"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 29 September 2008


The York Region District Separate School Board Trustee, Elizabeth Crowe delegated to Council a couple of weeks ago. The Board were being required to pay Cash In Lieu of Parkland levy in the
amount of $414,000 . before they could receive their building permit for the new district high school on Wellington Street. Ms Crow asked for relief from the requirement.

The trustee pointed out the Board's past co-operation with the town in the use of their facilities. The new school would have substantial sports and other facilities to share. The land would only be 40% occupied by school facilities. If the Town required parkland, the Board would willingly dedicate same.

The Town said "No". The Province says "NO". The Director of Leisure Services said he would rather have the money. The Mayor said, "We need the money to buy land for baseball diamonds."

Councillor Gaertner said ."School Boards don't pay taxes."

. I heard nothing from anyone to convince me the request was not valid. I voted against the motion to deny.

The Board does share facilities willingly. The Town is very glad to have access to them.

We have reserve funds which have been collected to purchase land for baseball diamonds and have steadfastly refused to use it for that purpose.

We could add land to the Arboretum being developed by the town.A creek would be a definite asset.

Boards of Education do not pay taxes. They collect taxes. Schools users pay taxes to the Town the Region and the School Boards. How many times more should they pay ?

At the time York Region District Public School Board was contemplating closure of Dr. G.W.Williams High School, the economic advantage of the school in that location was made much of by Aurora Council when they were preparing to mount the bastions and declare war on the board on behalf of school users and surrounding businesses. Councillor Gaertner did not make any reference then that they do not pay taxes.

But perhaps the biggest shell game of all is the Provincial regulation that requires a fee on top of a building permit, for Cash in Lieu of Parkland.

When they built their new additionCanadian Tire did not create a need for parkland . Neither did State Farm Insurance . Nor Wall-Mart.. None of them created anything but assessment wealth for politicians to squander. All were required to make a cash payment in lieu of parkland.

York Region District Separate School Board provides sports facilities and other amenities paid for by separate school supporters and willingly shares with the community at large. They have not created a need for a park.

The payment required by the Town must be charged to new home owners.These future residents will also pay the town's and the region's development levy and for parks to meet their needs in the price of their new homes.

How then can a cash payment in Lieu of Parkland be legitimately collected. Just because we have the power to do it, doesn't make it right. In my judgement , it is legalised thievery.


In the last term of Council , the concept of Department Business Plans was introduced The objective was to create a performance measurement. Department heads prepare the plan and at year-end have a look-see if the goals were achieved. Department budgets form the basis for the plan .

When the Business plans were put forward this year, the mayor and council determined they should have a say-so. Councillors frequently refer to their part-time status. How they expect to be responsible for a department's business plan is not clear at this time. There is no councillor I am aware of with experience in the management of any town department.Still if they are determined to set the goals, they will undoubtedly be prepared to be accountable for their success or failure.

The Code of Conduct is published on the Town's website. There's a clause about harassment of staff. The Code prohibits that. Readers in the habit of watching council meetings will be aware of the hypocrisy of that clause.

Several pages of The Code deal with the complaint process. There's also a whole bunch of gobbledygook completely irrelevant to the practice of politics. Virtuous verbiage abounds and contributes mightily to its unenforcibility

The Town must appoint an Integrity Commissioner with an annual retainer.Costs of dealing with an application will be charged on an hourly basis, probably at the level of legal fees.

That information is not on the web site. The commissioner is not yet appointed . The cost of the services can not even be estimated. Yet Councillors, hot to trot with complaints have directed the Director of Corporate Affairs to" prepare the file".

By the way, it seems Rogers Cable has decided our council meetings will appear at mid-day on Wednesdays. We will be able to watch Newmarket Council meetings live on Monday evening.Our
own will not be so convenient.

Thursday 25 September 2008

Hey, Be Nice!


Ok people, someone named "Anonymous" has just left a particularly scurrilous comment on the last post "Anonymous Said." I've rejected the comment because it was totally uncalled for. We're aiming for intelligent conversation here folks, and debate. Evelyn and I have argued about whether or not ALL comments should be posted, and to date they have all been posted. This one though, got flushed. So, you, Mr. or Mrs. "Imagine spending time at home..." - please try again. If you can communicate your thoughts without offensive language, you're welcome to come back and comment. Merci Beaucoup!

Anonymous Said:

HEATHER'S NOTE: This comment was recently received on "The Hate Mail" post.

Anonymous said...
"The writer merely wrote what many in town think."

Or what a few want many to think. To vilify and demonize Cllr Buck is merely an attempt at misdirection. (Which, frankly, is giving far more attention (and potential power) to a single vote among nine. A "thorn in the side" gets magnified and can galvanize greater opposition)

Rather than show true, proactive leadership they instead obsess over every dissenting opinion, any perceived criticism. What we're left with is a reactive, micro-managing mayor (w/ confederates) bogged down in the vain hope of controlling the town's legislative AND administrative duties.

As much as Morris and MacEachern can't abide criticism and "misinformation" (their term) contained in this blog, The Auroran and the Aurora Citizen blog what must really compound their aggravation and frustration is the failure to control it. Indeed, the mayor was planning to hire a PR flack (sorry, "Communications Specialist" or some such) to handle media releases/publicity on behalf of the mayor (and council...well, some of them). Not for the business of the Corporation of the Town of Aurora but a political PR flack to 'manage the message'. Thankfully, I believe this proposed position didn't survive the budget process.

Being overly sensitive to criticism and exhibiting an inflexible "if you're not with us, you're against us" attitude might indicate insecurity, an overcompensation. There's definitely no collegial sense of consensus building or a team dynamic on this council. That comes from good leadership.

Things didn't devolve to this state; lines were drawn from the beginning. Even with the election won, it seemed the mayor and her main ally were still in battle mode; that there were factions in the town hall and within the town itself that required combating. That undercurrent of paranoia is unsettling.

Efforts were made to differentiate this mayor and council from previous ones. It's difficult to see improvements - and that wasn't a particularly unattainable goal. The bar wasn't set that high (with some individual exceptions).

Believe me, I was no fan of the previous mayor, far from it, in fact. That's why hopes were high. Those hopes have been dashed. It's also why many former supporters are now highly critical of Mayor Morris. This vehement criticism is born of a sense of betrayal of those raised hopes.

Disappointed and dismayed in 'dis town

Wednesday 24 September 2008


Yesterday I removed "the hate mail" Blog. I was never quite sure I should post it.I think it's a vitriolic diatribe. A person can't engage stuff like that without descending to its level.The Town's business deserves better. There are unwritten rules in politics. Mostly quided by a personal sense of self-respect.

Heather Sisman did the work to post the "hate mail" blog. That gives her a proprietary interest. When she read the anonymous comment asking where it had gone,she thought it had disappeared by accident. So, she put it back .The beauty of the Blog is that we can do stuff like that. All we're doing is communicating. We don't have to worry about offending advertisers or meeting a payroll . We can tell it like we see it.Then we can even let our enemies take pot shots at us and reveal their true nature.

Anyway, for better or worse, the vile thing is back .

The Right to Privacy????

The Code of Conduct came up again in a report to Council last night. On a motion by Councillor MacEachern,staff had been directed to provide names of all those who had not signed the Code and were therefore "non-compliant" In effect, the "outlaws."

Several citizen members were named. Councillor Collins-Marakas expressed her concern about that and also about the phrase " non-compliant" members should be "given another chance."

They are volunteers" she pointed out in some exasperation."This suggests punitive action".

Ditrector of Corporate Affairs ,Bob Panizza pointed out "the information is provided because council asked for it". And so they did.

Councillor Wilson claimed the councillor who was not in compliance was the real concern. He may have inferred "scandal" but he mentioned no name.

Councillor Granger huffed and puffed and stated he "can't wait for the Integrity Commissioner"

It was decided the Director should write to the recalcitrant volunteers and the councillor and "give them another chance". The threat of consequence was left hanging.


At the meeting's end Mayor Morris asked staff to place on the overhead a graph she had prepared to compare spending on legal services between this term and the last several . The purpose, she stated, was to correct misinformation .

I took advantage of the opening to inform the Mayor that questions being asked in the community were about legal services retained by herself, their purpose, the cost and what the community received in return..

The Mayor responded the records would show lawyers retained were by resolution of Council and I needed to produce a list of names to support my contention.

I reminded the Mayor that this year , the Director of Finance had shown a new item in council's budget for legal services. She and Councillor MacEachern had argued it should not be there. It should be included in the the legal services department budget. I made so bold last night as to suggest the reason was to hide legal bills incurred by council.That was another resolution supported by the majority.

I reminded the Mayor she had retained George Rust D'Eye at a public meeting and refused to provide a reason for that action. The purpose was never clarified. The eventual cost was $16,200. Mr. Rust D'Eye's report to Council was never made public save and except for his ideas of how to deal with a wayward councillor.

A Code of Conduct with consequences for non-compliance was one of George Rust D'Eye's ideas.The other was council could create an executive committee which could include every member save one. Thereby effectively excluding a wayward councillor from the business of the municipality . And incidentally, expunge the results of the previous municipal election.

I left the council chamber again at ten-thirty-five p.m. I no longer call points of order to the lack thereoff which lead to regular over-runs and the town's business agenda never being completed within the time allotted Leaving at the hour of adjournment is the only way to express my objection to the dismal lack of control exercised by the presiding member.

Monday 22 September 2008

A Double-Edged Sword

I missed last week's council-in-committee meeting. I watched it on DVD. Not all at once but I did watch until the end.

Councillor Wilson asked when action was going to be taken on"The Breach of the Code of Conduct".

Councillor MacEachern moved the matter be referred to the Integrity Commissioner.

The Director of Corporate Services informed them of the process they were so hot to trot in pursuit thereof.

"There is no Integrity Commissioner until Council appoints one" he said.

"There is a formal complaint process to be followed " he said

Pages 10, 11,12 and 13 of the Bylaw outline in detail the complaint process

Nowhere does it allow a complaint to be casually referred with a wave of the hand, to an Integrity Commissioner.

There was subsequently further input from the Mayor about the need for The Code to be prominently displayed on the Town's web site.

"It is" said the Director.

The process to follow in making a complaint should be clear for citizens to follow, indicated Councillor MacEachern and the Mayor.

That too, the Director indicated.

I think it is reasonable to expect that before a council votes in support of a Bylaw, they would be sufficiently familiar with its scope to understand how it shall be used.

One might also expect that a councillor eager to make an accusation against another, might have the sense to familiarise him/herself with a law which they are responsible for promulgating. If only to save themselves the embarrassment of being accused of not adhering to a responsible code of conduct.

At last week's meeting, when Councillor Wilson asked when action was going to be taken, he clearly revealed his perception that someone other than himself is responsible to initiate the process.

Councillor MacEachern also revealed her erroneous understanding that a motion to refer was all that was required to set wheels in motion.

Ignorance coupled with arrogance are a dangerous complement. Attach that to authority and the outcome is unlikely to be beneficial to any person involved

I think passing a Code of Conduct Bylaw and thereafter displaying shameful ignorance of a significant part of its content might in itself be considered a breach of any code be it Conduct , Governance or just plain ordinary decency and common sense.

Friday 19 September 2008

The Hate Mail

HEATHER'S NOTE: As promised, here is the hate mail that Evelyn mentioned in her last post. Please comment and let her know what you think.

Evelyn Buck: a destructive force

As a long-time resident of Aurora and concerned citizen, I am sending this to all members of council, including Councillor Buck. I wish to remain anonymous out of fear. I have watched with dismay as Councillor Buck has heaped her relentless, malicious attacks upon those who dare to disagree with her.

I was moved to write after watching Councillor Buck's deliberate manipulation of council to create an unseemly procedural conundrum following the resignation of Councillor Marsh.

Here is what I observed:

1. Councillor Buck wanted a by-election.

2. Other councillors wanted to defer the matter for two weeks to gather input from the community.

3. Councillor Buck vehemently rejected that position.

4. Her motion was defeated in a tie vote.

5. The consequence, easily anticipated and no doubt welcomed by Councillor Buck, was a vexing procedural problem with no obvious on-the-spot soultion (save repealing the procedural bylaw!)

6. Council was then forced to respond to the problem created by Councillor Buck's manipulation.

7. During the debate that followed, Councillor Buck focused on the responses of others, finally setting herself up as a problem-solver. Of course, she would agree to a deferral to allow more time for public response. How reasonable. An hour earlier, she had taken the opposite position.

8. Councillor Buck wins again.

9. The taxpayers lose. The embarrassing spectacle of a dysfunctional council continues.

10. As is her custom, Councillor Buck again focused on creating discord, criticizing her colleagues and manipulating them into emotional responses.

11. Councillor Buck came into this term with eyes open, seemingly determined to maintain the discord she had nurtured throughout the previous term.

12. Tim Jones lost the mayoral election, in part because of the perception that he could not control a dysfunctional council, and could not control Councillor Buck. Are we making progress this term? What difference will ANOTHER code of ethics make?

13. No one can control Councillor Buck because she willfully, maliciously and self-righteously seeks to create conflict rather than co-operation. What matters most to her is to win. All else is secondary.

14. While she wins, we lose.
  • $40,000 for a by-election
  • $16,000 to pay a lawyer to explore council's options for dealing with her behaviour.
15. Healthy disagreement is essential to democracy. But Councillor Buck goes far beyond healthy disagreement. Her attacks are often personal. She brings a torrent of pollution to the town's business.

16. Councillor Buck has contributed mightily to the resignation of one councillor. What if others conclude that they too cannot weather the constant disruption and abuse and can no longer function in this environment? Multiple council vacancies over a four-year term might have sounded implausible a year ago. For those who watch council meetings regularly on cable TV, that prospect does not seem so implausible in May 2008.

Thursday 18 September 2008

Remember the Hate Mail?

I have received many encouraging messages and comments to my Blog. Too many to respond to individually. I keep them and read them often and appreciate the time people have taken to let me know of their support.

There have been a few negative comments as well. The style and content are increasingly familiar and I think identify a single writer.

A few months ago an anonymous letter was delivered to all Aurora Councillors.The Councillors' room is secure. The question arose as to how the missive got in there. I received two explanations: the first was that they were handed in at the town's reception desk and distributed from there. The second came later and indicated the letters were brought across from the Mayor's office and distributed.

When I showed the letter, people agreed it was hate mail. I referred the question to the Police. The Chief explained a few salient facts; from the perspective of investigation and prosecution, "incentive to hate" applies generally to a group or organisation. Such a letter as this would be impossible to trace and prosecution would be equally unlikely. Therefore nothing useful could be done.

I've always thought a person's writing tell more about a person than a conversation. It's harder to hide in the written word.

I suspect the negative comments to my blog and hate mail have the same author. I believe it is a member of the current council and the sentiments expressed do more than anything to reveal the toxic dynamics of this council.

So, I intend to re-print the letter and the negative comments and invite readers join in the exercise of making the determination. Is the writer one and the same?

Councillor MacEachern has stated she did not write it. Councillor McRoberts expressed his regret that such a thing could happen. Councillor Collins-Mrakas offered her professional assessment of the matter. No other councillor acknowledged receipt of the letter. I know it wasn't me. Although I am sure the Mayor could find a way to suggest I am responsible. I cannot see how anyone outside the council could have written it.

The letter must be re-typed to produce it in my Blog. I have little facility with typing and organising so Heather Sisman will do it at the week-end.

Monday 15 September 2008

"Aurora staff crisis leads to blogging" from the Era-Banner

This was in the Era-Banner on Sunday September 14.


Aurora staff crisis leads to blogging
Simone Joseph

Published on Sep 13, 2008

Aurora Councillor Evelyn Buck was reprimanded this week for blogging private council discussions on her website.

It is not appropriate to publicly reveal information from closed session matters, Mayor Phyllis Morris said during a council meeting Tuesday night.

Ms Morris was criticizing Ms Buck’s Sept. 8 blog in which Ms Buck mentions the town’s chief building official had reported a staff shortage and work overload problem in the building department.

The department is so busy, the town needs to start paying workers overtime or risk builders starting projects without permits and not receiving timely inspections, one official said in the private meeting.

This information discussed in closed-door meetings is not appropriate material for Ms Buck’s blog, Councillor Evelina MacEachern agreed, adding the report was clearly colour-coded as a personnel matter to be discussed in private.

Ms Buck, however, defended her decision to include the information in the blog, saying it had to be dealt with.

“It is a town problem, a council problem. It needs to be dealt with now,” Ms Buck said.

“I don’t see that that matter needed to be discussed in private. It is a crisis in the building department that needs to be dealt with.”

Portions of the discussion should be shared in public, Councillor Alison Collins-Mrakas said, adding staffing issues should be discussed in public.

Ms Buck has said she would not deliberately alienate councillors in her blog but said she is fed up with council in-fighting where six or seven councillors vote together and cannot be swayed.

“There is no hope. I have given up on this council,” Ms Buck said in a phone interview Wednesday.

The blog, which she set up with the creation of her website during the 2006 municipal election, has been a helpful means of communication with the public, she said.

“That became my outlet — the answer to my frustration. I am doing with my blog what I promised people I would do. I am keeping them informed,” Ms Buck said.

“It is a godsend. Readers are zooming up, people are encouraging me to keep going.”

Portions of Ms Buck’s blog are critical of Aurora council.

“A chill hangs over town hall. Any staff member who dares to exercise authority is quite likely to find himself hauled before a quasi tribunal and cross-examined like a felon.

“Behind closed doors of course,” she wrote in her blog Sept. 10.

But her blog was not the only medium criticized. The mayor also questioned the accuracy of Ms Buck’s letter to the editor in the Sept. 9 Auroran newspaper.

In the letter, Ms Buck criticized a recommendation the town accept maintenance and operating costs of three lights in a Canadian Tire parking lot that would serve residents in a nearby condominium community.

“One is tempted to wonder why the report comes forward now, just days after the CAO was escorted from the premises of Aurora town hall.

“Was it one of the mayor’s orders she could not persuade him to obey?” she wrote.

During the council meeting, the mayor addressed Ms Buck’s accusation. “Did I order anyone to obey?” she asked.

“Let us get some facts in the paper in future,” the mayor said.

Sunday 14 September 2008


I am surprised when people, particularly politicians find it easy to tout ethics and moral conduct. In the last term of council, Councillor Morris gave notice several times that she intended to update the Code of Ethics. I indicated I looked forward to the debate. If it was forced upon me, I would welcome the opportunity to discuss what I considered to be unethical conduct.I had more than enough examples.

No motion ever came forward. Just as well.

I recently recalled the night when Minor Baseball parents came to state their case and ask for help. When I related to a friend what happened that night, he expressed admiration for Mayor Morris' skill at "handling" the situation.

Well there you go, I thought. He thought it was an admirable talent and I thought it illustrated a lack of integrity and complete disrespect for the people we are sworn to serve.

I have long since come to terms with the fact that my standards are not shared by everyone nor even appreciated by many. That's why the idea of imposing what I believe to be right is not only abhorrent but quite unlikely to be effective. But my standards are mine and I will defend them.

I recently had a lengthy discussion with a veteran municipal public servant about the intent of the Municipal Act governing issues discussed behind closed doors.

I learned early it is foolish to imagine one understands government regulations simply by reading. The intent of an act is only understood by its consistent province wide application. How it withstands a court challenge demonstrates its merit..

It is the job of the Municipal Clerk to keep him or herself informed in these matters. Ontario is a large Province. The Municipal Family is not. Communication is essential and ongoing. If a municipality encounters a problem, chances are it has happened elsewhere and a solution has been found...or not. The family is an essential resource.

Until last term, I always believed it was the Town Clerk's Statutory responsibility to keep the municipality functioning within Provincial Law. I said so to former CAO, Larry Allison. He vehemently assured me I was wrong. Council can ignore the clerk. He is subject to their authority. They were elected.

It was because of my sense of what that council was about that I made the query. I was not comforted by his response.

My recent conversation was about the rule governing confidentiality. If a member believes the rule is being abused and bad things are happening under its cover, how can the member be bound by that rule?

It was a rhetorical question. I already knew the answer. A councillor who deplores actions by the majority has an obligation to separate him or herself. Democracy means the majority rules. It means the right to be wrong. For the public to form a judgement, they have a right to hear all the arguments.

The Code of Conduct approved by this council is badly written, unenforceable and clearly viewed by the majority as a club with which to beat the minority into silence.

I have not signed it.

Let's see how it stands up to a challenge.

Thursday 11 September 2008


One of the advantages of Blog is the orderly presentation of my arguments . I often only discover their full strength at the time of writing. Sometimes I discover a weakness as well.

At council the other night colleagues were outraged. They believed I was implying they were doing things improperly behind closed doors.Councillor MacEachern ranted freely for several minutes , uninterrupted by the Mayor, and ended with the ominous statement that after two years of my conduct ,she had had enough.

Councillor Granger had his say as well. Can't remember a word of that though. Councillor Gaertner felt compelled to repeat the Municipal Act requires a council to discuss certain matters behind closed doors.

The Mayor contented herself, as is her wont, by having a staff person recite her version of the rules to refute my contention. She regularly makes reference to my habit of communicating outside "the proper forum"

On Tuesday night , when the question was put to approve the agenda, I exercised my obligation as a member of council to try to persuade council against dealing improperly with certain property matters behind closed doors. In the proper forum. Had they been permitted to hear my arguments they might have agreed . We will never know .

We do know however that with Mayor Morris presiding only those views which agree with her own will be permitted without being refuted by staff. Rules will continue to be perverted as we go along. Wherever else orderly debate on our town's affairs is happening, it will not be in the council chamber.

Not so long as the presiding member can figuratively flick her whip , direct staff to enjoin the debate and provide the version of government Acts and Regulations which supports her position.

In a few weeks,Bob Panizza will leave Aurora Town Hall at the end of a lifetime career in municipal public service. He no doubt hopes to do so without an escort.


I noticed my voice was not heard on Tuesday when I objected to the Closed session agenda. Something weird seemed to be happening with my microphone. No matter. I can repeat my points of contention here.

In my judgment,three items on the agenda were improperly placed. I have already commented on the situation in the Building Department in a previous Blog. There is a crisis. It should have been dealt with during council in committee the week before. Instead it was deferred .A crucial decision was not made in a timely fashion.

The second two items pertained to property .The Mayor disclosed on Tuesday she had reviewed the agenda with Mr.Panizza,and "agreed" these items should be handled in closed session.

I respectfully disagreed

The first item dealt with a request from a resident to square off their rear lot line by a purchase from the abutting land owner. The abutting owner is the town. The land is park land .

By dealing with the matter behind closed doors, it is entirely conceivable a decision to sell park land could be made in secret. The owners , the people of Aurora , could have land sold out from under them without knowing a thing about it.

The second property in question was recommended for purchase by two citizen members of a sub-committee of a citizens advisory committee.Similarly. The town could be in the business of buying property for a purpose about which there has never been a public debate or a policy struck.

Never an opportunity for input from the community prior to a decision being made. All done in secrecy .Behind closed doors.

By my standards, that is not " saving the town harmless" or protection of the corporation's interest. That is a betrayal of the community we serve. Such is not the purpose of the Ontario Municipal Act as claimed by several on Tuesday evening.

As Chief Magistrate of the Corporation, the Mayor's desperate and determined effort to silence my arguments is beyond comprehension.

In opposing the motion to approve the agenda of the closed session and attempting to provide reasons for my opposition, I was conducting myself entirely within the Rules of Order.

The Mayor's threat to close down the meeting by calling a recess to stop me from being heard was not. Quite the opposite in fact. It displayed an inordinate anxiety to keep the public in the dark.

The Mayor also noted on Tuesday that any citizen can file a complaint of a Breach of the Code of Conduct against a Councillor. Even without an appointed Integrity Commissioner. But she is wrong about that as well.

We shall await further developments.

Watch this space.

Wednesday 10 September 2008


I watched the opening of last night's council meeting on television this evening. I needed to know if I heard the Mayor's comment correctly.

What she said to Councillor MacEachern was "I am going to call a recess in a minute."

Different word, same intent. It is the kind of misunderstanding that happens in a hostile environment.

I do not take kindly to any suggestion that I am not entitled to say what I have to say in a letter to the editor, a blog, comments on a website or taking a position at a council meeting.

I do not acknowledge any person's authority to question my right to speak my mind by virtue of having been elected to office.

Pish Tosh!

Fox in the Henhouse

Council was lively last night. Lots of clucking and plumage ruffling.At one point I could swear I heard the Mayor indicate to Councillor MacEachern she intended to" call the police in a minute".

Four residents from the Mosaics complex came to commend the Mayor and council for that crazy agreement with Canadian Tire .There are sixty families apparently in the complex .If they were all taken in by that assinine scheme, there is not much that can be done for them.

Councillor MacEachern did her usual amazingingly convoluted interpretation of the facts. She stated the fault lay with town staff in the planning stage of the development because they did not make the easement a public right of way. In Councillor MacEachern's book, town staff are always to blame.

Good planning dictates that a residential development will always have a second access for emergency purposes. In the event of a traffic accident blocking the single entrance to a development, access must be provided for fire and ambulance. Such is the easement running down the side and owned by Canadian Tire. It is intended for the safety of the residents but not the way they have perceived it.

That they used it as a direct path home from the bus stop is understandable. That they had a right to demand Canadian Tire keep parking lots lights burning after business hours was not. They had a tri-party agreement with Canadian Tire with many pages of dispute resolution mechanisms. It was apparently something they did not choose to utilise. Why bother when St. George at the town hall is ever ready to slay a dragon and has unrestricted access to the town treasury.

The scenario reminded me of budget night when parents of the Minor Baseball Association came to council. They had learned that once again a staff recommendation had been rejected for the purchase of land suitable to provide desperately needed accommodation for their growing numbers .Money for the purchase was on hand.It had been collected from developers for precisely this purpose.It could not be used for any other purpose.

To take it and not use it is beyond comprehension. . Furthermore, that money is taken from new home purchasers in the price paid for their homes. They paid in advance for the facilities which would be needed by their residence in Aurora.

But Evalina and the Mayor were determined . Staff advice would again be ignored. The money would not be utilised. Repeated explanations about why it had to be utilised for the purpose it was collected fell on deaf ears

Didn't matter how many different ways the Treasurer explained it, they just couldn't get it.

But the night the baseball parents came, the Mayor gave a breathtaking performance of bafflegab . She ended with a flourish and directed The Director of Leisure Services to start a plan the following day.

The parents laughed . They cheered and applauded .They left the chamber convinced the Mayor had heard their plea, was on their side and their problem was solved.

Alas it was not so.

Incidentally during budget discussions the Director frequently referred to suitable land that was available for purchase and would unlikely continue to be available. It was not suggested then, as was done in council last night, that proposed property acquisition needed to be discussed behind closed doors to protect the town's interest.

Last night the Mayor called upon the Director of Corporate Service to offer that explanation to justify two property matters on the closed session agenda.

I am no longer confident that advice from staff is untrammelled. A chill hangs over the town hall. Any staff member who dares to exercise authority is quite likely to find himself hauled before a quasi tribunal and cross-examined like a felon. Behind closed doors of course.

Monday 8 September 2008

Make Sense of This if You Can.

Several staff reports were presented at the General Committee Meeting last Tuesday. Chief Building Official Techa Van Leeuwen reported a critical situation in the Building Department. For several reasons, nobody's fault, there is a staff shortage and a huge work overload. Time off in lieu is not a practical option under the circumstances. Therefore the request was for paid overtime. If staff do not put in the overtime the possibility is that builders will start their projects without permits and will not therefore receive timely inspections.

If the town is at fault, prosecutions would be unfair and unlikely to succeed. The only option is to ask staff to work overtime without providing the option of time off in lieu.

Also presented was a recommendation that an Amended Sign Bylaw be presented at this week's council meeting for Smart Centre. Hours of work has been undertaken with forty-three variances to govern signage on stores in the Smart Centre. The variances are in accordance with policies including the Urban Design Guidelines adopted by the Municipality.

Mayor Morris indicated she had visited the development. She noted that many businesses had illegal signs. "Some have Banners" she said in horror. When was the department going to take action she demanded.

Ms. Van Leeuwen indicated the work completed in cooperation with Smart Centres and Amending Bylaw would take care of the problem. With variances approved the businesses could get on with providing permanent signage.

Councillor McRoberts moved the recommendation to present the Bylaw. The Mayor argued it be deferred to give councillors more time to analyze it.

The Councillor noted it was clear the motion would pass but in the interest of getting unanimous support he would withdraw the motion and support the deferral.

Once again,with Councillor McRobert's assistance, staff were reminded who is in charge.

Businesses at the Centre will be obliged to continue with illegal banners as an option for several more weeks. Council time spent debating an obvious and clear-cut decision was wasted and will be repeated three weeks from now for no sensible reason whatsoever.

There must be days when Techa Van Leeuwen wonders why she tries so hard.


The Town Treasurer had completed his work and put forward a schedule of meetings to complete the town's budget in a sensible time frame. One can only imagine how much consultation there was between the various town departments to have their budgets completed and vetted prior to presentation for Council's consideration.

The normal process is for Directors to meet with the CAO and Mr. Gutteridge to have their budgets analyzed and justified. This year there is no CAO. Therefore no team management approach to the town's business.

Council spent one hour and thirty-five minutes taking Mr. Gutteridge's report apart and replacing the entire thing with a new schedule. Three Monday meetings were replaced with one entire Saturday. Councillor MacEachern led the discussion and proposed the alternatives. It will not be the first time Mr. Gutteridge has wondered about his function in the scheme of things.

Councillor MacEachern of course has no such doubts about her professional competence to manage the town's finances or any other town department. Neither it seems does the majority of elected members around the table.

Sunday 7 September 2008

An Afterthought

I had a thought while drying the dishes. The parade of lawyers retained and instructed by the Mayor referred to in the previous post have not solely been employed to make a case against me myself alone.

Former Mayor Tim Jones was the first target. There were two lawyers, months of consultations and written opinions not shared with council and finally attendance at a closed session.

During the by-election debate, a lawyer was brought to the council table to steer councillors to the right decision. He was there to provide substance to a weak and contrived argument and to convince the community that all was in order.

Lawyers have been involved behind the scenes in an activity which was both demeaning and degrading to everyone who participated; except for those whose objective was being served.

After my surgery, I gave a lot of thought to how I could continue to participate as a member of this council. Grace Marsh's resignation was a personal blow. I seriously pondered my own stamina. As part of the consistent minority and under the persistent vacuous performance of Mayor Morris, how could I make a valid contribution?

The answer has evolved; the action against John Rogers; the effect on other staff members; the ongoing and transparent determination that one way or another I must be silenced and all criticism squelched has stiffened my resolve.

For forty years I have relied on my own common sense and skills of persuasion to exert my influence on each successive council. Sometimes I was successful. Other times not. I never sensed any lack of respect. Successes outnumbered failures and that was the most I expected from involvement in the democratic process.

If I have had any influence on this council, it is not obvious to me. There is no satisfaction in being a powerless witness to actions which violently offend my sense of fairness and integrity. Discipline acquired over the years does not serve me well in these circumstances.

There is only one option to validate my principles. Whatever I can do to inform people of what may not always be obvious when they watch council on television.I will fill in the blanks.

I will acquire the play by play skills of Don Cherry in the game of politics as she is played in the Town of Aurora in the year of 2008-9-10.

Watch this spa ce.


Councillor MacEachern has cut , pasted and circulated my last Blog and Comment in the Aurora Citizen to council colleagues "for their interest".

Town staff have also been asked to indicate which councillors and citizen committee members have failed return the copy of the Code forwarded to them for their signatures.

The Code was created following the advice of George Rust D'Eye, the lawyer retained by the Mayor in the wake of the "EMERGENCY" from a supposed "Leak" from a closed meeting

Readers may remember the Mayor refused in public to provide the reason for retaining the services of Mr. Rust D'Eye. The implication was clear however. The lawyer was retained following The Auroran news story that Council had refused to sell land we had for sale, at the appraised value to York Regional Police Department for the location of the new Regional Headquarters. The story was accurate but there was no attribution.

Other than his advice not to attend meetings between himself and council because of conflict of interest regulations and to retain legal counsel, I had no direct conversation with Mr. Rust D'Eye. I ignored his advice of course having full confidence in my own integrity. I was never asked if I leaked the story nor I understand were questions were asked of The Auroran as to how they obtained their information.

Eventually however he did submit a report which he immediately advised could not be made public and submitted a bill in excess of $16,200 .

He had two recommendations for council about to deal with a councillor who refuses to observe the rules of confidentiality. The recommendations eventually saw the light of day after one of them was enacted. The first bit of advice was for council to create an executive committee which could conceivably include every councillor save one.

The second was to create a Code of Conduct which would carry penalties for anyone who failed to abide by it.

One of the penalties would be suspension for three months the remuneration of a councillor who was found to be in breach of the Code.An Integrity Commissioner must be appointed and of course paid a retainer.

It's an interesting concept.. The exercise evolved from the Mayor's outrage that the community did learn of the decision to refuse to sell land which would have meant the location of the Regional Police Headquarters in Aurora. . No evidence of a leak was ever provided. Police plans to re-located to Aurora were apparently widely known. The council in-camera decision was made in early September. The news did not get out until November.

In forty years of municipal service I have never been accused of breaching confidentiality of an in-camera meeting. Nor was I this time .

So now look what we have gone and done. An new and lugubrious and expensive bureaucratic process has been created to to deal with a problem which was never proven.

Following the public announcement that John Roger's was no longer employed by the Town of Aurora an e-mail was circulated to councillors which had been sent by the Mayor to the lawyer who had participated in the process. The Mayor requested advice about how councillors might respond to media enquiries while mindful of the Code of Conduct. No response from the lawyer was ever circulated. But the message was clear. If any councillor gives any information to the media,that will represent a breach of The Code.

Councillor MacEachern's circulation to council colleagues of my last Blog and Comment to The Aurora Citizen is clearly a move towards citing the Code, No doubt the wires are sizzling while the block put their heads together to formulate their next step .

In the twenty-one months of this term, a parade of lawyers have been retained and instructed by the Mayor to come up with a case for wrong doing against myself for daring to be forthright'

It remains to be seen if their latest strategy will be any more effective than the rest.

It's unlikely to cost less.

Friday 5 September 2008

Weird Agreement

An item on this week's council agenda illustrates how council valiantly strives to deal with problems hanging fire.

It recommends staff negotiate an agreement between Canadian Tire and the Mosaic Corporation to provide lighting on a long dark lane belonging to Canadian Tire.

The issue was brought to the previous council's attention by a very angry resident of the town house complex on the eve of the last election. It was one of the first items the Mayor chose to deal with following the election. It occupied many hours of council discussion. Staff spent many expensive hours searching property titles and plan s only to discover many pages of dispute resolution mechanisms in a tri-party agreement governing the total development and that the lane was never intended to be anything more than an emergency access.

CAO John Rogers and S. Pohjola advised the town had no role in the matter. Mayor Morris bravely proclaimed she intended to provide aid to any citizen who asked for her help. There was a majority decision of council to hook Canadian Tire parking lot lights to the Town's street system. Aurora taxpayers were to foot the bill. It was represented as $300 annual cost for energy.

That was eighteen months ago. There have been no lights after ten-thirty pm since. This week's report recommends that staff be directed to prepare an agreement between Canadian Tire and The Mosaic Corporation. The parties are to pay fifty-fifty of the cost to hook the lights to the street system. The town will undertake to pay the annual cost of hydro and maintenance of the lights. They are currently burning at Canadian Tire's expense until 10.30 p.m. every night.

If there has been a meeting of minds between Canadian Tire and the residents sufficient to agree to such an arrangement, would it not make more sense for the latter to pay the annual cost of hydro and forget about spending almost ten thousand dollars to hook the lights to the town system? At an estimated annual cost of $300, the hook-up cost would pay for thirty three years of hydro. Where is the logic?

One is tempted to wonder why the report comes forward now, just days after the CAO was escorted from the premises of Aurora Town Hall? Was it one of the Mayor's orders he could not be persuaded to accept?

We currently have no legal staff. How can an agreement between private parties be facilitated by public resources? Are we to pay several thousand more to retain outside legal counsel to prepare the agreement and attend upon the parties? Where is the logic?

Ah Well! No doubt there will be taxpayers who think it's another admirable effort to resolve a problem and others like myself who think it's patently insane and political opportunism at it's worst.

In my judgement, it is misuse of public resources and most certainly does not meet the interest of the people we are sworn to serve.