"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 30 May 2008

Mush Mush

Sidney Pollock died this week. He was seventy-three years old. He directed many Oscar winning unforgettable movies. Charlie Rose, my favourite PBS host devoted almost his hour long to recorded talks he had with Mr. Pollock over the past thirty years.

The substance of their chat was as follows; The best decade for movies was the seventies. They came on the heels of the revolutions and turmoils of the sixties. They were about relationships. The measure of success is when a movie gets inside a person's head and stays for at least a week.

Are good movies being made today? Nothing is as good as it could and should be. Box office returns for the first three days after release are all that matters. What happens afterwards is of no consequence. Sidney included books, T.V. programs, plays, journalism, in his judgement. He could have included politics and the lack of depth and substance that exists there as well.

From my perspective, Barak Obama is a classic example. A suit repeating an empty slogan, the icon hungry media echoing each other's vacuous observations over and over. The U.S. is well on its way to electing another media-created character to the White House.

Charlie had an interview with Tom Brokaw, another journalist, a few weeks ago. He said the hair stood up on the back of his neck the first time he heard Obama. He found his speech electrifying. I had a similarly powerful reaction. My skin crawled when I first heard him speak on the hustings. For a different reason; I heard him echo the voice of Martin Luther King Jr. He was using the cadence of King's speech, right down to the quaver in his voice when he coined the phrase "I have a dream."
I was horrified by the cynicism, the blatant calculation of that act and the exploitation of his audience. He never repeated it. My guess is someone with better judgement than himself advised against using such clearly reprehensible tactics.

The media's comments on the gaffe were conspicuous by their absence.

Days later, Obama vehemently denied rumours he is a Muslim. He claimed he had attended the same Christian church for twenty years. Striding across the platform he declared, "I talk to Jesus!"

The crowd roared their approval. Apparently they are hoping for another President with a direct line to Jesus. One who clearly believes being a Muslim is a definite negative. Not much inclusiveness there I thought.

Again the media were strangely silent.

I pondered how much courage it must have taken for Hilary Clinton to put herself out before her fellow Americans as a candidate for the most important and difficult job in the world. No-one could have a better understanding of the brutality she would encounter in the campaign. How often she re-iterates her profound belief she is living in a great country at a time of terrible problems and whatever happens, whoever becomes the democratic candidate, she will still consider herself to have been privileged to have had the opportunity.

Hilary Clinton is clearly a person of tremendous strength, stamina, intelligence and integrity. She has worked for years to prepare herself to be accepted as a serious candidate for the full weight of the presidency.

She stands fast against thrusting members of her own party who are eager to exploit the wave to elect a star and want her to throw in the towel before the fight is over "for the good of the party". Don't worry about the country, just let's focus on the party. They are surf-boarding like the media , hoping no doubt to find a place in the firmament, following a will o' the wisp, a phenomena with no more substance than a Second Coming of Elvis Presley.

I have tried to no avail, not to be drawn into the American political scene. I thought Al Gore had a strange demeanour. John Kerry looked and sounded slight, a bit like Stockwell Day. Bill Clinton did have the elusive quality of leadership.How else could he have survived that scandal of his own making? By all accounts John F. Kennedy's private behavior was no better but he did and still does to some extent escape the scrutiny of the media. George Bush is the most catastrophic historical event in living history.

If what is between the ears is more important than what is between the legs, Hilary on the other hand has everything to offer. Watching her continued denigration by America's media is exactly as Sidney Pollock described. Like myna birds they repeat each other's mindless babble. Their criticism of Hilary is without doubt the most brutal I have observed in the past forty years and it came from both sexes.

At one debate, the moderator a familiar and respected national journalist informed her how much she is hated and asked her to respond. No such question was posed to Barak Obama.

Hilary garners enthusiastic support all across the land but the fact escapes the attention of the media. Not all of them of course. It's never all of them. But the people making thoughtful and reasoned comments are drowned out by the cacophony of the talking heads of the chattering classes.

Nothing is as good as it could and should be. It is a triumph of mediocrity. Everything mulched to a tasteless, odourless, colourless mush. "All the easier to feed you with my dear", as the Big Bad Wolf said to Little Red Riding Hood.

Tuesday 27 May 2008

Spotlight on Hate.

I talked to the Chief of Police about the hate mail. It was circulated to Councillors and the Director of Corporate Services.

At last reference, I thought there was little the police could do about it. Then I learned it had been forwarded to the Director of Corporate Services. It was also shown to an RCMP officer who agreed it was a serious matter. So I talked to Armand LaBarge, the Chief of Police.

He told me it wasn't threatening. I knew that. Only about two cases are prosecuted in a year and they are usually directed against a group or an organization. Identifying the culprit would be difficult. Sufficient evidence for a charge that could be prosecuted would be unlikely. Like I said, there was little the police could do about it.

I turned to my own resources and without trying very hard, established certain facts. Material that arrives at the town hall, by mail, across the reception desk or through the mail slot into the building, is taken to the department of corporate services. It is date-stamped as received.

It is distributed by staff to the various parties addressed. Bob Panizza, Director of Corporate Services, received a copy from the Mayor's office.

The original came to me in an unmarked envelope in my agenda package. Everything from my mail box in the councillors' room comes that way. The letter indicated it would be circulated to all councillors. It did not bear the town stamp.

The councillors room is secure. No one has access except the Director's staff and councillors. Since it was not received or distributed by staff, it is reasonable to assume it was distributed by a person with access to the Councillors room. It would therefore have to have been a member of Council.

I would bet my last dollar it was neither Councillors Bob McRoberts nor Alison Collins-Mrakas. I doubt it was the Mayor or several other councillors. So it comes down to the individual who does the hate thing regularly although always by e-mail and never before anonymously.

The writer claimed refuge in anonymity out of fear she said. The only potential for fear would be recognition of the capacity for hatred that renders a person completely incapable of rational thought.

And Oh yes! we have a Code of Conduct coming through. Had the writer identified herself, the letter would certainly have contravened the Code, been a cause for complaint and investigation by an Integrity Commissioner, at the expense of the taxpayers, whose interests we are all supposed to be representing.

One of the accusations made against me in the letter is that I am the cause of all the legal costs generated during this term. The $16,200 George Rust-D'Eye legal bill was to "explore" options for council to "deal with my behaviour".

Success in life is measured on a personal scale. My own is simple. To rise in the morning at peace with myself. To have a zest for living. Envying no one. A worthwhile task at hand to accomplish and the wherewithall to make a contribution to one's community. Life doesn't get any better than that in my book.

All the rest is piffle. Costly piffle but piffle nevertheless.

Friday 23 May 2008

Still Cogitating

I have never at any time contemplated resignation. I am seldom inclined to back away from the fray. Being elected has always been my sanction to rattle the bars and shake loose the iron grip of the common denominator that politics contrives. The triumph of the mundane. The need to be safe and offend no-one. The elevation of a backyard clothesline to international status as our main claim to fame.

It is six months since I concluded little of what I had to offer would make a difference at this council table . My only option was to take my message directly to the community. It was a calculated risk.

When she was struggling with the realization of the seeming futility of being a member of this council, I urged Grace Marsh not to underestimate the attention and support in the community for a competent position sincerely and capably presented. What feels like failure is not perceived that way outside the council.

The positive aspect of the recent decision on how to fill the gap left by Grace was the powerful expression of the community's reaction and the clarity of their understanding of the issues at hand.

"Much has changed since the last election", they said. The "unfortunate circumstances" of the resignation were repeatedly referenced. Their appreciation of what had been lost, how that came about and how it should be remedied was ably articulated. We want to choose the successor, they demanded.

Though the matter has been decided and the seat filled, I suspect the last has not been heard of the issue.


On the same night we made the fateful decision on how to fill the vacancy, we passed a resolution to approve a Code of Conduct. It was not the night to launch a second powerful argument. A bylaw must still be prepared and presented to council for adoption.

Councillor Collins-Mrakas has concerns about wording in The Code. Alison has a substantial body of skills. She holds a Masters Degree in Science and a second in Law; the latter from Osgoode Hall. She teaches Ethics in Public Service, Mediation and Research . She presents papers, lectures and mediates in dispute resolution. Her favourite occupation is research.

In the same way Grace was a huge asset in financial matters, Alison is too in her particular field. Some wording of The Code is flawed she proffers. No matter. It's like spitting into the wind.

There is no requirement in the Municipal Act for Councils to adopt a Code of Conduct. Once it is adopted, it must be enforced. For that we must retain an Integrity Commissioner. There is a complaint procedure and penalties are provided for breach of Da Code.

The penalties range from a reprimand to a three month suspension of remuneration. A councillor's seat must be declared vacant after a consistent three month absence.

After a municipal conference in Ottawa, the Mayor informed council of a conversation she had with George Rust-D'Eye . They were discussing new regulations to increase transparency in municipal governance. Mr. Rust-D'Eye according to the Mayor, stated the problem with the regulations is they have no teeth. There are no consequences or penalties.

Several municipalities have adopted Codes. There seem to be unanticipated consequences. The Town of Meaford is under siege from their Integrity Commissioner. One veteran councillor has already resigned stating he did not run for office to submit to accusations of financial mismanagement.

The Town of East Gwillimbury adopted a Code. It resulted in their Mayor and a Councillor being "investigated " for failure to heed direction from the Chief Administrative Officer. Apparently it was the cao's complaint that brought on the investigation. The price, without legal costs has been published at $11,200. The findings and remedy for the offence was for the Mayor and Councillor to pay $75,000 for tidying up what they thought was a mess .

The Mayor and Councillor had been advised to retain legal council. They did. It was never apparent what role he had in the proceedings. They were also advised they would have a conflict of interest if they attended meetings at which the issue was being discussed. They didn't. The community was outraged. East Gwillimbury's five member council was decimated and divided.

The extent of the penalty caused council. minus the Mayor and his accomplice, to committ to raising the funds in the community to pay off the penalty. It would not pf course compensate the taxpayers for the $11,200.cost plus the legal costs for the "investigation"

. In Aurora ,our legal costs for an "investigation" was $16.200 So far as can be determined there
were no interviews conducted except perhaps with the Mayor .There was a press conference and a media release at which legal counsel on hand. George Rust D'Eye was counsel for East Gwillimbury and Aurora in both matters although East Gwillimbury did have a Code of Conduct adopted by by-law. Aurora did not.

In the course of "the investigation" many interviews were conducted to determine the facts of an enterprise already publicly acknowledged. Hundreds of pages of documentation were generated. So much that when the decision was made to release the report to the public, the sheer volume of paper was referenced as a deterrent . Mr. George Rust-D'Eye was the solicitor retained by East Gwillimbury to "investigate" the capricious act of the Mayor and their most experienced councillor.

The City of Toronto has an Integrity Commissioner. He has an Administrative Assistant. The commissioner's retainer at last mention is $104,000 a year.The administrative assistant 's retainer is in addition. The issues investigated appear to be complaints by councillors against councillors. Once he found a councillor had offended against The Code during an election. He recommended the Councillor should apologize. She did not.

Council was not of a mind to enforce the issue. It might have had something to do with the draconian penalties for failure to obey. It might also have been they could see how easy it would be for any one of them to be in that same circumstance.

I've mentioned these things to colleagues. Like I said, it's like spitting into the wind.

CORRECTION - Alison says she would not describe what she does as teaching ethics though she does provide lectures, etc. She provides oversight of and advice regarding and lectures on research ethics at the University. She also sits on the University Tribunal mediating and/or adjudicating student non-academic offences.

Alison thought I might be exaggerating her skills. I do not think so. In the course of an election, it is often hard to absorb all the information candidates are presentng about themselves. Until I asked, I had no idea of the breadth of her experience. I knew she was coming at things from a different direction to myself but we eventually arrive at the same point in logic.

We do not always vote the same way but that's not the requirement of a councillor. Bringing forward whatever resources one has, independently exercising one's mind and being personally accountable is what it's about.

Alison Collins-Mrakas like Grace Marsh, is an invaluable asset.

Friday 16 May 2008


Tuesday's Council Meeting was particularly vexing. Despite my experience with this council I was hopeful the people would be heard. I have found it wise not to comment on the heels of a bad outcome. I am always haunted by the thought there might have been something else I could have contributed to make a difference.

After I've contemplated for a few days, I generally come to the conclusion that sadly there was never a possibility of a different outcome. Then I look for a positive side. Incredibly, I can always find it.

This time, there were speakers from the community to address the question of how to fill the vacancy created by Grace's resignation. They all had the same message. There should be a by-election. The people should choose the successor. The applause from the audience left no doubt of strong support for that position. But it was all for nought.

The stage was set to meet whatever challenges might be presented to Mayor Morris' agenda. Where previously a two-thirds majority of eight had been set at five, now it was six. That made it possible for two to vote for a reconsideration without allowing it to pass.

External counsel shared the table with Town staff ready to speak to every possible challenge that might be raised. His purpose in being there became apparent as the evening progressed. He offered a personal comment in contribution to the Mayor's side of the debate.

Finally. a letter was included in the agenda from John Gallo saying he would accept an appointment if it was offered. That option was finalized without debate.

The positive aspect was participation by residents in the events and how they must have felt when their input was described as "lobbyists" by the redoubtable Councillor Granger. The Mayor dismissed the multitude of emails received as "form letter emails."

The recognition of how Grace Marsh felt before she made the decision to resign. would be clear and startling at that point. Add the image of the horrendous scene on the stairs to the second floor of the town hall the night before Grace's resignation and the picture is complete.

There can be no lingering doubts as to the nature of governance in the Town of Aurora during the 2007-2010 Term of Office.

In the body of the agenda, we passed a resolution to adopt a Code of Conduct. It purports to assure the community of respect, integrity, decorum, openness and transparency and consultation with the people before epic decisions are made. There are penalties for failure to uphold the Code.

That is the subject for another Blog and a potential source of formal, sober and impartial judgement in the near future.

One More Time, and the Last

I stated in my previous response to a comment, the attention of the Chairman of the Police Services Board was drawn to the election activities in 2003 of the York Region Police Association. The exercise was not repeated in the election of 2006. There was no breach of the Code of Discipline therefore and no cause for complaint. That's how the system is supposed to work.

I am aware of the responsibilities of an elected official and the significance of comments. If I have something of substance to say,I say it. I need no prompting nor am I likely to be provoked into
making unjust or unfounded accusations.

You have my answer. Enough already. If you have a beef against the police ...do it yourself.

Thursday 15 May 2008

Response to a comment

A comment this morning asks if I mean to suggest the York Regional Police are breaking a law
by campaigning for financial advantage to the police in Municipal elections.

The Police Act governs police services. Within is the Code of Discipline A Charge or complaint can be filed under the Code. It's an internal matter and dealt with by the department brass.

The Police Association is not the Police Department. Its legitimate purpose is to represent the interests including financial, of members of the force up to management rank.

The attention of the Police Services Board Chairman was drawn to involvement of the Association in the municipal election of 2003. In the last election they were not involved. But the same questions as before were asked by Lawmen of York. It's not a big stretch to imagine who they represent. I know of no law that prohibits anyone from creating a website to accomplish a particular objective.

If there was a breach of the Code though it would not represent breaking the law in the sense of the question or my comment.

The Association of Professional Firefighters do not have the same restrictions on political activity But their campaigning efforts are also likely to have little effect on election results. There is only a suggestion of influence. As I remember their questionnaire came from Ajax or somewhere equally remote.

I do not assume firefighters or police officers are any different to any other citizen in how they jealously guard their right to make their own choices in any election. Their association executive needs to be elected ,the efforts they make to get re-elected would undoubtedly rest on the impression they create of benefitting the membership.

In the last election we had several other organizations involved. The Green Party circulated a questionnaire for candidates. A regional environment group was another. They no doubt circulated to the membership names of candidates who gave acceptable answers to their cause. Neither advertised their choice.

Aurora Sports groups formed a coalition also in time for the election They sponsored an All Candidates Meeting and circulated a questionnaire. Ron Weese, President of Aurora Minor Soccer Association and organizer of the coalition published his recommended choices on a web site.

The Coalition of Ratepayers was also organized in time for the election by Sue Walmer, understood to be heavily involved in Phyllis Morris successful campaign for the mayor's office. A questionnaire was circulated and an all candidates meeting held in the Council Chambers. Questions said to be random were asked at the meeting. But that became suspect with at least one question which could not possibly be answered by other than someone who had served on a council with Tim Jones.It accused Tim of something done in camera for which there is no record.

No slate of candidates was published by the Coalition of Ratepayers that I noticed. It has become clear since however by five members of council who consistently cast the same vote.

None of the election activity is questionable. All of it was within our democratic rights. None of it was hidden. Yet it was not necessarily understood by everyone.

Thank you for the question and the opportunity to expand on how an election can be won or lost and how elected representatives can be accountable to interests separate to the general well-being of the community.

Wednesday 14 May 2008

Best Wishes

I heard from Grace yesterday. She thanks everyone for their understanding and support. She is enjoying love, life, laughter and healing relaxation with family and friends and sends her best wishes.

Minus the Blog and readers, my life would be glum this morning. I don't remember ever feeling this way about a Town Hall situation before. But there is comfort in knowing I am not alone. I remember telling Grace when she was feeling down she should never underestimate the people. They are always there. They are paying attention. They are understanding and appreciating all you do. They proved it last night.

The Council chamber was full. Speaker after speaker expressed their dissatisfaction and vehemently insisted on their right to elect a replacement councillor to fill Grace's seat. Their powerful representation went unheeded.

So you may ask how did we arrive at this point? It's not complicated. I think we have to walk this path to arrive at something better. Our politics have been changing over the past number of years. Our town has grown. New elements have taken root and been able to flourish.

Campaign practices range widely in a free and democratic society. Some have taken hold which would not have passed without notice in the Town a few years ago.

In 1999, two week-ends before the election, a white RV was seen touring the town. I saw it on the second week-end and heard about it after the first. It was on John West Way festooned with banners naming candidates not to support. That was a first. Our politics are robust. But never so blatant and with such intensity.

I saw the vehicle in Tim Horton's parking lot. I have regretted not getting out of my car and asking the driver to whose campaign he belonged to. There were other banners naming a slate of candidates to support.

Phyllis Morris did not win the Mayor's chair that year. John West was re-elected at the head of the poll. The negative tactics may have had a positive effect.

Organizations have been involved before. The Regional Police and the Firefighters Associations put on their own separate little stints. Candidates would receive a phone call. There would be a series of questions always ending with the same two. How do you rate the importance of this public service and would you vote to provide whatever we need to do the job.

The Police Act prohibits involvement in politics for members of a police force. It doesn't mean they can't exercise their rights. Just that they can't do it as policemen. In the last election they went underground and called themselves Lawmen of York Region.

In these days of contract negotiations, it is a ridiculous exercise. The intended result would be to advise members of the association which candidates deserved their support.

It was so guileless, it was funny. All a candidate needed to do was give the correct answers. I could never make myself do it. It was entirely unlikely anyone would ever know I had sold out the store. Those who did would likely see nothing wrong. I never thought the Associations had the power to significantly influence their membership.

Maybe I had scrupulosity of an amateur. Maybe a wild-eyed radical. A hopeless idealist. Whatever it was I could not play the silly game.

So I forfeit the popular vote. I reach instead for the vote that will allow me to be the person I am. Because all of these years there has been a place for someone like me. It's the secret knowledge that binds me to this place and the politics of our time.

Tuesday 13 May 2008

5.05 p.m. COUNTDOWN

5.05 p.m. Further Bulletin

Four more emails in favour of a by-election.
Two for an appointment.
Councillor Gaertner has broken ranks a couple of times in committee .
Then something happened between committee and council and she changed her vote.. What the people say does have an influence. I know she means it when she says it.

Bulletin Update

Email requests are still coming in. Four more this morning requesting a by-election. None for appointment. One saying council members are all Timmy supporters and "your boy will be under scrutiny in the next election". I think that could be support for a by-election.

Councillor Gaertner has been consistent during the last term and this. She believes Council must listen to the people, despite all else and do what "they " want. I believe she is sincere and will hold to her principles. If that happens and her cohorts dont have the opportunity to persuade her differently, then we will have a by-election.

Today is the day.

Sunday 11 May 2008


Next Tuesday an external legal consultant will attend council to advise on complexities created by our procedure bylaw. I voted against the last revision. The lawyer has given two written opinions already. The first was simple and to the point. It was one full page and a couple of lines. It confirmed my contention that the town's bylaw could not supersede provincial legislation.

That legislation calls for a decision to be made about how a vacancy will be filled within sixty days of the declaration of the vacancy. A special meeting of council was called last Monday to attend to the matter. I moved the seat be declared vacant and filled by by-election.

It was requested the question be called in two parts. The first part was adopted. The second part won a vote of four to three; a majority. The Mayor voted and created a tie.

The Mayor stated she had been afraid of that and noted the matter could not now be reconsidered for six months. The clerk confirmed that contention. I argued the position was not tenable. Provincial law cannot be superseded by local bylaw. I added that a tie vote is not a decision. A decision is still pending, and under Provincial law, must be made within sixty days. It cannot wait for six months.

At that point the clerk stated he needed an outside legal opinion on the matter

Notwithstanding that advice, it was moved and seconded that the seat be filled by appointment. The motion was accepted by the Mayor. The form for appointment was on the table before each councillor. The vote was five to three.

At that point Councillor Gaertner moved the matter be deferred until the legal advice was obtained. Councillor Gaertner is on record as stating her conviction that council must listen to the people and do what they want. That motion passed.

Before the start of last Tuesday's council-in-committee meeting, Councillor McRoberts informed me he intended to put forward a Notice of Motion for the question of filling the vacancy to be reconsidered. I advised against it. A commitment had been made to the public that the matter would be dealt with at the next Council meeting. The mayor had indicated all emails received from the public would be part of the agenda. It was intended the people would be heard before a decision is made.

Councillor McRoberts said the Clerk had informed him it had to be done this way.

It was not part of the agenda. We had no motion in writing before us. It was a notice of motion. Nevertheless, Chairperson Evelina MacEachern put the notice of motion to a vote and it received five votes to three.

Votes in committee of council are not final. They must be ratified by the formal meeting of council. The following day the Mayor informed the media the question of a by-election was off the table. She repeated that assertion at a breakfast meeting of the Chamber of Commerce the following day. She sted she had received twenty emails supporting a by-election and twenty for an appointment.

My inbox has more than eighty emails to council (and still counting!!) requesting a by-election as the only democratic way of filling the vacancy. Five are in in favour of appointment plus one anonymous.

Subsequent to a challenge by Councillor Collins-Mrakas to the Mayor's perception, the lawyer who had already given an opinion, was asked to "revise" his opinion and we subsequently received a four-page dissertation. As I understand it, council is still required to deal with the question. A vote in committee rejecting reconsideration is not a final outcome.

The lawyer will be present on Tuesday to further clarify his advice if need be.

Saturday 10 May 2008


Bulletin: so far 85 emails in my inbox in favour of a by-election. 5 in favour of an appointment. One anonymous.


I have had hate mail delivered to my box at the town hall.It is three pages long and entitled :

Evelyn Buck : a destructive force.

The writer wished to "remain anonymous out of fear". I am accused of

  • Being the cause of a dysfunctional council;
  • Creating discord;
  • Manipulation of councillors into emotional responses;
  • Grace Marsh's resignation;
  • Tim Jones defeat in the last election;
  • Procedural dilemnas;
  • Costing $40,000. for a by-election;
  • $16,000 for lawyer's fees to explore options for dealing with my behaviour;
  • Bringing a torrent of pollution to the town's business ;
  • Making personal attacks on other councillors;
  • Being willful, malicious and self-righteous;
  • Seeking to create conflict;
  • Caring more about winning than anything else;
  • Creating the potential for more resignations;

All the while I thought I was having no influence at all on this council with its controlling block of five votes of which I am not one.

I leave the descriptive language which filled the three typewritten pages of the letter to readers' imagination. It is not elevating.

I have pondered how to handle the situation. I believe hate mail is against the law. Should I have a chat with the Chief of Police? Could they do anything about it. Did anyone see who put it in my box? The Councillors' office is secure. If it came from outside it had to be handed to reception at the town hall entrance - unless it was someone with access to the councillors' office.

Was it handed to the administrative assistant? Or was it placed in my box when her back was turned? Was it a councillor who needed to be anonymous in case I would direct the letter be placed on the Council Agenda? I have had similar but shorter emails from a councillor.

Nasty letters to the editor have a name attached. I can deal with them or not, if I so choose. But this one is sinister. Should I feel threatened? By a delusional coward? I don't think so.

Now and then I feel a twinge about doing the Blog. Though it is probably happening elsewhere it is probably the first time Aurora councillors have had to contend with this additional form of communication. Of course if things were working as they should and council was congenial there would be no reason for concern. I would be writing positive stuff.

Then I think - why should I not use it. It's much the same as having a conversation with a resident. They ask what was this about and that. Who was it asked you to step aside and let him have your seat the day after the election? The Blog allows me to fill in the details of the ongoing saga which is their Town business. Only in more detail and to more than one person at a time.

When I write a Letter to the Editor it is open to contradiction, agreement or criticism. People tell me it's appreciated.

Mind you, if council was functioning as it should I would not be so frank in my observations. It would be necessary to nurture a cordial working relationship with colleagues. But since it has been clear from the beginning, there was little interest or need for the gang five to hear any views but their own. They had all the votes and all the expertise they wanted or needed to take care of the town's business with no input from the rest of us. I gave it two-thirds of a year before I abandoned hope. I still hope it might improve.

When we were a small town with a small Town Hall in the middle of the downtown block, Council had few secrets from the community. A politician's character and behaviour were familiar . Discussions and decisions were abroad almost before we were. People could follow the play-by-play even without Aurora Cable Cameras.

There was no place to hide. A person could have a ton of different reasons for a particular vote but heaven help him or her if caught being blatantly hypocritical. A facility for double-speak was not an asset.

Nowadays a reputation can be ripped to shreds through no fault of the individual. A person's flanks need to be protected.

That is likely why I am emphatic and take time to make my points clear in what passes for council debate.

Do I enjoy it? Yes, of course I do. Do I hope I am making a contribution?

Why else would I do it?

Thursday 8 May 2008


The Mayor is quoted in the press stating the question of a by-election is no longer on the table.

A By-election supporter has asked if that means there is no point in making representation to council. Is the issue dead?

The fact is decisions can not be made in Committee. The public has a right be informed in advance of items to be decided in a council meeting. The objective is openness and transparency and an opportunity for input if desired. It is required by law.

At the last council meeting an indication was given to all present and to people at home, the question would be dealt with at the next council meeting.

Public forum prior to a council meeting and the opportunity to delegate to council is part of the democratic structure of municipal government.

The opportunity has been used by citizens on a number of occasions. When the traffic calming tender came in at $211,000 dollars instead of the estimated $80,000, residents from the north-east quadrant came in droves to the council chamber and persuaded councillors to change the votes they had cast in committee. They had received, on direction from the Mayor, hand-delivered letters from the town to alert them to the possibility the project would be cancelled due to exorbitant cost.

The vote on Tuesday to deny suspension of the procedural bylaw to allow reconsideration of the by-election was five to three. No explanations were offered by any of the five. No reference made to the lengthy list of emails forwarded in favour of a by-election. The Mayor had previously directed all emails on the issue be placed on the agenda of the next council meeting.

The clear intention was to deal with the issue at the next council meeting.

During the debate at the previous council meeting, councillors claimed time was needed to consult with the community before a decision was made. I believe the refusal to allow the matter to come forward when the community has made strong representation to hold a by-election, is an example of a total lack of respect for all but the special interest they serve.

The vote taken in committee must be ratified by council. Before that happens residents have a right to be heard and have their views considered. Just like the members of the Coalition of Ratepayers group did when they argued to have $211,000 spent on traffic calming in their neighborhood.

Your voices can only be ignored if you allow that to happen.

Wednesday 7 May 2008

OH! OH! My mistake.

It seems the requirement for the Mayor to vote is part of the Town's Procedural Bylaw. It is not a requirement of the Municipal Act nor therefore an example of Queen's Park meddling minions..

Last week residents saw how the Mayor's vote turned a majority into a tie. Under all known Rules of Order, tried and true, the Presiding Officer's or Mayor's vote is required to be used to break a tie not to create a stalemate.

It is another example of a clause in our By-law which undermines rather than facilitates the democratic principle.

In Committee last night, still another gaffe. At 11:10 p.m. Councillor Bob Mc Roberts gave notice of a motion for reconsideration of the option to fill the seat vacated by Grace Marsh's resignation with a By-election. Bob was advised it was necessary by Clerk-Administrator Bob Panizza .

Chairman of the meeting, Councillor Evelina Mac Eachern promptly put the notice to a vote. It was defeated five to three.

This morning the mayor apparently informed the press the option of a by-election is now off the table

.Last Tuesday indication was given to the public, the question would come back to the table at the next Council Meeting. Also messages from the community would be placed on the agenda for consideration Support for a byelection have flowed steadily since the news of Grace Marsh's resignation. which came after months of frustration and a public scene of shrieking abuse by the Mayor.

Clearly there was never any intention to hear from the communiy..

.According to Rules of Order notice must be given of a forthcoming motion. The motion itself must be in writing and circulated before being presented at a Council Meeting. The motion is tabled, debated, the question is put. and the vote taken.. All under the eyes of the camera. In full view of the town's electorate Council decisions are not made in Committee.
I am often accused of not having respect for the Mayor. It's only partly true

My respect for the office, the institution of council and the community we serve compels my civility.It is a practice.of half a lifetime.

Respect for intelligence ,competence and integrity must be earned. It doesn't come gift-wrapped.



I believe every property owner needs to be informed about town assets and nitty gritty about how things are managed. Municipal staff are our main resource and the key to success.. They labour in the background while politicians are front and centre.It's how it has to be.

There are 413 municipalities in Ontario. Over a hundred have Chief Administrative Officers. The rest are managed by Clerk-Administrators or Clerk-Treasurers.

Towns are governed by a myriad of provincial regulations. Under the Constitution, we have no right to exist. Generally speaking we are here to provide the services most practically administered at a lower level.

The education for clerks and treasurers happens on the job. The Association of Municipal Clerks and Treasurers designs Certificate Courses provided at Queen's University by correspondence.
course. No other credentials can fullfil the function.
Because they function under provincial legislation and there are on-going amendments it is the clerk-treasurer who provides the expert ise to elected representatives.

The Associations of Clerks and Treasurers and Chief Administrator Officers are compact groups. They are always available to each other to consult on the various problems and solutions they inevitably share. Whatever develops ,somebody has had experience of it. They know twhat works to solve the problem and what doesn't.

Such was the trust established in previous councils, I came to believeit was the Clerk's job to keep the elected body within the law. When I returned to council in 2004, I said that to Larry Alyson, the CAO. He promptly disabused me of the notion. He said it was his job to advise Council. He could not make them take the advice.

Well, I thought what does that say about the efficacy of provincial rules and regulations. If a council decides not to heed the advice they receive, who is to say they should?

I thought working for nine political bosses was like walking a tight-rope. What staff had over t politicians was continuity. In bad times all they needed was to survive until the next election. That has become more difficult with the advent of the four year term. What they can never do is engage in open dispute with political masters.

The logic is simple. If skills and professional expertise lie in one particular field that's where you look for alternative opportunities.

If background reveals conflict with elected representatives, a resume, no matter how good, will be diminished when perceived by other politicians. Not even when they leave a job are they likely to speak negatively of previous employers.

That's why they strive to stay out of political debate. Also why it is inappropriate and completely unfair for politicians to draw them into the hurly-burly.of political action.

In our current situation staff are consistently being used to support the Mayor's position. When that fails she uses outside legal consultants. to justify decisions difficult to defend. .

Tuesday 6 May 2008

Shootout At The Old Corral

On February 12th this year we had a bit of a show down between Mayor Morris, Councillors MacEachern and Gaertner and John Rogers, Chief Administrative Officer of the Town of Aurora. It happened at the end of a meeting. The agenda was almost completed.

Under new business, Councillor Gaertner expressed disgruntlement that she was being required to sign a confidentiality agreement to obtain documents related to the sale of town lands.

The Mayor and Councillor MacEachern took up the complaint. Emails had previously been sent from the Mayor to Mr. Rogers directing him to provide the material. Ultimately, the Mayor had discussed the matter with the Real Estate Brokers who had the town's contract to sell the lands and were responsible for the documents in question.

Mr. Rogers explained his purpose was to protect the integrity of the process by maintaining consistency for all parties receiving the documents to sign an agreement. The explanation did not sit well with the Mayor and the two councillors.

Councillor Gaertner stated; "I find all this extremely hard to believe."

In this instance a motion put forward ordering the CAO to provide the documentation required without an agreement being signed by Councillor Gaertner. Four councillors now had documents; Councillor MacEachern, Gaertner, Granger and Wilson. The three others had signed.

The package was apparently substantial, had always been been accessible for viewing in the legal department as opposed to leaving the security of the Town Hall.

The option had not been acceptable due apparently to Councillors' part-time status and un- availability during business hours.

No explantion was ever offered as to why the Councillors were so adamant about the neccessity to have the documents let aloe remove them from the town hall.

They argued for the process to be by Real Estate Broker. They chose the firm from a competition. The time allocated for the first part of the business was almost complete. As a Councillor, I can think of no reason to have this material in my possession.

When a meeting was convened to receive a presentation of bids, Councillor MacEachern immediately declared a Conflict of Interest.

I said nothing. It is a truism that in the public's business, things must not only be right, they must appear to be right.

The bids were disappointing. A great deal of work had been done. Clearly more remained.

At the nextin camera meeting, a motion was put forward to reject the bids summarily. I voted in favor.

The report came to council. Councillor Gaertner called it for discussion. Council rejected the bids because they were too low, she said.

It was not my reason. Since Councillor Gaertner had chosen to speak for council I was obliged to speak for myself. Sometimes the moment must not be allowed to pass.

I said I believed the process was tainted.

The Mayor was not content. She demanded I explain. I declined - several times. Finally I acceded to the urgency of the demand.

I cited the facts outlined above.

Mr. Rogers had stated his intent in requiring confidentiality agreements be signed was to protect the integrity of the process. The majority of council refuted that position. I did not.

At a following meeting, the matter was alluded to once more. An emergency closed meeting was called to discuss "legal liability the town may incur due to statements made the previous evening."

I did not attend.

Seems the gist of the matter to be determined was; if Councillor Buck were to be sued for
slander by Councillor MacEachern would the town be liable for costs to defend itself against possible legal action by other parties.

Still another lawyer was retained. He has completed his research and rendered his opinion. No doubt it will be reported out in the fullness of time.

I will not be losing sleep.

Friday 2 May 2008

Precedents are Useful. Facts are Better.

In January 1973. I was appointed to the Office of Mayor. Dick Illingworth had been elected in December A single meeting had been held, when he was obliged to resign because of a conlict with his civil service job. I had come in at the head of the poll in the council vote. I ran and lost to Dick for the Mayor's office in the previous election. Considering my come-back vote, there was little doubt of voter confidence.

As I remember, two councillors thought they would like the opportunity, others felt my electoral support was solid. I was appointed unanimously. Two years later I was challenged and re-elected to the Mayor's Office.

At the time of my appointment,the election was immediately behind us. A full term was ahead. I had held office previously. My competence was known. The vote was unanimous.I re-call no demannd from the public for a by-election.

Six months into the term a councillor resigned because of a change in family circumstances. His seat was filled by the runner-up who had served several previous terms.That decision was unanimous .There was no public call for a by-election.

The term of office was two years . The town had eighteen months to wait to make a different decision if ithat one displeased them They did not.

That was then. This is now.

The situation is different.. Overwhelming support continues to flow in support of a by-election. by-election.Today.until now. ten e-mails in favour,two for an appointment.

There will not be unanimous support in council for an appointment.

If a name comes forward, there will be debate. Not a desirable prospect from a candidate's perspective. With such a clear preference from the community, any person who respects the democratic process should be willing to participate in an election.

Two years and seven months remain in the present term.

Things have changed since the last election left two losing candidates for the Office of mayor and twelve for council.

The community demands the right to choose.

Aurora deserves the best. Let's not settle for less.

Thursday 1 May 2008

Democracy or Not

A special Meeting was held last night to declare Grace Marsh's seat vacant. The agenda listed the decision as to how it would be filled. I moved the motion to declare the vacancy and call a by-election.

The decision was a majority of four to three in favour. Then the Mayor voted to create a deadlock. So the question remained. A new motion was put forward to fill the seat by appointment. It was deferred for a legal opinion.

The Procedure Bylaw became the issue. It was interpreted, at the Mayor's coaching that once a vote had been taken the issue could not be raised again for six months. I challenged that. The Bylaw intends once a decision is made, the question can not be raised again until six months have elapsed. A tie vote is a non-decision.

When a vote results in a tie it is deemed to be defeated. That is deadlock. The question remains to be decided. The Municipal Act requires a decision to be made within sixty days. Therefore the matter is still pending and still open.

The deadlock derived from the Mayor's vote demonstrates why the question must be decided promptly if council is to function properly. An odd number of councillors are needed for a decision-making body.

For the Mayor's vote to be used to create a deadlock completely undermines the functional structure of the decision-making body that is Council. The Mayor's vote is intended to break deadlock not create it. The only time the Speaker of either senior legislative body votes is in the event of a tie.

That's how it always was until some minion at Queen's Park, clearly lacking in comprehension of the practical application, changed the regulations to require the Mayor to vote on every question.

On Monday, councillors received a steady flow of emails favouring a by-election. None favoured appointment.

Susan Walmer was at the meeting in the evening as was John Gallo (runner-up in the last election). Ms Walmer was widely credited for the election of the Mayor and a slate of candidates in 2006. Mr. Gallo was the losing candidate and I believe one of the slate, who called the morning after the election and asked me to step aside and let him have my seat. Apparently he doesn't think much of the voters right to choose.

On Tuesday morning early, there were two identical emails favouring appointment. There have been none since.

If I am reading reaction to Grace Marsh's resignation right, the community strongly favours the right to choose her replacement. Between now and the next council meeting. May 5th, there needs to be a resounding clamour of voices that makes no bones about it.

Aurora deserves the best. Don't settle for less.

If you would like to voice your opinion to All Councillors and the Mayor - the email address to use is allcouncillors@e-aurora.ca