Tuesday, August 22, 2017

So Damn Proud of Lunenburg

 I have never been so proud to live in Lunenburg.  There was a rally in support of Farley Blackman today outside of Lunenburg Town Hall and the streets were packed.  Once again, the community came together to show their support for a fellow resident who has been facing many obstacles.

But an amazing thing happened.  After Farley addressed the crowd, Mayor Bailey came out and publicly apologized to Farley for the message she had sent him.  It was a very sincere apology and I think it was very big of her to admit that she had made an error.  We all make errors and we are all human.

The crowd was appreciative, but people still insisted that they wanted to see concrete action to reduce red tape in the town. People were very brave to speak up. I won't go through all the comments, but I will tell you that I felt very encouraged.  For the first time I saw open communication and I think that Mayor Bailey was listening.

I did make a very specific request directly to Mayor Bailey.  I said that when the Town of Annapolis Royal experienced challenges, they responded by forming a red tape committee.  This committee was ongoing and included many citizens.   Although there is lots of one on one engagement in the town, what we need and want is open and accountable engagement where anyone who wishes to attend may do so.  If there is a committee to examine obstacles then it needs to include those who have been affected by the obstacles and the town needs to be willing to hear from the people that they perhaps don't wish to hear from.  I asked that the town trust its citizens to engage with their representatives respectfully.

I don't know what will actually come of this and maybe it will be up to the citizens to begin this committee and invite council.  I don't know.  What I do know is that today I was really proud to live in this town and I think that we have grown as a community.

As for Farley's future plans....You'll have to ask Farley.  If he does choose to leave us, he can feel proud that he made this community a better place in many ways.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Hey, I've Got a Joke For You...

How do you fix a Waste Water Treatment Plant in Lunenburg?......You make it a Home Based Business.

Sorry, I know, bad joke.  It's just that this morning I listened to CBC's interview with Stella Bowles, talking about the outrageously high fecal count coming out of the outfall pipe onto the boats in Lunenburg harbour and then I thought of how we don't have an odour control system on the plant and suddenly this story that was told to me when I was dealing with my own home-based challenges popped back in my head.

There used to be a woman in town who made soap from her home.  She sold her soap to the local Bed and Breakfasts.  The town told her that she couldn't run her business because of a potential odour problem.  So, she payed thousands of dollars to install an elaborate ventilation system and when she was done they told her she didn't have enough parking.  She gave up and moved to Montreal.

So, the moral of the story is....make the sewage treatment plant a home-based business and all our problems will go away.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Actually, Lunenburg is a Great Town to Run a Business

There's an inevitable reaction to writing a blog that talks about some of the challenges in Lunenburg.  Every person with a dark view of the future latches on to it, runs with it and then it comes....Horrible place to do business....get rid of the councillors........Aggghhhh, NO! Stop please.

I don't always talk about problems.  Tensions always exist, that is not unique to Lunenburg.  I talk about problems when something strikes me as truly unjust.  I talk about problems because sometimes you have to stir up the shit in order to clean it.  So, with that in mind, please allow me to clarify a few things:

1- Lunenburg is a wonderful place to do business and live.  The vast majority of business owners will never experience a problem from the town.  The problems come when something needs to be changed and even here, it is generally just a matter of putting one foot in front of the other.  If you are not purchasing umpteen properties or if you are not telling the administration of the town that they are making a mistake you will not experience undue challenges.  Please, open a restaurant, open a shop, even opening a home-based business is now pretty straight forward.

2-There are not a group of maniacal people at town hall trying to stop business.  Seriously, it does not look like that.  There are hard working folks that will help you get through whatever permits you need in order to open your business. If the town tells you to hang your sign higher, that's so that people don't bang their heads.  If the town tells you to move your sandwich board sign next to the shop, that's so that a person in a wheelchair can pass.

3- No, the councillors are not idiots.  I have never said that and I don't believe that.  Mostly, they are hard working people that are doing the best they can in the time that they have. You need to understand that many of the problems that I talk about never reach council.  There is a thick line of divide in our system that divides administration from legislation.  Legislators (councillors) make the laws that guide the administrators, but once they are made they don't and cannot police administration.  So, if there is a problem with an interpretation of a bylaw, council will not know about it unless it is put on the agenda.  When Farley was told he needed 14 parking spots for one building, council was unaware this problem existed.  My issue is not that it had to go through due process to be changed.  My issue is that Farley was told that he had to pay for the amendment and hire a consultant.

Yes, there are things that need to change.  It's not O.K. for an elected official to send a nasty email to a constituent or police anybody's behaviour.  There is no other side.  It's just wrong.  It doesn't matter what the person did. If I need to explain why that is wrong then I'm simply wasting my breath. There will always be challenges.  The problem is what happens when there is a challenge.  I'm advocating that the town, knowing that our population is declining, knowing that we desperately need new businesses and people like Farley who will invest in our town, take some responsibility for moving some overhead wires or changing the wording of our bylaw.  I'm advocating that we don't simply say, no, I'm sorry that can't happen.

But most new businesses will not have any challenges unrelated to the challenge of simply running a business.  I love Lunenburg.  The beauty is mind boggling.  It is a town filled with beauty, creativity and true community.  The future is not bleak.  Those are not my words and they never have been. 

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Vilifying the Good Guy - a Lunenburg Tradition

Imagine being Farley Blackman.  You are sitting in the Lunenburg Opera House, a building that you meticulously restored at your own expense.  You have offered up this beautiful space as one of the venues for Lunenburg's annual Folk Harbour Festival and now you are leaning back and enjoying the music.  Maybe your mind drifts to a sense of accomplishment that you were able to save a beautiful heritage building and that now there are people that get to enjoy what you have to offer.

You are pulled out of this reverie by a message alert alert on your phone.  It's  from the Mayor of Lunenburg.  Is it a short note to thank you for the beautiful restoration?  Perhaps it's a quick email thanking you for removing the scaffolding from your other historic renovation project on Montague street, so that the tourists can appreciate its beauty.  Or maybe she's just writing to thank you for advertising on the back cover of the Folk Harbour Festival booklet.  An advertisement that costs well over $5000.  Folk Harbour Festival covers only 46% of their overhead with ticket sales and could not survive if it were not for the generous contributions from people like Farley.

But no, it's a text stating, "The rest of the community is going all out to put our best face to the world but you, apparently, have other priorities."  Now, how would you feel?  Maybe like you were just punched in the gut?

Well, I'm sorry to say that this is a true story.  It happened yesterday.  You see, after fourteen years of obstruction and ingratitude from the Town of Lunenburg, Farley and Courtney Blackman have decided to call it quits.  They are leaving town. 

But the Mayor's cruel words represent only a small group of small minded people.  Most people are terribly upset to lose this family who have contributed so much to our town and feel nothing but gratitude. People have been plastering signs on the fencing around his restoration work, wishing him well and thanking him profusely for all his contributions.  Farley himself did not put any of the signs there, but the Mayor felt it was the right move to send this email directly to him.

When Farley leaves he will take many, many construction related jobs with him.  Countless people will be standing in the unemployment line.  We will be losing a beautiful gallery, free music venue, a cidery and all the employment that goes with the creation and maintenance of these businesses.  We will also be losing a kindhearted, philanthropic couple who have done nothing but preserve and enhance the Town of Lunenburg.  You can be sure that if there are any other emails from the Town of Lunenburg they won't be asking him to change his mind.  What a senseless loss.

Farley and Courtney, My heart breaks for you.  We will miss you.....in so many ways.