Designed to Fail: Part One

This is my personal opinion and view of the future of small municipalities in Quebec, especially those attached to an MRC connected to a major metropolitan area. When and if failure comes at some point in Hudson’s future, I will take zero pleasure in having been correct. Hudson’s current collective mentality and mood makes long term survival much more difficult and Quebec would not be disappointed in any way if Hudson failed and had to be merged with a larger neighbour.

The cynical side of me says that the possibility of failure was designed into the Quebec Municipalities system in ways that would eventually benefit and simplify the Provincial and Regional government bureaucracy. Perhaps we’re expected by Quebec to eventually fail, and perhaps we’re just taking too damned long to finish ourselves off.

The technician in me says that to avoid disaster of failure, we must first identify those potential management areas where we would be expected to fail if we were badly managed. Start with the ones where we are most behind the bureaucratic requirements . Once we see the failure points, perhaps we can find ways to work with and around them.

If there’s any interest in discussion I am willing, over several blog posts, to highlight a series of structures in Quebec municipal law that I believe make it nearly impossible for a small town to survive and thrive. Perhaps we’ll together discover other ways we’re designed to fail.

Since the Bouchard days of zero-deficit municipal governments have become more and more complex. The responsibilities of municipalities have grown exponentially, the bureaucracy requirements have been expanded in exchange the right to raise more tax passed down to municipalities. Virtually no small town was prepared for or capable of the newly granted responsibilities and their ensuing bureaucracy and staff requirements.

Thirty years ago, Hudson was far more self sufficient than today, but that doesn’t imply well managed and I won’t try to pass judgement there especially on the known crimes against us. We had our own Police department, a volunteer fire department under our control, an on staff Civil Engineer, and very simple town planning that could generate a building permit for a simple addition or garage replacement in days. When the MRC came to our lives, Hudson’s leaders simply ignored it as not relevant or valuable to us at that time, and I believe that was a huge mistake that we still have not fully corrected. We’re still referred to at MRC levels as the Republic of Hudson, and we do not avail ourselves of all the possible benefits and funding and we can’t escape the responsibilities.

In that bygone era, Hudson could show some world attention grabbing vision, largely driven by a concentration of local passionate people. We were the first community in Canada to ban pesticides, embracing weeds in our lawns as a way of better life. When challenged, tiny little Hudson fought large corporate interests and won at the Supreme Court of Canada. Slowly our anti-pesticide vision started to spread and indirectly we have helped make a large part of Canada a safer place for future generations.

Development always came hard to Hudson, the majority of the local vocal wanted Hudson to never change. It had to be a local who would wrestle White Zoning from Green for his land, and then holy crap they would stand to profit where others might not. Battles driven by Green environment interests and Green Profit Envy were argued and eventually more or less settled locally.

One could argue that Birch Hill was an environmental mistake with borderline land quality and without town sewers and with that generation of septic, but Fairhaven, Quarry Hill, Alstonvale, Hudson Valleys and Whitlock Ouest came together nicely and without significant long term environmental or infrastructure liability. Not all of those developments were approved and managed by a town planning department, but there was lively debate and public consultation. Redevelopment of waterfront was never easy, but most of the major problems came from a few inches or a few feet of extra height due to changes required during construction. When we disagreed, we usually agreed to disagree and allowed grumbling rights forever to whoever lost the argument.

At some point we added an actual Town Planning department, mostly in the beginning because we had to now do so many different things required by the upper bureaucracy, and in the end things that were good for the town. We needed a Conservation Plan and we needed to identify Wetlands and areas to be protected so that we could develop the right areas of town. We needed consistent bylaws and rights to development, so that every White Land owner would be treated fairly under the same rules.

I won’t opine about the quality of our planning department, I believe that any shortcomings we see are the result of bad management practices, lack of direction from leaders, and especially the complex and growing demands of the upper levels of our bureaucracy. I believe we’re well staffed with competent people, yet we continually need to ask for extensions for legally required things demanded by the MRC, so apparently we can’t keep up.

A wise editor always told me that we lose even the brightest reader at 800 words, I’m over that limit, running out of time, I’ve got some real work to do, and I’m already freeloading on this dormant blog, so I’ll try to continue with another post if my rights don’t get yanked.

Today my first conclusion is that Town Planning is one of the overload points designed into our upper municipal bureaucracy that makes it nearly impossible for any small Quebec town to survive, especially one like Hudson that has spent decades mismanaging itself with the help of criminal activity.

8 thoughts on “Designed to Fail: Part One

  1. You said it at some point in the past, Peter that any planning dept. engaged in its profession should drool over the chances to create a brave new world. It should be educated into its dna. Hudson is 5 sq. miles not exactly an overwhelming geography to familiarize yourself with. I practice site planning and landscape architecture and I can’t help doodling w/o guarantee of fee every time I see some spot that could , I think be better used. It’s the same drive that pushes the artist to canvas or the sculptor to clay I can’t understand being a planner and not having a thousand ideas. An example would be the site of the old recently sold medi-center. I took one look and noticed the run down house on the corner was for sale. A planner , I thought , would maybe suggest to the Town that they should purchase it, clean it up with the demo of both bldgs. and offer this wonderful palette to an engaged builder and his architects to realize some vision from our planning dept. forwarding the best long term needs of our community. Thanks for bringing up a good subject in under 800 words, Peter. It took me 10 minutes to write my opinion and I don’t begrudge the time.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Thanks Brian but I was well over 800 words anyway. I agree with your comments, and think that that’s absolutely a mandate and management issue. You grew up here and love Hudson for what is is, but also even more for what it could be. How do we get a planning department of employees to have passion like yours?

    What do our elected leaders set as the direction and priorities for the planning department and how well do the planning department execute that mandate. We always seem to be waiting for something before we move forward, a Conservation Plan, Normalization of all existing bylaws, Strategic Plan, PMAD, etc.

    The flow of excuses for ongoing delays always strikes me as lack of a clear direction or fear of movement for lack of a clear mandate. In absence of clear instructions, most employees will default to doing what appears to be as little as possible. Especially when we’re so verbally punishing as a community about perceived failures that are beyond the normal direct responsibility of an employee.

    We, as a community, have loud mouths and a huge memory for the problems. But, I’m curious for example what people really think about what we should have done differently and why on the recent Quarry Point height issue which I believe was due to ground conditions not recognized before the build started? Was there a better way to handle it? Comments on that issue threatened and triggered legal action, so there was anger flowing. Here’s a place to express your opinion calmly and quietly.

    I do hope whoever now owns the Old MediCentre buys the derelict corner building as well and includes it in their plans. I’m hoping for something interesting for that space.


  3. Always have to step in with a disclaimer: my citizenship in Hudson is not as a tax payer, it is a state of mind by virtue of lifestyle and proximity of living four houses off the municipal boundary. Suffice to say: Hudson was and is my family’s emotional home, we’ve been here for over forty years. like everyone else, home is home and everyone cares about about home. Home is more than brick and mortar, it’s where people live.

    To open the conversation, I sliced out a phrase from the opening sentence of Radcliffe’s blog titled ‘Designed to Fail Part 1 Quote: ” ……. the future of small municipalities in Quebec…….. . The subject interests me and should be of interest to anyone from a small municipality. Limiting an on-going conversation to Hudson is somewhat alright but, less of interests to me beyond this reply.

    The Hudson of yesteryear is not the Hudson of today. The very essence of the town’s socio-cultural fibre is being challenged; it is under siege by virtue an age old tyrant- called Growing Pains. To grow, not to grow, how to grow, organic, GMO and so on and on and on….
    Metaphorically, by its very bio-nature, growing pains can be painful when they occur in unexpected spurts. Growing pains are not exclusive to Hudson, they are endemic of many towns and townsfolk.

    The town of Hudson is embroiled in a tractor trailer load of lawsuits. Under the said circumstances, entering a talk-about on Hudson makes me queasy. Not because of the new-pop fear of being sued, anyone who know me, knows otherwise. The civic court of law has a job to do, citizens have an ethical obligation to position themselves on the sidelines. While I am a believer of public voice and pressure- when appropriate-at this juncture, public commentary on the town’s battlefield-so to speak, is to what avail- other than to dig the populous into deeper trenches of two war-like factions ? Stopping to fight the fight- just isn’t my bag.

    I’m prone to borrow the Israeli approach to their everyday reality . What happened, has already happened- it is past. Presently, you are alive, so continue to destination. “Shaping the future by remembering the past”.- is a quote borrowed from Israel’s Holocaust museum.
    Shaping the future, interests me.

    Notwithstanding the aforementioned respect for the legal process, a person(citizen) is obligation to watch over that which he\she owns. The lone shepard can not blame a lost lamb on anyone other than himself. This week some of Hudson’s devotees to green space conservation were in a rage over the sale of a town owned ‘lot’. A rightful rage, indeed! This ‘ lot ‘was part of a bigger schema yet to be realized. Passing the sale unannounced, irrelevant if it was or wasn’t a legal move, was just plain unfair. Equally so, in the spirit of fair play, we cannot allege that the director of urban planning should have had to carry the responsibility VERBAL GUARDIANSHIP of this ‘lot’, The town needs to legalize selected holdings ‘in trust’ under the spice that hard and softscape assets signal a strategy of respect for evidence that the town’s future has a past.

    Being a lover of bright light and sunshine, moving forward in an environment of dark stormy skies presents a personal challenge. It means facing frontiers with certain lack of confidence.Holding onto one’s ethical code under difficult situations is not obvious. To keep in balance or rebalance oneself, in your mind’s eye, envision yourself walking blindfolded. Heard the blindfold technique from a self-defence instructor.

    Am handling myself accordingly. Et Toi Brutus?


  4. Thank you Elaine.

    If we are to have hope of a future with Hudson as a quirky special older small town in Quebec then we need passionate people to fan the glowing embers and build our vision of a future on solid foundations of the understandings and lessons of past.

    I’m inspired by the many Hudson passionate people I’ve met on this blog and about town, I am sometimes exhausted by their energy and am always engaged by the lessons they might teach us and the value and values they may bring to our present lives and our future.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Every small town should have a Brian Grubert: passionate, volunteer and has an expertise! Keeping up with with the outflow of information is a full time job. You are a benefit to the town. Citizen’s constructively helping out has to be the town’s goal. I believe the only reason your are on blogging has to be the lack of another choice-less complicated to change than you might think. Does council , DG and Mayor know you, Bobby and Jersy volunteer at Layton park?

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Yes Brian, only those with no other sensible choice are wasting time on lonely blogs. Is there a local chapter of Bloggers Anonymous near Hudson? Maybe we could car pool to meetings and have a few beers after…

    Elaine, I’m just kidding.

    Brian is a great underutilized and under appreciated resource for Hudson. We have too many good support sources who aren’t well listened to, often because they have actually expressed opinions on things that matter.


      1. I’ll have to actually go outside hunt Duff down and find out how he kicked his blogoholism. I thought re-hijacking his blog would bring him out, so whatever program he’s following seems to work. Do those chips come with salsa?

        Liked by 1 person

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