"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

Saturday, 27 February 2010

Abandon Hope All Ye Who Enter

Yesterday, every member of council received a lengthy e-mail from a resident in a particular area. The neighbourhood park is used for soccer practices, games and tournaments every year.

Available parking is on an arterial collector road. Hundreds of cars converge for the games. The situation is hazardous. Neighbours dread the start of the season. Every year they draw council's attention to the problem and hope someone will hear before something terrible happens.

The e-mail referred to a news story about town plans to accommodate sport needs in a community park. It expressed the hope the new plans will resolve the problem they have been enduring for years with increasing anxiety.

The plans do not. They do the opposite. Consultants hired by the town established the needs. They proposed solutions. They recommended we not sell lands we own, until we have identified the existence of other lands to meet the needs.

Timing is critical. In 2007, first year of this term, staff recommended purchase of a suitable parcel which they were aware might be going on the market.

The recommendation was rejected.

Funds taken from town business for purchase of land have grown to $12 million.A million dollars added in the last year.

We hoard it while land disappears and prices soar.

We are currently selling property purchased for recreational purposes eight years ago which may prove to be the last land available within the town's boundaries.

We spent $53,222 on the consultant study to analyse needs , provide practical and feasible means to meet them and resolve current problems.

We haven't put it on a shelf to gather dust. We tossed it and replaced it with a plagiarized version recommending more studies at quadruple the cost rather than action to meet the needs.

In other words. we spent $53,222 , wasted three years, accomplished nothing and will accomplish nothing in the next years.

There's a clause in the Town's Code of Conduct which purports to prohibit me from making that statement.

It requires me to provide the rationale for council's decision and their "attitude" .

Damned if I understand their rationale. I can only guess the attitude.If I attempted to put either into words that would be criticising a majority decision.

Lord Have mercy.

Friday, 26 February 2010

Skullduggery and Intrigue, Council Style.

Once again, the facts are in. The story can be told.

It's not clever. It's not subtle. It's not even exciting. Just par for the course.

On Tuesday evening, neighbours to the baseball diamond under construction, who do not like to look at poles, delegated to council.

Their complaint was about a newly installed pole in line of vision from their dining room window. Leisure Services Director had recommended re-locating the pole at a cost of $7,100. over and above the $100,000 cost to install the lights

The recommendation was not well received. It appeared Council would unanimously vote to deny.

Then the Mayor gave in-depth analysis of the situation. The subsequent resolution was to defer to the Chief Administrative Officer.

The Director informed the residents.. They knew he had followed through on his commitment to re-locate the pole. They knew the decision had been deferred to the CAO. They were told the matter would not be discussed at Council that evening.

But they came loaded for bear with complaints about how a baseball diamond could be so far advanced in construction on land abutting their own,while they had no knowledge it was even contemplated.

The public debate about whether or not there should be a baseball diamond had passed beneath their line of vision.

The litany was against the Director about how such a thing could happen without their being formally notified..

Since the decision to re-locate the offending pole had not been rejected, it had been "referred", I wondered why the residents had come to council at that moment in time with a written presentation . So I asked.

I had to state the facts twice. Why, when the director had agreed to recommend re-locating the pole, had informed them he would do so, had followed through on his commitment and afterwards told them the issue had been referred to the Chief Administrative Officer and would not be discussed that evening; why were they there?

I did not ask why the Director, who had been so accommodating to their wishes was being berated for perceived failures. The scheme was familiar and easily recognizable.

I wanted to establish, who had intervened between a non- decision of council and what precipitated an angry and accusatory presentation about a staff member who had been so obliging, to his own disadvantage I might add.

My meaning was finally taken. The delegate threw her arm towards the chair and said "Phyllis called"

It is established, the resident and the Mayor are close friends.

Despite weeks of community outrage, outcry and controversy about the need and cost of a baseball diamond.

Despite eight months of earth moving ; cutting down hills and filling in valleys, to the tune of $400.000

Despite the location was not staff choice{ It was Evalina's) and there was no other possible configuration for the lights.

Despite all of that plus the fact, unlike land use and zoning changes, there is no requirement to formally notify residents of park development.

And despite a close friendship with the Mayor. and apparently, Councillor MacEachern, they still had no idea what was afoot, until they looked out of their dining room window one day and saw a pole.

But never mind. Friend, Mentor and Mayor Phyllis, rides to the rescue once again.

The (Woodsman)Chief Administrator will have received his instructions. The Leisure Services Director will be once again discredited and that will be the reason to spend yet another $7,100.
to re-locate the pole on top of $100.000 spent already for baseball lighting .

Council will once again meekly acquiesce.

Villains, real and perceived, will be vanquished .

Everyone will live happily ever after.

Lilliput style.

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Gulliver's Travels...Alice...Watership Down

I was too young when Gulliver's Travels was an English lesson. I never understood why satire was useful The lesson had barely touched the edge.

I googled Gulliver this morning. Discovered he was an eighteenth century writer in a high wig.

A quote under his portrait read;

"I write to inform , not amuse you"

There was more. I took from it, that people in those times were not free to offer critical observations.

I knew Shakespeare was a political commentator of his day but I didn't learn that in school either.

I'm sure the nuns would not have thought much of David Letterman,Stephen Colbert or John Stewart.

The stories above came to mind while I was stirring porridge. The morning after a Council meeting is always contemplative. If I couldn't write and had no readers, I'm not sure I would stay the course.

Sometimes I wonder, how much is too much. At what point does the figuratively unbelievable become literally unbelievable.

The major item on last night's agenda, was the duplicate Master Parks and Leisure Services Plan. $53,222. were expended for a professional study. It was squirrelled away and worked upon out of sight to re-emerge in a different form.

For example, a recommendation to acquire land for established needs became a study to develop a" strategy for land acquisition"

The need for a gymnasium/youth facility became another study to determine what youth needs are.

Weasel words.

Later in the meeting I had an opportunity to dig a little deeper.

The Director of Finance was asked to elaborate on the status of various development charge reserve accounts.

Apparently the Storm Volley ball group had stated a particular figure in a written presentation and ,I think, queried its whereabouts.

The Chief Financial Officer was perturbed about the source of misinformation. Councillor Gaertner had the same apprehension. The Leisure Services Director was directed to investigate.

Presumably to uncover a culprit.

The Cash in Lieu of Parkland in the table of figures was clear. It had grown by one million to twelve million in a year.

I sought enlightenment

In 2007, we needed to buy land . A baseball diamond had risen to a priority. We owned nothing large enough to accommodate such a facility.Staff knew of suitable land on the market. $2million was included in the budget to acquire it.

It was removed by council. Councillor MacEachern expressed the opinion the money was better in the bank earning interest.

In 2008, the same circumstance repeated. Again the recommendation was rejected. As of 2010 no land has yet been acquired. Instead, we are in the process of selling land originally purchased for recreation.

"In your capacity as financial advisor to the council"I asked "what are the merits of keeping $12 million, collected for the purchase of land, in the bank, while land becomes scarcer and more expensive?"

"We need a Land Acquisition Strategy rather than random, sporadic purchase" said the Chief Financial Officer.

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

New Information

It's surprising what gets uncovered when questions are asked. I received a spread sheet on regional councillors' salaries and benefits. But not on conference expenditures. Also disclosed was remuneration for members of South Lake Simcoe Conservation Authority.

Councillor MacEachern receives $480 a year.There's something funny about this.. A regional councillor sitting on a board, is not entitled to be paid in addition to the regional salary. I believe our regional councillor should be the board member. Councillor MacEachern was appointed by Mayor Morris.

Yesterday, I received information without solicitation. During the nineties, the Province increased conservation authority over lands in the flood plain. At the same time, they down-loaded the cost of the expanded operation to the municipalities.

The program is funded out of regional coffers.

I did not know that.

This is a biggy.

The innformation came from a Land Use Council situated in Sunderland, Ontario. Slightly to the north-east of us.Their concern is about the "disconnect" between conservation authorities and the municipalities they"serve"

Now, there's the problem . I have been labouring under the misunderstanding they were being governed and funded by the province. I thought the Province was paying almost all the cost and keeping tabs on their activities. Seems they are no longer.

If they are not and we (me) are not ....who is?

I mentioned a while ago about the Chairman of the Conservation being in Australia for a conference to receive some rinky-dink award. The Chairman is a Councillor in East Gwillimbury. Last week I learned the Chair's salary is $60,000. a year.

If our regional rep should be the conservation member. So should East Gwillimbury's regional rep.There should be no salary of $60,000 or $480.paid to anybody.

Susan Walmer is no longer Chair of the Environmental Committee. But she is a member and involved in other environmental activities. As well as being Chair of the Oak Ridges Moraine Trust. All of which takes on quite a different complexion with the new information .Ms Walmer came to Council during budget discussion with a recommendation for a "Management Plan" at town expense for lands we neither own nor control.

We budgeted for three of those. One in Sheppard's Bush ,one for the Ann Bartley Smith lands and one for lands on the eastern edge of town transferred to the Oak Ridges Moraine Trust of which Susan Walmer is Chair.

Ms Walmer has an office in a house on Sheppard's Bush. The question of rent is unknown at this time. Does Ms. Walmer collect remuneration. Is the job volunteer or what?

Those houses used to be privately rented out.

No more.

Why bother if the municipality is paying the freight? We provide all external maintenance. And pay in taxes for whatever other costs there are.

The Land Use Council is alarmed by the activities of the Conservation Authorities; the
affect on the tax rate; land values and mortgages.

Seems maybe nobody is watching the store.

Monday, 22 February 2010

About Legal Costs

Legal costs are a matter of public record. The public have a right to know how taxes are being spent.

In the Mormac regime, despite legitimate efforts , the information has not been pried from their hot, sweaty, tightly clenched fists.

So, in the absence of exact accounting, we turn to our own devices to fathom the mystery.

Mr. Beaman gave us the figure of $135.000 up to and including the third appeal procedure. The fourth failed exercise would add another $45,000. It was the cost despite not having to present any kind of an argument.There were also evenings in attendance on Council.

I have seen fifty-five minute telephone conferences with the Mayor and e-mails from Susan Walmer on invoices.

I think $200.000. is a conservative estimate for the Joint Board fiasco.

We have an Ontario Municipal Board Hearing ahead of us. Mr. Beaman has previously estimated costs at $150,000. for a Hearing of two weeks. Mormac are still pursuing that which has been refused four times. Time estimated for a Joint Board Hearing, if granted, is seven weeks.

A conservative estimate for seven weeks would be $500,000.

Last year, the town's budget included a $100.000 reserve for the legal services. By the end of the year it was depleted. Primary activity centred around lawyer John Mascarin.

Former clerk Bob Panizza brought him on the scene. They had worked together in the Town of Markham. Mascarin worked in the municipality's legal department. Panizza brought him on board to answer the question about whether Provincial regulations trump the Municipal Procedure Bylaw on the question of a by-election.

Panizza didn't need a lawyer for that question. He knew the answer. Nevertheless, Mascarin was on hand the night of the decision to refuse the by-election. He occupied pride of place on the staff side of the Council table. He assisted the Mayor in steering the decision to its pre-determined conclusion.

He was involved in the "investigation" of payment authorization for the re-design and re-construct of a fault in the Stronach Centre ceiling and the shameful Inquisition type tribunal conducted behind closed doors.

He was retained and assigned to examine, analyse, recommend publication of a report on written and verbal utterances of an elected representative for the purpose of packaging an iron-clad complaint to an Integrity Commissioner. Which failed.

I estimate, in the absence of exact figures, pretty well all of the $100,000 legal reserve was paid to Mr. Mascarin for the multiple and variety of services noted above.

A reserve is for a rainy day. Anticipated costs do not appear in a reserve. It is intended to cover the unexpected. Services randomly decided upon by Mayor and Council could not be forecast or included in the town's legal services department budget.

How could a town's legal department plan for action against an elected representative? A member of the body which provides judicious oversight of their operation ?

The entire reserve was expended. The funds to pay Mascarin could have come from no other account.

That's why I figure John Mascarin's legal services cost us nigh on a $100,000.

The Mayor Has Spoken

In the local newspaper, the Mayor is quoted that "she and her colleagues have since ordered their counsel to launch another appeal" in the Westhill development application.

Thereby lies a tale.

I have told how the fourth lost decision appeared as an addendum to the agenda at the last council meeting. Provided for information, it allowed also for the addition of a closed door meeting to receive further solicitor/client advice.

There was no prior indication that solicitor/client advice was necessary at this stage of the cockamamie, fourth time failed exercise. But that's how things are manipulated in the Mormac regime.

Initially the meeting was a non-stop flow of talk from the Mayor. Input was eventually invited from the solicitor.

Finally permitted to speak, councillors turned the discussion in a different direction at which point, the solicitor was asked to leave the room.

It has occurred to me since, the publicly stated purpose of the meeting left the room at the same time as the solicitor.

During the few minutes of his absence and after invited intervention from other than the solicitor, direction changed again.

All of which leads to this morning's delicious dilemma.

I know of no clause in the Municipal Act, the Procedure Bylaw, Code of Ethics, Code of Conduct
or any other instrument of ensuring purity in politics, which requires me to be complicit in broadcasting a tale which is not factual throughout the community

Though the decision to launch another appeal was relayed to the proponent's solicitor, the day before the closed session of council. And the quote from the Mayor came prior to Council reporting out from the closed session and could be considered a "leak"

Mayor Morris' "colleagues did not agree to launch another appeal" on behalf of "citizens in need"

It was not the intention of the majority.

When the decision is reported out, as directed, and ratified by Council ,then it will be known whether the majority will allow themselves once again to have been manipulated by Mayor Morris and associated handlers.


Sunday, 21 February 2010

In Effigy

Leisure Services Advisory Committee held something of an effigy lynching party in absentia last Thursday evening.

The Mayor sent party food and refreshments in appreciation of the committee's effort to produce a duplicate plan in contradiction of the original and celebrate the success of their endeavour.

Under discussion was my letter to the editor on the choice of two Master Parks and Recreation plans. One being a final draft, stamped all over with the author's identity, completing ten months of professional work obtaining community input, compiling statistical data and arriving at specific conclusions therefrom.

The second, a completely non-professional effort, bearing no author's name, using the consultant's compilation of community input and factual statistical data and contriving different conclusions

$53,222 worth of public investment. blatantly and deliberately sabotaged for political purposes
with non-elected members of an advisory committee being jerked on strings in the hands of completely visible puppet masters.

At the party, non- elected members were encouraged one by one, to proclaim their indignation at the ignorance and audacity of an elected representive of the people to provied critical comment.

Sher St. Kitts was also on hand to introduce her "assistant" paid for with town funds, to do the work connected with the July 1st Parade. The town has provided $15,000. to Miss St Kitts to pay for the event. $2,000 was earmarked to remunerate said assistant.

At the beginning of the term, annual seed money from town coffers for the July 1st parade was
$1,500. Prior to 2009, a fund-raiser complete with silent auction was held at the Aurora Legion to provide the real financial support for the entirely volunteer effort.

In 2009 however funds raised only covered the cost of the event.No actual accounting was made. The event was alternately described as having been an "awareness" party.

Scant weeks later, On July 21st 2009, the Mayor held another little appreciation gathering complete with cake honouring Ms. St. Kitts and her amazing accomplishment.

I Struck a Chord

I always know when I have struck one. A little flurry of sarcastic, insulting, anonymous comments come through.

None attempt to refute the accuracy of my comments or offer another side to the argument.

They just explode in venomous fury.

Continuation Of The Theme

I found more stuff in the course of my inquiry;

The Region has an agreement with municipalities whereby regional council salaries are paid jointly with municipal and the region compensates the municipality.

There appears to be no regional policy on conference allowances. It could not be discovered. Of course, we know that doesn't mean there are no conference allowances. Just that there are no limits on what a Councillor can spend. Regional Councillors tend to go places like China and Australia.

Cost of the off-site orientation conferences were also not discovered. We know they have them. The Mayor asked once for Council authority to attend the first one.We believe they are regular events.

I inquired of our new Treasurer about the Mayor's salary. Last time I checked with Tim Jones it was about $50,000 . Councillors' salary increases each year. Including mileage allowance, it was about $24,000. last year. Up about $2,000. in four years. Going by percentages I assume the Mayor's salary from the town might be $65,000. Can't say for sure. The new Treasurer wouldn't tell me.A Councillor has a right to that information.

So, council salary cheques and conference cheques are prepared for all members of council in the town treasury. Only the Mayor receives employee benefits. Regional conference allowances are a secret.Only the Mayor receives severance in the event of defeat or retirement.

Think of that; if six people are defeated in the next election , one only will receive a severance cheque from the town's treasury.

In the budget this year, Council voted to reduce the conference budget. Councillor Gaertner made the motion, from $27,000. to $10,000. The conference allowance for staff wasn't even mentioned.

The Mayor commented the Association of Municipalities Conference is in Toronto this year so Councillors don't need to stay in a hotel.

The Mayor attended the conference in Ottawa last year. Windsor was doing everything they could to encourage people to come to the conference in their city next year . Windsor, is in serious economic trouble.

Toronto withdrew from membership in the Association a couple of years ago. It is exceedingly unlikely, they will ever be chosen again as the host city for the conference.

So back to the issue. It rather looks like the Mayor's salary is $115,000 with over $10,000
in employee benefits and an unlimited conference allowance.

At the same time, on the same payroll, a Councillor's salary is $24,000 a year, no employee benefits and this year, two- thirds cut in the conference allowance.There's a little box in the corner of the pay slip which appears to indicate an hourly wage of $7.50.

The Mayor's famous Code of Ethics requires Councillors to attend conferences and take advantage of whatever opportunities present to educate and keep themselves up-to-date in order to fulfill our function properly.

Did I say...it was Councillor Gaertner who moved to reduce the allowance. With the Mayor vociferously in wholehearted support.

Saturday, 20 February 2010

Here's A Thought

Comments have been made elsewhere about the Mayor's attendance at regional meetings recently. Regional Councillors' salaries were mentioned in the context of meetings held and meetings missed.

The salary figure didn't sound right so I made an inquiry. The salary is almost $48,000 a year.There has been a recent increase of $5,000. But I discovered something else I didn't know.

Regional Councillors receive over $10,000 in benefits. They are enrolled in the Ontario Municipal Employees Retirement Fund. They receive employee health and dental plan benefits. They are enrolled in the regional employees life insurance plan. They do not, nor does the region contribute on their behalf, to the Canada Employment Insurance Plan

All employers and employees are obliged to contribute to the Canada Employment Insurance Plan.

However, Regional Councillors receive severance pay when they are defeated or decide to retire from politics. They receive a month's pay for every year served in office

So what, you might say. Sour grapes, you might say. But wait a minute...

In the last two weeks, two documents have presented for my attention. The town is negotiating a union contract this year.

A message from Association of Municipalities of Ontario reveals the Ontario Municipal Employee Retirement Fund is in deficit by billions. Higher contributions are likely to be needed to stabilise the funds.Contributions are shared with the employer. The employer is the taxpayer.

Now excuse me But one side of every wage negotiation is employer. The other is employee. That much is clear.

Benefits are always a part of the package to be negotiated. More so this year because of the deficit in the OMERS fund.

How can Regional Council, negotiate benefits, when they themselves are beneficiaries?

How can politicians, who are not entitled to participate in Canada Employment Insurance because they are not employees, be entitled to receive benefits through a package negotiated in a union agreement?

From the beginning, the Region of York Act permitted Councillors to join OMERS.

I did not question that at the time. I joined and when I left, I withdrew my contributions and bought a sewing machine.

But now the benefits have grown to include health and dental and life insurance. It costs taxpayers $10,000 a year for each councillor. In the context of numbers of meetings, attended or not, that amount is significant.

But more significant, how can the elected body, representative of the employer, negotiate in the interest of the employer, when the elected body stands to benefit from the negotiations?

Among my readers, there must be people familiar with the principles of labour negotiations. I would be happy to hear how this situation strikes you.

Friday, 19 February 2010

People Ask

How many people in Aurora read the Blog? I don't know that. This week there were 811 visits and 1.392 views.

I don't know how many are from Aurora readers. Before, when Heather Sisman had more time,
she knew how to keep tabs on that stuff. People were logging in regularly from places all around the Globe.It was exciting.

All I know for sure is that Aurora readers logging in are that many more than did before I started the blog. For every one who reads it, probably dozens more are drawn into a conversation about what was read.

I'm sure Evalina reads it. Every now and again I recognise it when she explodes and responds in an uncivil tone.

The Mayor is obviously kept informed. That's why I get glower power of Dark Vader in the Council Chamber on a regular basis. It seems I'm supposed to shrivel up and disappear in a wisp of smoke like the Wicked Witch of the West when I get the full force of the glare.

Chris Watts has had the same experience in Shopper's Drug Mart .He will not likely forget that for a while.

It's like Aurora's own Jihad without blood-letting. I am certainly not going to blow myself up for the cause. It's all too satisfying.

Never in my life, did I think this would happen to me before I died.

Thursday, 18 February 2010

Toronto's Taxes

Chris Watts position Toronto's taxes is accurate as far as it goes back. But it doesn't go back far enough.

In the early seventies, the Province allowed municipalities to adopt market value assessment or not.

In the time of David Crombie, the City's Tiny Perfect Mayor, Toronto did not. Borough assessments were more up to date because homes were newer. Ticky-tacky boxes in Scarborough were paying more in property taxes than millionaire mansions in Rosedale.

The Boroughs were also paying a disproportionate share of Metro's taxes . There was greater inequity there than anywhere. But the Province made no effort to mandate the change.

When Mayor Joyce Trimble of Scarborough exited the scene after she had tried to correct the injustice for years, she had bitter things to say about the unfairness of it all.

Stuff like that happens in the Province of Ontario. Toronto is the tail that wags the dog.Toronto is the reason we have four year terms of office.

When the boroughs were amalgamated into a City, the effort was finally made after more than thirty years, to bring the City's assessment in line with the market value. measurement in place in the rest of the Province.

That's when the GTA was burdened with the cost of Toronto's Social Services to lessen the impact of market value assessment in the City.

When Brian Ashton failed to support David Miller's bid to introduce new taxes, he was dumped from the Mayor's powerful executive committee. Brain Ashton was a veteran Scarborough politician. When Miller offered the position to another Scarborough representative, he turned it down.

I remember amazement on the face of the Minister of Municipal Affairs when I pointed out to him the average Aurora homeowner was paying higher property taxes than his match in Toronto. His staff had to check to discover it was true.

When David Miller boasts Toronto taxpayers have the lowest property taxes in the GTA, it's doubtful residents of the City or the GTA recognise or care, it's because they are not paying their fair share.

Mel Lastman used to claim industry was leaving Toronto because the burbs were enticing them by offering property tax holidays. He was so full of it.

Industries were leaving Toronto because of the assessment equity to be found outside. And because they could sell property in Toronto, re-locate and build new facilities in the burbs and still have money in hand.

Toronto media never bothered to check. Denizens of the megalopolis paid little attention. People in the burbs didn't either. The Province continued to exploit indifference and carried on the injustice.No matter the party in power, none of them had the courage to do what was right.

They added insult to injury when they forced us to shoulder the burden of Toronto's social services throughout the Greater Toronto Region.

In return, they took on the burden of education costs from us and at the same time took away the right to make our own decisions. That's what happens when you no longer pay the freight.

Injury and Destruction of Trees

Like the majority of residents of Aurora, fortunate enough to own a property, I am never likely to be faced with the moral dilemma of having to injure or destroy a sufficient number of trees to have to make an application to do so under the town's bylaw.

Some may consider that a misfortune.

I do not. I am thankful for my blessings.

A person owning a lot of record(a building lot), covered with trees, needing to remove some to prepare a building site, must apply for a dispensation.

A fee needs to be paid for each tree beforehand.

A town employee attends the site; identifies each tree: measures the tree: examines the health of the tree:notes the precise location of the tree.

A sign must be posted on the site notifying all and sundry, it is the intention of the owner of this property to perform the dastardly act of injuring and destroying trees .

Neighbours have the right to oppose the owners intention.

When all requirements have been met, staff must compose a full report for council recommending for or against the injury and destruction of trees.

Only Council in all its majesty, has authority to decide the fate of the trees.

In the last term, former Councillor Nigel Keane moved a permit be refused.

The building permit value of the house, complete with an indoor swimming pool, was calculated in the millions of dollars.

Market value assessment would be that and more.

Property assessment is the prime revenue source of a municipal corporation.

Well... that's a moral dilemma, don't you see.

Last month, Council voted for a hybrid design on Nisbet Drive.

It meant swooping a loop in a sidewalk, moving the roadway over by three feet, and paving twice the width of concrete at twice the cost.

On the pretext, it would save relocating utilities. It did not. It also meant injuring and destroying two beautiful specimens of perfectly healthy town street trees to accommodate the concrete pad proposed for a sidewalk.

Injury and destruction of the trees was part of the "compromise" proposed by the Director of Environment and Infrastructure (public works) to meet the desire of a single resident who objected to the sidewalk being aligned on the property line, preferring instead for it to abut the travelled portion of the road and increase the risk to pedestrians.

Oh Roger Um Oh Roger Um

Leaving the council chamber involves a certain ritual. I need my right hand to grasp the brass rail. I toss my agenda on each seat ahead as I take the stairs, one step at a time.

On Tuesday evening, there were two visitors in the back row of the visitor seating . One was Klaus Wehrenberg an old and familiar friend. The other sat apart. As I climbed, I glanced in his direction. For an elected representative to fail to acknowledge the presence of a resident at a council meeting would have been less than cordial, mannerly or respectful, to say nothing of potential political ramifications.

He kept his gaze fixed stonily ahead.

Ah so, I thought!?! Roger Clowater. Declared candidate for the office of Mayor and at the same time declared supporter of the Mormac Regime.

As I drove home, noting the myriad and variety of poles in my line of vision, a little jingle danced into my head to accompany my thoughts:

Oh Roger Um; Oh Roger Um

Skillymalinky Clowater

Oh Roger Um.


Wednesday, 17 February 2010

In The Wee Small Hours

As I often do, I fell asleep in my big comfy chair. Depending how long and whether I attended a meeting the night before, by the time I get to bed, there's no sleep near me. My mind is teaming .
There's nothing for it but to get up, come out to the computer and unload at least one of the ideas pestering me.

In the first year of this term, a group of young mothers from a new neighbourhoods came to council to tell us about a celebration planned for the anniversary of their school.

It was to be in the adjoining park on Saturday. They asked if the fees for placing picnic tables could be waived. It was a piddling sum.

Events like that are what makes a neighbourhood a community. It's always the kids that bring us together.

If I re-call correctly, they didn't get an answer right away. There had to be a staff report
Staff did not recommend the fees be waived because of precedent

Last week, I noticed on the Environmental Advisory Committee Report, an invoice for over $1000, as a" contribution" to an organisation called The Clean Air Alliance of Toronto. I inquired of theTreasurer how would an item like that be classified in the budget. I didn't get a precise answer. Just that the committee has a budget and " the contribution" would be paid out of their budget.

There's no way of knowing what such an organisation as the Clean Air Alliance is about. It could bean individual with a web site and a post box to receive "contributions".

We had an individual like that appearing regularly on invitation of the Mayor when she was hot to "solve" the issue of the hydro transmission lines and the alternate, a generating station. He claimed to have "millions" of members.They paid no membership fee. Just donations. Grants can be obtained from foundations by the same method.

Advisory committees are composed of two-thirds non-elected representatives. That is not in accordance with the municipal Act. Non-elected should not number more than elected. They are not accountable to anyone and according to The Book of Mormac, their feet are not made of clay like the rest of us.

Last night, we had a staff recommendation to add $7,100. to the budget of the baseball diamond under construction behind the Stronach Centre.

It was the cost to RE-LOCATE one of the new lights.

It cost $100,000 to install the lights. Staff were recommending spending an additional $7,100.

A resident living nearby could see the pole from his dining room window. He did not like looking at a pole. It spoiled the view from his dining room window. He did not respond favourably to the idea he might contribute to the cost of moving it.

Staff recommended the $7,100. be spent .

There were politely raised eyebrows. Several Councillors diffidently expressed reluctance. It was was 10.40pm. I expressed my sentiments in a fulsome manner. At ten minutes past the hour of adjournment, The Mayor was just entering into deep analysis of the issue. I left the Chamber.

Up to that point it looked like the recommendation didn't have a snowball's chance in hell of being approved.

In my judgement, there should not have been a snowball's chance in hell of such a staff recommendation ever seeing the light of day.

But it did.

As I drove home, I took note of all the poles I saw. Street light poles, telephone poles, hydro poles, traffic light poles, traffic sign poles, railway light poles, flag poles. A veritable forest of poles are part of the urban landscape which is ours.

I'll go back to bed now and count poles and try to get some winks.

I believe no recommendation ever comes before this Council that doesn't have the Mayor's Imprimatur.

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

The Argument

Copies of the four decisions on the application and appeals for Joint Board Hearing for the WestHill Development application. are on hand.

The town's decision to support neighbouring residents to the Westhill proposal ,in their opposition is already known. The decisions are a matter of public record. I scanned the first three. I read the most recent . The one that wasn't authorised by Council.

The first decision by the Ontario Municipal Board said Mr. Northey's argument was contrived.
Mr. Northey is the environmental lawyer retained by Mr. Mc Cutcheon, himself a lawyer I believe, and his neighbours. The town's lawyer, Roger Beaman supported Mr. Northey in his arguments. He was so instructed.

The last decision by the Divisional Court pointed out Mr. Northey had argued the case based on a law which had not been proclaimed. It was passed in the legislature but never proclaimed. That means it isn't a law. On instructions, Mr. Beaman supported that argument.

Mr. Beaman's fees for following Mr. Northey into court and supporting his argument three times, up to but not including the last appearance,were $135,000. We may assume the last appearance would bring the total close to $200.000

That's what we spent with tax dollars, to support an argument which never held water in the first place. The dispute is about amount of water being taken by the development. Pardon the pun.

It's not our business, but suppose Mr. Northey's costs for representing the residents with a company of experts was $400.000. And suppose Westhill Development spent the same amount.
We are looking at a conservative figure $1 million in legal fees in total and two years spent with nothing whatsoever accomplished on anyone's behalf.Not the Town's. Not the neighbour's. And not the developers.

NOTHING.!!! NIL.!!! ZERO!!!! ZILCH!!!! NADA!!!! Amen, my friends.

And we are not done yet shovelling money into this bottomless pit.

With professional advice yet.

Not that professional advice makes a difference in the Mormac Regime.

In fact, the pattern established seems to indicate clear bias, if not actual hostility, against any level or variety of expertise.

Here's another awful thought.

Someone has already contemplated that the town should compensate the opposing neighbours for their legal costs.

Add to that a potential judgement for costs to the successful party to the argument.

Sunday, 14 February 2010

Another Part of The Why

How do I know the caller wasn't lying about the decision being made to appeal the fourth unsuccessful appeal for a joint board hearing application, before Council had even received the court decision?

On the basis of ongoing experience in this council, I believe it to be true.

The last decision to appeal was processed without Council approval. It happened this way:

Again we had a closed meeting. Part of the agenda circulated was how to go about providing financial compensation to neighbouring residents of the Westhill application for their legal expenses for their unsuccessful pursuit of a joint board hearing. One of the ideas was a grant.

I challenged the propriety of discussing a grant or any other means of compensation for legal costs by residents, behind closed doors.

Residents have rights. They exercised their rights. They retained legal counsel to fight for their rights. They were not successful

Taxpayers have rights too. They have no obligation to compensate residents for exercising their private rights and incurring legal costs in the process. The idea was preposterous.

Furthermore, the town has an approved process to be followed for any person making application for a grant. Certain criteria must be addressed. The application becomes a matter of public record. So far as I am aware, no application had been made. There could be no justification for discussion behind closed doors.

The issue was not further discussed, behind closed doors or anywhere else. It was dismissed with an airy wave of the hand as not intended in the first place. It was a "misunderstanding"

The question of the town undertaking to continue alone with another appeal against the third refusal of a joint hearing was discussed.

We had previously publicly announced our intention to support the residents' request for a joint board hearing.

We supported with legal counsel, the initial request to the Ontario Municipal Board. We supported the appeal to Divisional Court against the OMB refusal. We supported at the second
Ontario Municipal Board hearing when it was referred back to that body by the Divisional Court.
Those three unsuccessful attempts to obtain a Joint Board Hearing were matters of public record. Though the decisions were not publiclicised, presented to council by staff nor received for information by Council.

As noted, after the third decision, we convened behind closed doors to discuss providing compensation to the residents for their legal costs to date. We had paid our own legal costs. We were now being asked to consider means whereby we might also pay the residents costs.

Apparently, the residents had indicated they were not prepared to spend more money to continue the fight.

It was not our business to know.

At that meeting, no decision was made for the town to pursue further a joint board hearing alone.

Yet the town did. A fourth time we pursued the same futile objective. A fourth time we lost.

That's why I believed the information that another Leave to Appeal had been filed before the question had even been brought before the Council .

Was I able to provide my caller with a reason. I was not.

Since learning the timing of the process however I believe I have a better understanding.

For the proponents of a lamentable succession of failures and attendant expenditures to have the full extent of their failure finalised and public before the next election would be bad news.

Accountability to the voters for stewardship of the town's affairs generally expected at the time of an election would be contra-indicated, if I may use a consultant's term.

Better to drag the thing out by whatever means possible than face the voters with the full scope of their folly.

Why Oh Why

I have been asked. Why did the developer's representative call me to seek understanding of the town's reason with a fifth tribunal proceeding for a different decision on a request for a joint board hearing after four unsuccessful attempts.

I have been straightforward before and I suppose might be expected to be so again.I did not support any of the applications for a joint board hearing. I am content for the public to know that.

When the Public Planning meeting was held in March 2008, planning staff's recommendation was to approve the Westhill Development proposal in principle. The Ontario Municipal Board already had the matter in hand. The final decision was not ours to make.

Roger Beaman, external solicitor for the town was at the town hall that night to advise Council before the upcoming Ontario Municipal Board hearing.

The planning report was long and complicated. Work had been ongoing for ten years ..

The developer had a phalanx of experts. No expense had been spared. Lebovic builds multi-million dollar mansions. Whatever it costs to produce one, that's what it costs to buy one.

There was a file six inches thick of dealings with the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority alone. The land is in the Lake Ontario drainage basin as well as the Oak Ridges Moraine.

The Ministry of Environment had signed off. The Region had not expressed concerns.

Apparently, Bob Rae, when he was Premier in the early nineties, had suggested the golf course condominium concept as an alternative to subdivision development.

The land is legally designated. There is only one way to stop development. That is to purchase it with public resources and take it out of the market.

The town's planners had serious concerns about certain aspects of the proposal.

Since the decision was the Ontario Municipal Board's to make, it was vitally important
our expert arguments receive full consideration. The cards were already stacked against us. We needed to do it right. Mr. Beaman was on hand to guide us because of the significance.

The Ontario Municipal Board, as any other tribunal, concerns itself with hard evidence. Political grandstanding carries little weight.I hear they have already had some experience of that with our Mayor and friend Susan Walmer.

Notwithstanding the facts, staff recommendations were set aside by council that night. Councillor MacEachern compiled a many-clause resolution, on the hoof so-to-speak, which essentially denied the application.

Neighbouring residents to the development,Wallace McCutcheon among them, were at the meeting. They were opposed to the application. An environmental lawyer, Mr. Northey, was there to represent them.Other forces were rallied to the cause in the council chamber.

I supported staff recommendations and voted against MacEachern's resolution. It was another one of those eight in favour and one against.

Next day, I received a call from Mr. Lebovic to express his appreciation. The developer has been contributing to our Arts and Culture Fund for a number of years. He had always been present in the Council Chamber and participated in the annual grants awards. He is not a stranger.

He is a property owner. Pays taxes to the town. Has been a benefactor. Has the same right as any other taxpayer and business owner to ask for an opportunity to speak with an elected representative of the town.

Add to that my personal belief, the industry which builds homes for people, provides jobs for people, shovels millions into tax coffers at all levels of government of the people, and contributes most of the funds for charitable endeavours sponsored by politicians, are not the enemies of the people.

Mr. Lebovic invited me for lunch. I thanked him and refused. I told him I did not vote in support of his project. I supported staff recommendations regarding outstanding items which needed to be resolved before final agreement could be reached

He responded he wished the Mayor had been as frank when they lunched together and he had received assurance of her support for the project.

Saturday, 13 February 2010

Things Are Not Always What They Seem

The Mayor often complains about issues being discussed elsewhere than at the council table. While at the same time, it becomes harder and harder to get a word in edgewise with the Mayor
in the chair.

In back room meetings, a torrent of language is instantly launched, designed to suck all the oxygen from the immediate environs.

Any effort to obtain answers is inevitably reduced to a demeaning tussle with the presiding member, unlikely to produce anything sensible.

Even if discussion was productive, I am no longer convinced, it would make a difference.The majority is secure.Decisions appear to be pre-ordained. All that's left to accomplish is the illusion they were council driven.

One winter day, I watched pine gross beaks feasting on peanuts and sunflower seeds. The food was scattered aplenty on top of a snow-covered picnic table. The beautiful big green males were eating greedily while at the same time chasing away the smaller, drab females.

There were however,only three or four big raucous birds, resplendent in colour. More than a dozen smaller ones darted in on every side to get what they needed.

Stooping to stealing what is rightfully mine and yours does not appeal.

So I have done some digging.

The Decision of a Divisional Court Hearing was added to the agenda of Feb.9th Council Meeting. It was made on Feb.4th. It could have been circulated with the meeting agenda.

Why was it not?

It was fourth of four refusals for a Joint Board hearing on the Westhill Development application. It was the first presented to Council "for information" That meant, although it was on the agenda, no public discussion was likely.

Being added to the agenda, allowed for a recommendation for a closed door meeting to receive solicitor/client advice on the matter.

I have previously posted on being informed the town's decision to file Leave to Appeal the fourth of four refusals, was out and about even before Council had received the decision.

I have been asked why.

Damned if I know why.

But I can follow the trail and discover what is not immediately apparent.

The court procedure is as follows:

The town must file Notice of Leave to Appeal within 15 days of the decision. i.e. February 19th

With an application for Leave to Appeal pending, a date for an Ontario Municipal Board Hearing will not be set.

Within thirty days of notice, the Town has to file it's motion of record. It's the statement to support the request for leave to appeal; March 22nd.

The other party, who argued successfully four times out of four, have 25 days to reply; i.e.mid April.

Town can reply within ten days.

Judge has 36 days to read and review.

Optimistically, that could take until July or August

If Joint Board Hearing is granted, despite four times out of four being refused, six weeks needs to be set aside for the hearing and the decison is likely to arrive or not, in the middle of the election.

Costs will be expected to pale to insignificance beside the valiant fight to protect the Oak Ridges Moraine. It worked before. Why not again?

How's that for manipulation? With at least some Councillors not even being aware of how they have been used. I give them the benefit of doubt. Though I may be the naive one.

The first history text book I ever saw, I was five, had a picture of Queen Boadicea. She was driving a two wheeled Roman chariot. In breast plate armour and helmet, her whip was raised above her head, twirled for an almighty lash, and the huge wheels of the chariot were spinning furiously into battle.

No enemy was in sight. They didn't need to be. We just knew they would be there.

This And That

Wells Street school is an example. Councillor McRoberts was a student at that school. He has been a high school teacher in Aurora throughout his working career. His passion for the town's history is commonly known . Before he was a Councillor he was a member of the Aurora Historical Society.

His conscientious approach to any and all town business is beyond reproach.

Councillor Collins Mrakas also wears a passion for town history on her sleeve. The Councillor mounts knowledgeable, effective and logical arguments to whatever cause she supports. She has demonstrated stick-to-it-itis in whatever she has been allowed to undertake.
Tackling the graffitti problem was a campaign commitment. A program is in motion.

Both Councillors have served on the Heritage Advisory Committee throughout this term.

Both attended meetings at the Wells Street school in support of the group fighting to have the school re-opened.

Both indicated to the Mayor, they wanted to serve on the accommodation review committee agreed to by the Board of Education. Neither were given the opportunity.

Councillor John Gallo was the chosen one.

Dan Remington, leader of the movement, came to council on Tuesday to give an update on the status of the issue. He expressed his appreciation for all the support received from the Mayor and Council.

The Mayor used the opportunity to commend Councillor Gallo's extraordinary achievement on the committee.

When Grace Marsh resigned from Council , a seat of the Joint Fire Services Committee was

Councillor Collins Mrakas expressed strong interest in joining that committee.

When John Gallo was appointed to Council, the Mayor also appointed him to the Joint Fire Services Committee. The committee is the only standing committee of Aurora Council. It meets on a Tuesday morning. Always has.

There are three members from each municipality. Quorum requires two members from each municipality to be present.

Councillor Gallo apparently finds it difficult to attend morning meetings. More meetings have been missed than attended.

There are many other examples of how things are contrived. There is no subtlety. But two are enough to prove the point.

In the Mormac regime, only the chosen are permitted to contribute.

It's all part of the focus towards the next election. It's always all about the next election.

Friday, 12 February 2010


My face hurts from smiling. I've been watching the opening ceremonies of the Games in Vancouver. All those beautiful joyful young people walking and sometimes skipping together,
from every corner of the world, proud to be walking behind their countries' flags.Delighted to be where they were.

The first part was breathtaking when the Aboriginal Peoples of Canada performed their welcoming ritual dances. You know how something spectacular, like a beautifully rendered song or a piece of music, or a baby, can bring tears to your eyes .

The arena with thousands and thousands of people cheering and enjoying the spectacle. Remembering our own small part when the torch came through Aurora on its way to the games.

In such a moment in time, you know you are alive and glad of it.

This Just In

I received a call this morning from a representative of Westhill Development Corporation, owners of land in the Town of Aurora.

Their application for a golf course and condominium on legally designated land, has been the subject of four appeals,two before the Ontario Municipal Board and two before the Divisional Court of Ontario, for a Joint Board Hearing rather than a regular Ontario Municipal Board Hearing.

None of the appeals have been successful. Hundreds of thousands of dollars have been spent. Millions if costs are combined for proponents, opponents and the town.

My caller this morning sought to understand the motivation for the town's appeal of the last decision.

I parried the question.

Council decisions made in camera are confidential until reported out at a future meeting.

He responded his client had already been informed by his lawyer. Mr. McQuaid, who had been informed by the town's lawyer, Mr. Beaman, that the town had decided to appeal the last decision.

The information was provided on Monday.

Copies of the latest decision was an add-on to the Council meeting on Tuesday evening. Council went in to closed session to receive "solicitor/client advice" following the Council Meeting.

The closed session conference ended after eleven p.m.

Question ?..how was a decision. not unanimous and not made until eleven on Tuesday evening, relayed by the town's lawyer to the developer's lawyer the previous Monday?

By whom and where are Aurora Council's decisions being made?

I am a Councillor and I do not know.

And you know, if I knew, I would tell you. And I will too if and when I find out.

Thursday, 11 February 2010

A Connection

It may have occurred to readers to wonder how the same argument failed to persuade a tribunal four times out of four and you didn't even know the game was on. Though it was your money being spent.

The explanation is simple.
Unlike another legal action we know about; report of an "investigation" by a solicitor, paid for with town funds into a councillor's comments. The decision to file complaint against the councillor to the Integrity Commissioner was made behind closed doors; reported out and read into the public record;. advertised in two local newspapers; and continues to be posted for an indefinite time on the town's web site.

Decisions to proceed four times to argue for a Joint Board hearingon the Westhill Development project were never reported out.No authority was ever given in public.In the last instance, authority was not given in private either.

And yet the proceeding took place. Expenditures were made. Presumably cheques were signed.

Production of an alternate Master Parks and Recreation Plan was similarly managed.

Consultants retained and paid $53,222. never presented their final draft to council. No opportunity was given for questions to be asked or the public to become aware of the consultants recommendations.

No authority was given for an alternate plan to be prepared. No committee was named. No meetings were posted. No agendas circulated. No staff attended. No records kept. No authority given for a rogue plan to be printed, circulated and recommended to council.

And yet it was.

How could that happen.

Let us examine facts.:

A municipal administration is subject to the authority of Council. Council direction to staff is provided by resolutions having received the required majority support.

If a Divisional Court Decision and a Rogue Master Parks and Recreation are presented to council, with no record of Council authorisation, the question needs to be asked, how did that happen?

Only one thing I can tell you for certain, neither myself, Councillor Collins Mrakas nor Councillor
McRoberts were party to the plan.

Without being a party, yet close enough to see the dots do not connect, I am compelled to speculate the Mormac regime is a regime in every sense of the word.

Conversely. the Town of Aurora does not have a Council in any sense of the word.

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

Ah Yes...the Petch House

There it sits, sad and forlorn.Perched on cinder blocks,clap boards missing, roof caved in, bottom boards crumbling beneath it, Zellars light fixtures on either side of the door, on the east side of Leslie Street just south of Wellington.

Since 2003, it has awaited someone to love it and claim it as their own.

Nobody has.

But the Mayor and Seven Councillors clung to the idea that after one hundred and fifty-two years of service as a humble abode in the Township of Whitchurch, six years sitting, rotting and mouldering, with a hole in the roof, home to varmints, dead and alive, at the side of the road, awaiting redemption,and three expert reports later, it still had a future

For four years, the town collected $100,000 in property taxes in preparation for its restoration.

Last year, a report from Van Nostrand of Vandorf ,whose livelihood it is to re-locate and restore vintage structures was obtained. He examined the cabin, inside and out and stated , in it's current condition, it could not be moved in one piece. He charged not a penny for his service.

Councillor MacEachern found no value in the advice. A second expert was retained to give a different opinion. No luck there. The second report repeated the previous advice the building could not be moved in one piece. Re-location and restoration would cost $450,000.

Councillor MacEachern as a member of the South Lake Simcoe Conservation Authority, obtained authority for it to be re- located to Sheppard's Bush, provided no trees needed to be cut down.

Surprise!Surprise! The Conservation Authority did not have authority to give authority to receive the structure.

Heritage Ontario owns Sheppard's Bush . They gave an almighty sniff, looked down long patrician noses and declared;

Heaven's to Betsy, a clapboard cabin restored with replacement vintage boards would no longer be authentic even at a cost of $450.000. We will not provide space on our property for something like that.

The second expert report cost $5,000.

Still reluctant to accept the obvious, Council diligently directed staff to obtain yet another report, to cost no more than another $5,000.

Another mass of print came forward to Council-in -Committee last week. The debate was not on camera. There was no good news. The building can still not be moved in one piece. Cost of restoration was still not far off half a million. The new report cost $2,000.

Was Council was finally forced to accept that Petch House does not have a future?

Not quite. They referred the issue to the Manager of Heritage Planning. The report under consideration came forward from the Senior Executive Leadership Team (formerly Management Team) Obviously ,the hope was a lesser management type might have greater insight.

The recommendation slipped quietly and unobtrusively through in approval of the Committee Minutes without comment on Tuesday last.

Hundreds of hours have been spent in council "debate"

The Good Lord alone knows how many high-priced staff hours have been spent in the futile attempt, first to save the Petch House and then to save face. No figures are appended anywhere to reflect those costs.

Far be it from me to say; I told you so... but I did, didn't I. More than once.

Just another of those pesky, solitary votes in opposition to be noted by my critics


Here's A Thought

In March 2008, when the Public Planning Meeting was held for the Westhill development application, Karen Ewart, Deputy Clerk was staff resource.

After eight years with the town, Karen left and took a position with Whitchurch-Stouffville almost a year ago.

Sue Seibert ,director of planning, after thirty years with the town retired from a job she loved and would, in ordinary circumstances, have cheerfully continued.

Shelley Phjola, town solicitor, had resigned the year before, not long after Wayne Jackson,
Director of Public Works took his leave, immediately following public criticism by the Mayor over his handling of a difficult situation.

John Rogers our C.A.O. was escorted from the Town Hall months after the Public Planning Meeting.

The only person still around who was involved then with the Westhill Development proposal is Roger Beaman, solicitor-at-law. He was in attendance the night of the Public Planning Meeting in advance of the meeting , to advise council on the anticipated Ontario Municipal Board Hearing which was already scheduled.

As it turned out, Mr. Beaman was not the one giving advice. He was taking orders.

At last night's meeting. behind closed doors, the clerk is the second replacement , and neither the solicitor nor the Chief Administrative Officer were part of the discussion of that significant development proposal of twenty-two months ago.

It's a shame you can't observe what goes on at these meetings. Though to be sure, you would not be comforted.

It's a good day to be A MInority Of One

It's a good day for singing a song
It's a good day for movin' along
It's a good day .How could anything be wrong?
It's a good day from mornin till night

I googled the words and got Peggy Lee singing. I listened a few times and feel even better.

The latest Divisional Court decision was an add-on to last night's meeting

There have been two Ontario Municipal Board and two Divisional Court hearings. None accepted the argument the Westhill Development proposal should be sent to a Joint Board Hearing of the Ontario Municipal Board and the Ministry of the Environment.

Y' all may recall, council's decision to reject our planners' advice and deny outright Westhill's application to build a golf course and seventy-five condominiums on both sides of Leslie Street in March 2008. It was an eight to one vote.

People say I do it just to be contrary. I want to draw attention to myself. It's because of my personal hostility towards the Mayor. I'm too old to be on council. I am not relevant any more. I am dazed and confused.

The planning report before us was in preparation for the OMB hearing already in the works. The property is lawfully designated for development. It is situated in the Moraine. Staff had serious concerns about particular aspects of the proposal. It was important to prepare a solid argument to ensure the concerns were addressed. Mr. Beaman, solicitor- at- law .was on hand that night to advise council.

Instead he received different instructions.

Eight members of Council decided to go the route of petitioning for a Joint Board Hearing.

Four hearings and hundreds of thousands of dollars later, we are back at the point we were in March 2008. The OMB hearing is still before us with a cost estimate of $200.000.

Figures were provided without asking behind closed doors. Invoices were not attached. Do I think the figures are complete? Sorry. I can't give you that assurance.

Have we stopped spending money as if we had a mint in the town hall basement? Sorry, I can give you no assurance on that score either.


It's a good day for singing a song
It's a good day for movin' along.
Any day I'm proven to be right
It's a good day from mornin' to night.

Sunday, 7 February 2010

A suggestion.

A reader is compiling a list of items to present for election debate and wonders about optimum time to submit them to the media.

If there is an optimum time, days before the election is too late.

There is no fail proof method for influencing how people think. The right to decide is valued far more than politicians or media credit. When people believe they have no power, apathy prevails.

Citizens who care and are determined to make a difference must initiate tho conversation wherever opportunity presents. No time should be wasted. Defence of the indefensible should be challenged at every turn.

Throughout this term, nothing less than our community's values have been trampled, our collective intelligence insulted and our freedom denied.

From now until October 25Th, wherever two people are, debate should be initiated , nurtured and grown in force and determination.

Saturday, 6 February 2010


tell a story if like is compared to like. Nothing about the Mormac regime compares to any council I have ever known.

At the start,meetings often lasted until 1.a.m. Agendas would not be completed.The Mayor's voice continued to echo all the way home. More meetings were needed to finish previous business and order practised was a route to disorder.

A solicitor retained by the Mayor, morphed into two, with the objective of filing suit against her predecessor for invasion of her privacy. Two years of private legal consultations and communications between the Mayor and the solicitor came to nought in the end. At never to- be- revealed taxpayers' expense.

The new council followed the leader, perhaps not surprisingly.

The second solicitor, George Rust D'Eye; The Mayor had consulted him previously and invited him to a Council meeting where she declared an emergency to be dealt with behind closed doors.

First though, Mr. Rust D'Eye was introduced to me by the Mayor.

He asked if I had retained legal counsel; hastily assured me he was not suggesting I should; delicately indicated I should not attend the closed meeting; litigation might ensue; I might hear something to my advantage and incur a conflict of interest for which there are severe penalties.

Mr Rust D'Eye was retained that night by Council to "investigate a leak" from a closed door meeting.

A decision made behind closed doors in September, had appeared in the media in November.

The intent to locate New Regional Police Headquarters in Aurora had apparently been known in police circles for months.

Aurora's decision to refuse to sell land we had for sale at an appraised price to the Region had spread... perhaps not surprisingly.

The actual decision was not to allow CAO John Rogers to negotiate with the police although it was his responsibility. It was another way to humiliate the man. The mayor obviously thought there were kudos in it for herself. In the end, that didn't happen and Aurora lost the prize.

To distract from the debacle a great fury was contrived.

Mr. Rust D'Eye advised his client. Legal action against myself was not advanced as the final solution. A Code Of Conduct was offered instead with special emphasis on the opportunity for punishment.

It has been a long wait forthe Mayor and Councillor MacEachern. A Code had to be passed. An Integrity Commissioner recruited. The professional chosen, actually wanted to provide educational sessions for Councillors.Who ever heard of such a thing.

We had.

Councillor Mac had already said what she thought of that idea when it was proposed by Councillor Collins Mrakas.The resolution was defeated.

We had one workshop.Neither Councillor Mac nor Mayor Morris attended. A second makeshift was presented in a council meeting. It was hardly conducive to a meeting of minds.

But an agreement was made. A contract signed.

Next step, a different lawyer retained for a different "investigation"

We all know the consequence of that.

No, my friends. This is not a Council like any other.

The Corporation's Business Agenda takes no precedence.

History Repeats ...Somewhat

Once upon a time...almost half a century ago....Aurora bought a new pumper truck. Those suckers are not purchased off a lot.

Specifications are prepared, tenders called and a contract is awarded for the vehicle to be constructed.

Months later, a couple of firefighters book tickets and fly to where it's at. I think in the neighborhood of Pennsylvania , U.S.A. There are few plants building fire-pumpers. None in Canada. It has to be driven home.

The price tag was around a million dollars. Our entire town budget broke a million in my first term. It put the price of a fire pumper into perspective.

No development charge levies were available then. It had to be debentured. The idea of debt being a nightmare wasn't in vogue then. Any more than a house mortgage is now.

A fire pumper, like a community centre, or a baseball diamond serves a community through
several generations of property owners.The baseball diamond in the town park is probably all of a hundred years old.

Debentures allow payments to be spread over the span of property owners who enjoy use of the facility.

On its arrival, there was joy in the land. A pumper is a beautiful thing to behold. Nothing is so impressive especially when you know how much it's worth.

The late Ron Simmons, a councillor then, and a volunteer fire-fighter before, was especially proud.

Except for Fire Chief Harry Jones, our twenty-four man Brigade was entirely volunteer.

At their own expense, Volunteers attended annual gatherings. Brigades competed against each other for speed and efficiency. In every category, Aurora's Company always came up aces.Response time to a fire matched or exceeded any fire department around.

We waited for the Fire Marshall's report. Eventually it arrived. It wasn't released. The Aurora Banner inquired as to it's whereabouts. To no avail. They persisted.

Finally the report was sheepishly revealed.

The Fire Marshal recommended a full-time brigade of twenty four.He said there should be fire-fighters at the firehall around the clock.

It was twelve years later in George Timpson's regime, before there were full time firefighters.

Twelve were hired. They worked office hours.They were not there at night. When they turned out to a fire call "after hours" they were paid the volunteers stipend over and above salary.

Now look at us, all these years later. We paid $53,220 for a consultant to prepare a Master Parks and Recreation Plan. We gave them their terms of reference. When it was eventually submitted, after a year and nine months, it was presented behind closed doors and disappeared for still another year.

With no direction from Council, an alternate plan has been prepared by Councillor MacEachern and a friend and political supporter of the Mayor, Ken Whitehurst. Using the data compiled by the consultants, two key components, a youth facility and land acquisition are dismissed

Despite that levies have been collected to fund both.

The study carried out according to the town's terms of reference is dismissed and the Mayor makes it clear the rogue plan, created without authority from council, is the one which has her support.

Friday, 5 February 2010


I don't know how the print got changed so I didn't know how to fix it.

Grandson Keenan came to the rescue.

Thursday, 4 February 2010

Big League Little League

I like to watch big league politicians in action. Last week, I watched Barack Obama talking to Republicans about working together to solve the nation's problems.

In wartime, governments form coalitions. They set aside philosophical differences because nothing less than survival is at stake.

The President said he had read opposition ideas. Some he agreed with. But in one instance because Democrats supported it, Republicans defeated a bill they themselves put forward.

His Republican audience already knew about that. They did it. The President was talking to millions of Americans who had lost jobs, health care and homes, who vote Republican.

He was talking over the heads of the Media, Republicans, Lobbyists and recalcitrant Democrats. If the people hurting the most were listening, he has a chance.

If President Obama meets the challenges of his time, and he has little option, he will have all historical status of Franklin Delano Roosevelt and more.

He talked to the people.

As did Winston Spencer Churchill .

As did Pierre Elliot Trudeau .

Now we get to watch another real drama unfold. The stakes are horrendous. The end is not yet written.

And we don't have to pay over a hundred dollars for a ticket and drive to the city.


A letter in The Auroran this week from a Food Bank spokesperson about all the caring and helping organisations in Aurora providing support for people in need, was both gratifying and informative.

It is history in reverse.

Fifty years ago, the Children's Aid Society and Association for The Mentally Retarded were
charitable organisations created by people and parents who saw need and responded.

It's what it took for senior levels of government to acknowledge not only need but community' support for the program and institute social assistance and education for children with differing abilities.

Early in Ontario's history, Volunteer Fire Brigades were the all-round helping agency .They still are in some places. It would be a fascinating history to unearth.

But look where we are now! Children's Aid is under a cloud for questionable administrative spending and a growing number of people are having to put their pride in their poocket and turn to food banks and churches to keep body and soul together.

We know more than half the poor are Canadian children

Who knows their living conditions? We do know there has been no social housing for families built in twenty years. We know basement rents are more than fifty per cent of retail wages.

We know the region is keen to add basement apartments to the "inventory" of "affordable housing" so they can claim to have fulfilled the Official Plan requirement that 24% of housing in the Region must be "affordable"

We know all that because it is documented.

We also know the Aurora Heritage and Culture Centre has a new grand piano.

Wednesday, 3 February 2010

Ruminations . Feb 2010

I'm still sick and trying not to feel sorry for myself. Forty years ago, I would have been content to stay in bed. I've noticed elderly folk are not inclined to spend time that way. It's too precious.

I could watch television. But what does that have to do with anything.Nothing is as good as it used to be and it should be better.

Reading isn't an option. There's a headache lurking behind my eyes and I don't want to encourage it.

There are plenty of issues to elucidate but some are harder work than others.

There's a window above my computer. The middle third of my maple tree fills it. Behind the maple. there's a silver birch in Frank Martin's back yard that still has it's leaves. I remember when he planted it. Across the lane, there's another maple that's in better shape than mine. I think it grew from a seedling off my tree..

If we didn't pull them up or cut them down, there would be a forest of maples around us .All of them from my tree. My oldest boys planted it years ago. We didn't even know what it was. All the gardening books said trees should be the first things planted because they take longest to mature.

There's nothing much going on in my tree right now. Usually there's a pair of squirrels chasing
up and down and swinging out and biting each others tails for fun. It must be for fun, why else would they hang out together .

My tree is nearly fifty years old. Some branches have lost bark. It means a feast for the birds. Chickadees dart in and run up and down the vertical branches pecking busily. Wood-
peckers stick around summer and winter. Where I was growing up, wood-peckers were the stuff of story-books.

With all the branches and all the space you'd think the squirrels would give each other some. But no, they're always touching each other, as if they need the warmth.Chipmunks,when you see them, are forever streaking across the wires as fast as they can . Which is fast

If I go into my inbox, there will probably be another really nasty anonymous comment,a third to-day. I shall obliterate it with a mighty swat. They neither surprise nor disturb me. But I have trouble understanding .

I believe the Mayor and Councillor Mac Eachern believe what they do is right. They certainly put a lot of thought , energy and planning into accomplishing their objectives. Without fail, they have council majority support and often everyone but myself voting in favour.

I am undeniably elderly. Some argue, no longer relevant. They say other uncomplimentary things about me as well.

If it's all true and the majority view, why does it upset them so. If I take a different position on any given issue, why do they feel the need to provide an explanation, and not a nice one, for what I think and how I cast my vote?

Oops! for minute there, it looked like the sun was coming out but it's gone again and snow is laconically drifting down.

I'm glad I'm in the warm.


Due Process

Sometimes I contemplate a situation and wonder..... how can that be organised into order and sense.

When it's written and I've turned it over and over again in my mind for loopholes in my logic, I realise the story is not complete.

A duplicate edition of a Master Parks and Recreation Plan presented to Council- in- Committee on Tuesday, is the case in point.

The Consultants completed part of their contract, when they submitted the final draft of the plan. Somehow it was steered into the hands of Councillor MacEachern,Chairman of the Leisure Services Advisory Committee.

Finally, after twelve months, a duplicate edition of the Final Draft has made its debut..

The consultants' work is repeated. Statistics, community input, tables, and all that led to the recommendations in the plan are there. The recommendations are different

On the face of it, council had given authority for a work/study group of LSAC members to study the plan. Names were included.

One of the members had resigned from the Leisure Services Advisory Committee at the time the baseball diamond project was being furiously batted about for maximum political advantage.

I called the town hall to check and asked how a group could meet without giving notice of meetings , posting an agenda, keeping a record of business and without staff. What about a quorum?

I learned a work/study group does just that. It allows for secrecy.

So..... there's no need to give notice of meetings, post agendas, have staff present, note quorum and keep records of the meetings.

How then, does such a group conduct town business and pass a resolution for an alternate Master Parks and Recreation Plan to be prepared, printed, circulated and placed on the agenda of a Council meeting for consideration and approval?

The answer is of course, it can not. No town business can be conducted by a work/study group.

No more than the record of a meeting can be changed, so as not to reflect what happened at the meeting.

Now we know, in the Mormac Regime both are possible.

Tuesday, 2 February 2010

A Master Parks and Recreation Plan or Two

My cold is worse. I will absent myself from the fray to-night and do everyone else a favour.

I still need to read and understand the recommendations. Decisions will be made by Council next Tuesday.

We had two versions of a Master Parks and Recreation Plan to peruse this week-end.

How so? you ask.

Aye well, let me tell you.

In March 2007. Council awarded a contract for a Master Parks and Recreation Plan at a price of $53,226.88.

In January 2009, the Consultant's draft was submitted but not to Council. Leisure Services Advisory Committee, chaired by Councillor MacEachern received it and the Consultant's presentation. The draft went to a study group of the committee, including Councillor MacEachern and Ken Whitehurst, the Mayor's friend..

No notice of meetings were provided . No records maintained. No staff attended.

A year later, despite repeated efforts to obtain the first draft , Council now has two.

The professional document which cost $53,226.88. The second from MacEachern and Whitehurst.

The first 79 pages long, the second 76 pages printed both sides .No doubt,no less than a minimum of thirty five copies of each .

Inventory of facilities, compilation of statistics, population forecasts, and community input are the same in both. Recommendations are not.

For example:

The consultants refer to $5 million dollars collected in levies for a gymnasium and youth facility, should be used for that purpose within the period of the plan.

During the same period, land should be acquired for future sports and recreation needs with funds available.

The Official Plan ratio of parks to people is noted.

MacEachern and Whitehurst disagree. They recommend more studies for the youth facility and land acquisition. And the Official plan ratio of parks to people be increased to reduce the deficit reflected in needed facilities.

Normal procedure is for a Consultant to present a draft plan to Council. With any luck, the presentation draws public attention. Like with all those organisations the Mayor likes to invite to take advantage of the camera and public attention to Council meetings.

Council can change a draft plan with further input from staff and the community.

Things can change between work commenced, the plan being presented and finally approved.

The study recommended using town-owned Leslie Street lands for recreation. Council has already decided to sell the lands, so that part had to change.

Establishing a level of service to support development levies is extremely important but the significance is lost in the "revisions"

The Plan never made it's public debut. It spent a year under a shroud, in the tight control of a couple of individuals, MacEachern and Whitehurst and probably the Mayor. It is unlikely to receive further scrutiny from Council before final approval.

The necessary town resources were expended to create the plan. It never saw the light of day. until it had been thoroughly worked over by at least two individuals one of whom, neither elected nor accountable but with full confidence of Mayor Morris.

Monday, 1 February 2010

Notes Of Appreciation

I have received notes of appreciation from students using my Blog as research for college papers.

When I talked to Heather Sisman ,who helped me set it up, I said, if all it does is give people insight into town affairs they would not have otherwise, it will be worth the effort.

I am very pleased to be making that contribution.

Misery Loves Company

I have a terrible cold and I'm miserable. I posted twice yesterday. Left them up for a couple of hours and removed them. They didn't feel right.

I can do that .

The posts were reactions to comments. They were quick, cutting and I think, gratuitously unkind.

I can do that.

I didn't read them before I removed them. I can be incisive to make a political point or insert a stinging detail to complete a picture. But my gut instinct tells me when I've gone too far. Usually before I post

Robert The Bruce continues the argument that it is "WRONG" for me to write letters to the editor.

I disagree.

By writing letters after a council decision has been made , he contends I am criticising those who came to a different conclusion.

I don't do that.

I take responsibility for my judgement .

Failure to agree doesn't mean I am right and others are wrong.

It simply means.... we do not agree.

Robert accuses me of accusing him of elder abuse.

An elder knows that insult well, It's not unfamiliar.

The Bruce is entitled to his opinion.that I should not be on the Council because I am no longer relevant. It is probably shared. It doesn't matter a hill of beans though.

Whether a citizen is elected is still for voters to decide. There is no should or shouldn't. Only votes count.

Whether letters to the editor are acceptable, is a decision for the editor to make and readers to read.

I do not send letters to The Banner . They believe, they have the right to edit letters.

I don't.

That's a decision for me to make