Taking on City Hall
So, some of you blindly watched the video Gayle posted of me yesterday, and I told everyone I'd post what happened, after all, so if you missed the video, here it is: http://peppermaster.flywheelsites.com/tina-
So there we were minding our own business, having thought the whole battle with the town was done. And lo and behold, Greg gets another call from the town. They wish to talk about the container.
Then, to add insult to injury, on our way to the Pepper Festival in Ange-Gardien Monterégie, doesn't our town announce they've cancelled our local market.
I near blew a gasket!
I live, eat and breathe the very idea of food security! I am using my teeny but powerful little manufacturing company and Peppermaster to change the fact that right now, the US owns our asses when it comes to feeding our families. (Except for those who eat Organics, Fair Trade and locally produced as a rule, that is). Greg and I have gone out of our way to make sure that we know where to get local and organic food. We spent years helping establish this market, setting up our stand (except in the rain) EVEN THOUGH, it was right across the street from our shop.
So after the whole banner game, I was furious.
Then, because I had all weekend to think about it, I realized, shame on me for not knowing what had transpired nor gone before in reference to the market, so, I should ask. If you know me, I rely on a spirit guide I call Melody, and she likes to throw things at me to make me "pay attention", so, colour me not surprised when I learn that Monday night is the Council Meeting.
Well, I'm not the Queen of public speaking. I shake like a leaf before stepping in front of a mic unrehearsed and without a speech, but I did NOT want the market to disappear off the town agenda as important if I were going to stay here. I LOVE our market. And so did everyone who actually used it. And it's really sad to me that so many of our neighbours didn't even go there.
But, it's important that we maintain and frequent our local food producers, and I don't just mean the ones that do monoculture on the rooftops of big flat buildings, because, they're important too, I mean the little guys who really love getting their hands dirty and who love producing the most beautiful fruit and veg you can imagine. Fruit and veg and bread to die for and meats and chickens and cheeses and egss and things that you will NEVER see at the Grocery store. Why? Because THEY don't feed big food's pockets. And with global warming and the threat of austerity and alt-right insanity, I wanna know where everyone thinks we're going to get our food if it all has to come through Galen Weston or Walmart when their chains of distribution are shut down for three weeks by some massive storm system? These local farmers cannot be allowed to die.
Okay, so, I've waxed political but holy Hannah, THIS is really important to me, that food that you get at the grocery store is riddled with stuff that makes me sicker than you know. So I know these folks, but if you don't support them now, will they be there when you need them later? THAT is the reality of LOCAL food security, and if you ask me, BIG FOOD dropped the ball.
But, I digress.
So, I went to the Council Meeting.
Now, we appeared to walk in late, so I was set on edge. It took a couple of minutes before I realized that we hadn't interrupted, it hadn't started yet.
Greg was prepared to get up and ask the questions, but I live in a small town and Greg is a bit of a hermit, and most of the people who sit on town council have known us for a long time, we've been 15 years on the main street of Rigaud. (Remember when Town Hall forced us to hang a sign over the door because we are on the main street? And we had a sign on the door that said "Make a reservation or call first!"? Good times.) Btw, it's still a good idea to call first.
So anyway, we sat there waiting a little while and I was able to calm myself enough that I was going to be able to get up nice and calmly and ask my question which, as you've noted, is really personal to me. So the questioners began. One guy wants speed limits lowered and failing THAT, a speed bump, Councillor responds, that they are sensitive to the plight, but that the speed bump is not the answer, in his district, the kids are using the damned thing as a launching pad.
I, ahem, laughed. (Sorry) I did that as a teen, and I really didn't think of the danger of what I was doing, then. Shame on me.
My friend Gerard (he sold me both my house that burned down and this building), got up and asked WTH about the market being cancelled, and I heaved a sigh of relief that I didn't have to ask the questions... Council says, MAPAQ, our local food inspector authority, REQUIRES asphalt, running water, etc. And suddenly, I saw no visible way for the market to happen... unless it were on asphalt. Which makes sense if you've ever sold product at a "festival" where they're allowed to have the vendors on a dirt floor. When we do Finnegan's after periods of no rain, the stand can get pretty dusty. So, I get it. Hmmph.
You know, what really impressed me about the Council Meeting is that this was really the first time I got to see our mayor Hans Gruenwald sitting court. Usually he's dealing with me as a local business colleague, or as Mayor to citizen or I see him on the news dealing with our flooded out neighbours. I must say, I wish I had his control. His voice doesn't shake. So there's the scene, Mayor sitting court with each of our district councillors on either side, and my district guy Dany was not present. They have a QP by citizens, then they do the meeting and there is a QP at the end, as well. We only stayed for the QP at the beginning. I pretty much know everyone who got up and asked a question, at least to see in passing in town, so it was really cool to see what they're up at town hall working on. The council knew their portfolios.
Before I continue my tale, I need to say, Rigaud's Café des Débrouillards needs a little more citizen support, but THAT is for another blog!! Remember that name, you're going to be hearing it a little more from now on.
So they finished discussing MAPAQ and the Question Period continued, my brain went searching around town, thinking, we can still do this, we just need asphalt... IGA, METRO... They're paved. Club Fed, (that's our nickname for the Federal Training Center here in town) it's paved. The parking lot at the park. And then I thought, no, it really needs to be in the town center and accessible to the townsfolk in their cars on their way home and y'know a permanent spot like the train station would be cool. Of course, that isn't paved. Town Hall hasn't paved their parking lot, but next year, and mmm, no, I'm not going to bat to put it back in front of Réjean's place, although I liked it there, he hated it. I suppose if my business was blocked by a market everyFriday afternoon it'd tick me off too, eventually. He was so super generous to allow that for so many years. So, hmm, maybe they did ask around? The mayor explained to Gerard why they couldn't hold the market at Jardins du Chantal as had been announced, they didn't explain WHY they couldn't put it somewhere else, had they even asked?
So I had to get up and ask. Argh. The body tremors start in the toes, I think.
So, I prepped to ask the question. I'm all calm ready to go, and doesn't another woman in favour of the Café project give an emotional plea. That knocked me right off kilter again, and whup... here it is, everyone else is done. Do or die.
Well, the video of me asking the questions is in French, of course, so, if you don't understand it, here's the Readers' Digest-style translation: I told them that I and my business are all about food security, especially LOCAL food security and have been building our business here for fifteen years. I said, the Town speaks of environmental sustainability and it strikes me as counter-productive to close the market that in a small locale COULD mean the difference between being able to farm again next year and having to give up and take a job in the city.
THAT is the reality of our local farmer, and for us, THESE farmers are our suppliers. They supply my company, they supply other businesses in town and it is absolutely imperative that our ability to buy local continue. I don't understand why another place in town couldn't be found.
And, if you know me personally, you know, I've been diagnosed with an epigastric hernia and am awaiting operation, so I had to sit back down as quickly as possible.
The Mayor responded that the market vendors had decided that given the fact that although this was the market that started it all, the vendors had made the decision that because the market had been declining in sales for the last couple of years (moving a market will do that to it), it was easier to take a sabbatical and think about what to do next.
So, then I signaled I had my last question, got up and asked them expressly to commit to ensuring this market is on the books for the coming year. I wanted their commitment to this.
And I got it. Yay, me! The market will be back in 2018. Mark my words.
And then on Tuesday, Greg went to town hall and answered the questions about the container. the Urbaniste was all smiley. Is that because I spoke at town hall the night before? Well, I get it that keeners need to follow rules, and we are well within them, for now. The good news is that dumb rules can be altered by citizen committee, but that's also for another blog.
All is well that ends well. Or, as is the case with food security in Rigaud, this is a good beginning.
Editor's note. By the way, the reason for all of this, the blog and the sign, intervening in the farmer's market discussion, and fighting the good fight in general, is to make it possible to provide you with the best possible delectables made from hot peppers. <Yes indeed, please do click there