"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

Sunday 30 March 2008

Turgid Verbiage

I read the transcript from the Ontario Municipal Board hearing on the Westhill Golf Course development; all 211 pages. It cost almost $3 thousand dollars. I was particularly interested in the comments of the town's lawyer for reasons which may not be obvious but I cannot reveal because certain things must be kept secret to save the town harmless.

There was an exchange of emails between the Chief Administrator and the Mayor before the Hearing. In response to questions, the CAO informed the Mayor how much a transcript costs, that they are normally required by parties to the hearing but not always. They are not normally required for the public.

Average length of a transcript is 300 pages - cost is $2100. Usual time to produce a transcript is two weeks. If it is needed quicker, cost is between six and nine hundred dollars more. The Mayor gave the direction for a transcript in the shorter time.

We had a two page dissertation circulated by Sue Walmer as soon as the hearing was over. Ms. Walmer and the Mayor attended the hearing together and Walmer was appalled at the Chairman's lack of knowledge of what it was about.

"His bias," Ms. Walmer said "made me despair for the environment."

The Chairman had informed all present the function of the Board is to protect the rights of property owners. He said property owners should appreciate that. Ms. Walmer did not. Considering the hearing was about four property owners seeking to protect their rights by asking for something more than a plain old OMB hearing,(three weeks) I think the Chairman's point was well made.

Ms. Walmer was the Mayor's campaign manager. She organized the Coalition of Ratepayers for the purpose of the election. She continues to organize.

Anyway, I ploughed through the verbiage. Mr. Northey, lawyer for the opposing neighbours had most to say. Naturally enough because it was his motion. Mr. Beaman ,the town's lawyer. on the other hand had the least. He supported Mr. Northey's arguments and took issue with language about "teeth" of Mr. McQuaid who represented the developer. He also appeared to be urging the Chairman to accept a transcript. No doubt it would justify the expense.

The hearing lasted until 5.30 p.m. Last time I heard anything about legal fees, they were $600 an hour. I figure a rough estimate of legal costs for the day might be $5,400. Add travel time, preparation time and the cost of the transcript, our cost to be a party to that hearing would not likely be less that $10 thousand.

The motion was dismissed. The result would have been the same without our participation.. So once again, we are ten grand out with nothing to show for it. Zilch, Zero, Nada and Nil.

Last I checked, the town's share of the taxes from an average house in Aurora was about $700. The means the entire revenue for this year from mine and twelve other houses on my street went to pay for this exercise in futility.

A further Municipal Board Hearing is scheduled for April 7th. Three weeks have been allocated and it might take longer. There will be legal costs, staff time and expert witness costs.

I understand a joint board hearing,that's what was being requested, would have lasted seventeen weeks or longer. It would also have called for an army of experts to testify.

But wait, if we are going to be defending a refusal of the application, in the face of supportive evidence for the development from our staff,we may have to recruit a complete new team to support our refusal and refute our own staff reports. Wouldn't that be interesting? The potential cost simply boggles the mind.

Planning staff had been working for months maybe years on this proposal.They advised the developer as to what was possible. Serious work still needed to be done and time was growing short. Council's precipitate decision to refuse the application lwould have brought the work to a halt.

As a result, we will be at a considerable disadvantage at the Board Hearing starting on April 7th. Work that needed to be done to ensure this development is done right has not been completed. Hundreds of staff hours have already been expended.

This is the last parcel to be developed under transition status of the Oak Ridges Moraine Plan. It was being carefully shepherded by our staff, the Region and the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority. Until council decided to cut all of them off at the knees.

An offsite orientation meeting at the beginning of this term, would have provided new councillors with a thorough briefing on the Oak Ridges Moraine Act. They would have learned about legal rights of property owners and the requirement to conform to more restrictive regulations to protect the Moraine.

They might have been able to recognize crass political opportunism when they saw it.

Wednesday 26 March 2008

Bringing This Comment to the Top

"Anonymous" posted the following comment to my "Navel Gazing" blog. I have added my response below the comment:


Permit me to ramble a bit.....

I did not vote for you last time (I only voted for people that I wanted on council so if memory serves, I voted for 3 people). However, given the make up of the council, it's a good thing you are there to at least be the "senate" with the crew in place.

I can't imagine anyone in this group going out to a mess hall to hoist a pint after a meeting. It would require an ethics test first and who knows, an amendment to the code of conduct would have to be drafted.

I had high hopes for a couple members of council (Marsh and McRoberts). I think their potential is huge but they have a hard time to compete with the "wackos" around the table.

While I know it is a person's right in this country (unless Mayor Morris has taken it away) to express an opinion in public, I have a hard time when a councillor (you or any other) writes a letter to the editor of a local paper. This is especially true if the letter is dealing with an issue that was discussed at council. On the surface, it appears as sour grapes, but the reality is, unless another councillor rebuts it, it gives you (or whomever writes it) the "last word" on the subject. I feel that the place to discuss council issues is in the council chamber only.

Your blog is a great vehicle to express your opinion too. As long as it is used to discuss issues that follow the same guidelines.

I understand why Mayor Morris brought in the lawyer to look at the "leak". I would hope that she would do the same thing if any other councillor had a blog or letter that potentially compromised privelege. I somehow doubt though if Councillor MacEachren wrote a blog entry about something in council, she would receive the same unfair treatment as you.

I also have a hard time reading letters to the Editor coming from former councillors (Mr. Kean especially). He clearly has not gotten over the fact that he came in third in a two-person race for Mayor and his campaign for the next time began the day after the election. Letters to the Editor for him are free advertising. However, he (and Mr. Hogg) are civilians now, and they have the same rights as everyone else.

I had given thought to running for council last time, but given the number of candidates, I thought it would water down the vote - I was right. But watching council today, I think I would be very much like you. I like to adhere to the rules of procedure. I also like to empower the people that have a certain job. If staff has reported on an issue, why the constant referral back to staff or trying to get the Mayor involved in the process - these people are paid for a reason. I would only speak to a topic if I felt it was required. I can't count how many times I see a member want to speak to a topic but only to say "I will be supporting this motion". Who cares, that's what the vote is for. These guys are only looking for TV time. I also feel council is a venue for the town's business. There is no need to pat each other on the back for jobs well done. That is why you are there - to get the job done.

Thanks for the opportunity to rant. Keep up the blog, but try to (I know you won't) tone down the Letters to the Editor.

And my comment:

Thank you for your thoughtful comment and your support. I understand your reservations about letters to the editor from council members. There are arguments pro and con.I know them all. As a practising politician,I have to respond to the exigencies of circumstances , if only to keep my end up. My supporters expect it of me and I need them as much as they need me. I do not sit alone in that council seat. The people who put me there are with me always.

My last Blog morphed into a letter to the editor. It need not have happened The Force decided to place a couple of my emails on council's agenda for the purpose of finding fault. I objected to that. I had no intention of submitting to the carping critics. I responded in the Kangaroo Court Blog to the points made during the histrionics.They keep making the same assumption that I am helpless and harmless.

To function effectively, a council needs to have an opportunity for informal dialogue. We should be able to throw half-formed ideas across the table and consider every possibility. We are the only level of government which doesn't have that flexibility. We may be the only council in the region to interpret the legislation so rigidly as to deny ourselves that opportunity. The Internet restores that which has been lost. Tossing ideas across the wires is an excellent alternative. We already have a ton more meetings than are necessary or useful.

The one we didn't have which was critical was the weekend orientation gathering at the beginning of the term. Its purpose is to bring new councillors together with staff and experts to put them into the picture on the state of the nation, so-to-speak. The Mayor made sure that didn't happen, although I understand she has already attended a couple herself at the Region.

Obviously my opinion is not shared. Heavens to Betsy that can't be allowed. Councillors cannot be subject to the influence of each other. That is not what The Coalition of Ratepayers and The Sports Coalition intended when they worked so hard to elect their respective slates and were successful with at least five of their picks.

We have thirty-two months of this term left. There is serious work to be done. We can do it together as a nine member council and staff or we can go on as we are. Whatever the choice, I will continue to keep people informed by whatever means available to me.. I made no pledges to special interest groups in the last election.

You mentioned "the leak" that caused the Mayor to retain legal counsel. The issue related to an offer by York Regional Police to purchase, at the appraised value, a parcel of land we had for sale The offer was for the purpose of building new Regional Police Headquarters in Aurora. The request was refused on September 11th. The news story app
eared in November. How long does anyone imagine a secret like that can be kept? Had it been reported out as it should have been, there would have been no secret to leak. It has still not been reported out. In fact at one point, it was denied by a councillor in a letter to the editor.

Do you my friend, have any curiosity about what the lawyer retained by the Mayor came up with at taxpayers' expense at the end of "the investigation"? That was never reported out either.Nor was the cost.

We have four councillors who continue to think for themselves and vote independently. They include Councillors McRoberts, Marsh, Collins-Mrakas and myself. Every councillor puts an enormous amount of time and effort into the job. What separates us are the decisions we make and the way they are made. I can only answer for myself. I think Aurora expects the best and deserves no less
you again for taking the time to express your thoughts on the situation. . It's good to be able
to give and take like this.

Monday 24 March 2008


The most likely occupational hazard in blogland is probably navel gazing. Writing is a solitary occupation. Authors who do it for a living express appreciation in forewords for the person who reads their work and offers constructive criticism. It's usually a spouse or partner. An editor has much to do with the finished product.

A Blog is not so grand. It is a mish-mash. A polyglot. A series of observations and opinions which evolve with ongoing events.

What makes it interesting to some and infuriate others?

The Kangaroo Court Blog created a storm. What WAS that about? I simply commented on a happening which was part of the public record. Council decided to hold a hearing on my frequent emails. Various members commented on their negative effect. They clearly believed they had a right to use a council meeting to publicize their complaints I did not agree.

Neither did I choose to occupy the prisoner's box while they indulged in histrionics. I left the council chamber. But I watched the tape at home.

The comments I have received in response to the Kangaroo Court Blog make no reference to it. They do not defend council's action. They simply light right in to abuse and name calling. One even challenges my right to be a councillor.

The positive comments defended me against the nasty ones and they are much appreciated.

A huge amount of oxygen is consumed with talk about openness and transparency. It is mandated in government regulations. As if personal behaviour can be mandated. Candidates make it a platform in their election campaign.

I don't think it's an issue. One does it or one doesn't. I've always done it. I consider it an asset. People used to say. "As long as Evelyn's there, we will always know what's going on". The blog lets me do it better than ever before, and judging by reaction in some quarters, with more effect. Letters to the editor are even more widely read.

A year ago, I referred to an issue whixh had been discussed behind closed doors. It was about Aurora Cable's intent to erect a couple of wind turbines. It had already been flogged to death in open council meetings. In great anxiety, the Mayor called an emergency meeting to deal with the crisis. I said if they brought Moses down from the mountain with a new commandment they would not convince me the matter warranted a closed door discussion. I said the issue of legal liability was contrived.

A Code of Conduct. was seen as the remedy. Eventually, a report was submitted. Those who requested it rejected it. It should not be done by staff they said. The restrictions contained therein apparently did not sit well. I resisted the temptation to comment. on the obvious.

Last fall, a story appeared in the paper that council had turned down an offer from York Region Police to buy a parcel of land from the Town at the appraised value to build a police headquarters.

In high dudgeon, The Mayor retained a lawyer to "investigate the leak". He was provided with my Letters to the Editor and emails etc. He never did approach the newspaper or myself during his investigation. He asked if I had retained legal counsel and floated the idea of Conflict of Interest and the severity of penalties for said offense, and hinted I should not attend in-camera meetings with the rest of council to discuss the issue. I scotched that idea.

Eventually he reported. His findings did not sit well. Turns out the real quest was about something I had said in a blog which had subsequently become a letter to the editor. I had referred to the standard I adhere to in decision-making.

Though regulations require reporting out on business conducted behind closed doors, there is no time limit for doing it. There has been no further openness or transparency on that issue either.

In my first years on council, two local newspapers were in fierce competition for the news. Editorials were weekly events. Often there was more than one in the Editors column. They created interest and they had influence.

There were three daily newspapers. The Globe and Mail, The Telegram and the Toronto Star. They also had reporters beating the bushes for news..

Aurora's population was a fifth of today's. Town staff were a ready source of political updates. Word of mouth was a wonderful thing, if not always accurate. If they didn't know it before being elected, councillors quickly learned the voters valued their right to choose who would represent them on council and governed themselves accordingly.

When the Region was being created, municipalities were given the right to change the numbers on council. I suggested once we should consider reducing ours.. The reaction from the community was swift and emphatic. Nine councillors we have , and nine we will keep.

There was no pecking order. Each person elected had the same authority as the next. The Mayor only had a deciding vote in the event of a tie. Block voting was unheard of. Debate on contentious issues was fought with few holds barred. Rules of order stretched like the ropes of a boxing ring. When the battle was concluded , we adjourned together to the mess at the armouries and hoisted a few.

It was robust, healthy honest and above all else, open and transparent. Aurora expected nothing less. I see no reason to believe the collective intelligence has shrunk with the town's growth in population.

Saturday 22 March 2008

The Blog and Songs of Praise

When I started this enterprise sixteen months ago, I had no idea where it might lead. I start a post and the theme takes its own direction. Watching reader numbers grow became a preoccupation. The object was to share my experience but I eventually had to remind myself the entire community is not connected to the internet. With bravado, I had declared myself independent of Letters to the Editor but I discovered my readers were slow in coming..

I had to wrestle with the validity of old political maxims. How relevant are they in THE AGE OF BLOG? A post is political but also personal. I thought people would visit only if they were interested in what I had to say . I hoped there would be feedback but expected it to be civil.

I soaked up everything I heard or read about blogging. I was amazed by the number of journalists doing it. One of them said it was a tyrant. I didn't understand. Then I realized that would be about advertising revenue.

Our council has settled into a pattern of alignment. Actually, it started.that way. And so The Blog has became more defined.At first, I was half afraid of its power and freedom. The desperation to shut it down became obvious.The temptation to push it to its limits became stronger.

This Blog may be struggling in its infancy but it is certainly a powerful political tool and I believe its future is secure.

Then came the abuse. Was it a surprise? . Why read my blog if it infuriates? Why should I give space in my place to people who clearly do not hold me high in their affections. My first instinct was to respond in kind. I am nobody's idea of a sweet old grandmother. Even my grandchildren will vouch for that. Nothing in my career would suggest such a thing.

But Heather Sisman argues the negative has its place. If The Blog is to reflect Our Town and its Business, it should be the whole of it. People would not come into my home and say those things. They would not walk up to me in a public place and hurl such insults. But I am aware of those who do it in their not so private conversations. I do not complain. I do not explain. I work harder..

Songs of Praise are not a normal part of any Real Political Repertoire. The good, bad and the ugly may deserve to be seen alongside each other in the clear light of day.We will try that too and see how it goes.

Friday 21 March 2008

An Email from a Resident

The following email was received from a young resident of Aurora who first contacted me when he was in high school. Now he's away at university, but still follows the Town's politics, and keeps in touch. I have removed his name, simply for his own privacy.

Hello Ms. Buck,

It seems like ages since I wrote you last, but after reading the last several entries I thought I couldn't help but comment. I haven't been in Aurora as frequently as I usually am- I am away at University studying Honors Political Science.

Anyway, I couldn't help but share my opinion on a frequent theme you write on. From my position as an ignorant constituent, I get the impression that your views on disclosure vary from that of general counsel's. Forgive me if I am wrong, but given that politics as I am studying it is a process of open forum, why does counsel in general seem so opposed to the concept of clarity?

I can't but help sometimes when I read your blog... especially when I come across comments like this:

Anonymous Said...
"Thank goodness that you are the only coward on council!"

It is so ironic that someone has the nerve to make the claim that you are a coward and yet they are too afraid to leave their name... The irony of it...

Anyway, the drama aside, I actually do have one particular question for you. I am writing a paper for a political analysis class, and the focus of that paper is Aurora's council... One of the main issues that voters in Aurora complain about is the fact that council at face value (in general) is very 'secretive' and particularly quarrelsome. I was wondering if you could place your finger on any particular event (not person... I wouldn't ask that or put you in that position) which you felt was of significant impact or influence in leading to today's 'situation' (I know that is general but I believe that you know what I mean by that term) with council?

Thanks very much for continuing your blog... continue the conversation, because there are those of us that are listening, and come time for next election, it will be us who have listened carefully that will be able to voice our concerns and hopefully have something of an impact on the political process.

If you ever need an extra pair of hands during your next campaign, please let me know... I would be more than willing to help!

Yours sincerely,

An Aurora Resident

Monday 10 March 2008

A Kangaroo Court

I have been cheerfully emailing colleagues for months. I spend more time at that than I do blogging. I feel emails provide a great opportunity for sharing. Turns out most of council hate me for it. Even Councillor Marsh said she trashes my stuff. I am crushed.

I always appreciated getting background from councillors who had been there before me. Especially Councillors Walt Davis and the late Ron Simmons. They were born in Aurora - their roots ran deep. They went to school together and lived on opposite sides of Metcalfe Street by the railroad tracks. They were in the same class in Church Street School, played hockey on the same team. Principal Del Babcock was the coach. Yonge Street was their district and when they won their games, the fans had that old electric car rocking from side to side on the rails all the way home.

They were volunteer firefighters together. Then they were councillors. They knew where the bodies were buried, so-to-speak. When Del Babcock retired, I was the Mayor, and when I had to say a few words I felt I knew who I was talking about. Walt and Ron were of my own generation and they were more than generous with their memories. They had a great sense of themselves and the world around them.They laughed a lot.

Every town needs an institutional memory. At the moment, I'm the best we've got. I am eager to share and I do not understand why I don't get no respect.

Mind you, I can see why some of my comments might not be welcome. When the Mayor notified council she had appointed Councillor MacEachern Deputy-Mayor when she and Councillor McRoberts were going to be away. I had to tell her she didn't have authority to do that.

Then when she informed us she and Councillors MacEachern and Gaertner were going to fundraise for an unfortunate family who had a fire, I had to point out the Office of Mayor was for the purpose of the Corporation. It was commendable if they planned to use their own resources but they could not use the Office.

The unlucky family must have left town. We never heard of them, the fire or the fundraiser again.

Then there is the recent business of an exhibition of portrait photography in the town hall by a person from Georgina. Turns out that wasn't done according to town policy. Artists are required to register with the right department and pay fees to display their work for a month. It seems the Mayor's office decided to bypass the process, extend an invitation, and provide free use of the town hall to an admirer. There was a wine and cheese reception and a closed invitation list of one

At the moment, on the second floor of the town hall there's a life size cardboard cut-out of the photographer wearing a dress that covers only the bare essentials, and another of the Mayor lurking in the shadows.

Councillor Wilson got riled at me recently. I asked him why he hadn't applied for the job of treasurer when it was vacant, since he obviously feels he knows so much about municipal financing. He scrutinizes the cheque register and lists items for the Chief Financial Officer to explain. Then he indicates there must be a better way of doing things.

A recent example was a mileage cheque to a bylaw officer. It was about $380. Councillor Wilson was aghast. Had he thought more about it he would have known a bylaw officer doesn't do his/her job at a desk. If they are being paid mileage, they are using their own vehicle. It is the difference between the town maintaining a fleet of vehicles or paying employees for the use of theirs. I asked him if he thought staff were plundering the town treasury.

The Mayor and Councillor were outraged I would say such a thing to an elected representative. I also suggested the Chief Financial Officer’s job might have more significance than being required constantly and promptly respond to a Councillor's barrage of questions and hints the job could be done better.

The Chief Administrative Officer is Councillor MacEachern's favorite target. The Councillor has a writing style peculiarly her own. She suggested once, I should consult a doctor. She believed I was suffering from mad cow's disease. She should have seen both my daughters' responses to that one. I did not share it with my sons.

The ease of the internet is such a plus. An email can be read or not depending on a person's time or interest. But Councillor Granger says I am messing with his mind. The Mayor feels I am distracting her and stopping her from exercising her role. Someone else suggests I am cyber-bullying. Not being fully computer literate, I have no idea what that means.

I think I'm doing what I was elected to do and at the same time, not causing needless embarrassment and bringing down the tone of council meetings even further by doing it in public.

It's hard to watch bad stuff happening without saying anything. So, I say it - in e-mails, circulated within the council.

I think what the public can't see is just as important as what they can. Where they are not, I am. My role is to be their eyes, ears and voice.

Parliamentary rules are intended to ensure civility in public debate. They work for politicians…mostly. But staff are regularly denigrated in public. Councillor Gaertner is particularly fond of rebuking department heads as if they are grade one students and she the autocratic principal and arbiter of all standards. Protocol prohibits a response from staff. The councillor has no idea her behaviour is inappropriate. It appears to suit the Mayor's purpose to allow it to continue.

This behaviour has been evident in the last several councils. Certainly times change but I do not believe basic tenets of decency and fair play are up for grabs.

Politics is what it is. Despite wishful thinking by less experienced members, it is not about sugar and spice and all things nice.

Neither is it about hi-jacking a council meeting for the purpose of convening a Kangaroo Court.

A Random Thought

A scene out of a Monty Python movie comes to mind. Black Knight assails Arthur (the White Knight) in the forest with a stream of insults and abuse. They draw swords.

Black Knight loses both arms and legs in the fight. He hasn't laid a blade on White Knight. Amazingly he is still upright on the stump of his body. Here is how the remainder of the scene plays out:

Oh? All right, we'll call it a draw

Come on, Patsy!


Oh. Oh, I see. Running away, eh? You yellow b@$t@rds! Come back here and take what's coming to you. I'll bite your legs off!

Saturday 8 March 2008

Just for the Record

Following the council meeting, the other newspaper reported I voted in favour of the Westhill Development proposal. In the interest of keeping the facts straight, here is what I had to say about the matter:

My experience goes back a long way, since before there was a Planning Act - from when politicians were wined and dined and treated to private box hospitality at hockey and football games ,in order to curry favour when applications were made for development. It was as a result of ongoing scandalous implications, the Planning Act was created .Then everyone would know the rules and that they were being treated accordingly.

The Planning Act sets out steps municipalities are compelled to follow. No ifs ands or buts There are statutory procedures. We have followed those procedures. I support and understand the concerns of the residents and I'm glad they have the resources to go before the OMB to plead their case.

The OMB has come under a lot of criticism of late because they made decisions not always in accordance with those the politicians might wish to make, but they have prevailed and I believe they have served our community well. Considering all the technical expertise we have listened to, I am very glad there is another body that has the responsibility to listen to the arguments and measure the substance both legal and technical.

This decision will not be made by this council. I accept the reports from our staff that the application/proposal is in accordance with the Official Plan. I also accept the concerns about serious outstanding issues that have to be resolved as part of a site plan approval process. I am not going to vote in favour of this motion because I believe we should not be giving weight to one or another. The instruments are available to ensure an impartial decision which is where I would like to see it rest.

I believe the resolution to support the request of Mr. Northey has the potential of incurring costs for the taxpayers of Aurora and I will be voting against the resolution.”

Thursday 6 March 2008

Comments from "Alice In Wonderland"

Anonymous said:

The majority of council seems to be of the opinion that your constant emails are a destructive force. It seems that your negative spin diverts members from focusing on the town's business. Yet when their concerns were placed on the agenda for a public airing you opposed the agenda from the start, then left the meeting to avoid a public discussion of your behavior. It appeared as though you were too cowardly to deal face-to-face, preferring instead to bully behind the scenes. How do you feel knowing that others must delete your words? What is the point of hurting, not helping? ~ March 5, 2008 11:54 AM

I am publishing this comment because I believe it may have come from a member of council. A verbal opinion can sound sensible, depending on vocabulary. When the same thought is put into writing however, it can often be seen in quite a different light.

How can words on a screen "bully" anyone? Or a sensible person be distracted by words?

It is not the first time in history free speech has been deemed heretical. Fascist Nazi book burning and the Spanish Inquisition comes to mind..

Why would a council believe they have a right to publicly debate the conduct of any person? If that right was claimed by all, the catfights would be endless and horrendous. For the sake of civil dialogue, rules of order currently prohibit such an exercise.

The agenda has a place for councillors to promote community events. Much of what we do at council meetings seems to be promoting community events and by the way self-promotion rather than corporation business.

I feel nothing about people not wishing to read what I write. It is the essence of our freedom.

Your last point is plaintive. I feel your pain. What is the point of hurting rather than helping?

From my perspective, it has been clear since 2003 that nothing I have to say is of any interest to councillors who believe democracy is about exercising power by whatever means, fair or foul.

I would prefer writing positively about council's accomplishments if I saw anything of the like happening. But freezing me out has set me free, don't you see? I am not responsible, if your perception of political acumen lies in shutting up the solitary opposition rather than by genuine political dialogue.

I enjoy nothing more than a free open and civil exchange of ideas. On any day, I will take my chances with the power of logic.

I will continue to use the skills I have, to best endeavour. I will provide the community with a play-by-play commentary of what is happening and let the chips fall where they may. In time it will be the electorate which will exercise the only judgement that matters.

Politically reckless and carefree I may be....cowardly never.

By the way, since you have such a driving need to delete my e-mails, why are you reading my blogs?

A Comment on - Go Figure

I have chosen to post my reponse to Anonymous' comment here instead of in the comments window.

Anonymous said:

If you are aware of current societal concerns, you would be aware that new information informs and changes on a daily basis. The times they are a changing.
Are you?

And my response:

When the Region of York was created and given planning authority over nine Municipalities there was not much inclination on the part of the municipalities to defer to the Region. Murray Pound was the first director of planning. He undertook a study of the Region's land forms. Sue Seibert, our recently retired Director of Planning worked for the region at that time and participated in the study. Sue became the first planner in the Town of Aurora. It was from her I learned about the drumlins, the types of clay left behind after the ice age and the fact the Moraine held the "last vestiges of Carolinian Forest." Long before any government at Queen's Park had heard of the Moraine we understood it's significance.

Since those years, we have treated the lands with sensitivity. They make up much of our municipality. Even before then .we were one of the first municipalities to have air line mapping to clearly delineate flood plains for a hundred year storm. We have been assiduous in our determination that no development ever takes place in flood plains, in concert with the Holland Valley Conservation Authority and its successor, South Lake Simcoe Conservation Authority.

In all modesty, I do not need to be lectured on how to exercise good stewardship over the place we are privileged to share and pass on to our children. I believe the values of the people who created a settlement in this place one hundred and fifty years ago have been upheld.

I take personal exception to relative newcomers looking down long patrician noses at our community , past and present, who have striven to protect the town's heritage and make this a better place for the present and future inhabitants. Frankly, they piss me off.

I do not argue in favour of a golf course and a seventy-five town house condominium.Although fifty-four million dollars of new assessment would contribute substantially to stabilise our tax rate.
I support abiding by Provincial legislation. . However much one might wish to arguethe law is an ass and inadequate to protect the Moraine. It is the Law and we are bound to abide by the law. Planning staff are statutory officers. They must advise council in accordance with the law. Lawyers retained to advise council have the same professional obligation.

There have been two Public Planning Hearings held for public input into this application and every opportunity provided for formal objections to the plan.The most recent hearing lasted from 7pm. until miidnight.

Staff have previously advised there are serious outstanding issues the applicant has yet to address. My understanding of the decision made by council last night will involve hiring new consultants to take an opposite position to the work so far undertaken. I do not believe that is a legitimate use of the town's resources. Unless the applicant abandons the project, neither do I believe it will lead to a satisfactory outcome from any perspective.

I put considerable store on the breadth of my experience, knowledge and intelligence. I do not claim infallibility. But I do commit to taking my responsibility seriously and being accountable to the people who elected me to act on their behalf. That I might find myself in conflict with other views on any issue is something I anticipate. We all have that privilege.

I make no apology for that .I will continue to exercise my independent judgement in consideration of what I believe to be right for the community.

Wednesday 5 March 2008

Go Figure

The applicants did what they were required to do. The Planning Department meticulously followed the law. As did the Regional Planning Department, the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority and the Ministry of the Environment.

Hundred of thousands of dollars public and private and countless hours have gone into the process. Outstanding issues remained to be resolved.

Last night ,Aurora council threw all of it into the dumpster. They discounted the work of the town's planning department and all the other agencies and voted to join residents in opposition to the plan at the upcoming O.M.B Hearing.

There was a time, not too long ago, when there were few statutary requirements for processing development applications. Newspapers often carried allegations of bribery and corruption in municipal government. Success in the development industry depended on having friends in the right places. Even politicians invested money in land speculation.

Then the Planning Act was passed. Precise steps had to be followed. In the Harris regime in the nineties, timing was regulated. The rules were intended to protect everyone's interest,ensure transparency and accountability. People still have property rights, they have the right to use their land and the right to protect it. The Oak Ridges Moraine Act does not deprive property owners within the area of their rights. It requires them to abide by rules intended to protect The Moraine.

Last night a phalanx of passionate advocates for the protection of the Oak Ridges Moraine filled Aurora Council Chamber. They argued against the need for another golf course. The town house development will use scarce water resources they said. They made a number of claims which were simply non-factual.

Council vote to deny the application was seven to one.

The vote to partner with residents in opposition to the proposal at the O.M.B. was seven to one.

On May 23rd 2007, another development in The Moraine had a Public Planning Hearing. Sterling Cook and his wife of south Aurora expressed disgruntlement at the slowness of the process. They had a landscape architect processing the plan.

The atmosphere in the council chamber was quite different. It was warm and welcoming and positively cloying.

Public Planning Hearings are not normally scheduled during summer months. People are not paying much attention at that time of the year. Council meetings are reduced to two a month. Kids are not in school.

Nevertheless, on May 23rd, staff were hustled by the Mayor and Councillor MacEachern to hurry the thing along. The Planning Director advised: "Madame Mayor, there are statutory requirements to meet" Still they managed to meet them and a meeting was held in August. The application process was completed.

That project also was in the Oak Ridges Moraine.

There were no passionate advocates present in the chamber to save the Moraine that day

They were conspicuous by their absence.

Tuesday 4 March 2008

Alice in Wonderland

Tuesday's meeting was particularly weird. Few are normal but this one was a doozy.

It started with a portrait photographer from Georgina doing an effective job of self-promotion. She thanked council profusely for allowing her to use the Skylight Gallery on the third floor of the Town Hall for a show of her work. She spoke of a collection she had created called Women of Wisdom in which Mayors Morris and McCallion of Mississauga were featured.

There were presentations to sixteen young hockey players who had won the “Silver Sticks Tournament Championship”. Each was called forward to pose for a photo with the Mayor. They had already experienced the thrill of being champions, received the trophy and carried it triumphantly home. We have a Civic Awards night in May to celebrate outstanding achievement.

Heritage Awards were presented also for the second time I gather. It seems they too had already been presented at Queen's Park. More photos were taken with the Mayor front and centre.

Then there was a video to watch. It purported to be about the dedicated work of David Tomlinson, a prominent naturalist in Aurora. The Mayor’s face and voice were heavily featured.

Afterwards, there was a lengthy discussion about Ontario Power Authority's plans to locate a Power Generating Station in Aurora. It ended at ten o'clock. Then we started on the Town's business agenda. I left about ten-thirty pm. Council and some staff wound their weary way home after midnight.

It is not an unusual scenario but by no means is it normal. Every week people appear by invitation of the Mayor to promote their particular enterprise. Sometimes presentations made in committee are repeated in council to take advantage of the television cameras.

By law, at the beginning of every term, we are required to fix and publicize the dates and times when town business will be debated and decisions made. Agendas are prepared and published on the web. Meetings commence promptly and immediately go off the rails. Usually all of two hours are spent receiving presentations from people the Mayor has encountered and invited to come and use council meetings to promote their projects...on camera.
Exiting the council chamber and going behind closed doors for forty-five minutes at the start of a public meeting is not unheard of, leaving staff, reporters, members of the public wondering if we are ever coming back.

The Mayor's voice is seldom still. The nittering and nattering continues unabated except when she calls upon Councillor MacEachern to allow herself time to breathe and ensure little participation from anyone else at the table.

It is the function of the presiding officer to move an agenda along in accordance with the rules and ensure impartial consideration by council of matters to be decided. So what is the solution when the presiding officer has a compulsion for the comfort of hearing her own voice non-stop?

The problem is made more difficult when the majority of council does not understand the pattern is weird... and growing ever weirder. Pretty soon, Alice will be too large to fit through the door.

What to do. What to do.