Opening Remarks – First All Candidates Meeting (October 7, 2014)

Ladies and Gentlemen, Welcome to the 2014 North Grenville Municipal Elections.

My name is John Barclay, I’m 58 years old and I live in Oxford Mills. I want to live in a community where reasonable people can get together, discuss things, work them out and get things done.

Before I go on, I’d like to take a moment to recognize the organizers, Wendy Chapman and the Chamber of Commerce and the other candidates up here with me – I’ve had the opportunity to meet and speak with each and everyone of them. Whether they are relatively new to the community or long time residents of North Grenville, they’re demonstrating great dedication to the community, as well as personal courage, in running for office. No matter what the results of the election are, we’re lucky to have people like these in our community (pause)

We need a Mayor who is engaged in the issues. We need a Mayor prepared to ask the right questions and to press for satisfactory answers. We need a stronger voice at the County, Provincial and Federal level. We need a Mayor with a proven track record of bringing people together from diverse backgrounds and interests to make great things happen.

One of the themes of my campaign is building community, strengthening the ties that bind us both literally and figuratively. As a community we need more places and events to interact and form the connections that create community cohesion and a feeling of interdependence. Along with building these opportunities, it is essential that we build physical connections, too – roads, sidewalks, trails, and bike lanes. For example, supporting a coordinated rural transportation network would be one way to literally bring us together and to help us get things done.

I will be focused during my term to ensure growth is smart and sustainable. To achieve this we need to effectively implement the Community Strategic Plan, in order to accommodate growth while maintaining the small town, rural charm of North Grenville. We need to support the expansion of local businesses, local food initiatives and agricultural education in order to achieve economic and environmental self-sustainability.

Another theme of my campaign is accountability and transparency. Consultation and effective communication with citizens must be paramount in the day-to-day operations of Council. I’ll promise to make decisions based on facts and evidence instead of ideology.

Ultimately, people recognize me as someone who listens. I’m approachable. I make decisions based on what’s best for the community. I have a proven track record for working effectively within a group to find the best ideas. I want to bring these skills to the role of Mayor. I need your vote to make that happen. Thank you.

2014 Dandelion Festival – Back on the Street!

The Dandelion Festival worked best when it was located on the streets of Old Town Kemptville and this year it’s back – by popular demand. In 2014, donations of almost $2,000 made through the IndieGoGo crowdfunding site, enabled us to cover some of the costs of the security, barricades and signage that the Municipality and County required in order to permit the road closures you wanted.

Earth Hour – Bishop’s Mills

The Bishop’s Mills Community Centre held a well-attended fundraising musical evening last March. Many local musicians contributed to the event. The Maplewood Ceilidh Band chose to perform during Earth Hour (no lights or amplification) and we (Peet Dukes, Phil Morotti and myself) rose to the challenge of trying to capture their set on video (battery power only). This is the result.

Building and Sustaining Community

(Published in the North Grenville Times, Sept., 2014)

In a recent issue Peter Johnston bid a fond farewell to one of our community’s tireless animators, Doug Hendry. Peter gave him deserved praise for his civic involvement, volunteerism and contribution to the local music scene. Having worked with Doug on many events hosted by the Oxford Mills Community Association in Maplewood Hall, I can tell you he was the kind of volunteer who was often the last one to leave, turning out the lights and locking up, after having swept the Hall thoroughly. Quiet and unsung for the most part until Peter’s warm tribute.

When I think of Doug’s departure, I immediately think of other community builders like Brent Kelaher, who left for greener pastures over a year ago and Bradley Scissons who left more recently in August. They all left North Grenville because the work they or their partners wanted either disappeared or never arrived. How can we develop as a community unless we develop the kind of jobs that keep people like Doug, Brent and Bradley rooted here? We have to create the right conditions to both attract investment and to build connections with one another in order to maintain the community we all cherish. In my mind, social development and economic development go hand in hand and should feed off each other. We can’t have one without the other.

I believe generousity is a defining feature of the community in Kemptville and the surrounding area. It’s a result of the sense of interdependence people feel and that is fostered by making connections with each other. Great things happen when people get together and get to know one another. For that to happen we need places and spaces to rub shoulders – we need sports facilities, festivals, parks and institutions like the Farmers’ Market – walkable, pedestrian- friendly, bike-friendly places. We also need cafes and restaurants where people can meet and do a bit of business together. I’d venture to say that more small business deals have been concluded in places like Geronimo’s or Butler’s Victorian Pantry than anywhere else in North Grenville.

I’m sure small town or rural connectedness is part of the attraction to people who are looking for a place to live, start a family and/or retire. It’s not just the price of homes compared to Ottawa. If we build homes without building and maintaining community; if we fail to create local jobs here in North Grenville, we’ll lose. We’ll lose more civic-minded people like Doug Hendry, Brent Kelaher and Bradley Scissions and that would be a shame.

Thank you for being a Friend

(Originally published in the North Grenville Times, September, 2013)

They say a person is known by the company they keep. Personally, I find the friends I have are people who share my interests and values. What can we say about Old Town Kemptville? Who are the friends of downtown ? Well, put simply, they are a close-knit group of businesspeople, service club volunteers and residents with a strong sense of community and a history of working together to make the downtown a special place in North Grenville.

The first friends of downtown Kemptville that come to mind are the local media. Old Town Kemptville enjoys the support of Juice FM 97.5, The Kemptville Advance/EMC and the North Grenville Times; all faithfully cover our events downtown. The North Grenville Times has been a true friend indeed by arranging a featured BIA page, so we can have a voice in the greater community of North Grenville once a month.

Partners in almost every initiative to retain and attract business downtown are the Municipality’s Economic Development Department and the North Grenville Chamber of Commerce. Every BIA should have friends like these. Old Town Kemptville also works closely with the Kemptville Farmers’ Market, the Kemptville Youth Centre, the North Grenville Historical Society and the North Grenville Public Library; we support each others programs.

Organizers of entertainment and sports events at Riverside Park, such as the Dandelion Festival or the Ontario Little League Minor Division Championships continue to reach out to the merchants downtown and make sure their visitors know where to shop and dine when they attend their events. We even count as friends the community minded businesses in Colonnade who promote the events that the BIA sponsors in Old Town.

Last but not least, we’re we’re truly thankful to count as friends our loyal customers, many of whom are known on a first name basis. It’s these friends that stuck by the merchants when it became difficult to navigate the construction on Clothier Street or take the long detour around the bridge construction County Road 44. The BIA hopes to see as many of those friends of downtown at our Customer Appreciation BBQ (free hotdogs and hamburgers), September 26th (2013) in Rotary Park (noon to 2pm). Don’t forget to circle the date. What do we know about Old Town Kemptville ? It has loyal supportive friends that value having a walkable, family-friendly cultural and business centre in their community

Volunteering is Not for You

(Published in the North Grenville Times, Nov., 2013)

As the Christmas season begins to gear up, why would you want to spend your quickly evaporating spare time working at something for free, to benefit people you barely know? It’s a very busy time of year and you’re busy already! You’re not a miserly person, you donate at home and at the office; you drop your spare change in the box – perhaps even at bit more this time of year. Well, there are some things money can’t buy and one of them is community. Community has to be built and built by participation; by getting involved.

As a relative “newbie” to North Grenville, I’m in awe at the level of civic participation in this community. It goes far beyond the typical degree of involvement in sports leagues, extra-curricular school activities, amateur theatre, church fundraisers etc. found in other places I’ve lived. People in North Grenville have figured out that when you give, you get so much more back and so, volunteering has become almost part of the culture as the “payback” is experienced time and time again by people living here.

I believe generousity is a defining feature of the community inKemptville and the surrounding area. It’s a feature that, I’m sure, is part of the attraction to people who are looking for a place to live, start a family and/or retire. I’m even more confident that it’s a feature that keeps people from leaving.

Volunteering is about other people – their wants, their needs, their hopes, and their dreams. I wrote in October about the volunteer opportunities in Old Town to create some wonderful memories for your kids, grand-kids, nieces and nephews. You have another chance on November 30th (Old Town Christmas). There are many ways to get involved, whether assisting the Kemptville Kinsmen Farmers’ Market folks at the Artisan Market in the Old Armoury, working with the Kemptville Fire Service at the fire barrels downtown, caroling with the 1st Grenville Militia on Prescott or Clothier streets or helping children shop for their siblings and parents at the Kid’s Emporium at the North Pole (in the former Advance Building).

Volunteering is never for you; it’s for others. It’s about community and the connections that get fostered through contributing. When you give of your time, you get a lot back. Help us to create a family friendly downtown this Christmas, one that is a dynamic and vibrant cultural centre in North Grenville; become a Friend of Downtown and give us a bit of your time.

Dandelion Roots

(Published in the North Grenville Times, May., 2014)

Volunteerism and civic pride are two traits that are firmly rooted in this community and both will be proudly on display in Old Town Kemptville this weekend at the 14th Annual Dandelion Festival.

Like the dandelion itself, the Festival grows willy-nilly each year; it’s tenacious and refuses to die. If I can be permitted to stretch the metaphor, it’s wild beauty and medicinal powers are under-valued, too. As the days count down, I can tell you, the many volunteers involved in this year’s Festival are experiencing organized chaos, as well as reveling in the thrill of pulling off something huge for the community.

For months leading up to the Festival, the message has been “The Dandelion Festival is Back on the Street” and it is – Prescott and Clothier Streets, to be precise. Both will be closed to traffic for much of Saturday and Sunday during the day. This news was welcomed by most of the merchants of Old Town and those who’ve been expressing the desire to see a “street party” atmosphere return to the event.

The activities listed in the official Festival Program circulating around North Grenville are only some of the things to experience downtown May 24th and 25th. Even the insert being hastily printed fails to cover everything. You’ll just have to come by on Saturday and Sunday to see for yourself.

DandelionSchedule

When you do come, expect to find parking at Kemptville College, off Concession Road at South Branch Elementary School (follow the signs for a short to walk to the Festival), at Kemptville Public School, behind the former high school off Rueben Street and the usual Riverside Park parking lot. Seniors and disabled parking will be beside the North Grenville Library on Water Street. Please be considerate and don’t block residents’ driveways.

The official Festival theme this year is “Discover Our Roots” – an invitation to Eastern Ontario (from Ottawa to Prescott, Brockville to Cornwall) to come to Kemptville and discover a little bit about our community. Besides local food, crafts and talent, the Dandelion Festival also displays the level of engagement and pride we have in this community and the degree to which we support our local economy – admirable traits that are deeply rooted in North Grenville.

After a difficult year of construction, road and bridge closures, the Festival will provide a well needed “shot in the arm” for business downtown and on behalf of the Old Town Kemptville Business Improvement Association, I’d like to express our appreciation to the volunteers of the Organizing Committee of the 2014 Dandelion Festival for working with the Municipality and the County to bring the festival, literally, to the doorsteps of merchants in Old Town Kemptville. Thank you!