"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

Saturday 31 October 2009

A Learning Experience

Since the eighties, Aurora has provided a briefing for councillors at the beginning of every term.

The last I attended was at Nottawasaga Inn; close enough to encourage attendance but far enough to keep people together for the complete session.

All members of Council were expected to attend. Seven department heads were required to attend

Experts in Municipal Planning and Law were retained to deliver lectures in their particular field .
Friday evening started with a meal together in the dining room and ended around ten p.m.

Saturday started at eight-thirty and also ended at ten p.m. All meals were taken together.

Friday and Saturday ended with a social hour. The CAO schlepped the bar in boxes to the hotel. Whatever we had was at liquor store prices. Most of it came back to the Town Hall. It must still be there. I haven't seen it since.

Sunday was scheduled to end with lunch.

Not much of the week-end was left for rest and relaxation with the family. .

Each department head briefed councillors on matters outstanding in their particular department. There was time for questions but the schedule was kept. A lot had to be accomplished in a limited time.

The program was prepared by senior staff. prior to the election. A deal was negotiated with the Inn. Total cost was in the area of $10 ks.

We didn't get full value that last year. Three Councillors refused to attend. Councillors Morris and Gaertner felt it was not proper. The price was the same anyway.

If one more councillor had decided not to attend for righteous reasons, the whole thing would have had to be cancelled but the price would still have remained the same.

A deal was a deal. A contract is expected to be fullfilled.

We had six new councillors elected last time out. They were not provided with the opportunity to be briefed. Mayor Morris stuck to her guns that the exercise was not proper. I believe the argument was that the exercise should be conducted within town limits. But that didn't happen either.

On the other hand , as a member of York Regional Council, The Mayor took full advantage of the opportunity to be briefed in her new responsibilities at the region by much the same practise in Aurora for at least the previous ten elections. .The Mayor took the precaution of requesting Aurora Council to authorise her attendance at the region's orientation for new councllors. They did.

Now we are having a discussion in the community about the need for Councillors to have formal credentials to qualify for election to Council.

Little detail has been provided about how that could be accomplished. Who would provide the education? How would it be paid for and who would decide what might be necessary to fullfill
the role of spokesperson for one's neighbours.

Why is it not part of the school curriculum for students to learn public service is a worthwhile endeavour?

Friday 30 October 2009

A Carpet of Gold

Almost all the leaves are off the maple. It happened differently this year. All week long, night and day they drifted softly into place, in layers, to cover the ground below like a carpet of gold.

In the evening ,in the dark, the pale ghostly shapes have floated silently past the windows.

No breeze disturbed their fall.

The maple next door, not twenty feet distant ended the season differently. A third turned strawberry pink in August, gradually deepened to red then russett and finally dark brown.
The rest of the leaves went from green to dark brown and many still remain on the branches.

Gardens have been different this summer. I noticed last time I was out on my scooter, dahlias were exceptionally beautiful. The variety of shapes and colours in the dahlia family are always spectacular. But mostly, in Canada they do not reach full majesty in their height, size and shape of blooms.

Except this year. I came home in wonderment. Then I realised. We had a wet cool summer.

It was an English summer.

We had legendary English gardens. The more modest snap-dragon is still producing colourful flowers and they have re-seeded themselves from the previous summer three times now.

So winter may well have had a part to play.

Thursday 29 October 2009

Secret & Confidential

I wrote this last Sunday afternoon.

I have spent the last hour re-reading' several times, an item on the Closed Session agenda for Tuesday evening. It's a memorandum recounting various applications and decisions made in the matter of the Westhill Development project.

There are seven pages. Each one is stamped “Confidential” and “ Privileged and Confidential Legal Advice.” There are three attachments and four maps with Application File Numbers.

Applications are not private . Once filed, they are in the public record.

There are dates of O.M.B. Pre-Conference Hearings. The O.M.B. does not hold hearings in secret. Decisions are public documents.

There were two Committee of Adjustment applications, hearings and refusals. All public.

There was a Divisional Court proceeding. The Courts are public. I've sat in on trials. Anybody can. Decisions are in the public record.

Official Plan Amendments and Zoning Amendments were made in 1999. They evolved into Appeals to the Ontario Municipal Board because of failure by the Municipality to make a decision.

After the March 4th Public Planning Meeting, a request was made to the O.M.B. by four neighbours , for a Consolidated Board hearing. The Town supported that petition.

It was refused. Twice . Both were public decisions.

The first was appealed to Divisional Court who referred back to the O.M.B. It was refused again.

Since March 4th, none of this activity has been publicly reported to Council though a couple of updates have been presented in closed session.

Tuesday's closed session item is to receive further privileged and confidential advice in the form of three options for continuance.

At this moment, I do not agree this discussion should be in closed session.

Why the public should be shut out of the decision-making process.

Or how that it can be seen to be in the public interest?

Sunday 25 October 2009


I have challenged an item being on the agenda of an in-camera ,or closed session, as it is now called, to no avail. The Mayor simply directed the question to town solicitor Christopher Cooper who affirmed his opinion the matter did belong behind closed doors.

With six votes securely in the mayor's pocket, there is little point in arguing . There are more serious matters to contend. You have to pick your battles.

A councillor does not function under the authority of the Mayor or the town solicitor. The solicitor has the responsibility to advise Council and it is a serious one. In the past, on far more significant issues, advice has been frequently dismissed.

If I do not perceive the town's interest at stake and alternately, if I see the public right to be informed being frustrated, it means I must make my own decision. I am not bound to secrecy where secrecy is not protecting the public interest.

There are a couple of complications though; there's a clause in the Code of Conduct which specifies information obtained in closed session is not mine to disseminate to the public. It's one of the reasons I do not support the wording of the Code.It's also the reason an agenda must be approved by council.

The second is that the issue is not always clear before the discussion. Sometimes I am home before I think; Hey, wait a minute, why was that behind closed doors?

It happened after the last closed session and another is coming up on Tuesday's agenda. .

The last one was a request from Roger's cable to make a new arrangement for filming council meetings. Currently a big truck rolls up to the town hall entrance Three huge cameras are unloaded, heavy cables laid into the council chamber, camera operators set up inside and a person operates inside the truck.

Apparently there's a better way of accomplishing the same purpose. Rogers can install five cameras in the council chamber. A station can be established in the room behind the chamber for an operator and his equipment.Audio and visual production could be improved.

Equipment permanently installed, one operator instead of four or five,better audio/visual
production . What could be wrong with that?

When I came back on Council in 2003, a frequently voiced opinion heard around the council table was Council was the least watched local program. Little value was given to the service.

A strongly argued opinion would be dismissed as " performing for the cameras".

On the other hand, no-one ever suggested Aurora Cable should be invited to make themselves scarce.

I heard about a complaint against Aurora Cable once because they did not adequately project the sound level of applause received in response to a councillor or candidate's comment. But that's only hearsay.

The service is provided at no cost. But now Rogers needs something from the town. They are proposing to install valuable equipment and to protect their ownership they need to have permission and an agreement.

I don't see that needed to be a closed discussion. I do not see the town's interest jeopardised by public discussion of the request.

But it was. Some members felt there may be an opportunity here and that was sufficient reason to huddle.

Well you know, sometimes the logic escapes me.

The Leaves Are All Gold

Every one is the same. The colour in the light is so intense, it momentarily hurts my eyes when I look up at them.

Stirring the Porridge

I was doing that this morning and it occurred to me there is a bit more information I can provide on the litigation matter against Ms. Morris,MacEachern,Gaertner,Granger,Gallo and Wilson.

They were served separately as individuals on September 8th.

There are two clauses . Clause A relates to the statement published under the direction of the six, in The Auroran and The Banner and online of both publications.

Clause B. states.

The article contains defamatory and malicious statements concerning Buck which were intended to discredit and disparage her as an elected public official .In their natural and ordinary meaning, the above words were intended and understood to and by innuendo mean that Buck is an incompetent Councillor who is unfit to properly discharge her duties as an elected official and who has been found to have acted unlawfully and unethically, contrary to the Council Code of Conduct.following a thorough, impartial and full investigation.

That's the complaint each has to respond to and when they do and it becomes a public document, as is the one above, I will report that one to you as well.

Saturday 24 October 2009

The Agenda

It's Saturday afternoon. I've just taken a second look at Tuesday's Agenda. Business matters for Council's attention become more sparse as the weeks go by.

September's Public Plannng meeting had one item on the agenda. It was appearing, for no known reason except council recommendation, for a second time. October's Public Planning Meeting has been cancelled. No applications have been forthcoming.

In-camera agenda items become less legitimate, to my mind. Items being discussed behind closed doors do not all merit confidentiality.

In a normal Council, the issue might be discussed but with the inner circle of power in power, there is little hope of rational discussion and less of a reasonable outcome.

On Tuesday, two officials from Lake Simcoe Conservation Authority are making a presentation re: Item 2. Sheppard's Bush Conservation Management Plan.

According to the agenda , the plan is not being presented by said officials .

The plan and agreement are being recommended in a memorandum on corporate stationery from the "Desk of Councillor MacEachern". No explanation provided. No desk identified.

The Memorandum introduces a 67 page report providing an inaccurate history of the property since it came under the ownership of Ontario Heritage Trust .

It lists names of those involved in the work of preparing the management plan and agreement.

The list does not include the Councillor 's name.

Not does it include Jim Tree,Manager of the town's parks department which has actually maintained the property since it came into public ownership.

Neither Heritage Trust nor the Conservation Authority has ever had the personnel resources to do the job.

The Town's Director of Leisure Services Al Downey did serve on the committee.There is no reference in the report to council direction for the work to be undertaken and reported. Without that, the presentation would not be within the scope of his authority.

The memorandum is not submitted under his name.

No indeed. It's Councillor MacEachern's name.

The Town is paying a consultant to review our current administrative organisation. Terms of reference would not likely have included anything to obscure the line of jurisdiction between the political body and the administration.

Yet there it is. A 67 page professional report presented "From The Desk Of Councillor MacEachern"

Things just keep getting weirder and weirder.

Litigation News

There's none.

I am mindful of what I learned when I initially asked in 2008 for the town's legal costs from our former Treasurer.

First he gave me the actual cost of George Rust D'Eye's services for the purpose of "investigating
a leak from the confidentiality of an in- camera meeting".

There was a tie vote, broken by the Mayor, to refuse to sell land at the appraised value to the Regional Police as a site for the Regional Headquarters.

It happened in September. The story came out in November in The Auroran. It must have been a slow leak.

Mr.Rust D'Eye's advice, no investigation results noted, cost a total of $16,200. That was before The Code of Conduct was written. I couldn't find Council's authorisation for that. The Mayor has said several times however, it was written by Mr.Rust D'Eye.

When I asked again for legal costs, the treasurer, gave me invoices for several months. A couple of things stuck out in my reading.

Different hourly rates are charged depending on who is handling what. E-mails and phone calls are charged by minutes that add up to hours. .

There was a fifty-five minute phone call from the Mayor on one invoice which would have cost close to $700.That was a really expensive and secret chit-chat.

Consultations; when a lawyer comes out to meet with council the fee is $5,000.

Remember the post I wrote about no other municipality in the region having any member of council dealing directly with external legal services.

Now you know why. Neither costs nor anything else can be controlled with councillors having free access to legal firms appointed on the basis of fee for service?

Mindful of how easy it is for costs to mount, I do not make unnecessary phone calls. I figure if the MacDonald has anything I need to know or act upon, he will call me.

My daughter who works in the city, acts as my courier.

I haven't heard a whisper around Council. But that's not surprising.

The only change is one made conspicuous by absence. There is a distinct reduction in abuse against myself on the Aurora Citizen Blog. It helps narrow down the source of those anonymous contributions.

A citizen has been trying to obtain the legal report said to support the complaint against me. He has filed a Freedom of Information request but the Town could not provide what they do not have.

The last action in the matter, is that six individuals and two publications have been served with Notice of Intent.

The Auroran and The Banner did what was needed to shift the burden from their shoulders.

That's all I know. Probably because, at the moment, that 's all there is to know.

Broke My Own Rule

When I realised I had misstated Councillor Bob McRoberts's vote on the Mosaic lighting issue, I thought I'd better go back and check the record.

To my everlasting shame. I discovered I had misrepresented Councillor Collins-Mrakas as well. The vote against the arrangement was six to three. The three being Councillors Bob McRoberts,
Collins-Mrakas and myself .

A reader pointed out I had not made the parties to the agreement clear. The two parties agreeing to share the cost of hooking up private lights to the public system to have lighting for a private space, were Canadian Tire and the Mosaic Town House Complex.

The town's part in the ridiculous set-up is to supply free power.

Friday 23 October 2009

Councillor Bob

Mine was not the only vote against the Mosaic Lighting issue. Councillors Marsh and Collins Mrakas did vote for it . They were persuaded the safety of the residents was a factor and the Town was responsible.

Councillor McRoberts was not in favour of it from the beginning. But Bob tends to be very canny and careful. That's not a failing. But in this Council, if you are too canny and careful, it's easy for your voice to be drowned out.

It wasn't that way with Bob on the Mosaic issue. The agreement that eventually came before the Council had the two parties paying half of the $10ks to connect Canadian Tire lights to the
public lighting system

The annual cost of power coming from our system to theirs,was in the single digits. Bob pointed out if they split the cost of power it would take several decades to spend more than the $10k it took to break out the cement to run the power through. Why wouldn't the parties simply agree to share the cost of power.

At one point, I pointed out anybody else doing that would be charged with stealing. People in the UK do stuff like that all the time. It's different culture. Different political history.

Sometimes people can't see simple simply because it's so simple.

When the Irish were dying of starvation during the potato famine,there was no shortage of food. Only potatoes. People were allowed to die because there were no potatoes. No potatoes to eat. No potatoes to sell.They had no means to buy anything else. So.... they died.

Or left Ireland in their thousands, to go across the Channel to the UK or the Atlantic in leaky boats to New York.... as refugees.... not from a famine.... from a society that didn't care...from a place where they would hang a seven year old child for stealing a loaf of bread.

In the Mosaic lighting issue, the Mayor vowed, "when people come to me for help, I am going to help them, no matter what".

The rest of Council didn't have anything memorable to say. All that was needed from them was their acquiescent vote. Which as yet, they have never failed to deliver.

Thursday 22 October 2009

Yet Another Example of Weirdness

A letter was circulated to Council recently from a former resident of the Mosaic Town House complex on Murray Drive. It was initially received by Mayor Morris.

The former resident of the complex , informed the Mayor in writing, whom she had recently met at the town park, of the appreciation of current residents of the Mosaic, for lighting, courtesy of Council, from the town's street supply to the emergency exit from the Complex.

The complaint against Canadian Tire's decision to turn the lights off at ten-thirty in the evening
was brought to council's attention on the eve of the previous election by a furious resident.

The resident was advised the solution to her problem was not in the town's hands. The lane was not town property.

Proper planning seeks to avoid land locking properties. Exits for fire and emergency vehicles are always contrived.

The election over, the Mayor's Chair in new hands, the resident returned, more confident on this occasion. A courtship promise may have been made.

On site meetings were held between the Mayor, town staff ,Canadian Tire and the resident, with the intent of finding "a solution" to "the problem".

The numbers grew. The Town House Board of Management became involved.

On one of the repeat occasions the matter was on a council agenda, staff advised, many hours of had been spent doing legal research into property titles, at considerable expense to the municipality. The property had been discovered to be the subject of a tri-party agreement.

Canadian Tire and The Mosaic Complex being two of the parties, one might imagine both parties were privy to the details of the tri-party agreement but neither chose to share.

Twenty-seven pages of dispute resolution mechanisms in the agreement were discovered by town staff.

Their advice was emphatic. The town had no role to play in the matter.

No matter. Council continued to play.

We now know from the appreciative former resident who ran into the Mayor at the town park and felt compelled to put her appreciation on the record on behalf of the current residents of the Complex,(stop for breath) three lights from the Canadian Tire parking lot are now hooked up to the town's street-lighting system for a supply of power from the town as opposed to Canadian Tire.

It is a minimal annual cost, we are told.

The principle of using public resources to provide for private convenience has been established by the Mormac regime.

It's one of those decisions not to be further discussed once made by Council according to the Code of Conduct written by George Rust D'Eye with input no doubt from the Chief Magistrate.

With the exception of course when Council is being congratulated.

When the vote was cast it was eight to one in opposition. Still is.


The name should be familiar. At the beginning of the term, Mr. Mestrinaro and two neighbours came repeatedly before council to argue they knew better than staff how rules and regulations are interpreted.

As residents of Ridge Rd they had concerns about Aurora Cable's three windmill turbines on their property.

Town zoning permits the turbines on the property. Cable equipment is so fine -tuned it was being damaged by brown-outs in power. ACI needed a stable energy supply and they erected the turbines and had power storage on a trailer with wheels to provide it.

Mestrinaro argued they were not opposed to turbines. That would have been difficult considering the religiosity of environmental concerns at the time.

They claimed instead they were concerned about dangers of storage and that the trailer did not conform to zoning.

Back they came again and again. Each time the Mayor permitted the challenges to staff. In particular, Chief Building Official Tesh Van Leeuwen and Planning Director Sue Seibert.

After months of harassment, ACI said;

"Enough already We are not attending any more on-site meetings with any more officials on the pretext of finding a solution to the problem. There is no problem."

With a final shot, Councillor MacEachern moved a resolution requesting staff to write a report giving the definition of the word "storage".

The Chief Building Official followed that direction. She wrote a report providing three dictionary definitions . It was received without comment.

Councillor MacEachern and Mr. Mestrinaro were tandem candidates in a previous election.

Who knows the influence on ACI's decision to sell the operation they fostered so carefully over more than forty years. They were a valuable contributor to our town's social and business community. They are missed.

Subsequent to that episode Mr. Mestrinaro was appointed, four votes opposed, to the Committee of Adjustment. The Committee is a quasi-judicial body required to make decisions on the basis of evidence which must be solicited and provided by the town's professional staff.

Mr. Mestrinaro appeared again before Council in Committee on Tuesday. He had made a bid for a second contract to provide a service to the town. .

Being an elected or appointed official does not prohibit a person in business from making a bid for town business.

However, it is required that such an official must stand well back and exempt themselves from influencing the award of the contract

Mr. Mestrinaro was successful in his first bid to manufacture the metal supports for picnic tables and benches.

He was not successful in the second for metal support for bleachers which are tiered seating

For obvious reasons, Provincial Regulations require such manufacture to be constructed by a company with proper credentials for doing so. Documentation is a requirement under the contract . It was not provided.

Mr. Mestrinaro is apparently convinced he understands the town's procurement policy better than town staff. Nothing would satisfy him but that once again he should take his argument to a meeting of council- in- committee.

Which happened on Tuesday .

With the result it will be recommended to Council that staff be directed to write a report for information of Council outlining the requirements of the Town's Procurement Policy.

The prohibition on an elected or appointed official from participating in a decision resulting in a pecuniary benefit was apparently not perceived as a problem in the case of Mr. Mestrinaro.

Last time I pointed out the impropriety of Mr. Mestrinaro's repeated attacks on the competence and authority of the town's professional advisers, Councillor MacEachern erupted in outrage that a town citizen would be so disrespected.

The Majestic Maple.

Green is fading as I write. Leaf tips are turning gold. That means they will fall without ever having been red.

The red on the tree next door has turned from russett to brown. The sky is grey and overcast.

Oops the light has changed. The gold is glowing.

A Continuation of the Thought.

After the war, the U.K. government raised the school leaving age to 15.

The significant aspect of leaving school was not the end of learning.

It was the clear cut-off point for childhood. Everything changed then. Young people got jobs. They didn't earn enough to set up on their own households but they were contributing to the household.They had new respect.

I was probably ten when Anna Murphy, who lived on my street turned fourteen and left school. Anna and her older brother Peter were the only children in her family.

The first Sunday after, Anna set out for church. Her new shoes had a small heel. She was wearing stockings. The hem of her coat was woman's length. She wore a stylish hat and carried a handbag.

The week before she was wearing flat shoes, socks , knee length skirt and a beret.

Anna had a new adult wardrobe. Childhood was over.

A few years ago, Joseph Campbell and Bill Moyer had a series of conversations on PBS Mr. Campbell was a Professor of World Religions.It was a life-time study. He was eight-four when he died. Which he did not do until he had completed his book on the subject.

In one program, he tallked about how young men in primitive cultures had to complete certain severe and dangerous trials before being deemed to have become adult.

It wasn't necessary for girls because physical changes were evident in females.

Moyer asked if Campbell thought the trials were necessary. Campbell said;

"Well look around you.( in New York) Look at the subways, the vandalism, the graffitti, the senseless crime . What is the average age and sex of the people in jails?"

His point was, such behaviour is unknown in cultures where a line is established when a boy to is recognised as a man.

It made a lot of sense to me.

I don't think my children or my grandchildren benefitted from childhood unnaturally extended by dependence due to prolonged education.

I don't believe they were as well educated .

My grandchildren don't even know how to hold a pencil properly. How can a person write properly, if they don't know how to hold the instrument. Does the keyboard make writing irrelevant? I don't think so.

Skills are acquired with discipline. The same goes for teaching skills. Discipline is a subject in itself.

I think the artifical extension of childhood and the unnatural burden on parents, creates underlying resentment . It 's the real reason, we have aberrant behaviour in youth.

I've had that thought for a long time.

It feels good to say it.

I doubt anything useful will come of it. Entrenched attitudes serving a powerful sector in society are hard to budge.

Still... one never knows where a seed might take hold.

Wednesday 21 October 2009


I started school in August 1932. Classes began at nine o-clock and ended at four in the afternoon. There were two ten minute recesses and a lunch break of one hour.

A single County Board of Education governed Catholic and Protestant systems.

Primary school was six grades. Secondary School was five. Legal age for leaving school was fourteen.Successful completion of third year Secondary earns a General Certificate of Education. I'm not sure certification existed then.

At five, I was dipping a pen into an inkwell,placing my thumb and forefinger over two holes in the pen stem and sweating over the formation of letters to the standard expected by our permanently sour headmistress, Sister Alphonsus. Blots and smudges were the bane of my existence.

We read aloud,learned religion,literature, spelling, grammar,drama, history,geography arithmetic,art,knitting sewing,gym, choir and The Latin Mass in Plain Chant.

History went back to Queen Boadicea and her Chariot, Alfred of the Burned Cakes and another fellow who learned a valuable lesson while hiding in a cave, watching a spider spin his web.

We learned of wars and Kings and Queen's and a poor opinion of Good Queen Bess, a Protestant, while her cousin Mary,Queen of Scots and a Catholic, was close to sainthood.

In geography, we learned of colonies, continents,countries,capital cities, major rivers,mountain ranges,surrounding oceans,the Gulf Stream and climate,natural resources and manufacturing industries.

Sister Alphonsus was an art teacher. Our Art classes were of serious dimension.

We were a working class community. The order of teaching nuns were not. We were taught God loves the poor and it's easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than a rich man to enter heaven.

We were not encouraged to aspire. If lessons were mastered we went on to the next class. Standings were not circulated. Obviously, if informed we'd done well, we might have had ideas above our station.

The poorer,the grimier a student,the more physical abuse and degradation was his lot. Gratuitous cruelty regularly contradicted the Message of Christ.

In Secondary school, our subjects were advanced. We had mathematics with geometry and algebra , French and Latin languages and science in a laboratory.

Compositions changed to essays. Reading plays and novels and writing poetry was English. Figures of speech were the last formal lesson I recall and the word "Onomatopoeia" stayed in my head ever since.It is a word derived from a sound.

We had lay teachers as well. But Nuns were in charge, They founded the school in my mother's time.

School was not a fun place to be then either..

University was the next stage. Few students were expected to advance from St Mary's Primary School. It wasn't because university was too expensive.The only criteria was competence. It was because most families could not or would not support a student beyond the legal requirement.

Then again, many career skills, like nursing, were acquired by doing and attending lectures and taking exams during off duty.

Formal school was not necessarily the end of an education. It was a foundation for learning.

I don't think it's the same now.

Nor do I think it's getting better.

A student with access to a computer can learn independently and hide the deficits.

Tuesday 20 October 2009

It is so

The Corporation is not invested in superstition. So I would say anyone who wants to change their house number can apply.

It doesn't necessarily mean the request will be granted.

The police and particularly the fire department are invested in correct addresses. If a change in numbers will likely cause confusion in finding an address in an emergency, the request will not be granted.

I don't know what the application fee will be but it won't be returned if the request is refused. It will be to cover the cost of processing the application which will have to be done to determine whether or not it will be granted.

The Town will likely be in the media's radar for a while watching for other weird and wonderful windmills we tilt.

And you know, when you are looking for something ridiculous, you quite often find it, even when it's not there.

Prohibited clotheslines is an issue in point. They never were.

Monday 19 October 2009

Say It Isn't So

It isn't so. People in Aurora can not automatically change their house numbers to 4 because of a superstition.

At some time in the nineties a policy was struck that the town would not consider changing an address specifically from the number 4. There is nobody around who knows why that policy was struck.

On October 13th, Council approved the removal of the clause from the policy.

Now people can request the number change. If circumstances permit, such as existing spacing of street numbers and all the normal agencies do not have an objection, the request may be granted.

An application would be needed and that involves a fee to cover the process.

People do know their street address when they buy their homes.

Aurora gets about ten requests a year while Richmond Hill and Markham get hundreds.

The current policy targets the number 4. Staff recommended the change to provide equal consideration for all numbers.

Council approved the report without discussion. The details above did not emerge for that reason.

A Revision.

I mis-stated. My "children" are not unhappy with my decision to take legal action against Ms Morris and company. It's only one. Number three son, Martin.

Martin lives in Barrie and commutes every day to Toronto.

One morning in the winter, his life flashed before his eyes on Hwy 400. His son Cameron was with him.

A garbage truck travelling north skidded. It mounted the dividing rail. continued north and missed their oncoming vehicle with inches to spare.

That's a life-changing experience.

At Thanksgiving, Martin spoke to me seriously about my decision to take legal action.

"You know Mother as well as I do. These things can take years. They will have lawyers too. They won't sit back . They'll come after you. Why do you need that?"

I have no problem putting personal feelings into words. Children can never hear too often they are loved. They cannot be loved too much.

It's not the same thing as giving them everything to which they think they are entitled.

Verbally expressing my deepest feelings about the rights of all people to fairness and equity and not to be exploited, above all by the people to whom they have given their trust, is easier written than spoken.

I have only seen the same vitriol in our public affairs one other time. The York Regional Police Association with full assistance from the Era Banner did it about ten years ago to Brian Cousineau, Chief of the York Regional Police.

I was powerless then to make a difference. No-one else did. I wept.

I have watched the same level of relentless cruelty within our town's administration. There is no one else now either.

I am not employed. No letters can be sent to an employer with the intention of damaging my

I have no children in school who can be taunted and tormented.

No business to be undermined.

If my integrity and character is not established in this small place, where I have lived on the same street, for almost half a century, it is never going to be.

So many people harmed...so much grief....how can that be allowed to pass?

"But why you, mother " my son asks.

I can only answer...why not?

Top O' The Mornin'

It's a lovely sunny morning and the leaves on my maple are mostly still green.Half of the tree behind it, in my neighbour's yard, has been various shades from soft pink to deep red to russett and now gold and turning since August.

If you have read Ivor Tossel's story, in the Globe and Mail ,there are a couple of comments I would like to make about it.

I have four nephews. Patrick lives in Cobden, Ontario with his wife Patti and their two sons. Cobden is closer to Pembroke than Ottawa. Sadly, we only see each other occasionally.

Neil, his brother lives in Ottawa and I see him on the same occasions .

They are my sister Kathleen's sons.

Ross and Craig Finnigan live in London, Ontario. They are my late brother Terry's sons. I see them less than Patrick and Neil.

I have no idea how the phrase"abysmal ignorance of my nephew" worked it's way into Ivor Tossel's story. I must have been talking about somebody else. You pick.

Also, it's always a good thing to get the last word in a story and I did. But "dead" is a bit of a clunker. I didn't care for that one.

Ivor talked to many, many people. I had understood the story would appear at least three week-ends ago and came to the conclusion there was just too much information, spread over too long a time, for it to be condensed to the size it needed to be to fit into what an editor had in mind.

I thought it wasn't going to happen after all.

Obviously he persisted. He is a young man. He has a byline already. Watch him grow.

Sunday 18 October 2009

Aurora: Toronto's Most Dysfunctional Suburb


Here is the link for the article in the Globe and Mail:


Underneath The Arches

My computer is on a desk against a wall. A window above it is filled with the middle part of a maple tree planted within weeks of coming to live in the house by my two sons. Maples almost as big are in the gardens on either side and in the one behind mine. I think they grew from seeds cast by my tree.

I've dug saplings out of my garden to be transplanted on properties of my children. The parks department have cut down growth from the lane abutting my home. With no-one to pull them , dig them or cut them to the ground, this small neck of Aurora would undoubtedly have become yet another maple bush without the help of man.

My neighbourhood was a farm. No trees had to be removed to make way for houses. The variety of birds staking their territory continues to increase. It is true a person can attract birds and butterflies by choosing specific plantings.Woodpeckers arrive when trees mature.

Human habitat does not damage the environment. Skunks, raccoons, rabbits. squirrels and chipmunks are not that particular. They are happy to share our space. Our homes too, if we make the mistake of allowing entry.

Ivor Tossel, the young journalist who wrote the story in the Globe and Mail about our "dysfunctional suburb' sat in the shade of that maple tree on my deck for almost a whole afternoon. It's pleasant and hard to leave.

He lives in the Beaches with his wife in Toronto. That's nice too. My boys and I spent our first three Canadian summers on Kew Beach.

Ivor came down from Saulte St Marie to make his living . He worked on the Aurora story for months and he did a fine job. As good as anybody, who has to sort out different perspectives, take sense from it and paint a whole picture from a snap shot.

The most difficult thing about writing a story like that would have to be choosing what to include and exclude from material collected.

He must have come to one of our concerts in the park on a Wednesday evening.

Now that is due diligence.

It's a shame the story isn't complimentary. Of course, if it was, it would not be news story.

For the record, I do not carry loathing in my heart for any human being. It's a needless and heavy burden.

Politics is in me. I suspect it always has been. It is not an easy row to hoe. People handle it differently.

I was elected Councillor shortly after I arrived in Aurora and I was Mayor within six years after that. I know how it feels to be chosen for the office and how it feels to be dumped ignominiously.It is so-o-o-o-o public.

I know what it takes to massage an image to the point where no-one dares criticise. I didn't do that. I didn't have what it takes.

Politics is like many areas of endeavour. Only those who do it, know what it takes to do it. True students of the art tend not to throw gratuitous criticism about willy-nilly. It tends to come back ....like a boomerang.

In that spirit, at the start of the term, I offered Mayor Morris the benefit of my experience. Before it became clear how much work had gone in to ensuring my defeat which became evident with the continued effort to render me irrelevant on Council.

I trust people until I am given a reason not to. I never trust after that. .

Still, if rules of order are observed at council meetings , no place exists for personal enmity to emerge or grow. It doesn't reflect well on anybody.

However, in Mayor Morris' council, no rules are observed. No holds barred.

Nada...Zilch...Amen my friend.

Baiting and abusing staff, maligning former Council members, in particular Mayor Jones, became an added feature which really brought out the worst in me.

We had a four year term. A single voice doesn't resonate. It had to be fight or flight. Flight was never an option.

Modern technology provided the weapon for defence.

Mayor Morris is the first Mayor in Aurora's history having to contend with modern technology. Failure to recognise the dynamics was a serious oversight.

I am the first Aurora Councillor to use it. But not without previously honed skills.

I have this notion that life is like a jig-saw puzzle with pieces scattered about on a card table. Invisible hands hover, waiting to move the pieces into place. At the right time, the pieces always move into the right place.

My children are concerned about my decision to take legal action against the Mayor and her five dedicated supporters. I don't take it lightly.

But there comes a time... when it is time.

Friday 16 October 2009

Rosie Di Manno

Has had a column in the Toronto Star for years now. If she were an American, I would guess her views are right-wing republican. With the prominence enjoyed for as long as she has, it must be assumed her ideas contribute substantially to readership.

I do not read Rosie's column. It's slant has not changed since it first appeared. It would likely grate to-day as much as it did when it started.

Not reading Rosie's views does not challenge her right. If I were younger, I might envy being able to make a living as she does. We all have equal right to our views whatever they may be.

After I did it, I realised I spent a whole bunch of money on a web site that wasn't necessary. I
recently learned my mistake didn't end there. In the course of discovery, I also learned this blog is not dependent on a web site. Any internet user can post a blog. It's a free service from Google.

I use it to put out information on our town's affairs. It confines me to a narrow readership. It takes a lot of time and I welcome comments on issues.

My character, integrity , intelligence and ownership of this space are not open for discussion.

This week I wrote three posts providing information on chronology of the Oak Ridges Moraine Act. How it relates to our town; it does not prohibit development on the Moraine; some land-owners had development rights prior to passage of the Act; the Province did not choose to purchase the land to save it from development; instead they indicated their preference for a golf course development.

My solitary vote on the Westhill Development was to follow advice of staff to save the town harmless and spend town resources on what was necessary to ensure aspects of the development of concern to the town, would be attended to satisfactorily.

I do not expect the average resident to be familiar or even interested in nitty- gritty details of processing plans for development.It's tedious and time-consuming. It goes on for years. As an elected representative, it 's what I do on behalf of the rest of us. .

I do not expect new councillors to have the same grasp that comes from decades of involvement.

I do not have the expertise and up to the minute knowledge of changes in Acts and Regulations.

I expect to depend substantially on advice from staff who hold jobs and earn salaries on the basis of expertise and are forever willing to explain principles and details to any councillor interested in being sufficiently informed to make sensible decisions and who does not regard themselves beyond the need to learn.

I expect, in the current dynamics of our council, to frequently be the odd man out when it comes to a vote on substantive matters.

At no time soon, do I intend to change on the basis of how it might be perceived. I have the opportunity to tell it the way I see it and I do.

Like Rosie, my mind works the way it always has. My values do not change.The struggles of my children and seventeen grandchildren keep me grounded. The basics in life do not change.

I look for strong, straightforward and sensible representation in an elected representative. Sometimes it takes time to develop and sometimes it doesn't.

The only one I can be sure will see things the way I do ....is me.

I started this post intending to point out to frustrated commentators how simple it is to post a blog of their own.

It's energising.

Sometimes, like now, a post takes off in a different direction.

I just go with the flo.

Thursday 15 October 2009

Who said Corruption?

I said a meeting was " rigged"

Somebody responded " that's a serious allegation. Do you mean to suggest the corruption started three years ago? "

Who said anything about corruption?

In political discourse, all manner of comments are simply par for the course.

Corruption means an illegal act, harmful to another. Like exploiting the trust of a senior to steal from them.

Tampering with weights and measures so as not to give fair value.

Copying a person's bank card to steal from them .

Extortion is corruption. Cheating an employee out of wages . Abuse of power over anyone who can't fight back, comes close.

Is corruption stuff that happens during an election campaign?

Perish the thought.

Adjectives galore exist to describe election campaign activities. I have been known to coin a few.

Politics is not Sunday School. A candidate with little to offer is far more likely to say nasty stuff about a fellow contender.

"Don't vote for that fellow. His mother wears army boots"

Voters have a role to play in judging what they are hearing and reading.

Candidates can fight back.

When I came back to Council in 1981, George Timpson was Mayor. I guess he thought he'd better let me know right away who was boss.

Experience mitigates against some decisions. A person functioning in the public eye, is more likely to lose their cool than otherwise.

George banged the gavel .

A Mayor is not a judge with absolute control and officers to enforce his rule.

A Mayor depends on mutual respect from members to maintain order and decorum . Everyone loses with a presiding member who has no idea what it takes to preside.

Anyway...George banged the gavel. I reacted. The only thing at hand was the little marble pen-holder bearing my name. I picked it up and banged right back at him...hard.

George was stunned. Eleanor Stoddard , a new Councillor, went down the stairs weeping at the end of her first meeting.

Ronnie and Dickie (Wallace and Illingworth) had a talk show on Aurora Cable. They invited me on the show and prompted an explanation.

"Well," I said, "it's like hockey: if somebody smashes you into the boards, you don't wait for the referee to come to the rescue"

"You smash back. Because if you don't, they will take turns smashing you into the boards "

George never did it again.

Politics is not a blood sport. But it's not for sissies. Shrinking violets need not apply. .

Play dirty and you risk it back.

Public humiliation is never forgotten.

My advice to anyone who needs it:

There's no need to plan and scheme. Relax ... watch and wait....the opportunity will present itself .... you will recognise it the second you see it.

That's not corrupt. It's holding your own in an arena of your choice.

Robert the Bruce enjoys having his say on various issues. That's a good thing. I always read what he has to say. He knows about some things that I don't.

Since the blogs started,The Bruce has indicated more than once, he thinks I no longer have a place in the town's affairs.

He has objected strenuously to my habit of letting people know things, they have a right to know, from my perspective. He benefits but he insists it's wrong.

He has indicated his preference for two current councillors in the next election. I am not one.

It's his right to state his position.

I do not complain.

A whining politician is a wretched figure..

My intent is to fulfill my commitment of the last election as opposed to working on the next during the current term.

If I read Robert's disapproval as bias against me on the basis of my age and experience, that's how I read it.


To Complete The Picture

One more item related to the Moraine needs to be told. It harks back to the last election campaign,

Susan Walmer, the Mayor's friend and supporter,organised a Coalition of Ratepayers' Association.

An all-candidates meeting was sponsored by the organisation. Both Mayoralty candidates expressed misgivings about impartiality. Ms.Walmer was understood to be Ms.Morris' campaign manager.

Boycotting an all-candidate's meeting is not an option for a candidate. Attendees are not necessarily part of the plot.They come to listen to the candidates. Participation does involve some risk but failure to participate is a waste of an opportunity.

The late Dick Illingworth was invited to participate and he did with his usual grace. He pulled "random" questions out of the hat.

At best, an all candidates format is always contrived . Questions are someone, other than the candidate's, idea of relevant issues.

My question was about the Oak Ridges Moraine. Would I approve development proposed on the Moraine.

I answered the question was not as simple as it seemed. Certain parcels of land within the Moraine already had planning designations. They had been identified in the Moraine Act and despite the general impression, the Act would prohibit all development within The Moraine, that was not in fact correct. The municipality cannot deny an application for development on land with a legal designation.

Candidate Al Wilson was asked the same question . His voice rising, as per usual, he declared vehemently, he would never agree to development on the Moraine. He got the anticipated hearty round of applause.

I could not have given a different answer without distorting the facts as I knew and understood them.I could have added half the Town of Aurora is in Oak Ridges Moraine. Does that mean we should all fold up our tents and vanish in the night? I don't think so. People are critters too.

Without experience, Candidate Wilson could conceivably claim to be unaware of the facts.

Our disparate answers did not alert me.

But then:

Candidate MacEachern was asked if she had any knowledge of an incumbent ever having acted in a conflict of interest.

Ms MacEachern responded she could not believe she was the one to be asked that question.

She stated candidate Jones had on one occasion failed to declare a conflict of interest. He abstained from voting when increases in employee salaries were being discussed in-camera and failed to abstain when the second vote was called in public. Mr. Jones spouse is an employee of the municipality.

Councillor MacEachern was right. It was more than interesting she would be asked that question.

Of all the candidates on the ballot, the only one who could have responded that way to that question was Ms. MacEachern.

The town has a three year labour contract. The last contract had been negotiated in 2003, when Councillor Mac Eachern was not a councillor. The previous contract would have been 2000, when neither Morris, Gaertner nor any other candidate in the 2006 election campaign coud possibly have come up with that answer.

The first vote cast would have been in camera. How Mayor Jones voted,only a member of council could claim to know. There would be no public record to verify the statement.

Under the Code of Conduct, such information is the property of the municipality. It is not the property of a person in attendance at a meeting by virtue of being a Councillor. It cannot be used for the purpose of said Councillor.

That was when I knew, the misgivings of the Mayoralty candidates other than Morris were bang on. The questions were contrived for the benefit of some candidates and against the interest of others.

The meeting was rigged.

An example of what was to come.

The least appealing aspect though was that they used the character and reputation of the late , former Mayor and highly esteemed Dick Illingworth to lend credence to their nefarious but not particularly clever plot.

On the other hand, for all their skullduggery, they were not completely successful.

I did get re-elected.

They did not elect their complete slate.

Morris did not win a majority of the votes cast.

On the other hand, of Councillors elected, a majority has provided a solid , consistent and congealed block of votes ...like in lumber.

Wednesday 14 October 2009

And More

After the March 4th Public Planning Meeting, neighbours of the Westhill Development decided to request a joint board hearing.

Coucil decided to join in that . I asked for the implications.

It means the Ontario Municipal Board and the Ministry of Environment jointly hear the appeal.
It also means the time for the hearing would expand to seven weeks or so. The cost would be three times that of a regular board hearing.

The cost of a regular board, considering all the experts to be heard would likely be a couple of hundred thousand dollars.

When I posited a joint board hearing might cost upwards of half a million dollars, it was not challenged.

The application was denied by the O.M.B.

The neighbours then decided to appeal the decision to the Ontario Divisional Court. Again the town joined them

The Divisional Court referred the decision back to the O.M.B. on the basis of errors .

The O.M.B. reviewed the decision again and came to the same conclusion a second time. Once again a joint board was denied.

Exactly that result would have been achieved by the neighbours of the Westhill Development project taking these steps without Town support. I shudder to think of tax dollars needlessly expended on this process.

We still have the cost of a couple of hundred thousand dollars for a regular board hearing facing us.

Whatever impact the development might have on the neighbours of that development, it will not be shared by the majority of residents of the town.

The neighbours have a right to fight to protect their own interest.

But not at my expense.

The sight of a golf course on Leslie Street will not affect my view. The burden on municipal
services from wealthy occupants of seventy-five, self-sufficient, luxury town-homes alongside a golf course will not make a whisper of difference to my life-style or anyone else I know.

Spending hard-earned tax dollars on legal fees for something I cannot see, feel ,use or benefit anyone I know, is not my idea of careful management of our corporate affairs.

On the other hand, assessment dollars flowing from development into town coffers is something I understand and appreciate.

And so should anyone who reads this post.

Who among us is so bloody well off, we can afford to turn our noses up at revenue that will keep our taxes down.


Background Material

The application for Westhill development is on land purchased by Joseph Lebovic in 1985. At the time, he was completing a development of seventeen luxury homes when adjacent land went on the market.

An Official Plan Designation was obtained in 1995. Bob Rae was in power and was concerned about the Moraine. The province determined a golf course development would be acceptable.

The application was filed in January 2008. Complete supporting documentation was not. When the plan came to a Public Planning Meeting on March 4th 2008, the developer had already filed a request for a hearing with the Ontario Municipal Board.

There is a timeline imposed by the province for municipalities to make decisions on applications. If a decision is not made within three months an applicant has the right to an OMB hearing.

It take the decision out of the hands of the municipality. If a decision is controversial, some politicians are happy to have the OMB take the blame.

The report that came before Council on March 4th 2008. was a position paper for the town to take to an OMB hearing already scheduled.

Every agency with responsibility to comment had done so favourably. Town staff still had serious concerns. They recommended approval in principle.That means outstanding matters still have to be resolved. It gives authority to staff and developer to continue to work together on the project. Outright refusal is seldom sustainable.

The Town's position to put before the Ontario Municipal Board was the issue voted in
Council on March 4th.2008

The Ontario Municipal Board has the authority to set aside a municipal decision.

It is wise to have all t's crossed and i's dotted for such a hearing. Decisions are based on hard evidence.

Lawyers, engineers, planners. hydrologists and multiple other disciplines are involved in such an exercise. . It takes weeks. It costs hundreds of thousands of dollars. Taxpayer dollars.

I did not vote in favour of a golf course development on March 4th.2008. I voted in favour of taking a properly prepared position before the Board. To ensure, if approval was granted every aspect of the development would be scrutinised and every detail would be as it should to warrant nothng detrimental.

The fact is, despite arguments to the contrary by silly willies, people still have property rights in Canada.

Despite massive manuals of red tape and regulations and armies of bureaucrats,the only way a government can ensure land, not otherwise unsuitable for development, will not be developed, is to buy it out of the private sector into the public sector.

Bob Rae couldn't even think about that with the massive deficits he had on hand.

Dalton Mc Guinty did it in Richmond Hill. He bought Moraine land with subdivision services already in the ground. Imagine the price of that. Now the same government is in a frenzy to find new taxes to pay for deficits they created.

There is no guarantee that at some point in the future when memory has faded , it's surprising how quickly that happens, some other government, sufficiently hard pressed for resources, might reverse that decision.Those hard services have not likely been dug out of the ground. Or the capacity of the York Durham trunk sewer reversed.

It won't be the first asinine and insanely expensive decision made in history by politicians to quieten noisy nutbars .

Tuesday 13 October 2009

A Night To Remember

On October 23rd 2002 , a meeting was held during the election.It was not the norm. Substantive issues are not usually decided by a dead duck council.

The Province had fixed a deadline for municipalities to forward a list of designated properties within the Oak Ridges Moraine. The Planning staff report had to be approved by council.

Reference to a letter containing solicitor/client privilege to be discussed behind closed doors was part of the report.

Rebecca Beaton and I were on regular speaking terms then. It was a day of excitement. The lawyer's letter was not attached to the report. Skull-duggery was suspected Forces of opposition were rallied.

That night, during public forum, speaker after speaker took the podium . They passionately demanded Council prohibit all development on the Moraine.

Phylis Morris , Susan Walmer, the Mayoralty candidate and his son, Rebecca Beat on and numerous others rallied to the cause.

Councillor MacEachern demanded the matter be discussed in public. Staff advised solicitor/client advice needed to be considered in private.

" Why had the letter not been circulated?" the Councillor demanded.

" The town's interest must be protected " came the answer.

An hour passed while Planning Director and solicitor left the chamber and attempted to write a report to satisfy the Councillor's demands.

It was a no go.

Mayor Jones and Councillor West spoke of legalities and urged against the action.

A resolution finally passed with the intention of removing all planning designations, including
one ordered by the Ontario Municipal Board and prohibiting development on the Oak Ridges Moraine.

The crowd applauded.

At a subsequent meeting, still before the election, a second motion had to be moved to undo the first. Councillor Mac Eachern stated she had not understood the impact of her motion and had no intention of taking away legal rights.

George Timpson voted for the first motion then changed his position .

George's "flip-flop" was featured in The Banner. Little else.

In the election, the Mayoralty challenger did amazing well for an unknown who demonstrated
no knowledge of the town's affairs.

John West dropped from top of the poll to second from the bottom.

George was not elected.

Phyllis Morris came in at the head of the poll.

Evalina MacEachern had withdrawn her name from the contest because she did not want to serve with the people who were on the ballot. Though not a member of the new council, she moved for a recount anyway. She had challenged staff's advice on the efficacy of the voting machines recommended.

It took a re-count and additional expenditure to prove the machines were perfectly efficient and staff's advice was vindicated.

Monday 12 October 2009

A Hostile Comment

Robert The Bruce , a regular contributor has made a comment which purports to prove I am a person without character, integrity or intelligence. Robert regularly records his hostility to my presence on council. My age and experience are the usual factors. I am forced to conclude his own credentials are suspect.

Be that as it may, principles observed at the local level in the past have long gone by the board. They were never written anywhere. They passed from council to council. The way traditions have always been maintained.

I learned them at the County level. Adverse competition was rare and many County Councillors were farmers.

I was a brash newcomer. Ever ready with a critical comment.

Farmers tend to take their time about a response. I was reminded of my grandfather. He wasn't a farmer. He was a coal miner. He had the same measured approach. Farmers have a measured tread...as if they are measuring off the lie and length of the land.

Obviously, those I knew were from York County. They listened more than they talked. They seldom had anything to say unless it was something.

I sat with Stewart Burnett, Reeve of Whitchurch. I don't remember his words but the sense was plain.

When you hold elected office, people find it easy to criticise. We are all here for the same purpose. To serve. Criticising each other adds nothing to the public debate.

They weren't much given to citing points of order either yet his comment was entirely to the point.

It was made in private.

The question of contributing, as a tax-collecting body, to charities and other fundraisers came up.

The United Appeal sought a donation and was refused. I pondered the question later.

It was Stewart Rumble who gave me the answer. He too was a farmer and Reeve of the Township of Markham and Warden of the County.

More than one principle applied:

Elected bodies do not compete with the voluntary sector. They have an unfair advantage. They have power.

Money changing hands can be seen as no less a bribe, from an individual to a public body as from individual to individual. Happening in the public sector, makes it no less suspect.

Disposable dollars available for voluntary causes were substantially less in those days. That helped to keep things focused.

Fund-raisers solicited the private sector. People could give or not. It was a personal choice.

Soliciting an elected body as well for contributions meant taking more from people who had already given or who had made a conscious choice not to do so.

It was double- dipping... Picking people's pockets...nothing noble about it.

In those days, property-taxes were understood to be services to property.

The lines are no longer so clear. Nor the principles either.

Sunday 11 October 2009

I Attended a Conference.

Years ago, I attended a conference in St. John's Newfoundland. Joey Smallwood was still Premier.

Cod had disappeared from the North Sea and the community was in worse economic shape than normal.

A presentation was made to the conference by St. John's Memorial University staff. They had gone out to communities all over the island with video cameras and asked people to say what they thought was the root of their troubles.

The tapes were brought back and made into a feature. They went back to the communities
with the finished film, invited participants to listen to their own comments and consider their merits,

I thought it was like taking thoughts out of your mind and putting them on the table to poke them and prod them and decide if they made any sense.

At the time, there was no indication the experiment contributed anything to a solution of the problem but I was impressed by the method.

After I went to the party last week ,there were a flurry of accusatory comments. One person said he was disappointed in me. Another referred to the Code of Conduct.

I do not support the Code of Conduct. Nor the Code of Ethics either for that matter. I think, if a person needs to carry a manual to guide his own behaviour, he really isn't someone you want to be making judgement decisions on substantive issues your behalf.

But just so 's you know; Section 5 of the Code states;

A councillor may accept food and beverages at banquets, receptions.ceremonies and similar events.

I printed the critical comments to show how easy it is and how ready some people are to accuse
another of wrong doing.

There was a harsh comment on the Citizen Blog about Banner reporter, Sean Pierce. It was uninformed and unfair.

Sean Pierce is a conscientious, hard working young journeyman. He does not own the newspaper. He does not decide its content. He is neither publisher nor editor. The writing in his stories may be his but by the tme they get into the paper, they are not necessarily his complete story.

Blogs are a marvelous way for people to communicate. It's so easy. So immediate. People put thoughts into the written word who may never have done it before.

The first time I did it, I was being critical of the President of a Ratepayer's Association. It was a week or so before I saw it in print.

I was horrified and ashamed by the power and harshness of my words in writing.

In office, one develops a way of dealing with criticism. It's not a thick skin as everybody imagines.

It's confidence.

One may not always be right. We don't have the option of abstaining. We must just do the best we can with the information on hand and trust to judgement.

You must also explain your position to whoever is willing to listen.When you've done that your work is complete.

Blogs allow that to happen in a direct fashion such as we have never experienced before.

It's a valuable tool If we seek to influence, we should learn to do it well. We should inform ourselves first.

Friday 9 October 2009

There's More

It was an excellent dinner. A sell-out. The program by young York Region performance artists was exceptional.

The list of sponsors was also impressive. To the best of my recollection, they were all in the development industry. A name on the front of the program and mentioned first by the Chairman was Bondfield Construction, the contractor who built the Stronach Recreation Centre in Aurora.

Hanson Brick was also a sponsor

Legal firms noted had familiar names. A bank or two were named.

A table of ten cost $2,500. Most would be hosted by developers ,consultants, contractors or legal firms.

They would be solicited to buy tables. It's how money is raised. Hospitals, cancer centres, recreation facilities have all raised billions from solicitation of the development industry.

Developers buy foursomes at golf tournaments which raise money for charities.

Politicians were conspicuous by their presence.

I sat at a table with the Mayor of Whitchurch -Stouffville and his wife, Councillor Susanne Hilton and husband, Councillor Ken Ferdinands and a hospital Administrator from those parts.

On September 29, the Lebovic Centre for the Arts was opened in Whitchurch Stouffville.

It was a lovely evening. The company and conversation was easy and sociable.

I do not perceive developers, consultants, contractors, road builders , banks ,brick manufacturers or legal firms as enemies of municipalities. They are frequently referred to as partners.

I look at houses, shopping centres, recreation centres ,condominiums , industrial buildings and see homes and quality neighbourhoods, millions of dollars invested in our community, hundreds of thousands of jobs and billions of assessment dollars flowing directly into municipal coffers.

Aurora's September Public Planning Meeting had one item on the agenda. It was a repeat presentation of a report from the month before because some bright spark on council thought it should come back to a second meeting. That's par for the course. It was about a study on secondary suites (basement apartments)

The October planning meeting has been cancelled. There are no applications to report .

The derelict site at Yonge and Centre Street has had three applications presented and every one has foundered at an Aurora Public Planning Meeting.

The one at Yonge and Tyler has been halted by an OMB hearing.

Our development charges bylaw has been challenged at the OMB.

The Separate School Board has an appeal against us at the Ontario Municipal Board.

I don't much care if the Town has another golf course and seventy-five luxury town houses to accommodate the rich and famous.

I care about spending hundreds of thousands of taxpayers dollars on defending the indefensible.

Just because you don't know about it doesn't make it right.

But I think you should know everything I know about it.

Thursday 8 October 2009

I Went to a Garden Party

Cept it wasn't in a garden. It was at Le Parc . It was Regional Chairman Bill Fisch' Inaugural Dinner in Celebration of The Arts in York Region. Co-chair was Ian Proudfoot of Metroland.

My daughter and I were guests of Joseph Lebovic, who donates millions to good causes throughout the GTA and had purchased a table in support of the cause.

He contributes to the Arts and Culture Fund in Aurora and attends council most years
when awards are being presented.

It was a posh do. Tickets were expensive. I would have been unlikely to attend otherwise. Town policy allows councillors to charge for such expenditures. I don't think they should.

Mr Lebovic is also a developer of up scale homes and developments.

Such a proposal was presented at a public planning meeting . It was for land designated for residential development before the Province passed the Oak Ridges Moraine Act.

An Official Plan designation for development means the right is lawful.

When The Act was passed, town planning staff informed Mr. Lebovic his original plans would unlikely meet the new requirements of the Moraine Act.

He asked what would conform.

He was advised accordingly.

Eventually,accompanied by a massive team of planners, engineers , hydrologists and every other expert required to meet the requirements of various public agencies, Provincial,Regional, Municipal,Toronto and Region Conservation Authority, South Lake Simcoe Conservation Authority and the Provincial Ministry of the Environment the plan was ready.

After months and hundred of thousands maybe millions of dollars, the Plan was presented at a Public Planning Meeting in the Town of Aurora.

The town's planning reports noted issues still to be resolved but recommended approval in principle.

The purpose of such a recommendation is to allow the parties to continue the work of refining the plan while adhering to the Planning Act which requires a Municipality to make a decision within a specified time limit.

Failure to do so gives an applicant the right to an Appeal before the Ontario Municipal Board.

Such an appeal takes the decision from the hands of the municipality and puts it in the hands of a non-elected body.

Municipalities complain loudly against the Ontario Municipal Board

Their failure to adhere to the law which results in an Ontario Municipal Board Hearing and decision is seldom acknowledged.

The Ontario Municipal Board is a convenient whipping boy for municipal politicians averse to making decisions which might prove to be controversial.

The province knows it, developers know it, municipalities know it. It is the scourge of the building industry and adds untold billions to the cost of construction.The wanton waste of resources is appalling.

The only people unaware of particulars are the media sometimes and the public usually.

The public are also unaware of huge and unnecessary legal costs paid out of their pockets to defend the indefensible.

The Town's planners found no reason to refuse the application. They recommended approval in principle.

How do you support the refusal of an application before the Ontario Municipal Board, when all agencies charged with advising an applicant of how to meet all requirements have done so and advised the municipality accordingly.

No permits are issued until refinements are completed. Approval in principle means work can continue and the decisions are worked out where they should be and not at a board table.

Mr. Lebovic's application was refused. On a vote of eight to one.

A Municipal Board Appeal was filed.

An application was promptly made by the Town for a "joint board" hearing.

Such a hearing, involving three separate authorities, takes several weeks longer than the norm. It costs several times more. A ball park figure was half a million dollars.

The application for a "joint board" hearing was denied.

That decision was appealed to another level of judicial authority.

I have been informed, to date, there have been three denials.

Further..... legal costs for Mr. Lebovic to defend the appeals have risen to one million dollars.

On the other hand, I have not been informed of three denials by the town nor have legal costs to the municipality been disclosed.

Nor am I or you likely to be informed under current strictures imposed on the Chief Financial Officer of the Town of Aurora by the Aurora Town Council.

If I am able to ferret out further information, which is not solicitor/client advice, which does not apply to decisions rendered in a court, I will pass that information along too.

White Knight's Comment

Last night, I decided I had made my final observation about the Petch House .

On Monday, I contemplated getting out of my car , clapping my hands in it's direction, in hope the vibration would push it over.

I considered making like the Big, Bad Wolf in the Three Little Piggies, and Huffing and Puffing until I blew the house down.

Then I gave myself a shake and thought ; get a grip.

I don't believe the other side is obsessed with saving everything ancient. Their attitude towards myself proves the opposite.

If we cast our minds back to controversial issues in this term , a pattern is clear.

The Inner Circle have a strategy. It is simple and time worn. Cater to all special interest groups, no matter how small. They will rally when the time comes.

Remember the three lights from Canadian Tire Parking lot connected to the town's street lights, so that residents of the Mosaic could walk down a dark lane after the store closed, in preference to walking down Murray Drive and enjoying the safety and security of a lit public thoroughfare.

The traffic calming boon- doggle in the north-west quadrant that cost $211k, creates extreme inconvenience for people who live there and made us the laughing stock of all who have seen it,

An appointment was made to fill a vacancy from the slate of the Inner Circle , versus a by-election, the community's stated preference.

The Mayor's persists in the claim to be saving the tax-payers' money when refusing to spend development charge dollars for the purpose they were collected (a baseball diamond) while contemplating $400ks tax dollars on restoring a rotten,crumbling relic for a contrived and questionable purpose.

Half a dozen cheques at Christmas to select home-owners on Knowles Crescent were paid out over and above the million dollars we spent re-constructing the road.

There's no shortage of examples of irrational spending which can only be seen as a means to garner pockets of support here,there and everywhere in the next election.

Remember the hydro issue, the train whistle, toxins in Tannery Creek, Oak Ridges Moraine.

The spending for legal costs that must be secret. Administrative support to foil the right to know.

It is not a fail-safe strategy. But it's theirs. In the next election, we will know how effective it has been.

The Mayor and Council are regularly urged to start doing what they were elected to do.

I believe, they believe that's exactly what they are doing.

It's how they got elected before. Why should they believe it won't work a second time.

It's not about the Petch House and respect for the town's history.

Anything but.

Tuesday 6 October 2009

Post Script

I forgot to mention the Rebellion.

York County Farmers marched to Toronto with pikes and pitch forks. Against the Family Compact who were probably a bunch of silly asses pumped up with their own power and prestige ,who didn't know their ankles from a hole in the ground.

The Rotting Mouldering Heap of Decay

We have bylaws to prohibit residents from storing car wrecks on their own property. It's alright though for the municipality to despoil the countryside for six years with impunity.

I've been out there three times this week. I trespassed. I found the gate open and went through
to see the rear of the building.

I went down Leslie and turned around, so that I could see its south elevation.

I sat for a bit and tried to imagine what Mr. Petch might think of the town contemplating spending half a million dollars to rehabilitate this derelict rotting relic for a contrived purpose.

When The Queen's Hotel was still at the corner of Wellington Street and Yonge, Council was invited for a visit. Jimmy Murray, a former Mayor and current councillor and his wife Florence owned the building.

He had brought the bar back into the "saloon" to show and tell. He also had some early hand written minute books . They recorded approvals for accounts in sterling in small amounts of shillings, mostly for road repairs. The minute book was a note book of about six by ten inches.

Those minutes might very well have dated back to the time Mr. Petch was building a home for his family.

A considerable part of the town's business, was providing hostelry services and accommodation for travellers in horse-drawn coaches. Roads were rough. They ran up and down and around hills and crossed streams. Early roads were corduroy. Constructed of logs cleared from the land . Some were still down there, forming the base of county gravel roads in the sixties.

The journey from Lake Simcoe to Toronto was long and jarring. There were frequent stops.

Taverns and hostelries were necessities. Aurora had several. Some of them still survived in the sixties.

The Queen's hotel might have been one of them. I'm not sure of that though.

Life in the early days was not easy. A visit to a Pioneer cemetery tells all. Farmers sometimes had several wives.A mother and child lost in childbirth was not uncommon.

Infectious diseases swept through. Children's graves mark such an event.

A developer asked me once what I thought of people spending thousands of dollars to restore an old farmhouse. I said if the old farmer didn't see any merit in spending his resources on restoring an old farmhouse, then it seemed not to be such a good idea.

I've been in a few. In Black Creek Village, Upper Canada Village, in some with people living in them, while the old farmer lived in a modern bungalow closer to the road.

They were not adequate when they were built and they're not adequate now. People built what they could afford at the time and no more and considered themselves well-off under the circumstances.

There's a shoemaker shop in Black Creek. The lasts for adult shoes are so small .the shoes would hardly fit the feet of a modern ten year old.

In 1967, the Ontario Museum had a display of clothing from a hundred years ago. People were tiny. They were not huge robust specimens of humanity.Their frames were the result of centuries of poverty and deprivation.

Only their courage, determination and strength of endurance were monumental.

Their intent was to give their children something better than they had.

And they did. We are the beneficiaries.

I think Mr. Petch would consider it sheer lunacy to contemplate spending half a million dollars to save a humble building which saw its share of joys and sorrows and undoubtedly served it's purpose many times over.

The building owes us nothing.

There are people in our community who need food banks to keep body and soul together in this age of affluence

What would Mr. Petch think of that?

That we should give a second thought to spending half a million tax-payer dollars on that rotting relic is an insult to the memory of people who struggled to survive and make things better for their children and those who came after.

The Switch Didn't Happen.

I told you I hate making changes. I have been a customer of Aurora Cable since Aurora Cable came into being and of Bell Telephone longer than that.

I know Bell isn't what it once was and I had no experience of their television or Internet services.
But Rogers wasn't what Aurora Cable was and I yearned for that.

I decided to switch and take Bell's package.

Back in July, I spent more than an hour discussing the package.. It would cost less than I was paying to two providers. The hour I actually spent in discussion did not include the time it took to actually reach a living voice.

Don't you just love it when after several minutes of disembodied instructions, you find yourself presented with several options to choose, none of which fit your purpose?

Then, mindful of the time it takes to get that far, you take a stab at one. It puts you in touch, with someone who can't help you but transfers you to with someone they hope can...help that is. But there's no guarantee.

My eventual discussion ended with agreement I would call on Monday to confirm the order. It meant I had to call Rogers and cancel at a date which would mean service would not be interrupted.

I didn't do that.

A month later , on the agreed upon date which had not been confirmed by me, two technicians showed up separately at my door.

It was Saturday

I sent them away. Since I had not confirmed and notified Rogers, I felt it was wise.

Subsequently, at the end of August, I went through the process again . I did notify Rogers, with regret, to disconnect the service on October 4th because I was switching to Bell on October 3rd.

Again it was Saturday.

Rogers sent me a bill to close the account. I paid that.

The day came.

I waited for phone calls. announcing separate arrivals of two technicians.

Nothing. Nada. Zilch. Amen.

At two-thirty pm, I called Bell. Went through the tortuous routine noted above. After thirty minutes of waiting because my call was important to them, I finally reached one of their operators.

Of course it wasn't an operator who could handle the matter. I was transferred. After lengthy explanations and checks into this and that ,we had almost concluded the matter, when the phone disconnected.

I waited for a call back. It would certainly have been easier to reach me than it is for me to reach the person I was talking to, whose name and department I knew not, after waiting Heaven knows how long because my call was important to them for the next available operator because all of their operators are busy at the moment because they are having an unusually heavy list of calls.

It didn't happen.

Oh my Lord, I had to do it all over again. Now it was about 4.30p.m.

This time the operator I eventually reached ,discovered the appointment was still on but it was for p.m. That meant they would be here around 7.30p.m.

I waited . In vain.

Now.... my service with Rogers would be terminated on Sunday and I would be isolated from the world .

That didn't happen on Sunday.

But on Monday morning , I was without Internet service.

I called Rogers. Explained my dilemma. Discussed their newly advertised bundle. Learned I could have more t.v.channels and other upgrades for less money than Bell's bundle.

I bought it.

The switch didn't happen.

I have not contacted Bell.

They have not contacted me.

Now I am going to tell you with absolute certainty....things never used to be like this.

Saturday 3 October 2009

The Sacred and The Profane.

At one and the same time.

I watch David Letterman at the witching hour. I watch Charlie Rose for intellectual stimulus and Letterman for wit.

I have enjoyed others better in the past but among the current modern crop Letterman takes the cake. He is supremely irreverent. If he has any sacred cows, they are not obvious. .

I enjoyed him better after his son Harry was born. At fifty-eight, he discovered the joy of a child and being a father was a delight.

Harry is five now. Started school in Fall. His parents married then. His Dad said it was right to do it for Harry.

He's a comedian. He uses his mother, his partner and life all around him to spark a chuckle.

He is particularly creative with politicians.

He makes a fine living doing something he does well. Everyone should be so fortunate.

Letterman's real personal life is nobody's business. Until this week. News of an attempt to blackmail because he had sex with two women he worked with hit the circuit.

I thought, how silly is that?

The reaction of the media was predictable. They regurgitated the Clinton sex scandal and how Letterman milked it and still does for all it is worth.

It was suggested the women were exploited.

It resurrected a thought I had during the Clinton scandal:

Lewinsky was depicted as victim and Clinton the ogre.

No-one ever suggested the aging Clinton might have been the prey and youthful Lewinsky, the predator.

Why is that? Why do men always have to be " the power" ?

Evil landlord with the black twirled moustache and cape, fair maiden tied to the railway. monster machine fast approaching belching smoke, flames and burning cinders.

I watched a more pallid scene once. It was real.

I was standing behind a man of status in the community at an event, it was part of his responsibility to attend.

The wife of an employee came forward and stood beside him.

She reached for his hand. He pulled it away. She persisted and he finally folded his hands behind him to discourage her.

I've seen that and similar scenes repeated over the years.

I conclude men in positions of power are attractive to women.

The most unlikely paramours have trouble fighting them off.

I do not suggest either Clinton or Letterman were victims.

I doubt any man would think of making that his excuse.

Except of course for Adam in the Garden of Eden.

St Paul wasn't too fond of women either, come to think of it.

The question that titillates my fancy is why the media never seem to think of the possibility.

Should modern woman be offended ?

Friday 2 October 2009

The United Way

Remember how John Rogers our former Chief Administrative Officer committed to having his head shaved to achieve a certain target for town staff's United Way Fund Raising Campaign.

Remember how Heather Green in the Bylaw department did the same thing. It had to do with some fancy kind of boat race event. For the same good purpose.

Former Mayor Tim Jones accepted tennis challenges from anybody to raise funds for the same purpose.

It was all in a good cause and highly successful. Not only did it make our organisation a family. in coming together to help others, they had fun doing it and took pride together in their achievement.

The United Way came to Council to express their appreciation. The Mayor asked if the same objective could be achieved by payroll deductions.

Councillor Gaertner once asked how much time staff were spending in fund-raising. The answer was they were spending their own time. If the project ran over into town time, they got their work done by staying after work hours. They fulfilled both commitments. .

Aurora staff have opted against payroll deductions for the United Way since the idea was first proposed and repeatedly since. The principle has always been that people should be able to choose which charity, if any, to donate available personal resources.

I just received an e-mail from the town informing me of a photo opportunity for myself.

"The Town of Aurora participates in the 2010 United Way payroll deduction campaign".