Sidney Beamer announces bid for Ward 1 council seat
BY DON RICKERS
Special to the VOICE
Sidney Beamer knows something about local politics.
Her father-in-law, Doug Beamer, was a Pelham alderman for 30 years, while another in-law, Ralph, was a Pelham alderman for three years and mayor for nine.
The Beamer family bought a farm located off Tice Road in 1847. Sidney’s husband, Stuart, was born on the property.
They both attended E. L. Crossley Secondary School, as did their four children, and have been living on the farm since 1973. Sidney planted, tended, and harvested the crops, and spent 30 years selling her produce at the St. Catharines Farmers’ Market. She has been running her Christmas Market store since 2012 on Centre Street, which operates in November and December.
Beamer and her husband are retired now. They rent out 55 acres to a local farmer. Life on the farm is peaceful.
So why would she run for public office as a Ward 1 councillor at this stage of her life?
The ready answer: “[Council] needs to be sorted out.”
Beamer feels that at present, the Town is close to bankruptcy.
“We need to find ways to make it work, without adding any more debt. This council is selling assets to raise money. The problem is, you can only sell an asset once. We need to develop the current assets so that they can generate money over the long haul.”
Case in point, she says, the old arena on Haist Street.
“Take the ‘For Sale’ sign off it,” insists Beamer. “We need to brainstorm as to possible productive uses of that property. The eight acres could be used for a market offering a longer season for vendors. We’ve got to think differently, and not take the easy approach of just selling it off.”
The current council is “looking in the same direction, following one leader,” says Beamer.
“Why do we have so many staff departed from the municipal office? Why do residents need to file [Freedom of Information Act] requests in order to get answers? This council doesn’t seem to understand the term ‘transparency.’ They must have a different definition than the rest of us do.”
Beamer says she has heard residents suggest that the new $36 million community centre should be sold.
“The overall operational costs are probably $300,000 a year for that building,” asserts Beamer. “Some council members consider the community centre their legacy. But lots of people think we should cut our losses.”
Commenting on legacies, Beamer observes, “There are two types of legacies—soft and hard. Soft legacies are collective memories associated with people. Hard legacies are bricks-and-mortar projects they built. Sometimes hard legacies can evoke lasting outrage such that the soft legacy of people is negatively affected. History will decide what the legacy is.”
“The Old Town Hall is supposed to be the seniors drop-in centre for Pelham,” she says. “They have their own personal space there. Why do they need to be accommodated at a new community centre?”
Reconfiguring the departments at town hall is a necessity for Beamer. “To save money, we’ll need to amalgamate some areas of responsibility. We can’t afford the setup currently in place. Pelham is not Mississauga. We don’t have their tax revenue, and accordingly can’t have their levels of staffing.”
Staff and politicians should be speaking for themselves, rather than through a communications department, says Beamer.
“The marketing specialist would be the first one to go,” she says.
Beamer thinks residents should be treated with more respect by local government.
“I find it horrific that senior town staff treat residents like they did the fellow on Poth Road, who had a broken culvert issue. The suggestion was that country residents aren’t adding any value to the town.”
Beamer plans to get her message out through social media. She has a friend who is tech-savvy to help (“I’m computer illiterate, and plan on staying that way”).
She says she’ll only resort to print ads and flyers if the competition for a seat gets more crowded. (In each ward, the top two vote-getters are elected.)
“Why would I spend money if only two people run and it’s an acclamation situation? It’s the whole fiscal responsibility thing.”
Her family is supportive of her run for office, although Beamer says, “My husband tells me I’ll get tired of biting my tongue. My response was I’m not planning on biting my tongue. I plan to say things when they need to be said.”
If elected, at the first council meeting, Beamer says she would push four agenda items.
“Number one, open the books. We need an independent local accountant to assist us, not a big international firm like KPMG. Let’s see what’s gone on, where the money has been going, who has been involved. Number two, take the ‘For Sale’ sign off the old arena, and let’s get creative about future uses. Number three, instruct staff to provide information to residents upon request, and not force them to go the FOI route. And number four, have some serious discussion about amalgamation of departments and responsibilities at town hall.”
Beamer says that relations between residents and Town Hall need improvement.
“In Fenwick they have a flooding situation, and a $5 million lawsuit against the Town. This problem has been in existence for years. Why on earth did council not direct staff to work out a settlement? There should not be this degree of conflict between the municipality and residents resulting in lawsuits.”
Beamer says that she appreciates the investigative work done by the Voice into Town finances. Many small municipalities, she notes, do not have a local newspaper to serve this function.
“Why do members of current council feel that they have been bullied and unfairly treated? Frankly, that’s politics. It’s part of the job. Politics is not for the thin-skinned.”
“With me, what you see is what you get. No pretensions.”