"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

Thursday, 29 January 2009

Water Safety or Windrows? Dialogue

Fair, Brave Sir Robert

It's my job to ask questions and obtain information on behalf of the community. I do not rely on the town's web site and depend upon my interpretation of it. I prefer a direct discussion with staff to clarify my understanding. If the answers are not on my fingertips, I know what questions to ask.

The Region is responsible for the water supply. They pump it out of the ground into the reservoirs. They ensure the supply is adequate and constantly monitor aquifers to that end. They may even test the water. The town does pay the Region for water consumed.

Municipalities are responsible for distribution of water throughout their respective communities. Monitoring quality, testing and adding chemicals to ensure quality and safety is done at the local level. Common sense dictates testing from Steeles Avenue to Lake Simcoe would not have the same results.The water tested need not be from the same so

Recent local headlines proclaimed two negative Aurora water tests. The newspaper thought it of sufficient importance to make the front page. The public was concerned. The annual average of negative tests is far in excess of that number. Aurora's results were two points less than perfect. That perspective was never presented.

The Town of Walkerton was held responsible for e-coli in its water system. The deaths and illness of several residents were caused by a failure to perform. A town employee went to jail. I thought that was truly horrifying.

The situation brought about stringent regulations governing all Ontario municipalities. Anyone who assumes the catastrophe and found culpability of a municipal employee, does not weigh heavily on those charged with water safety, simply does not understand.

There was no debate in council to determine how a windrow clearing service would be provided by town manpower. Public Works Director had already reported to council manpower was stretched to the limit. It could not be done by the works department.

It may be, in my non-professional capacity as a politician, I make too much of the issue of water safety. If so, I will be glad to let someone who knows more than I do, tell me that.

You, Fair Brave Sir Robert are not the one.

Neither Sir, do you make the case for an accusation against me of "fear-mongering."

A Tutorial It's Not

In an anonymous comment to Aurora Citizen, a resident indicates a desire to understand how council decisions are made. I smiled to myself and thought;: Bless Your Heart, you will not learn from watching this council.

Parliamentary Rules of Order have existed since the days of Oliver Cromwell. Oliver was not a sympathetic character in history. Even he would be aghast at the situation in Aurora.

This Council started at a disadvantage. Six newly elected members without an understanding that the authority of council is equally shared. A member elected to office for the first time is not expected to be an expert. Being a councillor is how one learns.

When I started, colleagues, particularly Mayor Clarence Davis, and staff were generous with their time and forbearance. I did not expect that consideration. I was an outsider after all.

I learned that respect for the office of Councillor takes precedence. We argued with passion, anger and sometimes inadvertent comedy. We were forced to laugh at ourselves on occasion. Rules of Order dictated that rancour and personal hostility had no place in the conduct of town business The merest hint of spite would draw forth a collective groan from around the table.

Sometimes a new Councillor took longer to realise he was not among enemies. Given common sense and the shared humbling experience of having been elected. a Council normally evolved into a cohesive unit with respect and recognition of the right and responsibility of each member to present a perspective on an issue at hand.

None of that happened with this council. A slate of candidates was elected on the new Mayor's coat-tails. They continue to be beholden. They follow their leader slavishly. They relinquished authority and put unlimited power in the hands of one. Good judgement does not come along with the package.

There is no need for principles, rules of order or concept of fairness. All resources are one person's to command. No opposition is tolerated. The majority block has thus far held firm.

Still the waters do not run smoothly.The Melodrama continues to unfold and be shown for what it is.

Four and a half centuries have passed since the days of Oliver Cromwell. Times have changed. People read and write and think for themselves and have the right to cast a ballot.

I have a seat at the table and a Blog. If I knew how to attach audio-visuals, I would tack that on too.

Maybe someday.

Tuesday, 27 January 2009

Water Safety or Windrow Clearing...?

I write a Blog and copy it as a Letter to the Editor. Then I write other stuff - sometimes political, sometimes personal. Days later I read my letter to the editor and realize ...Hey, that raises more questions.

In a phone conversation, I learned a man from Water is clearing the windrows and while that's happening, his regular job isn't being done. After I put the phone down I thought, “Wait a minute, that can't be good.” The guys from water are responsible for water safety. That's an ongoing daily monitoring function.

People died in Walkerton a few years ago because that job wasn't being done properly. A man went to jail because of it. It wasn't a politician though. Mike Harris did away with the Ontario Water Resources Commission as a cost-cutting measure but nobody held him responsible. Oh Dear Me No.

For years, The Ontario Water Resources Commission had been monitoring municipal water to ensureits safety Many towns did not have the financial resources to provide the necessary technical expertise. O.W.R.C. was a badly needed resource.

Since Walkerton, the province passed stringent regulations governing water treatment. Employees who fall down on the task can now be charged with negligence under the Criminal Code. Municipalities can and have been fined hundreds of thousands of dollars. Worst of all, public health is at risk if the job isn't done properly.

I needed to know what isn't being done in the water department while a technician is out clearing windrows.

So I called. It's not good. Because of an injury, the water crew was already short handed. Windrow clearing was assigned to them. Another technician had to be taken from the job. It's harder to get done what needs to be done to keep the water department functioning efficiently with two men short. They work shifts in that department.

Clearing windrows is a questionable use of a skilled resource. The hourly rate of pay is less. As well as putting water operations under stress, it's causing labour problems. The Manager of Works Operation Services and the Water supervisor are both spending administrative time dealing with the windrow clearing program and its attendant problems.

Windrows are left after the sidewalk plow as well as the road plow. Seniors with sidewalks expect two windrows to be cleared. They are created at different times.

Regional plows pass more often than municipal. Seniors living on Regional roads expect their windrows to be cleared every time the regional plow goes by. It all takes time. Time costs money. Time spent on one job, taken from another more critical operation, is not efficient use of time.

Without council awareness and without council authority, the decision to use or misuse employee time for this purpose as well as being poor management, risks public safety and it is fraught with potential for disaster.

Is anybody listening?

Saturday, 24 January 2009

You Were Saying.

Blog postings and Letters to the Editor are very satisfying. I spend an average of four or five hours on each. I write it, leave it a few hours, read it to ensure it makes sense. I repeat the exercise and keep on making changes, sometimes even after it's been posted.

I write nothing that can't be verified. Council and committee meetings are audio and visually recorded. A tape is available for the asking. When I write a Blog or a letter, I'm aware of the likely reaction when the main characters are not enhanced by their own actions or comments.

It's fast and furious and telling. This week, there's a reference to my application under the Freedom of Information Act. I did not make such an application. . I spoke to a staff person and requested a form. No resident would know that

It's not hard to pick up signs. The substance of a conversation with a staff person showing up in Mayoralty comments within hours or days is a dead giveaway.

Comments I receive when out and about assure me ,my efforts with the blog and letters are well received. People give me all the encouragement I need. In an ideal Council, every member brings something different to the job. Communication is the skill I learned best from the opportunity provided by voters in Aurora. I always used letters to the editor but in my wildest dreams. I never imagined such a tool as The Blog.

So now to continue the previous discourse: on cost differences between providing a service with town forces versus an outside contract.

The town provides a variety of services. Corporate Services, Works and Recreation are the biggest. They do not function independently. They are supported by tvarious departments which comprise the whole administration.

Corporate Services provide communication between departments. and to the public. I'm not sure of all the services provided by Human resources but they are substantial. They negotiate contracts, create job descriptions, advertise for replacements, receive applications, set up interviews. receive and process grievances and I think there's a nurse on staff.

Treasury handles payroll, purchasing and keeps track of department budgets.

Legal services work on contracts and agreements and litigation and keep everybody functioning within the law.

Communications inform the community .They are currently also acting as personal political promotion for the Mayor's office. Check Media releases for the number of references to Mayoralty thoughts and reflections.

The Chief Administrative Officer provides supervision, support and direction to all departments. He ensures council's directions are understood and followed. Garbled and contradictory resolutions tabled without notice or circulation and passed by council, sight unseen, are not conducive to the successful operation of that department.

For budget purposes, a factor for the cost of each supporting department listed above, is charged to the department receiving the support. Except for legal services. The Mayor's ability to retain legal council whenever she thinks she will, skewers and obscures that department's budget substantially.

In 2003, when the Clerk made a calculation of the election recount cost, the figure was dismissed as ridiculous by a councillor because the work would be done by staff. It was then I learned how costs are calculated. It made sense then and it does now and people paying the bills need to know that. We are putting our hands into other people's pockets when we vote for these expenditures.

I'm not certain the hourly rates I provided in the previous blog included all the factors mentioned above. To be precise, they must include all benefits; health, pension, vacation, statutory holidays, sick time, time off for funerals and birthdays and life insurance. and everything that's part of a collective agreement.

Even though they do carry the profit factor,private contractors do not carry the same load for administrative overhead or union contracts..

For years now, municipalities have turned to external contracts to control the cost of providing service. There can be no argument that the windrow clearing provided by the town's work force compares with a contract price. Council were advised of that by the Director of Public Works before they made the decision to provide the service at full cost recovery.

The torrent of abuse hurled at my head should not be allowed to distract attention from the relevant fact; Council's intent was yhat the cost of the windrwo program was to be recovered from the recipients of the service. Council's authority was disrespected and undermined. The community has not been well served .The question still stands. Who was responsible?

Friday, 23 January 2009

Just Answer the Questions

Last week, I shared information about the town's windrow clearing service for seniors and the disabled. Council gave direction to staff prior to Christmas to start the service. The level of interest was unknown at the time. The decision called for full cost recovery. Fees quoted by a contractor were adopted in the resolution. No updates have been provided to council since. I learned the service was not being provided by outside contract. Public Works were undertaking the task.At the first meeting of the year, I asked for an update.

Though not chairing the meeting, Mayor Morris stated since the item was not on the agenda, it could not be discussed. Nor could it be raised in the new business section of the agenda. A notice of motion was necessary, she said and a resolution approved for staff to provide the information.

I posted a Blog about the issue (copied as letter to the editor). Days later, I received an e-mail copy of Council's resolution from Councillor MacEachern. She had presented the relevant motion verbally following considerable debate, when it seemed a consensus of council had been reached. It was seconded by Councillor McRoberts, put to a vote by Mayor Morris and approved by council sight unseen.

Councillor MacEachern regularly presents multi-faceted resolutions without notice, not featured on the agenda and not circulated to council. At the start of this term, I noted the practice was out of order and without merit. It was inappropriate for council to vote on resolutions they had not had a chance to read. My concern was not shared by staff or colleagues. I continue to regard the practice as disorderly and fraught with potential difficulties. But without support from staff or council, there is little point in continuing to make the point.

On Tuesday, at council, during the new business section of the agenda, Councillor MacEachern produced the resolution. She referred to my letter to the editor and directed the resolution be placed on the overhead slide projector. The issue was not on the agenda. No motion was made to permit its introduction. Yet in contrast to her previous position, Mayor Morris moved the matter along.

The Mayor read the resolution. It was implied staff had simply followed council's direction

Why then, when I raised the question, did Councillor MacEachern not refer to the resolution? Why was the Mayor determined no explanation would be provided?

The first clause of the resolution states;

'That the Town of Aurora provide the snow windrow clearing program at full cost recovery for $70 per household.”

One figure was given for full cost recovery; the contractors' quote. No figures were provided for the town's work force to perform the service.

Therefore, to fully recover costs as specified in th resolution ,the work had to be done by outside contract. That was council's intent.

That's not what happened.

Initially five people registered for the program. The contractor was adamant. He would not fire up his equipment for those numbers. The job was not financially viable. According to the Works Director, that was when and the reason why the decision was made to do it with town manpower. Not because of council's direction.

Registration did not close. The numbers have since risen to thirty-eight. The Town continues to provide the service. Once started, it's hard to see how it can be stopped. On one day, the run took from 4.30 am until 4pm. Overtime hours are involved. Some figures are available.

Our outside workers are unionized. Figures are as follows:

Operator plus 1 ton truck & plow-$58.24

Overtime rate- operator plus 1 ton truck and plow $72.29

It takes little effiort to calculate the service is not being provided “at full cost recovery” as specified in Councillor MacEachern's resolution and council's authorisation.

My questions still stand:

Who made the decision? Was the management team involved? Was additional manpower hired to provide the new service? Has Administration Procedure No. 50 governing procurement policies, so much in the news lately,been followed? What is the cost of the service? No budget was provided in 2008 for the program? Who authorized the extra expenditure? By what authority? Will we be retaining a lawyer to “investigate “ how it happened?

Answers to questions asked by an elected representative are no more and no less than the community is entitled to expect. Waiting until spring is not an option. We understand the snow removal budget for 2008 is in deficit. We hear talk of the need for restraint. What other decisions have been made behind the scenes by persons unknown to contribute to the financial disconnect?

When answers to valid questions are not provided through the normal process, extraordinary methods must be employed to draw the public's attention to the fact. It is their business we are about. Not some private fiefdom of whatever person happens to occupy the Mayor's chair.

Tuesday, 20 January 2009

Conflict and Confusion

The Mayor has informed a confidante Mr. Whitehurst will be resuming his appointment with the Arts and Culture Committee soon. Mr. Whitehurst has been on a "Leave of absence" from the committee while being paid as "Administrative Assistant"

We learned about the Leave of Absence from the record of attendance on the Leisure Services Advisory Committee Report. His absence was noted with information about "a leave of absence." On the next report, the absence was again noted by " endorsed leave of absence".Councillor Evalina MacEachern is chairman of that Committee.

A leave of absence is not taken. It is requested and must be granted. I know of no such request. I did ask once if Mr. Whitehurst had accepted the paid appointment and if so, had he resigned from the Arts and Culture Committee which would clearly be required. . .

The Mayor was outraged by my question. She said Mr. Whitehurst's family had endured much because of publicity over the issue. Mr. Whitehurst. she declared , is a dear friend and a fine individual. he was also known to be a supporter and helped in the mayor's election campaign.

I had previously and privately asked the Clerk if he had received or seen Mr. Whitehurst's resignation. He had not. Then I asked the question publicly because of the controversy created by the appointment. People who had expressed concern were entitled to know the answer..

The Clerk later advised he had referred the question for a legal opinion. As yet none has been forthcoming. The clerk has since retired. Reference to "Leave of Absence" may be thought to have solved the problem. I don't think so.

Mr. Whitehurst accepted the paid appointment. It was recommended by a committee of which he was a member. There is no record of his resignation from the committee nor of a request for a leave of absence. If Leave had been granted it would have been after the fact.and without council involvement would have been invalid. I doubt it would meet the test.

Statements have been made that the post is full-time and pays $120,000 a year. That's not accurate. It is an interim position. Hours are up to twenty a week. The pay is $60 an hour, $1200 a week for twenty hours.

There's another odd thing. Museum curator, Kathy Malloy was also a member of the committee. She resigned. herv post as curator . It seems Mr. Whitehurst was taking her place as a resource person

. For thirty years , the town has made a grant to the Aurora Historical Society to help pay the curator salary. . Jackie Stewart held the post and was a valuable resource to the town's planning department in research of heritage homes. Jackie would help anyone who had an inquiry over and above being curator of the museum collection.
The museum had been closed for three years when Jackie retired. The town had hired a full-time Heritage planner, Michael Seaman. He came from Markham and has since departed for Oakville.

The museum has been closed five years now. The collection still in storage. The new curator hired by the Historical Society. is assigned to Hillary House Museum which is not a Town facility. The $50,000 town grant is still being paid.

Through the efforts of Ms Malloy , while she was a member of the Arts and Culture Committee, a substantial grant was obtained for renovations to Church Street School from the federal government. When Ms Malloy resigned to take a position in Markham, the town ended up paying the Historical Society an additional $10,000 for her work in obtaining the grant.

Everywhere we turn, the town doles out money and taxpayers get the short end of the stick.

Helen Roberts, President of The Aurora Historical Society was publicly supportive of Mr. Whitehurst and enunciated in a letter to the editor, the eminent suitability of his appointment to the paid position.

The 2009 budget proposed for the Arts and Culture Centre at Church Street School is half a million dollars. It is new expenditure. and in addition to the $50. thousand grant. Four full-time employees will work office hours. When I asked the consultant what new programs Aurora residents might expect, to justify the additional burden on their taxes, none were identified.Councillor Gaertner is Chair of that Committee.

When the Aurora Historical Society decided last year to withdraw from a legal commitment they made to the town to provide museum services , Ms. Roberts suggested the Society should receive a budget from the town on the same basis as the library. It seems that's exactly what is about to happen.without of course being identified as such.

* * * * * * * * * *

A prompt response to this post asks me to list my contribution in the past to the town's progress.

The past is past , Now is the present. I have never claimed sole credit for our accomplishments as a community. I always regarded council and staff as a team . Worthwhile things can not be accomplished, one without the other.

In 1976 we provided the Historical Society with a home for the museum collection in Church Street School. Having a location made the Society eligible for a $40,thousand dollar annual grant for rent. It partially covered the cost of operating the building.
During John West's administration, the grant was turned back to the society . It allowed them to hire a curator, who was Jackie Stewart.

Jackie was added to the town's payroll in order to be part of the town's benefit program. I could never get John to admit sleight of hand over how the grant to the Society from the province became a grant to the Society from the Town. . At some further point the provincial grant must have come to an end and the town started ponying up $50 thousand dollars a year from property taxes without the public ever being aware of the fact. There was never any question of value received.

Now ,if my respondent would like to offer a rational for why a friend and supporter of the Mayor should be appointed to a paid position while holding an appointed position and explain how that fits with the terms of The Code of Conduct, I am certain readers would be interested .I would post that.

Calling me names contributes nothing to the public debate .

Thursday, 15 January 2009


Hearing of my seven, people often commented they would have gone crazy with so many children. I would smile and think.... maybe I did and didn't realize it..

There were plenty of times when I didn't have control and others when mothering instincts were stretched to the limit. But there was never an option. Situations would follow so fast on one another, no time was left for contemplation. Now people compliment me on my family and I think... how much did I have I to do with it?

Books were my escape. One winter, there was a mouse in my house. He had migrated in from the cold. At night, when all was still and my feet were on the couch,he would come out and feast on the crumbs on the floor around the high chair. Then he would move along the wall under the couch to the window. I watched the curtain move as he climbed to the sill. He was heading for the place where the kids regularly removed the knobs from the sliders and air came through unimpeded. After a while, he would go back the way he came It was his regular routine until Spring came and he took himself outside again. Years later, I discovered he had lived on top of the generator under the fridge.

Sometimes I would read until daylight. Then I 'd regret finishing the book so quickly. But the story would continue to fill my mind through countless laundries , dish-washings and bed-making. There had to be time between tales or they would blend into one another and become indistinct.

I had catholic taste. . I read Exodus in hospital. My brother Terry brought it to me. Leon Uris did great research and created entirely believable characters. Arthur Hailey employed a team of researchers but his characters weren't worth a damn. I felt he was writing screen plays not stories.

Morris Shepherd, like others who write for a living, wrote one story but many books. He simply relocated the plot to a different culture and country. His yarns were about politics and international intrigue. His romantic element always ended precipitately. His characters were credible. He would build the situation to the point of intimacy. Then it seemed there were pages missing or stuck together. I would check the numbers in exasperation. I concluded he'd been educated by a celibate order. I later learned he had indeed been taught by the Christian Brothers.

Michener's books were packed with history. I l flipped pages of description until the story resumed. I think he must have been paid by weight for his books. But the research was authentic .I never lost interest in how people survive.

Allen Drury was a Washington journalist who wrote about politics during the Kennedy era. He had a regular cast of characters. I've come across one of them more than once in Aurora. He is short and skinny. Full of righteous indignation and conviction that he alone holds the Secret of the Holy Grail.He spews out vitriol and is entirely without humour. His reputation is built on battling the corruption and incompetence he finds everywhere. His rapid fire speech rises to a hysterical scream to indicate the depth of his passion.

Senator Joseph McCarthy was such a personality.He may have been the model. The harm he caused will probably never be calculated. He ended in madness and ignominy but not before he had ruined hundreds, maybe thousands of lives. All accomplished with the authority of elected office in the Cradle of Democracy which guarantees its citizens the pursuit of Life, Liberty and Happiness. There is more than one form of terrorism. In politics as in life, contradictions abound.

Modern political memoirs are a let down. Pierre Trudeau's book reads like the transcript of a taped interview. Jean Chretien's reveals a shallow personality. His reputation would have fared better had he never revealed it.

Brian Mulroney's was a bigger book but I couldn't get past the first few pages. At Christmas, I had a similar problem with Barack Obama's . The beginning was clearly contrived but as the story unfolded, it revealed varied experience. It is not all American but no doubt it will be an asset and highly relevant in the job he now holds.

I read three books over the holiday A work of fiction, Obama's memoir and Malcolm Gladwell's "Outliers". Heather Sisman reads all the time. Keeps passing her books to me. I've tried a couple. I think there's a fashion in fiction writing and my taste may well be dated..Substance in the modern novel is often replaced with technically horrifying, sometimes disgusting for-the-sake-of-it detail In movies, camera work can be spectacularly beautiful but writing gets short shrift. Dialogue is totally predictable and boring.

At this moment, we are living through pulsing and vibrant history with a magnificent cast of characters. The plot is no doubt unfolding as it should. Dear Lord, let the end of this chapter not be predictable.. Books and movies can never compete with reality but it will be documented as history and made into movies . These are our times. We are the living witnesses. We can pass it on first hand to our children and grand-children because we were here.

It is ours to embrace

Wednesday, 14 January 2009

The Code in Practice? Or not?

At last night's general committee meeting, I asked about the status of the new windrow clearing program. I understood the direction given by council had been changed and I sought an explanation.

Council's decision was to provide the service to seniors and the disabled by an outside contract with costs to be recovered from participants in the program. Not much controversy there.

In an early discussion, we had been informed a contractor would need two hundred participants to make the program financially viable. Fifty residents had indicated interest. More were anticipated. But when the final decision was made, it seemed fifty no longer represented an obstacle to financial viability.

I was not assured. Since it was a try-and-see project which might result in the entire town receiving the service, it was my position there should be no charge to the subjects of the experiment. But council was firm in its position.

Christmas and New Year intervened. We received no updates on the plan's progress, as noted above. When the Town Hall re-opened, I inquired; how many people had signed up? was the program underway?

It was indeed. But without a contract. Thirty residents had registered. Public Works were providing the service with a plough-attached pick-up truck.

Last night, I raised the matter in committee and requested information to indicate the circumstances whereby council's direction came to be set aside in favour of a different plan.

Councillor Gallo was in the chair. Mayor Morris intervened. The issue was not on the agenda, she said. It could not therefore be raised. A resolution would be required to direct staff to submit a report.

Councillor MacEachern said she did not understand what the fuss was about over a matter of $2100. "Staff should be permitted to make decisions under these circumstances" she said.

That was odd, I thought.There was no fuss. My request was for information. I offered no conclusions.

It was an interesting exchange. The circumstances were not clear. Council gave specific direction. It was not followed. No information was provided to Council to indicate a change in plan or the reasons. No authority was sought.

What I know is as follows; the service was first proposed at the Seniors' Centre by Mayor Morris and Councillor Granger. Neither Council nor staff were consulted beforehand.

After several discussions and contradictory information, a decision was made to provide the service by outside contract and charge the cost to recipients.

That did not happen. Numbers registered indicated for corporate purposes, there was insufficient interest. Not enough to make it worthwhile for a contracted service as approved by council.

It was provided anyway.
dMy question was directed through the chair to the Public Works Director. Mayor Morris intervened and advised the issue could not be raised because the matter was not on the agenda. She further advised a resolution of council is required to direct staff to provide the information.

Under the Procedure Bylaw, Notice is required prior to presenting a resolution. Resolutions must be in writing. The schedule means such a resolution, if seconded, could not be considered until the end of January. The information would therefore not be forthcoming until February.If there was no seconder the matter would not be discussed. If seconded and defeated the information would not be forthcoming.

How Council's decision came to be changed would forever remain a secrect.

Enter The Code of Conduct. Stated purpose as follows:

  • Decision making process is transparent, accessible and equitable.
  • Decisions are made through appropriate channels of government structure.
  • Public office is not to be used for personal gain.

The Code of Conduct has ten pages. It's chock-a-block full of such righteous statements. The Bylaw requires it to have been "read and understood" and signed TWICE by all members of Council. According to the Mayor, it was written by George Rust D'Eye, legal counsel retained by the Mayor and paid for by the town; $16,2000.

I do not believe Aurora's Director of Public Works took it upon himself to disregard and disrespect the decision of Council and thereby breach The Code of Conduct. But somebody did.

I am equally certain a comparative calculation could and should have been provided to Council as to cost of an alternate plan. even if considered justifiable, to clear thirty driveways with in-house resources.

Costs are identifiable. Wages plus benefits and support services from other town departments. We know the hourly cost of a truck in service. By now, we know time needed for a single run to clear thirty driveways in different locations throughout the town. The task must be taking employees away from other responsibilities. Is overtime involved? Did we purchase a plow?

In 2003, an election re-count which took a couple of ten hour days and one twelve, of staff time, withdrawn from other responsibilities, cost the town in excess of $21,000. It did not involve a truck with a plow .. It confirmed the original vote count and the efficacy of the machines and my election.

It refuted Councillor MacEachern's contention the machines were unreliable.

Since at least 2003, adopted policy requires administrative decisions to be made by a Management Team of Department Heads. I have no reason to believe the Management Team was involved in this decision.

Thus we are left only with questions. How and on what basis was the decision made to change or ignore the direction of council?? Was it done through appropriate channels of government structure as required by The Code of Conduct? I think not.

Why is the information having to be pried out like a winkle from its shell? Where is the transparency and accessibility required by The Code of Conduct? Is The Code worth anything at all?

What interest is being served? Is it Corporate or Political?

Whose ox is being gored?


Friday January 16th 2009.

It has occurred to me the Mayor's advice that a resolution of council is required to obtain information about the driveway clearing plan is not acceptable.

It is unlikely the service provided by the works department can be done at the same cost as a contracted service

The fee authorized by council is unlikely to cover the cost of the service..

No funds were provided in the 2008 budget to provide for the expenditure..

No funds are provided in the 2009 budget to provide for the expenditure. .

Spending outside a budget can only be authorized by council , A source of funding must be identified
The decision was not likely made by Management Team Treasurer would have advised of the need for council authorization and to identify a source of funding

Because of the refusal to provide the relevant information about the status of the program, it is my intention to process an application under the Freedom of Information Act .

Tuesday, 13 January 2009

Not My First Choice

December 15th, hardly in keeping with the season, I received an email from a resident of Orchard Heights Blvd. “Resign,” he said, “so that the Town can move on.” He cited job losses, economic challenges and financial upheaval as important issues and said my focus is on “ridiculous and trivial” matters.

“You are out of touch with the needs of our community. The Mayor and Council of Aurora are looked on as a joke in this and other communities and you stand out amongst them,” he declared.

“In the brief moments I have watched you on T.V., your behavior is childish.” He declared his intention to do everything he can to ensure I am not on the next council.

The resident along with others, is simply exercising his right to be boorish. Ideas seem not to be at issue. There are seldom specific contentions. They focus on “declining years and mental competence”. My critics are usually nameless. Thoughtful commentary. is conspicuous in its absence. When I stopped posting personal abuse on my Blog, they transferred it to the Aurora Citizen.

I advised the resident the issues he referenced are the responsibility of senior levels of government. As to his intention to destroy me in the next election, I told him from the benefit of my experience,the best way to ensure a candidate's defeat is to put your own name on the ballot. But voters are particular.. They like to know something about a candidate's views. A campaign based solely on negative remarks about a rival is generally not well received.

I focus on my campaign commitments. Face-to-face communication with residents indicates my efforts are acceptable. Not being Santa Claus, I had no inclination to guarantee his yearned-for-opportunity to destroy me in the next election.

I wished him “All the Best for the Season and May Sugar Plums Dance On Your Head.”

I heard nothing more. The Aurora Citizen on the other hand, posted a flurry of rancorous, anonymous comments between Christmas and New Year about my age and declining mental powers..

In their minds, I am a miscreant. Aurora has never been better served they say. The exodus of all but one senior staff member is a sign of political expertise . No disagreement is permitted. All opposition must be stamped out wherever, whenever and by whatever means necessary. Insults abuse and character assassination are the weapons of choice. Facts must not be allowed to alter the picture.

If intimidation and coercion, with assistance from legal counsel retained at taxpayers' expense do not prevail, it appears pounding me with a sledge hammer into the ground like a splayed out wooden tent peg is the alternate.

The plan is flawed. A person of long life and experience is by definition a survivor. Eccentricities do not mellow with age.I still detest the things I always did. Mettle is tempered. For good or ill, the essence of character is formed.

Bullying, cowardice, lying, cheating, twisted psyches and just plain silliness are part of the human dimension. In positions of power untold harm is the consequence. With all the years behind me and consistent voter support, I have learned to fight it when the need arose. As long as there's a worthy target and my aim is straight, I will continue to do so.

Hurling the hammer is not a blood sport. It is not my first choice. But in the absence of intellectual challenge, it is a reasonably satisfactory role. Not to be sniffed at.

Thursday, 8 January 2009


Monday Jan 5, 2009. Second month of the Third year of this term of office. We are not exactly at the start of an Epic Arctic Expedition but events continue to unfold.

Neil Garbe joined the town administration as Chief Administrative Officer today. He left the Region of York. We wish him well.

John Gutteridge Chief Financial Officer of the Town of Aurora submitted his resignation to Neil Garbe today. We wish him well. The resignation would come as no surprise at the Town Hall. John will leave April 15. a reasonable time for the budget to be completed. It has not been the pattern of the past two years.

On another note, I received a phone call from a resident. He had heard of the removal of all traffic calming devices in the Town of Vaughan because of legal liability. He was excited by the prospect and wondered had he heard right.

I called Vaughan. Municipal staff are always cordial and willing to share. There is a moratorium on traffic calming on emergency routes. Transit routes do not have the devices. York Region has indicated the service will be withdrawn from streets with obstacles to safe and efficient driving and transportation of the teeming masses. I am assuming the Region's logic.

A speed hump has recently been removed from a street in Vaughan. A new home and driveway were located where there was a hump. The driveway had a downward slope causing the property to flood in the rain. The hump created a funnel. Neighbours were asked if they wished to have it re-located. They refused .

We chatted about "windrow'' clearing. All Vaughan residents receive the service. The cost represents one and a half per cent on the tax bill. They have run through all the options already. Provided it for seniors and disabled in need, had two contracts, one for the roads and one for driveways. Now they do it for everyone with a single contract but there are still problems. For a limited service needed for such a short season, the comparative percentage of the tax bite is humongous.

I called our work's department to see how our program has evolved. Turns out only thirty residents opted to use the service. No contract was let. Public Works is doing the job..

The answers create more questions . When Mayor Morris in tandem with Councillor Granger went to the Seniors' Centre to offer the service , no information was available about practical or financial feasibility. Subsequent reports have presented a confusing mix of info.

The snow plough contractor could handle the extra task but there needed to be a minimum of 200 driveways to make it viable. Those numbers turned out subsequently not to be an issue. Fifty seniors indicated interest.It was thought there might be more. Then council decided to charge a fee to recover the cost. When the contractor was involved and a viable number was 200, the fee was calculated at $7 a shot with an estimate of ten clearings a season.

Now, with only thirty residents participating , no outside contractor involved , town resources being used. no indication of a re-calculated fee, or any communication with council,even allowing for a two week holiday shutdown of the town hall, the situation is problematic.

I cant help thinking the sight of a town truck clearing a private driveway here and there might be raising a few eyebrows. I have received no calls but if I did,I would not have answers. As an elected representative, I believe I should be able to offer a straightforward explanation of a public decision made by council.