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

Wednesday, 27 July 2016

JUST BECAUSE HE SAID IT, DOESN'T MEAN IT'S TRUE

Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "TRY AND MAKE SENSE OUT OF THIS": 

"Councillor Mrakas regularly uses Facebook to inform of matters he thinks are important."

And where you regularly troll him  and other commenters. 

Posted by Anonymous to  Our Town and Its Business at 27 July 2016 at 12:46

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The Internet is still new to many and others are complete strangers to the system. I am still 
enjoying  the new freedom.

As an elected representative I was probably not first to publish a blog.  I believe I may be longest and most consistent poster in Aurora. I continued as a non-elected resident. 

As long as I know people are reading, I will write. To those who read but hate it,I invite to bug off. 

I commend Tom Mrakas for putting his views out there.  I have challenged him. Asked questions . Sought explanations. 

That's not  trolling.

 That's  engaging. 

As a colleague, I would have warned of the risk.
He might have paid no mind. 
I'm not a colleague.
He takes the risk.
I challenge.
He does not respond. 
Engagement is perfunctory. 
So be it.

One who seek office and expects views to be unchallenged,is due for a surprise.

Those who don't seek office but have opinions to express should expect to be challenged.

TRY AND MAKE SENSE OUT OF THIS

If  members of council decide business matters based on personal preference or opinion,without reference to logic or law, policy, principle or precedent,it should be a simple matter to resolve shadow problems indirectly alluded to, by reducing staff at the top.They've done it before. 

The Mayor's weekly report regularly lists fun events. Like social convenor and communications wallah combined. There hardly seems to be a need for both. 

Councillor Mrakas regularly uses Facebook to inform of matters he thinks are important. If all nine Council members were doing it ,that would surely be open lines of communication.

After reading Councillor Kim's reference to the Historical Society and Culture Centre's budget,
I tried to discover from the town's www  which two Councillors serve on the Culture Centre Board.
Couldn't do it. The  process must be simple and straightforward for me to use.  And of course, 
many residents are still not on-line  from choice. Others are not using Rogers. They use satellite 

Councillor Kim's query  could have been partially answered. The Culture Centre contract allows the board to conduct business in closed meetings.  A quarterly report is forwarded to the treasurer showing how the town's money was spent and he in turn, exercises his judgement  and issues the next quarter's installment. 

Council has no involvement except to approve in the next year's budget the requested payment for services. 

The Historical Society receives  an annual grant for no municipal purpose. They have no responsibility for museum, heritage collection or receiving donations.
A few years ago they opted out of a legal agreement to manage the museum because they only had fifty-nine members. 
Since then the town has retained a curator, taken responsibility for the collection and taken over space in Church Street School for a museum. The budget is likely a couple of hundred thousand at least out of town coffers. 

Still  the Historical Society receives an increased grant every year.  

Three years ago,the Mayor acknowledged continuance of the grant needed to be decided but budget deliberations  was not the right time. Since then the grant has increased fifty-per cent. 

Current President of the Historical Society is the same who promoted a heritage theme park for qHillary House and it's neighbours. The Mayor's name was first on the petition of support from prominent citizens. 

Several tens of thousands and weeks of staff time were incurred  before a consultant's report advised  no financial advantage to the municipality. Like we needed an expert to tell us. Like we didn't have a mega-million dollar administration of experts on the payroll. 

The same individual now has $75.thousand with annual increases from the town.This volunteer group has a curator on the payroll to do the work.  Instead one curator authorised by  Council, the town pays for two. 

Councillor Kim's query on these matters could easily have been answered on the spot. The treasurer is certainly familiar with funding history. 

But when he talks about solving unarticulated  budget problems, he offers a reduction in town payroll as a solution. Even while hiring continues non-stop. 

Last time they decided to save  money ,they got rid of the Director of Administrative Services.  

In a re-organisation, responsibility for administrative services was transferred to the town solicitor. 
A Town Clerk was hired.

Since then,the CAO has flown the coop with much fanfare. The town solicitor exited the joint with no public attention. , The  town clerk went off to join the Richmond Hill Municipal Legion. Human Resources Manager and the Communications manager simply departed, silent of kefuffle that we know.

I keep intending to quote some of the phrases and sentences the treasurer used convey funding shortfalls  to council without actually speaking of shortfalls from spending funds they didn't have that now require  drastic action to correct. 

I keep being diverted by diversions.

Saturday, 23 July 2016

BAFFLEGAB BUDGETING

Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "IT STILL DOESN'T WASH CLEAN": 

The Mayor cannot turn back the clock. Council have voted to fund Mavrinac from the very beginning. 
It is a shame that the park-to-be will be such a localized affair but everyone has signed off on it except for Cllr 
Pirri who wanted it to be more inclusive. 
The Mayor truly illustrates that he has only the one vote - he sure isn't driving the bus. 

Posted by Anonymous to  Our Town and Its Business at 23 July 2016 at 12:04

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Councillor Pirri's argument was not the Mayor's . He voted against the project because 
park amenities in the neighbourhood were already better than sufficient....the best ratio of any 
in  town.

The Mavrinac residents got what they wanted from  purely political expediency. Geoff Dawe did 
nothing to stop it . 

An estimate of revenue lost from taking  land out of the private sector was never requested.

Professional salaries to provide such advice are as redundant as the park.

Council adopted a policy to freeze hiring and did nothing but buy property since.

New revenue from new development is negated by such purchases . 

Vanishing  retail ,evident throughout  the town, means lost revenue.

Condo buildings are not permitted to rise above a certain level making them financially non-feasible.  
So  stacked townhouses are to be built in the town Centre. Despite Provincial policy of high density.

Last week The Auroran cited substantial bafflegab from the Treasurer, telling Council in highly 
convoluted language why he can't give them the budget they want. 

They've  already spent money they didn't have in previous  budgets. 

He calls it "deferred taxes" . 

It's budgeting for a deficit and that's prohibited by the Municipal Act. 

He has already confided the facts to the Financial Advisory Committee. It must mean no need for the rest to know. 

Don't ask, don't tell. 

Read the story. it starts on Page 1 and continues on Page 16  under a different title. 

THE SECOND OLDEST PROFESSION

Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "IT STILL DOESN'T WASH CLEAN": 

What's funny is that it was Gallo who started this shit show. But it was Dawe who benefitted. 

Posted by Anonymous to  Our Town and Its Business at 22 July 2016 at 23:54

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John Gallo's  alliance with the Mormac regime and what he learned from them no doubt  helped with the votes he received in the last two elections. 

As long as citizens make unreasonable demands, candidates willing to sell their souls will continue to do well in politics. Such voters contribute as much to venality in politics as such lcandidates. 

Gallo was not elected when the Mavrinac development subdivision agreement was signed.he ah no even have been a resident. 

I wasn't on Council either but  I've seen enough to know how it happened. 

A subdivision agreement is standard procedure, the  domain of legal staff and in accordance 
with requirements of the Planning Act. 

In the 2003/6 term I witnessed an aberration. Council sold a small parcel of land once thought to be in developable. It was on the far  side of the Hydro corridor and formerly owned by a group called Old Park  Holdings. Access was not possible  at the time ownership was transferred to the town many years previous.

In the agreement of sale , a Councillor insisted a clause be inserted stipulating ,if the plan for a small  town house complex for seniors did not proceed, the land must be sold back to the town at the 
price paid. It was a conditional sale.

The town's interim solicitor advised against the clause. The Councillor insisted. With one exception
the rest of Council agreed and the  developer signed. 

The Plan proceeded to the point of obtaining mortgage money to finance the development. 

The bank said no . The land title was not clean. 

Back they had to come to the town. The agreement had to be revised. The clause removed.

No doubt the clause requiring the unwanted school site to be sold to the town was inserted
under similar circumstance. The Planning Act does not permit the town to demand more than 
5% of developable land for a park. 

None of the staff were aware of the redundant clause. Gallo would not either without being told
by the former Councillor responsible. 

Even the developer must have signed it unaware of its existence. 

Why would he? The Separate School Board had,years before,  indicated their need for the site. 

So the thing slipped through until the day  came Gallo was able to use it to his advantage. 

Not for long. Dawe and Able and Humfreys and Gaertner were soon on the bandwagon.and funds were provided to fight a legal battle. 

From a developer's standpoint, a legal dispute with a municipality is never to their advantage nor
to the municipality either. The municipality had time on their side and to a builder, time is money.

So politics at its worst proceeded inexorably. 

With politicians and Mavrinac residents  both declaring eminent righteousness of a totally fallacious cause. 


Friday, 22 July 2016

IT STILL DOESN'T WASH CLEAN

Mayor Dawe has taken advantage of his office. In an interview with Brock Weir, editor of The Auroran,
the Mayor got a second opportunity to press  his argument against spending $1.1 million dollars on a third park in Mavricland. Problem is, the vote is taken. The Mayor persuaded no-one.His influence is. Nil to Zero. 

There is no more substance to his argument than there is to the arguments of the seven who voted
In support of the park. 

The Mayor sent this project on its trajectory before the last election when he voted for legal action to compel the developer to surrender the 6 acre site to the town.The town had no legal justification 
to force that sale. No law that would have allowed expropriation for a park. 

That may have been the moment the former solicitor realised Aurora had no need for a legal department and he did not invest in a career in law to be employed by a town without respect for law or logic. 

Municipal decisions are  determined, in the main,  by various acts of Provincial law. 

The Planning Act requires a developer to dedicate  5% of a developable parcel for a park.The 
municipality cannot ask for more. 

School boards may requisition sites for schools but they must pay raw land price. 

Municipalities must calculate development charges covering needs in a five year period .

 Master Recreation Plans must be reviewed every five years for identified needs to justify Development Charges. 

It means home buyers pay for the park  in their neighbourhood. The town pays ten per cent to
Make it a community affair. 

Amenities in new home developments shall not increase the tax burden for existing residents. 

There is method in the madness.

Legal fees were incurred to compel the Mavrinac  developer to surrender a six acre site not required by the separate school board. 

Legal costs have not  been disclosed.

 $2.3 million was paid for the land. $1.1 million is estimated to build  a third park within a klick of two other fine facilities. 

Nothing supports the project. Neither law, logic nor equity between taxpayers. 

The decision was purely political. Votes from the Mavrinac neighbourhood were the prize. They still
are.

As I recall,Councillor Michael Thompson quietly witheld his support to acquire  the land. He now argues for the expenditure.

No-one asks about the source of funding. 

 

Wednesday, 20 July 2016

FALSE HOPES

Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "WHERE ONE LIVES IS A FREE CHOICE": 

14:45
Removed traffic calming

Renamed a previously renamed street to name two

Look up the rest 

Posted  by Anonymous to  Our Town and Its Business at 20 July 2016 at 07:48

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Traffic calming was not removed. Chicanes were but they were  only part of the scheme. The main obstructions were dead-ends to prevent through traffic.  was impossible. Some residents couldn't get ti their homes without driving around the block homes. But there weren't enough of them and they didn't seem to count. They lived on Centre Street.

Aurora never used to be like that. 

It was a bellicose, belligerant interlude in town politics that started with Nigel Keane, Phyllis Morris and Evaline McEachern. 

In former Mayor Tim Jones second to last term, a consultant was assigned to the north-east quadrant to satisfy complaints . There was a  public school and a French-immersion school and buses. 

Y'know nuisance stuff that annoyed people. 

The  consultant must have brought a catalogue to the meetings.  Everything was chosen.  

The project was  referred to the next budget....after the  election. 

An estimate for the means to obstruct traffic was $86.thousand.  Tenders were called separately. One 
to build a new road and underground services  and one to discourage its use by people paying for it.

A bid of $211.thousand sufficiently shocked a majority of Council to decide against the  award
at the general committee meeting. 

Staff were immediately directed by Morris ,the Mayor to knock on every door in the quadrant before the week-end  and alert residents to the decision.   

Tuesday's Council was raucous. One young father brought  a photograph of his infant son to explain his passion. 

The Mayor said the neighbourhood was" special".  It had recently been designated heritage. 

Council caved in and the contract was awarded.  

The town  was less than impressed. Paying to build streets and at the same time paying for an obstruction course to discourage use is inclined to have that effect. 

The next election brought about  a significant change . 

However, except for removing the chicanes , dead-ends to impede  the flow of traffic is still in place. 
Deliberately. 

Re-naming a street is a long and twisted story for another day.

I'm outside doing yard work to keep me from television most days. 

Tuesday, 19 July 2016

WHERE ONE LIVES IS A FREE CHOICE

Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "NOTHING NEW IN THE MUNICIPAL UNIVERSE": 

I don't give a hoot about speed bumps, there's a lot of speeding across some of these roads in Town, but those chicanes that redirect traffic should have never been installed. I remember when council voted to have those things removed, whatever happened to that? Righting a wrong has never been Aurora's strong suit. In fact...they're absolute cowards. 

Posted by Anonymous to  Our Town and Its Business at 18 July 2016 at 13:15

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The town did remove the chicanes . At a cost of $59 thousand. They left dead-ended streets in place and added speed bumps for the same purpose. 

There were residents seriously inconvenienced by the configuration who have to drive around the block to get into their driveways. Their rights were not addressed. 

I remember smug satisfaction expressed by the spokesman for the obstruction course . He spoke after of enjoying  quiet on his porch while his wife was on the road teaching his seven year old how to ride a bike. I heard  later he sold his house and moved out of town soon after. 

It was always his right, of course.

Like it was his choice to buy a house in an area of town where traffic is certainly heavy, going to and from other places. 

Like say, Murray Drive, Aurora Heights, Orchard Heights and a dozen others.  

I had a call, once from a resident on Aurora Heights Drive. He bought his house seven months 
previously without understanding it was a major collector of  heavy traffic off Yonge Street. 

He didn't ask for chicanes, for streets to be dead-ended to prevent through access, or for speed bumps. 

He simply asked for the regular speed limit to be reduced because he had young children. From his perspective that was reasonable.

I had to explain to him the broader function of Aurora Heights Drive. 

About provincially  regulated speed limits. 

That York Region Police, a public agency at arm's length from politics, is responsible for enforcing speed limits. 

Municipal politicians can fool around with speed limits,  if it makes no sense, the police will not issue tickets to people for driving at regulated speed limits. 

I never heard from the resident again. 

Maybe he sold his house  on Aurora Heights Drive  and bought one on a back street where his children would be safer. 

He always had that choice. 




Sunday, 17 July 2016

NOTHING NEW IN THE MUNICIPAL UNIVERSE

Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "SATURDAY NIGHT POST PART 2": 

Short. funny letter in The Auroran about Council catering to special interests in the speed hump matter. 
The writer is correct. Mavinac and Kennedy do get problems fixed faster than the rest of the town's streets. 

Posted by Anonymous to  Our Town and Its Business at 17 July 2016 at 08:20

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The writer is not correct. There's a history . It will not be told at the current council table. 

Nobody there,neither Council nor staff, have a clue about Kennedy Street W and the Mavrinac 
Saga will not  bear their examination. 

But I can tell. 

Kennedy was not always open between Yonge and Bathurst. It ended at Murray Drive. Murray Drive wasn't always open to Kennedy. It ended just past Regency Public School. Henderson Drive didn't open to Yonge Street either. 

A hand full of old homes and at least one old farm house were in King Township on a dirt road that was Kennedy W beyond Murray Drive. 

MacDonald Drive had to be opened by Tridel Corporation when they built the town house and apartment complex on Wellington Street. A Writ of Mandamus was issued to compel the town 
to grant building permits for the complex. Council had pre-zoned the land for apartment density.

It was before a planning department, an Official Plan, development charges or any of that stuff. 
 
Council was doing silly stuff then as now. Tridel was a trio of Del Zotto brothers. 

Aurora's boundaries were extended when York Region was created in 1971. Kennedy Street was  
constructed  a few years after and services were extended. Old  houses were demolished and new homes built. 

Soon residents started agitating for speed bumps to stop traffic from using Kennedy  Street. 

The town had grown. They were part of its growth. Traffic increased. They were part of that too.
They had  two,three ,four -car garages. 

Not all  wanted speed bumps. For the same reason the town had always resisted the demand. 

According to insurance data,speed bumps damage cars. The town would be liable.

Former Councillor Damir Vrancic never wanted speed bumps. He drove  a low-hung, long, red 
convertible sports car and lived on Kennedy Street W.

Councilor Vrancjc has not been a member of Council for ten years.  

The Mavrinac Saga started on a summer Sunday in 2014 when former  Councillor John Gallo went 
rat-a-tat-tatting  on doors  to inform  residents the Separate School Board had decided not to take up a 6 acre site for a school . 

The Councillor told them the town should acquire it and turn it into a park. 

Lickety-split, the race was on before the whistle had even  blown. 

That story has so many twists and turns it deserves a post of its own. 

I have laundry to hang. 

Saturday, 16 July 2016

SATURDAY NIGHT POST PART 2

Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "IN YOUR EYES...": 

Part 2

Aurora is not Newmarket or Unionville with their historic and vibrant main streets. We have Yonge Street, part of Highway 11 - the world's longest street. Along with numerous "For Lease" signs in store-fronts where once there were thriving businesses. One of the mayor's first imperatives upon his election was to bring more businesses to Aurora. Yonge Street seems to have been forgotten. What is the Chamber of Commerce doing to alleviate this situation? At the very least they should keep the citizenry advised as to the number of vacant premises and whether this is increasing or decreasing. It seems that the business "core" has relocated to Bayview and Wellington/Leslie.

But Aurora does have an historic assemblage of houses, on Wellington east of Yonge. These have been restored, repainted, landscaped and are downright attractive, and if viewed slowly and individually are obviously of an age. The town should place plaques on each of these outlining their history. It doesn't take long for one of these properties to sport a "Sold" sign shortly after listing.

One of council's front burner issues (there's that word) is to turn Aurora into a tourist destination. This would ensure that a hotel could locate in our town and be a commercial success. Excuse me, but what attractions do Aurora possess that will lure the public into our environs? What do we have that would amuse or entertain tourists?

Finally I will focus on banning left turns at Yonge and Wellington between the hours of 7:00 - 9:00 am and 4:00 - 6:00 pm. At the present time there are advanced green lights on Wellington east and Yonge south. These last about 10 seconds. I would suggest that if this time were doubled or even tripled it would clear those wanting to make that turn. But that's beside the point. Our council learned, after much discussion, that the Region was responsible for this intersection, in addition to which it required a formal decision by Regional council to bring about the proposed change. All of this will require further study by Regional staff, not Aurora's. Why was our council not aware of this?

The first thing that occurs to me is to count the number of vehicles making left turns at this intersection between the above two time periods. Second, if the change goes into effect, what is going to happen to the homes on the eight streets that will carry this new and additional traffic burden. These side streets, by the way are used by residents for parking. Will this be banned and where will their cars go?

The point of all of this: why does our council waste so much time on dumb things instead of caring for our money that they seem to spend without a second thought? 



Posted by Anonymous to  Our Town and Its Business at 16 July 2016 at 19:38

GUEST POST ON A SATURDAY NIGHT

Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "IN YOUR EYES...": 

In parts of the teeming metropolis of New York City streets are numbered and they are alternating one way. This can be a blessing or a curse depending on the morning or afternoon rush hour and the direction in which you are travelling. In the cops and robbers movies of old the robbers tried to escape the cops by driving the wrong way up or down a one-way street, to be greeting by the gnashing of brakes and the blaring of horns.

Aurora is not a teeming metropolis, but one of our councillors recently proposed that three streets in our "core" be designated one-way. BRILLIANT!

And to further aggravate aesthetic matters one of these streets should be available for angled parking. This brings back memories of my travels through much of the great plain and mountain states of America, where dirt main streets, 100' wide, were occupied by all manner of cars and pick-up trucks, many with trailers attached, all angle-parked outside the local shops, restaurants and saloons - and an occasional horse tethered to a hitching rail. Aurora is not cow-town Kansas. Angled parking would somehow be unseemly.

And while I'm on "our Town" - which by the way is a pretty nice place to live - it would be remiss if I did not mention a couple of other things that annoy the hell out of me. One is the notion of Aurora having a "cultural precinct." I always associate "precinct" with police procedurals on TV. Whose brainwave was this? What is a CULTURAL PRECINCT? There are a couple of old buildings on Victoria Street that should be meeting the wrecker's ball, not an ongoing subject of "repurposing." I hate this word and equate it to "issues" - "she's got issues." Or foodie or selfie. There are many more that have crept into common use. The only thing to say about them is that they are "common."

A four-story condominium with a facade similar to Wells Street Public School would fit in beautifully, with its own underground parking. Enough yammering after more than a decade. Council - GET OFF THE POT.

To be continued...

Posted by Anonymous to  Our Town and Its Business at 16 July 2016 at 17:01