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

Sunday, 26 February 2017

BRICKBATS AND TILES ...SAY THE BELLS OF ST GILES

Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "ORANGES AND LEMONS WENT THE BeLLS OF ST CLEMENTS": 

It's amazing how the Town hires a planning and urban design firm from Toronto. We don't have any such people right here in this Town, surrounding area or the Region? So much for supporting businesses within our own Town or area. Such BS hypocrites. I understand how there are probably not very many staff members who are not from this Town and don't give a damn about supporting this Town, but I would think that the council members who are, could at least 
look at businesses in your own backyard. Not only does this Town seem to enjoy overspending on projects, but also likes spending taxpayers money elsewhere.

Posted by Anonymous to  Our Town and Its Business at 25 February 2017 at 21:41
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It's not amazing.

I keep repeating.

Municipalities have no right to exist. Provincial rules and regulations circumscribe just about everything and came into being because of need. 

In the Municipal Act competition must be held to fill the top jobs. . According to law,opportunity can't be restricted to residents. Professional qualifications are key. 

Selection  must not only be right. It must be seen to be right. 

Former Councillor Grace Marsh asked once:  "Evelyn, how can a Councillor   know all that's needed
to make the right decisions ?"

"You have to trust staff " I answered. 

It was the right answer at the time. Things changed. Staff changed . Ruleswere no longer respected. I suspect may not even have been understood. Trust could. no longer be the coin of the realm in Aurora. 

Appointments were made outside the rules. 

Politics permeated. 

An outgoing treasurer gave three months notice. Time  went by. No competition was scheduled.  

Eventually, the CAO privately informed Council  he had appointed a treasurer  on an
interim basis. 

He was informed appointment was by Bylaw . Authority rested with Council. 

No bells clanged no difference made. 

The interim  pcontract expired and Council was again privately informed of  appointment to the position
confirmed. 

The bylaw was passed after the fact. 

The appointment had been made over a coffee in a donut shop. 

At no time later did anything occur to generate confidence in judgement exercised at that time. 

Appointments were made with commensurate remuneration. A procession of consultants were hired 
in addition. 

The pattern begun in the single Mormac term continued thereafter despite an election for change. 

A purchase of culture contract  worth hundreds of thousands, from a self appointed board ,occupying a municipally owned and maintained  facility was continued. 

A lease to a federal institution of a building required for municipal purpose was extended to thirty years. 
Thetown's assumed the role of landlord with all attendant responsibilities. 

An addition was planned to the town hall and a budget allocated. The process continued to stcontract award, then, prior to recommendation to council ,after $300,000 had been expended,the project was abruptly cancelled without explanation.  

Specifications and contract price were both beyond approved budget. No person held accountable. 

The story continued . People hired with specific credentials ,were re-organized with responsibilities 
for which they had no credentials. An auditor's letter to management,official notification of mis-management called for an additional organizational shift. 

Management of facilities was transferred from a person with credentials to one with none. 

Hundreds of thousands were spent without obvious benefit.  

The latest boondoggle is construction of a joint facility on an unsuitable site purchased for the purpose. 

According to rules ,specs were prepared,bids called and a contract awarded.

Throughout construction, items  were removed  to stay within budget.The Green roof and system for monitoring gas useage are but a couple of examples.

The town provides free space for contractors to park vehicles and equipment. They may even have access to maintenance and parts. 

A gas pump is on site to fuel town vehicles. Useage Monitoring equipment  was  eliminated from the project with council approval.

 it has since been added to the 2017 budget  at double the forecast it was eliminated from construction.  

Jiggery-pokery is a phrase that comes to mind. 

No matter who makes the recommendations  at  staff level, Council  is ultimately and finally responsible.

It pays to have the right people on the job. 
 

Saturday, 25 February 2017

ORANGES AND LEMONS WENT THE BeLLS OF ST CLEMENTS

Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "VAMOOSE": 

Healthcare isn't within the purview of municipal government, 18:20. You're not just dealing in apples and oranges, you've confusedly mixed up all levels of government into some kind of fruit salad.

(BTW, your dollar total re: the purchase of contract is too big.

Posted by Anonymous to  Our Town and Its Business at 24 February 2017 at 20:21

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"Health care is not within the purview of municipal government" 

That is a correct statement. It is not wrong. 

And ....it begs the question of why we  have a Public Health Board with  a medical Doctor in charge 
and public health nurses on the municipal  payroll more than fifty years after the advent of 
Government  Health Plan . 

And....while true different levels of government impose, collect and spend  tax dollars ,there is but one level of  taxpayer to foot all  the bills. 

The  Ontario government has decided to pay for sex change surgery .

Without going into  intricate details, such cannot be cheap. Equally obviously ,the surgery is not 
a question of life and death or even good health, so-to-speak.  

If there a valid comparison between sex-change and saving the life of a sick child, I don't see it. 

That's  a contrast between apples and oranges? 

The comment above states the figure given for purchase of  culture ,$500,000,is  too high. 

A day or two ago,a calendar of events was  posted to prove a point; quartets,piano concerts,
youth  art exhibits and such. 

No financial details accompanied the documentation. 

A charity group has used the facility for an annual craft show. 

They can only have it on a Sunday. 

If another group with greater priority comes along after it's booked  ,the charity group gets dumped.

Rent for the space for the day is $800.00. 

The Culture Board pays no rent. Makntenance and utilities are provided at no cost. 

At the beginning of the contract , $350,000 cash was transferred from the town treasury. 

Maintenance costs  were calculated  at $147.000 a year.

Renovation of the facility cost $3million. It was turned over rent free.

Each year since, increase in funding has been provided on request. 

Maintenance, utilities and rent are still nil, although cost has undoubtedly increased. 

What started as half a million dollars from the town must perforce be substantially higher. 

Revenue from events certainly must keep the coffers overflowing. 

We can call it shoveling money into re-election for current council members. Or we can call it support for the arts. 

Whatever we call it, Aurora taxpayers are getting the shaft. 

More so now  than in the beginning . 

Sunday, 19 February 2017

VAMOOSE

Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "THE TEAM , THE TEAM , HAS SAGGY SEAMS": 

We have so many "arms length" organizations/groups like the OMB, all with no accountability to taxpayers. All appointed by government, their own boards or hired by their own organizations. Audits done with very little change if any at all. Giving elected officials more power and responsibility would at least give taxpayers the ability to throw these people out in an election. 
Posted by Anonymous to  Our Town and Its Business at 19 February 2017 at 18:12

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Government boards and commissions appointed by the Province should not be confused with 
the wonky board that manages the Aurora Culture Centre or the Aurora Historical Society. 

The Library Board is not the same. It is provincially legislated with legislated responsibility. 

Each member is a government appointee for a fixed term based on certain credentials which might 
simply be good reputation and recommendation from a reliable source or sources.  It might be a pay-off. Either way , it is a political appointment.  Re-appointment is never a done deal. 

Remuneration is fixed by government. Funds are provided by the government. 

The Province and the Federal governments are one hundred per cent responsible for public services provided by a myriad of boards and commissions. 

 Municipalities also exist at the pleasure of government. Except for elections, responsibility is for  services that theoretically , can be more efficiently and economically provided at the grass rots
The Province is still responsible for over-all effectiveness  and integrity of services provided.

The history of Boards of Education is an example. 

In the beginning , municipal councils were responsible for education. Councils were generally 
comprised of representatives from local business. 

Property owners had a vote. Non-property owners did not.
Capital spending was by plebiscite. 

Local improvements were voted with seventy- five per cent in favour. That law is still on the books.

Back In the day, Councils tended not to favour education for children of the work force. 

As a result, authority was taken from them. School boards were created.

Education taxes became the greatest part of any municipal budget. 

Councils collected the taxes. Councillors carried the can. 

They were still complaining when I was first elected. 

In the nineteen-nineties, the Province finally took responsibility for education costs but not completely. The formula was, the Province would absorb all increases.

Education boards continued to be elected with authority effectively neutered. 

At the same time, Regions surrounding Toronto were compelled to pay the cost of social services in Toronto to obscure the real cost of that city's amalgamation. 

The province negotiates education employee contracts. They decide when schools are built and by formula, when they are closed. 

School boards  take the heat. 

In every meaningful way, local autonomy, simply and suddenly, vanished from the scene. 

Saturday, 18 February 2017

THE TEAM , THE TEAM , HAS SAGGY SEAMS

Anonymous left a new comment on your post "WHYS AND WHEREFORES": 

Call me a cynic, but I can't help thinking that the one spearheading the call for OMB reform is also using this as a vehicle for self-promotion. I think that he's set his sights on the mayor's chair. He really likes to trumpet that he's "#GettingThingsDone." 
Posted by Anonymous to  Our Town and Its Business at 18 February 2017 at 19:18

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I've known Tom Mrakas since his wife Alison was elected for one term.  He attended meetings and became involved . Ever since, for ten years ,he has never hesitated to take a position and let it be known. Long enough to vouch for his integrity and commitment.

He worked long and hard to win his seat and hasn't stopped since. He was enthusiastic and throughout the last campaign and promoted the idea of "team" to get things done. 

Main difference since, he no longer talks about members working to-gether in team mode.

It may have been first lesson learned.  

Being a councillor is a continuing succession of lessons.

 It never ends.Nor should it. 

I have the greatest respect for Councillor Mrakas' integrity and commitment. 

I do not agree the OMB should be subject to municipal political decisions. A council may decide to re-define the Official Plan on the hoof. 

The OMB must accept the O.P. as written and stamped Approved. 

I believe property-owners, all of them, have legitimate rights to consistency, integrity, reason and equity in decision-making. 

They need the protection afforded by the OMB  against sly, dis-honest, under-handed ,self-serving,  decisions made by shallow, lazy, unintelligent, double-dealing, two -faced human beings at the municipal level of government. 

Tom Mrakas' no doubt intends best interests of the community. Unfortunately, he cannot guarantee  the intentions of others. 

The last ten years in Aurora established by a long and growing chain of decisions, the well-being 
of the community takes second-place to  vested interests of groups and self-interest of elected "leaders".

The anonymous comment introducing this post was likely contributed by an elected member of the Aurora "team".

WHYS AND WHEREFORES

The point of explaining details of little general interest can easily be challenged. There's so much I  think important but I  often think few people share my  when it comes to how a town is supposed to be governed. My last post triggered no response whatsoever. 

To-nights news triggered an example of a catastrophe that perfectly illustrates why voters  need to 
be informed and why the media falls short. 

Mike Harris was Ontario Premier in the nineties. Among other measures, he abolished Ontario Water Resources Commission to cut government spending. 

The agency was set up to ensure water quality. Public health was too important to leave to municipal councils whose main pre-occupation was to keep taxes down and be re-elected. Education was the biggest expense and they had no control there. 

Subsequently In Walkerton Ontario , a small rural municipality, numbers of people died horribly from the town's contaminated water supply. 

It hadn't been treated properly. E-coli had seeped into the wells from surrounding fields dressed 
In animal manure.

The person in charge of treatment,brother of a volunteer fire-fighter , was charged, tried, found guilty and was sentenced to jail.

He wept with remorse during the trial. He was not capable of handling the serious responsibility assigned to him. He was hired notwithstanding. 

It would not have happened if the OWRC had not been abolished. 

No politicians were called to account. 

Subsequently, the Province passed legislation making local councillors criminally responsible for any future failures. 

The Ontario Water Resources Commission was never re-instituted. 

Higher levels of chemical treatment in water were established in law for all water systems. 

 Public health is a provincial responsibility. It was the Provincial Premier who made the decision 
that  put public health at risk in the very places that needed OWRC  resources. 

The Ontario Municipal Board has a similar responsibility although lives are not at risk. The purpose is to ensure decisions made are based on logic and consistency. 

Not all Municipalities follow that rule .Aurora's decision to exempt St Andrew's College from development charges is an example.  A recent one to relieve  a hotel from development charges 
to spur economic development is a classic example. 

The decision to lease  away the hydro property for thirty years which was needed for municipal purposes Is another example that flies in the face of logic. 

They were elected to represent the community's interest. What hidden reasons caused  them to sell out the people they were elected to serve. 

In the absence of satisfactory explanation, people  are entitled to speculate the worst. 

Without the OMB , what warranty is there developers and speculators will not receive the same 
unequal ,irrational, inequitable treatment? 

More municipal Councillors might end up incarcerated for various improprieties and how would 
that contribute to the well- being of  society?

Saturday, 11 February 2017

A REASON FOR BEING

There's barely  a law governing munipalities in Ontario that has not responded to corruption of some 
degree.  

The Ontario Municipal Board jwas established by the need for a watchdog in various circumstances. 

At one time the Board had authority over municipal debt for example. During the Depression municipalities spent money they didn't have and declared bankruptcy to avoid paying the bills.
  
Municipal Official Plans were approved by the OMB.

The Municipal Act is intended to ensure honest, efficient and equal treatment within the law at the hands of municipal councils. Clerks and Treasurers are Statutory Officers responsible for ensuring council decisions stay within the law. Municipal Clerks are certified and sworn into Office. 

At one time all it took was a word from the clerk to advise this or that was outside the law to stop
a decision. 

The last clerk in Aurora who did what the law required, against the will of  Mayor Morris, was out the door within twenty-four hours. 

Our  town is currently spearheading a move to abolish the OMB. 

The City of Toronto has just declared its intention to wrest power from the Province 

The media will exploit the issue .The media generation is no better informed than the current generation of Councillors. Neither history nor the record  is relevant. 

Councillors will thump their chests and strut their stuff without a snowball's chance in hell the 
Province will accept  liability for untethered municipal councils. 

Whatever authority municipalities have, the Province has assigned. 

When York Region was planned a single "urban node" was proposed for Aurora and Newmarket. 

Valid economic arguments presented against the plan won the day. 

Forty-six years have passed. The arguments are no longer valid. 

Different arguments carry more weight. Aurora's autonomy has survived against odds.

REVISIONS

I had to re-write the previous post. I crammed too much into it and lack of practice has had an effect on organization skills. 

The biggest problem was misinformation about  departure of the Chief Financial Officer from town 
employment. I was told today,by someone who should know ,that information is not correct.

I'm sorry about that. 

I wrote another post at the week-end. The Blogger app crashed and I needed to sign in again. 

It's six months since I create the password. I remember it being clever.  Obviously so clever, I  
couldn't remember it

Nor could I recall  in which of many small books I recorded it. 

So...now the post will have to be checked  for legibility or alternately....deletion. 

In the meantime, I'm still knitting. I have a very satisfying little pile of garments for next year's 
Christmas presents. 

Then there's the continuing carnival going on to the south of us. 

Thursday, 9 February 2017

ELECTIONS ET AL

Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "A PIG IN A POKE": 

And yet, all the incumbents who ran in the last municipal election were re-elected. Oh, wait ... ALL
BUT ONE

Posted by Anonymous to  Our Town and Its Business at 9 February 2017 at 19:11

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The above writer is thirty-three per-cent correct. Three  incumbents were replaced in the last election. One had been elected to the provincial legislature .The second was challeger for the Mayor's office.

I came within forty-nine votes of re-election Certainly closer than the mayoralty challenger. 

Probably ninety-eight per cent of  the challenger's previous term votes were the same as the rest.

So what does that prove?  

Not a  damned thing.  

When  mayoralty is uncontested, voter-turn-out takes a dive. The election  is hardly worth holding.
I've seen it as low as twenty-percent .

When there's no real choice the  contest is a lackluster affair. 
Many residents simply didn't find their way to the poll. Several assured me later of their support
had theymade it to the polls.

Klaus Wehrenberg told me when he called for assistance weeks later, he was out of the country 
at the time of the election. He didn't vote.

I spent fifty years proving to myself what needed to be said could be and still garner enough support  to win a seat at the table.

It's a risk and there's a price to pay. Not everyone appreciates plain speaking.  
 
I would have been elected with fifty more votes. Over the long term, I have been elected more often than not. My philosophy never changed .

I gained more ,much more ,than I ever lost at the ballot box. 

I wouldn't change a thing. 

I hear John Able has formed a friendly association with  the former Mormac regime. 

John Gallo regularly attends council meetings.

 Al Wilson has also started to attend meetings. 

A PIG IN A POKE

Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "NEW YORK ,NEW YORK IS A WONDERFUL TOWN": 

Wonder why they took that stupid green roof/floor off the list for the building? Where they worried about over bugeting? LMAO! And why does government justify the spending of tax payers money for Gold,Silver or bronze Leeds designations? So that they can all pat themselves on the back for a certificate the they can frame and put on a wall? Does the average tax payers really give a shit about that crap? I wonder what the tax payer would say if a bugeting was given for a Leeds designation and one without, which would they choose? 

Posted by Anonymous to  Our Town and Its Business at 9 February 2017 at 00:33

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Government competence is a project completed on time, at or under budget. 

It's no small feat. 

Town-owned land development on Leslie Street was completed at the contract price on time. 

The Seniors' Centre was similarly successful. 

Church Street School renovation was  satisfactorily completed on time and at budget. 

Stronach recreation facility on Wellington Street was efficiently effected on time and if memory serves me correctly , slightly under budget. 

Leslie Street land development was a public works project; roads, contours and land division,underground services and lighting were all engineered butthe task was assigned to the Director of Recreation.  

The foregoing projects were all supervised by the same director. Also the longest serving director 
on the town's payroll and the only line with institutional history. 

Within weeks of his own appointment , the  former CAO , re-organized the management team. He wasn't on the job long enough to understand howthe town functioned let alone 
how it might be improved. It was not. 

He did what he was hired to do by the Mayor of the day. 

Authority was shifted from Municipal Clerk and Director of Leisure Services to others,with no 
more credentials for  new responsibilities than they had for their original. 

Re-organization was repeated regularly to sort out the mess, without ever recognizing  the hopelessness of the cause. 

The joint Centre  financial debacle  is only the project that has finally hit the fan. 

By the time the CAO took his leave for greener field,  problems would already be
apparent. He had previously assigned the Director of Recreation to the industrial park project
onLeslie Street. He obviously recognized who was capable of doing it. 

I have heard the Chief Financial Officer left. That information is not correct. 

Against regulation, he was appointed without Council authority . He informed colleagues he was
hired a  coffee in Tim Horton's. 

Human Resources manager was doing the hiring for a significant period. He was fired eventually. .

Communications manager, joined the town "on loan" from the region. He's gone.

The position of Director of Corporate Affairs was eliminated for "economy"

Responsibility for the clerk's department was assigned to the town solicitor. 

Two solicitors were required in the legal department  because there was too much work for one.

But not so much apparently that the solicitor could handle supervision of the municipal clerk's
division as well as his own responsibility.

Traditionally and still in many municipalities, the municipal clerk  is certified ,appointed by bylaw,sworn into office and manages the entire administration. 

Remember the multi-million dollar asset give-away of the hydro building on a thirty year lease and  forfeiture of property tax:

A WAMS software package waspurchased  at $400,000 ,without consultation with the IT department  to determine compatibility with service already in use:

Eighteen months later, it was still not up and running:

A  million dollar treatment facility to remove salt from snow? Hundreds of thousands spent before cancellation: 

Remember the refusal  of the Works Director and Treasurer  to respond to questions about water and sewer rates?

A communication division budget was increased tenfold without notable improvement. 

And the contract with a self appointed Culture Centre Board with annual hand-out increases of hundreds of thousands of dollars. 

The curators and museum program was created , in addition to ,not in place of, close to a hundred thousand dollar grant to the Historical Society?

Then half a million dollars was paid for a contaminated shack  to the federal government. 

We are not talking about thousands down the drain my friends. We are talking millions. 

Not stolen. 

No cheating that I know. 

Just given away, filched from the people, by the people,elected to prevent that from happening. 

With nary a sound word of  professional advice or caution from those paid in full to provide it. 

Sunday, 5 February 2017

NEW YORK ,NEW YORK IS A WONDERFUL TOWN


Retaining lead staff and governing practices were not the only surprisesof Mayor Dawe's first term, considering the reason for his election

The previous term had been tortuous with numerous personnel biting the dust along the trail. Almost without exception, replacements were individuals who knew what was expected of them and the 
wellbeing of the municipality was not it.

The clerk's position was an exception. The Municipal Act spells out responsibility of the clerk'soffice and requires legal conformity. Certification is required. 

Replacements of questionable fit,repeated re-organizations and increased dependence on consultants became the critical norm within the Dawe administration as with the previous council.  With few exceptions, staff  could no longer be depended upon to keep the municipality  operating on an even keel. 

Now I have a confession to make. I have been paying scant attention to town affairs since I 
stopped writing the blog.
 
I learned of termination of the Director of Environment and Infrastructure by phone last week. The news prompted a  post

To-night I started reading The Auroran on line to catch up and learned a final report on the Joint Centre had been presented and concerns were raised. One of the items removed from the contract with Council approval is  included in 2017 budget. Numbers and explanations do not co-ordinate. 

The greenhouse floor is also missing, as well as the green roof on the building . The Gold Standard.

But we awarded a contract with all of these items included in the price.  Every last fol-de-rol was was included in the project. No expense was spared. 

Then came news of the Director's termination. It made sense. It would have made more sense if a person of adequate credentials had been appointed to the Director's position  in the first place.

That was true of so many. 

But what is also true is the Mayor chaired an financial oversight committee of the Joint Centre  build.
A management consultant was hired to supervise. How many people are needed to create an 
almighty  mess.

Watching the  appointment process of President of the Good Old USA  to his cabinet has a similar surreal quality of familiarity and foreboding. 

A long list of comings and goings and shifts about over the last ten years has never bode well for the municipality's interest. 

Every one has a story. 

All of it bizarre.

The tax bill arrived in the mail today. 

 Without doubt it is twice as much as it needs to be for half as much value.  

Councillor Kim  posted  on Facebook of proposing the  addition of an Economic Development Board  similar to Aurora Library Board and Aurora  Cultural Centre Board .That means another budget item in 
the millions. 

Oh Lordy Lordy

An economic development department with at least two persons  is already on the payroll. 

The CAO's office has a planner  for "Special projects" 

The Historical Society has a budget hand-out of thousands to spend as they will to promote town heritage with negligible results.

A minimal museum program and  two curators are on the payroll .

The planning department includes  a heritage planner to protect  heritage. 

 Aurora Arboretum has authority to spend hundreds of thousands of tax dollars. 

Nigh on a million dollars is about to be dropped into a hole in the ground under Leslie Street. 

And If I'm going to keep posting ,I have homework to catch up on.