Thursday, September 30, 2010
My granddaughter was in the audience with school mates and parents and teachers, as winners of the Anti-Littering Poster Contest.
Her sister Meghan was a winner two years before. Now it was Hayley's turn. Rhonda, her mother was there. Two of my sons, Hayley's Dad Andrew, and Uncle Frank were there to share her moment and by the way, attending their first Council meeting with Mother sitting as a Councillor. What they heard was their mother being abused by the St. Kitts woman aided and abetted by the person with authority of the Mayor's chair.
The Mayor knew Hayley Buck was to be there with her peers.
When we reached the end of our discussion, Kevin MacDonald had a single question to ask.
The question was.... if you go forward with this action, Evelyn, what do you hope to achieve ?
I put my head down to contemplate the question and answered;
"People cannot be allowed to do this to other people. I am not the only one. They have done so much harm to so many, who could not defend themselves. They can't be allowed to keep on doing it. If a law suit is what it takes to stop them. That's what needs to be"
I am not a person of means. Until now, I've used contributions and my council remuneration to pay the freight. I may very well have to mortgage my house to pay the rest. But if that's what it takes to keep another person subject to their power, from experiencing the same injustice , then that's how it will have to be.
I thought I should provide that explanation.
Writing the blog free and easy on a daily basis, has affected my style. Leaflet text and headings keep coming out like a post. It's not necessarily the best for a leaflet or an ad.
I need stuff to hand out at the all-candidates meeting at the Town Hall on Sunday and others after that.
The phone is ringing with requests for signs. Various organizations are asking for bios of a different number of words. They are all good opportunities for exposure. But they're not leaving much time for
being out and about.
On the other hand, I've never done out and about very well.Walking up to people and shoving my hand out has never been my schtick. I have all the chutzpah I need to hold my own in a debate but shoving myself into people's faces is something I do not do with any level of comfort.
The problem is people tend to love me or hate me. I can never be sure which it might be. The wrong side of politics can be a cruel task-master
I usually hand out leaflets at stores. My grandchildren think it's great fun.
In the early days, I would distribute leaflets house to house with all my children and my children's friends. We would end up the evening in the first donut shop in Aurora ,Mr.Donut, at Aurora Heights Drive. We sat up on stools, eating donuts and drinking hot chocolate. We would fill all the stools.
Wherever they are, those guys are all in their forties now. I wonder if campaigning for Mrs. Buck is among their childhood memories.I know there are people across Canada who remember Buck's basement. I would always rather my own were under their own roof.
The same troupe came with us to the movies ,when the nearest was at Steeles Avenue. They were my social circle for years.In the old blue station wagon with paint on the floor. The guy that owned it before us was a house painter.We didn't have seat belts in those days so they all crowded in nicely.
I have to go now. The environmental people want me to fill out a questionnaire on green issues. It goes out to ten thousand people. Probably not all in Aurora but I would be conspicuous in my absence if I don't do it.
Rogers Cable offered me a two minute spot on T.V. I spent hours making myself look the best I could . I set off an hour early with time to find the address on Mulock Drive. The number I had, turned out to be a cement plant. I don't have a cell phone. I missed the appointment. When I called to explain they said; "Sorry,it's all wrapped up now" I was looking for even numbers on the even side of the road.Turned out they were an odd number on the odd side.
The fact that I'm missing will probably make a bigger impact than anything I could say in two minutes. But being absent is a negative not a positive. Still ..it happens.
Now I need to figure out how to send a photo to Cynthia at The Auroran for an ad. Or go back over there with it.
I have tons to tell about the last meeting of Council .. I have to send stuff to the lawyer, Kevin MacDonald. It will have to wait.
We'll talk later
Tuesday, September 28, 2010
You have chosen one particular policy here to discuss so I would like to comment on vacation entitlement.
Vacation entitlement is one of those "benefits" we all hear about that are outside of an employee's salary. 1 week of vacation pay is equal to 2% of the base salary. Benefits are one of the things that employees and potential employees look at to determine if a job is worth having or worth accepting. Like it or not, being paid not to work is a right in the work place.
In today's employment environment, you are seeing people with some long term tenure leaving a position (either on their own or being redundant/laid off/etc.). These people sometimes have significant vacation benefits in their pocket. To go from that job to a job with another employer that have a strict policy about 2 weeks for the first 5 years puts a question into their mind about the position.
I speak from this situation first hand. I have been employed steady since leaving college until late 2008. At that time I no longer had work and began looking for work. As you can imagine I had enjoyed a number of benefits - vacation entitlement was one. When I found another position, the hiring manager went to their HR department and his manager to change the offer of employment to include vacation entitlement to match what I had been used to. The reason given was that as a long-term employee (outside of the firm) I should be given benefits in line with employees with similar tenure and not be considered the same as some greenhorn out of college. He did this on his own - without my request.
My point in all of this is that in order to attract quality talent - you need to make the position as attractive as possible. A policy is fine, but latitude is required and re-visting the policy to keep competative is prudent.
We all know about the staff exodus.... I think this is a step towards making the jobs attractive enough to stay.
I don't dispute the points made above. I do not pretend expertise in the area of human resource management.
I offered a number of possibilities in my post for new hires being given three weeks vacation to start as opposed to two weeks as provided in the Town's policy.
The point of the post was about delegating authority which had previously been Council's to the Chief Administrative Officer. I am not objecting to the merits of the recommendation.
Policies should be subject to review to determine continued relevance.
At the same time, when an elected body delegates authority to the administration, at the very least, they should know exactly what they are handing over.
There were pages of numbers and titles of policies in the report.No particulars.
In my judgement, the task calls for going through the list one by one.
If an item is simple housekeeping an outline is sufficient.
Without cost impact , the decision is simpler still.
In the private sector, employees are expected to keep salary details confidential.
In the public sector, that is an element but public accountability and transparency come into play.
The private sector pays close attention to public sector wages and benefits. They feel it puts pressure on private sector employment costs.
I don't believe the public sector should lag behind, in the competition for an experienced work force, but our comparators are other public sector employers. Not the private sector.
We also have in our work force, union and non-union members. Non-union members receive equal consideration when an agreement is signed.
Giving non-union members a benefit not enjoyed by union members is not conducive to harmony in the work place,
As can be seen from the various factors, a change in vacation entitlement is not a simple housekeeping item.
Council is accountable to taxpayers.
Council must make the decision.
I don't know it from experience but I understand public sector benefit entitlements are far and away beyond what the private sector provides.
My post was not about benefit entitlement. It was about Council's accountability to the people who elected us.
Monday, September 27, 2010
We concluded it's more useful for new candidates. I've been Blogging for three and a half years. My soul has been bared . Many times. Anyone reading my daily posts has a pretty good idea of how I think about things.
Still, we know everybody isn't on line.And those who are, don't necessarily have an abiding interest in politics.
So we came to the conclusion a separate post with a political profile would be just as useful as a web site to anyone wanting to know the extent of my involvement in the town's affairs.
I spent $1,500 of my savings ,having a web site created for the last campaign and that turned out not to be particularly useful and a great waste of my resources.
We have made progress. There is a separate post. I've written a profile. But we haven't shown how to get into it.
And the print is too small .
I am only telling you about it to explain why there isn't a post up to-day.
It's not that I haven't been working.
Sunday, September 26, 2010
There were pages, all identified by number and title.They had been compiled over years.
Council had authority over all of them.
Some are administrative in nature. Requiring Council approval is not necessary.
Staff recommended specific policies by title and number remain under Council authority and the rest be delegated to the Chief Administrative Officer.
I acknowledged there was merit to the recommendation. I noted substance of the policies were not included. I considered it incumbent of Council to be aware of the nature of authority being delegated from Council
I noted we are at the end of a term of office. A new Council will be elected.
A workshop held with staff and new Councillors to determine which policies and why they should be delegated would be an excellent project for a new Council . It would provide a proper understanding of the line between political and administrative authority from the start.
Staff acceptance of my rationale was visible.
No matter, Council gave immediate approval to the recommendation.
I have information relevant to the issue.
Town policy provides two weeks vacation for the first five years of employment. Entitlement increases by a week every five years. It takes twenty years of employment to be entitled to six weeks vacation.
That's a chunk of time out of fifty-two weeks of payroll.
Recently I heard new hires have been given three weeks vacation to start. Vacation entitlement policy was Council's to decide. No authority was sought or given for a change.
Since the staff recommendation was approved to delegate authority.I understand vacation entitlement has been increased by a week from start of employment.
It means a change in entitlement all the way up the line.
Consider this; eight, fifteen year employees entitled to six weeks vacation, represents more than a person year employment on the payroll.
It may not mean an additional employee. It does mean a year's man hours not received. It means a financial impact. It may not be out of line with other municipalities employee benefits. It may be in line with town union employee benefits.
There may be many arguments to justify a change in policy.
What it is not, is within the authority of the administration to decide.
The elected body is accountable to taxpayers for the cost of service.
It was for Council to decide.
I suspect the Mayor was aware of the vacation entitlement issue. Whether the five followers were also,I cannot say.
It is a classic example of how the line between administration and the elected body has been scrubbed out of existence during this term.
It is also a propitious time for a cover-up.
I took advantage of the opportunity. People need to know who they are being asked to support.
For me, it's a personal bond of trust with the voter .
When you've lived and served as long as I have, there's a lot to tell . Advertising space is limited by cost. The Citizen is free and the opportunity too good to miss.
People without experience, tend to dismiss the relevance of experience. I don't understand why they feel the need to do that. Voters don't expect candidates who have never held office to know everything . Most citizens put themselves in the shoes of a new Councillor and try to understand what it's like to be learning in the spotlight.
If they decide to vote for you, it's because they are giving you a shot at the job.They don't expect marvels.
They watch new Councillors with great interest to see how they perform and how quickly they learn.
If the Councillor learns fast and does well, it's a mark of their own judgement in making the choice.
It may be, not enough people exercise their franchise to vote but those who do, value their right. They pay attention.
Not all candidates have taken advantage of the opportunity in the Citizen thus far.
I've read the ones who have.
It's natural to put one's best foot forward. There's not much point in asking people to vote for you without giving them reason to do so.
I commend the candidates who have and urge the others to do so as well.
I have this advice to offer.
Talk about yourself and why you believe you can make a contribution.
Don't be shy. It's a contradiction in terms
If you do not have a sense of yourself....an ego....you are wasting everybody's time including your own.
Don't be making sly negative comments about others in the running. They are easily sniffed out and unlikely to be to your advantage.
Politicians are inclined to paranoia at the best of times. During an election the condition is rampant.
It would eliminate the need for a truck outside, cables stretched across the ground and inside the building and operators in charge of the three cameras.It would allow control from the station.
Filming would be better quality. I would imagine any happening in the Council Chamber could be filmed .
But the cameras are expensive. Rogers needed an agreement, they could recover their property if need be. So they requested permission to install with an agreement to maintain ownership.
As far as I know Rogers never even got an answer because Council didn't make a decision.
It was another item that went behind closed doors to be discussed.
Think about it! How would anybody's privacy be invaded and how would the municipality's interest be impacted by discussing the request in public?
A question raised by Councillor Gaertner was whether Rogers should pay the town to be allowed to install cameras in the Council Chamber.
In the last term, I put forward the suggestion we should put cameras in the Council Chamber .It would allow for "streamimg" all meetings in the Chamber and residents would be able to watch online.
When I mentioned it, staff said it would be very expensive. A resident with expertise said, " No such thing, these cameras have become really inexpensive"
I brought that information back but it made no difference.
For all the talk about openness and transparency, it seems any opportunity to accomplish it is to be avoided.
Rogers willingness to make the investment for better quality filming of Council Meetings easier to provide to town residents at no cost to the Town was shunned.
A necessary agreement to provide to security of ownership to Rogers was beyond our imagination.
And...you were not even supposed to know about the possibility. .
It was all a big secret.
I mentioned it at the time. Just thought I'd remind you.
Saturday, September 25, 2010
when is the museum opening Ev, this was one of the most important functions of the building , there are an awful lot of members of this community who need to know what happened here, How is it possible that there is no Museum operating in that building ,I can’t imagine how some of the old timers and donators to that collection must be feeling , Are there any answers you can share .We need the Museum up and running NOW!!!
I have to think back to the sequence
The Mayor's non-answer to my question about when the museum was going to be up and running in its rightful place is what prompted me to call the new curator hired by the Historical Society to replace Cathie Malloy who replaced Jackie Stewart.
The $50ks.grant from the town allowed the first curator to be appointed. That was Jackie.
The museum had to be dismantled when Church Street School was gutted for renewal.
Jackie was re-located to the Hillary House.
The museum collection was packed into boxes and stored at the Hillary House.
I won't go into all the details again of how funds were made available to get on with the building's renovations.
Except for one key piece.
When Cathie Malloy was still with us, a grant application was successfully processed.
Three-quarters of a million dollars were received from the Federal Heritage Foundation specifically for museum purposes.
We could have used it for a thermal heating system for the building. It would have eliminated fossil fuels. But we didn't. So much for our much ballyhooed reputation as stewards of the planet and her environment.
Our then Treasurer, John Gutteridge ,with experience in his previous job with Heritage buildings, recommended the facility be managed by an arms length board.
While the building was being renovated an Arts and Culture committee was appointed by Council with Councilors Gaertner and Granger, Ken Whitehurst and Helen Roberts, President of the Historical Society as members. Cathie Malloy was the committee's resource person. Cathie was the one with expertise.
Then Cathie, fairly new on the job, left. Maybe she got an idea there wasn't going to be a museum.
Ken Whitehurst, the Mayor's friend and campaign manager took her place as resource person in a paid capacity.He was reporting to a committee of which he was a member.
That's the same gentleman who helped Councillor Mac Eachern to re-write the Consultants. $53,000 Master Recreation Plan in non-recorded "workshops "
The same person on the Steering Committee of the Aurora Promenade Study with the Mayor as Chair
A question was asked. Helen Roberts wrote a letter to the editor vouchsafing Mr. Whitehurst's excellent qualifications for the task.
Subsequently,Helen Roberts, President of the Historical Society appeared at a Council committee meeting and withdrew the Society's commitment to manage the museum when the building was completed. Ms Roberts said the Society only had fifty-nine members and wouldn't be able to handle the responsibility.
The Historical Society had previously sought an agreement with the town for management of the building because they had so much invested.They raised funds in the community for the purpose. They retained architects and paid for plans for the state of the art museum. The Town adopted the plans. It's what the building was renovated for.
A board was appointed. next thing we knew, the name of the building was changed from Heritage and Culture to just Culture.
There was little sign of activity in the building. Then town staff meetings were held there. Town Staff were invited to attend a Christmas party there. They played Musical Chairs.
Planning meetings for the Promenade Study were held there.
I called staff to ask if the town was paying fees. Seeing as how the Board was operating at arms length from the town . A second question was why we needed to use that facility.
The Historical Society presented a budget for 2010 to justify continuance of the $50ks grant.The speaker informed Council, no curator was being provided in the new staff complement at the Heritage and Culture Centre.That should have been a hint.
The Gala Opening was held. The building was nearly empty. Most conspicuous was a grand piano. The person playing it was from Toronto.
No sign of the museum.
I called the new curator and learned the museum collection is being stored in the basement and Society members are allowed space and time to catalogue artifacts .The Society are expected to mount several historical displays a year.
The museum isn't getting space because it doesn't make money.
The curator had been trying to follow and understand the Historical Society's rights in the agreement the board has with the town
I asked at Council when the museum would be up and running in its rightful place. The Mayor responded the Culture Centre Board would be making a presentation to Council soon.
They never did.
The Historical Society has launched a fund raising project for repairs and restoration to the Hillary House which is not the Aurora Historical Museum. It is neither owned nor operated by the Town. Not representative of the one hundred and sixty-odd- year history of Town of Aurora and the Village of Machell's Corners .
The town's museum. it seems, has been stolen right out from under us by the machinations of the Mayor and Friends of Clotheslines and Culture.
I think it will take nothing less then a Change in The Chair to get the museum back in its rightful place.
The contract requires a quarterly financial statement in order to receive funding .
I received information in July , a statement had been provided in April. At the same time, officials were preparing and hoping to arrange a presentation to Council in September, the end of the first year of operation .
September 28Th , Tuesday. is the last Council meeting of the term; a final opportunity for public accounting of a new operation and a new expenditure of more than three-quarters of a million dollars a year
A service and an expenditure not spoken of in the last campaign .
Therefore cannot be deemed to have received public support.
My call to the Centre in July, was to determine user fees charged for the pre-Jazz Festival Gala. I was told the event was considered an opportunity to support and encourage culture.
I pointed out there was an admission charge of $35.
I was told staff had no knowledge of admission charges. It was not their business.
Since no information was provided about a user fee, I assumed there was none.
I had asked at Council when would there be an accounting of the program.
I was informed a financial statement had been received and awaited attention.
It never came to Council's attention.
I asked again last week. I noted we have one meeting left of the term.
The Mayor stated a presentation would be made at the next meeting.
The Agenda is in. A delegation is listed from the Culture Centre.
No financial statement is attached.
The financial statement was received on August 13th.
I believe its reasonable to expect the public to be interested in the Culture Centre.
During the last election, the facility was known as the Heritage and Culture Centre. Emphasis was on the museum being up and running.
The theory of having an arm's length board operate the facility was to gain independence from public funding.
The contract however says something different. It states funding will be increased by 3% per year.
I have the August 13th financial statement for the Culture Centre.
If it is not provided to Council , with sufficient preparation time for questions, I will publicise details here prior to the election.
Users of town facilities who pay fees have an interest in how town facilities are managed.
Many believe because volunteers operate programs, facilities should be free.
Taxpayers who use no facilities or services, yet are taxed to pay all costs and in most instances, subsidise user fees as well, have an interest and a right to know how this facility is being operated and why it should be different to other town financed operations.
Why should it be operated by a non-accountable board?
I will provide the financial status.
I will not be able to inform them why the information has been with-held.
I don't know the answer to that question.
Friday, September 24, 2010
The door was opened to reveal the interior. Generations of wild creatures made it their home. They lived and died there and filled it with feces. Rain and snow poured in, mould crept across the floors and climbed the walls. So thick, the condition of interior was impossible to conjecture.
The last look revealed one side of the structure completely rotted and remaining corners further eroded.
To be moved, the building must be taken apart, board by board. To be rebuilt, rot must be removed and authentic boards found to replace the unsalvageable. The new structure would reduce in size from a cabin to a three hole privy.
Half a million dollars was a previous estimate for restoration on a foundation built by the developer who gifted the building plus. hydro,water,sewer and access also expected to be gifted by the developer.
Still , Councillors dedicated to preserving Whitchurch history clung to the conviction, somebody out there cared enough to salvage the structure; if only people knew, someone would surely come forward.
Staff were again directed to conjure terms for a proposal from interested parties .
Finally, at Tuesday's Council Meeting a report was on the agenda. At 11p.m. it came forward A design proposal was before us at a cost of $36,000.
Just for a design.
Councillor Granger moved deferral for the next Council to decide.
Councillor MacEachern moved staff be directed..... blah blah blah ...same old.. same old.
But here's the interesting part.
Last time, Petch house was discussed, I queried if the developer's original commitment still held true
The Mayor responded the solicitor and herself were to meet with the developer and that would be determined at the time.
The meeting was held. Tuesday's staff report stated the developer is still committed.
However, added to the agenda, was a letter from the developer. It said something different. They are prepared to write a cheque for $50.Ks towards the cost of moving the building and that's it.They would then consider themselves free of obligation.
Councillor Wilson inquired; did it mean $50Ks additional were being offered?
The Mayor said it did.
The Mayor apparently vets all staff reports submitted to Council.
On a resolution from Councillor MacEachern, staff were directed for the umpteenth time to find a party with a use for the structure and another to move it, restore it and thereby cover their political posteriors for the endless shambles they have made of the building and the issue.
Ar last, Councillor Wilson could no longer swallow the guff.
He voted against it.
Thursday, September 23, 2010
The process is supposed to be completely confidential.
The Municipal Clerk's office has no role other than to receive and forward complaints to the Commissioner. If or when a decision is made and forwarded under closed cover to the clerk, it is his/her role to forward the decision to the complainant and the person complained about.
If he deems the complaint to be valid and not frivolous and vexatious or made for political purposes, the commissioner has the authority to have access to whatever records he requires, to carry out an investigation.
Actually as I write that, I realize ,it is hard to understand how an investigation could be kept confidential from the municipality if the Commissioner has to request municipal staff to provide records.
Reports from Integrity Commissioners in other municipalities include analysis of the complaint, the response to the complaint, a detailed outline of the investigation and a basis for the decision. Written documentation is substantial.
That is not what was received from Aurora's second Integrity Commissioner in his decisions on Councillor MacEachern's complaints against me.
In fact, if I recall correctly,Mr.Tzubouchi, in answer to a question from Councillor Collins Mrakas stated he had no intention to reveal details of his investigation.
And now we have a third Integrity Commissioner and Ms Craig informs me Mr.Tzubouchi has "recused" himself.
Other than a name attached to the title of Integrity Commissioner, I have no idea why this person is in possession of documentation of a complaint against me made by an employee in the Town of Aurora.
I can provide no answers.
After six members of Council ,using public resources to retain a solicitor to investigate my blog posts, letters to the editor and public commentary during Council meetings and directed him to compile a complaint against me to the first Integrity Commissioner, I retained a solicitor at my own expense not only to file suit under the law, but also to protect myself against further transgressions.
Still the attacks continue..
Other than to hold fast and tell the people who elected me to be their spokesperson and representative, I really don't know what else to do about it.
The last letter from my solicitor to Mr.Tzubouchi was ignored.
Why would it be any different this time?
Council appointed the first , David Nitkin in October or November of 2008.
A contract was signed in mid 2009.
The St Kitts woman came to Council and stated she intended to file a complaint against me in May.
She did that
She didn't proceed with it because it had to be shown to me if I agreed to participate.
I did not.
Six Councillors, including the Mayor filed a much publicised complaint against me in July
In quick order, the Mr. Nitkin provided a decision to dismiss the complaint without my participation.
Almost concurrently, Mr. Nitkin was "stripped of his authority".In August 2009.
In April 2010 Council signed a twelve month contract with David Tzubouchi.
In May, Tzubouchi received two complaints against me from CouncillorEvelina MacEachern ,which he numbered one and two.
He received a communication from a solicitor informing him the matter was before the courts. He had no authority to deal with the issue.
He neither acknowledged nor responded to the communication.
In July, he forwarded decisions on the complaints to Council
In mid July, Council passed a resolution placing a moratorium on complaints, as have other
municipalities with Codes and Commissioners, as of August 1st.
Mr.Tzubouchi came to Council in mid August to answer Councillors' questions.
The question was asked, Are there any complaints pending? Mr Tzubouchi seemed to indicate.No.
He clearly did not indicate yes.
On September 17th a package was received at the Town Hall, sent by prority post, addressed to myself ,
delivered to my home and not seen by me until Sunday September 19th
An accompanying letter from Suzanne Craig, Integrity Commissioner. informed me a complaint had been received by David Tzubouchi on July 30th. against me and forwarded to herself on August 31st.
with the explanation Mr.Tzubouchi had "recused"himself from hearing the complaint.
Now you know everything I know.
The Town has had three Integrity Commissioners.
Five complaints we know about.
All against me.
All about stuff I told you about in this Blog.
None of it secret.
Everything out in the open.
I have received copies of my own posts as documentation to the complaints with Confidential stamped across them.
Then there was the other complaint he administration tried to hang on me about harassment in the workplace. Again about comments on my blog.
I am not an employee subject to the authority of the administration.
I am never in the workplace.
The Mayor's good friend Gordon Barnes, who lives in the old town, presented a video slide show at ten-forty-five p.m. The Mayor said he could take all the time he wanted. They were much entertained. Councillor Gaertner hooted with laughter.
Mr Barnes commented he had attended many of the three dozen or so meetings already held on the O.P.Five Year Revision, the Promenade Study and the 2C lands O.P A. He told the crowd they were supposed to be two hours long but lasted five .He clearly found that commendable.
Last night's meeting started past the appointed time. The Council Chamber was full. Council members were in their chairs. The Mayor sallied forth at eight minutes past seven, arranged papers and pens and jingle bob before her on the desk and announced the meeting" will start momentarily"A further several minutes went past before it did.
Committee members were introduced and the erroneous claim was repeated that all Councillors who wanted to participate in the exercise had done so. .
When asked by the Mayor before the exercise started if I would be interested in participating I said I would.
I never received the call.
But I have to admit, after Mr.Barnes told us the meetings lasted five hours instead of two, I was not sorry.
I've attended two meetings now, listened to people's concerns, responses from consultants and staff when they get a word in edgewise. but mostly we have heard from the Mayor.
Current expectation is the three plans will be approved by Council on September 28th, the last meeting of the term.
The Region has final authority over the Municipal Plan. It must conform to the Regional Plan.
The Region is unlikely to deal with the Town's Bylaw until March,2011. Fortunately. It means in the event we elect a new Aurora Council , there will be an opportunity for the plan to be reviewed.
It's a good thing.
A matrix has been created to record concerns of property owners who have engaged in the process.
I have concerns.
I commend Councillors for the time they spent in the process. It was obviously a true feat of endurance.
At the same time, I do not believe five hour meetings indicate efficiency nor productivity. The Mayor was chair of everything . We all know how that goes.
Property owners in the central area are opposed to their neighbourhood being the target area for intensification.
Owners on the perimeter feel their neighborhood lends itself well to intensification.
I think probably some here and some there ,small parcels small buildings, wherever a site lends itself, is probably the ideal.
If a person wants to downsize but loves their neighborhood, why should they not be able to stay?
The Mayor feels legalising basement apartments is taking care of the need for affordable housing. I don't think so. We have received no reports to indicate an increase in below ground accommodation.
One speaker last night spoke of the importance of protecting green space. The Mayor was proud to say the plan provides fifty per cent of the geographic area of the town be green.
It's probably eighty per cent if we factor in back-yards and front yards and two acre estate lots of which we have an abundance and landscaping in front of commercial and industrial buildings.
When I look down my street all I see are trees. I can't see the houses behind either because of my cedar hedge.
My point is, we are an urban municipality. Restricting development means less assessment and higher taxes. It means Aurora becomes a town for the well-heeled . The rest of us can keep on moving on out.
We know there are Aurora residents who want the town to stop building. We know the Mayor and Councillor Mac Eachern are in favour of that. Ever higher taxes are not a concern to them. They even buy culture for us on the taxpayers' dime.
So people going out to vote just have to figure the sector to which they belong.
I am not of the well-heeled variety. I saw a calculation by a senior recently to indicate taxes for municipal services are $80 a day. I don't have that kind of money.
Speaking of which; I am re-cycling signs from the last election.I don't have enough to use on the boulevards. I'm having four big ones made by Sunbeam Signs of Aurora for the main entrances to the town. I would be very pleased to hear from supporters who might be willing to have a lawn sign on their property.
Wednesday, September 22, 2010
Then I think, Nah! Councillor McRoberts always hangs on until the end.
Quite simply , the Presiding member is incapable of running a meeting.
There's the obvious compulsion to refute every comment made by whoever, if it doesn't fit with the Mayor's contention.
Often a staff person will be set up to give an "expert" response to a point made in what might laughingly be called debate.
How does one call a point of order on the presiding member?
The situation is beyond redemption.
Any attempt to create order results in total mayhem. It's a public spectacle and reflects badly on one and all.
In the early months, Councillors and staff would be at the town hall until well after one in the morning and still the agenda wouldn't be completed.
If something is being accomplished I stay. If the meeting has deteriorated into round table chit-chat, I leave. Maintaining civility for three and a half hours in the face of the nonsensical
is my limit.
I feel as though I am abandoning town staff but it's better for them and for me to remove myself.
The point about the add-ons is well taken.A motion to suspend procedure to allow items to be added should require a two-thirds vote.
The add on to the add-on you noticed at the meeting referred to, was circulated by the Mayor prior to the meeting.
It was an extremely harsh critical comment on the Citizen Blog of the Mayor. I am not persuaded it had any right to be added to the in-camera agenda under any circumstances.
Politicians are criticized all the time. It's part of the territory. If it crosses the line there are legal options.
It is a civil matter.
It is not the business of the municipal administration.
But in Phyllilily land, all of the corporation's resources are hers to command.
It's how the title terminator came to be coined.
That's how it is, has been and will continue to be, until we change it.
What we have seen at the Council table is but the tip of the iceberg.
Tuesday, September 21, 2010
Council placed a moratorium on complaints to the Integrity Commissioner from August 1st.
People tell me David Tzubouchi, Integrity Commissioner, stated in response to a question from the Mayor at the Council meeting in mid-August, there were no pending complaints.
Tzubouchi has recused himself (it's a legal term)from hearing the latest complaint against me by an employee of the municipality about something I said on the Westhill matter, a political issue.
Vaughan Integrity Commissioner, Suzanne Craig, received the complaint on August 31st.
The date on the complaint is July 29th.
Vaughan Integrity Commissioner's letter states it was received on July 3oth by David Tzubouchi who stated in public in mid-August no complaints were pending.
Vaughan Integrity Commissioner states she received the complaint on August 31st. The moratorium commenced August 1st.
Yet I am informed by Ms. Craig, the complaint is being processed.
It is a matter of serious concern to me as an elected representative of the people, how many times I have had to state I do not accept or I am unable to believe, information or advice I have received from town officials during the latter half of this term of office.
I don't do it lightly. I fully understand the implications of what I am saying.
This complaint and the manner of it's processing is yet another of those occasions.
People describe election campaigns as the silly season . It is not how I would describe it.
Monday, September 20, 2010
When I opened the envelope on Saturday afternoon containing the latest complaint against me. my inclination was to toss it . Instead I put it aside and didn't look at it again until Sunday night.
There were odd things about it.
The envelope had been sent to the town hall by priority post. It was addressed to me and marked confidential. It was stamped as received on September 17th.
Well now. The Code process calls for the Clerk of the municipality to be the conduit between complainant, the Integrity Commissioner and the person being complained about.All in a plain brown unidentifiable envelope for confidentiality.
I am reminded of the phrase; brown-paper baggery. All bottles used to have to be carried from liquor stores in a brown paper bag in formerly temperance Ontario.
The covering letter to the complaint was headed ;
The writer informed me she had been asked by David Tzubouchi to take on the complaint. He had recused himself from the file. He received it on July 30th and forwarded it to Ms Craig on August 31st.
I read it on September 19th and I am required to respond by September 27th.
The Code allows ten days for response.
Jason Ballantyne had filed the complaint to the Integrity Commissioner on Jul 29th .
H e filed the harassment complaint to the Director of Human Resources in early September.
Got tired of waiting, I guess .
It's all very interesting.
I keep casting my mind back to David Nitkin's visit to my backyard last summer. I didn't tell you this before. He had a complaint against me.
He had called me to make an appointment as part of the process. I told him, politely, I had no intention of participating . He beseeched me to let him have ten minutes of my time. He would come to my home.
Eventually, I agreed .My two daughters were present. I do not entertain gentlemen callers alone in my home.
We spent the time on my deck in the shade of the maple tree. We drank tea and exchanged philosophies. Academics aren't the only ones, you know. Three hours and forty minutes later he left without my agreement and my advice ringing in his ears that he would not be allowed to do the job as he saw it.
He said he could not share the complaint without my agreement to participate.
Here's what I have gleaned from it all.
Mr. Nitkin's main expertise is Ethics. The workshop he held, boycotted by the Mayor and Councillor MacEachern, addressed the difference between legality, morality and ethics.
The essence of ethics are fairness, integrity and balance.
For an ethical determination to be made, many aspects of a question must be considered.
Mr. Nitkin argued "times change" I must be prepared to change. Mr Nitkin needed me to believe that. Without my participation, there would be no balance. There could be no ethical decision.
Various legal opinions provided to Council have held a Councillor is bound to certain conduct by a majority vote.
Bob Panizza , a former clerk suggested I might be in Breach of the Oath of Office by not submitting to the Code and signing the document.
I disagree. I did not surrender free will when I put my name forward for election. I bound myself to an Oath of Office before taking my seat on Council.
I never considered the Code of Conduct adopted by Aurora Council as intended to be anything but a club to silence criticism. Why would I, a person elected to hold forth on my views, agree to anything so unethical?
Consider the record:
The St Kitts woman came to Council and hurled a torrent of unfounded and unsubstantiated accusations at a Councillor, despite intervention twice from the town solicitor, that "Council has no role in this matter".
The presiding member ignored the solicitor. Instead, called for suspension of procedure to permit the comments to become part of the public record .
Subsequent minutes showed the comments absent from record.
They were challenged. The Chief Administrative Officer, stated he, the solicitor and the clerk had a conference and decided not to include the comments in the record.
I later observed "the minutes were doctored" Which they were and had to be.
The comments, made in public, heard by many, were slanderous. Published in town minutes they would have become libelous as well.
St. Kitts made the comments. Recorded in the town minutes The town would have been responsible for their publication and therefore liable.
If Council did not have the collective wisdom to "save the town harmless" which is our duty, the statutory officer and the town solicitor nevertheless could not publish the comments and bring harm to the municipality.
The minutes could not be allowed to record the slanderous comments.
The St Kitts woman was first to file a complaint to the Integrity Commissioner.
Six Councillors were next, on the pretext they were defending staff from "criticism" that "the minutes were doctored"
The lawyer retained, advised there was no provision for six members of Council to file a complaint. Six signed it anyway. I guess they figured there was safety in numbers.
Two more complaints were filed by one of the six.
The next was filed by a staff member, propelling himself head first into a political debate.
And the next was a complaint of harassment from the same staff member against the same Councillor.
When I find the policy, I will read you the definition.
I never did no such thing.
All complaints have been directed against myself.
Did I mention I believe The Code was never intended to be anything but a club to silence a critic.
Was I right or was I wrong??
P.S. Did I tell you I heard the Mayor did her damndest to get the complaint filed while she was out of the country.Her signature would not have been on it if that had happened. .
Sunday, September 19, 2010
Mr.Ballantyne was apparently offended by references in my blog posts.
Next day, I received a phone call from Mr. Elliott informing me a person had been retained to deal with the complaint. He had fixed a date for a meeting .
He said "we" are putting together the substance of the complaint and it would be forwarded.
In turn, I informed Mr. Elliott he should make no further arrangements on my behalf. I am not an employee. I am not subject to his authority.
Mr. Elliott thought otherwise.
I received a bundle of my own blog posts stamped CONFIDENTIAL. and a request to keep the matter confidential.
I did keep the matter confidential. I had already removed his name from my posts and expressed regret for any distress he might have experienced.
Mr.Ballantyne is an employee. I am an elected representative . Normally, the two do not engage in dispute. It is an unequal contest.
I already posted here about the Mayor's reference in the community, to an investigation she had ordered into harassment.
I also posted on why a Councillor is not an employee.
I heard no more about continuance of the harassment complaint.
It's time for a re-cap.
The findings of David Tzubouchi, Integrity Commissioner chosen by six defendants in a law suit, on complaints filed by Councillor MacEachern ,a party to the same law suit, have failed in their desired impact.
An earlier complaint, investigated and prepared by a lawyer at taxpayer's expense, signed by the same six, repudiated by two councillors , dismissed by the first Integrity Commissioner, himself dismissed in turn, had the opposite of its intended impact.
It triggered the law suit.
The harassment complaint from a staff person, processed by town resources , is the latest in the series of attempts to discredit.
But not the last.
I have stated in every forum there is , I do not acknowledge the authority of a third party to judge my conduct as an elected representative.
I will answer to the people who elected me.
The Code of Conduct, was written and adopted, I believe, as a means to silence my voice and deny my rights under The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. From my perspective it has no credence.
The issue is before the courts.
In July, staff recommended to Council a moratorium on complaints, as in other municipalities with Codes, from August 1st. The logic being to prevent the process being "abused" for political purposes during an election campaign.
Yesterday, I received notice of yet another complaint filed by Jason Ballantyne, Manager of Communications for the Town Of Aurora.
This one is not about harassment and concern for his professional reputation before his peers.
It is a complaint about contravention of Clause 3 of The Code. About information I provided in Blog posts about the Westhill Development application.
Mr. Ballantyne has undertaken to dispute my take on the issue.
The Westhill Development appeal is currently being heard by the Ontario Municipal Board in the old library building on Victoria Street.
If you can, you should drop in and hear it for yourself.
Saturday, September 18, 2010
Since early in 2009, staff reports and recommendations appear to be substantially fewer.
It didn't used to be like that.. I am compelled to ponder the political ramifications behind everything I read. I worry and wonder about stuff going on I don't even know about.
I asked several months ago about the financial reports from the Culture Centre. The Treasurer said he had one on his desk, he was waiting to get at.At the same time, I asked when the Aurora Museum was going to be set up in its rightful place.
That Mayor skirted around that question .
I had a subsequent conversation with an official at the Centre. It seems a report was submitted in April. Also arrangements were being made for a public presentation to Council in September.
Council never saw the report from April. September is half over. Still no presentation.
A town -owned facility, in it's first year of operation, with a budget of more than half a million dollars of taxpayers' money, new spending in our budget, managed by a board without political representation.
An election, the time of accountability, is underway.
Still, there has been no public accounting of this new, much publicised and ballyhooed cultural service which costs us so dear.
What are we supposed to think? Why is the report being withheld from Council and the community?
The board is not keeping secrets. They did what the agreement required .
It's not easy to keep secrets like that. When a report is required according to an agreement and intended to be part of the public record, it's not hard to track it down.
Not everyone has a vested interest in keeping secrets.
In the current climate, I can't even be sure the entire Council is in the dark about the substance of the report.
The gang of six openly about hang around after Council meetings. They "chat" together as if they have no homes. I am fairly certain they are not engaging in social chit-chat. Therefore the conversation must perforce be town affairs.
It's not how it should be. It is how it is in the Mormac regime.
I am thinking of the library board meeting on Wednesday evening;
the pointed questions asked by a tag-team of Councillors on Tuesday about how the public are or are not informed about the business of the library;
the spurious and vexatious resolution on the agenda from Councillor MacEachern's special friend.
The subsequent Invasion of the Body Snatchers led by the Mayor .
Are we expected to believe that all came together without a plan.
Well... I hardly think so.
Friday, September 17, 2010
somehow. I posted a comment or three to the Aurora Citizen.
The Mayor's shill was mis- interpreting comments, I had to deal with that.
The Ontario Municipal Board hearing started on Tuesday at the Old Library. I meant to attend . But Tuesday was not the date I recalled.
OMB hearings are generally held at the Town Hall.
But we have an election happening. Tons of activity at the town hall to prepare for election worker training , advance polls, and the big day.
The Clerk is the Elections Officer the entire operation is his responsibility.
Most municipalities reduce meetings to nil prior to an election, in consideration of the extra work and the importance of getting it right.
Council was informed on Tuesday,Regional meetings are over until after the election
The regional clerk's department doesn't have to deal with agendas, reports, meetings or minutes or delegations of any kind for three months
And they don't even have to deal with an election.
Councillors can concentrate on election campaigns and meetings can't be turned into campaign circuses.
The City of Toronto had their last meeting in August.
We not only have meetings, we have endless and repetitive delegations that morph into cosy or hostile personal exchanges with the presiding member,depending on whether they are friend or foe.
Last minute add-ons to agendas which should require a two-thirds majority vote to suspend the procedure bylaw, are regularly approved by a simple majority.
Last Tuesday's adjournment was 1.15 a.m. If staff present started that day at 8.30 am, it meant their work day was seventeen and a half hours.That's not reasonable.
Beside the fact that under Provincial law, the municipality is required to legislate by Bylaw, dates, times and place where public business will be conducted.
What public can be expected to attend, when the meeting is regularly extended from
10.30pm ,the legislated hour of adjournment, until 1.15 a.m.
By no stretch of the imagination can that be described open , transparent or sane.
Anyway,the Westhill Development Application Hearing is being conducted at the old library.
Space is reserved for six weeks. Whether accommodation is provided for spectators, I do not know. Facilities are not great.The building is a dump. But that's where it's at
Anybody who has the time and interest would benefit from dropping in.
If the decision goes in Westhill's favour, there will no doubt be weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth about the incompetence of board members.
It would be good for citizens to be able to form their own judgement about that.
Thursday, September 16, 2010
The Town uses the library as an information resource for our own purposes. Town Documents are displayed at the library for anyone to read.
The minutes for last night's board meeting are probably not posted yet. But the agenda likely is there. Ms Beaton's motion was circulated with the agenda beforehand.
Ms. Beaton's motion was seconded by Councillor Wilson. Both have been board members for some time . The Board meets once a month except in summer. If either member, at any time, thought the board was not following proper procedures for public business, they had the responsibility to make their objections known.
They never did.
Instead they chose the eve of an election to make unfounded accusations of impropriety against the Library and The Board.
It's not a secret Geoff Dawe is a candidate for the Office of Mayor. Mr. Dawe has been a member of the library board for the past seven years. The first term appointed by the last Council , of which the current Mayor was a member. The second term by the current Mayor and Council.
I have been a member of the Board for the same period. Nothing happening now is different to what has happened throughout that period .
You don't have to be a genius to figure out the plot.
It's a shame the Library and the Librarian have to be dragged down into the murky side of politics to serve a nefarious purpose .
By the way, Louise,The Librarian is C.E.O. and not C.A.O. as I stated before. I found that out on the Library Board website.
"It's not about what is between the legs. It's about what is between the ears."
Is that a Buck-ism
I love it!
way to sum it up
I first heard that thought expressed forty years ago. By a devout young Catholic mother intent on taking on the Catholic Church ,on behalf of Catholic families, starting with the Toronto Archdiocese and the late Philip Archbishop Pocock.
Joan Donnelly of the Toronto Donnellys married Dominic McKenna and raised a family of eleven children and two foster children in a frame house they built at the top of the bank of the Holland River in Holland Landing..
As the family grew, the house expanded.
They formed a small organisation of Catholic families and I was a part of it for a while
As well as raising and working to provide, Joan and Dominic both took post secondary courses leading to B.A.s at York University. Joan became a teacher of business skills at Huron Heights High School.
Dominic died in mid- life and Joan raised the family by herself.
Last I heard of her was that she would likely join a Catholic Community out west.
I first heard the word antediluvian from Joan, in connection with the male dominated church which she was striving to make more reflective of its membership.
The community is full of heroes undertaking monumental challenges of their own free will.
Joan Donnelly Mc Kenna crossed my path and never again left my consciousness
Board members come through the library to attend. We can see everything going on... kids at computers. the Optimists' room where little kids are, people sitting in a good light and comfort, reading and staff busy looking after different needs. The board room may be the staff lunch room. It's nothing fancy. Staff make tea and coffee and some treats are on the table. It's a welcoming and happy place.
Being a library board member is nice? We are almost at the end of the term. The new Council will receive applications and appoint new members.
But something else was going on last night. I told you about how the Chairman and the Librarian were received at Tuesday's Council Meeting. You know.... the old right hand jab.....jab jab.
I have never understood why people are gratuitously uncivil to others. I've never gotten used to it. I don't expect it and I don't accept it. I am inclined to react to it.
Near the end of Tuesday's agenda, was a resolution from Councillor MacEachern's friend. It was an entire page of non-factual and accusatory references. It concluded with a recommendation to refer matters to the body providing finances for recommendation on "best practice" operation of the library board.
There is a Provincial Library Boards Act. It governs library board procedures. The Library Board is subject to the Library Boards Act.
Councillor John Gallo was present at the start of the meeting. As it went on ,the rest of the group appeared, one at a time. The Mayor made a point of shaking hands with Councillor Gallo when she arrived. Councillor Gaertner came last. Councillor Wilson was there already as a board member.
Board members are volunteers. They tend to be dedicated to the task.They are civil and congenial, as I said. But they are no more inclined to accept offence than any other self-respecting citizen.
The resolution was offensive and accusatory.
It was seconded by Councillor Wilson. It was on the table for discussion.
The mover stated "The motion speaks for itself, Mr.Chairman"
A pause followed to allow the seconder to indicate a desire to speak.
He did not.
I moved the question be put.
It's not a common motion. It has the effect of either halting or not permitting debate.
Considering the offensive and non-factual content of the motion,my intention was to deny deliberation. The required majority was received. No debate took place.
Councillor Wilson expressed dissatisfaction with the process.
Councillor Collins Mrakas declared the motion he seconded was offensive and should not have been accepted.
That was the end of it. Councillor Wilson left the meeting soon after
It has become the tradition, since nomination meetings became historical artifacts, for an all candidates meeting to be hosted by the Library.
The Librarian reported the organisation was proceeding and the Board were informed of the date.
Councillor MacEachern's special friend and confidant wanted to know why the Board was not organising the all-candidates meeting as in the past. It wasn't clear where the member obtained that information.
It was wrong.
Currently five board members are candidates in the election. Three Councillors are always members.
For the Board to be involved in organizing an all-candidates meeting would be entirely inappropriate.
The meeting adjourned. Several members, including myself left immediately.
As of this moment, I have no idea why the Mayor and followers chose the second to last meeting of the Library Board in a four year term to attend a board meeting.
Maybe something happened after we left.
Wednesday, September 15, 2010
Newmarket has a Mayor and a Regional Councillor who are elected at large. They have wards and seven ward councillors; the same size Council as Aurora.
Aurora Councillors receive $24,000 and no benefits except for the Mayor who receives $10,000 worth of benefits.
Running in a ward must certainly be a whole lot easier and less expensive for candidates in Newmarket than it is in Aurora.
We had a whole lot of talk about a ward system in Aurora earlier. Council decided not to put the question on the ballot so it isn't an issue.There were people though who thought it would be a better system.
I found the information about Council pay in Newmarket interesting. I thought you might think so too. I would guess they don't have the same working conditions up there either.
I am a member of the Joint Council Fire Committee with three Newmarket Councillors. They certainly are more congenial. Maybe it's because they are better paid.
Nah...I don't think that's it.
Jamie Young is not running again for Mayor of East Gwillimbury. Jamie hired a lawyer with another Councillor to deal with a Code Of Conduct complaint against them. It seems Mr.George Rust D'Eye told them they shouldn't attend Council meetings because it would be a conflict of interest. So they didn't.
It was the Chief Administrative Officer who filed the complaint.
East Gwillimbury was a shambles for a while until the people said...we've had enough of this...and that was the end of it.
Jamie and his wife are expecting a new baby in a couple of weeks. Apparently that's why he's not running again.
I should see if anybody up there wants to tell the story about the Code of Conduct kerfuffle in East Gwillimbury. Last I heard the Town was in for $11ks and no good came out of it.
Negotiations have been going on since March. By next Monday morning , the union is in a legal position to strike.
A No Board Report has been issued at the request of the union.
I have to be very careful. I can say nothing that hasn't been said in public already.
At last night's meeting, Mr. Elliott , our Chief Financial Officer,also in charge of Human Resources under the "re-org" as the Mayor likes to refer to it. and now union negotiator, was invited by the Mayor to provide Council with an update.
I am not sure why that was needed. Council had an in camera meeting one week ago and and an update at that time.
Mr. Elliott reported the possibility and proximity of a strike.
He noted a final conciliation meeting is to be held before that can happen.
He expressed confidence an agreement will be reached.
And reported management and labour relations have improved in the process of negotiations.
He doesn't know if the union are just rattling their chains.
But reports a plan is in place to go, if there is a strike.
Recreation facilities will have to be closed for safety reasons in the event of a strike.
We are advised town organisations must be informed of the possibility that facilities will not be available for the start of the season's programs in the event of a union strike.
The information was provided to Council during last night's Council Meeting.
!0.40 pm.We had not yet started the agenda. Councillor Gaertner and the Mayor had things to say under Public Service Announcements which were not public service announcements. They chatted easily and comfortably about all the things they wanted to talk about except public service announcements.
I've never understood what public service announcements have to do with the Corporation's Business Agenda. It's like Council is Acting Promotional Agent for every organization in this Town and others around. .
Department Heads are chained to their chairs in rapt attention. I often wonder how they manage to fit in time off, in lieu of all the late hours they spend at Council and still manage to get their work done. I believe we have to pay after a certain number of hours off in lieu. Sometimes so many hours are owing, it amounts to an extra week off.
Add that to vacation entitlement, and it's not hard to see how Topsy grows.
So when you are sitting at home watching and listening to the amazing stuff you see and hear at Aurora Council Meetings, just imagine the ching ching of a cash register every hour on the hour.
Or a one-armed bandit ringing loudly and spilling out the winnings. You however, are not the winner.Nobody is really.
I've noticed the Town Solicitor making use of his time. He appears to be doing some editing Everyone else occupies the time trying to keep expressions blank. Even while
talking, the Mayor's eyes are everywhere, watching to see who might be exchanging glances.
It was beyond eleven pm. before items on the agenda were called for discussion. I left at ten- past eleven.
There was an item from the general committee meeting I particularly wanted to discuss.
It hadn't come up before I left the previous week which was also at ten minutes past eleven.. .
Last night. when I raised the question, the Mayor wanted to know, had I participated in the discussion at the previous meeting. I said, "I am participating now, Madam Mayor.
She asked the question again. . I gave the same answer. I am mostly polite.
Finally I said, "if you are not going to allow me to participate Madam Mayor, I will leave the chamber now"
So, she did. And I did. But even though staff were nodding in agreement with my argument, it made no difference.
Ever the optimist..... I just keep trying......you know.
After all, it's the reason I'm there. Well, you know that And I know that. The question is, do they know that. Hardly seems so.
An in- camera meeting was to follow the public meeting. We had spent four hours lazily
lounging around the table listening to the Mayor, challenging, explaining and creatively changing and embellishing the salient facts.
The Aurora Library Board presented their Strategic Plan last night.
Councillor Gaertner had some questions about whether board meetings are public? Is an agenda circulated? Is there space for the public to attend ? How does the board let the public know they can attend ?
Councillor MacEachern had some helpful comments about how the board could improve their operation so that Councillors and the public could be more aware of the library's business affairs.
There are three Councillors on the Board and all other members are appointed by Council. One of them, a special friend and close confidant of Councillor MacEachern.
It was an odd discussion. There was a hint of something.
My Goodness Me...there's nothing secret about a library . We fill shelves with books, all kinds of people come to browse happily , leave with armfuls, bring them back and get more.
We provide helpful assistance to library users and according to a survey done by the Town some years ago, library service is on a par with parks in people's esteem.
The Board's presentation was to have been made weeks ago. When cameras were still in the Council Chamber. People at home might have enjoyed hearing about the Library's Strategic Plan. Or listening to the answers o the questions. It might have been fun to guess what they are up to now.
Council had deferred the board's presentation until last night.
Prior to our previous town CAO's leave-taking, Louise the Librarian, CAO of the library, was a member of the Town's Management Team. Since then ...Not.
We never heard of a reason for the change.
Maybe it's a secret.
I heard they left the Town Hall at 1-15 a.m. this morning.
Tuesday, September 14, 2010
Family schedules don't necessarily accommodate a brisk walk or a leisurely bus trip.Getting off the train doesn't necessarily mean the end of a working day.
That doesn't mean it's acceptable to choke residential streets in the heart of the town with parked cars for a whole day.
If people have to use their cars , they might just as well drive a little farther to the edge of town. If it has to be on the other side of Bathurst on the edge of King, that would be fine too.
It would solve a myriad of traffic problems in the heart of Aurora.
It has been said the Town had no say in the placement of the $74million dollar Go parking garage.
I am not inclined to swallow that. Go didn't decide to spend all that money in that location without being invited and encouraged to do so by the Municipality. If not by the Council, certainly by the Mayor.
The Mayor takes credit for the "new amenity"of the Go Transit Parking Facility.
The Steering Committee chaired by the Mayor is recommending removal of parking alongside the railway tracks on Berczy Street to make way for a "linear park"
The consultants, directed by the Mayor, are telling residents in the neighbourhood, parking is a function of the roads in front of their homes. .
The convenience of one group at the expense of another is a sure way to split a community into factions.
In the past, Aurora has borrowed to provide land for industrial development to provide employment for residents in their own community.
Provincial policy requires municipalities to provide for employment lands in the planning process.
Yet, with the encouragement of the municipality, Go transit continues to swallow up ever more employment lands, produces no assessment revenue and certainly no jobs.
There were arguments against a Separate High school being built on Wellington Street and refusal to sell lands to York Region to build a Police headquarters. because no taxes would be derived.
Hundreds of police and teaching jobs and the boost they would provide to local businesses was dismissed by some Councillors as irrelevant. .
Working families are having to share homes to pay a mortgage. Others living in basements and attics, paying half their income for rent, leaving not enough for food and making them ,in this day and age, in this affluent community, dependent upon food banks is apparently acceptable.
$74 million spent on a pile of concrete to shelter cars , built on lands which should be producing jobs and revenue to reduce the burden of taxation , is in my opinion, an obscenity.
Monday, September 13, 2010
At a time when people cant afford to buy enough square footage to raise their families, why are we using up ever more of the heart of our community, for space for cars to sit empty and idle twelve hours a day five days a week.
The traffic consultant looked to the Mayor for permission to speak. But the question was not answered.
Number One consultant offered that Newmarket is currently doing that. We know it has been done in Maple and East Gwillimbury as well.
In Aurora, we have a massive, out of scale, concrete structure that is apparently and predictably not being used.
Neither is it built at an angle in its space as the Fol-De-Rol Study envisions on Yonge Street immediately north of the Wellington Street intersection.
Who ever heard of a higgledy-piggledy street scape built on angles.
I can't even put a carport over my driveway because it would spoil the line of the street scape of my street.
Remember how Councillor MacEachern voted against approving in principle the Yonge-Centre development proposal until after completion of the Fol-De-Rol Study.
Councillor Gaertner didn't want a variance to a sign on the canopy of a gas station considered at the corner of Yonge and Aurora Heights, until the wonder- of- wonder study was done.
Did I tell you about the Centres of Excellence included in the study. In planning language that would be institutional use. But such mundane language is hardly fitting for the much- heralded document.
Only in Aurora, you say.
Yes but only on paper, I say. It is expensive verbiage
Mr. Givens of Malone. Givens and Parsons , Planners, waited to be last to speak at the planning meeting. He did what Planning Consultants always feel they must when addressing Municipal Councillors.He was representing several land-owners . It's necessary to be persuasive.
He was full of praise and appreciation for the excellent work done by the Steering Committee. Then he raised a point on behalf of his clients .
The Town's consultant noted sixty points in all out-standing in the concerns of the landowners.
Procedures have already begun on their behalf at the Ontario Municipal Board.
From the response given by the Mayor to their concern, it appears Smart Centres may be compelled to go the same route.
Having the Five Year Revision of the Town's Official Plan decided by the Ontario Municipal Board is not the best use of town resources.
Adopting the Revision at last knocking, after nominations are closed and before an election isn't best political practice either.
Sunday, September 12, 2010
There have been thirty-eight previous meetings. Most comments appeared to have been made already.
The Mayor referred to many private meetings between herself, neighbourhood groups and individuals and the Director of Planning, to satisfy various concerns.
It seems not all parties received the same consideration.
A spokesperson for the prominent site of the former Price Chopper store had serious concerns with the Fol-de-Rol Promenade Study and received short shrift.
Re- development of the site is contemplated.
The study requires the building be placed at an angle and height to be limited.
The property fronts onto Yonge Street. Property to the North is under-utilised, shabby and ancient industrial. South is a dollar store, a bank and a major intersection. The rear has road frontage, faces an apartment building ,a handful of homes and overlooks a park.
The spokesperson for the proposed development spoke to economic viability and problems with requirements of the Promenade Study.
The comments were "received". I sought clarification. The points had obviously been made before. Would there be consideration or was the "stakeholder" wasting her time in making them yet again?
"Oh well, said the Mayor, we can't all get what we want, can we."
The response put a new slant on the word "stake-holder".
Word on the street from the real estate industry, there will be no more time wasted or investment made in our downtown core without a change in understanding of the meaning of the word stakeholder. I guess we know what that will take.
A spokesperson for Smart Centres spoke of their plans to continue development on the south side of Wellington at Leslie and the 404.
No change is proposed in O.P.Amendment No. 30 of the current Official Plan.
It means Smart Centre's further development is not contemplated in the revised O.P.
They're the people who had to hand over $50ks at three permit stages to a total of $150ks to ease competition from their development to the downtown core.
Concerns expressed by Smart Centre spokesperson were clearly not a concern to the Town.
Consultants were not asked to comment.
Residents from the station neighbourhood were there to speak of ongoing problems with commuter parking.
It seems the $74 million pile of concrete on Wellington Street has not provided the relief anticipated.
The Mayor explained the elevator is not working.
The Fol-de-Rol Promenade Study recommends a "linear park" alongside the railway track on Berczy Street in place of parking.
Residents detailed the problems created by parking on their streets. The consultants had some interesting answers.
The chief consultant explained it's not anticipated commuters will continue to bring cars to the station. They will walk or use buses. He didn't explain why they're not doing that now or why change may be anticipated.
One consultant offered that parking on both sides of a street is a form of traffic calming.
The first joined in again...... homeowners don't own their roads. They are publicly owned. Part of their function is to provide parking.
Residents are probably well aware of the need for visitors, service people and delivery vans to park on roads.
It's an amenity we have enjoyed and expect to continue to enjoy. Since our property taxes pay for construction and maintenance of roads , I think we can be excused for feeling a degree of ownership.
The separate problem of commuter cars parked for an entire day, thereby removing amenity customarily enjoyed by residents ,creating problems for snow-plowing and hazards for children and blocking residents driveways, were clearly not registering with either the Mayor or the consultants. I am not sure there's any real difference between the two.
The three plans combined into a Revised Official Plan are intended to be adopted by this Council on September 28th.
As of now, an election is underway. On October 25th, the electorate will exercise their single opportunity to determine membership of the next Council.
In homes,businesses and gatherings all over Aurora, people are discussing how well were they served in the last four years. Or do they need to make a change.
Results may not be assumed.
For a Council to adopt plans for the next five years, at a time when they may be on their way out of office; the plans may be part of the reason for their exit, is in my judgement more than a mite presumptuous.
Saturday, September 11, 2010
When I started writing the Blog,I had no idea where it would take me or its limit.My gut told me it would be a powerful tool. Perfect for my hand.
I found myself thinking, if only people knew. then I'd realise...I can tell them
I thought things recorded in Wikipedia are there forever.I can't worry about stuff that can't be changed.
Now I find the record can be changed. I'm still not going to concern myself .. Doing what I do occupies enough of my time.
Paranoia is an occupational hazard for politicians..
Obsessing on what people think of you, needs to be strictly disciplined. Of course it matters,
But people will believe what they believe. I certainly don't have the personality to be worrying about how I am portraying myself at the same time as trying to project an idea or a rationale.
I think therein lies a path to madness.
I learned things as I went along.
I use names if there's political involvement . I think that's fair. If one holds public office, everything said, every thought expressed belongs in the public domain.
I can't know what was in a person's head when a statement was made. But I'm hearing it the way any other would hear it. It is subject to the listener's reception..
If I'm writing about it, my perspective is read. Readers still have the freedom to decide for themselves if my perspective is acceptable.
It has been an interesting journey. The upcoming election will be a measurement.
Did this blog influence readers' perception of politics?
I think it must.
Did reading a table-side view of events as they happened ,make them participants?
I hope it did.
In the years since we have had a right to vote, are people more engaged because of the social media now than they were before.
That's what I am anxious to discover.
Since I started, hundreds of thousands of public dollars have been spent. Various lawyers have been engaged. A bylaw was adopted to prohibit my freedom to speak. A person was added to the town's payroll "to read blogs and letters to the editor to correct any misinformation that might be out there".
I am still writing the Blog.
But not without cost.
When my grandfather was a young husband and father, he gathered around the kitchen table with others like him, to talk about why they had to work so hard and still not earn enough to feed their children properly. The " baillies" (police) had authority to smash open the door to his home, attack them with truncheons, to stop all talk abut the right to vote.And they did.
When my grandmother's first-born son fought and was wounded in the trenches in France and in 1917, killed at the age of twenty -two, on blood-soaked beaches at the Dardanelles, he had no right to vote.
Now I do have the right to vote . I have the means to provide my neighbours, a well rounded account of what they have a right to know without meeting in secret at a kitchen table.
Yet, in the Town of Aurora, in 2010, it remains for a court to determine that the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms really means "freedom of thought,belief, opinion, expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication"
Friday, September 10, 2010
Council's discussion and decision was made behind closed doors.It was reported out immediately and a recorded vote called .
It was not a unanimous vote.
The Chief Administrative Officer is well aware of that.
Yet he offers an opposing view in support of the outgoing Mayor's joyful approbation of the deal, in a media release from the Town's Corporate Communications ..
He is quoted;
the deal,once approved by the federal government would be a significant investment by DND in Aurora,.
"It's a great day for Aurora" said Garbe. This means the Queen's York Rangers will continue to be a part of the town for years to come The agreement-- once it's ratified by the Federal government
will generate significant income for the town over the next decade as well as provide additional working space for DND staff "
By not selling the building, Garbe said, the town retains hold on a valuable asset, while at the same time, gaining a steady income stream from DND.
I think that's a pile of horse puckeys.
I believe 2 million dollars in the bank, proceeds from the sale of the building, earning a comfortable rate of interest in the hydro reserve fund. would be a far better deal for the town.
I believe the sale of a 2 million dollar industrial facility into the private sector would be a hundred per cent better investment in the Town's future.
I believe assessment revenue from the facility, privately owned, plus interest from 2 million dollars in a reserve fund is a hundred per cent better than playing landlord to the federal government.
I believe twenty seven jobs, which the building previously accommodated when it was the Hydro building, are far more important to the community than the part-time officers of the Queen's York Rangers having more space to spread out for their week-end activities.
I don't believe there 's any possibility of Queen's York Rangers moving out of the Armories at the corner of our town park. It suits them very well.
I think that's a canard.
I believe it is unseemly for an outgoing Council to be making deals like this on the eve of an election.
I further believe it is entirely inappropriate for the town's Corporate Communications to be issuing media releases about puffball triumphs during an election campaign.
I believe it is a flagrant abuse of town resources and shameful in the extreme.