Like most people in this fair city of ours, I have never had occasion to contact my city councilperson for any particular issues, even though I’m one of the minority that makes it a point to vote in municipal elections. However, my non-activist days it seems, are numbered. We have lived here for about 22 years and circumstances being what they are, my wife and I rented a home last July and paid the city a “deposit” of $230 to have the water turned on at our residence. Unlike many of the comments that I have read in the Times regarding the horrors associated with the City assuming ownership for water billing, I have had no problems at all. Until recently.
As we are coming up to the end of the first year in our house, I recently contacted the Water Department to inquire as to when we would be receiving our deposit back, or if it would be applied to our bill. You can imagine my surprise when I was told that as long as we remained a tenant in Cambridge, we would never receive our deposit back unless we either bought a house, or moved out of Cambridge. I assumed that I simply misunderstood their response and that surely something was lost in translation so I contacted our local councilperson to clarify the situation. He basically quoted me verbatim what the Water Department had already said and then added some erroneous information on his own as to what the deposit was for (you really don’t want to know).
Now, normally, that would be the end of my queries, I’d roll over and play dead to appease everyone, particularly our councilperson. But, I then contacted the Office of the Ombudsman for Ontario as well as the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing, both of whom provided prompt responses empathizing with my situation but basically stating that the City has total authority for any water billing issues. I have come to realize that this was never a deposit, but in fact, a donation to the City of Cambridge and as you really can’t fight City Hall without connections, or adequate resources, I’m dropping the issue although it appears to be discriminatory, and labeled falsely.
Our councilperson has ignored repeated requests to meet with me to discuss this issue or even his role in city government, although I know this is not the norm with certain other members of the council. The real issue that I’ve come to discover first hand is that some of our elected representatives could really care less about our concerns if they happen to center on contentious issues. My family and friends will become considerably more active in our ward for the next election which is probably a positive development and endorses the principles of a democratic government. Repeated e-mails and phone messages have gone unanswered… and I ask, is my councilperson the exception? Is this the sort of representation that encourages people to vote in municipal elections? Unfortunately, I should have phrased my requests beginning with “Gary, you are a highly respected local politician and I value your opinion…” but then I would be perpetuating the lie as well.