, and the rest will take care of itself.
Fifth, stand up to Quebec City and the provincial government. It’s time again for the tail to wag the dog. The city that drives the economic fortunes of this province needs to finally shake the province off its back. It needs to acknowledge the reality – that it’s dying a slow economic death. Declare it a city state, a bilingual free trade zone, and let the city do what worked here in the past, and what works everywhere else now - accommodate those who want to invest in it, by making it easier not harder for them to do business.
Sixth – Drive home the point that there is no free lunch. Without an economic turnaround, we can’t expect things to get better overnight. Say you don’t like the idea of tolls either, but unless we win a new bridge in a poker game, someone’s going to have pay for the one we’re getting, and tolls are the most effective way to do it. They exist in virtually every other big city. Maybe, as we did with road tolls, one day we can do away with bridge tolls too, but for now, it's the price we have to pay if we want a new bridge.
Seventh – Stop wasting money on vanity projects. We don’t need a tram. And while we’re at it, vow to get city government out of the business of running businesses altogether. Bixi has been an abject failure, not because it’s a bad idea, but because the city doesn't know how to run a business. I mean, come on, the city can barely run its own finances much less anyone else’s.
And finally, stop talking about transparency with limitations. MAKE council meetings open to the public, stream them online, divulge details of contracts, and how they're awarded. Most people will never look at these details or even care, but by just giving the appearance you have nothing to hide, people may actually start believing in government again, and in the fact that not every politician is out for him or herself.
And as a bonus, how about doing something for all those of us ignorant environmental heathens who still have the gall to drive cars, by acknowledging that you too drive a car, and that WE are not the enemy. We need our cars to commute to work, to shuttle our kids to and from school and soccer practice, and to lug home our groceries, not to mention stimulating the economy by spending our money at malls off the island. And while you’re at it, you might want to let all the haters know that our gas taxes and license fees help subsidize their bike paths. We’re all in this together, so how about we call a truce, and try some mutual respect for a change ?
And while you’re at it, how about getting rid of the thousands of redundant no parking signs around the city ? I don’t have an extra 15 minutes every time I go somewhere, to decipher whether I can park on a Tuesday or Thursday between the months of April and December from 9am to 12 pm, in a non-permit zone, between arrows pointing in the same direction, during street cleaning, within ten feet of the intersection. It’s stupid.
If you manage to do all these things, you will take an enormous step in stemming the cynicism and indifference that most people feel towards their elected municipal officials. Adopt my suggestions, and people will respect your positions. They’ll agree that you’re listening to them, and, that as a Montrealer, you get it. You’re one of us, not one of them.
Of course, you’ll also definitely lose the election, but think how much better you’ll feel knowing you actually tried to make a difference.
Oh, and one last thing. I think there should be a budget established at city hall to allow it to buy one Lotto 6/49 and one Lotto Max ticket every week. That way, if the city wins, we ALL win. It works out to $416 for the year, or about $999,999,584 less than a tram.