"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

Monday, 27 April 2015

FROM MY BIG COMFY CHAIR

Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "A WATERSHED......PERHAPS":

"I've spent time contemplating blog's future.
Time for change? New theme. New design. Different focus. Starting over. Now and Then This and That Freewheeling. Still thinking. "

Personally, since you are no longer a sitting councillor, the pollitical ctitic role is no different than anyone else. you could sit in Tim Hortons over coffee and say the same thing with the same result.

If I were you, I would shut the whole thing down and enjoy the time off.
***************************

Your concern for my well-being is touching. But I will be judge of best practices. The right to criticize political decisions is a given but Tim Horton's is not the same as my comfy chair and IPad. 
Signs are this Council may be different to the last and the one before.  
Decisions in the best interest of the community -at -large might become the rule rather than the exception. 
Happier days may be here again but it's a long hard road back and the good guys will need all the help I can give them. 
Even if it's just filling in the details. It's often the nitty-gritty that completes the picture.

Sunday, 26 April 2015

LEST WE FORGET

In the term before last, three individuals were sued by the town's Mayor using tax resources.

A critical comment was posted anonymously to The Aurora Citizen blog. 

According to the Mayor, the CAO and solicitor were entirely occupied with the issue for several weeks.

An external lawyer was consulted for legal authority to litigate.

A further fee engendered.

The Town solicitor commenced proceedings
without specific Council authorization normally required.

The  only affidavit filed was by  town solicitor.

The decision in the case was severely critical of  the town solicitor for evasion and lying.

Separation from town employment with generous settlement resulted.  

A third lawyer was consulted by the new Council to determine if legal fees for the action should be
paid by the town.

Fee for the advice was over $8,000.

Fees incurred for the action prior to termination of the contract were  $45,000. Paid from town resources. 

Since then, further litigation by the former Mayor  to recover claimed costs of $250,000 has incurred additional cost. No final invoice or conclusion known at this time. 

The residents sued were successful in defending themselves but not in recovering full  costs. No,compensation from any  source for stress of being sued by a body with the sole function of public service. 

The case may have been without precedent but is itself a precedent. 

The town initiated the proceedings. Resources   were provided from town coffers. Incredible as it was, it did happen.

Forthright comments are welcome and appreciated They may not be published.

Discretion must be the better part of valour.

THE MORE THINGS CHANGE ??THE MORE THEY REMAIN THE SAME

A  relevant comment received to yesterday's post is not
published. 

It takes the focus from where it belongs. 

Council has final responsibility for decisions made. Staff are accountable to Council for advice provided. 

Professional advice submitted to Council in writing should be debated and accepted or      rejected.

Council is no place for a tug-of-war with staff.
Although it has been happening out-of-order for year this stand-off is particularly enlightening. 

Mayor Dawe's fetish against "micromanagement "
does not extend to his own conduct.

The Mayor recently surrendered the gavel to his trusty sidekick, to place a motion before Council for a traffic plan of his design to be reviewed by staff. 

Traffic division is part of Infrastructure and Environment.  Staff complement includes a traffic engineer. A traffic advisory committee may still be in place. Function is to plan for safe and efficient movement of traffic.Budget is likely several hundred thousand dollars. Maybe as much as the purchase of culture. 

The Mayor's motion passed without controversy. A more direct hand in management is unlikely to be seen To what purpose you may ask? 

It happens regularly and makes for  an interesting juxtaposition. 

During the Mormac era staff were replaced,Directors responsibilities shifted under the pretext of re-organizing and recruiting requirements of the Municipal Act  routinely ignored. 

New hires were undoubtedly apprised of the source of all power. She Who Must Be Obeyed exercised unlimited control under cover of receiving advice from professional staff. 

Clumsy,ugly,inept and destined to fail, it did but at great expense. Hundreds of thousands of dollars were expended totally unrelated either to public service or authority under The Act. 

The year after it ended no budget savings were noted. Budgets have continued to climb substantially ever since. 

Reckless spending is not the only thing that didn't change. 

Saturday, 25 April 2015

A WATERSHED......PERHAPS

I've spent time contemplating blog's future.  
Time for change? 
New theme.
New design. 
Different focus.
Starting over.
Now and Then
This and That 
Freewheeling.
Still thinking.

Meanwhile back at the ranch,Town Treasurer's excuses not to provide Council with information
on staff conferences prompts a reaction.

"it is going to take months " "to go through and develop a repository for 2014 for each staff person's training, what they got ....To go person to person,credential by credential"

Brock Weir, The Auroran reporter, has a tape
recorder on the desk in front of him. Be assured...the quote is accurate. 

Also nonsensical and preposterous.
Obfuscation at its worst. 
Flat obstruction of Council authority. 
In the circumstance, reasonable to surmise willful avoidance of disclosure of how funds are used.MIn a previous discussion,the CAO had a great deal to say about benefits derived and Budget funds should not be reduced by half.

At Tuesday's meeting, the Mayor took his usual stand and spluttered meaningless twaddle about Council trying to "manage the business" and if that's what they want to do, he knows of "six salaries that could be cut" and reduce the budget "big time"

Yes indeedy "big time" is what it's about.

He could not have been referring to six council salaries. In their entirety, that's not as much as the employee training and conference budget.

He opposed the motion because of all the work to obtain the information and Council did not know what they intend to do with it when they get  it. 

Apparently though, with the exception of Geoff and Jeff, Council knows quite well what they intend. 

The resolution directing staff to provide the information was approved. 

$100,000. is a third of a point in the tax rate. 

Not highly significant in a fifty-odd million dollar budget.

But in terms of a Council taking responsibility.....it's  a watershed ....long overdue.

Friday, 24 April 2015

VIRTUE OR VICE ?

Around the camp fire young ones were moving from one lap to another. Sticks were selected and marshmallows toasted. Some were thrown into the fire to flare. 
I didn't provide the marshmallows. It wasn't my place to comment.
Life experience helps to shape one's values.
Even if just a treat, for me it goes against the grain to throw marshmallows into the fire to watch them burn. 
A candle burning in a lantern on the picnic table caught  Reid's attention.He leaned his arms on the  table watching the flame. 
Several watched the four year old watching the flame, hands folded sensibly at a distance.  
Then, without warning he raised a  finger and touched the glass. The wail that rose in the dark likely struck fear in the hearts of all who heard.
Ice and various emollients were marshaled to soothe the pain. It took a bandaid for the event to become more interesting than painful. 
If only Reid could have learned without hurting himself. 
A facebook post this morning referred to a "brutally honest" obituary for a twenty four year old. She died from a heroin overdose. 
The senseless reality of the death was simply and sorrowfully stated. I found nothing "brutal".
Teen years are hazardous. Survival is not certain.
For some it's easy .For many it's not. 
In large part, the idea that honesty is brutal may be the problem.

Sunday, 19 April 2015

ALICE tHROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS

Council has discussed a staff recommendation to update the Strategic Plan.

Background details are scant.

Haste  and fanfare ushered in a downtown renewal plan before the 2010 election. It was the child of  Economic Development.

During  preparation, owners concerns about requirements were swept aside in the process. Unrealistic requirements don't necessarily stop development...though they look great in  text...they just slow it down for a decade or three.

A new Council was elected in 2010.

$85,000 for a consultant study was approved for review of the Strategic Plan. A new version  was adopted in 2012.

The new horizon of  "exceptional quality of life for all " and private investment in the downtown core was far removed from the town's ability to deliver.

The previous plan was straightforward and concise and equally meaningless. The five year review was on schedule. Considering municipal limits to influence events, no particular expertise was required. Nobody was battering down the doors with proposals to destroy the quaint charm of the block between Wellington and Mosely. 

In fact ,owners, including the town had jointly listed for sale the entire block of buildings on the west side of Yonge.

But simplicity and realistic expectations are not necessarily part of the planning exercise. It is an inexact science. 

Empires are built on less than this. 

The New Plan was adopted in 2012. 

On behalf of staff, the  CAO expressed deep appreciation for Council's confidence.

Years passed(3).  Time and vast resources were expended following various will o' the wisp endeavours in line with The 
Plan. 

The Giant  Leap Forward lurched from pillar to post.One 
Dreamy Dynamic followed another in quick succession. 

Payroll was created, re-organized,re-titled and consulted to fulfill the Grand Design. 

All for nought. Like bubbles from a clay pipe, they vanished 
like a rainbow. Except for a couple.

A final recommendation to spend millions to replace 
under-used sidewalks in the "downtown" with decorative concrete  and  stylish street furniture to create a designer showcase a la Plan was presented and failed to
gain support. And another one hit the dust. 

However, a town loan program to entice private sector investment in improvements to private property was approved.The town became a banker. 

Moving on to the current Council and a three year review of the Strategic Plan to determine what ,if anything, has been accomplished and is the town still on the right path.

Councillor Thompson is correct. 

Staff are recommending an early review. Again with the consultant fees.

Councillor Humfryes feels it can be done in house without a
Consultant.

Councillors Mrakas and Pirri see it through a similar prism.

The recommendation is referred back for staff to provide 
a " Report Card" on what has been achieved since Plan adoption in  2012.

The report should be interesting, likely creative and occupy time. 

No deadline  is proposed.

Friday, 17 April 2015

WHAT CAN THE MATTER BE

David Brooks spars with Mark Shields on PBS newshour. Both are acknowledged expert political journalists. 

Brooks writes a column for New York Times,authors books and teaches at a university.

Night before last he was a guest of Charlie Rose  to talk about a book newly published . The conversation was intense.

Individuals featured in the book all had achieved significant events that made a difference in other peoples' lives.

Mr Brooks was not renouncing his own success.  

He described his childhood. Dad had a record and music store and mother was a teacher. From seven years old, he knew he would be a writer. 

He described a moment of joy in his life. He came home from work ...his three children were tossing a ball about in the back yard in the afternoon sun and everything was perfect.

His children are now grown and successful in different parts of the world.  He is divorced but that's not significant. 

He acknowledges success in his career but stressed  "that doesn't make you happy" There needs to be an aspect of life 
that comes from giving.

There was more. The conversation has pre-occupied me since.

David Brookes is thoughtful, intelligent and a moderate thinker 
His childhood seemed ideal. His children were a joy and his career a marked success. Charlie Rose  is a friend and colleague. They move in exalted circles. 

Yet something clearly eludes him.

Wednesday, 15 April 2015

WINK? NUDGE? SAY NO MORE

Several comments to yesterday's post commended the advantage of donut shop employment. One referred specifically to Tim Horton and how friends initially laughed at the idea of a coffee and donut shop.
Tim Horton's was not initially an attractive venue. The  late Dave Thomas made Tim's what it became and it has moved along  further since he died. 
Though donut shop employment and potential opportunity was not the point of the post, it's not the reason comments weren't posted. 
I did something. I know not what. It caused the loss of the comments. 

But I think I also failed to make the  points I felt important.

Millions of dollar debt is owed to the province by students who graduated  in fields in which there are no jobs.

Government  contributes generously to universities producing these graduates. Faculties  are well compensated but  government offices are filled with graduates from other countries. 

Several generations of Canadian youth have already been processed through a system without a future. 

John Tory, Mayor of a city with a larger  budget than some Provinces, skims the surface of city problems with spins and pirouettes that dazzle the eye and delight the media. 

Premier Kathleen Wynne, esteemed leader, holds press conferences about a tiny step that may or may not reduce climate change, in terms  of conversation with a six year old grandchild. 

For most of its history Canada identified as a hewer of wood and  drawer of water.

Then two wars close together killed hundreds of thousands of Canadian youth and Canada became an immigrant and an industrial society.

Frank Stronach  came from Europe with twenty dollars in his pocket and became a billionaire. Mostly in Aurora. 

Brian Mulrooney signed a free trade agreement with the Elephant to the South and accepted  money from an arms dealer.

Now a city state is making agreements to subsidize jobs in the coffee and donut sector to solve the problem of unemployed youth. 

Those who survived wars and economic depressions, worked hard for modest wages, paid taxes and built schools, universities,colleges and hospitals for a better future for their children. 

Now they  find themselves forced out of modest homes, their only asset after a lifetime of hard work and high taxes, with higher taxes to buy culture for the privileged few.

The best their grandchildren should hope for is a job serving coffee and donuts.

And for entertainment, the spectacle of Ex -Senator Mike Duffy helping himself  generously at the public trough.

Or perhaps the adventure of an expedition to  Ukraine, courtesy of our federal government at a cost of half a billion dollars, to intervene in that country's domestic politics.

No lessons learned there from chaos in Iraq resulting from divine intervention of the wise and righteous. 

Wink Wink. Nudge nudge. Say no more.Say no more.

CHEESH

I'm scheduled to have one eye cataract surgery next Monday.
I haven't been advised not to read and write and gaze at the IPad screen for many hours every day but considering the discomfort experienced by mid-afternoon, I conclude it to be wise. 
I have a quick comment on Mayor John Tory's plan for youth employment in the city. Starbucks is to partner with the city
Along with twelve other business . Looks  like employers will receive subsidy.
It's not a new idea.
If Starbucks is a typical partner, It's not a good idea. 
Yes !Yes ! I know , it sounds like a positive step in the right direction.
Except that ....Donut shops  are not career oriented jobs. 
They pay minimum  or close to minimum wages. Subsidy  from government makes it less than minimum for employers
Donut shop jobs are not hard to find. 
"It's better than being unemployed" 
That depends on who you talk to. 
If you have a B.A or Masters Degree in Fashion Design,work in a donut shop is not a confidence builder or job experience  to add to a  professional resume. 
People who work in donut shops can hold their heads up as high as the next person for doing an honest day's work for an honest day's pay. 
But it's not the answer for thousands of university graduates with hundreds of thousands of dollars of debt. 
Maybe glib,fast-talking Mayor should scrutinize  the city's sunshine list for a handle why  the job supply continues to shrink. Except  for those upon whom the sun shines.
Judging by pay scales recently in the news, university teaching instructor on contract employment are not much better off than donut shop workers. 
Special Ed teaching aides were first cuts from the Toronto Boardof Education payroll  after the Province' last Settlement with teachers. 
Maybd he should think about multitudes of youngsters  coming out of Ontario Schools without basic skills and predictable futures in custodial institutions. 
I received a questionnaire from Ontario Liberals last week. I 
wonder about the salary for choosing the questions. 
Premier Kathleen Wynne wants to be able to explain to her six-year old grand-daughter merits of the Cap and Trade 
Agreement with Quebec to reduce climate change. 
A Conservative spokesperson says "the people" will not stand for price  increases which will result. 
He must have  been snoozing in the last election.
And why wasn't Christine Elliott out there supporting the agreement and giving an adult explanation for so doing.