COLUMN: Council common sense

Cornwall city council issued a small dose of common sense at their meeting Monday evening. This comes from dealing with a petition to ban train horns at the Tollgate Road grade crossing in Cornwall. The petitioners stated they wanted the horns to stop, as there are other safety appliances in place at that crossing.

The petitioners should get their terminology correct when trying to ban something. Railroad locomotives use air horns, not whistles. Whistles have not been used since the end of the steam locomotive in 1960. Diesel locomotives use an air horn. Each air horn is mandated to sound at a level between 96 and 116 decibels. This is a similar level to an ambulance siren or a rock band performing. Why so loud? So that it can be heard.

The idea of banning anything that helps prevent the collision between a 134 tonne passenger locomotive crossing a road at 160 kilometers per hour and a vehicle is stupid at best. Bells, whistles, horns, and flashing lights, all exist to help keep everyone safe. What is next? Ban seat belts because you don’t like having to use a buckle? The railroad through Cornwall was built in 1855. It has been in operation for 151 years. It is not as if the railroad just appeared out of thin air one day, surprising the neighbours with its existence. If the residents did not want to live near train whistles, don’t buy a house near railroad tracks. It is that simple.

Cornwall council agreed and defeated this petition. If anything came out of this petition, it is that the city’s policy for dealing with petitions needs to change. If you look at the last page of the submitted petition, line 52, readers will see one “Slim Shady” as a signatory. Verification of petitions must be done to avoid wasting time. According to this petition, international rap music star Marshall Mathers a.k.a. Eminem was in Cornwall and no one knew. Legitimate media companies in Cornwall should be ashamed for missing the story. An opportunity lost.

If there is a subject that needed the same common sense applied in Cornwall by council, it is the issue of fluoridation in the drinking water system. The system has been broken for years. There has been ample debate on the merits and issues with putting fluoride back into the drinking water system. The financial cost is known. The experts have had their say. How difficult is it to make a decision on this? Yearly budget consultations take less time and handle bigger issues.

One councillor suggested this should have been a referendum issue on the ballot during the last municipal election. No, it should not. Council of the day voted not to remove fluoride from the drinking water system but didn’t move ahead with fixing the broken system. If the current council wants to spend the money to put it back in, then vote on it and quit wasting time waffling.

Councillor Denis Carr stated that councillors rely on experts to make decisions. To a point the councillor is correct. Except the experts here are biased.  Fluoride can be filtered out of the water if you don’t want it, and it would take a lot more treated water than is humanly possible to drink to get fluoride poisoning. The lack of treated water is not going to make much of a difference to children oral health compared to the high amount of sugar ingested due to poor diet. Sugary drinks and cheap junk food are a far greater risk to teeth than a chemical in the water.

If Eastern Ontario Health Unit staff already administer fluoridation treatment programs in area schools, is the expense of adding fluoride to the drinking water in Cornwall needed? Should their efforts not be more focused on nutrition?

What council needs to do is decide the matter once-and-for-all. Call a vote, use common sense, and be decisive. This council has shown it can use common sense, it should not be selective when it does so.