"Cowardice asks the question...is it safe? Expediency asks the question...is it politic? Vanity asks the question...is it popular? But conscience asks the question...is it right? And there comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular but one must take it because it is right." ~Dr. Martin Luther King

Wednesday, 28 January 2015

There Is Heirarchy

I've made the point before. Obviously not strongly enough.

Every decision is Council's responsibility. There  is no point beyond.

It is the reason for being and why a Council numbers nine.

It is not about workload . It is everything about keeping council honest and accountable.

An elected council is not a team. It is not a congenial social circle complete with hangers-on.

It is anything but that.

The City of Calgary was in the news last week. Councillors  have been drinking at in-camera meetings.Other Councillors objected and brought the matter to public attention.

The youthful Mayor, elected without experience I believe,feted nationwide for his fresh approach to city affairs, went on television and confided he had  no control over Councillors' behaviour. On another occasion , he apparently broke down under the stress. Poor boy.

Not for a minute is such conduct indicated by Aurora's Mayor  and  Council .

We  do have cause for concern however.

First is the  Mayor's avowal not to "micro-manage". Or manage at all apparently.

The statement  accompanied  his refusal to account for a twenty-six year employee's modest job
being slid right out from under her.

The exchange took place in an in-camera meeting. It was no less a business exchange .

Question presents: how does one accept responsibility while refusing to exerciseresponsibility

Second concern is adherence to the virtue of  agreeability  and co-operation to "get things done"

Attaining nine independent minds at the Council table through the electoral process might not be reasonable expectation.But the number has potential for something other than an amorphous blob.

Senior levels of governments have separate parties .The government proposes. Her Majesty's Loyal

Opposition opposes

Proposals are analyzed, flaws discovered and government's feet are held to the fire.

Less is pablum. Tasteless and formless.

At a recent Council meeting, two new Councillors flailed about seeking satisfactory answers on the delay and extra costs for the AFLC project.

Answers quoted  in the news story came from staff.

The Head  of Council apparently had nothing to say. Doubtless maintaining his position of non-micro-managing or by definition, non- involvement.

The  point  has been made before.

Once more with feeling I repeat,

Staff are accountable to Council.

Council is responsible for staff and to the public.

Definition of an elephant....a horse designed by a committee

I have a couple more answers  on the Aurora Family leisure Complex project.

$ 600,000  was set aside for contingency.

$900,000 had to be spent when the  building department realized additional structure support was needed to open the hallway from front to back of the building. Plans submitted  were approval without. The additional support was not included in specifications. Not allowed for in the bid. And not covered in the awarded contract.

$900.000. swallowed up the contingency plus  an additional $300,000.

Mould infestation in the cavity  above the ceiling  required wood structures  to be replaced .The problem was not anticipated, needs to be corrected and paid for.

And thereby hangs a tale.

The AFLC  arena was designed to be cold. No spectator amenities were provided . All of that was  available at the community centre.
Summer  ice was not intended.
Then summer ice was provided  but the metal building was a hot box. The ice wouldn't harden.
Then it was decided to insulate  the roof so ice would freeze in a heat wave.

The ice-making equipment uses thousands of gallons of water every day.... during drought conditions.

Expensive treated potable

clean slightly warmed water had to be  wasted into the sewer system....adding to volume  of sewage
to be treated and paid for. .

A bank of  seating was added  for spectators. Heating was added.  Mould  grew.

The community centre has seating for 850 with  electric heating overhead. The heating was good for spectators but  the ice  was heavy and not good for players.

A problem  emerged with condensation  dripping down making holes in the ice at the north end.

The beautiful cedar ceiling had to be covered  with aluminum foil clad insulation to solve the problem

Seats needed to be replaced  during the last term. A federal grant was available and assured by M.P. Lois Brown. The Town did not apply.

Well I mean, if  not eligible for the grant,  let the government say so. It makes no sense to refuse to make the application. The seats  needed to be replaced. The funds were available .

After the Stronach Centre was completed an ice surface  problem emerged . Moist warm air up from  the  ceiling of the swimming pool area was getting into cold air above the ice.

But that's another story.l Another post.

So Amazing

A friend sent two beautiful photos of the bronze sculpture  prominently displayed in the Town of Perth. Lovely as they are, they are not as breathtaking as being there.

I tried and Stephanie tried to post one  here. It looked as though we had. But when I logged into blog
the space was blank.

So, I have posted it on Facebook.

Enjoy and thank you to my friend .

Yes I know we have our own Champion in Aurora. Jim Elder and his horse Pieces of Eight ,and others, brought home numerous medals  and shocked the world by bringing home to Aurora championships traditionally won by Europeans.

They were great days in a small town's history.

The Point Was Missed

Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "Big Ben and Ian Millar":

21:10, there'd also be a group bitching about the cost.

Posted by Anonymous to Our Town and Its Business at 27 January 2015 at 23:14

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 Perth is a town of fewer than 6,000.people.

The beautiful bronze sculpture of Big Ben and  Ian Millar located where everyone can see and enjoy  every day of their lives that cost $250,000 was paid for with funds raised  from the community by Perth and District Chamber of Commerce.

It was a gift to the community.

In our town , self-described as affluent , a Council member  hopeful of winning favour suggested the Chamber of Commerce should have fees for a public venue waived for an annual event that MAKES money FOR the Chamber of Commerce.

The Chamber took up the offer.

They also have  use of facilities and service  at taxpayers expense during the annual street sale which is a  gargantuan financial  success.

Sometimes I think I must be too subtle.

Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Big Ben and Ian Millar

I was in Perth last Saturday. The  town is two hundred years old. It was settled by veterans of the  War of 1812,

I have been there before for SARB hearings. The journey from place to place was a large part of the job with not much time between stops.

Long ago I realized Scottish stonemasons were in the habit of re-creating the places they'd left behind.

I  have seldom felt like a stranger in Ontario.

Around 1p.m. everything was bustling. It may have been the light or the fact I wasn't driving but the town presented exceedingly well.

Or it may have been the spectacular life-sized  bronze sculpture of a horse and rider stretched high over a jump on a street corner as we came into the town. WOW!

Had I been driving and not needing to be elsewhere at a certain time, I would have promptly turned around and returned to a spot where I could just sit still and gaze at that sculpture.

It was dark on the way back. I wanted Stephanie to take a picture so I could post it on the Blog. Or
Facebook

But we missed it. A long drive was ahead of us and everybody doesn't share my obsession about
places to live and love.

I knew little about the town except what is there  to see. Fine buildings of a soft sand-colored stone cut with truly amazing precision as if done yesterday.  Or cast in a mold.

Large  store windows are fronted with wide sidewalks. Handsome residences of another age on
the main thoroughfare and clearly viewed on side streets.

I'm in the habit of making mental notes of places but in Perth I found myself yearning.

We were in the heart of a town that had a heart and we were on Highway 7.

I cruised the internet Sunday, thinking I might find a photograph of the sculpture. I did. in the  Farmers News . It would not copy.  In any case a picture doesn't do it justice.

I went to the Town  website and discovered Perth is County seat of Lanark. Population is less than
6,000. Varies by less than a hundred up or down ,year by year.They have a Mayor  and eight Councillors.

They have theatre.

The sculpture cost $250,000 and was crafted in Georgetown. The funds were raised by Perth District Chamber of Commerce.

The  River Tay forks into two. The town sits on an island between the two branches.

Perth was named prettiest town in Ontario by T.V.Ontario.

The horse is Big Ben, his  owner and rider Ian Millar whose farm is just outside Perth.

Umpteen awards ,prizes and  a million and a half dollars were won and earned by the two in competitions.

Big Ben was a Belgian warmblood. A huge heavy horse. Lived until he was twenty-three.

Jumpers are light horses.  But this heavy horse didn't know that and he wanted to jump.

And the people of Perth, loved him for that and honor his memory.

Monday, 26 January 2015

"Follow The Yellow Brick Road"

Council is having a budget meeting tonight. The public are welcome to attend and  have input.

The town wants the public to have input.

I don't plan to attend. Not that I  don't have strong opinions on the budget.

I object to hundreds of thousands of tax dollars being transferred  to a self-appointed board with no reason to exist.,

I object to a grant of whatever -they -request  to the Historical Society.

The Town has assumed  responsibility for the museum collection, provided space for a museum and hired a full-time curator. There is no justification for continuing the grant to the Historical Society.

The other outfit doesn 't even know it 's supposed to be self-sufficient.

I am a taxpayer. I do have an informed opinion. When I was a Councillor my input on the budget had zero impact.

Why should any other citizen expect opposition to spending might make a difference?

The invitation is a scam.

Unless it's intended as an opportunity for special interests to request additional spending.

About positive versus negative.

Like the Yellow Brick Road to the Land of Oz .

Same Experience...Different Perspective

Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "How many of these fit on the head of a pin":

I was perplexed by Cllr Thompson's comment about such thing being expected when one renovates a building. If such were the case, that should have been taken into account during negotiations by both parties.
Posted by Anonymous to Our Town and Its Business at 26 January 2015 at 10:10


********************

It has not been my experience. 

Stronach Centre came in under budget and on schedule in 2006. 

Church  Street school renovations were completed on time and within budget.

Development of town-owned lands also completed within budget and on time.

Petch house was taken apart,transported to a yard, transported again to its current location and re-assembled within budget and time constraints.

All projects were under management of Recreation and Parks.

The Family Leisure Complex was taken through the design stage  by Recreation and Parks,then construction  oversight was  transferred to the Department of Environment  and Infrastructure already occupied with the $26 million dollar Joint Facility project.

The Family Leisure Centre Project  completion is  now five months late and out of funds.

Petch House stays vacant because no purpose has been assigned. The decision to install heat and
light is dependent on use and subject to the authority of the Chief Building Official.

Millions invested on developing lands at Leslie are still outstanding.
There have been no sales.
Now it just sits.
Waiting.
Providing a sterling example of why the town in its wisdom should buy and develop everything in sight

Sunday, 25 January 2015

How many of these fit on the head of a pin

I submitted a letter to the editor on Council responsibility for delayed opening and extra cost of the Family Leisure Complex addition
Whether published is a decision of the editor.
The CAO  of the town objects to  criticism. He challenges the editor's judgement Not unsimilar to  the challenge to the moderator of the Aurora Citizen Blog.  SLAPP  action launched  with town resources indicates threat is not idle.

If the letter is published, space mitigates against complete disclosure .A  review of process might re prove to be enlightening.

The youth facilities site was chosen contingent upon soil conditions. It follows soil tests were required to confirm the choice.

A variety of  activities for youth were recommended to and approved by Council.Consultants had to be retained for design services. A bidding process is necessary to choose the consultant.

Cost estimate are received and approved by Council.

Specifications  are required  for the building contract to be called

Specs must be precise for competition to be  measured.

At each step of the process, background checks must be undertaken to ensure competence and past performance.

Council approves specifications and authorises bids to be called.

Approvals are required every step of the way. At no time is Council off the hook.

To obtain specifications, contractors must submit a certified cheque. The intention is to
ensure only qualified contractors participate in the process.

Bids are opened at a time and date for all to know and attend. No decision is recommended at this step.  Not until all bids have been analyzed,backgrounds checked is a further recommendation made to Council.

Despite  the weight of responsibility, council approvals can be  given without the item being called for discussion.

Control of the meeting rests with the chair. Less discussion, faster disposal. Agendas can number hundreds of pages with dozens of  business items with

no possibility of due consideration,transparency or  accountability.

Management of a project is not decided by Council.It's an administrative matter.

Aurora is managed by a team system.

The legal division is responsible to ensure contracts represent town interest.

Chief Building Official is responsible to ensure all building complies with the Building Code adopted by Bylaw ,to ensure safety ,security and provide inspections along the way.All building  plans must be approved by the Building Department.

I think that's why the Petch House is still not in use.

Despite staff involvement,  steps  necessary for approvals, Council was informed in a public meeting proper soil investigations were not undertaken at the start,  required additional support beams were not realised until later, plans were deficient and mould  that has to be dealt with ,was  hidden in air ducts.

The final insult to Council authority was that  work on the project will stop if an  additional,$6 hundred thousand  is  not paid and  a chance of litigation was hinted at against the municipality.

The question of competence is a matter of personal judgement.

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Courage Mes Amis ...Je Reviendrai

Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "More About Hazardous Waste Heading For the Inciner...":

It is " supposed " to divert hazardous waste from the collection into the bins. everyone to whom I speak is already doing their best. Clear bags will do nothing to improve the situation. They just make the politicians feel better

Posted by Anonymous to Our Town and Its Business at 21 January 2015 at 10:0

******************
Hazardous waste does not go into bins.  Special depots have been set up within the region to receive batteries and electronic waste .

I think the devil is in the sorting  system. Too many details. Expectation of success is unrealistic.

ThIs morning I read the conditions of the environmental assessment approval....nineteen pages.

Entirely about monitoring.

An Advisory Committee is required to meet and report annually from date of approval; Oct. 2010.

The  committee  is composed of representatives from lower tier municipalities in York and Durham.
That's the town; nine in York, I don't know how many in Durham.

York is a 30% partner in the incinerator project.

I looked for annual reports that might reveal problems with public participation in garbage separation

They didn't pop up  quickly and I had had enough of repetitious jargon for one morning.

Aurora is following Markham  with the  clear bag program. It may mean Markham and Aurora are the only towns experiencing problems with participation.

It may not.

We know from back and forth here, some retailers  like Staples accept used batteries.

The CAA  took my car battery last Saturday .

We learned some  retailers are accepting plastic shopping bags for recycling.

We did not know that.

 I would guess the town didn't either. Else they would have told us...right?

$300 million public dollars have been invested on a system to dispose of garbage that depends
entirely on  public participation. .

Without it the system will not function effectively.

Yet what is required is use of a "clear (translucent) bag" as opposed to black or green.

Garbage collectors taking time to examine each bag to determine acceptability of contents.

If  acceptable bag proceeds

If not , collector removes safety gloves, retrieves sticker from wherever he keeps it. sticks it on the bag and returns it  to the curb.

Collection time is increased and more trucks and manpower required to complete the weekly collection.

It's a good thing garbage collectors are not town  employees hooked up to the Work Asset Management Software System.

I plan taking time off from the blog.

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

More About Hazardous Waste Heading For the Incinerator

community FOCUS Aurora Ontario has posted new content, 'What is the Clear
Garbage Bag Program - My Understanding'

According to the Town of Aurora the clear garbage bag program is a household
waste diversion program. It will require Aurora residents to switch from opaque
(usually black/green) garbage bags to clear (translucent) garbage bags. The
purpose of the program is to divert items away from the garbage which belong in
the recycling blue box, [...]

You may view the latest post at
http://www.livinginaurora.com/what-is-clear-garbage-bag


****************

When Margaret Thatcher was U.K. Prime  Minister an American company was permitted to build
an incinerator for toxic  waste in a  Scottish farm area

Employment was provided.

The disposal process required  exceedingly high temperatures.

Soon noticed was a high number of  still births and aborted litters among farm cats.

Cows ,with longer gestation periods aborted or had still- births or calves born with gross deformities.

Eventually, in turn, abnormally high rates of miscarriages, still-births and babies born with terrible abnormalities were noted among human mothers.

One particularly horrible example was of an infant with one eye and that in the middle of her forehead

Scottish National Television did a weekly series  covering the story in depth from start to finish .

Before they could be prosecuted the incinerator operation ceased and those responsible left the country.

Except of course for government officials responsible. The series ended without dealing with that
aspect.

A public inquiry revealed the incinerator had been deliberately operated at lower than required
temperature.

Toxic waste had been spewed unadulterated into the atmosphere to come down in rain on everything living within it's radius.

I was in Scotland for several months when the series was run.

During the decades the Region was searching for a way of dealing with garbage other than landfill,
elected  and appointed alike traipsed off to Europe to see for themselves, how the service  was being managed elsewhere.

Countries like Sweden, without landfill option, were successfully incinerating garbage.

Sweden is a country unlike many other. A social conscience is shared between government and the people. I doubt any private company is given responsibility for ensuring public and environmental safety.

Permission for  York Durham to use incineration to dispose of garbage was not easily obtained.The cost stated  in Wikipedia  was $15 million.

Capital construction was $276 million.

Claremont community opposed  the project until the bitter end.

But permission to incinerate.has conditions attached connected to successful separation of garbage stream collection.

The incinerator started operations in 2014   About the same time as the proposal to change to clear plastic bags.

Metals can  and are being recovered from the residual waste.

They are not therefore the reason as stated for the change to clear garbage bags.

There is no new hazard to garbage collectors.

York and Durham have contracted the operation of the plant while remaining entirely responsible for environmental standards.

Since this conversation started we have learned Staples and other retailers accept used  batteries.

Neither the Region nor the municipality provided that information.


Monday, 19 January 2015

Life Has Never Been Easy

Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "Spot the Strategy":

There are too many conflicts of interest in our complicated society.

Do we believe anyone or anything?

Truth and trust are two words lacking from our vocabulary.

Posted by Anonymous to Our Town and Its Business at 18 January 

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Today's society is bombarded with information. Particularly rules and regulations about what used to be matters of  personal judgement.

To be judged accordingly by electors.

Transparency and openness may be the most over-used words in our lexicon, having nothing  to do with truth ,trust or  personal judgement.

Not surprisingly, politicians have different version of truth and separate understanding of  trust .

Citizens have altered expectations of  politicians.

Conflicts of interest do exist between well-being of community-at-large and entitlement.

It's always been that way. But the pendulum has shifted . Entitlement has the upper hand.

To-days politicians are hand-maidens.

To meet the change, ordinary citizens have to pay more attention and work harder to make sense if it all.

A lot less trusting and a deal more independent thinking.

Fortunately, it becomes a habit

A Slip of The Finger Again

Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "Oh What a Tangled Web We Weave":

Anna's blog, Living In Aurora has an interesting post in regards to her take on the garbage.
http://www.livinginaurora.com/clear-garbage-bag-program-not-necessary-consider-education/

Posted by Anonymous to Our Town and Its Business at 19 January 2015 at 15:42



Oh What a Tangled Web We Weave

In the seventies as a Regional Councillor, I went to a solid waste management conference in Atlanta .

Focus was on the most effective way of handling garbage from a  cost and environmental protection
perspective.

Every method known to man had already been tried elsewhere and land fill determined to be best.

Decades rolled  by.  York Region shipped garbage at great expense and no social conscience to the States. No political fortitude  existed either at the Provincial or Regional level.

In the nineties, during the short-lived NDP government, a site for land fill was identified
in East Gwillimbury. Sufficiently remote and of sufficient size to create no problem to human habitat.

No progress was made.

Ultimately an incinerator was built. After years of opposition and environmental studies and at a cost which may never be known.

The operation is undoubtedly closely monitored and policed.

Two years later the clear garbage bag idea was floated.  Insinuated into what had previously been proclaimed to be a wildly successful program of garbage separation; combustible from recyclable and compostable and separately disposable.

I believe we have not being told all there is to know.

Something nobody thought of before they lit the flame under the York/Durham incinerator.

Something as simple as small household batteries.