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

Friday, 14 April 2017

AS THINGS CHANGE,THEY REMAIN THE SAME

Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "THERE'S ALWAYS ANOTHER SIDE":

I appreciate and respect the work and service firefighters provide to all of us. They truly are the first responders to an emergency. I've witnessed numerous emergencies where police haven't been around and had to respond and act as both firefighter and cop. Unfortunately their political influence has always been immeasurable to all politians along with the police, teachers and many other government unions. It should be of no surprise how their "collective" agreements are signed. 
Posted by Anonymous to  Our Town and Its Business at 14 April 2017 at 09:37

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Political influence of firefighters has deeper roots and less to do with the union than most realise.

Historically, for most of Ontario,Volunteer  Brigades were the initial and only organisation within 
a community. 

There may even still be small communities  in the Province dependent on Volunteer Firefighters 
for  programs that bring a community together ; from fire protection, organising baseball,support for widows and orphans and anything else that might require a collective effort. 

When I was first elected in Aurora, the Mayor and several Councillors were former Volunteers.
I soon learned that had been the ongoing pattern since the beginning of settlement.Everything grew out of that initial organisation. 

In my time the  Fire Chief was on the town's payroll. He was chosen from the membership by the 
Volunteers. He was in his mid-seventies, showing no signs of retirement. 

Firefighters were paid once a year; $5. a call. 

Council was organized in Standing Committees. Finance ,Works, Parks , Police ,Fire  and Bylaws.

Citizens served on boards and Commissions;Planning Board, Recreation Commission . A council member represented the town on these independent bodies. The library board was appointed by Boards of Education .The  Mayor was Council's representative. 

Aurora's  Reeve and Deputy Reeve represented the town at York County  and a town appointee served on the Holland Valley Conservation Authority. 

Standing committees numbered two members and a chair. 

Most Councillors chaired a committee and served as vice chair or member on another. 

All members were entitled to attend and participate in discussion at  committee level. Only
appointed members could vote. 

Members received staff advice at Committee level and recommended to Council.Only Councillors participated in Council debate .  Committee Reports and recommendations were presented by the Chair. The Chair  had to be prepared to respond to questions and support recommendations. 

The town was responsible only for services to property. Councillors soon learned what they needed to know to be accountable for  decisions made. The public were kept informed through the grape vine and two newspapers. Editorials  were published weekly.

Council meetings were not televised. Committee meetings were in camera. 

With ten times the population and elections reduced from once a year, to one in four,
turn-out was pretty much the same now as it was then.

Thursday, 13 April 2017

THERE'S ALWAYS ANOTHER SIDE

Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "THE ROOT OF THE PROBLEM": 

Maybe if they only fight fires 18 minutes a year, we really don't need them. It is worth the potential loss in property and lives I think to save that kind of money.  

If dress uniforms is an issue, why not take a page out of the military. The military provides standard work dress. Dress uniforms are purchased by the individual.  

Posted by Anonymous to  Our Town and Its Business at 13 April 2017 at 12:15

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The  argument is not that emergency services are not  essential. 

Fifty per cent of calls are for medical emergencies. 

Health care is a provincial responsibility. 

Local firefighting departments are obviously the agents capable of providing immeduate assistance. 

Cutting victims out of cars damaged in highway accidents is also the department's responsibility. 

Ongoing training is a priority and being prepared for natural disasters is also necessary. 

There's no argument fire-fighters should not be adequately compensated for their  work. 

No contribution comes from the government level collecting resources from sin taxes to provide 
that service. 

That being said, the service is part of  larger organisation. Work conditions, pay and benefit 
packages are jealously regarded . Teachers, nurses, librarians, and top administrators are 
not  inclined to accept second place status and the race to the top has no finish line 

In Newmarket/Aurora, staff are engaged year round in e does rounds of "bargaining".
in arbitration.  

I think arbitration  is always lop-sided to the advantage of labour. But not to all. 

Arbitrated decision -makers are not accountable. 

Names are barely exchanged. 

In the  first police arbitration  in my experience ,the police received more than they requested.  

For decades ,municipal administrators have quietly,secretly,furtively, behind the scenes, for fear of offending our local  heroes and the public, petitioned successive Provincial governments , to no avail, to fix the "broken"  system of arbitration. 

Even while they themselves benefit exponentially from a process that bears no resemblance to 
bargaining in good faith. "Feeding at the public trough" is a phrase that echoes down the canyon 
over and over into the foreseeable future. 
 
It was no coincidence Dalton McGuinty was featured on the eve of his last campaign surrounded by 
firefighters in full firefighting gear holding up signs "Firefighters for Dalton McGuinty" . 

Police associations  are not permitted to participate in politics. They  don't have to. Firefighters do the job  for both. 

McGuinty had no shame. 

That  fellow O'Leary, candidate for leadership of the federal conservatives, has touched on the topic 
of generous pensions and long life expectancy.

It may be time for history to repeat itself.  

Tuesday, 11 April 2017

THE ROOT OF THE PROBLEM

Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "AN OUTLINE OF FAILURE": 

14:04 - The money has already been spent by the Town and Region. I'm sure they've already ear marked the development money over at the Magna property and they're not moving out for another 5 yrs. 

Posted by Anonymous to  Our Town and Its Business at 10 April 2017 at 20:50

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That's a given. Provincial rules require five year master plans for every service provided .Development  charges arecalculated on the basis of the plans. That was the provincial solution to exercising control of municipal greed 

Just take it from developers. They can pay for it out of their profits. But of course they don't New home buyers pay for it. The. The rest of us pay for the operation of their facilities. There is no incentive to do 
more with less. 

For example, there's  far more down in arenas than time used. We used to rent prime  time to keep costs down for minor  hockey. We were up at 5 in the morning at the week-end with the youngest kids to play hockey. 

Nothing stands in the way of bureaucratic growth now.  It just grows and grows. 

An army of firefighters  are needed to man facilities paid for with DCs. Sleeping quarters, kitchens, recreation and lounge facilities must be provided for when they are not putting out fires. Which is ....almost always. 

Policemen do not sleep  in stations but they have cruisers,computers,uniforms, guns,boats snowmobiles helicopters and RVs and officers trained to operate all the toys. 

When I first participated  in public affairs, Professional Firefigters Association (the union) were in a labour dispute about firehall maintenance. I think it was in Scarborough. The argument was "professional firefighters " should not have to maintain firehalls. Competitions were held  between firehalls  for the nicest flower beds . It was how time was occupied while not fighting fires which was most of the time. 

When I was first elected, North York had recently carried out a study to determine how much time a firefighter actually spent fighting fires. It was 18 minutes in a year. The  question was posed, why were 
dress uniforms needed. They don't fight fires in dress uniforms. 

Now they spend four days living at the firehall and ten not working at all. Except for the private businesses operated in spare time to augment their living. 

I describe reality behind costs because police and firefighter service is the greatest expense, Wages and benefits , settled by arbitration. impact other compensation levels particularly at upper limits .

At lower  levels ,service by contract,people without benefits or security, working side by side are not treated equally. 

Development charges permeate the system of municipal services forever and a day and to the moon and back. 

Monday, 10 April 2017

A SLIP OF THE FINGER

RAnonymous has left a new comment on your post "AN OUTLINE OF FAILURE": 


Residential Development Charges Effective July 2016 - Single/Semi

Town of Aurora $20,977

Region of York 42,627

Education 4,340

$67,944 


Posted by Anonymous to  Our Town and Its Business at 10 April 2017 at 17:05

The  above comment is posted  here because my finger slipped and I wanted these figures public. 

If you read the page 13 Auroran story on development charges from beginning to end,the rational is clear. It doesn't  matter how big the screw-up  of the Joint Facility  project, it  doesn't really count 
because the money came from development charges,  not taxes. 

The Family Leisure Complex addition was also screwed-up. Work is still outstanding,
The contract wasn't finished on time. And it was over budget 

Apparently  no lessons were learned . 

On the other hand ,three previous capital projects were completed on time, within budget and under different supervision. Namely, Stronach Centre, Seniors'Centre and development of town-owned lands on Leslie Street. 

Director of Leisure Services was in charge of the first two. It was before half of his responsibilities were transferred to Director of Environment and Infrastructure,early in the Mormac regime, before Church Street School was spirited out from under heritage and culture centre to culture centre. 

Development of town owned land on Leslie Street came after Mormac became  history. Responsibility for supervision of the project was assigned to the Director of Recreation. 

Lessons  learned were obviously forgotten by the time the last two projects were undertaken. 

The CAO has since departed for greener pastures. The Director of Environment and Infrastructure 
Has since been terminated. 

If none of this makes any sense... It's because it doesn't .

But we do still have the elected body who carry ultimate responsibility. 

Thursday, 6 April 2017

AN OUTLINE OF FAILURE

O" Meanwhile, the costs and funding of Aurora’s Joint Operations Centre is expected to come into focus on April 4 as Mr. Elliott presents a detailed financial summary of costs and work to date. In his new report to Council, he pegs the JOC coming in $103,027 further over budget which will continue to be funded through DCs.


The report also outlines “lessons learned” through the whole contentious process, recommending for the future “standardization of the Town’s internal project management framework, improved internal financing reporting and project management financial skills; that larger projects should have a financial analyst assigned to assist in the monitoring of project expenses; greater clarification of the roles of any steering or monitoring committee; improved clarity of project scope, inclusions and exclusions from the beginning with clarity for Council as well; improved understanding of the evolution of initial concept estimates through to final construction tender budgets; and clear separation of pre-construction costs and budgets (space needs, concept plans, location and site selection, and acquisition costs) from detailed design, construction and commissioning costs and budget.”

 

 Stephanie cut and copied the above from a four column story by Brock Weir. On page 13. of 

March 30 edition ,took up full width and half the length of the page. Mostly information.Except for the last two paragraphs . They are electric. 


The  chief financial officer reports to Council. 


Now that position was filled by the former chief administrative officer. No competition. No interview. No portfolio. Simply an announcement behind closed doors of an interim appointment made without authority or  knowledge of council. 


We later  learned the job was offered with coffee in a donut shop. The permanent  appointment was announced the same as the first.... behind closed doors. 


References to the Municipal Act's requirement of a competition and bylaw appointment were ignored.

Save for my own opposition, the decision was accepted as presented. 


That was ten years ago. Previously ,Aurora's new top financial officer  was employed for a year by a consultant and before that, served eleven years as treasurer, aka chief financial officer, in the town of Richmond Hill. 


Richmond Hill subsequently adopted a commission  system. The new top financial post was not offered to the treasurer. 


The paragraph copied from the Auroran contains  self -acknowledged absence of skills ordinarily and reasonably expected of the municipal financial officer. Remuneration is paid commensurate with required professional  attributes .


Sound judgement is expected with the package. 

Sunday, 12 March 2017

FOLLOW THE MONEY

"Truth is like poetry and most people  f.....ng hate poetry" 

On reflection. I think that's  probably true. 

I haven't stopped contributing to the conversation. I comment on Facebook regularly. It's instant and less work.

Chris Ballard's machinations  were a distraction. A story waits to be told but it's entirely negative ...full of twists and turns ...and involves many more than myself. 

There's no merit in advancing it at this time and it may never. Yet it occupied my thoughts long 
enough to fall out of a routine that had already become erratic. 

I never made a decision to stop writing. 
Yet I did.
 I knew it wasn't permanent.
 But every day restart  was deferred. 

I don't know how many still tune in but you do matter.

I will be back in force ...maybe  to-morrow. 

On page 15 of last week's Auroran, a final  paragraph on a story headlined how 
capital  projects will be paid, deserves particular attention. It's the end of a lengthy and tedious 
report. Quite likely to be overlooked. 

If I had my druthers, it would have been front page with a blaring, trumpeting headline. 

Stephanie may help me with cut and copy .

Then we can examine it together and jointly determine its significance.  

Councillor Mrakas has a quarterly news letter on-line. References are current to the unfinished joint facility and funds are included in this year's budget to complete the project. 

We will connect  the dots and see where it takes us.



Friday, 10 March 2017

BITS AND PIECES AND RANDOM THOUGHTS

Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "NEVER LEARNED CANNOT BE FORGOTTEN": 

I think most would agree and are fine with the idea of generating revenue via some sort of tax for building transportation infrastructure.The problem is we all know the money is used elsewhere and whatever is used for transportation, it's always mismanaged. It's badly planned with huge cost over runs and can never be maintained at whatever budget they set. We have so called experienced and well educated leaders that we elect that pay huge sums of money to consultants, planners and civil servants that are suppose to take care of these projects, who fail everytime. Unfortunately I see no solutions to all this mismanagement at all levels of government.

Posted by Anonymous to  Our Town and Its Business at 9 March 2017 at 19:52
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Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "YOU WERE SAYING": 

Maybe not all lie, but most do. And those that don't, cover the truth. 

Posted by Anonymous to  Our Town and Its Business at 10 March 2017 at 19:55***
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Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "BULLSHIT BAFFLES BRAINS": 

And were is the 4.3 cents a litre carbon tax that the province is taking from us since Jan. 1st going? or is it 4.3/litre? who really knows? I saw Ballard in the media getting accolades for $100 million pledged to combat homelessness, money this province doesn't have because of almost 15yrs of mismanagement. How much of this $100 million will the homeless actually see after everyone gets their cut in studies, consultations, administration and all those who were promised something or another?  

Posted by Anonymous to  Our Town and Its Business at 11 March 2017 at 13:00*

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Speaking of politicians....lying...educated and experienced .... and being elected.

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Last week , I received a nice commendation from a resident on National Women's Day. Thirty years ago, I was the first woman ever who served as  Mayor in the Town of. Aurora. Before that, I was the first woman Reeve to represent the town on York County Council. 

I always considered being  Mayor of Aurora for two terms and Reeve and multiple terms as Councillor to have been the highest honours a community conveys  upon a citizen. 

I took it on myself to prove a politician can  be straightforward and honest and earn respect. Sometimes I was defeated but In the end, I succeeded more than I lost. At the end, I considered the point proven. 

These days, I almost never leave home still without being approached by someone, usually a young woman who wants me to know I was an inspiration. There can be no greater satisfaction. 

But it was very nice to see the post on Facebook from Rosalyn Gonzales.

Yesterday a piece of different information came my way. 

It seems Provincial Liberals held a dinner to honour specific women in the community.

Our MPP Chris Ballard chose to honor Phyllis Morris as the first woman elected Mayor in Aurora. 

Chris Ballard grew up in King City. He served a term on Aurora Council. Sat two seats away from me at the table. 
Though not  a Councillor,in the previous term, he was appointed chair of the Economic Development Committee by Morris. 

Every time he entered the Council Chamber  or a Committee room   he passed a wall of portraits of every Mayor who ever served Aurora.  

My portrait is there, hardly  to be mistaken for a man. 

Chris Ballard could not have been unaware  Aurora elected a woman Mayor thirty years before 
Morris . 

I spent more than three years at the Council table with Councillor Ballard. 

On occasion we agreed ,on others not.

 I never saw  evidence of outstanding competence, courage or judgement.

Nothing to warrant a meteoric rise to the responsibility of Cabinet Minister .

Signs of being a liar were not obvious either. "


Thursday, 9 March 2017

YOU WERE SAYING

Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "BULLSHIT BAFFLES BRAINS": 

Prior to 2004, the provincial gasoline taxes were exclusive to the province. Historically, the tax was to fund the building and maintenance of provincial roads. In 2004 the province decided to allocate a portion of this revenue to municipalities to fund public transit. 

"Somehow, despite being Mayor of Ontario's largest city, he thought it wise to tax commuters to drive on provincial highways within his city." Evelyn, you are wrong on this. The DVP and Gardiner are not provincial highways. They were transferred to Toronto a number of years ago. However, the province still approves the use of tolls as they fall under the Highway Traffic Act. 

"People don't expect government to lie." I have to disagree with that too. I think people do expect that governments will lie. It happens all the time.

Posted by Anonymous to  Our Town and Its Business at 9 March 2017 at 10:02

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I welcome correction.The object is to inform. Not to offend.

Likely at the same time as the DVD and the Gardiner, the province transferred responsibility for maintenance and snow plowing for Highway 11 (Yonge Street) to York Region. It made sense.Particularly  for snow-plowing. Though I couldn't get an answer from town staff at the time, a funding arrangement was probably concurrent. 

Ownership becomes moot in the circumstance. All rights of way are public. Highway 11 still exists and serves the same function it always has. I doubt title was transferred to the city for the DVD and the Gardiner but that matters little. 

Gas tax sharing is not tied to public transit, unless rights of way also means transit. 

What the general public believes or doesn't believe can't  be definitively stated.

 I tend to separate people who participate from those who don't. 

Using election turnout as a measurement ,one could  definitively argue half the public has no interest in government let alone belief in any principles. The education system gives it short shrift. 

Of those  who do vote, many pay little attention until they have a ballot in hand. They judge by what they've read in brochures or advertising. What they see in print, they take as gospel. 

Those  who value rights and freedoms, respect the process and have high expectations. 
They do not expect government to lie to them. 

When I say government, I don't  mean politicians. I mean formal statements from those with authority to make them. 

People who don't lie, don't expect to be lied to.They tend to be unforgiving. 

Ironically, their integrity makes it easy for politicians to be dishonest. 

But there again, one cannot generalize. 

Not all politicians lie. 

Wednesday, 8 March 2017

BULLSHIT BAFFLES BRAINS

Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "NEVER LEARNED CANNOT BE FORGOTTEN": 

16:07
We already have a toll on the provincial highways. It is called the gasoline tax. Do your research on where that money is supposed to go.  

The tolls that Tory and his ilk want to levy have nothing to do about paying for roads. It is all about getting people out of their cars and use public transit. Ask anyone who lives in Aurora but takes their cars to work how well public transit works for them. Sure it is marginally cheaper, but if your office is not anywhere close to a subway line, you are in for a substantial time commitment one way.

Posted by Anonymous to  Our Town and Its Business at 8 March 2017 at 09:

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The gasoline tax is shared with municipalities. it's h-u-u-ge.

John Tory wanted to charge a toll on the DVP and the Gardiner for new revenue to keep Toronto 
property taxes down.  Somehow, despite being Mayor of Ontario's largest city, he thought it wise to tax commuters to  drive on provincial highways within his city. 

The firstbasic principle of taxation is they should be simple easily understandable. 

If the Mayor of the city doesn't understand the melange,it's not clear to me how ordinary residents can be expected to have the hang of it. But principles are long gone. 

When the city was being amalgamated, the big fear was runaway cost. Several  layers of government were being abolished but the worry was how much more it would cost. 

So the province took responsibility for education tax  and uploaded Toronto's housing and social services  budget to surrounding Regions.
 
They said it was because Toronto was providing housing and social services throughout the GTA.

They lied. 

People don't expect government to lie. 

In the last couple of days,discussion has been how the province lowered hydro costs by stretching debt out longer. 

Some think that's not fair. 

There's always more than one way of looking  at a problem. 

But....municipalities were required by the province to privatize Hydro.  

The decrease in charges is welcome. But how is that  provincial business with Hydro  privatized? 

And....If cost of supply is that much higher,what was the advantage of privatizing? 

Some  think it's not fair to stretch out  debt to have several generations pay for infrastructure that  brings power to their homes and businesses .

I do not share that view. 

I do however object to paying taxes to maintain sixty million dollars in reserves to save generations down the line the cost of replacement down the line. 

Auroraalso has a reserve fund to meet the costs of new firefighter contracts. So politicians down the line  won't have to answer for vastlyincreased costs of providing  fire protection. It's called a tax stabilizing fund. 

I will be long gone but still paying for fire protection. 

It's not enough to pay taxes for almost sixty-years for everything I received and much I had no interest in receiving, I am now required by our local financial genius, to pay forward for future salaries of the new class of public service millionaires.  


Monday, 6 March 2017

NEVER LEARNED CANNOT BE FORGOTTEN

Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "" HOBSON'S CHOICE"": 

"I see nothing wrong with children,grandchildren and great-grand -children sharing in the cost of Infrastructure to supply their homes and business with electricity. It is and always has been the basic principle of debenture debt for public amenities."

This is a shocking statement, but not a surprise.  

Were you saddled with the debt of your parents or grandparents' era? Do parents not hope that their children will have a better life than they did?  

It is unfair of the government of the day to amortize debt that they created to the point that it will not be paid for until 30 years from now. More than likely neither Wynne or McGuinty will be around to see that debt paid, why should they care? What is more unfair is that she has done this and somehow spun it to tell the residents that she will lower hydro costs now. It is only when you look at the man behind that curtain you see that she is playing a shell game and we are all losers... now, tomorrow and for the next 30 years.

Meanwhile, your great-grandchildren will grow up, go to school, get jobs and then they will buy a house (perhaps if they are lucky). They will get their Hydro bill and on it will be a line "Debt Repayment". They will wonder what that is for and go back into the archives of the internet and read that their great-grandmother had no problem with them paying for the infrastructure that we wanted in the early 2000s.
 

Posted by Anonymous to  Our Town and Its Business at 6 March 2017 at 16:39

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The writer is easily shocked. The comment brings to mind the Monty Python Flying Circus,fish-slapping dance. The little fellow, hopping back and forth, two steps forward,slapping with two little fish, lightly on each side of the big fellow's face and two steps back.The music stops. Then the big fellow hoists a monstrous fish with both hands and knocks the antagonist up the side of his head , off his pins,straight into the harbour. 

I brought it up on U tube to enjoy once again. It's always funny. 

In my first town budget in 1967, I noted an expenditure coupled with Collis Leather. It was a payment for the town sewage treatment plant. 

The payments started in 1954 and  continued for a decade or so more after 1967. 

Collis had treatment at the tannery.Ontario Water Resources Commission decided it was no longer adequate to remove chemicals. New, more proficient treatment had to be provided or the tannery had to stop operating. 

The town and Collis  jointly built a tertiary treatment plant.

Aurora, I learned, was the first town in Ontario  to have indoor plumbing.  

Council colleagues grew up with privies in the backyard.

Debenture debt made the  improvement possible. 

Were there complaints? I don't think so. People had no trouble connecting expenditure to service. 

In time, the facility had to be expanded to service growth. 

Then OWRC intervened again and prohibited further growth. The plant was at capacity. 

Until mid-seventies ,when York Region built  the "Big Trunk"  to take sewage from Aurora and Newmarket to be treated at the Rouge River and dumped into Lake Ontario. 

Residents went from paying a flat rate (less than $10.) for water to separate charges for water and sewers and an unexplained "Miscellaneous"  item,  all of which annually multiply exorbitantly. 

As well, taxes are now collected to pay for culture and entertainment. Parades,food festivals, art exhibits,piano recitals and musical quartets. The town surrendered to a federal institution,a multi-million dollar property needed for our own purpose.

People like the commenter don't know from a privy hole about tax extortion, but excoriate myself for what I don't know about the basic principles of equity in taxation. 

The Province can open another casino or two, launch another lottery, or tack two bits onto every bottle of booze sold in the province to continue largesse for jazz festivals , Halls of Fame and whatever  other 
frivolity that occurs.

Taxes on our homes and business are the solitary source of loot at the municipal level.

And we are burdened with a succession of elected representatives and like-minded residents who don't know the difference.