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Breslau residents right to question township process

No matter what the outcome of a proposal to build a school on Breslau parkland, the process will be deemed tainted.

Having messed up its pitch to the public, the township has not only muddied the debate, it’s also given up at least the semblance of neutrality, at least as far as staff is concerned.

That’s only added fuel to the vocal opponents of the project, who feel the plan for a public taskforce is only so much window dressing. That’s likely not the case, but residents can be forgiven for getting that impression given the less-than-competent way in which the issue has been handled – and this isn’t the first time.

Addressing councillors this week, one of those opponents suggested the process has been “rigged” to get the desired outcome: the sale of part of Breslau Memorial Park to the Waterloo Catholic District School Board.

“I do not believe the process has been democratic,” said Breslau resident Blake Kennedy, suggesting the township set things up such that a decision is “all but a foregone conclusion.”

A group of those in attendance insisted the taskforce to be established by the township is little more than a sham. Why have two opponents, two in favour and two neutral Breslau residents when the majority of residents are opposed to the project? In Kennedy’s estimation, for instance, two-thirds of those in the village aren’t in favour of the development.

Now, that might not be the case. Opponents, too, have a vested interest in a particular outcome.

Staff’s idea for a taskforce, not wholeheartedly endorsed by council, leaves much to be desired. It offers absolutely no guarantee of a genuinely useful reflection of actual public sentiment. Its finding will be nothing as conclusive as, say, a referendum, which opponents are pushing for.

A binding vote is not even in the worst nightmares of township administrators. As with bureaucrats and politicians pretty much universally, there is little desire to put the decision in the hands of the public – the appearance of democracy, without the actuality of it suits them much better.

Therein lies the reason for the distrust that has been on display since this project first became known to residents. Beyond the long-time dissatisfaction Breslau residents have with the township administration, the way in which this issue has been handled lends credence to the wary sentiment.

For its part, council insists that nothing has been decided, denying the process has been rigged and insisting residents will have their say and that public input will be taken into account.

The township does need to go into this as a completely neutral party, not letting egos and ersatz power grabs come into play. There are pros and cons. If the people of Breslau see the benefits of selling the land in order to finance some $1.7 million in improvements to the park, plus the upgrades to the community centre and the addition of a public library, then they’ll say so. If on the whole they see a danger in selling off parkland, along with the negatives to adjacent property owners, then the deal should die. It shouldn’t matter one way or another to council and bureaucrats: they are simply the agents of the public’s will.

Of course, that sentiment is almost as big a pipedream as believing that bureaucrats will be completely diligent and neutral, especially with a pet project.

Sticking with the idealistic bent, everybody involved should look only at the long-term best interests of the community when coming to a decision on the school project.

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