TO: Cobourg Police, Cobourg Town Council, Northumberland County Council, MPP Piccini, Infrastructure Ontario, MP Lawrence, the Press, Fellow Citizens and others.
My wife and I are senior citizens who elected to move to Cobourg some 9 years ago. We bought a home, pay our taxes, follow the rules, joined local clubs and contribute to the enhancement of our town. We felt safe in our home, walked downtown at night, attended multiple cultural events and took pride in promoting the friendly ambiance of our chosen town. Cobourg is now in a downward spiral. Given what appears to be our new normal, we, like the majority of the law abiding Cobourg citizenry, are now fearful, upset, frustrated and angry. We believe that a large proportion of Cobourg residents are being held hostage by a disproportionately small number of unfortunate folks (to whom societal rules apparently don't apply), malcontents, petty thieves, druggies and their misguided enabler's. Realtors have advised land owners in the vicinity of the illegal Brookside encampment that their properties, if at all saleable, have diminished in value. Why are they expected to bear that loss? Folks are being hassled and threatened. Drug abuse, discarded paraphernalia, petty crime, trespassing and the resultant demand for emergency services are increasing. Students of three nearby schools are at risk. Businesses are being adversely impacted. The quality of life has eroded. Cobourg's reputation as "the feel good town" has suffered. Are we not the real victims here? What is to be done to reclaim our town? Whose responsibility should that be?
The Cobourg Police and By-law Officers have an increased presence at the encampment, but what, if any, real effect has that had? Drug abuse is pervasive and seemingly out of control. Town Council moved the encampment from the beach, but as it is now on Provincial land, 'it's Infrastructure Ontario's jurisdiction'. Northumberland County Council has a 10 year "Housing & Homeless Plan" and removed the encampment from their Williams Street property. What, if anything, are they planning to do now about the current encampment and the underlying complex social and housing issues? Cobourg Mayor Cleveland says that the four levels of government are "all on the same bus", but apparently going nowhere. He sits on the County Council and has a voice. MPP Piccini appears to talk tough, but what has he accomplished? As a Minister, he seems preoccupied with other issues. Infrastructure Ontario, at considerable taxpayer's expense, is protecting a derelict building (fencing and private security), but isn't removing illegal squatters. MP Lawrence appears to want little part of this local problem. I suspect that our officials mouth platitudes, play politics, but really ascribe to the theory 'not my jurisdiction nor responsibility'. Predictively, some frustrated locals are advocating egregious self-help reprisals.
Should the enablers be held accountable? Should not all levels of government and other stakeholders collaborate, join forces, constitute a task force, pool talent and resources and seek meaningful best practices to address these complex and costly issues? Why isn't that happening? Where is a true leader? Should it not be spearheaded by a full time politician like MPP Piccini, as opposed to part time Mayors and Councilors? Why won't someone stand tall and lead us out of this mess? Should the neighbourhood watch groups amalgamate and coordinate their strategies? Do we need a citizens coalition to force our politicians to do the right thing? Is the "status quo" working? Isn't now the time to act, before things get worse? ….. Isn't Cobourg worth saving?
I'm just asking.
R. KEITH SIMPSON