Mayor Jeff Lehman’s new year’s message

This time of year I’m often asked: if I had a wish for Barrie for 2014, what would it be?
It’s actually not an easy question to answer, because I have a lot of answers.
Host the Memorial Cup? Get rid of taxes altogether? Make everyone happy?
Nice to wish for, but I’m a pragmatic guy, so I tend to want to make wishes that can actually come true.
Admittedly, right now, I might be tempted to say “that the buses would be able to run on time more often,” or that “the City’s finances would be stronger,” or that we could fix the parking budget, or maybe that just once on a Friday afternoon, Mapleview and Bayfield wouldn’t be a parking lot … but wishing won’t change those things – those things need work by the City, and are things that we will be working hard on in 2014. So what would I wish for on behalf of the broader community?
I’d like to see a few more of those people who have to get up at the crack of dawn to work at a job in a distant town or city, find work closer to home, and have more time to spend with their families rather than on the road.
I’d like to see the lights come back on at a few more of the factories in our south end, as we attract new businesses to Barrie. And I’d like to see the employee parking lots get even busier at some of our existing major industrial employers.
I’d like to see fewer people at the food bank, fewer people on the list for affordable housing, fewer people at the Busby Centre and the Salvation Army. Or, at least, if the need continues to grow, that those organizations see record levels of support from the great people of Barrie at the same time that they see higher levels of use. But all levels of government need to make it their goal to see that these organizations are less busy, not more.
While we’re on the topic, I’d like our schools to be busier, and our hospital to be less busy.
And more broadly – I’d like to see the facts matter a little more. I’d like to see fewer personal attacks in politics, and a little more respect for one another. I’d like to see us not scare quite so easily, especially when faced with new ideas.
But one thing I’d really like to see in 2014 is that our sense of responsibility to one another gets stronger. This is probably the most important thing to retain as Barrie gets bigger – that sense of belonging to a community and helping each other out.
We have so much to be proud of as a community when it comes to our charitable and volunteer sector. We are a tremendously caring and giving community. But a sense of community is one of the toughest things to maintain as we grow.
Many things did get better in 2013. Our downtown is clearly improving. Unemployment dropped again. Crime is dropping at historic levels. There is a lot to feel good about looking back on 2013.
But most of all, we can be thankful that we live in a community where neighbours still look out for one another; where when you’re stuck in a snow bank, people stop to help push you out; and where an army of caring people work at everything from Christmas Cheer to United Way to the Salvation Army to the David Busby Centre to give one another a hand.
That is the definition of community and most of all, for 2014, I wish for a stronger community. I’d like things to get a little bit better for more people, year by year.
Maybe it’s Canadian to have low expectations, to not ask for too much. I might not get everything I wish for in 2014, but I believe that last wish will come true.
My very best wishes to you and your family for a safe, healthy, and prosperous new year.