Monday, May 31, 2010
Nobody should have any illusion about the nature of this post. It's political. I am a politician. I make no apology. I do not pretend to be anything but what I am. I don't have to.
I like who I am.
In my book, being a politician is an honourable endeavour.
Anyone who imagines there is something degrading about what I do and how I do it is out to lunch in left field , up the spout, out of their tree, one brick short of a load, not playing with a full deck and any and all expressions that signify a defining limit to mental competence.
They don't have a snowball's chance in hell of persuading me to be any different.
I enjoyed politics before when I had to depend on the media to interpret what I was saying .
I never dreamed of the day I would have power and freedom to convey my ideas and views straight from my own pen, so-to-speak.
The face of politics is forever changed and changing because of the social media.
Nowhere more so than at the municipal level.
It's as it should be.
Make way for the gang busters.
Sunday, May 30, 2010
I remembered something I need to tell you.
I was not elected until my third try.I was second from the bottom of the table. But I didn't much care about that. We had two year terms. When I started it was one year. There wasn't that much time between the first time and the third. Enough though, to add a couple of members to my family.
When my first term ended, I wasn't thinking about moving up the table.
We had offices of Mayor, Reeve and Deputy Reeve.. These last two were the town's representation on County Council. It was the last before the Region was created.
The Reeve's office was open . No incumbent.
Stew Patrick and Jack Williamson declared themselves in the running for it.
As I said, I wasn't paying much attention to the top of the table. Until I heard both candidates were canvassing my neighbourhood and telling my neighbours they shouldn't vote for me in the upcoming election.
Well, of course I heard about it.
Is that so, I thought. Not without indignation. I was like that in those days.
I decided, if I'm going to have to run against those two, I might as well compete for the same office.
So I did.
They were veteran councillors.
I was a newby.
I beat them both. Got more votes than the two of them put together.
Come election night....watching the votes coming in....it was like things were happening exactly how they were supposed to.
Much was accomplished in the garden yesterday and on Friday evening. It's just about perfect for sitting now. But I do have some plants I bought on Friday that should go into the ground earlier rather than later.
So today's story is a short one, I think. I never know when I start it, where it will go and how it will end. Sometimes it takes a most surprising twist.
Yesterday I wrote somewhat about the grand plan for Morris' re-election. This is a little side snippet.
At the opening of the Church Street School, I met a former library board member, now a member of the Church Street school board.
We were on the library board together for three years. I moved his name forward for special recognition. We had many friendly chats.
On the night of the opening, he greeted me and introduced himself. He reminded me we had been on the library board together for three years and did good work to-gether.
I listened to the rest of his comments to catch signs of any one of the following:
Was he treating me like a person who had lost her wits because he believed that to be so?
Had he himself lost his wits poor thing ? He's not much more youthful than I am myself.
Or was the entire performance a colossal insult to my intelligence ?
The last was the least likely. I knew him as a man of manners and style.
His conversation bore no sign of confusion.If he had lost his wits it wasn't evident.
That left only one conclusion. He was speaking to me as if I had no recollection of recent events. Why would he make that assumption without having had a conversation with me since the night of the award I put his name forward to receive. He probably never knew that.
The obvious answer was, he made no such assumption. Someone must have told him I had lost my wits.
Now, who would that be?
Who has spent more than forty months and tens of thousands of tax dollars in legal fees to shut down this blog ? And failed. Now Plan 2 is obviously being brought to the fore and propelled by force.
Well, we all know who. Let's all give a friendly wave
Saturday, May 29, 2010
I believe that Mr. Ballard began his career as a journalist, and may have even worked for The Banner at one point, or perhaps one of the papers that merged to become the Era Banner.
May 29, 2010 6:30 AM
Isn't that interesting!! Ken Whitehurst used to be a small pooh-ba in that string of newspapers.
As did Jason Ballantyne our new Communications Director and Mayoralty speech writer at public expense, sine qua non a Masters Degree.
Many people in town are of the impression the Mayor has shares in the Banner. Some have even gone so far as to call it MayoraBanner as opposed to Aurora Banner.
Of course that's highly unlikely. But you know the theory about perception being nine-tenths of the law !!
OOps No...... It's Possession that's nine-tenths?
Perception has a different factor in reality.
Quite apart from all that....it's a cozy little circle isn't it?
There's the illusion some have, the Town's name has already been informally changed to Phyllistenetown.
Having been inphylltrated with an inphyllible army and taken over without a single shot being fired.
Evidence of blood, sweat, tears and bodies everywhere notwithstanding.
With all these journphyllists present we could have a special edition of Mad Magazine call it Phyllis' election team and campaign.... no expenses to be declared on the Candidate's Statement of Election Expenses.
You have to admire the clever schem- er- plan..
Where are you York University, Political Guru, Professor Robert McDiarmid?
Are you keeping score and taking fastidious notes for future dissertation on municipal politics and how she is fought and paid for in Phyllistenetown?????
You won't find it on the computer record list of Ontario municipalities.
But keep looking .
It's out here in never- again land
Friday, May 28, 2010
Who is this guy Ballard? Why is he Chair of an Advisory Committee? Isn't a Chair supposed to be elected? Why is he speaking with authority against an Official Plan Amendment at Centre and Yonge?
He went on." I asked The Banner, why they went to him for a story? What does he have to do with anything?"
The Banner said they didn't . He came to them.
Michael is one of the few surviving retailers on Yonge Street. He was a candidate for Council once. He stays on top of things and keeps Council aware of steadily deteriorating conditions
He attended every public planning hearing on the numerous applications on the above noted property and urged various councils to proceed for the benefit of downtown. . Until now, to deaf ears. . If anyone knows how hard it is to make a living in the down-town block, He's the Man.
I told Michael what I knew.
Chris Ballard is a friend of the Mayor.
Committee chairs should be elected officials.
Mr. Ballard is a consultant. I think, communications. I believe Aurora is or has been his client at some point
Going to The Banner would probably be the Mayor's idea. To put pressure on Councillors Wilson and Granger to make them change their minds.
There's an army of Morris Minions in and out of the Council ,whose function it is to say or write things she wants to be said but not by her. It's the most transparent aspect of Mayor Morris.
At the Town Hall, the word is; "Just do it. Keep her happy"
When Michael came to Council a few weeks ago with photographs of recently vacated stores on both sides of Yonge Street, there was a disparaging letter in The Banner about his hardware store a week later.
No critical comment ever goes unpunished.
It's a good thing Michael wasn't looking for support or encouragement from Town Hall, He would have been disappointed.
Three people came to Council on Tuesday to speak in support of the application.
Mr. Lee congratulated Councillors for "their courage"
The Mayor reminded him of " a problem" he had , she had assisted him with and would likely do so again.
No doubt, it was just a friendly reminder.
Gordon Barnes, however, is a great friend and supporter of the Mayor and all volunteers. He advised Council in stentorian terms "We live under the rule of law. Not under the law of expediency" in his opposition to the proposal.
I am not exactly sure expediency was the term for dealing with the same application umpteen times at great expense to the applicant and the municipality and failing to make a recognizable decision.
In the meantime, every new owner pays more for the property and has to get more out of it to make any project economically feasible. Had it been built five years ago it would have probably been two floors lower.
Mr. Barnes always informs Council, he lives at 11 Catherine Street.
That's behind the proposed building site, currently the most blighted and slum-like in our down- town and growing worse by the day.
At every public planning meeting , the building's architect is obliged to spend time addressing precisely where shadows will fall at particular times of the day.
Mr. Barnes is a gardener and grows many different varieties of tomatoes.
Speaking on the issue, the Mayor had much to say about the mandate she received from the voters to maintain the small town quality.
It certainly appears to be a popular concept. Candidates make that solemn vow every time we have an election.
I listen and wonder; what place are they are talking about?
I have lived here for nigh on fifty years. I have had the privilege of serving on Council and sharing neighbours whose familes have lived here for several generations.
To-day's centre block of Aurora resembles nothing of the progressive bustling town Aurora once was.
Pshaw!!! Madame Mayor.
What are you and your friends talking about ?
Where are you from?
Do you hear yourselves speak ?
Who gave Chris Ballard authority to speak for the Town of Aurora, she asked, knowing the answer full well.
Thursday, May 27, 2010
In 2007,included for the second time in the budget, was replacement of playground equipment in the Harry Seston Park.
Councillor MacEachern stated it was her neighbourhood. Speaking for her neighbours . she said they would be wondering why we were wasting taxpayers money on replacing the equipment.
The $70 thousand item was removed because the Councillor was once again the ultimate authority.
Before the budget was confirmed. two mothers came to Council. They'd been reading about all the wonderful things happening elsewhere in town, like the traffic calming plan in the northeast
That neighbourhood had been identified by the Mayor as " special". They wondered when it would be their turn for consideration. The mothers were very respectful.
They were unaware money had been budgeted several times and removed.
While they were there, Councillor MacEachern challenged the Director of Leisure Services for his statement that none of the playground equipment was dangerous.
He confirmed his advice. None of the equipment is dangerous. The town removes dangerous equipment to ensure no child will be injured by unsafe equipment in a town park.
The item however remained out of the budget.
It was included in 2008. The two mothers were invited to participate in planning and selection of equipment and helped to see the project to completion.
At the end, they came to Council to express profound appreciation for Council's generosity.
They never understood their playground equipment was recommended by staff for replacement and removed by a political decision of Council.
Even while quarter of a million dollars were spent on the traffic calming project in the Mayor's "Special" Heritage neighbourhood .
I believe we even provided a grant for new equipment to a private playground in a co-op housing project that year.
The story illustrates Mormac Political Strategy at it's smoothest, finest and most effective.
Clever ?? Oh Yes .
Calculating?? Undoubtedly so.
Trustworthy??? Not by my standards..
Watching trusting individuals being used that way does little to elevate our public standards.
Wednesday morning we had an interruption.
Hydro One's timeline for need to increase the power supply was 2006
In 2007 , Aurora Cable battled Mormac for months for wind turbines for a back-up supply to protect equipment from damage during brown-outs; the first sign of supply shortage.
It's summer 2010.
Four years past the deadline. No peaker plant in place yet.
Tuesday, Aurora council discussed separate objectives for the public and private sector.
We directed staff to ensure conservation measures in the building proposed for the corner of Centre and Yonge Street. Very righteous. Very proper.
The question before us was an application for a change in land use.But no matter.
Later in the same agenda, we debated a diesel fueled generator for back up supply of energy at the town hall during a possible emergency. Natural gas had been rejected previously. Green energy was never an option.
We installed natural gas in Church Street school as opposed to a pump drawing heat from the ground .
Yes, I know installation is more expensive. We had a grant in hand for the project. Energy from the earth contributes nothing to the carbon footprint.
These were two conspicuous opportunities to make a difference. We didn't take them.
We have a Citizens Environmental Advisory Committee.
We re-named Public Works, Environment and Infrastructure Department.
We have had an environmental engineer on the payroll for three years to "identify" environmental initiatives.
None thus far identified. I've been asking.
Should an interruption of power happen,as it well may, in fact has already and computers go down, memory may be lost.
It would certainly be an emergency of catastrophic proportions.
OF OUR OWN MAKING.
Wednesday, May 26, 2010
At the end of the first workshop held to introduce the concept of ethics to the Council which appointed him, boycotted by the Mormac Twins , it occurred to me to ask Mr. Nitkin about his experience with municipal councils.
He parried the question . I pursued it. He posed the potential of collegiality.
My reaction may have been slightly less than mannerly.
I was reminded of the exchange last night:
Early in the first year of the term, a couple of young Aurora Grove mothers came to Council with a request. They were planning a ten year anniversary celebration of their school in their park.
They needed picnic tables and a couple of litter barrels. They asked for fees to be waived.
The fee was about $85. The park is tidied up before the event. Picnic tables and litter barrels are delivered. The park is tidied up after the event.The fee was similar to that for a soccer game.
No fees are charged for use of a park.
I argued in support. Such events grow a community. I think that's a worthy cause.
Council refused again.
Last night Well's Street school parents asked for fees to be waived to hold the last graduation celebration in the town park with use of the band shell.
The fees are $300.
A motion was moved and seconded to waive the fees.
The hour was late. I felt the same about the Wells St, School celebration as I did about Aurora Grove. But there was a case to be made for equality and consistency.
If the young parents in Aurora Grove could not be accommodated,why would council make a different decision for the Wells Street school neighbourhood.
Such inequality serves to divide a community.It makes people feel they don't count.
I did not choose to make the argument.The hour was late. When the vote was called, I did not indicate support.
Eagle-eyed Councillor MacEachern called immediately for a recorded vote.
I hit my button."If there's going to be recorded vote, there's going to be a debate" I said.
The Mayor, however, directed the Clerk to record the vote.
Whereupon, I left the council chamber and returned after the vote.My vote was not recorded.
It was an eventful meeting.
There is more to be told.
When I awoke this morning, my first thought was of David Nitkin and his quaint notion of collegiality on Aurora Council.
Monday, May 24, 2010
This year, I doubt it was more than a couple of hours
The water in the pool cover is lower than usual. It's been pumped out a couple of times already.
They come down in the water and find sustenance there.Then they hoist themselves onto the deck. They take turns sleeping. One rests on the warm concrete while the other watches.
She had trouble getting up the tarp ....kept slipping back.. He stayed behind until she made it. Then he had the same problem. We didn't see them leave and they didn't come back.
Of all the birds that live in my fifty by sixty-three feet backyard, robin is undoubtedly the smartest.
They usually stay separate. They're handsome but not flashy. They're relatively quiet and hunt by listening and are always successful.
Last week, there was a great hullabuloo.. A squirel came tearing out of a tree with two robins hard on his tail.He raced across the yard and hid in the cedar hedge .They were on top of him all the way.
He broke out of the hedge and raced up a tree with the robins still on his back. He vanished from sight along the telephone wires. They were still driving him forward with angry and determined clicks. .
I doubt he'll be back before the eggs hatch.
Robin stands watch.
Cardinals appear in a flash of brilliance but never stay put. Blue jays show up full of noise
and apparent industry and take off.
Robin appears in a place with a clear view to everywhere and stands sentinel.
He perches and peers. There might be twenty-five feet between us but he stares as if he's
"I'm watching you. Make a move and you'll see."
In a matter of weeks, fledglings will take wing.
There will be a heck of a ruckus . For a week, fat chicks will wobble on the wires . Cats will be seen lurking.
If feathers are to be found, they are usually of the hue of blue.
Sunday, May 23, 2010
But the last sidewalk rise on the north side of Tyler Street is wot dun me in.
I stopped dead at the foot of the United Church steps. Ahead was the vast vacant expanse of Yonge Street . A teeming Metropolis, it was not. Sitting on a scooter gazing at it for twenty minutes provides a complete perspective.
It was 10.30 Saturday morning . You could roll a bowling ball down the centre of each sidewalk and risk hitting not a living soul. A customer swinging his legs over the top rail of the ramp outside the Bank of Commerce was the only sign of life.
I've ridden my bike to the orchards at the north end of town and sat on a tree stump looking down at the town at six o'clock in the morning for a similar view of activity.
A few people walked around me. A couple circled bicycles past me. I was in the centre of the sidewalk.
Then a woman's voice said: "Do you need help?"
"Do you know anything about scooters?" I asked. She didn't. But that slight lady, younger than myself, knew more than I.
Turn it off and take the key out. Put the key back in and start it again. And it did. I was off and running, so-to-speak, and once again on my way to the market.
Thank you, neighbour.
It was a nice visit to the Market but not as relaxed as it might have been.
The scooter was charged several times since the season changed, It was fully charged two nights before. I didn't use it. I thought the charge would still be in there.The needle was erratic when I set out. I went back and forth a few times and decided to go.
The manual says a full charge lasts twelve hours and a 100 kms. I was only going six kms and for no longer than a couple of hours. It should be alright. I wanted it to be so.
Coming home was problematic. I could have gone back along the railway but I wasn't sure of sidewalks. So, I didn't. Theresa was in the car. If I needed her. she needed to find me.
I needed her. A sidewalk gradient a fraction greater than others stopped me again. When I did the key thing, the scooters front wheels lifted ever so slightly off the ground.
Oh- Oh ...I thought. Ass -over- tea-kettle is not the image I wish to project nor how I wished to exit the world.
When I heard the voice behind me asking "Evelyn, are you in trouble?" I knew the gods were with me.
I know I don't fit the model of Fair Damsel in Distress.
But William(Bill) the Red Allison, Of Willow Farms, North Aurora, Pipe Major of the White Heather Pipe Band, was certainly my Knight in Shining Red Helmet.
He pushed me and my scooter, with the help of the failing battery, half- way home and the rest of the way in the rain, by himself.
Sidewalk or no sidewalk , full charge or no, I will never go up and down that hill again. 'Cept maybe if I lose a hundred pounds or grow a pair of wings.
Bill's wife Donna came into the house and had a coffee while we awaited her valiant spouse.
Turns out Bill reads my blog. Our conversation continued as if we had talked the day before.
Tim Jones had been urging Bill to think about being a candidate. He feels his children are too young.
I think that's when a person should be doing it. When their experience is the same as most other families in the town.
I think a man who jumps out of his car to spend hours in the middle of a Saturday to physically help somebody out of a real predicament, is exactly the kind of person who should run for Council.
Council is about overseeing the business of the corporation. Ours is a small town. We have a multi-million dollar administration to manage the day to day operation.
It's not about listening to nittering and nattering until all hours of the night. Or creating problems that don't exist and failing to solve the ones that do.
It's not about clinging together in a block and giving a totally, irrational, individual absolute power to take revenge on imagined enemies, make life miserable for everyone around and spend hundreds of thousands of tax dollars for legal fees to settle political scores.
And hundreds of thousands more, to buy votes by acceding to selfish and self-serving demands. because they never had any intention of fulfilling commitments and don't know any other way to ensure re-election.
That is not what a Council is about.
We need people like Bill Allison. We need to assure them their families will not be the losers. Council hours should accommodate members. Families should benefit from the experience along with every other young family in the community.
It should not be about sacrifice.It's a worthwhile experience that cannot be duplicated anywhere.
Sometimes a citizen needs to hear that he or she is needed and that's all it takes.
So, if you know someone like Bill Allison or his wife Donna, encourage them to come forward as candidates.
Tell them.....God knows, the need has never been so great.
Friday, May 21, 2010
The meeting was a Special General Committee Meeting on June 18th, 2007. It was not televised, but a copy of a disc can be requested from the Town I believe.
Here is the link to the minutes on the Town's website:
I remember the night well. You are correct Evelyn, Grainger had to be told more than once to leave. He had no idea what was going on.
What the minutes clearly show, and speak volumes, is the fact that Wilson didn't arrive until 8:30 and walked back out with the rest at 8:40, having no idea why he was breaking quorum, other than he was told to.
May 20, 2010 7:26 P.M.
I print Grace's comment because it illustrates so well how much we lost when she resigned.
Her mind has a special discipline. It records everything. And everything is orderly and precise.
I still turn to Grace when I need access to an administrative perspective and I have hit the Berlin Wall at the Town Hall.
I have another reason to print the comment.
This week, I received a couple of vile comments to a post. There was continual flow before the law suit started.
The commenter challenged me to document my use of the word "pack"
In the post on the vote to approve the building at Yonge and Centre, I noted the decision was not final. It has to be approved by Council.
I said I would not hold my breath. I noted Councillors Wilson and Grainger do not normally break from the pack.
Grace's comment illustrates the meaning of the word " pack" beautifully.
At the Special Meeting to receive the audit report, Councillors Grainger and Wilson had no idea what was happening . Nevertheless, they followed the Trinity of Morris, MacEachern and Gaertner out of the meeting in high dudgeon.
Straggling, bizarre and unwitting; they trouped out in a "pack"
I rest my case.
Thursday, May 20, 2010
Proposals for the site have been numerous and regularly presented at public planning meetings. Each time, dozens of hours have been spent by planning staff on all the detailed work necessary to process a plan.To say nothing of the efforts and expenses of the site owner
In the last term, we went through the exercise several times.
Neighbours came out to comment.
Michael Evans. a retail operator nearby on Yonge Street urged approval. The downtown is dying, we desperately need help, he pleaded.
In 2005, approval in principle was granted for a building 5/6 storeys.
In 2007. the proposal came back. As noted above, no decision made.
The site has been sold and re-sold repeatedly. Years pass. Land grows scarcer and more expensive. Construction costs increase.The site grows steadily more dilapidated.
No development is possible that isn't economically feasible.That's a given.
A couple of weeks ago, in council, the Mayor made a presentation on the dreadful state of down-town in which she appeared to claim, this Council, her Council, had given approval in principle to the last design at Yonge and Centre.
It wasn't so but we find ourselves on many occasions, tippy-toeing, just to keep mayhem from erupting. There is nothing elevating about being party to a public spectacle.
This week's planning report chronicled events exactly as they had happened.
The new proposal has an extra storey but less height.
A motion was made to recommend approval of the development application to Council.
Councillor Mac Eachern spoke against the motion. The Consultant Study for the Yonge Wellington Core is in the works she said. We should wait for its finalization.
The same argument of Councillor Gaertner a couple of weeks ago against a staff recommended sign variance for a gas station.
The Mayor enjoined that argument.
Then started the tussle to compel staff to indicate completion of the precious promenade study is imminent.
Staff were unable to oblige.The harder the Mayor pressed, first with the planner, then with the CAO, then back to the planner , dates became firmer rather than fuzzier.
Depending on public input, the study which will apparently magically,instantly and completely remove the doldrums from the downtown core with no help from private investment, will not be completed before October
Hallelujah!! the month of the election.
The Mayor lamented; as chair of the steering committee(mentioned several times) had staff informed her before, she would have pressed for additional meetings to get it through faster.
Still the table talk swirled. Round and round it goes, where it stops nobody knows.
What we do know is, if it's not clear the vote will go as the Mayor wishes , the question will not normally be put.
Except .... on Tuesday ..... Councillor McRoberts was in the chair. The question was put. The vote was five to four to approve.
Mayor Morris, Councillors MacEachern, Gaertner and Gallo voted against;
The building proposal has 78 condo units with commercial space at ground level.
Neighbours were informed. No concerns indicated.
It would improve the town's assessment base by no less than thirty million dollars.
The worst blight in the core would be consigned to history.
A hundred and fifty shoppers would be added to the neighbourhood.
Potentially more transit users.
Less cars on the road.
Less urban sprawl.
Public infrastructure would be more efficiently utilized. Therefore more economically productive.
An allocation of service units, held for at least five years, would finally be utilised.
Provincially mandated goal of intensification would be realized.
But wait.... approval is not confirmed by Council until next Tuesday.
Councillors Wilson and Granger are not in the habit of breaking from the pack.
We will not hold our breath .
Wednesday, May 19, 2010
It's high time you stop wasting your precious time with the pea brains and put that pen of yours to something worth while , Like an autobiography, it would be an over night sensation and #1 best seller
Go for it!!
It's an interesting piece of advice.. I can take it two ways:
Stop writing stuff that isn't worthwhile....or
Stop writing stuff that isn't worthwhile and tell us the story of your life.
But I am telling you bits and pieces of it here and there. Anybody who writes is telling the reader everything about themselves. Soon you will know everything I know about myself.
In reading, there's nothing to distract; no beguiling smile, sparkling blue eyes or riveting gaze out of a sea of wrinkles.
Only the words.
I love words. I know I can put them together. I like to do it. I always watch writers being interviewed. I listen for the secret that reveals how to create fiction.
I know it's like building a house. Still I don't. I have no interest in creating fiction.
I am a chronicler.
Is that a word?
It is now.
They say; write about what you know.I do that.
Other things I do are similar. I write first thing in the morning. Three or four hours go by without my noticing.
I wrote when I was very young. Letters mostly; to my brother who went away to a seminary when he was eleven and I was seven. They were never sent. I never had a penny for a stamp.
In Primary 3, first class after the summer; Sister Eugenius told us to write about where we went for holidays.
We hadn't left home. .The shore was close. Most days, my sister and I were there together. I don't know where our mother went. Probably to our grandmother's house.
Anyway, the only thing I could think to write about was a movie I saw. The title was Four Feathers I've seen it again since. It' s a classic.
We'd been taught a line of poetry was a good way to end a composition.
I finished with a line from A Babbling Brook by Alfred Lord Tennyson .
"For men may come and men may go but I go on forever"
I was pleased with the composition. I didn't have to struggle. It was several pages long.
It was returned to me with a sniff and the comment; "the poem isn't suitable"
I was eight years old and already conscious the teacher assumed everyone would have been away on vacation.
I have no idea why she thought that.
Nobody I knew ever knew a writer.
Nobody talked about what they would like to be when they grew up. No-one asked or made suggestions.
My sister desperately wanted to be somebody else.She was two years older than I was. I had to play her pretend game.
I bet if I had ever thought or said I would like to be a writer, I would have had that knocked out of me pronto. I don't mean physically. There are many ways to put a child down.
In Aurora I wrote letters to the editor. Then I wrote a weekly column for eleven years.
But I had to wait until Blog came into my life.for things to happen the way they should. Opportunity presented itself. You have to know it when you see it.
My immediate objective now is to acquire the thingy that stores posts. independent of the computer.
I think I am writing a book. At some point, I will sort the posts into order and publish.
My computer is always inviting me to do that at $14.95 a pop.
Maybe I'll do one before the election.
I found reference to fire drills and fire-fighting. It didn't give amount used, expenditure or source of revenue.
It was in the paragraph referring to "water loss" Pshaw!!!! Do I look like an idiot?
I found $15 thousand in capital works for a water carrier or tank truck. No reference to water use.
The budget has columns identifying expenditure, previous year's cost, increase and source of funding; be that reserves, tax levy or part this and part that.
But there's nothing....Neither Nil, Zip, Zilch or Zero. Not that I can see.
I asked for help. Didn't get it.
I think about hundreds of thousands, millions. maybe billions of gallons of water used to create summer ice in a building with a metal clad roof. I know it's hundreds of thousands of gallons a day. Every time I think about it the flow grows.
There's a splash pad in the town park. Town swimming pools. Roads being flushed and mains merrily swabbed.
There's the town hall with toilets gushing and multiple hands washing.
All are tax supported.
Tax increase for 2010 shows at 2.8 per cent Won't that look good on a campaign leaflet?
Water rate increase on the other hand is 14%.
Water loss which includes, fire department but no other town department, was increased from 8% to 12% for no reason I can see.
$250.thousand was shifted from an expenditure against a capital reserve account to a charge on the water rates . Outrageous !!!!
Now....I have an admission to make.
I have always considered water meters a sly, sneaky, shifty, and thoroughly underhanded means of removing sewers from the tax bill.
Taxes were not reduced because of the shift. Perish the thought. We just got an extra bill.
I never appreciated a storm sewer rate tacked on to the water rates.
Storm sewers are part of road infrastructure.They have nothing to do with water consumption.
Roads and transportation are tax supported. Storm sewers keep our lots and roadways from flooding.
Ice arenas and swimming pools are supported by user fees....supposedly.
How can the fee be calculated without all costs factored ?
I have heard arguments whether debt should be a factor.... water is never mentioned.
I believe water rates are just a handy way for whoever is exercising power to fondle the numbers fudge the figures and fake the fiduciary .
Gas and electric companies and anybody else with a monopoly have to justify their rates.
Why not the suppliers of water?
Tuesday, May 18, 2010
Too fast and too precious to waste.
On Monday, I found my thoughts cast back further. Television reported an item about the name of a new Irish pub. It triggered a reaction..
"Durrty Nell" was the name. No doubt intended to amuse. Like"Ugly Betty" for comedy T.V.
I did not see the humour. I thought about why...... am I out-of-step ?
I heard another objectionable comment after Becker ended at 11.30 p.m.
Five guys in a circle in the Casino Rama Grill Room talking about sports. The topic was Montreal's loss to Pittsburgh.
"I hate Montreal. I'm waiting for them to die like the dogs they are"
Why do people use language that way? All day I had pondered my negative reaction to the name of a new Toronto pub.
Being in good part Irish, it's obviously insulting to my heritage..
But that wasn't it.
I went to sleep with the thought in my head. Why do certain words always trigger the same reaction
In the morning, I knew why.
In my class in primary school was a boy named Paddy McCart. His mother was a familiar figure.
Maggie was often to be seen. Short, lank dark hair close to her head, arms clasped across her body, to keep warmth in and cold out. She had no coat, wore little more than a cheap thin cotton over-all. No stockings . Her feet in cheap "sand shoes" seemed barely to touch the ground as she hurried everywhere emitting a constant low moaning sound...almost like a whimper.
Paddy was one of the boys in the back row. He was dirty as were his clothes. I don't remember bad behaviour. More likely he wasn't learning.
Paddy was frequently called to front of class. The nun would hold him at arm's length and beat him across his chapped and filthy legs with a long heavy leather strap wrapped around her hand for greater hitting strength.
He was regularly made to stand facing into a corner. Sometimes kneel for a long time on the hard floor facing the class.
Paddy McCart was not the only boy in that condition subjected to that treatment.
Then there were others. Mark Pieroni and John McAtamany. They sat in front seats. Mark was left-handed and had to learn to be right-handed. John needed extra attention. They were nice boys. Hair always brushed and shining and they wore suits and neat knee high socks of best quality.Their shoes were never down-at-heel and always polished to a high shine.
Mark's parents owned a billiard room with a hall above where parish dances were held.He was the youngest in a family of boys.
John's family owned a tavern on the High Street. One sister,May, played organ in the church .
Vera, the second sister was a soloist in the choir.John was the youngest and only son.
They catered weddings and every year, breakfast after First Holy Communion was held in a room at the back with a cobbled stone floor and long trestle tables with snow-white tablecloths. As we left, each child received a bag of goodies and a penny. I remember the sun streaming into the room on that special day.
Years later, my mother filled in details about Paddy's father. Sober, he was not in his right mind.Mostly he was blind drunk.
There was brutality in the home.
For Paddy, there was brutality in school as well.
There was no compassion anywhere for the nine year old and others like him.
But a powerful aversion to cruelty and injustice grew in the heart of another nine year old.
Decades later, I still have a visceral reaction to names like "Durrty Nell" and "Ugly Betty"
I've never told anyone that story before.
It's not for polite company.
Thank you for reading it.
Now you know my dirty little secret. It's what makes me run and occasionally causes my rage to run over.
Don't mess with me.
Monday, May 17, 2010
I know there's a more professional way of setting this up. Next year I resolve to take lessons at the Senior's Computer Club.
Retaining legal counsel to settle political scores happened consistently during in-camera meetings.
The Special Meeting referred to in the post was public. It was to receive the first report of a new team of in-house auditors. The six northern municipalities of the region have an association to do things to-gether with more economical efficiency than we can do them apart.
It was an in-house audit system, intended to be on-going, as opposed to, but in addition to, the annual audit required by Provincial regulation. My impression is the auditors are employed by the region. So that also is a plus.
The meeting would not have been covered by Cable. Only Council Meetings are. If we allowed Rogers to install their cameras as requested months ago, we could probably have much more taping. Rogers asked for an agreement months ago. The equipment they would install is very expensive. They wanted an agreement that would assure them they could take it back if necessary.
They got neither that nor an answer to their request as far as I know.
Oops! I just remembered. That was another matter stuck behind closed doors. For a reason I cannot fathom.
We have cameras in the chamber and tapes can be produced .
I can't remember the date of the meeting but I think it was not much more than six months into the term.
There may be no-one left in the clerk's department, who was there at the time. The clerk is the keeper of the records. Only a couple of members of the senior management team have survived.
If I ask anyone on staff to track down the date, I may be putting them at risk.
You might check with Councillor McRoberts,Collins Mrakas and/or former Councillor Grace
Marsh. They may be a little hazy on the early details of the meeting.
They were on a fast learning curve at the time. They had been refused the regular orientation provided to new Councillors. They didn't even know it was their authority to decide. And they weren't paying much attention to anything I had to tell them.
Re-orientation helps to form cohesion between staff and Councillors, as well as bringing them up to speed on town business.
Better informed Councillors were apparently not considered an asset to the Mormac 's concept of exercising absolute power.
And y'all know what's said about absolute power.
The contrived and strategic questions of the all-candidate meeting organized by Susan Walmer, campaign supporter of Morris, no doubt contributed to the outcome. But it was hardly a sweep.
Twelve thousand people voted. Seven thousand did not vote for the winner.
A Sports Coalition had also organized an all-candidate meeting. The victory party was held at Aurora Men's Soccer Clubhouse.
Generally, a winner is conscious of votes not won. When campaigning ends, effort leans towards mending fences and striving to re-assure all will be fairly represented..
Not this pair.
An in-camera meeting was called almost immediately. A discovery the Mayor claimed indicated her privacy had been invaded and needed urgent attention. It was the first time a solicitor was retained by Council.
But not at personal expense, was the Mayor's adamant declaration.
Now it seems, though it was not obvious at the time, the vehemence of the statement was likely in response to staff advice given previously but never provided to Council as a whole.
I tend to deal with what I see, hear and read. The silence from the administration on the Mayor's predilection for retaining legal counsel always mystified me.
I had never dealt with the circumstance before. I may have failed there.I voted against the recommendation but I'm tormented that there may have been something more I could have done.
It was the start of a two year witch hunt. It ended with unknown town resources expended on two solicitors, no solicitor/client communications circulated at any time and advice that if there had been an invasion of privacy, it would be a civil matter to be taken up by the person whose privacy was felt to have been invaded.
At the start of it, a Special Meeting of Council was held to receive a first report from an in-house team of auditors. The system was shared with six northern municipalities and assistance from the Region.
Councillor MacEachern chose the opportunity to ask if their auditing included monitoring of telephone service. The question was not relevant to the business before Council.
No ruling emanated from the chair.
I called a point of order.
The point was over-ruled. The irrelevant question was repeated.
The Chair ordered me to apologize or be expelled.
I politely refused to oblige to either.
Councillor Gaertner declared her refusal to stay in a meeting where the chair was not respected. She left .
The block numbered five then. Morris, MacEachern and Wilson rose to follow. Councillor Granger still sat.
The Mayor looked back and said sharply. "Stephen, come along" .And Stephen went too.
A mystified auditor, mouth open in mid-speak and amazement still stood at the podium. Reporting had barely begun. A second auditor was present. The entire administrative staff were seated at the table.
New Councillors,McRoberts, Marsh and Collins Mrakas clustered together in confusion.
I myself sat securely in the chair to which I was elected.
A meeting barely started, was over . Nothing accomplished.
Nada.....Nil...... Zilch ..... Zero.
A shadow, May The Saints Preserve Us, of things to come.
Sunday, May 16, 2010
It was held in the Town Hall. It was commonly known Ms.Walmer was campaigning for election of Ms.Morris to the Mayor's chair.
Tim Jones was the incumbent. Nigel Keane was also a challenger.
There was a sense of unease. The organizer could not be impartial. Boycott was not an option.
Councillor Gaertner and myself were the only incumbents in the race for Council. Ms. MacEachern had been a Councillor in the previous term.
The Chamber was full to capacity . Children were there with their parents. I took assurance from that.
The only thing to watch for was jokery-pokery with the process or planted questions.
The late and former Mayor Dick Illingworth participated . He read out the
questions. No concerns there.
Mayoralty candidates had separate questions and longer to respond. That's normal.
Twenty candidates were in the race. It would be difficult to contrive mischief with that number.
Still... the association was there. I knew it would be tricky . I just had no idea the extent.
My question was about development in the Oak Ridges Moraine.
My answer was straight.
" The question is not as simple as it sounds" I said "there are properties within the Moraine with land use designations. The only way development can be halted, is if the properties are purchased by the Province. They've done it in Richmond Hill. They have not opted to do it in Aurora"
I probably added that I would abide by the law in the best interest of the municipality.
My answer would have been the same no matter where that query was posed..
It was then directed to candidate Al Wilson. In loud and ringing tones he declared he would never permit development on the Oak Ridges Moraine.
Ah...So, I thought. Was that it ?
But we weren't finished.
Ms MacEachern's name was called . The question was whether she had ever known anyone to vote who had a Conflict of Interest.
"I can't believe I am being asked that question"
Yeah right...I thought. There it is .... here it comes.
I remembered a line of the lawyer representing U.S. President Clinton in the impeachment process.
"When they say it isn't about the money...it's about the money "
When MacEachern said she couldn't believe she was being asked that question ...she knew she was going to be asked that question.
The candidate was not a member of the previous Council. Gaertner and I were the only incumbents.
No other candidate could have responded to the question...yeah or nay. They had never been on Council.
Who could have given that answer to that question?
Nobody, that's who.
MacEachern answered in the affirmative.
In an in-camera meeting, she claimed, Mayor Jones declared a Conflict and refrained from voting when a union contract settlement was presented for approval.
Though not a union member, Mayor Jones' spouse was a town employee.
The candidate further claimed when the question came up a second time, a conflict was not declared.
Tim Jones lost the election. Votes in the east side of town, where increased voltage in
overhead wires were of serious concern, made the difference.
It's doubtful the accusation changed things. But for me, it was a sign of things to come. It illustrated the depth the candidate and friends were prepared to go in their quest for power.
Of equal significance though, was public reference by a previous member of council , to an occurrence behind closed doors that dealt with labour negotiations. It was confidential.
No records were kept.
The charge could neither be substantiated nor defended.
The contract was settled long since. Yet the information did not belong to the candidate to disseminate as she saw fit.
Yet she did. In public. To an audience of electors.
In contravention of rules regularly touted by the candidate ,now Councillor, these past several years.
Saturday, May 15, 2010
I posted on my political blog about my no show at the market and received a comment.
I published that but somehow it came up on my personal blog.
I didn't tell it to do that. But it did.
At least half a dozen times,I have copied and pasted it back to my political post. Or so I thought
Each time it shows up again on my personal post.
Maybe it's a meddlesome market managerial mischief maker at work. I hear tell a number were to be seen hovering in the vicinity of the market gesticulating and pointing and showing signs of continued agitation..
To the ramparts, my friends......
I had time to write a post ...or two. Early morning was bright and blue. As the clock turned, the sky clouded over and it looked like rain pending.
I decided discretion is the better part of valour.
My daughter Theresa went and brought home locally grown strawberries and meat pies.
I love strawberries. None more than locally grown.They must be early this year. It may mean they will be at the market longer. I hope so.
Man, are they luscious.
I'm going to bake a meat pie now and have it for supper.
Council decided, as they had authority to do, the extraordinary accomplishment should be compensated. I was not a Councillor at the time and therefore not privy to the details.
In accordance with the law of privacy, Council had authority to make the decision in private.
Salary grid for a particular position is a matter of public record. Public employees like all others are entitled to privacy under the law. Except once a year, disclosure is required for earnings in excess of $100 thousand.
Ms Morris, then a Councillor, decided it suited her purpose to make a public issue of her opposition to council's in-camera decision.
Almost immediately the chief administrative officer accepted an offer of employment elsewhere.
October 23rd 2003.
A meeting of Council was held after registrations had closed for the upcoming election. A Council becomes a "dead duck" and no substantive decisions are made beyond that point
On that occasion, the following day was the deadline for submissions to the Province for input prior to passage of the Oak Ridges Moraine Act. The report had been weeks in preparation and was ,of necessity, complicated. Planning status of every property within the area had to be recorded. .
The Oak Ridges Moraine Act is intended to protect. It does not however remove land use designations legally processed. Lands at various stages in the planning process had to be articulated to be included in the Act.
Staff recommended the report be received in closed session in order to receive solicitor/client advice on particular site plan applications in process.
The report referred to a letter from a solicitor. It was not attached .
Rebecca Beaton was excited that afternoon. A dramatic move was afoot. The forces were being rallied .
The solicitor's letter had been deemed to be furtive and under-handed and Planning Director,Sue Seibert was the culprit.
I lost patience with Rebecca that day.
That night the Chamber filled with the usual caste of characters. Susan Walmer and friend Phyllis Morris. Ben Kestein was there. The Mayor's challenger and his teen age son. Rebecca and numerous others. The Sham Crusade to protect The Moraine was in full sway.
Public debate was demanded. Each took the microphone to demand staff advice be rejected.
Development should never again be permitted on the Moraine, they proclaimed with righteous fervour.
Private property rights had no place in The Oak Ridges Moraine.
Mayor Jones, Councillors West, Betty Pedersen withstood the onslaught. Councillor West, a former Mayor, pointed to a Government map of the Moraine showing non-existent watercourses. He warned of dire consequences of ignoring the reality that half the municipality is within the Moraine.
Planning Director Sue Seibert and Solicitor Shelly Pohjola left the chamber tp take an hour to re-write the report in an effort to save the municipality harmless and satisfy the opponents.
To no avail. That wasn't what they were after. There was blood in the water.
A resolution written on the spot by Councillor MacEachern, was passed to applause from the crowd.
At a subsequent meeting still prior to the election, the decision had to be re-considered and partially reversed. Councillor Mac Eachern made a public apology to property owners who had been adversely affected. She vowed her intention was not to take away anyone's rights.
There was no audience that night.
Councillor George Timpson, a former Mayor, changed his vote. First he went with the majority. Then he reversed himself
He was featured in the media as having flip-flopped .
In the election, the Mayoralty challenger did well for an unknown. He ate into Tim Jones' vote. Councillor West went from top of the poll to second from the bottom.Councillor Pederson retired. Councillor Timpson was defeated. As was Councillor David Griffith.
Ms Morris topped the poll.
Council Mac Eachern had withdrawn from the race prior to the Moraine fracas.When names of registrants were noted , Councillor MacEachern stated she had better things to do with her time.
I registered and was elected but not confirmed until after a re-count demanded by Councillor Mac Eachern had been completed. She had failed to persuade runner-up David Griffith to seek the re-count.
Litigation was subsequently undertaken against the municipality by an owner of a legally designated property within the Oak Ridges Moraine.
The Town lost. Of course.
Months of work were required to correct problems created for the municipality by passage of that ill-founded resolution of Oct 23rd 2003.
Friday, May 14, 2010
The new Manager would write speeches for the Mayor and correct misinformation that might be abroad, he said. The position called for a Master's Degree in Communications.
Hmmm........I thought....... So..... a person on the payroll assigned the task of reading blogs, letters to the editor and writing letters to the editor, refuting positions taken and opinions expressed and news reports that may reflect negatively on Mormac and Pals.
Hmmm..........I thought some more .........Sounds like what happens at Council meetings. Councillor takes a position, staff person is assigned by presiding member to refute Councillor's position. Does so obligingly and on cue.
I have to tell you, it resembles not any political debate I have ever experienced.
More like one of those dolly-molly shot games at a fair ground.
It's interesting to watch though. Every new day is a challenge.
The Communications Manager attends Council meetings. At the end , he descends from his eyrie at the press table behind my chair and confers with colleagues, backs turned to council(me)
Pretty clever actually to have a staff position created at taxpayers expense to promote an incumbent agenda, six months before an election.
That's a cash advantage that won't appear in any statement of election expenses.
Far better than having your name on Town Hall stationery .
A lengthy epistle went from the Mayor's office yesterday to every school principal in town advising them to warn children about danger from dogs. Probably written by the Communications Manager.
It should make a good impression in the school sector.
We will probably be seeing more of stuff like that.
The Communications Manager was a reporter with the Alliston Herald for a number of years. It's owned by the Metroland Group. As is the Aurora Banner.
I understand Mr.Ken Whitehurst, the Mayors' friend and campaign supporter was managing editor and/or editor-in-chief of the Metroland North group for a while at the same time.
That would give the town's communications manager valuable connections with the media in the GTA. It has to be a plus in any re- election campaign.
If a candidate had to hire a person with all those pluses, by golly, that would cost a pretty penny.
I wonder if Professor McDiarmid of York University is still paying attention to how candidates in Aurora pay for re-election.
Is the august academic still worried about how much money developers and unions contribute to incumbent municipal campaigns?
Thursday, May 13, 2010
Evelyn, I agree with everything you said, this is a foolish decision but I think you have been unduly harsh in your criticism of the resident who fought for it. All home owners are "selfish" about their properties. Although it is undeniable that the town owns a few metres at the bottom of everyone's property, it is only natural that we think of it as our own. We nurture and care for it as we do the rest of our lot and we are responsible for its aesthetic maintenance. The resident did the right thing, he had a concern, went to the Mayor and fought for what he wanted. It is not his fault that council granted his request at the expense of his neighbours and fellow taxpayers. Although I agree that the Town has a responsibility to work with citizens for the betterment of all neighbourhoods, in the end it is up to the elected members to determine how best to utilize community owned property. It is them that must be held accountable for their decisions. No homeowner is objective about their own property or neighbourhood, that is job of their elected government. I think in fairness you owe him an apology. And it is council that owes an apology to his neighbours.
The foregoing was received this morning and the writer is correct.
I have said before that every citizen has a right to defend whatever he sees as his interest.
There are a couple of peculiarities here which provoked the criticism.
This neighbour collected a petition in opposition to a sidewalk when the town allowed residents to state their preference.He sought my support and I gave it freely.
Most of the street has sidewalk already. The new construction is closing a gap
Since the petition was collected, policy changed. People still have the right to express preference. But traffic pattern and pedestrian safety will be the determining factor. It's a good policy and I support it.
New information disclosed Nisbet Drive is heavily used as an alternative for drivers and pedestrians to reach commercial shopping on Yonge Street or conversely the liquor store at the corner of Brookland.
It is not unusual for cars to mount the curb and plow the boulevard in that neighbourhood.
Boulevards serve as snow storage. They also protect pedestrians from potential hazard such as the one above.
Sidewalks, even seven foot wide, cannot be kept clear and be used as snow storage.
Pedestrians, in the main, are the elderly, children and youth, mothers with strollers , the disabled and people walking pets.
These are the people needing the safety of a properly placed sidewalk.
To accommodate the new alignment, a considerable stretch of sidewalk in good condition will be broken out and discarded.
Trees being cut down are town trees in beautiful condition, in front of number 63 .
The new metre of road on the west side will require a new base and catch basins re-aligned.
A hydro transformer and vault will be closer to the travelled portion of the road and there are hydro cables which as far as I am aware have not been examined in the plans.
Neighbours' property are not all that's affected by this bastardised plan.
We are currently contemplating thousands,potentially millions of dollars in current and future budgets to improve public amenities to accommodate mobility for the disabled.
Miles of sidewalk are missing or in need of renewal within the town.
This small section was but a step in the right direction and the town is not taking it.
I acknowledge Council is responsible for the decision.
I acknowledge my criticism is severe. But I draw the line at an apology
When a citizen comes to the public forum to argue for a particular decision in his favour and so influence decision-making, privacy is surrendered and views are subject to the same analysis and criticism as any elected member seated at the table.
The only thing they do not share is responsibility for the decision.
However, in my book, my highly intelligent and influential neighbour in Nisbet Drive is not excused for his lack of social responsibility.
In my experience, knowledge that a self-serving demand can only be accommodated at the expense of one's neighbours is generally what keeps most people from making outrageously,
My neighbour has not witheld his criticism.
Of course,who can know what assurances were received by the supplicant of the righteousness of his request in the privacy of the Mayor's office.
Nah! that's still not an excuse. He is too smart to be taken in by that. More likely he was exploiting it to his advantage. .
Wednesday, May 12, 2010
"Tell your mother, we all appreciate what she did for us tonight"
It was nice. But it was little enough I was able to accomplish.
I told Council, Nisbet Drive residents felt they should have had an opportunity to comment on the changed construction plans for their road.
Councillor Gaertner dismissed that. Residents had plenty of opportunity to comment,she said.
The Mayor advised residents should come and see her and Public Works Director, Simanovskis if they had a problem.
Mayor Morris is certainly right about that. One resident of Nisbet Drive went to see her and the Public Works Director and the road design was promptly changed to suit his preference.
Along his property frontage, the sidewalk loops and becomes a concrete pad six feet wide, abutting the travelled portion of the road. Not only that. The road itself is to be shifted over by three feet to take the sidewalk even further from his property.
Neighbours opposite will have three feet less depth to their frontage.
To satisfy totally selfish and self-centred demands of a single individual,three beautiful street trees, two of them with probably thirty years of growth, will be cut down to be replaced by the concrete pad.
But apparently that's acceptable. Because he took his problem to the Mayor. The Mayor ensured his every wish was granted. Like a Fairy Godmother.
So chuffed was he with the success of his efforts, he boasted to neighbours about how effective he had been and how well the Mayor had taken care of his needs.
His success had been at his neighbours expense, but never did it occur to him the information might not be universally welcomed.
It's interesting to watch Mormac politics in action.
Little subtlety is involved.
By summer's end , the hybrid sidewalk will be on the ground for all to see.
Visit Nisbet Drive now and see how it is. Council awarded the contract last night with one vote opposed.
The trees will be the first to vanish. Go and see them now in all their glory of spring foliage. Take some photos. Talk to the neighbours. Give them an ear.
Next time a righteous Councillor expresses an opinion about the value of a tree, know that for the crock it is.
I've been to a few gatherings lately. In the company of neighbouring politicians.
Aurora Council meetings are being viewed far and wide.
Tuesday, May 11, 2010
I voted against the water rate increase. The press report noted the vote to support was seven to one. And that's where the story ended. More than likely because that's where the available space ended. But the story wasn't complete
So, the pressure is on me, myself alone, to keep following my nose.
One explanation for the increase was a change in book-keeping. Until this year, cost of maintaining water lines has been charged to a capital reserve fund established for the purpose of maintaining water lines.
The treasurer and public works director decided during budget preparation, before the year end, that should be changed.
It meant a transfer $250,000 from a charge against the capital reserve to an increase in water rates.
The "water loss" factor was increased from 8% to 11%.
I asked; since the principle that water rates are not tax supported is clearly enunciated, are we equally fastidious about not including water used in tax supported services in rates charged to the consumer.
The answer was yes; departments are charged for water used.
Well, last week I asked for the number of the line item on the budget that shows charges for water. I had found an item for "utilities" which I understood was for gas and electricity.
The answer was : water use in particular facilities is combined and shows on a specific page of the budget as charged and settled.
Well, I gotta tell you. I went looking for that item. I didn't find it. Doesn't mean it isn't there. Just that my search skills are not that great. I don't know what that word "settled" means either.
But I did find the Water Rate Report and read that again.
In a paragraph defining "water loss" it said:
Fire department use. training and fire-fighting.
D'you remember;I didn't get a clear answer when I asked about that in the joint fire committee meeting. Newmarket's treasurer was at the table. He was conspicuous in his silence.
Unmetered supplies for landscaping, parks and road maintenance are also factored in as "water loss"
I don't know how much water is used for landscaping and parks and road maintenance. I do know it isn't "lost" It's used by departments which are tax supported services.
We have multiple parks and sports facilities. More every year. We have a splash pad in the town park. Nobody knows how much water it uses. It's not a trickle.
The water is not re-circulating. It goes straight down the drain. Sewer or storm? Dunno. But it makes a difference to how much we pay.
We create outdoor ice in the winter. A hose is kept running for days.That must take thousands of gallons. Norm Weller used to calculate the cost by man hours. Never mentioned anything about water.
We didn't have meters then.
The Region doesn't charge us by the thousands of gallons. They charge us by the gallon.
The Region by the way, notified municipalities of the increase on April 1st.We got the report at council on April 20th. We didn't deal with it until April 27th. Then it was urgent. Had to be done in time to be implemented by May 1st.
The Mayor was critical of my solitary negative vote.Scoffed at the politics of it. Said I should accept staff advice.
I don't know how many tanks of water, public works uses to wash streets. It doesn't matter. It's not water lost. It is a tax supported service.
The town's budget report notes the increase in taxes on an average house is $36. For perspective, a figure of 30cents a day is included. I hate that perspective.
The increase in water rates on an average household is $115. That means three times the increase for water than taxes.
There's reference to a future increase in rates for the capital reserve account for maintaining waterlines and such.
That has to mean the treasurer's change in accounting may not be as valid as first appeared.
If the money in the capital reserve to maintain water lines and such ,came from water rates in the first place, that is certainly where it should come from to pay for maintaining the water lines and such. Not from an increase in the rates
The report refers to old water meters not registering efficiently.
That may be so.
The only subdivision I know metered before the rest of the town, was Golf Glen.
In the greater scheme of things, that's a mere handful of homes. Meter slippage could easily be checked for "water loss". I doubt it amounts to much.
Now then..... I do not represent myself as an accountant. I don't even claim to be a competent book-keeper.
But I have to tell you, fellow tax and water-rate payers, I am not satisfied the town's water rates are calculated fairly or accurately.
They are certainly not meticulous.
We are paying for more than the water we use in our homes.How much more I don't know. But I believe it is not unsubstantial.
It's clear to me service costs which should be in the tax rate have been down-loaded to the water rate.
That's not straightforward book-keeping.
I believe as a Council, we have not done our due diligence.
Monday, May 10, 2010
We are also advised no question can be placed on an agenda, without due notice, a mover and a seconder or permission to suspend the Procedure Bylaw.
But ways have been contrived to get around all of that.
Councillor MacEachern, as chair, has placed or allowed, a letter to the editor on the agenda of a couple of meetings pf the Leisure Services Advisory Committee. Where it has been chewed over and members disaffection has been reported to Council.
Whereupon it became a matter of public record.
Councillor Gallo's Question of Privilege at the April 27th Council Meeting is an example of contriving to have content of a letter to the editor placed on a council agenda. Councillor Gallo's stated intention was to "correct the record"
A Question of Privilege is a means for a Councillor, who has been offended by a comment made in debate. He may feel he has been accused of wrongdoing,or a motive attached to a position he has taken in debate. The remedy is provided to request withdrawal of the offending comment and possibly receive an apology.
Refusal to withdraw or apologize are options. Which generally means the comments complained about stand.
The process permits an inadvertent error to be resolved without grievance. It is a necessary means of maintaining civility and reducing potential for personal animosity to grow within the council.
The obligation to state one's position, without fear or favour, and the possibility of causing offence or being offended is an occupational hazard of politics.
The substance of Council Gallo's " Question of Privilege" was a letter to the editor. It was not part of "the record"
A Question of Privilege is introduced by a request from a member to the Chair to accept a Question of Privilege.
Following normal practice,the Chair directs the Member to state the question and rules on its acceptability.
Councillor Gallo's Question of Privilege was convoluted, clumsy and a contrived means of introducing a letter to the editor into the record. Not of correcting it.
A motion was made to receive the Question of Privilege as information.
Thereby making it part of the public record.
Taking time, in the face of such an egregious lack of comprehension of the rules , by both the member and the presiding member,would have been a waste of time.
Like so much that happens in Aurora Council, trying to untangle a tangle which has been so carefully tangled by so many hands beforehand, is a true exercise in frustration.
Council's Agenda is for the purpose of expediting town business.
Preparation is the responsibility of the Clerk. As is, keeping and maintaining records.
The Municipal Act defines it.
As it does the responsibility of elected members.
The Act requires at the beginning of each term, passage of a Procedure Bylaw, setting forth dates, times for the start and end of meetings. And publication of the Agenda beforehand.
The public must always be informed, what is to be decided at a particular meeting, within a particular time frame.
We have an Integrity Commissioner once again.
The first was hired , then fired after his first decision.
He did not find in favour of the complainants.
When the Commissioner receives a complaint, he is entitled to access records to establish validity.
Decisions of Council are required to be recorded without note or comment.
Blog posts and letters to the editor cannot be included on an agenda without the writer's consent.
The record of the April 27th 2010 Council Meeting of the Town of Aurora, is chock- a-block full of notes and comments and references to blog posts and letter to the editor.
It's the rule rather than the exception.
Readers may guess at the purpose of the intention.
Sunday, May 9, 2010
People don't always show up at the beginning and yesterday was a really terrible day.
The problem with permits wasn't at the town end.
The normal process is for applications to be received at the town and forwarded to the market committee to make sure they fit the profile of artisan and produce.
There was confusion about vendors plans to increase permit fees to cover the cost of hiring a manager.
Permit fees are town business. They are authorized by Bylaw.
A budget item was approved to hire a manager. The Bylaw to increase permit fees wasn't passed. No manager was hired.
Too many cooks I guess.
But there's a good feeling now that the vendors have taken control of their own affairs. There may even by opportunity for volunteer involvement. That's always a good thing .
The person who knows about accoutrements for the scooter wasn't at the store yesterday. I will have to see to that tomorrow.
The Town Solicitor attempted on two occasions to intervene and advise the matter was not for Council to deal with.
The Mayor persisted.
Ms St Kitts was requested to provide her written comments to staff. .
A resolution was presented to suspend the Procedure Bylaw to permit Ms St Kitts' comments made in the public forum, to form part of the formal record.
There was a bit of a kefuffle about the two thirds requirement for suspension of the Procedure Bylaw.
The Mayor dealt with that too. She simply found the vote to be two thirds and declared the motion passed.
Two weeks later,May 26th 2009, Ms St. Kitts comments did not appear in the minutes presented for approval.
The minutes were challenged.
A review was requested.
Unfounded and unsubstantiated accusations and allegations accepted in a public forum against a Member of Council, by the Mayor , against advice of the solicitor, despite a formal resolution of Council directing they be included in the formal record, were not.
The Chief Administrative Officer reported to Council; the solicitor , himself and the Clerk had conferred and decided "to follow precedent' and not record the full comments.
In response to public outcry and demands for explanation, the observation was made, in colloquial terms; "the minutes were doctored"
May 11th, 2010 Council Meeting , minutes of the April 27th, 2010 meeting are before Council for approval.
111. Open Forum
Ms Walmer ( the Mayor's friend and campaign organizer) spoke.
No motion was passed to suspend Procedure to allow the comments to form part of the public record.
No kefuffle about what constitutes a two-thirds majority.
No conference necessary between the Chief Administrator, solicitor or Municipal Clerk.
Yet there they are .
Twenty four lines . Every word recorded. In paragraphs yet. As if provided in writing.
No precedent followed.
No synopsis created.
A year almost to the day.
For a complete turn around and contradiction.
Who says minutes are not doctored to suit exigencies?
Pshaw! Let the record show.
Saturday, May 8, 2010
I was looking forward to tootling on up there on my scooter and spending a couple of hours perusing market wares.
But the skies are heavy. It has rained on and off .Thunder has rumbled now and then.
My scooter has no hood. And I can't stay on my feet to perambulate comfortably long enough to accomplish anything worthwhile.
Instead, I will shop for a hood and cover, so that I will not be similarly inconvenienced any time in the future.
I have in mind something like a "Surrey With Fringe on Top"
What are the chances, I will find something like that?
My daughter Theresa was at the Market. The vendors were folding up early because of the weather.
Councillor Wilson on the other hand, apparently feels a room with closed doors is an opportunity not to be missed.
On Tuesday, during the in- camera meeting, he repeated a performance similar to one hurled at former Councillor Grace Marsh before she resigned.
On his feet, shouting, flailing his arms, he declared my "hatred" of the Mayor has destroyed everything this Council has tried to do throughout the term.
He bitterly excoriated things said about him in this blog.
There was a presiding member. The attack was permitted . There was an audience of staff. an external solicitor and the rest of Council.
It takes a better man than I am, not to respond to such an attack. And I did. Though not to my satisfaction.
Yet how does one?
Calmly, deliberately and with dignity, I might say:
Councillor, if you were not so fond of casting allegations,
accusations, sneers and jeers, there would surely be nothing
for me to say about you.
Our association is as Members of a Council.
We are not friends. We are not enemies.
Neither love nor hate have a place between us.
Our exchange is public business.
I will not engage at your level.
It fails to conform to any rules of order familiar to me.
Nor to your adopted Code of Conduct.
But I am not without resources.
The blog gives me a tool to respond.
You do it your way.I will do it mine.
People will judge how we handle ourselves in their name
Blog is a new element in politics but it's all grist for the mill, Councillor....
Grist for the mill.
If you do not like how I portray you, the solution is yours.
Stop doing and saying that which allows me to paint the portrait.
Stop fooling yourself into believing because there are six of you and you can make rules to suit your purpose, it means you have the upper hand.
I wasn't born yesterday, Councillor.
Don't think, I didn't learn a thing or five along the way.
I didn't survive because I was afraid to risk all for the sake of doing what I
thought was right.
Or my passion for being straighforward overcomes all else, including political
I know well enough, it's not what people expect from a politician.
And it's not always a political advantage.
But it is what they need to expect from me. Because it's what I have and will
continue to give.
Well, of course. I didn't say any of those things. The ambiance was not conducive.
Instead my claws came out and I cut him a new one. It definitely made me feel better and I'm certainly not sorry.
But it did nothing to improve an appalling situation.
I am not hopeful anything can.
Brent Hoey and Adam have been friends since starting school.Brent is a year or two younger
The Tournament hasn't been the only thing on the go. This week-end will be the first in eight months Heather has been free.
Many things needed to be done. Theresa and my grandson Rory were at the Ray Twinney Centre to do whatever.
Robyn and ten of her school-mates were in the kitchen on Friday baking four hundred cookies for lunch bags.They had great fun putting the lunches together with everything a person would like to find in a lunch.
The buns were ordered, fresh baked panini, from the Superstore. Everybody knows the difference when buns or bread is freshly baked.
There are no revenues for a Special Olympics Tournament. Every penny has to be squeezed twice.
The fee for the arena was $1270 for the day. That was a huge burden. Someone suggested a request to the Mayor.
The letter didn't get to the Mayor. Someone else had a meeting with the Mayor and mentioned the letter.
Immediately Mayor Tony Van Bynen forwarded $500. out of his golf tournament funds to reduce the fee.No publicity given, none sought.Only those who needed the help knew they got it
and from whence it came.
One of the things learned was how some people feel compelled to come forward and say they will do this or that. They don't. Then act as if they never offered.
And others who say " What do you need me to do" and come through like gang-busters.
Some parents have tears in their eyes, for sons and daughters having a chance to do something they never imagined possible.
Then there were kids from Owen Sound and Midland who came on a bus, without parents.
It was what it was With what there was to work with. At one and the same time a learning experience and a great success.
No tournament is ever organised without a tremendous weight on the shoulders of a few strong individuals.
The rest just need to stay out of the way
Adam dons a Town of Newmarket shirt and works at the arena one day a week.He is paid the union rate. His workmates gave that tournament their Royal Best.
Adam has friends from all Newmarket who know him from the arena.
Ray Twinney's heart would have been full, had he been there to see it.
It was a fitting tribute to his memory.
Thursday, May 6, 2010
Aurora Farmers Market starts anew .
The Season is new but that's not all.
The Market, for the first time, will chart it's own course.
They will be independent of the town.
Free of exploitation .
They will show us their wares and cry ;
Who will buy .... Who will buy
We will hear their cry
And gather there for the sheer fun of it.
I am obliged .
But I have to tell you what I miss:
I am accustomed to the clerk of the municipality providing smooth passage for the business of the corporation.
Items appear on the agenda in a timely manner for Council's attention. Bylaws are prepared on the direction of Council, before Council is even aware their direction is required.
The Clerk of the Municipality is the unseen hand that guides all things in smooth progression. Without the clerk given free rein and authority to do his/her job, chaos ensues.
Kind of like the wife and mother, who makes taking care of the multiple needs of the family look so easy everyone imagines no skill is involved.
We spent thousands of dollars on consultants to tell us how to re-organise the administration.
The Clerk's position in the administration was downgraded from number two to number four
Many of his responsibilities were transferred elsewhere.
We use a fraction of his skills and experience.
They are not replicated elsewhere.
On the other hand, the heavy and erratic hand of the Mayor is evident everywhere.
I was informed they were being prepared and would be ready in two weeks. Three weeks later. Nothing .
Though costs are not available, we have recent experience of service provided.
On Tuesday, during Council in Committee, Mr. Roger Beaman,solicitor, arrived at the Town Hall between seven and eight o'clock.He was present for a consultation with Council in an in-camera meeting following Council in Committee.
Councillor Gallo was in the chair. He started the meeting on time and in good humour. He said he had made a bet with Councillor McRoberts, the meeting would be over in thirty minutes.
There were seven items on the agenda. Councillor Wilson indicated he wished to speak to six.
The meeting lasted an hour.
When I left the Town Hall at ten-thirty, Mr. Beaman was there still.
The solicitor's travel time would start when he left his office located on Bay Street. Consult time would likely be no less than three hours.
The question finally decided on Tuesday has been four times before Council in closed session. Mr. Beaman has been in attendance at least twice. Lengthy letters have also been submitted.
How many telephone conferences with the Mayor are unknown at this time.
I saw one on an invoice, at the beginning of the Westhill issue (March 2008) which lasted fifty minutes The time drew my attention.
I remember thinking..... Oh My God, that was a $475 conversation.
I think that may be the rationale that legal invoices have not been made available to me...or anyone else.
The first time Tuesday's agenda item was on the table, Council had received a letter providing three options for way and means of reimbursing opposing neighbours for their expenditures to seek a consolidated board hearing to protect their interest.
We were informed the residents had decided, after three unsuccessful proceedings , to abandon their quest. As they had a right to do. As they had a right to start it Separate and independent of the Municipality to defend their private interest.
It was not our business to know.
I made it clear then in my opinion, the item had no business being discussed behind closed doors. The Town has a policy for considering grant applications. It does not provide for secret deliberation.
I said so publicly at the time. I have said so since.
The matter has subsequently morphed into something other than a grant application. I have not been persuaded.
On Tuesday night, at the table, were two solicitors; the town solicitor and Mr. Beaman. The Chief Administrative Officer was present also and the Municipal Clerk as recording secretary.
Much of the meeting was taken up with matters other than the issue on the agenda. Disorderly, mildly describes the proceedings. Degrading for all present is without exaggeration.
In staff reports to Council, there's a section which refers to Financial Impact:
I believe the financial tally for this particular exercise was thousands, possibly, tens of thousand of dollars.
Time spent on Tuesday in totally reprehensible and chaotic disorder, with the clock ticking and the tally mounting was of no benefit to any person present.
To argue service to the community is without merit or integrity.