Mayor vows to change culture at town hall
Norfolk Mayor Kristal Chopp gave council and staff their marching orders Tuesday afternoon.
Following her swearing-in at Governor Simcoe Square, Chopp laid out her priorities for the coming term.
These include a can-do attitude in the face of red tape, a re-affirmation of the value of volunteers, and new thinking in the face of new realities such as the legalization of marijuana for recreational purposes.
In a key part of her address, Chopp said no one should under-estimate her resolve to make Norfolk County more responsive to the needs and wishes of the tax-paying public.
“I want to give everyone my full assurance that I will work with council and staff to achieve the objectives that were stated during the campaign,” Chopp said. “I also believe that staff will work with council to achieve the same.
“But that said – while I’m not looking for confrontation – I would like to be clear today that I am more than willing to face it head on if it comes. The law says I am the CEO and head of council and I intend to act in that fashion. But none of this can be accomplished by one person. It is going to take us all working together to create meaningful change.”
Red tape, over-regulation and the part they play in frustrating dreams were recurring themes in this fall’s municipal campaign. Chopp hopes these concerns are put to rest in Norfolk in time for the next municipal campaign in 2022.
“The argument that all these regulations in Norfolk County are passed down from the province doesn’t hold water with me and it shouldn’t with you,” Chopp said.
“Courts have held that Official Plans cannot be used to regulate land use because they are contrary to the intention of the Ontario legislature. And being told you cannot use your land or part thereof for a particular purpose is a form of government expropriation without compensation.
“If we are going to bring fundamental change to Norfolk, this new council is going to need to make a collective commitment to getting back to simpler times when our government had far less intrusion into our daily lives; when we didn’t infringe on people’s personal rights.”
Chopp said CAO David Cribbs needs “to change the culture of this organization and – together with staff – we need to dig deep and start looking at problems from every angle, understanding that — as an organization — every amount of regulation, every assessment we ask for – is a form of tax. It squeezes business margins and, eventually, if you squeeze people’s margins so tight – their amazing projects no longer become worthwhile.”
Chopp delivered a tip of the hat to the volunteers who have helped make Norfolk what it is today. After her speech, Chopp said she was thinking of people like Gary Spragg of Port Dover, the 40-year fire chief who was publicly fired this summer following a dispute with senior staff.
“Make no mistake: Each and every one of Norfolk’s volunteers are a precious resource,” Chopp said. “We must all realize that a number of our services would not even be able to function without them. Rebuilding morale and culture where it has been lost will be a priority of this council.”
One of the last acts of the former council was a 7-1 vote outlawing the establishment of marijuana shops for recreational purposes in Norfolk.
Chopp told council and the 100 in the gallery that recreational marijuana today is no different than alcohol. She added that Norfolk has to adjust to that reality and embrace the opportunities it presents.
Justice Robert Nightingale, of Simcoe, administered the oaths of office to Chopp and the new council. Norfolk poet laureate John Lee, of Port Dover, read a verse he wrote appropriate to the occasion. Pastor Bill Wiebe of Port Rowan Community Church delivered the invocation.
The Small Town Girls of Langton – winners of the 2018 Norfolk Has Talent competition – sang O Canada.
The inaugural meeting of the new Norfolk council adjourned at 3:35 p.m., 35 minutes after it began.
MSonnenberg@postmedia.com MONTE SONNENBERG / SIMCOE REFORMER Norfolk poet laureate John Lee, of Port Dover recited a poem he wrote celebrating the new Norfolk council and the challenges that lie before it. The new council was sworn in Tuesday afternoon in front of a crowd of 100 at Governor Simcoe Square. At right is newly-minted Mayor Kristal Chopp of Port Dover. MONTE SONNENBERG / SIMCOE REFORMER