From the December 15th, 2005 issue of the...

--------------  Ottawa Valley News  --------------


Task force faces: WC’s Baxter and Dolan seeking solutions to rural angst

By Karen Secord
Ottawa Valley News

Woodlawn’s Shirley Dolan and Carp’s Dave Baxter are agents for change. Change in attitude. Change in action. And, perhaps, even change in accountability.

They are West Carleton’s representatives on the Rural Summit Task Force, a group dedicated to finding solutions and creating compromise in what was becoming an escalating war of words between rural residents and the City of Ottawa’s unwieldy bureaucracy.

“I wouldn’t have agreed to sit on the task force if I didn’t think that the Rural Summit achieved good things,” said Baxter, who admits he was a skeptic when the process began.

 
 
Baxter’s involvement in the Rural Summit was a put-your-money-where-your-mouth-is kind of thing. Complaining wasn’t getting him anywhere, so when city manager Kent Kirkpatrick asked for his input he decided to roll up his sleeves and get involved.

 
 

“My perception of amalgamation was that services dropped and taxes went up. The only thing I ever saw that was done better than by the township was when the guy came this year and did a great job cutting the grass in the ditches.”

Baxter’s involvement in the Rural Summit was a put-your-money-where-your-mouth-is kind of thing. Complaining wasn’t getting him anywhere, so when city manager Kent Kirkpatrick asked for his input he decided to roll up his sleeves and get involved.

“My feeling was that I needed to step up,” recalled the semi-retired businessman who chaired the rural business sub committee at the Rural Summit.

And for Baxter, working towards preserving the rural way of life seemed like a natural extension of a friendship that ended abruptly, but had taught him so much. When Baxter’s business partner and consummate “rural” personality, James Penney, died unexpectedly, Baxter felt that he owed it him to work towards protecting that rural way of life.

“James lived and represented a way of life in a rural area that I think has to be protected,” noted Baxter. “If we don’t try to stop creeping urbanism my fear is that this way of life will disappear. I have respect for rural life, so I guess that’s what really drove me to get involved. 

What Baxter said he didn’t have going into the summit process was a good understanding of the city’s side of the issues.

“I see now that there are some benefits to being with the city,” he said. “I think money and time and effort are better spent trying to make this bad decision work. I now believe city staff really want to fix this problem and that they are making a genuine effort.”

Dolan agrees that while the notion of a Rural Summit was initially met with skepticism, by many in the rural areas of the city, it gained legitimacy because of the commitment made by the leaders of the process.

 
 
Dolan’s motivation for dedicating the long hours required to keep the summit, and now the task force, moving forward comes from her desire, she said, “to work towards a resolution of issues that were caused by amalgamation.”

 
 

“I do have a lot of confidence and faith in the leaders of the process. I think they’ve worked really hard and want to see this work. I know that politics will always play a role, but I believe that there is a genuine will to find common ground.”

Dolan, an analytical person known for her middle-of-the-road and informed approach to problems, was a logical choice to replace Rural Council president Janne Campbell on the Day One steering committee, when Campbell was unable to participate. A director on both the West Carleton Rural Association and the Rural Council, and a member of the Carleton Country Landowners’ Association, Dolan has had a wealth of community volunteer experience.

“I was born and raised in the rural area but spent most of my life in the urban area,” she explained. “I moved back to the rural area because that’s where I felt the closest connection. I have volunteered in an effort to enhance that connection, and I have re-learned the rural way of life.”

Dolan’s motivation for dedicating the long hours required to keep the summit, and now the task force, moving forward comes from her desire, she said, “to work towards a resolution of issues that were caused by amalgamation.”

“I saw this as an opportunity to correct some things that have gone wrong since amalgamation. This opportunity was just too good to pass up.”

While Dolan, who sat on the Access, Communication and Consultation sub committee for the Rural Summit, does not believe that this initial effort will solve all the problems of amalgamation, she does believe that this is “a good first step in the process to make life better for rural people.”

Ottawa Valley News

 

PREVIOUS RELATED STORY:

Nov  20 - 2005   Rural Summit wins major convert - The Ottawa Citizen

 

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