It’s been politically quiet in Rimbey since the rabble was successful in defeating council’s plans to move the town office out of the downtown and allow the library to expand. With nomination day for municipal elections less than two months away, there isn’t much time left for the usual suspects to manufacture a new scandal or dust off some tried and true oldies.
Will no one step up and challenge incumbent Sheldon Ibbotson to be mayor of Rimbey? Does the cabal prefer to run the town from backrooms, bars and coffee shops rather than at duly convened council meetings?
It’s unlikely the five people now in office unanimously agree on their vision of where Rimbey should be going and how it should get there and it would be refreshing to have some candidates challenging the status quo and shaking things up.
If the community is to advance, it needs fresh ideas and the revitalization a new generation of leaders can provide.
Residents and businesspeople deserve local government that is willing to listen to their concerns and their suggestions. That’s a cornerstone of democracy. That doesn’t mean council is going to cave in to the unreasonable demands of the electorate — like it did this spring. It has to do what it feels is in the best interests of the community — like it did with its mistake to eliminate the business incentive. But council needs to respect the very people who elect them.
Nomination day for the fall election is Sept. 16. That gives you some time to get up to speed on what town council has been up to. You don’t have to understand mill rates, off-site levies, municipal development plans and debentures right away to be considered a good candidate for office.
This council will boast Rimbey is open for business — maybe it is — there are certainly enough empty storefronts that selection isn’t a problem.
Rimbey residents, the business community, institutions such as schools and hospitals and service clubs need to be involved in forging a new, common vision for the town. While council can’t wave a magic wand and suddenly create accelerated growth, its plans, policies and attitude will have a bearing on whether Rimbey is even considered by the international widget companies looking to get a toehold in central Alberta.
The challenge facing this community is achieving steady growth — and return to the baseline of a few years ago — and we have to recognize that an increase in the population does more than simply add new neighbours on our streets and customers in our stores; growth has a more widespread impact on the community, its needs and desires.
It is a planning challenge to accommodate new, land-intensive housing developments without destroying the small town qualities that attracted the newcomers here in the first place. Creating new residential subdivisions doesn’t lower your taxes or create jobs; it requires the town to buy more snowplows and lawnmowers, maintain more buried utilities and provide more firefighters and Mounties.
The alternative is to close the door to new development entirely. Cap the population of Rimbey at 5,000. Once, we’re all in; quick, close the door.
Small town atmosphere means security and safety, peace and quiet, friendliness and community spirit. We need to achieve a reasonable and sustainable balance of commercial and industrial assessment versus residential assessment. We must face the challenge to increase our self-sufficiency in creating local jobs — the more opportunities residents have to work here, the more opportunities they will have to spend here.
Rimbey’s common vision should be to ensure a positive business climate that supports expansion and diversification of the local economy; and one that contributes to an improved quality of life for all residents while maintaining the community’s agricultural roots and protecting the natural environment.
Election time is a great time to get the discussion started.
— Off the Record