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Sarnia mayor, OTA prez lock horns

SARNIA, Ont. -- Sarnia mayor Mike Bradley and OTA president David Bradley (no relation) have locked horns over truc...

SARNIA, Ont. — Sarnia mayor Mike Bradley and OTA president David Bradley (no relation) have locked horns over truck line-ups at the Bluewater Bridge.

On June 29th, the mayor wrote OTA stating that residents had informed him that “problems are occurring again on a regular basis” and asked the association president to let carriers know “that these actions serve no useful purpose and only alienate people in the communities that are so vital to the trucking industry.”

Back in 2002, the mayor first wrote to the OTA president on this matter and asked if the association would communicate with trucking companies to tell their drivers to stop.

Things seemed to have worked up until lately, say OTA officials.

But before OTA had a chance to respond to the June 29 letter, a headline appeared in the Sarnia Observer reading “Complaints about trucks on the rise: mayor seeks meeting with trucking association head.” In the accompanying story, the mayor not only spoke about the noise problem but also said he is concerned about air pollution, blocking lanes, and municipal by-law violations.

There had been no mention of the mayor’s desire to meet in his June 29th letter, nor had his office ever contacted OTA to meet, say OTA officials.

In a July 7th response to the mayor, the OTA president said he “appreciates his residents concerns” and “I want to assure you that OTA wishes for the trucking industry to maintain a good relationship with the community” and that “clearly we need to make the border work efficiently and in harmony with the community not only for the overall Ontario economy but also for Sarnia’s local economy.”

But he also stated that the mayor’s assertion that the disturbances are occurring on a regular basis “seems to contradict my understanding that the occurrence of long line-ups during the night is relatively rare – the Bluewater Bridge has been operating reasonably efficiently, particularly later in the night.” He asked the mayor if he would provide details of the calls he received, such as the number of incidents, dates and times and the results of any police investigations to “enable (him) to respond more appropriately.”

The OTA president also suggested that “an excellent forum already exists for constructive dialogue on this problem. OTA, the City of Sarnia, local law enforcement officials, border agencies, MTO and others are active participants on the Bluewater Bridge’s Advisory Committee whose mandate is to manage ongoing challenges to the free flow of trade across the border.”

OTA’s Bradley said it was his understanding that the noise issues had never been brought to the committee’s attention and that in his view the committee being a “non-political forum remains the most productive and effective means for dealing with the often complex and difficult issues that need to be addressed.”

This suggestion drew a nasty response on July 9th from the Sarnia mayor who stated “it is obvious that as a spokesman in the trucking industry, you are not willing to provide leadership.” He said the Bluewater Bridge Advisory Committee “is not the appropriate vehicle” as it “does not contain political representation, is not accountable to the greater community or open to the public.” He said he would move forward “without the support or input of (the trucking sector)” but would “appreciate it if (OTA’s Bradley) would provide (him) with (his) home phone number so the citizens could call (him) directly when the truckers begin to disturb the neighborhoods.” He said what he was trying to do in his original letter was “to have industry educate its truckers before heavy enforcement takes place.” Now, he says the matter will be treated as a “strict law enforcement issue.”

All of this leaves the OTA president scratching his head and wondering what the mayor’s motivation really is, says Bradley.

“Is it to work towards a solution, or is it to make the whole trucking industry – not just a few perpetrators – look bad?” he asked. “I have reviewed my letter to the mayor and still cannot understand his vitriolic, personally offensive tone. He didn’t have to agree with my suggestions but they were made in good faith.

“My suggestion that the Bluewater Bridge’s Advisory Committee was the best forum for this and other border issues to be discussed was based on the belief that the best people to deal with this kind of issue are the people directly responsible for the safe, efficient and compliant operation of the bridge, the highway leading to it, and the surrounding area. In my opinion, this is an operational and law enforcement issue, not a political one. There are already sufficient municipal and provincial laws against unnecessary and disruptive noise.”

Bradley says he is still willing to work with the Sarnia mayor but he is “not interested in being drawn into a petty game of mudslinging or negotiating through the media. I’ll be making no further public comment on this matter.”

OTA officials add the Sarnia mayor seems more interested in trying to make political hay and score headlines than he is in trying to prevent a few truck drivers from disturbing residents by blowing their horns during back-ups on Highway 402 leading to the Bluewater Bridge.

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