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

Sunday 31 May 2009

A Slew of questions and comments.

Anonymous on the Aurora Citizen comments the extras on the ball diamond were unnecessary. She understands seniors won't be using it and Evelyn has always been a full time politician because she never had a real job.

It's an interesting perspective. Taking the points , one at a time.

The Senior's new building was controversial when the decision was made.Strong voices in the community said the money would be better spent on young people.

The decision would not have been favourable had I not been there for seniors; for their contribution to the quality of life enjoyed to-day by to-day's generation of parents; schools, hospitals. a medicare plan, colleges, universities; a lifetime of hard work for modest wages and disproportionate taxes; for childhood hardships during a depression; for service and sacrifice to their country in war and a life haunted by its memories; for the hardship of emigration from families and their place of birth for a better life for their children; understanding the burden of taxation on people least able to handle it; over the years, their acceptance of left-over facilities for their purpose , which came from a lifetime of discipline and self-sacrifice. .

People retire to-day at fifty-five. They can claim senior status. For those willing to use it, Aurora Seniors and the facility can be the start of a great new life experience. Who is to say they will not avail themselves of the new ball facility and likely at a time when younger ones are in school or at work.

On Anonymous' last point. I raised seven children while I was a councillor, Reeve and Mayor of Aurora. I'm surprised a senior would suggest that was not a full-time, if uncompensated job. My youngest child was ten months old when I was first elected on my third campaign. My second youngest was born between the first and second.

For nine years,in the eighties, I served on the Ontario Social Services Appeal Board, a quasi-judicial tribunal. I travelled all over Ontario and had a chance to see how people without means survive and how municipalities were handling their resources and responsibilities. I became more familiar with provincial legislation and regulations in social services. I learned the rules of evidence and honed the decision-making skills I acquired as an elected representatives.

On May 12th, when Sher St Kitts was encouraged by the Mayor to hurl vitriol in a public forum, two of my sons were attending a council meeting for the first time. The Mayor was aware family members would be there. My grand-daughter Hayley, was one of the ten winners of the poster campaign being recognised by the Mayor at the town park on the previous Saturday

Individual seniors are as entitled to criticise as anyone but as a senior in good standing, I am proud to have had the opportunity to speak and make a contribution on their behalf.

Thursday 28 May 2009

Chronicle of a Baseball Diamond.

A hesitant step forward has been taken. Council has made a decision of sorts. It could evolve into a facility as identified as a need in the Recreation Master Plan approved in 2003 and as a priority in the budget of 2007. It may even be available for the entire Ball season of 2011A.D.

Financing has always been available without being a burden on property taxes.

Contortion and distortion have jointly been the substance of debate.

In 2007 budget, $2million for land purchase suitable to accommodate a baseball field was removed by this council. .

She who must be obeyed said " we should keep the money in the bank and let it earn interest?"

The funds derive from growth which drive the need. Using the money to make money is misappropriation.

In the 2008 budget, the funds were again removed. Desperate need was denied once more.

She said; " Why should we buy land when we have land available?"

We did not. The land referred to had no planning designation.It could not be used.

On budget night April 2008, AMBA delegated to council.Urgent need was suddenly discovered and acknowledged.

The Director was directed to retain a consultant($40k) to design a facility for the undesignated raw land and include the item in the budget of 2009.

In March 2009 , financial estimates for design and various works to build a baseball facility within the newly designated lands was finally on the table for discussion. The item had been listed in the budget since September 2008..

The Director was subjected to lengthy hostile interrogation from She. The impression was created that suggested cost of the facility had escalated to three times the original estimate.

The facts were deliberately distorted.

March 24th 2009 the approved budget included $1.6million for facility and the community park where it would be situated.

Still no approval of the project.

Chief Administrative Officer, Neil Garbe was directed to review all relevant documentation and make a recommendation.

May 26th C.A.O. reported with options and new estimates
Approval was given for specifications to be prepared for the ball diamond alone. Not the work on the remaining land for sports needs in the immediate future.

Heavy duty equipment will be brought to the land to grade and service a site sufficient for a diamond. At a later date and duplicate cost, it will all be brought back to grade the rest of the property and remove a mound of soil currently being stored on the site. The work will be neccessary to prepare the land for additional sports fields.

In the meantime, numbers have not been refined. Figures are not hard and fast.

Approval has been given to prepare specifications and call for bids for a fraction of the work required on this land. A contract is unlikely to be awarded before mid July. .

On that schedule, expectation for completion is 2010A.D. In the eighth year from the need first being identified in the Master Recreation Plan. Four years from being tagged as first priority to fullfil the community's need.

May 2009: a false statement re-iterated by the Mayor that Council was unaware of the urgency of the need until April 2008 when input was received from AMBA.

As shown in the chronicle above that statement is not supported by the facts.


Wednesday 27 May 2009

Question of Privilege:

After giving careful consideration to my options to seek redress for the wrong facilitated against me in the Council Chamber by the Mayor and supporting members of council, I decided the instrument provided under Parliamentary Rules of Order was the appropriate mechanism.

Last night ,at the first council meeting following the obnoxious event I raised a Question of Privilege and made the following remarks .

I am offended Madam Mayor by events which transpired in Council on May 12th.

An individual took the podium during public forum and launched a spate of fallacious, unfounded and unsubstantiated allegations and accusations against me.

Permission had not been sought nor could it have been granted for the individual to accomplish her vindictive objective.

You facilitated the opportunity by failing to disallow her lengthy and abusive statement.

You referred to a pre-arranged “inquiry between yourself and staff”.

You invited a resolution to waive procedure to allow the spurious allegations to be part of the public record. And to direct the aforementioned meeting be held.

The motion failed for want of the two-thirds majority required but you pressed forward in your determination and declared the motion carried.

Twice during the meeting, legal counsel advised the matter was not within council's jurisdiction. You disregarded the advice.

The remedy when a councillor has been offended by remarks which impugn his or her motives is to demand a retraction and an apology.

In these circumstances, the remedy is neither adequate nor sufficient.

A number of the town's legislative requirements were circumvented to permit the vilification of a council member.

You identified a meeting between yourself and staff as an “inquiry”.

You clearly intended to give credence to unfounded, unsubstantiated and fallacious allegations.

You duty is to preside over council with fairness, impartiality and integrity. You abused your authority.

My motive in seeking clarity in accounting for funds raised and expended under the auspices of the municipality has been impugned by your actions, Madam Mayor.

Nothing less than a public retraction of these spurious allegations, striking the same from the public record and a public apology for this egregious offence will suffice as a remedy.

The Mayor's response;

"I will consult with my lawyer about your remarks Councillor"

Sunday 24 May 2009

Still with the Rubik Cube.

The minutes of the May 12th Council Meeting were published on the Town's web-site. On Friday, I assume. Noted on the Aurora Citizen Blog on Saturday, the minutes did not reflect what everyone saw happen on the tape of the May12th meeting.

Next thing we know, the minutes disappeared from the town's web- site. As of this morning, Sunday, they have not re-appeared.Staff do not officially work at the Town Hall on Saturday and Sunday.

Well, isn't this a right turn-up for the book.

It may be the town is dealing with a similar conundrum to one other. .

An individual came to a public meeting and in front of an audience was allowed to utter accusations and allegations which were without foundation and could not be substantiated.

That fits the dictionary definition of slander

The presiding member.invited a resolution to permit procedure to be waived to allow the utterances to become part of the written public record .

That fits the dictionary definition of libel.

An injured party may well have recourse to law to correct the injury and seek compensation.

But what if the injured party is part of the first party responsible for the injury.

And what if the injured party is sworn to protect the interest of the first party.

What then?

Oh Me! Oh My! Oh What a tangled web-site we do weave.

Saturday 23 May 2009

Like a Rubik Cube

The story unfolds:

My last post noted the Mayor had stated in an e-mail the Dream Team is not a town initiative. I had made that point several times previously in comments to the Aurora Citizen I wasn't sure why it needed to be repeated.

It transpires I may have been wrong . In the same e-mail, the Mayor stated, $150. paid from five Councillors' expense account for tickets to the wing-ding held at the Legion in mid -March to raise "awareness", not funds, for the July 1st Parade. was re-imbursed by the Dream Team, not the July 1st Parade sub-committee of the town's Leisure Services Advisory Committee who organised the party which was not a fund-raiser , to the town treasury to be earmarked for the purchase of flags for the Canada Day Parade

Further to that:

A Memorandum dated May 19th from Director of Finance,Mr.Dan Elliott, in response to a question from the Mayor on April 28th. was an add-on to the Council-in-committee agenda of May 19th.

The Mayor's question :

Did the town provide funding to the Aurora Dream Team?

The Director's answer:

"The Aurora Dream Team has not been the recipient of town funds with the exception of payment for the purchase of event attendance tickets as follows:

March 31,2008 $400 for the purchase of four tickets for Members of
Council(Councillors Granger,MacEachern,Wilson and Mayor Morris)
March 31,2009 $150 for the purchase of five $30."We're Canadian Ay!"
event attendance tickets for members of Council (Councillor Gaertner,
Granger,MacEachern.Wilson, and Mayor Morris).

The memo notes an approved council administration budget and further

"Following the 2009 "We're Canadian Ay" event, the town received $150.00 as proceeds from this event for the purchase of flags for parade day.The $150.00 was provided in the form of returning our town cheque originally sent for the payment of the event tickets noted above".

The memo ends:

"I trust the foregoing addresses the question sufficiently."

Now you know everything I know. I have had the Memorandum since I sat down at the Council table on Tuesday evening. The complete text must be on the town's web site since it was included on the agenda of the meeting of May 19th.

I will end this post here and allow time to digest the information presented.

I am publishing without the assistance of my trusty volunteer assistant Heather Sisman.

I apologise if lines are slightly higgledy-piggledy. Except for relaying it to you. I take no responsibility for the information contained herein. It is all documented in the Treasurer's

Tuesday 19 May 2009

Addendum to the Previous Post

Mayor Morris has circulated an e-mail to councillors and staff

It notes the Dream Team is not a town initiative.

It refers to how disbursement of funds from the treasury are controlled by staff.

It acknowledges councillors who attended the Legion wing-ding " Awareness" party for July 1st paid for tickets out of their expense allowances.

It notes the money was "re-imbursed" to the town by the Dream Team to pay for flags.

The Mayor is on record as being opposed to using e-mails to "discuss" town business.

The Ubiquitous Sher St. Kitts

Sher St Kitts has a public personna. Is it unique? It is not. Do I have an opinion? Indeed I do.

Ms St Kitts has been a frequent visitor in the Aurora Council Chamber during this term. The Mayor clearly admires the lady and encourages her to speak at length about her activities

Usually we have a full slate of town business ahead. But no matter.

I feel for staff in the situation. The majority of council obviously feel it is part of their function to spend hours in audience for a variety of non-business. Otherwise, they would use their authority to stop it.

Directors have been in their offices since early morning and undoubtedly will not see their homes again until early morning of the following day. Much of the evening will be spent
listening to Sher St. Kitts self-promotion and other spokespersons the Mayor has encountered the previous week.Many asking for free use of town facilities, others simply to exploit the cameras to promote their endeavours.

We frequently watch people being presented with awards already received in some other location and time. Santa Claus and July 1st Parades are two.

Last time we saw Ms.St.K. was budget night. An allocation had been made for the parade. She said it was not enough. She had a list on a handwritten note, of bands she intended to book for the occasion at a total of $11,300k. Council were informed "No bands.No parade."

Councillor MacEachern moved $2,000k be taken from the parks budget and given to Ms.St.K

Readers will remember the vigorous debate about why we should give parks sufficient money to build furniture in their workshop. Why should we not just buy in a hardware store where it is so much cheaper?

Mr. Tree, Parks Manager had to do a complete report ... contact three companies who make furniture, not the same as patio furniture, and get prices for each item .

He had to list supplies needed to build the items. Councillors had to know thenumber and price of every lineal foot of material to help them make the decision.

The report was several pages long. Probably submit it to his Superior, Director of Leisure Services who likely had to have it reviewed by his Superior, Chief Administrative Officer who probably ran it by his fearsome boss, Mayor Morris before it finally arrived at council. It was received without comment.

Back to Ms St.K., no reference was made to proceeds from the Legion event in support of the Parade when she came to demand more money.

Not wishing to look foolish and disappoint my colleague Councillor MacEachern who frequently comments on my competence, I sought answers quietly and discreetly.

What was the tally from the Legion event. Where is the accounting? I asked a number of people ending up with the Town Treasurer. No-one had answers.

I obtained copies of sub-committee reports to Leisure Services Committee, chaired by Councillor MacEachern.

Before the Legion shin-dig, a report noted a couple of mobile signs had been placed on Wellington St. for two weeks at a cost of $150. Committee members would sell ten tickets each .

The later report noted all tickets (150) had been sold, a great time was had by all. The event was fully paid for.
What does that mean I thought. I called a committee member and asked. .

" Well" she said "we had caterers and entertainers to pay for. No money was left over. I didn't see you there Evelyn"

It seems all but three councillors attended.

People in the community have questions. In particular they have noted the promotion of Mr. St. Kitts business as a band entertainer It's hard not to. His name was on the mobile signs on Wellington Street.

As a councillor, residents expect me to answer questions. I could not. I had been trying. I drew the matter to the attention of Neil Garbe our new CAO. He did not dismiss it.

More time went by. I heard nothing. I put my concerns in writing for the record and sent it to Mr. Garbe in confidence on the morning of April 20th. I expressed my sense that a scandal was brewing and we needed answers.

I noted " it's a lot easier for a scandal to take hold than it is to allay public suspicions after it becomes full-blown"

Still no answers. When it seemed the wing-ding at the Legion was not a fund-raiser in
support of a community event, another thought occurred .

Councillors have an expense allowance. Because of many requests,they may use their allowance to buy tickets for events such as fund-raisers. I don't do it. If I am attending a fund-raiser for a charitable cause, I think I should use my own resources.

But it occurred to me, if councillors attended the affair at the Legion because they thought it was a fund-raiser,they might have used their expense allowance. That would indicate they too thought it was a fund-raiser. I asked the new Treasurer Dan Elliott. I have that authority.

He said, he had been directed to look into the issue. Rightly so. When I bring a concern to the attention of those who have authority to uncover facts and determine things are as they should be...or not... I have done my due diligence.

Days later Sher St.Kitts once more exploded on the scene in public forum at council. With support and encouragement from her friend the Mayor and full of righteous indignation she delivered a verbal assault upon myself for a dastardly attack upon her and fellow volunteer committee members. All apparently in the audience.

The Mayor indicated she had already arranged a meeting between herself, new Chief AdministrativeOfficer, Neil Garbe and new Town solicitor, Christopher Cooper for 10.30a.m, the following morning to conduct "an inquiry"

The Mayor invited a resolution from Council directing Ms St.K's presentation be transferred to the formal part of the agenda in order for her unfounded and unsubstantiated accusations and allegations to become part of the public record. Further, she asked for a resolution to direct herself, the Cao and the solicitor to hold the inquiry noted above.

Councillor Grainger and MacEachern obliged. Both motions were put to a single vote. The process was challenged. Director of Corporate Serices was requested to cite reference to the procedure bylaw which allowed the vote..

Motion to waive the procedural bylaw was cited. The Mayor declared the vote passed.
The requirement for two-thirds majority was raised. The vote was five to three. Again the Mayor declared the vote had passed.

It had not. Two thirds of eight is not five. Two thirds of an even number can not be rounded off to a lesser number to make a decision legal.

When a presiding member doesn't know her elbow from a hole in the ground in the matter of procedure and is nevertheless blindly determined to have her way, by hook or by crook and a consistent warranty of four votes at the table, there arrives point when mayhem is inevitable.... Then discretion becomes the better part of valour.

Ten, ten year old children, with teachers and parents were in the council chamber to be recognized for excellence in achievement.

A second group of high school students with their teachers came to present an award to the town for excellence in achievement.

For forty minutes they had been witness to a disgraceful display of hubris by elected officials.
It's only to be hoped their young minds were occupied by other thoughts.

It was no time for hell to break loose in the Council Chamber and certainly not over the question of who is the aggrieved party in the matter of an affair held under the auspices of the town, moneys spent and moneys received and no account rendered.

Friday 15 May 2009

Rhyme and Reason

When I decided to add "All Around The Mulberry Bush " to the last post, my point was simple; I just wanted to observe how our council goes round and round in circles.. I had three lines of the rhyme in my head, first, middle and last. I knew there were four but I had no recollection of the one missing until I googled it.

I probably learned the jingle when I was three or four years old....the way most little people learn, by hearing it repeated in play. I remember it as running in a circle song.

Just about every game we played had songs attached. Songs for skipping rope. for bouncing balls for playing beds (hop-scotch) with a stone peever and circle games

" On the mountain stands a lady, who she is I do not know'"

"Gypsy.Gypsy lives in a tent. can't afford to pay her rent."

"Tipper-ripper-rapper on my shoulder"

An anthology of Ayrshire Children's Songs has been compiled. They had never been in print before.They were simply handed down from generation to generation.

In my early childhood, in my home, we had neither radio, television nor electricity. We played outside in the yard of the building.. If it rained, we played cards or guessing games in the entry. There was little room for play in our homes and certainly not with friends. In the short while around the little fire before bed-time, we played the same guessing games, sang songs, told ghost stories in the gas-light and jokes that only children could find funny.

The entire street was a single facade and two storeys high. Buildings were different.Ours had eight ,two room "apartments". Mr.and Mrs. Bissett a childless couple lived in one unit Mr and Mrs. Loughlin in another with one child Katherine. All the rest had five to eight kids in the family. So every building had thirty and more youngsters of all ages.

Games had a season. It wasn't written anywhere. They just happened in succession.

I read the Mulberry Bush rhyme with surprise yesterday. Then I realised it was one of those medieval rhymes which did not start out as a children's song.

In the time before people could read, before print or newspapers or reporters , wandering minstrels went from town to town bringing news to the people. But the story could not be openly and freely told.

People were not free .They were serfs or slaves in modern parlance. They had no rights, no elections. They could neither read nor write. The wandering minstrel was to-day's equivalent of a reporter, slyly informing people and commenting on events of the day or months before, in a way that kept themselves out of trouble with the powers-that-be.

Who knows what was the event all those hundreds of years ago that prompted the Minstrel to sing ;

All around the mulberry bush
The monkey chased the weasel
The monkey thought t'was all in fun
Pop goes the weasel !

Nowadays we can read and we can write. We have elections . We have Blogs. No longer does a single individual or conglomerate get to decide what we should know and keep from us what they think might rock their boat.

But for all the change, we still find the same blighters and harridans in power who don't much care for the idea.


Thursday 14 May 2009

All Around the Mulberry Bush

Last year a motion by Councillor MacEachern , seconded by myself determined a park be located on the abandoned site of a former water tower.

It seemed the only possible use for the property. At the same time, I suggested property owners surrounding the site should be consulted about the proposed use.

The project was included in the 2009 capital budget estimates at $250k. to be taken from the Development Charges Reserve Fund. The cost was a bit of a shocker.

Last week, driving around looking at various parks and playgrounds, I realised with a shock,the enclosed site was entirely inappropriate for a park.

On Tuesday evening, I attempted to bring the issue to Council's attention as a matter of urgency in the new business section of the agenda.

Mayor Morris refused to allow it. With a consistent block of five supporting votes , the Mayor rules. If she does not choose to allow an urgent matter to be introduced, that's how the cookie will crumble.

The facts are: The one acre site is surrounded by homes. Mature vegetation on the residential
property encircles and encloses it. The area has no visibility from the road or the residences. Children playing there would have no protection from potential harm.

There's a reason why parks are open and visible from all sides.

There is even a York Regional Police Policy called Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design which would undoubtedly rule against a park being hidden away on the secluded former water tower site.

No matter. The Mayor has decreed. The issue can only be brought to Council's attention by a notice of motion. Then a motion duly moved and seconded. Then a council debate and a formal vote . Which may or may not succeed . Since the initiative is mine, the odds are stacked.

All around the mulberry bush,
The monkey chased the weasel
The monkey thought twas all in fun
Pop goes the weasel.

Wednesday 13 May 2009

A Fundraiser for a Worthwhile Cause

My daughter Heather and her family are involved in an annual fundraiser in the Town of Newmarket
My grandson Adam is a goalie in a hockey league for players of various abilities and ages. As happens, the league started with one team and gradually expanded. There's a team in Barrie, one in Cambridge and a third in Newmarket; all spun from the initiative of one caring Dad.

Once a year, the team travels to a tournament elsewhere.

It requires transportation, accommodation, team jerseys ,equipment etc.etc. Team members need two support people. Usually parents. In Adam's case, he has three. His sister. Robin goes along. She is active in the fund-raising, knows the support needed and can pitch in wherever . Robin is fifteen years old.

The team is well equipped. At Christmas a social event happens. They receive top quality jackets with numbers and crests and hockey bags. The gathering cements friendship and the cohesion needed for the parents to provide the same kind of experience for their children that others take for granted.

The fund-raiser makes it possible

It happens at the Newmarket Senior Centre There's a dance. refreshments, an auction and multiple raffles and guessing games to raise money. Each family has a number of tickets to sell and they are sold at the door as well.

Substantial prizes are gathered for the auction. A week at Disney for a family of four was on the block one year. People come back again and again. They look forward to the event but the auction is the greatest attraction. The facility is always filled to capacity.

Adam's entire family spend the day at the centre making things ready. They provide the refreshments ,make the sandwiches and. set out the tables. Adam and friends put out the chips and cheesies keep the bowls filled throughout the evening.They socialise with the guests and dance with the ladies.

Brothers Keenan andAaron and Keenan's girlfriend Carey shift tables into place and do any other heavy work that's needed.. Robyn circulates the room selling tickets for the guessing games. Dad and friend Bob are the bar-tenders and it's a five hour stint. A table of ten from a group home are invited guests and they have a wonderful social evening .

They dance, they kibbutz, they chuckle and laugh and know that they belong.

Everyone works hard but it's a labour of love and the proceeds are substantial.

Every penny is carefully spent and accounted for. Proceeds from the various projects are itemised. The fee for the facility is paid to the Town of Newmarket. They do not request fees be waived by the town. The music is paid for and the license.

It's an exciting event and a good time is had by all . The benefits, as noted above are substantial.

One year they made $14k .Last year, the final tally was $11k. Our communities are generous in support of worthwhile causes.

The Mayor's Dilemma

Mayor Morris is huddling with Chief Administrative Officer and Town Solicitor this morning. (May 13th)Ostensibly to determine what can be done about me and what I do here on this Blog and in my Letters to the Editor. Thousands of tax payer dollars have been spent already on a variety of legal opinions to ferret out a final solution to the dilemma.

Last night a person made use of the public forum to unleash a lengthy diatribe of accusations and allegations against myself. Public forum is an opportunity granted by council,for citizens to bring attention to concerns they might have about public business. Citizens granted the right to address council are bound by the Rules of Order.

When the complainant had finished her attack, the Mayor accommodated her further by receiving a motion to suspend the Procedure Bylaw, to allow the personal vilification of an elected member to be placed in the public record and referred to a private meeting between herself and town staff .

The gist of the complaints were that I had repeatedly insulted. harassed and defamed in my Blog.

Blog is a written record . Scrolling back to December 20th, 2008, and I invite readers to do so, there is no reference whatsoever to the complainant or her activities.

My grand-daughter Hayley Buck was in the audience with classmates ,parents and teachers. They were to receive their winning anti-litter plaqued posters. My sons Frank and Andrew and Hayley's mother Rhonda .were there to see this small member of our family being recognised for excellence.
First, by courtesy of the Mayor and a block of compliant councillors, they were obliged to witness an ignominious display of ignorance and such a gross abuse of power and process, the likes of which I have never seen, directed toward myself , an elected member of the council.

In one media or another, I have for more than fifty years used the written word to convey my opinion to all and sundry. I am a battle-scarred veteran of many political battles. Everything likely to be said about any politician has already been said about me, perhaps more than once. Still. I hold elected office by virtue of the trust of people who know precisely what might be expected from me.

In 2003, after an absence of fourteen years,I was re-elected to council. In 2007 I was again returned. I occupy my seat as a representative of the people. When I am dis-respected, they are disrespected.

Profound ignorance of proper procedure , patronising, insulting, demeaning, condescending and disrespectful conduct from the head of the council are frequently endured silently for no reason other than respect for the people we serve and the symbol of responsibility and authority of elected office which the council chamber represents.

I have made the observation before , the current Mayor of Aurora enjoys neither my respect, trust nor my confidence.

Last night's display in the Council Chamber of Aurora illustrates why more perfectly than anything I could write .

Saturday 9 May 2009

Ethics and Hospital Funding

During the last term of council, the President and the Chairman of the Southlake Regional Health Centre came to Aurora and other municipal councils in northern York Region with a pitch for property owners to pay for hospital expansion. They had a resolution prepared for council. All it needed was a mover, a seconder and a favourable vote. Talk about a hard sell.

But that's not how it went down. Aurora Council gave a resounding no. Mayor Morris was a councillor then.

People have been donating money to the fundraising project ever since. But the expansion plans are ambitious. Fundraising is apparently too slow. The pitch was made again but this time, bypassed municipal councils. The movers and shakers went directly to Regional Council and were successful.

Recently Regional Chairman Bill Fisch came to Aurora Council by invitation of the Mayor(now regional representative). The chairman explained the decision to tax property owners for hospital expansion.

A full hour of council's time was taken to hear the rationale for a decision already made.

The argument is no more acceptable to me now than it was before but my opposition is stronger.

Fund-raising has been going on for at least three years. Thousands of people have already given voluntarily. With a tax imposed ,they will pay twice. Once from the heart and once without as much as a by-your-leave. Hardly a fitting way to express appreciation. And conversely, a good way to generate resentment

The tax is unfair. People who already gave what they could afford from their resources are forced to pay again. People who use the facility and live outside the region will not be taxed.

South Lake Regional Health Centre is not local. . Users come from a wider geographic region. Because of hospital facilities, Newmarket has become a centre for medical speciality. The Health Centre is where and how the specialists ply their trade. Patients come from as far away as North Bay. They hail from Simcoe County, Barrie, Beeton, Alliston and many distant points.

Even if we wanted to, we could not deny access to the facility. Health and hospital care is a provincial responsibility. Revenue sources are derived from income tax, lottery funds and I think, payroll contributions.

Mr. Fisch agreed with my argument. He contended however, the same principle applies to York Region residents having had and still having access to Toronto's hospitals.

It's not true.

Toronto property owners do not pay taxes to support hospitals. There is no line item in Toronto's budget for hospital services
York Region residents contribute to provincial revenues. We have a right to access hospitals which are funded from our taxes and gambling habits and I think, payroll contributions.

The Region's decision to tax property owners for hospital construction is not illegal. No question of legality applies.

It is not immoral. How cost is shared is not a question of morality .

The Region's decision is neither fair, just nor equitable. It cannot be commended.

Maybe the Region doesn't have a Code of Ethics to guide their decision-making.

If they do, they obviously need a workshop to explain the principle .

Tuesday 5 May 2009

Fox in the Hen House 2

The squawking on the Aurora Citizen Blog was horrendous. Who would have thought a post about a missed council meeting would have created such a ruckus. Two council members were absent by the way.

I re-read my post to see what might have engendered such fury. But nope, I don't get it. I try to learn from younger more modern colleagues. They don't make it easy.

Last term I had the best record of attendance. What can I say ? I like being part of a council. It's what makes Evelyn run. But when the annual attendance record was reported the comment was "It's quality that counts not quantity."

Well, I thought, in modern parlance it must be bad to have a perfect record of attendance. The person with the second worst record was elected Mayor in the current term.

I referred in the same post to an award presentation on the agenda. It was a Regional Award. That mention too was a fault.

Along with seven other councillors and full complement of Department Heads, many hours are spent chained to chairs as a captive audience while awards are presented and pictures shot. As well, multiple delegations appear by invitation of the Mayor to take advantage of T.V.cameras to promote their particular endeavour. Aurora Council Chamber during a Council Meeting is like a Brokerage House for community events.

The devil finds work for idle hands and my mind is no less occupied. As I while away the hours I regularly contemplate a better use for public resources. Particularly when the hour of adjournment arrives and the corporation's business agenda is substantially incomplete.

Award presentations can be made with the same ceremony in the Mayor's office with councillors and photographers invited. It's how things used to be done and having been a part of it, I think it's better.

The presentation becomes an event then and not just an item on the agenda with people being ushered out immediately to get on with the next piece of non-corporate - business Tea and cookies can be served with an opportunity for conversation and the occasion made that much more memorable for those being honoured.

Monday 4 May 2009

Heather's Note

It looks like Evelyn's blog has been bitten by the 'comment remover' bug too. There are a few comments that have gone missing.

Friday 1 May 2009

A Meeting Not Attended.

I missed Tuesday's Council meeting.The agenda was sparse. There was an in- camera item I did not intend to participate and another on the public agenda, I did not intend to vote. Rules require all members to vote on all questions. Ethics mitigate against making a public issue of certain matters.

There is a way of avoiding the conflict. It was not taken.

Eat Smart Awards were being presented by the Mayor and a delegation of three, representing fourteen churches were seeking endorsement for Mayor's Prayer Breakfast event.

My feelings about the efficacy of group prayer are personal and will not be shared. The risk of being a captive audience to a politician fulminating on the issue is more than likely to provoke an inappropriate and irreverent response, the degree being entirely dependent on time consumed. .

I needed to steer clear.

York Region Transit Spring News Letter informing of changes in service was an item on the agenda.

Councillor MacEachern submitted the Arboretum News Letter as a memorandum. The document had already been distributed in our mail boxes. Why it was on the agenda was not immediately obvious.

A vexatious item was the recommendation from the workshop on April 21st with Mr. David Nitkin, the town's Integrity Commissioner.

During the course of the meeting, Mr. Nitkin explained his role would be educational. He recommended he would not review actions of members of advisory committees. He would recommend, as well as impose sanctions on councillors. He stressed the likelihood would be extremely rare. He would not be a policeman.

His comment prompted a reaction from the Mayor. A litany of complaints councillors had had to endure throughout the term was recited. Professional reputations had been sullied . Information had been leaked from closed meetings. Councillors had been accused of Breach of Trust. Legal advice had to be sought at taxpayer's expense ($16,200). Establishment of a Code of Ethics and appointment of Integrity Commissioner was the advice received. (Though no culprit was ever named)

Mr. Nitkin's advised his role would be that of an educator, not a policeman, and he would not deal with past complaints. It did not sit well.

The Commissioner was retained prior to the retirement of Corporate Services Director Bob Panizza in November 2008....six months ago.

One educational workshop has been held. The principle of ethics was examined. Never having had the advantage of such a forum before, I found it extremely valuable. But three members of council were missing.

The opportunity to learn was not shared .The value of the workshop was reduced accordingly. Though the cost was not.

The Commissioner had recommended private workshops. He felt participants would be more relaxed, find it easier to ask questions and engage.

But the second session was public. Council was not consulted. It went twenty-minutes beyond schedule. Nothing new was learned . People clearly have a different concept of ethics.

Thus far, the exercise has been like trying to take a bite from an apple hanging from the ceiling on a string.

The longer the string, the wider the swing.

The coherence of the Town's Code of Ethics does not improve with time and exposure to reality either.