In fact, there was plenty of public consultation and opportunity for people to speak. The problem was nobody listened.
But, the real culprits of this schmozzle are Councillors Forest Rowden and Miriam Mutton as the town’s representatives on the Ganaraska Region Conservation Authority.
As chair of the authority, Rowden, more than anyone, could have provided leadership to drive the process in a completely different direction if he had chosen to do so. Instead, he failed to step up when the public and council needed him most.
As the protection services representative on council, Rowden has a pretty easy job. He sits as a member of the police services board, which basically runs itself. And, he is responsible for fire protection, again another self-regulating body that takes only a light touch. Rarely, if ever, does he fall in the line of fire in these roles.
Rowden has done nothing to support the dog owners using James Cockburn Park, instead saying the conservation authority set its bylaws and policies, so nothing could be done to change them.
Yet, he was at the table when these were being debated and the bylaws being passed during conservation authority board meetings. He was unable to show the foresight or the political acumen to steer the situation in the town’s favour.
Sure, he has sat in on meetings, but not as a defender of the citizens of Cobourg, but rather as an apologist for the conservation authority.
In fact, he has publicly complained at council and in his newspaper column about dog owners not picking up poop. He also criticized people who do not keep their dogs on leashes, saying he has heard complaints, including an incident involving a family member. His bias is obvious.
The town contributes $200,000 as its levy to the authority, for which it receives a wide range of services including water protection, flood control, fish habitat protection and a host of other good things. However, the town maintains the parkland.
Rowden’s loyalty needs to be questioned. As a longtime former councillor in Hamilton Township, he served his constituents well. Suddenly, now that he lives in Cobourg and serves on its council, where does his allegiance go? On this issue, it is certainly invisible.
As Rowden weighs his options for his political future within the context of the upcoming municipal election this fall, it should involve some deep reflection. Voters should do the same.
First published April 9, 2014
Rowden’s published response to recent column: Councillor Forrest Rowden takes me to the woodshed over this column.