"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

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.


Anonymous said...

Your disingenuous tale of woe reminds me of a Sicilian proverb told me many years ago ...

"If ONE person calls you an ass, ignore them. If TWO people call you an ass, ignore them. If THREE people call you an ass ... check your head for long ears."

Ms Buck ... you have long ears. Very, very long ears.

Anonymous said...

Lady, (and I use the term loosely), I've read a number of your e-mails sent "cheerfully" to your colleagues. Voters would be shocked. I had been suckered by your endearing "wee Scottish granny, fighting the good fight" shtick -- but it doesn't cut it with me anymore now that I've read a few of your e-mails and seen with my own eyes what a nasty person you really are. Cut the crap, Evelyn, and resign before voters toss you out next election. Too bad we can't do it sooner. I'll not be back to this blog -- your hypocrisy and viciousness sickens me.

Anonymous said...

you always tell it like it is evelyn buck. that is what my husband and i like a bout you. you mite not be soft and nice but your honest and that's what we like best. i'm impressed with your computer skills. way to go.

PS. I'm just as old as you are and those young people have no idea how aewsome you are for what you do

Anonymous said...

I have enjoyed reading your blogs and the comments. Who's the dingo who suggested you resign? RESIGN? There are a lot of people who voted for you - if you resign, you're taking all the trust they vested in you and stuffing it down their throats. Don't resign.

Anonymous said...

I suspect I'm OLDER than Ms. Buck and have followed her career from the beginning -- a couple of times even voting for her.

Second last is not "a lot of people" when it comes to the election. With all Ms. Buck's years in politics, how come a bunch of newcomers ended up ahead of her? My friends tell me they are tired of, and embarrassed by, her actions. I think the rest of the voters are, too.

Times have changed, Ms. Buck, and even us old geezers have to step aside. We may not like it -- but with seven councillors calling you an "ass" (in so many words) it's time to take the hint.

This is a divided council -- you and the rest of council. Leave now with your head high -- before you get the boot.

Anonymous said...

Maybe you people are insecure about small towns leading to small minds.

Suburbs lack diversity, a density of social interaction, and exposure to difference and newness.

The only smart, educated, judicious people in Aurora are the staff. But I don't blame them for quitting in droves.

Why would anyone want to spend one second of their lives listening to the Machiavellian, poll watching, opportunistic, cold, chilly, icy, unprincipled, and just plain boring Phyllis and Evelina?