Saturday, 31 July 2010
There is no other place for her. I need to see her. Moving my chair might be an option. But I can see every corner of my garden from my chair. As well as the shade, the chair is against the wall and half under the eaves. If it rains, I can stay out for twenty minutes without getting wet. Sometimes there can be a shower and all I feel is the faintest, lightest, gossamer touch on my bare arm.
I've thought of a canvas awning over the deck. But I wouldn't be able to look up into the leaves and watch the movement. or catch a glimpse of the red-headed wood-pecker running up and down and around the trunk,stopping occasionally to peck frenetically.
She is so precious . I recognized her the minute I saw her at the Bradford Greenhouse.
I had few childhood possessions. We didn't have books..
The kids next door did. They had Sunday clothes as well. Their Dad, Wee Donald McNab,had a trade and worked steady at the shipyard. They were Protestants. Apprenticeship papers didn't say you couldn't be an apprentice if you were Catholic. They just said you had to be Protestant.
I didn't know that then.
So they got books at Christmas . Margaret had a lovely plaid pleated skirt and white blouse with a hosiery cardigan , shiny shoes and nice knee high socks for Sunday.
We didn't have books. Neighbors on the other side gave us the daily paper when they had finished with it. We spread it out on the floor and read the comic strips and the adventures of Rupert the Bear.Sometimes my brother had a comic. Hotspur or The Dandy was a new one
The only possessions I remember were little cards from Players cigarette packets. Vaguely remembered also are tiny, shiny little silk flags from the packets. There were marbles and conkers(chestnuts) If I ever got my hands on one of them, I didn't get to keep it. Somebody else always wanted it. I was youngest in the house until I was six.
I would be five when I got my first school reading book. The Fairie Queen Mabs was illustrated. I don't remember if there was a story or a poem. It's the memory of the picture I treasured.
Then I found her. She's in my garden. She is exactly how I remember her.Now I must
create a place, where I can see her all the time and she can be absolutely safe.
My garden is sixty-three feet wide and fifty feet deep. I have neighbors on every side. That's alright. When I was child living where I was born, at 22 Friar's Croft, Irvine, Ayrshire and had no possessions, the McNab's door wasn't more than two and a half feet away from ours. That was alright too
I am not like Guy Poppe .
I don't need to know the hundred acres of rolling land I see from my window, but don't own, will never be shared with anyone else. I don't need to convince myself, the wealthy woman who planned how her estate would be shared, really meant the land was for me.
I don't share his passion to control everything in his view.
Frankly, I don't have a lot of sympathy to share for Guy Poppe and what he represents.
Ev Just think about the lost business opportunities, the lost professionalism , the lost leadership , the loss of direction and the loss of character when the Town lost former CAOs Jay , Marc, Larry , Scott, and John, boy would it ever be interesting to be a fly on the wall in a room where these fine men were congregated when the word Aurora is mentioned
I would add David Nitkin , Integrity Commissioner, a few lawyers who shall be nameless , and a Planning director to provide a broad base focus for the conversation.
Loss of the town's institutional history is perhaps the most serious.
Individuals can apply knowledge and skill to any problem. Navigating a municipality without a trace of its history is like launching into a great lake or an ocean with no sense of the depth, underwater hazards, currents or undertow .
Not only are the dreadful duo totally ignorant of it and place no value upon our institutional memory, for the past four years they have been intent on wiping it out completely.
To cover the damage wrought , they would prefer people to believe, there was no Town of Aurora before they got here.
This week-end there are only two directors on hand. One with fifteen or more years background in town affairs and one with barely a year.
Guess who's in charge?
During the last term, we contracted the services of Scott Somerville as Acting CAO due to a seven month failure to replace former CAO Larry Allison.
We sold our Hydro asset during that time. The deal was not done by the end of his contract, so we extended the contract to allow for the deal's completion.
In the interim, we persuaded John Rogers, now a former CAO of Aurora, to leave East Gwillimbury and join the Aurora administration.
Mr. Rogers had not applied for the post when it was advertised. We invited him to look us over and consider the opportunity.
When John Rogers made the fateful decision and joined Aurora, Mr. Somerville moved over and became interim treasurer, a position also vacant for some months. He was also assigned the task of re-writing the Procedural Bylaw. It was acknowledged by consensus of all parties familiar with such Bylaws, as possibly the worst ever written.
You know the joke about an elephant being a horse designed by a committee.
By the time the review was completed , there had been an election and the proposed amended Bylaw was presented to the new Council.
Among other changes, the offending clause was recommended to be removed.
Alas, it was not to be. The Morris clique were successful in the election with enough new members to create a majority. By the time they finished with the reviewed Bylaw it was worse than it was before and I suspect some of them had a hand in the previous one.
Councillor Mac Eachern, as usual, led the relentless arguments.The offending clause was retained. Though it wasn't said, obviously there wasn't much point in having control of committee membership, if you can't control who might be able to participate in the debate.
We added a new wrinkle to the Advisory Committee set-up.
Non- elected members may now preside as chairs of committees. Said Chairs have the right to give direction to staff and present reports to Council.
So...the elected and administrative authority of the town is further dissipated and made subject to the non-elected. Who may well be best friends and under control of the Mayor and Councillor Mac Eachern.
Did I entitle post this Rogue Clause?
Rogue Council might be more appropriate .
It's a sad story. Thanks for sticking it through to the end.
It's weird but when I have poured my thoughts out and edited them repeatedly, it's like they have been poured from a jug. Having to re-write is means re-calling them in order, put them back into the jug and pour them out again.
I don't have an option. The story is obviously only half told.
So six hours after the start:
I was saying about that clause. It's not only disrespectful of a councillor's authority, it is not in accordance with provincial regulations.
In a proposed amendment to the Procedural Bylaw last term, I moved removal of the offending clause .
In the debate, Councillor Vrancic demurred. He said; "No chairman would dis-allow a Council member the right to speak"
I responded . " It has happened Councillor "
Former Councillor Betty Pedersen was seated at the press desk .
I noted the Councillor had not only been refused the right to speak, she had been ordered to remove herself from a seat at the committee table. I added further, Councillor Vrancic had been the chairman who so ordered.
The debate ended at that point . The amendment was approved to be recommended to Council. But....... it was a divided vote. The Morris clique including Councillor Keane was opposed.
Former Councillor Ron Wallace was not in attendance .
Subsequently the recommendation came before Council, Councillor Wallace's negative vote defeated it.
That was the night of infamy . I laboriously traversed the circle on my cane and ruffled the hair of his head with a particularly thin edition of his own newspaper publication.
Ron Wallace and I are friends of long standing acquaintance. Like forty years.
The Acting Chief Administrator,informed me earlier this week, the jazz festival organizer has been notified by the town, the public washrooms are to be open to the public at all times. The fee does not give control of the amenities.
I have called on- call service to report the problem on a priority basis. It's a voice-mail service.
It's not a good situation.
What a b--- h.
Just got a call, a parks person is going over there right now to sort things out.
Just got another call, the fence has been moved to provide an opening for people to get through to the washrooms....probably a long way round.
It's still a b---h.
A comical foot-note:
Alison Collins Mrakas called. "Is it true", she asked
'What" I said
"She cut off access to the washrooms"
"Yes" I said "Where did you hear about it?"
"In your blog" she said without adding "Idiot"
"Oh...Yes... Right" I said
Another footnote; not comical
On- call staff are paid for "standby" They have to be available to respond to problems.
If they are called out , they are paid for their time. . It's a long time since I knew exactly what that is. But it is not less than an hour and many years ago the rate was time and a half.
So.... the problem created by the private enterprise organizer of the Jazz Festival, who was notified by the town she could not block public access to public amenities, who has already cost us $2 thousand dollars for a half sponsorship, plus free use of the Church Street Cultural Centre and Heaven knows what else we don't know about, just added another unnecessary item to the price tab.
To say nothing of the aggravation and possible discomfort of the public.
“An illegal clause in the procedure bylaw discourages Councillors from attending meetings. It is there at her insistence.”
Would you be able to post the wording of this clause?
This story starts at the beginning of the last term with the General Committee debate on committee appointments..
Councillors are asked to provide first,second and third committee choice to the Mayor. Who works with the Clerk to accommodate members choices, avoid scheduling conflicts and submit a report to Council for approval.
My choice was the Economic Development Committee.
I didn't get it. Morris's clique had hogged the committees. Morris had three
I expressed my dis-satisfaction.
Morris said....." tough"......or words similarly disrespectful, hostile and out of order.
I responded ; "No matter.... Councillors are entitled to attend and participate at all meetings"
Councillor Keane enjoined. He said ..."no, they are not"
I cast an inquiring look towards the Chair. He moved the meeting along.
In my previous incarnation, standing committees were the order. Membership was three for the purpose of a majority report to Council. Any member of Council had the right to attend and participate, ask questions of staff, express an opinion, but not vote.
Committee recommendations had to reflect a majority decision.
Since then and I am still doubtful of the new concept,. advisory committees have taken the place of standing committees. Committees have more non-elected members than elected. And the new clause in the procedure bylaw.
It qualifies a councillor's authority.
26.2 Councillor Members who are not Committee Members shall be entitled to attend all
Advisory Committee meetings, including any in-camera portion of the meeting, and shall be entitled to speak , at a meeting upon recognition from the chair, but
shall not be entitled to vote....
It seems innocent . Rules of order require recognition from the chair to allow any member to speak.
But this clause refers only to a Councillor who is not a member of the committee. It was Councillor Keane's reference when he challenged the right of this Councillor to participate.
To be continued.
Friday, 30 July 2010
To that end, staff have been assigned the role of sorting out the attendance record for in-camera meetings .
The enormity of the task is unimaginable. The end result will be murky at best.
In- camera meetings were not the solitary or most horrible aspect of this Council.
Having hogged membership of the committees , the Councillor now lays claim to having done all the work. With seeming complaint against those denied the opportunity.
An illegal clause in the procedure bylaw discourages Councillors from attending meetings. It is there at her insistence.
After establishing from the first Council meeting that nothing contributed to the debate by a particular Council member would be allowed without repeated interruption, let alone consideration, the Councillor is now saying ;
"Hey Folks ! Look who did all the work"
Are we counting meetings cancelled by the committee chairman because she could?
Are we counting "Emergency" and other meetings with Solicitor George Rust D'Eye in attendance who advised a Councillor not to attend .
Where he was instructed to "investigate a leak" of an in-camera decision three months earlier which should have been public and wasn't .
As if the refusal to sell public land at an appraised price should have been kept a secret. Though that was clearly the intention of the Councillor now claiming to heft the full load.
Are we talking about an in-camera meeting, like a kangeroo court, to cross-examine Directors about a decision they made with authority,by Solicitor John Mascarin retained for the purpose of inquiry and inquisition
Are we talking about the meeting before Civic Awards Night in 2009, when the same solicitor was retained to "investigate" a fellow Councillor(moi); to listen to tapes of public meetings; read open letters to the editor and blog posts; to ferret out instances which might be described as critical of town staff ; to form the basis of a Complaint under their Code of Righteous Conduct, to their brand new Integrity Commissioner.
Following which they did file in, with smiles all around, to the Council Chamber, accompanied by bagpipes for a celebration of goodwill to all men.
Are we talking about the meeting to receive Mascarin's report, when he questioned my right to attend because I might hear something to my advantage What! while he advised Councillors of comments that I had made which could be taken to create the substance of a complaint against ETHICS
Are we talking about a meeting, not the first or the only one , with screeching and abuse after which a Councillor elected with strong support, felt compelled to resign: to be replaced without election, by appointment of a non-elected person.
Are we talking about an ethics workshop, provided by the newly engaged Integrity Director, and boycotted by the Mayor and Councillor MacEachern.
Attendance might well be weighed against content .
There was that hastily called meeting without an agenda (not hasty enough) to strip the Integrity Commissioner of his authority in time to render his decision to dismiss above noted complaint, null and void.
About this time last year.
An attendance record would not include instances when Councillors left meetings in disgust because of foul language and obscene gestures.
Four meetings called to discuss the same item in various guises before the desired decision was obtained and that by a secret commitment to discuss in public, which didn't happen.
Expert witnesses retained,whose evidence already forms part of the public record , to be used in a Municipal Board Hearing, with their first clients compensated by the town for their fees.
Many meetings which should have been held were not.
An off-site orientation meeting for new Councillors to be briefed on the work load, duties and responsibilities; lectures ,questions and answers, all stuff needed to prepare themselves for the work ahead.
Like decisions on surplus buildings in library square.
Like disposal or not of the valuable Hydro Property. Just dealt with on July 13th.
Like the Five Year Revision of the Official Plan. Currently being rushed through at the last knocking.
Oh Dear Me No.
We could not have new Councillors getting uppity ideas about what needs to be done and their authority to do it ,outside the iron control of the terrible twins. After all, were they not responsible with Susan's help, for getting the five of them elected.Are they not owned by the twins?
What about an absent agenda item to discuss the nature of a Jazz Festival staged by private business for private profit and the merits of a $2.thousand hand-out from the town treasury and free use of town facilities and non-accounting of funds raised. .
Or the benefits of town staff and the Farmers Market being harassed for weeks by the peripatetic best friend of the Mayor, who is obviously of the impression, she has received the keys of the Mormac Kingdom.
It has been a tortuous four years. No staff are left who recall the happenings behind closed doors. No record exists except in the memory of those who have endured.
When the first two hours of most Council meetings have the Mayor presenting awards. posing for endless photographs and other trammel to push the town's business later and later and in no way fulfill the requirement of public decision-making.
When scheduled in-camera meetings were frequently cancelled because of the lateness of the hour or truncated for the same reason, or re-scheduled , or duplicated as noted above, with resultant distortion of numbers actually held
When a Committee chairperson can cancel meetings if it's not convenient to attend, how does that equate with the value of a record of attendance.
Are we also talking about the record of attendance of our only representative at meetings of York Regional Council?.
Exactly what can the public be expected to discern with accuracy from the record of attendance of this Council.
That it has survived at all to this point, is testament to the extraordinary endurance and commitment of some members to the people who elected them.
The virtual collapse of the last meeting will testify to that.
Thursday, 29 July 2010
With utter predictability, he forwarded one of his typical e-mails from the lofty pinnacle of his expertise. Unmindful of the Code of Righteous Conduct, he criticized my effort to clarify a substantive matter, impugned my motives and saved me the trouble of counting pages.
There are five hundred of the suckers.
The telephone book is only a quarter of an inch thicker.
The print is smaller than the smallest number in the book.All attempts to decipher are an occupational hazard.
One might even suspect, people are not expected to know what secrets it contains.
It 's a compilation of three drafts; Five Year Revision of The Official Plan; 2C Secondary Plan and the Infamous Promenade Study.
It should have been handily completed within this term of office. Neighbors' Plans have been completed months ago.
A week ago, Councillors received a call inquiring as to availability for a "Special" meeting in August. Timing to be from 3 p.m. until 9 p.m. with a break for dinner, to be provided on the spot.
On occasion, Councillors sit around a conference table, eating while lawyers or others make presentations. I find the practice discomfiting. If I want to eat carry-out, I elect the privacy of eating at home.
But I am not employed elsewhere and expected to rush from work, to squeeze in a meeting between a meeting, to suit someone else's schedule.
This Council has no idea in how many ways they are disrespected.
An hour's break for dinner is planned with adjournment at nine pm.
Yea! Right!....with Mormac in charge...not likely.
The schedule is obviously recognized as tight. The Director of Planning has offered Councillors the opportunity to ask questions prior to the meeting.
A couple of things are wrong with that arrangement. Councillors' questions asked and answered in public are part of the elucidating process.
An Official Plan in theory at least, is presumed to have had involvement of the community. To that end, meetings are announced ... the public is invited.... yea urged.... to participate.
Traditionally, public meetings are not held during months when schools are closed. It is generally accepted as difficult to engage the public during summer hols.
Since Councillors and staff have families too, these weeks are not optimum for scheduling important initiatives.
Then there are business people and land owners. They can be expected to have more than a passing interest in revisions of an Official Plan. Their convenience is generally considered when meetings are scheduled.
I will not be at the meeting. I said so when asked about availability. One other Councillor has indicated unavailability and one other not heard from at the time of posting. It may be a third of council will not be participating.
At this point in the term, the revised plan is unlikely to be approved prior to close of candidate registrations on September 10th.
After that date, council becomes a lame duck. No substantive decisions are made by an outgoing council.
A newly elected Council charged with completing a Revised Official Plan, as we were in 2007, will be unable to undertake that responsibility without undergoing a repeat of the entire exercise.
If scheduling a Special Meeting to consider drafts of the Official Plan had been on the agenda of the July 13th Council meeting, these points could have been publicly debated and decided.
It had to be known a decision was pending .
At this date, any effort, however monumental, to complete the Five Year Revision of the Official Plan by this Council is too little and too late.
We had four years to get it done.
P.S. Just received notice from the Town of a Special Meeting on Spetmebr 8th to receive comments ideas and input from the public on the Five Year Revision of the Official Plan as required by the Planning Act.
Like I said. Too little. Too late.
Wednesday, 28 July 2010
The Rotary Club will be providing portable toilets for the beer garden.
Club members will work hard in the beer garden. It's a hard way to make a dollar. . Every penny they raise will be re-invested in worthy causes in the community.
I have successfully cut and pasted four e-mails. However,when I click on Publish, the pesky computer sends up a yellow and red notice of error with reference to HTML and other jargon I cannot comprehend or know how to deal with.
So...to heck with it. What we have learned to date is as follows:
The town did provide $2,000" shared sponsorship" to the affair without input from your elected body.
The rationale, in a nutshell, is for economic promotion of a tourist attraction.
Vendor permits have been provided to food vendors "only". Which suggests other vendors without permits .at least without payment to the town.
The Church Street School Cultural Centre have" provided" that facility, for a "black tie event" prior to the festival, . on the basis of supporting and encouraging culture.There is an admission fee of $30. but the executive director knows nothing about tickets , admissions fees and such
A crowd of three thousand people are anticipated at the Jazz Festival staged by the private business corporation of St Kitts Music , in our quite small town park.
There's the Farmers Market until one in the afternoon.
There's the Rotary Club Beer Garden.
A popular children's splash pad .
A neighborhood children's playground .
An amenity building.
A fenced off baseball field .
And another community event, which I cannot recall the name..
All going on at the same time
There is a dispute about who should provide portable toilets for children in the park. while the entrepreneur has "paid" for exclusive use of the town's permanent washrooms.
Even, having received $2 thousand " shared sponsorship' handout from the town without the authority of your elected body.
A full sponsorship costs $4,000. Obviously, it was a deal we couldn't refuse..
There is no mention of who will pay for pay duty police officers though they will obviously be required.
There was a sign on Town property advertising the Jazz Festival with an admission charge of $5.
The sign was removed and placed on private property of a member of the board of the Church Street Cultural Centre, who lives on the street and whose name also appeared as a supporter on the Mayor's web site for her last election campaign, until the other day.
The Mayor's web site now shows only a picture of the Mayor and a phone number.
Now don't worry about being confused while trying to absorb all this.information. It's not you.
It's a picture of organised mayhem.
Welcome to the Land of Mormac.
Tuesday, 27 July 2010
The reason for the Market's move from downtown, was to allow room for growth.I called to establish it would not be in the park. I was assured. I noted publicly the reason for having a market was to bring people downtown. Moving to Wells Street, would defeat the purpose.
The Market moved. Public funds were spent on increased power. Wells Street was not large enough for Market . Vendors spilled into the park.The contract was ignored for three years.
For three years, vendors were in the park. So long as Sher St. Kitts was associated and the band shell could be used without payment of fees.
While Councillor Granger was in attendance every week, the contract was ignored.
St Kitts had a booth on the street , promoting the family business. Artisans and food vendors were assigned to the park.
Now, disassociation with their former events co-ordinator over a dispute about remuneration,(she was demanding it) and the Mayor no longer welcome to be front and centre of the Market, the contract has been re-discovered.
Ignored while St..Kitts had free access, to the band shell, enforced when St. Kitts has to pay for the band shell.
St. Kitts has a sponsor. The Town has provided $2,000. It's not a waiver of fees ,
as was to be requested at the July 13th Council Meeting in a delegation.
It's a sponsorship.
$2,000 has been provided from the office of the Chief Administrative Officer. Funds it seems,are in his budget for such an eventuality.
The CAO is on vacation.
Not known at this time; has the money been paid by cheque or in services? The amount would far exceed a waiver of all fees. A cheque would require joint signatures of Mayor and Treasurer.
I don't like to ask.
The Treasurer doesn't like to answer my questions.
The Mayor is on vacation.
But there's a corollary:
In a recent e-mail to Councillors from the Mayor;
"Further to Councils recent "rise and report out" of our action(s) re: retaining Mr. Northey as Co-counsel
I enquired of Mr. Cooper what Members can share about our legal counsels reccommendation
Mr Cooper has kindly advised that if asked, Council Members can reference that :"
In those few lines the Mayor deftly shifts responsibility from herself and her supporters to Mr. Cooper, town solicitor and "our legal counsel"(external)
It was Council's decision .
But it was "our legal counsel's recommendation" re "retaining Mr.
Northey as co-counsel."
And Mr. Cooper , town solicitor was privately asked by the Mayor to "advise " what Councillors could "share".
Presumably with the public whose business it is.
Last October, an "option" for "re-imbursing" neighbours opposed to Westhill's site plan application was first proposed as a "grant".
I objected publicly to that discussion being behind closed doors.
It went away for a while.
It came back in a different garb and again behind closed doors.
It was reported out as "retaining expert witnesses". Witnesses already paid by opponents of the aplication, for evidence already provided and in the public record.
Retaining the opponents' lawyer on the advice of external legal counsel because of his "expertise" is the final successful sleight of hand in transferring coin of the realm.
In a similar vein, we now apparently have an item in the CAO's budget allowing a $2,000. sponsorship be provided to the Mayor's most admired in all the world and feted volunteer, outside the normal process for making grants or the authority of Council.
If anyone out there imagines this was not a decision of the Chief Magistrate, well you're just dreaming in technicolor, my innocent friend.
Monday, 26 July 2010
My morning has been spent trying to get answers at the Town Hall with limited success.
The St Kitts woman is in the eye of the storm.
A sign appeared on town park railings advertising a Jazz Festival with a $5 price of admission.
Farmers Market vendors are apparently being turfed from the park to make way for vendors accompanying the jazz festival.
Farmers Market Vendors pay for permits from the town. Who is issuing permits to vendor at the Jazz Festival.
The Rotary Club are operating a Beer Garden .They have all the right permits. St Kitts came to Council to talk about that a few weeks ago. Her purpose was not apparent.
$4 thousand smackeroos is said to be the price of a sponsorship for the Jazz festival. Who pockets that?
On July 13th, a request was made to delegate to Council ask for band shell fees to be waived for the Jazz Festival. For some obscure reason the request was not made.
It is now understood the town has " sponsored" the Jazz Festival to the tune of $2Ks. That would cover the band shell fees.
The town does not "sponsor" events. The town provides grants for events. Under certain qualifications. If the qualifications are not met , the grant requires Council approval.
I am not aware of Council's approval of a grant to the Jazz festival.
At the time of writing, I have been unable to find anyone at the town hall to assure me it has or has not happened.
There's a pre-Jazz festival being held at the Cultural Centre. the night before the festival. I have heard two different prices of admission. One $30, the other $50.
Where's that revenue going?
The Cultural Centre advertises many events with free admission.
The Town's agreement with the operating Board operating is called:
"Purchase of Culture Agreement".
All those Art Shows , Summer Hymn Sings and Aboriginal Displays have been purchased for us by our magnanimous Council with our own tax dollars. That's why they are "free"
According to the Business Plan accepted by Council, the Board is supposed to be weaning itself from town funding by $100ks per annum. The operation costs us half a million a year.
A progress report was to have been presented in April of 2010. I asked about that several weeks ago. Got mumble- jumble from the Mayor about how hard the volunteer board are working on our behalf. But no indication when the town will receive the overdue progress report.
As a result of which, I have no idea whether Ms. St.Kitts is getting free space for a party for which a substantial admission fee is to be charged.
Apparently three thousand people are expected at the Jazz Festival. That would be $15ks admissions revenue.
No doubt, tidy receipts for the vendors and the Beer garden. A question arises about the Rotary Club being able to handle those numbers. Do they know that's what's expected? Did they authorise St Kitts to speak for them at a recent council meeting.
In the meantime, there's an argument about access to the town's toilet facilities. The Jazz Festival organiser is of the opinion the town should provide porta-toilets for near-naked children in the water park, while the beer drinking patrons of the Jazz Festival have sole access to permanent toilets.
Years ago, the Town discussed with concert organisers , an event in the Community Centre Arena. The sticking point was the town's take, whether or not the numbers anticipated actually showed up. The event never happened.
Contrast that with the current arrangement with the Mayor's favorite "Volunteer" and understand the concerns.
Sunday, 25 July 2010
While he was talking, I recalled seeing him, in his boat, rescuing a person clinging to a tree branch trying to keep from being swept away in the floods after Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans that caused so much death and destruction and revealed the colossal failure of government to protect people against known hazards.
I don't believe we have learned half of the horror stories
A day or so later, I was sitting on my deck, thinking about the interview when another image came to mind unbidden .
I was a child at the time of the Dunkirk evacuation . To an inexperienced child all things are new. Therefore nothing is unusual. Images of Dunkirk stayed with me but until last week they were just pictures.
My son Frank is in Scotland. He called and spoke of incredible beauty and uniqueness of the places he has been.... And the rain.
The rain might have completed the visual that triggered the memory.
It's cold and chilling. The sea is freezing.
I watched soldiers preparing for the European invasion . Over and over, they marched in from Dundonald Camp along the coast to board the special boats at the harbour shore.
They were taken along the coast to jump into the sea and wade ashore. They were carrying full gear. It rained for days... throughout the exercises.
I remembered stories about the march to Dunkirk . Soldiers fell to the ground, asleep in their tracks. Comrades not allowed to stop, kicked them as they passed, desperately trying to waken them .
Every little boat in the country took to the water to rescue those they could.
As the exhausted men waded into the water, hoping there was room for them , German aircraft strafed them with machine gun fire and dropped bombs among them.
The little boats went back time and time again.Until the last man.
As I thought last week, about the fear, the desperation and the courage, I found myself weeping.
I am crying now.
Why has the Trail Connection from Elizabeth Hader Park not commenced?
Minutes from the Trails Sub-Committee meeting of September 11.2009, considered at the October 15. 2009 meeting of Leisure Services Committee Meeting , and recommended for approval at the November 3. 20o9 General Committee Meeting and approved on November 10. 2009 by Council directed it not happen.
In accordance with the decision ,Council directed staff to await completion of the Trails Master Plan which is scheduled for this Fall (2010), before commencing with the Elizabeth Hader Trail
The question was asked by Councillor Evalina Mac Eachern, Chairman of said Leisure Services Advisory Committee.
The same committee which recommended rejection of a staff request for $4,800. for fifteen additional portable toilets .
When residents seated at their dining room table were treated to the view of an adult ball player, full frontage, relieving himself at the end of their garden, subsequently expressed a lack of appreciation for the performance to staff in 2009, a Johnny was on the spot within a week.
In 2010, after a repeat performance, an e-mail to Mayor and Council from the resident, resulted in a review of the record of the decision-making process. It revealed staff request for funds to provide relief stations was rejected, on recommendation from the Leisure Services Advisory Committee, chaired by Councillor Mac Eachern and approved by Council, resulting in ALL portable relief stations being outlawed by the town forthwith.
The 2010 complaint prompted swift prevarication from the Mayor's office and subsequently a lengthy epistle from Councillor MacEachern , countering the written record of decision-making, with excerpts from the newly adopted Master Recreation Plan, which was a version of a discarded Draft Plan prepared by a consultant at a cost to the town of $53Ks, edited by Councillor Mac Eachern and the Mayor's friend and campaign supporter, Ken Whitehurst, who is also a member of the Leisure Services Advisory Committee.
The question about why the trail connection to the Elizabeth Hader Park had not been started was asked by Councillor Mac Eachern, Chair of said Leisure Services Advisory Committee which recommended to Council to await the completion of the Trails Master Plan before commencing the Elizabeth Hader Trail.
The same Councillor who filed a complaint with the Integrity Commissioner that the process by a working group, composed of herself and Mr. Whitehurst , of editing the Draft Master Recreation Plan was misrepresented by myself to the detriment of somebody or other.
Saturday, 24 July 2010
It says "you'd better have a good answer "
The older I grow, the fiercer it is. Just like himself. When I was in Tacoma, my grand-daughter Vanessa , who hadn't seen me for a while, would mimic my look and say with a laugh; "Grannie, you look so mean?"
I know what she meant. But the only thing I can think to do about it is practice a benign smile. I don't think it would work. A person can't fight what nature has endowed.
Well, not without spending a fortune on people with sharp knives.
Anyway, I don't feel mean. I'm very content to be where I am . If I get good answers, I 'm even happier.
Some things though are a burden. I hate it when politicians' butts are covered by right of privacy for others, staff in particular . Citizens have the rihjt as well, as long they don't come before Council and project themselves onto the public stage to launch an attack.
In the post about our former communications director, I used her name. It made her real. Less like a cypher. I didn't say anything to hurt her. I was telling of how she had been hurt, at our hands, in our name.
I didn't ask permission. Then she would have had a voice in the telling. Because I didn't and it was partly her story, I decided, after a while, I should remove her name .
The posterior of Morris and Mac Eachern are once again protected but without quite the same coverage they had before.
I do not hate those women. Hatred is corrosive to the spirit.The Lord commands us to love our neighbors.
The Lord knows I try. But Oh My Good Lord, I hate the things those two do to people.
I hate even more, they can do it behind closed doors. By a majority vote, they can drag everyone else down with them and bring shame to our community.
Friday, 23 July 2010
By an OMB order, the town recently had to refund $139,000 plus interest to the York Region Separate School Board. We had charged fees for cash- in- lieu of parks on the basis of the price they had to pay to assemble the land.
The Board obtained an appraisal of the land which placed its value lower. But the town wasn't prepared to accept the appraised figure, so the dispute went to an OMB on an appeal by School Board . How ridiculous is that.
It involved lawyers. The Board had their own. We had to retain an external lawyer.
There was a pre-hearing and a hearing. Lawyer's letters in camera meetings and consultation with the town solicitor.
My guess legal fees for our side would be no less that $40.Ks.
I have to guess because they won't tell me what it cost.
So the over-all deficit to us was almost $200ks.
Other municipalities exclude public bodies and agencies from cash in lieu of parks fees.
Well think about it. Students in school live in the community. They don't create a need for more parks. School boards share their facilities with municipalities that reduces the need for sports facilities.
School boards collect taxes from the same pockets.
But the good old boys and girls of the town needed their pound of flesh. They retained a lawyer to keep it , took up Ontario Municipal Board time which also cost taxpayers money, and that of the Separate School Board .
We were wrong. Who pays for the error. .
Well, we do silly.
So...I'm going to make my porridge now and get back to you.
But there's a little snippet I've been meaning to share that won't hold.
Our former manager (without the title.) of Corporate Communications, you know the one who was harried by the Mayor and Councillor MacEachern when she gave her first annual report of the term on the Corporate Communications Division. That was back in 2007. They repeatedly demanded she explain the meaning of "Corporate Communications" The explanation clearly didn't please them. They were determined to harry a different interpretation. from her.
The manager could only tell them what she knew. But they didn't stop until I roared.
Anyway, as long expected, the manager was displaced in her job a couple of months ago. Remember that. The theory was the "Re-org Study "had determined the town needed someone with a Master's Degree in Communication.The manager only had a B.A. and many.many years of proven competence in the field.Also many contacts valuable to the town.
A Master's degree is not what we got. But after eleven years of better than excellent service to the town, the communications person found herself licking stamps.so-to-speak , and still with a full salary.
It naturally ended a few weeks ago.
Our very competent and experienced communication officer with history in the town,is now Senior Communications Advisor in the Town of Markham ,one of four advisors reporting to Markham's Director of Corporate Communications and out of harm's way.
On behalf of the people of Aurora, whom she served so well, we wish her all the best and hope she can quickly put the bad part behind her.
Thursday, 22 July 2010
In the last two years I didn't do much in the garden at the end of summer.The rose didn't get cut down. Now it's six feet tall and blooming for the second time. The first time it had twenty six buds.
The last rose that went wild was a climber. When I dug the root out, it stretched straight at a right angle for almost five feet.
The garden is on top of the original driveway that went to the back of the house.
I had added a porch to the house. The frame had been built earlier by Number Two son Frank. . Number Three son Martin decided he would go to university and offered a deal. He would build the porch, if I would provide the first year fees.
He did. I did. I enjoyed the porch. Except.... it was alongside the driveway. I was looking out at cars. I wanted to look at a patio and a garden.
Came a time when Number Four son Mark, was unemployed, as were a few of his friends. I offered a deal. I would have the asphalt removed from the driveway, if they would build a garden.
A cedar hedge was planted, soil mounded , grass laid and a rose garden planted.
It was all in line with family economics.
They had no debts. No burdensome obligations for favors received. I still enjoy a piece of them.
The soil was obviously not deep enough for the roses to flourish. One by one, they gave up the struggle I don't know how this one survived. Incredibly, it's almost thirty years old. It's head is high and the scent is sweet. It's the colour of a peach with petal edges shading deeper
Things need to be re-arranged around it, to give it pride of place.
Wednesday, 21 July 2010
It happened when I wrote about the town carrying on the quest to obtain a Joint Board Hearing at the Ontario Municipal Board, after McCutcheon et al, decided to quit. The town took over the case and footed the legal bill. I believe Mr. Northey , McCutcheon's former lawyer, was authorised to accompany the town's lawyer at our expense.
Although, Mr. Beaman, the town's lawyer, is the only name shown on the document.
When leave to appeal was refused on June 10th , Councillors received a memorandum from town solicitor, Mr. Cooper. It read:
Re: McCutcheon et al.v. Westhill redevelopment Company(*Westhill")
Endorsement of the Court of Appeal for Ontario
Leave to Appeal from the decision of the Divisional Court.
No media alert was issued by the town The Toronto Star had no picture of the Mayor hanging her head in mournful defeat in the middle of a newly ploughed field without a tree in sight.
Oh Yea ! Right! .....that happened a couple of days later. After the word was already out the final motion to block the Westhill application had been as futile as all the rest.
Following the third of five failed efforts, Mr. Beaman told us his bill was $200Ks. Even though Mr. Cooper had intervened and said legal bills were part of solicitor/client privilege.
The last two had Mr. Northey in attendance, one time "pro bono" so we really have no idea how much it ended up costing.
Mr Cooper's memo makes it clear, the matter was a continuation of an action undertaken by McCutcheon et al.
So, here is the puzzlement;
How is it a municipality can take over an action undertaken on behalf of four or five residents
and pay for it from public funds?
How can a Council approve public resources be used to fund a private action on behalf of property owners in the town against another property owner in the town.
How many times a year. is a property owner in town, in a dispute with a neighbour, who appeals to the town for help, informed in no uncertain terms; it's a civil matter. The town has no role to play in a civil matter.
What has made McCutcheon et al. different to all the rest.
Then there's the matter of the Auditor's Financial Statement.
All these years, I have been accepting the Auditors Financial Statement as an iron-clad guarantee under law the town's financial affairs are in order. Funds raised by taxation for specific purposes were in fact used for the purpose stated.
This year, I looked forward to seeing what the Auditor might have to say about funds used by six Members of Council to retain legal counsel at public expense to have a fellow Councillor "investigated" , prepare a report purporting to prove" guilt", publicize it in two local newspapers and prosecute it as a complaint to an Integrity Commissioner. And said Integrity Commissioner
being terminated with a paid settlement when the decision was not to their liking.
Well... although funds were not budgeted for the purpose; the legal department's budget was in deficit for $157,300 and some dollars; and the only explanation offered was "unexpected legal costs"; the Town's Annual Audited Financial Statement and the Auditor had nothing at all to say about the circumstance.
To be fair, the Auditor's Report was presented to Council at ten minutes to ten in the evening, After all the time desired had been made available t a resident to call me a liar and other nasty things. It's neither the ideal time nor circumstance for people who have been at work all day to be asking probing questions. Some of us believe that's a strategy too.
But here's my question this morning:
If public funds can be used to fight a civil action on behalf of residents against resident, and the decisions to do so may be made behind closed doors, by six Council Members who represent a majority . And at the end of the year, the Town's auditor has nothing at all to say about it;
That seems to present opportunities for money not budgeted for the purpose , to be freely dispersed from the town treasury without control and without note or comment of any kind from the official understood to be responsible for verifying that all accounts are right and proper,
Well...that's a bummer....I am not comforted by the auditor' s letter that he found no evidence of fraud.
If six people, can spend money not budgeted, for purposes not valid, because they have a majority vote and the system does not call them to account, then all these years, I have been living in a Fool's Paradise.
My only comfort is, I have never in those same years ever seen money spent this way.
Tuesday, 20 July 2010
An Ontario Municipal Board Hearing arises out of an appeal against a municipal decision
The ball is in the Appellant's court. . The onus is upon the municipality to defend the decision
or lack thereof . Decision making authority is removed from the municipality and transferred to the Ontario Municipal Board
Westhill's initial appeal was against the town's failure to make a decision within the legislated time period. The hearing was pending at the time of the Planning Meeting on January 18th 2008.
At that time, Council decided the application was premature. Needed information had not been provided.
It was heard again on March 4th 2008 with information provided by a phalanx of experts.
Westhill has owned the property since 1984. In the late eighties it had a development designation for estate lots. An application was made to divide the property into ninety-five lots on 135 acres.Since then, a further 71 acres was added.
The proposal prompted a Regional Growth Management Study resulting in a regional O.P. Amendment in 1998.
The study was publicly conducted with participation by property owners, including Westhill.
A Regional Policy was adopted to allow golf courses and cluster housing with privately owned community sewage treatment and water services in some rural areas. Several already exist in the Region. One in Aurora.
Westhill received a designation through the process with the requirement to apply for a site specific amendment on submission of a plan.
A development designation is not a right to receive permits. A plan is required to be submitted
with endless details to be checked and re-checked and determined to align with planning requirements and reported to council for conformity.
It's a tedious process.
On January 18th Council said it was premature. On March 4th 2008, council refused the application.
More than two years have passed. First, a request was made by opposing neighbors with legal representation for the Ontario Municipal Board to order a Consolidated Board Hearing. We sent a lawyer along.
The Board refused.
It was appealed to divisional court. Neighbors had a lawyer. We sent ours along.
The respondents (Westhill) argued the Board did not have authority to order a Consolidated Board Hearing.
It was sent back to the Ontario Municipal Board to be heard again. Neighbours had a lawyer.
The town sent one along.
The Board determined, indeed it did not have the authority .
That decision was appealed to the court. The McCutcheon name was still on the suit. They did not send a lawyer. The town did and paid the bill.
Again it was refused.
It was appealed to a higher court. McCutcheon still the name of record but no lawyer. The town paid the bill again.
It was refused on June 10th Respondents were awarded $1000 costs. The town paid all the bills.
At last, the way is clear for Westhill's Appeal to the Ontario Municipal Board to be heard. Almost three years after it was deemed to be premature by the town and refused a month later.
The appeal will be two-fold.
First; failure to make a decision within the legislated time period.
Second ; refusal of the application .
The town will be required to defend:
1. Failure to make a decision within the legislated time limit.
2. Denial of the application.
We have retained two lawyers our own and the former solicitor for McCutcheon.
We have reimbursed McCutcheon for a team of experts retained, but for no identifiable purpose.
As noted in Monday's e-mail, the Mayor has asked the solicitor and he has advised what Councillors might "share" with the public to explain this course of action.
I'm glad I don't have to make it sound like anything but a crock
Further to Councils recent "rise and report out" of our action(s) re: retaining Mr. Northey as Co-counsel
I enquired of Mr. Cooper what Members can share about our legal counsels reccommendation
Mr Cooper has kindly advised that if asked, Council Members can reference that :
Given that Mr. Northey and his firm are no longer retained by the residents, he is available for the purpose of serving as co-counsel to Roger Beaman, the Town's lawyer, when the Westhill OMB hearing resumes. The rationale for retaining his services is that Mr. Northey is familiar with the case, the expert witnesses, and their witness statements. Moreover, given his areas of specialization, Mr. Northey has the ability to lead on matters of water and much of the natural heritage evidence, as well as to co-ordinate all of the environmental evidence.
By way of contrast, Mr. Beaman would lead on planning matters and environmental assessment procedures.
Retaining Mr. Northey on a co-counsel basis would also serve to minimize costs and maximize efficiency. It is Mr Coopers understanding that the consultants for the respective parties will be asked to testify in panels, based on their areas of expertise. Mr Cooper further understand that this approach is similar to the one employed in the Richmond Hill Oak Ridges Moraine hearing.
Accordingly, it would not be necessary for Messrs. Beaman and Northey to attend the hearing at the same time, thus reducing the costs to the Town
Mayor Phyllis Morris
The e-mail was received on Sunday
Monday, 19 July 2010
Equally troubling is Rod Northey's involvement. Going back in history Mr. Northey represented the "Save the Village" people of King City in their fight against the Big Pipe.Same tactic.Coming at the issue on different fronts, fighting the OMB,bumpups,consolidated hearings and expert witnesses. Mr. Northey and that group lost and nearly bankrupted the Town of King City in doing so.BTW the big pipe is now in place. Now his act has resurfaced in Aurora. Same fights lost. Expert witnesses. The only question remains will he lead the financial ruination of the Town of Aurora along with our illustrious Mayor.Sadly history has a habit of repeating itself.
Response to Comment:
No matter how many millions are spent, municipalities are not bankrupted because politicians have the power to dip into our pockets and filch however much they spend for whatever crazy scheme they adopt.
But despite millions spent, Mr. Northey did not win the argument against the Big Pipe hook-up to King City.
I didn't pay much attention to the arguments at the time. The futility and cost of the exercises are depressing. I knew the battle was ferocious and the story was being half told.
In the mid seventies,I was member and chairman of the Regional Board of Health.. There were serious concerns about sanitation in the Village of King City.
Rural drainage is ditch and culvert. Ditches regularly tested positive for e- coli from raw sewage.
Residents were literally sitting on top of their own and their neighbors' waste
A hook-up to the trunk sewer from King City was never in the region's plans. From a planning perspective it is not good planning..
Because it was proposed, I knew public health concerns had become critical
As a Regional Councillor. Mayor Black and her Council had to know that also.
A tertiary treatment systems such as we had in Aurora was not an option. The Big Pipe was built to take sewage from Newmarket and Aurora and other regional urban areas and allow tertiary systems to be closed.
All oxygen is removed from effluent from a tertiary system.The water is clean but dead. If there is more effluent than water in a carrying stream, the water in the stream is also killed.The natural balance is destroyed. When the creek joined the Holland river and flowed into Lake Simcoe, the lake was also negatively impacted.
In a flash storm, a tertiary system, essentially three large digester tanks, could not cope with the volume. The gates had to be opened and raw sewage flowed into the creek.The effluvia was something to be experienced.
Over the last thirty years, municipalities have spent millions installing storm sewers to separate storm water from sewage. It reduced volume and costly need for treatment and helped substantially to restore our rivers and lakes to good health. We are not there yet. But it's better than it was.
It has been a huge investment in the environment by all levels of government. It contributes substantially to our tax burden.
The Ontario Municipal Board hears challenges to municipal decisions. Mr. Northey frequently represents citizen at the board. In a Rogers panel show on peaker plants, he was billed as having appeared in thirty cases. I thought it would be interesting to know how many times he had been successful.
How often have clients spent hundreds of thousands of dollars based on his advice, in the case of King millions, and lost the lot.
His efforts on behalf of Leslie Street residents were not successful either, at their cost and ours.
I googled but came up with nothing.
Except.... a Star story filed at 4-30a.m. March 2nd 2008 in the Toronto Star. Mayor Morris and Wallace McCutcheon, a Leslie Street resident opposed to the Westhill application. were quoted.
The story was about the residents opposition to Westhill's development application.
It quoted the Mayor that Council had not decided "yet" whether to support the residents.
It was three weeks before the application was even heard by Aurora Council at a Public Planning Meeting .
The O.M.B. was already seized with the Appeal. The decision was no longer the Town's to make.
Yet the Mayor was out the gate already, making clear her position prior to the application .
There used to be a requirement in the Planning Act that Councils are obliged to hear all arguments prior to making a decision. It's about impartiality. It's the format of the Planning process.
The recommendation received by Council from the Town's Planning Department was the application be approved in principle.The property has been legally designated by the town.
But the last word in the Star story went to our Chief Magistrate;
"When the Moraine is gone, it's gone" she said.
But Where Oh Where has it gone? I cry.
Half of Aurora is in the Moraine.
Does that mean we have gone as well?
Oh Dear.... Oh Dear... However will we pay the legal bills?.
Sunday, 18 July 2010
At a quarter-to-one in the morning ,they voted to retain the services of Mr. Rod Northey, formerly solicitor for neighbors opposing the Westhill application, to assist in our presentation before the upcoming hearing of the Ontario Municipal Board on the Westhill appeal of the Town's failure to make a decision within the legal time limit.
A recorded vote requested by Councillor MacEachern was six to one. Councillor Collins Mrakas cast the solitary negative. .
A few weeks ago, expert witnesses retained by Mr. Northey to make the case against Westhill's application, on behalf of the opposing neighbors, were retained by the Town with three votes opposed.
In effect, these two decisions on the solicitor and expert witnesses, mean the municipality takes financial responsibility for our own presentation AND that of the opposing neighbors.
It's the continuation of a theme.
At the Public Planning meeting in March 2008.Mr. Northey appeared with witnesses to argue against Westhill's application.
An Ontario Municipal Board hearing was already scheduled. The decision was no longer the town's to make. The OMB was already seized.
Yet Mr. Northey presented an argument to Council against granting the application. .
It served no purpose.
Subsequently,. Mr. Northey requested the OMB to grant a Consolidated Board Hearing.
The Town sent legal counsel to support that argument.
An Appeal was filed. Again the town sent legal counsel in support .
O.M.B. authority to grant was challenged. The matter was referred back to the Board.
A new O.M.B. panel determined, indeed they do not have authority to grant a Consolidated Board Hearing.
A further appeal was launched . This time, apparently not wishing to spend more money, the neighbors opted out.
The Town took over.
The action proceeded under the same name. . McCutcheon et al v. Westhill Redeveloment.
The Town paid for the proceeding.
The O.M.B. decision was upheld.
Again the decision was appealed . again in the name of McCutcheon et al v Westhill .
The town paid .
On June 10th, the lower court decision was upheld by the higher court.
Respondents were awarded a thousand dollars in costs.
The Town paid.
By the second OMB refusal , the Town was in for $200Ks legal costs. The final tally will not likely be volunteered.
Expert witnesses retained by Mr. Northey on behalf of opposing neighbors, who presented evidence at the Public Planning Meeting in March 2008 to no obvious advantage,have now been retained by the Town.
They were released by the opposing neighbors, who retained them initially and have had the fees re-imbursed by the town.
The Town's interest in the Westhill application is not the same as the neighbors. We are in effect, piggy-backing the neighbors case on to our own at taxpayers expense
The opposing neighbors will pay nothing for their argument to be presented at the OMB.
Now then , Clause 3 of the Town's Code of Conduct comes into play. It says:
"Members of Council will accurately and adequately communicate the attitudes and .decisions of council, even if they disagree with the majority decisions of Council"
"Information concerning adopted policies, procedures and decisions of council shall be conveyed openly and accurately."
Let's see what that looks like.
Early on , the question of cost for a regular OMB hearing. as opposed to a Consolidated Board Hearing was asked.
At two weeks the cost would be " $250 Ks"
A Consolidated Board Hearing. would take seven weeks.
Cost? .... "Triple".
Time requested by both sides for the upcoming Board Hearing, six weeks.
With one lawyer, cost might reasonably be expected at $750Ks.
With two lawyers, the extra one to represent neighbors opposition, complete with their witnesses, the cost might reasonably be expected to double.With taxpayers shouldering the whole burden,.
I am scandalised by that decision .
Is that sufficiently open and accurately conveyed ?
Under the Code, I am now obliged to convey the attitude of the six members of council who made the decision.?
Based on past practice, I believe, no matter how great the cost, these six councillors are prepared to use public resources, to garner another small handful of votes from a pocket of residents on Leslie Street .
Like the traffic calming project in the north-east quadrant that cost a quarter of million dollars.
Like connecting commercial parking lot lights to the town's street lighting system.system to please Mosaic town house complex residents.
Like doling out generous cheques to a handful of residents on Knowles Crescent.
Like "destroying' two beautiful town trees and replacing them with a concrete pad and moving a street over to satisfy one resident on Nisbet Drive.
Like adding half a million dollars to a trail project to satisfy the objections of two resident in a senior building
Like spending hundreds, if not millions of dollars ,to stop a train whistle to please a dozen complainants.
Like agreeing to plant $8 Ks. dollars worth of trees to obscure the horrendous sight of a pole in winter for a couple who eventually agreed it wasn't necessary even while calling an elected representative a liar in a public meeting presided over by the Mayor.
I could go on and on.
Westhill's lands are legally designated for development in the Town of Aurora Official Plan. .
There is but one way for those lands to be removed from development. That is for the Province to do, as they have in Richmond Hill, pay the enormous price to purchase designated development lands to stop building within the Oak Ridges Moraine.
That wasn't the route they chose in Aurora. The Province allowed Westhill's development designation to stay, when they passed the Oak Ridges Moraine Act. It's their legislation, not ours. We are governed by it.
The pretext the town is battling to save the Moraine from marauders is a canard upon which this Mayor and her loyal supporters have surely hoisted themselves
Unfortunately at the potential cost of millions to the taxpayers.
Is that adequate enough and sufficiently acceptable from a Councillor who disagrees, to communicate the attitudes of Council Members in the majority, as required by Clause 3 of Aurora's Code of Conduct.
I rest my case.
Saturday, 17 July 2010
Well...I did. When I got out after a long leisurely swim, I sat in the sun and let the water drip .
I moved into the shade of the maple tree on my deck leaned back and let the zephyr of summer air flow over and around me.
Then I thought...we can count the number of days we have like this each year.
I'm not going back in the house.
Tomorrow...Tomorrow...I'll tell you tomorrow
It's only a day away.
I was in mid comment about the use of $150,000 contributed by Smart Centres in the last term. Supposedly to alleviate problems in the commercial block between Wellington and Mosely Street caused by the development of Smart Centres.
The town had no authority to demand the money. The developer had no obligation to pay it.
It was not coincidence, it was paid at various stages of the development as permits became due.
Time is money to developers , they frequently pay up to placate the people with power to hold up their project. By my standard, it is at the same time, soliciting and offering a bribe . I don't believe there is anything honest about the process.
I've never found anyone who shared my view. Even if the developers agreed, they never gave a hint for fear of offending "The Power"
On Tuesday, the question of how the money was intended to be used was on the table.
I was recognised to speak. I provided background to the creation of the fund. Within the body of my comments, I described it was obtained by extortion.I choose my words for greatest effect.I like people to know what I think about things .I think it's my job.
Councillor Gaertner immediately, on a point of order, objected to my language. Once again, a Councillor and the Mayor took upon themselves the role of arbiter of language
I am in the habit of leaving the Council table at the hour of adjournment. Unless something is being accomplished. If business has ground to a halt and Councillors after three and a half hours have reached the point of crabbing and bitching ...that's when I leave. I can crab and bitch with the best. I don't choose to do it as a Councillor.
Nor did I not run for office to be subjected to it.
Unfortunately it's a frequent circumstance and not entirely happenstance.I believe it's a part of the scheming and plotting previously mentioned.
Tuesday 's was our one meeting in July.It was a heavy agenda.
At ten minutes past eleven, we were still at the table when Councillor Gaertner decided she knew better than I, what language is permissible in a Council debate. She called a point of order.
At that point I left.
Then it can be said:
" She makes things up"
"Her hatred of Morris blinds her logic"
"She is a liar"
"She just wants to make trouble for Morris"
It comes down to what a person wants to believe. The exchange that takes place at work, at the kitchen table, at the market,in stores and clubs, on trains, buses, senior centre, coffee shops and wherever else people gather and listen to each other.
It's people stuff. It's politics. It's the path I've chosen and I love it.
All I do is put the facts out there. I have a better opportunity to do that now than I ever dreamed possible.
People will do with it what they will . I trust their intuition.The rest I leave to fate.
For me the risk is worthy of the endeavour.
Friday, 16 July 2010
The requirements of a post are much more flexible than that of a letter to the editor. Ron is very good at publishing what I write. But I'm mindful of the fact that readers are put off by the sight of a long read. So there's a bit of a conflict between the two.
I got up this morning and decided the farce that was Tuesday's meeting needed a different treatment for Auroran Readers. So I wrote it again. I spent four hours on the work and I am not inclined to spend another four hours on this hot and sticky day writing another post.
So I am posting the letter to the editor. Much of it repeats of what I said yesterday. Just with a different slant. I like it better and I want to share it.
It's hard to realize we are almost at the end of the awful experience of this council term. I expect there will be ample material to comment on before the new council takes office.
Hopefully Aurora's political drama will take a turn for the better.
White Knight comments that he has watched the June 22nd meeting and was appalled to hear a Leslie Street resident call me a liar in a public meeting.
I didn't watch it so I didn't know. I had heard it was another example of what had gone before.
The Mayor's strategy still works. She sets people up to say things she wants to be said but has no intention of saying herself.
People are completely unaware they are being wound up. Like the cab driver on Tuesday. I have no idea what he was talking about. I don't use cabs. I don't get calls from people who use cabs. The attack came right out of the blue and I still don't know what it was about.But I can't worry about everything underhanded that's going on.
White Knight is quite right when he speculates how much time goes into plotting and scheming and preparing Council Meetings. Every one is a dramatic production with lines prepared.
for each participant. They all know their part with the mayor and Councillor MacEachern acting as co-directors.
In the last few weeks, cracks have begun to appear. Some Councillors who have allowed themselves to be used, are beginning to recognize, there has been little advantage to themselves in the way the game has been played.
People can't be told they are being used. They would naturally be insulted. They have to realize it for themselves. When they do, there is always a bitter reaction. It's not easy to admit to having been taken in. Trust was violated.They are as angry at themselves as at those who used them.
The election will determine if Ms Morris and Councillor Mac Eachern have played the rope out to its end.
If they had to focus all the spite they are capable of on one person, I would rather it be me than someone who might be destroyed by it.
And of course, it couldn't be anyone else but me.
Who else is giving the community a play by play report on their activities? And enjoying doing it.
I hear the Leslie Street residents admitted they didn't need $8 thousand dollars worth of trees after all. The leaves on the forest have filled in nicely and they can't even see the pole that so offended them.
What does that say about the professional staff recommended solution to the problem. And the four supporting votes it received from Morris, MacEachern, Gaertner and Grainger
I wish every stunt pulled by the terrible twins had such a modest price tag.
We will soon discover the full extent of betrayal of the public trust
Tuesday's meeting of council was a grand finale with a cast of thousands on and off stage, performed by staff and council and various audience participants.
It was a blend of Gilbert and Sullivan, Wagner and falling-down slap-stick British farce. at its worst or best.
Brunnhilde of the big boobies,blonde tresses,viking shield,flashing sword and horned helmet was front and centre, in full throat.
Siegfried , Brunnhilde's partner, circled the room with camera taking shots of audience members.
Favored volunteer was there to trash the Farmer's Market which recently decided to go it alone, without largesse dispensed at the hand of Brunnhilde from the town treasury,ostensibly for their benefit but not really.
Said volunteer was there to request bandshell fees be waived to support husband George's Jazz Festival. The request was not made. The delegate settled instead for trashing the market with photos. The market committee has recently decided to forego services offered by Brunnhilde's favourite volunteer at the fees she was demanding.
The bandshell was previously used sans fees while St.Kitts entertainment committee was somehow associated with the market.
Recommendations from the Integrity Commissioner were part of the agenda. An edit to his recommendation had been forwarded from his blackberry to be a last minute add on to the agenda.
Complainant Councillor MacEachern decided she should declare an interest and not participate in the debate . As in biblical washing of hands and disclaiming responsibility for outcome.
Staff recommended no further Code of Conduct complaints be received after a date two weeks hence. Because of the upcoming election and the fear complaints might be politically motivated.
Isn't that convenient. A twelve month contract was signed April 1st in the last seven months of the term . Now complaints should not be received after August 1st. Councillor MacEachern, sole successful complainant, suggested the Integrity Commissioner could be asked to review the Code of Conduct to occupy the remaining time of his contract.
A new lease agreement for the Aurora Soccer Club was presented for consideration without direction or notice. Attached was a statement from the Club responding to concerns brought privately to the attention of staff by myself that the facility was being used in various ways as a commercial entity in competition with local business .
The club enjoys an amenity, situated on town-owned land of a value of between one and two million dollars, They enjoy all municipal services. They pay neither rent nor taxes.
Local businesses do pay taxes, provide employment, buy advertising ,fund sponsorships to the value of thousands of dollars to various sports organisations and charitable fund-raisers and generally work hard to operate successfully and support their community.
I had chosen to drawn the problem to the notice of the Chief Administrative Officer to have staff deal with the matter without creating public controversy.
Apparently staff decided or Brunnhilde directed, the issue was worth the risk of public controversy.
Much the same as non-accounting of funds raised for the 2008 July 1st Parade under the auspices of the town.
A phalanx of soccer club members seated themselves in a row opposite my chair at the table as if daring me to say in public what they had apparently been informed I had said privately to staff. Whom I have every reason to expect will do whatever is required to ensure fair treatment for the town's economic business partners.
I think club members were responding to a rallying call from Brunnhilde to attend Council and defend their interest. It's how she works.
There was the cab driver who dropped in to make a complaint. He named me in a hostile way and seemed to have a bone to pick about something I had done to offend him. His point escaped me. I requested him to be specific Instead,in his response he claimed great appreciation for Brunnhilde who has met with him at 2.a.m. commiserated with him and apparently put the finger on his number one enemy. Moi.
As noted the meeting had started with the continuing farce that is this Council.
A Councillor's attempt to speak to a motion. is continually interrupted by the presiding member as she calls upon a staff member to refute every point made by the member who has the floor. Some staff are compliant with the strategy.
The conduct is totally contrary to all known principles and rules of procedure in a democratic organization It does the opposite of maintaining order.It is not conducive to good relations between staff and elected members.
The chair's role is to maintain order. It is accomplished by all members accepting the rules and supporting the principles of how we govern ourselves.
Staff have no place in the public debate.
But who maintains order when the chair observes no rules for herself and creates rules on the hoof to accommodate her friends and destroy all opposition to her will.
Challenged on Tuesday, Brunnhilde displayed with absolute certainty, her total absence of comprehension of rules or principles.
After forty minutes of one sided harangue , gazing with pathos towards her friends in the audience, for what she must endure while trying to get town business accomplished , the chair called a recess without limit, vacated the chair and wandered about the chamber chatting sublimely with this friend and that.
Chaos and confusion continued until the public part of the meeting ended at 11.30p.m.and Council proceeded to secret session. That part didn't end until after 1.00 in the morning.
It was followed by a social hour with staff and politicians enjoying pizza .
Town Treasurer was despatched in Brunnhilde's carriage to collect the repast and bring it to the Town hall for a celebration of sorts.
I have often thought..... if I did support the concept of a Code of Conduct for politicians, and the appointment of that Commissioner, how easy it would be to file a complaint complete with attached tape of a Council meeting, any meeting,
Not a whit of investigation would be required. A feast of evidence exists... cameras do not lie....ranging throughout the term from December 1st 2006 until last Tuesday and no doubt will continue until the last meeting of Council in August.
It's the gift that keeps on giving.
Thursday, 15 July 2010
Clause 3 of the Code of Conduct (Aurora) states as follows:
“Communications and Media Relations Members of Council will accurately and adequately communicate the attitudes and decisions of Council, even if they disagree with the majority decision of Council.
Official information related to decisions and resolutions made by Council will normally be communicated to the community and the media in an official capacity by the Mayor or designated staff member or through a press release issued by the Corporation.
Communications with the media by Members of Council shall be conducted through proper interviews or media releases. Members shall refrain from submitting letters to the editor or writing a regular column in the newspaper or hosting or co -hosting a regular televised program”
The language is nonsensical, contradictory. It's intent contravenes the Federal Charter of Rights and Freedoms
I did not surrender my rights as a citizen when I swore an Oath of Office in order to take my seat as a Councillor.
I do not acknowledge Council's authority to deprive me of rights as a citizen..
I did not vote for the Code nor sign the document.
I did not support the appointment of David Tzubouchi as Integrity Commissioner.
I did not participate in the complaints procedure.
Finding no credence in Section 3 of the Code of Conduct, and having brought the matter before the courts at this time, I do not acknowledge Mr. Tzubouchi's authority either to inquire into or make a recommendation to Council on Clause 3 of the Code of Conduct.
At Tuesday's Council meeting, the question was asked re complaints held in abeyance from the first Integrity Commissioner's short time in office. The Mayor directed the question to Solicitor Cooper, who responded in the negative.
Yet a complaint filed by six council members, prepared by a lawyer and paid for by the taxpayers ($50ks) has been and continues to be displayed on the Corporation's Web Site.
On Tuesday, the Mayor maintained the contention. the substance of the complaint was not dealt with by Mr. Nitkin and the Commissioner was stripped of his authority the day after he made the decision to dismiss it.The previous claim was, the Commissioner was stripped of his authority prior to making his decision to dismiss.
The Mayor continues to maintain dismissal of her complaint is not relevant because the substance was not dealt with.
On Tuesday, at the Meeting ,she asserted, with a glare to her right, in my direction, Mr.Nitkin was “pushed into making a quick decision "
In the matter of complaints pending, a complaint was filed by Sher St Kitts, the Mayor's friend, which did not proceed after she was informed the document needed to be provided to me for a response.
Other complaints are known to have been filed.
Yet we are now officially informed, there are no previous complaints.
And Mr. Tzubouchi, the new integrity commissioner, numbered Councillor MacEachern's complaints One and Two and dealt with them first.
There has never been any doubt in my mind the purpose of Mr.Tzubouchi's appointment..
When Mr. Nitkin received the first complaint against me, he called to make an appointment.I had attended his ethics workshop for Councillors which was boycotted by Mayor Morris and Councillor MacEachern.
I informed him I had no intention of validating the complaint process or the Code of Conduct by my participation.
He earnestly requested twenty minutes of my time. He needed to persuade me it was in my interest to participate. He spent three hours and forty minutes in the company of myself and daughters on my backyard deck under the maple tree. We drank tea.
It turned out he didn't need my participation to decide to dismiss the $5o thousand dollar, solicitor prepared and widely publicised complaint of the six.
I never doubted Mr. Nitkin's integrity or professional competence. He had received my last comment as he closed my garden gate:
“They will not let you do your job”
On the other hand, I believe Mr.Tzubouchi received all the support and encouragement he needed to fulfill expectations of his appointment..
And He did.
Monday, 12 July 2010
In this town, we plant thousands of trees every year. Developers plant thousands . South Lake Simcoe Conservation plants thousands.
Garden nurseries are flourishing from sales of trees and shrubs to thousands of new homeowners in Aurora. They've changed the landscape.
Neighborhood Network planted thousands of trees for South Lake Simcoe Conservation this year, But not in Aurora. The Mayor didn't want the competition to her day for collecting litter.
Nobody knows how many trees are standing in the various wood lots the town owns. Sheppard Bush,Jack Woods Bush, Case Woodlot and the McLeod place owned by the Oak Ridges Moraine Trust The town pay the taxes on the property, regional and school boards. We've made an agreement to maintain it but we can't use it for anything, not even a walk, for another three years.
The Region pays for trees to be planted on regional roads. Judging by the dead saplings on Bathurst Street north of Henderson, they don't much care if they are alive or well. New trees have not produced leaves in the three years since they were planted but we haven't seen a media alert on that situation or naming of miscreants in connection with it from our regional representative.
I myself have to constantly dig out tree seedlings from my garden . I figure if I hadn't been doing it over the past forty years, my house would have been upturned and bricks crumbled long ago by the seedlings cast from the maple that shades my deck.
On every side my neighbours have maple trees. I'm pretty sure I know the father.
We gave the arboretum, a citizen group, a hundred thousand dollars this year to plant trees.
No, I am not worried about the municipality being denuded of trees.
Farm fields are not generally covered by trees. There were no trees in this subdivision before homes were built.Nor in the subdivision south of us . Now yard waste being deposited at the curb has piles of debris from pruning and tree cutting. When one turns the corner at the bottom of my street, it's hard to tell where the houses are.
Looking down Yonge Street from Newmarket towards Aurora, it's equally hard to tell it's a town and not a forest.
The memo I received on Friday from the town, states 128 trees have been destroyed. "many of which may have been covered by the tree bylaw" That's hardly definitive.
It says the land may be controlled by Toronto and Region Conservation Authority but a study of the map indicates it 's outside their jurisdiction but" we are sending it to them anyway for confirmation"
It says the owners "may" be subject to fines for offenses even while a media alert has been issued, complete with names of people charged and amount of fines upon "conviction".
The Mayor is pictured in the Toronto Star standing in a field that appears to be freshly plowed, making a statement of how the town is defending Oak Ridges Moraine from property owners who pay taxes to the municipality and have made an application to develop land, which has been legally designated by the town.
My anonymous commenter thinks I must be happy about Aurora trees being cut down.
In the first place. they are not town trees.
In the second,while I am not ecstatic about unseen trees, I save my emotional reactions. I am not opposed to trees being removed in particular circumstances.
In the last term, the town had an application to remove trees from a lot in Hunters' Wood. I went to see it. The house was built by the late Jim Jongeneel, who had a part in processing the development. Trees around it were so dense not a glimmer of light could be seen.
The property had been purchased at a cost of millions. The new owner planned to demolish the house and build a new one at construction cost of several millions. His architect had advised which trees needed to be removed to create a site for the larger home and re-locate the septic tank.
He paid a fee for each tree in the application. Staff did their homework and recommended
approval to Council.
I had to pay almost a thousand dollars last year to have a tree that I planted, removed. I planted it too close to a companion tree. It only lived for forty years. I enjoyed its shade. I have missed it this year. I would certainly not have appreciated having to pay the town a fee for permission to remove it. on top of what I had to pay to actually remove it.And the maybe be reused the permission.
I think that's insane.
Former Councillor Kean opposed the application for the Hunters Wood property. He said, "there's no point in having a bylaw if it's not going to be enforced" The candidate for Mayor claims credit for the tree bylaw.
I supported the staff recommendation. Aurora is a business corporation. Our business is service. Our revenue comes from property assessment . Two and a half million dollar of construction value home represents substantially more in market value assessment.
I'm not of a mind to turn that away several million dollars worth of revenue to the town.
A business that turns away business is not a business.
It may be a charitable trust foundation . Or a philanthropic organization. It may be a rural municipality sufficiently distant from the megalopolis to be frozen in perpetuity. . Whatever......it is. it is certainly not an urban municipality as described in the Municipal Act. Which we are.
I'm not sure how many vacant building lots of record are in Aurora apart from plans of subdivision.
I don't know how many are treed lots.
But any time an application is made to the Town to remove trees, to make way for a house, which will bring in revenue, to share over-all costs of providing for municipal and regional services, and boards of education costs, of providing schools and now, courtesy of the region, the cost of hospitals, I am going to vote in support of that application.
It's the business we are in. It's the reason for our being.
We are an urban municipality. Our boundaries into rural townships were expanded in 1971 to allow for urban growth to happen without requiring legal costs for expropriation from our neighbors. Official plans and service construction have been designed to that end.
When we have grown out to our boundaries, they will be expanded again by the level of government with authority to do that.
We are little brothers in the grand scheme for accommodating new population coming to Ontario.
As long as hard services are available to support growth, there are no legal grounds to prohibit it. However fondly we might wish that to be the case. However much hard-earned tax dollars are pissed away on legal fees in a futile attempt to battle our own official plan for the purpose of
scamming voters in general and accommodating neighbors opposed to the development in particular.
I understanding the idea of a golf course and cluster of 75 town houses worth a million apiece on Westhill Development lands, came from Bob Rae ,one-time Premier of Ontario in the nineteen- nineties. He suggested it , as an alternative to the residential designation of the Official Plan as more in keeping with preservation of the Oak Ridges Moraine.
Westhill, it seems, has done nothing but accommodate the ideas of the governing party of the day
including Mayor Morris who had lunch with the principal. a week before the public planning
presentation in Marh 2008 and assured him of her support.
That was before the neighbors expressed their opposition.
But that's another story.