Tuesday, November 30, 2010
I am trying to use the blog freely but without causing offense to people who have not chosen to enter the discussion. I've done that before and caused offense where none was intended.
Google sucks up names like a vacuum. Politicians and others deliberately project themselves into the public domain. People quietly minding their own business have the same right to privacy as people who mind other people's business and compete for publicity. It's a personal choice we all have a right to make.
Unless something extraordinarily nice needs to be recognized.
The Brothers own large vacant retail space on Yonge Street, formerly a furniture store.If asked to lease space for a pre-Christmas Farmers' Market, they should be able to say no privately. There might be many reasons why it would not be practical. They might just not want to. They have a right not to, without being googled
The new Council has a huge amount of work ahead. Decisions of the past were not well received in the community. The electorate made that clear.
It means the newbies do not have the luxury of simply carrying on where the others left off.
Normal process for political overview of a budget, is to determine if previous level of service was satisfactory, should it be maintained? If so, at what extra cost. Or, are there opportunities for savings?
After that determination, new and improved service can be considered.
We currently invite residents to come in during budget discussions to tell us what they want.
Nobody ever comes in and tells us to cut something out.
I'm not convinced it's a useful exercise.
I think it's an example of nauseating righteousness of modern political correctitude. I just made that word up.
I don't mean we should ignore people's needs. We pay for master plans to determine needs and expectations. We pay consultants to consult and design a plan to satisfy needs and expectations. We pay staff with expertise to advise.
Budgets are built on previous budgets, Master Plans, Strategic plans, Capital Forecaste, Staff advice and Council wish lists.
The potential tax increase is determined. Then we think again. Sometimes it's a serious exercise. Sometimes it's a scam.
I have not supported the last four budgets.
Last term we paid a consultant $53Ks to complete a master recreation plan. We gave him terms of reference. Then we hid the final draft for a couple of years before tossing it and adopting one created by a politician and a friend of the Mayor.They worked in workshops that didn't require notice of meetings, circulated agendas or minutes recorded.
This year's Council are now accountable. Will the budget be based on the master recreation plan adopted by the last Council or the one they rejected.
Staff have already prepared a budget based on various adopted plans and strategies. Will Council feel compelled to understand the formula as well as the figures. It means extra work. A lot.
When we look at last year's budget for legal services, will we simply tack on a percentage increase or will we analyze actual spending and slash it by a million or two?
$76,000 was spent on a bit of landscaping by the Arboretum. Will we allocate another $100,000. to a small citizen group to spend as they please,or will we look here to reduce the tax burden?
The "re-org" of the administration calls for extra jobs to be created.Will we examine that with a critical eye? What was broken that needed to be fixed?
Will we look at contracts giving advantage to some users of town facilities not enjoyed by others.
Like the Church Street School.
In excess of three million dollars were invested to provide a proper home for the Town's museum. Plus half a million dollar annual budget. All we have is storage for the collection and concerts and classes and farmers market and all kinds of things never contemplated when we approved three million dollar expenditure of public resources.
Revenue to town coffers from user fees in Leisure Service,from town facilities was $5 million in 2010.
Expenditure from town coffers for Church Street School was half a million plus $170ks left over from 2009.
Should this council examine that and other contracts during budget discussions?
Damn right we should. It's why we were elected.
Monday, November 29, 2010
When it ended, people were at a loss. It was sorely missed.
It appeared again on Saturday at the Church Street School... on the second floor.
People flocked to it. The street was packed with parked cars.There was an air of excitement and pleasure. Vendors sold out of product and some left early.Everyone is in favour of another market before Christmas.
If the word gets out, it might even be more successful than last Saturday's event. Maybe more vendors will come. More shoppers be drawn in to the centre of town.
Does anyone else recognize the irony?
The original justification for town support for a market was to bring shoppers back into the town centre. It didn't. When the move to the park was proposed, no objections were heard from town centre merchants.
It went to the park, generated enthusiastic support and became a people place.
Last Saturday, it came back to the centre and loyal patrons came too.
There's something very natural about that.
Only one query comes to mind. Why was the second floor of a precious jewel of a restored building, with decorator colours and polished floors and a grand piano, considered a likely home for a Farmer's Market? Where did that idea spring from?
It's not clear. Seems somebody had the idea of approaching the Brothers for use of their vacant premises on Saturday from now until Christmas. The suggestion was not favourably received.
A person on the Farmers Market executive happens also to be a member of Church Street School Management Board. The second floor of the old school became the preferred option.
Why would the second floor of a building on a side street be preferable to a street level, plate glass store window space on Yonge Street?
The Brothers of course would have to agree. But first they would have to be asked.
The market would not exist without town support. What support had to be provided to hoist the gear to the second floor of the old school?
I'm not sure there was any. But I can't help wondering. If the town provided tables and set-up as they do in the park,who performed that service at the school.
If market vendors in the Town of Aurora require permits to vend. Did they get them for vending in the Church Street School.
The management board of the old school is arm's length from the town. If the tables and set-up was a town function, who authorized the co-ordination?
Maybe there was none. I don't know.
I do know tables were taken up in the elevator.Whose tables I don't know?
I know a fee was paid. Was it a vendors permit? Don't know that either.
You know, when you're a Councillor,you expect to be in a position of being able to answer questions...not to have to find things out after the fact.
Maybe there was a sponsorship grant provided to promote culture and tourism. I didn't know and I wasn't asked when the last one was handed out and I wasn't too pleased about that either,I can tell you.
But a sponsorship grant would not take the place of permission to vend.
I think it would be great to have a market in premises on Yonge Street until Christmas. I think if the town were to help make it happen, we would be helping the corporation. We don't get taxes from vacant premises.
There may be people in the community who would welcome an opportunity to merchandise between now and Christmas,in temporary space, on Yonge Street, if it could be made available. Who knows what might spring from such enterprise.
Is it too late? Maybe. Could we at least give a thought to the notion ? Why not?
Am I suggesting the town take the intitiative? No. But I think the town could have a role in helping it happen.
We already know something about how a Farmer's Market functions.
Artifacts purchased by the town and donated by Aurora families make up the collection. Bequests have been received for the purpose of a museum. Financial donations solicited and received over many years contributed to the museum.
The Aurora Historical Society launched a fund-raising drive to professionally design and complete renovations for a museum. The community contributed $750,000.for the purpose. Project estimate was $1 million.
A specialized sprinkler system was installed to protect the collection.
Over the years,the town spent hundreds of thousands. probably millions,to keep the building upright, foundation walls intact and the roof enclosed .Authentic single-diamond glazing was installed in the windows. Internal upright support had to be replaced. An addition was constructed to provide elevator access between floors.
During the 2003/6 Council term, the Historical Society demanded a prior agreement with the town to protect their financial interest in the building.Their lawyer sat down with the Town's lawyer and a long term agreement was signed and as of this date has not been rescinded.
The town approved the project with an estimate of $2.3 million dollars. It was completed.
The Historical Society had previously commissioned plans for a state of the art museum. The architects made an enthusiastic presentation to Council. Council adopted the plans without consideration of any changes to suit any other function. The project proceeded.
In the meantime, the Town Treasurer, experienced in a restored venerable building converted to modern use, recommended an arms length board of management to ensure no drain on tax revenues for operation.
The building's purpose is long established. No opposition was expressed when the decision was made to fund the renovation at a cost of $2.3 million.
In the circumstance, a Council is entitled to assume community support. $2.3 million is no small potatoes. It could not be expected to pass without notice. As the mover of the motion, I expected negative reaction. There was none.
An Ad Hoc Committee was established to create the management structure. The newly appointed curator, Cathy Malloy was expert resource on the committee.
Ms. Malloy successfully processed a grant application to Heritage Canada and further funding of $700,000 was obtained for the purposes of a museum. The funds paid for the HVAC system(heating and environmental control).Interior storm windows were installed and still further museum attributes.
Suddenly and unexpectedly,the newly appointed curator,took her leave from the town and took up employment elsewhere.
Mr. Whitehurst, a friend of the former Mayor, without known expertise in museum matters, was appointed in her place as resource person.
A board was incorporated. The Ad Hoc Committee was disbanded.A formal agreement identified the building as a Cultural Centre. The agreement is somewhat ambivalent in its terms and eventually, with the failure to respond to inquiry, it became apparent a museum would not be accommodated.
In a nutshell:
We have a collection of artifacts representing substantial community interest and investment. Three million dollars invested to provide a perfect environment and home for the collection. We provided a budget of half a million dollars from tax revenues for operation of the building and it's maintenance. We provided an annual grant of $50,000 to the Aurora Historical Society. For a curator. To organise, display and make available the town's collection of artifacts. To assist in the education of our children in their community's history, values and traditions, To illustrate our respect for the people who came before us, whose hard work, serious endeavour and sacrifice created this place we are now privileged to call home.
And none of that is happening.
We do not find that acceptable.
Elizabeth Bishenden said...
Hmmm...I've been thinking about the Jazz Festival and the park.Town facilities have user groups. The AMHA pays for its ice time. Folks who show up for a swim at the SARC or at the AFLC pay. Squash courts can be rented by the hour.The ACTC has use of the MacMahon Park tennis court almost exclusively, and presumably they pay for that privlege.So, I'd say I'm not too offended by the use of a park if an enterprise offering a fair service wanted to use it. My problem with the Jazz Fest is that the Town had a prior arrangement with the Farmers' Market for the same space, and cancelled that contract for that day. That doesn't sit well with me.The Aurora Cultural Centre has a binding agreement with the Town about who can decide who uses the facility and at what price.That does take control of the Cultural Centre away from Town and Council.If the Board of the ACC isn't honouring its contract in terms of either use of the space or financial agreements, then the Town should negotiate (not litigate) to ensure the original contract is for the benefit of all citizens.On the other hand, if the Board of the ACC is not responsible for setting up a museum space, then who is?
Thank you for the comment Elizabeth.
A new Council elected means all contracts should be reviewed. There are inconsistencies. Not all users are treated the same .User fees tend to be politically sensitive. Some users feel they should not have to pay feesbecause they paid for the facilities. They do not separate the cost of the facility from operating costs.People who pay to build the facility and don't use it, should not, in principle, subsidize usersThe lines get blurred when the facility has long since been paid for.
It's a rare one that doesn't need to be maintained and capital costs are a constant factor.I would contend ,in the principle of fairness, there should be a fee established for all use.At the same time, the town should manage facilities to keep fees affordable and within the reach of all . People paying the capital cost of providing facilities , should not be excluded from their use by lack of affordability. A principle applies. The more efficient the business, the lower the cost,the greater use.the better the price, the more successful the business.It keeps everybody happy.It's not easy. It's even more difficult when you have nine politicians making the decisions without agreement on the basic principles. But a couple of things are irrefutable.First people or organizations who are not town taxpayers are not entitled to equal considerationSecond, public facilities are not built for commercial enterprise to maximize profit at public expense.
When the town built the Community Centre with audience accommodation , we had inquiries for commercial concert promotionReserving the facility for such an event meant it would not be available for community use. The town had to have a guarantee of specific revenue before undertaking to provide what was needed .Promoters had to take the risk the concert would be a sell-out. No promoters was ever willing.A municipal corporation is not in the business of taking risks with public resources.
That this municipal corporation permitted a town park to be fenced off, for a commercial concert venture, on the basis of cultural promotion and added insult to injury by providing a sponsorship[ of $2,000 on the basis of encouraging tourist promotion, is as derelict of business acumen as any nonsensical notion I have ever had the misfortune to witness in our fair town.As a form of entertainment, jazz is not a rare commodity. The young are willing to travel distances and pay high prices for rock or steel or hip-hop artistry.
The not -so-young are surely just as willing to pay what it costs for spine-tingling jazz wherever it can be found. There is no obligation moral, cultural or for tourist promotion, for a municipality to lay it , at taxpayers expense ,on the home turf , so-to-speak.
Sunday, November 28, 2010
But I swear, the crowd at the Parade this year seemed considerably more than in the past.
I thought it was great last year as well. But last night was spectacular.
It reminded me of something former Councillor Walt Davis once told me. Walt's family were several generations Auroran. His mother was the proudest Auroran I knew.
I wrote a column about a visit to Orangeville and how people clustered in groups on wide sidewalks, caught up in conversation.
Walt said that's how it used to be in Aurora on a Friday night.The crowds were so dense, a person had to step off the sidewalk onto the road to move.
Pay packets were handed out on a Friday. People came in from the country to shop and a good part of the expedition was catching up on the week's gossip.Town and country blended well.
In the town centre, there was a millinery shop. Two ladies wear shops. Two men's wear. Stedman's. A paint shop. A butchers, a bakers and Thompson's furniture. Two drug stores, a couple of barbers, a pool room, Queen's Hotel on one corner and Bank of Montreal stepped up from the sidewalk on the other.Doctors and dentists' and lawyers' offices were part of it.
The street frontage doesn't seem like much now.
I forgot about the two jewellers facing each other on opposite sides of the street and shoe shops. The further my mind's eye roams the more stores I remember.
Caruso's Fruit Market with the family still there, more than a hundred years later,still with the memory of the night they arrived in the dark of winter. At the entry to the store. a shovel to clear snow from the entrance and a bucket of coal and kindling to make a fire to warm the house for the young mother and father and two small children.
I couldn't help thinking last night. If just half the people thronging Yonge Street for the parade, made a habit of coming in to Yonge Street to get to know the merchants and what they have to offer, it might not be long before those merchants are joined by others.
Why should re-growing a town be any different from growing it in the first place.
Why should people to-day have less of a pioneering spirit than years ago?
The need is just as great.
We were four generations.
Cheyanne is six. I wasn't sure she would last the whole parade.I thought she would be too cold.
She lasted. She walked straight and tall. The smile never left her face and she waved constantly. At one point she was ahead of me. The band music slowed. Her step went straight into a slow march.That's not easy if you have to think about it.
Robyn has been in the parade before with a couple of friends. Robyn is sixteen. Her memory will always be clear. We don't see Cheyanne all that often, But when we do,she clearly knows she is one of us. I can picture her telling her children how she walked in Aurora's Santa Clause Parade with her grandmother,Aunt Heather and cousin Robyn. Her great-grandmother dyed her hair purply-pink, the colour of her sequined beret,for the occasion.
Cheyanne noticed. "Your hair's purple" she said.
Why? she said
Because I want to be a big Christmas doll for the Parade.
It made complete sense. She just smiled. Most things make sense to a six year old.
Maybe when she is an adult and I'm not around and she tells her children; they will wonder how many great-grandmothers rode decorated scooters in Santa Clause Parades and dyed their hair pink and wore sequin berets, in the olden days.
I bought the beret in New Orleans. I wanted one of those beaded fringe caps. They were too expensive . But ooh,I really liked them. I must have worn my sequined beret a dozen times now. Always in a parade. It's the only chance I get.
The first parade I ever saw in Aurora was July 1st 1963. The whole Council and the clerk-treasurer Bill Johnstone. were on a flatbed dressed in costumes from a hundred years before. The late Councillor Jean Moffat wore a blue crinoline dress and a huge peek-a-boo hat. The late Keith Nisbet was Mayor. He wore a top hat and tail coat,brocade vest, silk cravat and tight breeches.
The rest of the Council were similarly attired. Councillor Moffat was the only lady.
They sat around as if in a meeting. It was Aurora's Centennial. Auroran's marked the occasion wearing whatever costumes they could find.
The late Dr. Jim Johnstone, owner and publisher of The Aurora Banner dressed as a Chevalier. Like one of the Three Musketeers. He had short legs. His high black boots flapped about his knees when he walked.
The crowds last night were seven or eight deep along most of the parade route. There must have been thousands of children. All there together on Yonge Street to see the parade.
Shelley Ware is the young woman on Aurora staff who organizes our special events.
She does an amazing job with support from town business.community organizations and bands and literally dozens of volunteers.Shelley brings it all together.
We woke up to snow and bitter wind in the morning.Never at any time was there a hint the parade wouldn't happen. When it did, it was a fine cold evening, the crowds were in excellent spirits.
My great grand-daughter took off her hat and scarf and mittens. Her face shone with happiness.
Another childhood memory was created.
Saturday, November 27, 2010
Mr. Downey's staff created a video showing beautiful shots of parks and buildings and people having fun in swimming pools. skate board facilities, baseball diamonds and such. Mostly children and youth and that always feels good but seniors were featured as well.
There was a shot of Yonge Street lined with pots and planters spilling over with burgeoning colour. That shot is always in the vicinity of the library.
Why would it not?
A mention of the "Culture Centre" reminded me of our plans when the new town hall was being designed.
As a Review Board Member for nine years , I had visited town halls in many towns and cities in Ontario.
Former Councillor Walt Davis and the late Ron Simmons and I took a trip to Vernon in B.C. once, in the seventies.
The late Reg Whiten, a town resident, originally from Vernon B.C. had recently been back to visit. He came to see me to tell me what they were doing over there. He was excited and felt we should go and see. He was a sales associate in Thompson's Furniture Store
Vernon was a town of 18,000, same as Aurora. They acquired a city centre block, demolished it and were rebuildng it from scratch.
It included a town hall, library,art gallery, An arena had tennis courts attached that became a curling rink in winter.
They built a firehall that included living accommodation for volunteer fire-fighters. They had bedrooms,kitchen,lounge,rec-room and a full complement of
firefighters who went out to work every day and were on hand during the night to fight fires.
There was a courthouse.
The project was still only partially complete.
The Town of Whitby Ontario was also the size of Aurora with a similar downtown.
They built their Town Hall in the hills outside the town. It was amazing.
There were interchanging facilities Council functions, areas for formal dinners and receptions, dances, concerts. boy and girl scouts camps.library, art gallery, outside facilities I can't even remember except for the spectacular surroundings.
When we came to planning Aurora's new town hall and its location, I had a lot to tell about what I had seen elsewhere.
So it was built beyond the town's edge where there was plenty of space. The town has grown around it.Wellington Street is developing to meet it fine style.
Our Town Hall was designed with an art gallery.The council chamber can accommodate concerts. Folding doors and wide reception areas are intended for audiences. They were designed for the purpose.
Meeting rooms in the town hall accommodate all kinds of cultural organizations including a writers club.Once we had a problem hearing ourselves in the council chamber because of a band practising in one of meeting rooms.
Meeting rooms at the library also accommodate organizations of all kinds. There's insufficient parking. Activities at the Cuture Centre have aggravated the problem.
Soon after the Town Hall opened we had a Sunday afternoon jazz concert. Parking and seating accommodation is plentiful. It was well appreciated but never repeated. No demand I guess. Or perhaps not the staff at the time to envision what could be.
It's another reason I cannot comprehend why Church Street School was suddenly stolen out from under the museum ,without consultation, to be commandeered as a culture centre.
Like a bolt from the blue, name and function were changed by an appointed board who were not obliged to explain.
We learned first from a Historical Society delegation, a curator was not part of the Heritage Centre's new staff complement.The significance was not immediately apparent.
When the building opened, we discovered by asking, there were no plans for the museum to be up and running. Space had not been provided.
That's when it became apparent, staff complement at the old school would be duplicating entirely the function of the Town's Leisure Services Department.
Subsequently we heard the St Kitts woman was heavily involved at the "Culture Centre" and had free use of the facility for a pre-jazz festival party for which there was a $35. admission charge.
The Jazz festival received a further "sponsorship" of $2,000 from the town and permission to enclose the town park with fencing and charge $5.admission as well as rental fees to vendors.
Despite being advised to the contrary, The St Kitts woman barred convenient access to public washrooms and ordered residents to leave an area which had been provided for them by town staff to enjoy a coffee and a breakfast sandwich.
The original deed for the town park, prohibits in perpetuity, any charges being made to town residents for access to the park.
In my judgment, this situation cannot be allowed to stand...or repeated.
Friday, November 26, 2010
It was a repeat of previously successful fund-raisers for the July 1st Parades.
I believe $11,000 and more, had been raised annually. It was familiar. The community was acquainted with it's purpose.
The Town's July 1st celebration had been re-started in 1969 . From the beginning, proceeds from various events held during the day throughout the town went into a common fund to pay for the festivities and provide seed money for the next year.
July !st festivities were never financed from taxation.
One of the features at the Legion event was a silent auction. Items are solicited within the community.
Naturally those who donate to the auction are interested to learn of it's success.
Success is measured by funds realised.
Weeks went by, no information was forthcoming. Questions started to be asked and eventually appeared on the Aurora Citizen Blog.
Had anybody heard?
As a Councillor, it is my obligation to provide answers if a matter is within the purview of the municipality. I felt a scandal was brewing.
The July 1st Parade had been organised by a sub-committee of the Town's Leisure Services Advisory Committee. There were records. A report stated proceeds from the event had covered cost.
There was no account for the March 24th 2008 event at the Aurora Legion, where a silent auction was held of items solicited within the community for the purpose of raising funds to pay for the town's July 1sy Parade.
I learned from a committee member, food had to be paid for, bands were paid for and the room at the Legion was paid for. Money raised by the event paid the costs of the event.
Precise figures were not offered.
It is hardly surprising, people who generously contributed to a silent auction to provide funds for a community event, would expect to be informed their donations accomplished their stated intention.
It's hardly likely they donated to provide for nothing more than a wing-ding at the Aurora Legion in March for a group to get into the mood fora second party on July 1st.
It is distinctly likely, since the event was organized by a group under the auspices of the Town of Aurora. they were assured their donations would in fact be used for the purpose intended.
And yet. almost three years later, they have received no such assurance from the Town of Aurora.
No figures have been provided.
The question is still outstanding.
Thursday, November 25, 2010
Mind the motors.
Keep a civil tongue in your head.
I grew up in an era when parents expected to shape their children, one way or another,into the people we would become.
When my children were growing up, I was interested to watch and discover the people my children were destined to become.
It should be clear to anyone the reason I spend my time writing this blog is to expound on my own opinions. It's a huge satisfaction to me because I have so many.
No-one is obliged to read the blog. That they do is my second greatest source of satisfaction.
I welcome argument.
Disagreement is not verboten.
Personal abuse certainly is.
The blog belongs to me, myself,alone.
Of late, argument has replaced abuse to a considerable extent. I am glad of the improvement.
Still, there is a degree of incivility accompanied by clear hostility.
If an invitation to my home was accepted, guests would not expect to leave their manners on the doorstep. Anonymity does not permit the rules to be different in my blog space.
Argument is welcome.
Sneers and jeers are not.
It was a wistful trip for me. Every stop reminded me of someone no longer with us and more than a few momentous battles. The building I am most proud of was not on the tour. It no longer belongs to the town. York Region Board of Education are in possession.
It was a fine coach. I sat behind the driver. We talked.
His twenty-one year old daughter is in Scotland. She won a scholarship to Glasgow University for music study.
Girl has met boy and his family have invited her to their home. She thinks maybe he likes her. She likes him. He might kiss her. She has never been kissed.
When she left, her dad bought the computer camera and they talk regularly to each other. But it's not the same as having her here.
Now she says she might stay. Not come home again. It's breaking his heart. He misses her so much.
She says it's dark all the time in Scotland Not just cloudy. Dark ....and raining.
If it wasn't for the Gulf Stream, Scotland would be uninhabitable. The Gulf Stream there is like road salt here. But they are further north.
The first time my mother came to Canada, she stayed from August until April. One winter morning she looked out the window and said in amazement;
"Does the sun never stop shining here"
I re-called my first impression was how high and wide was the sky.
The coach driver grew up in the former Portuguese neighbourhood in downtown Toronto. His mother and father worked hard for what they had. They never asked for anything to be handed to them.
He moved out and bought a house outside Barrie to raise his children in safety. Away from a neighbourhood which had become contaminated by crime and murder and guns and knives.
When he and his wife split up, they sold the house. It sat on a hill on two acres with wide windows and magnificent views on every side. After it was sold, nobody lived there. Soon it was discovered to be a grow op.
The driver couldn't find the Town hall yesterday. It wasn't in the Pirrie Book of Maps. It wasn't in the G.P.S.
There's a sign for the Town of Aurora Administration Centre at the corner of Wellington and John West Parkway. On the boulevard further up on the west side of John West Parkway, there's a sign for the Aurora Senior Centre.
It notes the address as 1 Municipal Drive. There is no municipal drive. It's the driveway into the parking lot.
The Town Hall is on John West Parkway. The only place 1 Municipal Drive exists is on the Town Hall Stationery.
That's so that John West won't get free advertising in a future election campaign. It was done with a five/four vote during John's last term in office.
He was suffering severely and clearly unlikely ever to be a candidate again at the time.
Even as he sat at the table... alongside them...as a colleague.
Tuesday, November 23, 2010
My post about staff and council time wasted on a cockamamie idea of a pilot study using residents and winter driving conditions as guinea pigs, was intended to prove a point.
My function as a Councillor is to ensure services provided by the town cost no more than needs be.
The municipality appoints professionals to advise Council on best practices in each particular field.
The cost is high.Very high.
Payroll probably accounts for seventy cents from every tax dollar collected.
I find no sense in having committees of non-elected, non-accountable citizens. occupying space in the town hall, using staff resources, putting forward well-meaning but naive ideas for staff to report on at huge expense and vast blocks of wasted time.
Nothing is accomplished but a charade of industry and righteousness for political appearance sake.
My function is to oversee how taxes we collect are being spent. And to roar when I see them mis-spent.
An election is how we ensure people have input into the decision-making process. Council is "the people" We have nine members whose function it is to maintain communication with citizenry, keep them informed and garner their views on issues and every four years, account to them for the decisions we made.
During the election and throughout the term, I deduced high taxes were a burden.How smart was that.
I know of hundreds of thousands of misspent dollars. I hesitate to say millions because it makes me feel sick to have to acknowledge it.
But I can't stop trying.
Hardship is a fact in our community.
Jobs are being lost. Children still have to be nurtured and mortgages paid.
Seniors are being forced to give up their homes because property taxes are beyond their means.
Taxes should not be one penny higher than they need be to maintain services people need and support.
Advisory committees are not the only drain on resources. Nor are they the heaviest.
But I can tell you one thing for sure...if I were the solitary authority...taxes in Aurora would be reduced this year.
Our museum would be back in its rightful place with a curator to organise it and provide needed guidance to volunteers.
Town staff would be attending to their responsibilities and not the ideas of non-elected advisory committee members who answer to no-one.
Non-elected, non-accountable residents would not be spending hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars on whatever their fancy.
The gravy train would depart the station. All users of town facilities would pay their fair share
Call it a crusade.
Call it anything you like.
I will be striving to accomplish what I always do. Exactly what I said I would.
Monday, November 22, 2010
Miller has held office for seven years.He is a solicitor. He was a student at the same private school as one of the Royal scions. He carried a witch's broom as a symbol of cleaning out corruption from City Hall at the time of his election.
He announced, after the garbage strike, he would not be a candidate in the next election and was proud of what he had accomplished.
It seemed Miller had everything going for him. Youth,style, good looks, education. his own hair.But something doesn't jibe.
Rob Ford by contrast is presented in the worst possible light by the Toronto media. Reference is made to bad-fitting suits, his weight and Oh My God, the man sweats.
Miller decided he had had enough. He had to fight back tears when he made the announcement.
He expressed regret when Adam Giambroni withdrew from the Mayor's race after being exposed as a bit of a sleaze-ball.
Now this; Miller's insinuations against the new Council while giving an exit interview.
He refers to the $80.5 million computer leasing scandal that happened on his watch. He didn't catch it. He spent additional $13 million for a public inquiry.
Despite being the man in charge, he took no responsibility for any of it.
A computer salesman openly wined and dined and bedded a leasing official within the Miller administration and he didn't find out about it until the contract was millions of dollars overspent.
What accounting could he offer the public for that oversight?
Instead he throws out insinuation,there might be a link between people at victory parties for some new Councillors.
He was careful to note he wasn't there and "if it was true".
But what was that about?
He wasn't defeated. Why is he bitter?
He has a new job lined up. Bitter doesn't fill the bill.
Crass is a word used in connection with Rob Ford, Toronto's Mayor-elect. To-day his brother was described in the Star as a "cunning business man"
Words like that are not used in connection with outgoing Mayor.
Clearly there's a disconnect with the phrase,style and grace.
What's that about.
Maybe it's time for the Toronto media to take a collective look in the mirror.
There might be old-fashioned snobbery afoot.
A specific suggestion was to initially reduce salt on select streets as a pilot project.
Salt of course is environmentally undesirable.Too bad we need to use it for Canada to be habitable in winter.
Council accepted the advice of Advisory Committee. All except me. Another situation where I was the lone hold-out; the black-hearted villain who does not appreciate the work of volunteers.
I thought the idea was nuts.
Decades ago the Ministry of Transportation decided the minimal amount of salt needed to be used on roads in sub-zero temperatures. It gets into water courses. It causes damage to cars. It eats away at concrete and bricks and dissolves cut stone walls. It kills grass on boulevards. It splashes on pedestrians and children in strollers, Even winter boots are a mess because of salt. It splashes a mucky mess on windows and doors of stores on the main street and can't be washed off in the freezing temperatures.
Small creatures paws become hurt and bleeding.
Obviously salt must be kept to a minimum. The conclusion was drawn long since. As a consequence, the mix of salt and sand needed to keep roads clear of ice and do the least amount of damage to the environment has already been calculated more than forty years ago.
The worst aspect of the committee's recommendation was that short streets because of fewer residents could be used for a pilot study.
How exactly can a town withhold safety and amenity on particular streets because they are short and therefore have fewer residents ?
My objections were dismissed,disregarded, received no credence or credibility from any party,including staff.
Well, guess what; without much ado or fanfare, a staff report was later quietly slipped under the radar. The pilot project would not be forthcoming.
For reasons of liability.
This story has a point. The town collects millions of dollars in taxes,
To the great hardship of many home and business property owners.
The money pays for high price experts on the payroll. Their job is to advise on best practice for least cost.
Staff resources are provided to advisory committees. Space in the town hall. Minutes are kept. Reports are dictated, written, copied collated, stapled and thirty-six copies are distributed. Council discusses. Staff are directed. Will o'the wisp ideas are followed up and the whole process is repeated once more.
Needless effort is duplicated many times over.
In the end my friend, frequently, nothing comes of it. Nada, nil, zilch and zero is the end result.
Except for the expense. It takes taxpayers' money. Lots of it. From people who have lost jobs and businesses struggling to survive.
On advice from people who were not elected. Don't have to account for money collected or spent. Don't have to take phone calls from people who can't get out of their driveway to get to work to earn a living to pay the taxes.
Remember, the year before, the debacle about plowing out driveways. Hours of talk. Wasted dollars. Remember who recommended that?
It's no way to run a railroad.
It makes me, otherwise agreeable, downright disagreeable.
Sunday, November 21, 2010
How else are they to discover if you are a person they wish to have represent them?
I've held to that belief for all the time of my involvement in the town's political affairs.
It's a mark of my respect for the intelligence of the electorate.
I believe a person can be honest and straightforward and earn respect. I do not believe, to be successful in politics, one must repeat back to the voter what you think they want to hear.
During the election I had a dialogue with a high school student involved in a class election as part of the civics program.
The student wanted to know what program I would commit to which would be of interest and persuade students to vote for me.
I explained a councillor has one vote. A candidate cannot promise anything. All we can do is state what we believe are issues of concern and commit to addressing them and influencing their outcome.
I'm not at all sure the argument was understood. I did not inquire into the outcome of the election in the school.But I stayed true to my principle and one day it may make sense.
A Council is the sum of its parts. Each part has but an influence. No part has control.
Elizabeth, I don't think anyone really expects Buck's blog to be unbiased. Truly nothing in this world is anyway. And to her credit, I am impressed that she published critical comments such as my own.
Some of us however get rather annoyed when she presents opinions as facts, and makes insulting and disrespectful comments about other people, and council.
Her continuous bashing of the decisions made by council in these pages after the vote has been made, shows her to be a poor loser and demonstrates a distinct lack of respect for the institution.
The conspiracy statements about "orchestrations" and "shadow councils" again shows disrespect for the institution as well as the people. You wouldn't accuse a police officer of being on the take without some proof, but she never seems to need proof to put forward her conspiracy theories.
I don't see this ending with the next council. The first vote that doesn't go her way, she will be blogging and writing letters about how the rest of council are all idiots.
During the election I heard it several times.
Harry Truman said.
I don't give them hell. I just tell the truth and they think they're in hell.
It's interesting how eager the losing side in this election are to predict how things are going to be in the next Counci.
In my own defence, although I will not be making a habit of it, I must say, I am careful about qualifying my opinions with "I believe" or "I think".
If it's a fact, I have no hesitation in saying so. Facts can be substantiated.
Respect for the institution of Council and disrespect for people who flagrantly abuse the trust placed in them at the time of their election, is quite a different
kettle of fish.
Since the social media is here to stay, I suggest, a better use of time would be to mount an argument rather than heap criticism on my head by the bucketful.
I certainly will continue to write the blog. The make-up of Council has changed and I fully expect the differences to be different.I also expect continued reader interest in different perspectives.
I have always had an opinion and been more than willing to share. I know of no protocol requiring abject silence after a majority vote.
There is no assurance a majority vote will be right. The rule simply dictates the majority decides. If the decision is wrong, we all suffer the consequences equally. If it's right, the benefit is equally shared.
I think the basic principle of democracy is the right to be wrong without fear or favour.
Aurora Council has never before spent hundreds of thousands of taxpayers dollars on lawyers and writing laws to discredit a Councillor's opinions.
The outgoing Council did not receive that authority four years ago and they were not given the opportunity to be doing it again either.
While some , like my critic, are obviously not happy with the result of the election, others are.
The most recent majority decision was the election.
Let's show a little respect for that.
When it was first set up, residents carted garden waste to the yard personally...in a vehicle.
It was an interesting experience. We would back up and empty our plastic bags onto a pile and stuff the bags into something else.
In the beginning we got free bags of compost
Once I found a huge clump of interesting roots set aside from the pile. So I brought that home. It sat in a corner of my garden for a while until I got round to examining it closer.
By the time I separated the clump. pink buds were sprouting in places. I spent hours dividing into pieces, each with its own bud. I planted dozens without having any idea what they were.
For ten or fifteen years now, I have had a display of peonies.They are magnificent
and their scent is beautiful.
Except that, buds appear and slowly they swell and the ants do their thing and finally they burst open and just at that time, almost inevitably,there's huge downpour that drives the beautiful heavy blossoms down to the ground.
I could cut them and bring them into the house. Except that, at that time of the year I am out of the house more than I'm in it and I hate to cut flowers.
Always there's a dilemma.
Some years they are pink and some years white.Apparently, it depends on the bee pollination.Which peony clump did they visit last.
I'm told peonies can live for a hundred years or longer. I believe it.
I brought home a clump of roots from the Savation Army re-cycling store once. I separated and planted them too and watched them grow. That was an experience. I had never seen anything like them before. They grew in a very weird formation. In the beginning,the leaves were like tubes. They just kept growing upwards. They weren't even green. They were an ominous copper colour.They were waist high before somebody told me what they were. Calla Lilies I thought they were something from out of space.
Anyway, back to Miller's yard. It's a massive operation. Compost has to be kept wet and turned regularly. When that's happening, depending how the wind is blowing, an odour emanates.
It's all good natural healthy stuff. Nothing to fear. You can probably still buy the compost. which doesn't smell, and various other products at the yard.
You can also see sand banks filled with dozens of tiny holes, a habitat for a particular bird species. Don't know what. Maybe a sand piper.Looked like swallows to me.
Over the years, I've often thought a gardening leaflet about stuff that shouldn't be planted might be useful for new homeowners.
A Manitoba maple for example is a weed tree. It's monstrous and ugly and by the time you realise it's not an asset, it costs hundred if not thousands of dollars to get rid of it.
Once a neighbour gave me one but I found out it was no prize in time to dig it out.
Anyway, now the municipality collects yard waste and we can't even burn our leaves any more. That was a nice nostalgic smell.
It's interesting how many people half my age like to tell me how things have changed.
Saturday, November 20, 2010
If I can believe it , and I see no reason why I should not, many people are delighted to assure me it is much appreciated.
If I needed greater satisfaction than writing it, knowing it is shared makes it very worthwhile.
I still draw the line at posting abusive comments about myself.
I don't use it for that. It would be too easy. It would also be a waste of space and not an enjoyable read.
The exchange is improving. Though patronising comments and sarcasm still displace logic to a considerable extent.
The end of hostility in the Council Chamber may mean challenging ideas will present as an enjoyable option.
It doesn't have to mean the end of sharp exchange. Or suppressing humour as it occurs.
All that's needed is to acknowledge our's is a common purpose. At times, we will have different ideas of how it can be reached.
In the end, the majority will decide.
But the minority will not be silenced.
E-mails are flying fast and furious and increasingly volatile.
Yesterday, apparently two employees left. They had contracts until November 30th. For some reason known to none ,they left two weeks early. After a conversation with the out-going Mayor.
Apparently staff are keeping heads down and faces hidden to avoid causing displeasure with extraordinary results.
Sixteen e-mails were circulated about a change in road closure for the Santa Claus Parade. Council Gaertner started the exchange off by objecting to the closures because of business that would be lost. But the Parade happens after stores are closed.
Now we have a new e-mail chain started by somebody whose vote was successfully cast on election day but he is convinced there were problems throughout the town and he is the ruling authority on the matter.
He is also fairly liberal with accusations of wrong-doing.
Again, Councillor Gaertner's is the ear he has caught
Tuesday's meeting, which is the last, will be stretched out with dozens of awards being made and one received and mementoes being presented to departing members of council.
The meeting can not be avoided. But... Oh My..Oh My ..the prospect is not cheerful.
And there is yet another week to follow.
A decision has been made for Council to take the Oath of Office on December 1st.
We need to do that. A new Council has no authority until the Oath is sworn.
Theoretically, the old Council could continue until it is replaced.
The gap between the election and taking office has already been increased by two weeks because the election was moved forward. So, the agony has been dragged out and problems are spilling over.
On a positive note, the new Council gathered yesterday at the invitation of Mayor-elect Geoff Dawe. There was bonhomie of people who have been successfully elected. It's a very normal and natural reaction. I detected no sign of tension.
It doesn't mean we will form a gelatinous mass. Perish the thought. How utterly tedious.
But it's a very good thing to start off civilly,agreeably and with respect for the voters choice.
Friday, November 19, 2010
One staff spent the day occupied in finding a solution which would satisfy the complainants and two others exchanging information, keeping complainants informed
and soothing their concerns.
A great big flap about nothing at all.
During and before the election, I would waken in the morning and wonder which complaint might be filed against me to-day. What new nefarious plot might be hatched to cast me in an evil and villainous light?
Now I understand, all heat-seeking missiles are aimed at whoever is in the orbit with intent to create greatest collateral damage possible.
As Councillor-elect, Gaertner is firmly established in her assigned role.
I had heard the atmosphere in the town hall has been especially electric since October 25th and fully expected it would be. From then until November 30th is a long time for mischief to be wrought.
Until a few weeks ago,there was security in knowing an outgoing Council could neither hire nor fire people.
But remember the recommendation to transfer authority belonging to Council to the Chief Administrative Officer. Council approved that without knowing what they were transferring.
I never believed it was about transferring power to staff. I believed it was about fulfilling the will of she who must be obeyed.
As has been pointed out by a reader, like it or not, the out-going Mayor is in charge until November 30th.
We can only hope good sense will prevail in the Hall of "Privilege".
At 11.02 this morning, Friday, the original approved permit issued on October 16th
was circulated to all members of Council at the request of the Mayor.
It occurs to me to wonder how a person can be a Council Member for a number of years and not understand the police is the only department with authority to enforce road closures and would naturally have input from the perspective of safety.
Thursday, November 18, 2010
EVELYN !!!! Where have you been???
"One year we had Santa Under the Stars and that was beautiful. I'm not sure if the stores were open or closed. But most years it has been in the late afternoon when little kids can catch the magic or the magic can catch them."
I have lived in Aurora since 1995 - I don't remember ANY year the parade has not been at night. Check your employer's web site it says "Santa Under the Stars" 6pm to 8pm. Isn't that night?
I said it's always late afternoon. No I don't check the town's web site to keep me informed. I might see something about myself on there I don't want to read.I was in the parade last year, I'm planning to be in it again this year. Some of the little kids waved and called HI Santa and I wanted to pick them up and hug them.
The parade is at night. The businesses that are there are closed when the parade is on (except for the restuarant-type businesses). How does the parade help the businesses anyways? Do you see floats from Vic's Shoe Repair or LW? No - Our downtown is a pitiful example. Unless the business is a lawyer, doctor or dentist, your lifespan is limited. The hardware store exists because - I don't know why - it's a terrible store to find anything.
Move the parade to the Walmart plaza or Bayview if you want to help business.
Our downtown has many attractive new stores You won't find their like in WallMart
or Upper Canada Mall.
They are owner-operated stores and if you give them a chance they will show you the difference between chain operations and themselves.
Mike Evans is a unique store for these times. He has stood up to the competition from Canadian Tire, Wall Mart, Home Depot, Rona's and every other big box store that has come to Aurora and Newmarket in the last thirty-five years. He has held his own with Home Hardware which is also a family operated business.And he has acted as single man spokesperson for every business in the downtown core drawing the town's attention to the problems.He has to be doing something right.
Since Vic's Shoe repair shop has been mentioned. let's not forget Vic's Halloween destination for Wells Street school kids in their costumes...The skate exchanges... The hockey teams and soccer teams and baseball teams sponsorships from downtown businesses. The funds raised for the Arthritis Association.
Small businesses support the community with a good heart and they deserve to be recognized for their contribution.
I suggest a stroll downtown. See what the storekeepers have to offer.
Do some window shopping at least.
Or just go in and introduce yourself.
They are your neighbours after all.
They are not your enemies.
I posted this on the A-C blog too:
We should all take a minute and catch our collective breaths. We have been saying on this blog and others that the MorMac regime has been trying to circumvent the political process with back-room deals and running roughshod over the process. Then, when a defeated councillor tries to use the process that we all agreed is all that is holy, we get upset that he is spending tax dollars – whatever that amount happens to be.
You can’t have it both ways. Democracy costs. Be it money in this case or lives in the cases of revolution, but it costs something.
Granger had his opportunity to get a recount. I applaude the fact that he was able to get it. You all know that I am not a fan of his, but he used the process. A process we all agree is what we want.
Forget the cost, that is “the cost of doing business” and let’s move on.
It bears repeating. A Councillor has a right to request a re-count.
Council has authority to grant or refuse.
When the decision to grant is made, Council is responsible for the expenditure.
Regulations about elections are a work in progress. because of technology.
When ballots were hand counted, there were many possibilities for error.
There was a time when a tick instead of a cross was a reason to reject a ballot There was a requirement the mark had to be entirely within the circle.
The rules led to the possibility of "disputed" ballots.
As recently as 2003, a recount was automatic if the variance in votes was within a certain range.
Once a recount resulted in a transfer of 17 votes from one candidate to another. It meant a difference of thirty-four votes and the losing candidate became the winner.
I can see a time when recounts will prove non productive to the consistent extent, the opportunity to request a recount will be removed from the legislation.
Only one thing is certain, if you think you know for sure what the regulations are at all times, you are riding for a fall.
Elections Officers are the ones who need to be up-to-date at all times. Their's is is a serious responsibility. They are bound by the law. If they make a mistake, there are penalties. Interference with the authority of the Elections Officer is an offence. He is accountable under the law.
We are done with the re-count. But I think we have awakened the sleeping giant in Aurora.
I ask because it has been many years since I have been to one. I am not a parade kind of girl, although I did take the kids when they were little. They don't need me to tag along anymore if they want to go. Although, there may be some poetic justice in having me along so they can listen to my complaints about my aching back, cold feet and need to pee. Yeah, a little pay back, that might be fun.
The Police enforce street closures.No-one else has the authority. They are the foremost agency consulted about proposed closures. They are most likely to have commented on safety and made recommendations.
The staff memo indicated they had been made aware of the safety issue.
We do not have authority over the police. The requested closure would take its time going through the process. They would likely refer to any reports on last year's closure to determine their position on this year's proposal.
Town staff probably sent out the request for amendment as soon as they were aware it was necessary.
Many business participate in the Parade sponsoring floats etc. Vic Priestly is a big contributor with his various rigs.
Shelley Ware is the town's special events co-ordinator. Shelley brings groups who want to participate in the parade together with people like Vic who make equipmenr and vehicles available
It's a community event and all for the best of reasons.
One year we had Santa Under the Stars and that was beautiful. I'm not sure if the stores were open or closed. But most years it has been in the late afternoon when little kids can catch the magic or the magic can catch them.
If merchants objected ,staff could no doubt create as magical an event in an indoor facility.
It's a joyful thing to have to do.
I heard the in-coming Mayor's husband took his place.
I was reminded by e-mails that just came up on my screen .
Staff had forwarded a request for an amended road closure for the day of the Parade. It currently calls for closure from St John's Sideroad to Orchard Heights..
The memo noted the request for closure to Wellington Street from 3P.M. The amendment is for safety reasons which have been brought to their attention.The police enforce the closures. I assume they have input into where they should be and advise town staff accordingly.
Councillor Gaertner immediately sent her strenuous objection to the amendment.It will be a hardship to businesses in the area in her judgment.
Councillor Granger followed up almost immediately with his objection. Why is the change being recommended this late? Why wasn't it known before?
Councillor Wilson added his objection. and now the out-going Mayor has joined the chorus.
I admit to finding it difficult to follow the logic. The reason given for the change is public safety.Can that be so easily dismissed.
The Economic justification for a Santa Claus Parade is to stimulate Christmas shopping.
Theoretically at least, the Parade is for the benefit of businesses. Why would they object to the street being closed for the Santa Claus Parade being held for their benefit?
Ah,,,but businesses are not objecting. Councillors Gaertner Granger and Wilson and now the Mayor are the concerned parties.
The Santa Claus Parade is about forty years old. At any time during those years, it would have been easy for any business owner to inform Council they objected to the Santa Claus Parade because of detriment to their business.
Council would certainly have been obliged to take the argument seriously.The fun for children in the community would not have taken precedence over the interest of tax- paying businesses. Who would have a right to argue against opportunity denied at such a critical time.
No such objection have ever been made that I am aware.
Until now ...and these objections are not from businesses.
Wednesday, November 17, 2010
Ten staff did the actual count. As noted in the previous post. it went from nine in the morning until about three-thirty in the afternoon.
The Elections Officer , the Chief Administrative Officer, the Associate solicitor were present throughout the day.
There were a few small challenges which were dealt with promptly and efficiently by the Elections Officer.
I didn't expect it would be any different.I did think the objective was a last ditch desperate attempt to undermine the entire election.
I don't believe I was wrong.
Yesterday, three weeks after the election, an e-mail was received by Councillors claiming a problem was experienced on election day.
Councillor Gaertner responded with one of her e-mails in huge letters, presumably to indicate urgency, directing the Elections Officer's attention to the e-mail.
This morning, the Councillor forwarded a second e-mail to the Elections Officer, the complainant and the outgoing Council,directing a report on the matter be submitted to the last meeting of the current Council.
Political candidates have no role to play in the conduct of an election. We are not a banana republic.
At the last special meeting of Council held to consider the request for a recount. sections of the Elections Act were read more than once to answer questions to everyone's satisfaction that candidates for office have no role to play before or after an election has been conducted.
The re-count has established resources expended in the exercise were not productive.
Those chosen by the electorate on October 25th 2010, to form the Council of the next four years are still the same people.
Whether the cost was ten, twenty or thirty thousand dollars, it was still a waste of taxpayers' money.
It appears the message is still not understood or accepted in some quarters.
He tried, under fire, to save the lives of comrades. He spoke only about their deaths being too high a price for him to receive a medal for his effort.
I believe his story might not be that extraordinary.
His heart-breaking message was crystal clear to me.
It seemed to be falling on deaf ears.
Yesterday was not a day like any other in the Council Chamber.
The Council table formed a closed circle. Staff and equipment for the re-count were within the circle. The Elections Officer stayed outside. The Chief Administrative Officer was also present.As well as our associate town solicitor.
Except for Councillors MacRoberts and MacEachern, all Councillors a candidate and various appointed scrutineers representing candidates and a lawyer were present.
Since only councillor votes were being counted, the Mayoralty candidates had no right to attend.
Outgoing Mayor Morris was there however. Councillor Gaertner,whose votes were not in question, appointed Ms Morris to be her scrutineer.
It was a day for watching and chatting and flouncing about. Not much excitement. Nothing much to learn.
I used the opportunity, during a lull, to raise the potential of being a paperless Council. with the Clerk. It has already been tried elsewhere. Councillors didn't like it. They prefer to read from pages at hand.
Municipal Clerks are a bottomless source of information. There are four hundred municipalities in Ontario. Many are small to medium. Staff keep in touch.They have their own Association of Clerks and Treasurers. If one encounters a new situation in their own municipality,there's a chance somebody else has already dealt with it. Sometimes successfully sometimes not.There's no need for two municipalities to make the same mistakes.
So my instinctive preference for reading resource other than digital; means I'm not just an old stick-in-the-mud after all.
Also, written records are required by governments. Everything can't be digital.
There are, of course many areas of needless duplication in our operations. Some have already been pointed out by readers. There is a resultant waste of all resources.
Staff will undoubtedly welcome an opportunity to advise the new Council.
Starting anew with fresh perspectives and open minds will be a good thing.
Tuesday, November 16, 2010
He reminded me of the little brothers who were lost overnight. They slept in a field. They knew where Grampa's house was but it was dark and they couldn't find their way. So they lay down to sleep. The ten year old cuddled his five year old brother and wrapped his own coat around him. They were found walking home along the side of the road when daylight came.
The soldier is twenty five years old. He was asked how he felt about receiving the medal.
He said ...."Two friends died and they want to hang a medal on me"
The newscaster tried again for a more positive response but he said again..."the price is too high"
They asked him what he was doing five years ago. He said he was mopping the floor in a Mr. Subway at the end of his shift. He heard a commercial about a free t.shirt if he paid a visit to a nearby army depot.
He went for the free t/shirt and ended up in the army. He didn't complain about that. Just that two of his friends were dead and he couldn't save them.
The camera was switched to smiling and urbane , Secretary of Defense. He said the young man is just the kind of soldier you like to see receiving such a special award.I wondered what kind of soldier he wouldn't like to see win it.
I thought...My God, you didn't hear what the boy was saying. He doesn't want your fine medal. He wants his friends not to be dead. He's just a kid who worked in a Mr. Submarine Shop, but God help him, he knows.
I wondered if President Obama saw the broadcast. He should hear what the young soldier said.
He was saying it himself when he was trying to win votes. .
Michael Moore on Larry King Live the other night, said this war will cost the U.S. a trillion dollars. It's borrowed money. They only get sixty cents of every dollar they borrow. The military is in control.
The country is in desperate shape. Ending the war would go along way to solving the problems.
He said the President's failure to keep his word that he would end the war and bring the army home is the reason for the "shellacking" he took in the mid-term elections.
He didn't keep his word on that and a number of other things.
I wondered if the President was listening to either of the broadcasts.
If he did, did he hear what the young soldier was saying.
Monday, November 15, 2010
Now that we have had experience with the Code and the community can be said to have passed judgment on it,the newly elected Council has a decision to make.
A review might be timely.
Keep in mind a Bylaw is municipal legislation. It is expected to be enforced like any other law.
Consider the preamble. It says in part;
"Attaining an elected position within one's community is a privilege which carries significant responsibilities and obligations.Members of Council are held to a high standard as leaders of the community and they are expected to become well informed on all aspects of municipal governance,administration,planning and operations.They are expected to carry out their duties in a fair, impartial,transparent and professional manner "
Read it again and let it sink in for a bit
Take that word privilege. It stems from the word private. It means a right or immunity granted as a peculiar benefit or advantage or favor as attached to a particular position or an office. Sort of like the nobility in a monarchy.
Is that how we think of a member of Aurora Council? Well,not moi. But as we know, I don't speak for tout le monde.
Check what the Bylaw expects of Councillors. They must become well-informed on all aspects of municipal governance and carry out their duties in a fair,impartial,transparent and professional manner.
Last week, we had a substantial audience at a next to last meeting of a four year term of the out-going Council which promoted, approved and prosecuted under the Code of Ethics.
There have been comments since which have not reflected an appreciation of any of the qualities noted as required in the Preamble to the Code of Ethics, Schedule B of the Town of Aurora Procedural Bylaw.
It was a special meeting called to deal with an agenda of one item. It should have been completed within ten minutes,tops.
It lasted one hour and forty minutes. The Procedure Bylaw was suspended to add an item after the meeting and the agenda were publicised.
The add-on was suspect. Forty-five minutes of talk went round and round without a question on the table.
Two recesses were called for the presiding member to obtain advice from staff on separate procedures.
A staff person was interrogated in what appeared to be a challenge to his competence.
Members of the audience were shouted at by a Member of Council.
The Presiding member ordered the chamber be cleared. The order was greeted with amazement and amusement.
Advice from the Elections Officer and the Town Solicitor on Election Law was
Eventually a resolution, with a redundant clause giving direction on how to hold the re-count, was passed.
The re-count will be held to-morrow in the Council Chamber.
I am not confident it will be allowed to proceed without incident.
Not much to be said for the preamble to our Righteous Code of Ethics.
Sunday, November 14, 2010
I assume Mr. Dawe will declare a conflict on any discussions regarding the lawsuit since one of the defendants was his campaign strategist and another publicly endorsed him in an ad.
Why exactly does the reader assume any such thing?
Neither circumstance means Mayor-Elect Dawe would realise a pecuniary interest by participating in the decision.
Any more than the those who voted for him, in no small part, because of their complete disgust at the outgoing Mayor's decision to use public funds to pursue this course of action.
I think a rational decision would be for the defeated Mayor to acknowledge her egregious lack of judgment. Withdraw the action Refund the municipality for expenditures made thus far. Make a full public apology to the defendants. And at the very least, compensate them for their legal costs.
Nothing less would satisfy justice.
I am not holding my breath.
Councillors found themselves in a closed door procedure unlike anything ever witnessed before either by staff or elected members and certainly not authorised by a Council vote.
I think the out-going Mayor fantasized the role as that of a Judge.
n this occasion, it was clear many hours of legal services had been purchased under whose direction could only be guessed.
I never discovered the financial cost of that exercise. Hopefully that will be revealed in the coming weeks.
I did hear however,many months later,the Treasurer of the day had refused to sign the cheque because the expenditure was not properly authorized.
They must have gotten around that problem. It never came to Council's attention.
Two signatures must be on the corporation's cheques. The Mayor's and the Treasurer's.
There's also a rule prohibiting spending over a certain amount after a certain point. After the election,I think
It appears from comments of three Councillors during and after the election,they did not commit to that action when they voted in the wee small hours of the morning after a six hour meeting.
Other than the Mayor,no candidate on the hustings,spoke in favour of the law suit.
It cannot therefore be argued the action should continue.The people turned thumbs down. It remains only for the new Council to follow up.
In my judgment, the action should be immediately withdrawn. No further funds should be available. If there is a means for recovery of funds already expended that should happen.
There are several aspects of the decision made that morning which are anything but clear.
The Town has policies governing spending.
Under certain circumstances,Directors have authority to spend up to a certain sum without Council approval
No Council Member has that authority.
Budgets are approved each year. Still,there are spending and purchasing policies that govern. Budget approval is not authority to spend. Individual projects must be approved by Council with source of funding specified.
Councillors were not provided with written documentation of legal authority which allowed a six million dollar damage action to the advantage of the Mayor to be filed at the expense of the municipality.
The printed copy of a critical comment from a blog was circulated at the Council table at the last minute that night, as an add-on to an in-camera agenda.
It was not a matter of privacy where an individual could be identified.
Politicians surrender privacy when they put their names forward for election.
It was not a union contract negotiation matter.
It was not a real estate matter.
It was not a matter of litigation involving solicitor/ client privilege where the municipality's interest must be "saved harmless"
I would argue, none of the items permitted by the Municipal Act to be discussed behind closed doors, allowed this matter to be dealt with by Council either in private or in a public meeting.
I would further opine, it never was the business of the corporation.
It follows therefore, what was done should be undone.
Saturday, November 13, 2010
The contrivance of a Code of Ethics offends me. Nothing that has happened since it was adopted, persuades my initial reaction was off-base.
The idea a person elected to bring a perspective to the table, needs a manual to apell out required behaviour on pain of penalty is a contradiction in terms.
First, elections give authority to the people to choose representation.
Second, there's an Oath of Office binding those chosen to good conduct by law.
We may not take a seat at the table until we have sworn the Oath.
We are subject to criminal charges if we breach the Oath.
Third, we have Rules of Order which commit us to civil conduct during proceedings of Council.
If these three are not sufficient to warrant dignity and integrity in conduct of town business,no contrived mass of verbiage will accomplish the objective.
On November 24th, Council-elect will meet with staff to be briefed with a high level overview of issues. We have no authority until we have taken the Oath of Office on December7th.
Yesterday it wasn't spacing the way I wanted. I would hit the key to double space and it did. Then when I had to hit the edit and compose keys, it came back to single spacing every time.
As always, I thought about what I was doing wrong. Didn't take long to come up with a reason. I was hitting the keys harder every time it failed to maintain doublespace.
I may have damaged the keyboard. I will not know until I finish this post and click to publish.
My second concern is a thought process. I received a comment on Remembrance Day critical of Councillor Wendy Gaertner. I published it. Then I started to think about how I should start the new term of office and decided to be more circumspect. I wrote a post about that.
Then Chris Watts wrote a post about how looney it is to try to define a blog.Chris is a professional in the field. Light years ahead of me and at the same time several generations behind.I'm trying to shed inhibitions from an age which he has never known.
Then I received a simple respectful query from the person whose comment I published then deleted. Also a person several generations behind me.
I thought I had a rationale. Now I'm the one doing the questioning.
When the blog started, I had no idea how it would evolve. I was as interested as anyone watching how it did.
Then we had an election. A new Council. I thought maybe I should exercise some control. I was thinking about the working relationship.
Now that idea is challenged. I may be the one out-of-step. Relations on the last Council were not improved by the Blog. The blog emerged from the situation.
I thought Council realizing the community was being made aware of goings on would govern themselves accordingly.
Instead they spent four years seeking ways to stop the community from becoming aware. When that didn't work they reverted to denying the reality.They spent hundreds of thousands of taxpayers dollars to support their denials.
I never understood why they didn't understand that people are entitled to know what's going on. The Blog provided that and like myself, people latched on to the opportunity to engage.
It's not that much different to how it used to be when the town hall was on Yonge Street, shops on either side and across the street and people getting the word with their morning coffee and chat swirling out in ever-widening circles.
Social media has turned us back into a tight-knit community we once were.It wasn't controlled then. Why should it be now?
Councillor Gaertner has already declared she will play a different role during this term of office. Her intention is to challenge what she reads in the media. She has already thrown down the gauntlet.
There are those among us who suspect her real intention is to continue to allow herself to be used as she has for the past seven years.
Gordon Barnes sent out a clarion call for a COY group to be established and meet regularly to discuss town politics.It may be the same group as D. Moore.
At the Special Meeting to deal with a request for a re-count,signs were, outgoing Councillors and friends are having a hard time accepting the results of the election. They may even be seeking a means to undermine it.
So we ask... is this a time for blog to become magisterial? or anything else it isn't?
The comment I published ,then deleted, was subsequently published on the Citizen. It related to Wendy's Chatty Cathy conduct at the Cenotaph when wreaths were being laid and respectful silence observed...even by chuldren present.
On second thought,since Wendy has already thrown down the gauntlet and undoubtedly will have help, we will allow blog to go back to its natural order.
We will tell all.