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

Monday 30 November 2009

An Unforgettable Invitation

It was probably three decades ago. I was invited to an afternoon reception at Eaton Hall. I'm not social in the societal sense. But I was comfortable in the friendship and I happily accepted with my young daughter Heather.

It was cheerful and enjoyable. Then it became clear something else was afoot. New guests were arriving and Owen Slingerland, the Region's Medical Officer of Health appeared in full Scottish regalia complete with bagpipes.

Owen is passionate about his Scottish heritage. He is to be found wherever there's an event and he always has a hug for me.

This time he was there as a guest and to eventually pipe fellow honoured guests to their places at Dinner Table.

I was not one.

It was a moment of enlightenment about the qualified nature of the friendship with my hostess. I did not expect it.

I've never understood it. I did not withhold my friendship after but I was always aware of the implication of the hidden contradiction.

I have had another invitation. A Christmas Celebration is planned for Senior staff and Council to dine together at the Church Street School Heritage Centre on the evening of December 18th.

Other Town employees and their families are invited to a reception from three to five p.m. that same afternoon.

Shades of the Past.

This time, the invitation will not be accepted.

Post Script

I forgot to mention; my grandson Adam was in the float ahead in the Parade, representing Mighty Ducks Special Olympic Swimmers.

His mother, Heather who decorated Scooter, was walking behind them and ahead of me.

It was truly a family event.

Thank you for the lovely comments.

Sunday 29 November 2009

Santa's Coming

The numbers at the Parade Under The Stars indicate more children than ever before will receive a visit from Santa in Aurora on December 25th.

I didn't see the Parade because I was in it. I rode Scooter. There's a canopy I can buy but it's black. I want a splash of colour with a fringe. I might find an artisan who can make it for me.

It was great to see all the little faces and babes in arms gazing in wonderment. It's the stuff of memories. My daughter Heather decorated Scooter. Since she was a little girl she has loved doing things like that.

We kept buying candy and looking at the pile. Then we bought more and more again. Shows how much we knew. My grand-daughter Robyn and her life -long friends, Emeline and Juliet were handing it out. It vanished before we reached the Wellington intersection. I need a wagon for Scooter to hold enough candy.

Heather made me a fluffy fleecy white scarf. Little ones called out to me "Hi Santa". One masculine voice called "OH MY GOD"

I wore a sequined beret I bought in New Orleans. I wanted to buy one of those beaded fringe caps. I thought it would too much. Now I wish I had both. At my age, nothing is too much. I love things like painted fans and beaded fringe. They are so pretty and not the least practical or modern. So what!

There were thousands of children. At Our Lady of Grace Church, they were on the sidewalk and above. Hilary House was pitch dark but John McIntyre's house had a couple of ladders reaching to the roof and lights on in upstairs rooms. It looked quite ghostly.

Crowds were up on the lawn at Park Place Manor as well and they watched from windows. At intersections, people were seven or eight deep. Stores were brightly lit and lovely. We have very nice shops in our town.

If you have expendable resources, give local business a look- see. They support all our special events and deserve your patronage.

As a sign of the times, Tim Jones and Neighbourhood Network were collecting gifts for the food bank. Times are lean for many families in Aurora this year.We need to share.

I thought of Pat Barber, a Holman Crescent neighbour. She was a founding member of our Aurora Arts group who delighted in organising a neighbourhood float for parades. When she died, photos of her work was featured in the chapel as part of her legacy.

There were many groups of young people walking in the parade. They should have had theme floats. I don't know what kind of support that takes. Norm Weller was a huge factor in gearing up the trucks and tractors and flat beds which are the base for any parade.

Shelley Ware is our town events organiser now. Everyone acknowledges Shelley is a genius at what she does. But everything depends on community support. When people are stressed, it doesn't take much for enthusiasm to dwindle.

Last night more small persons than ever were lining the street. As always, their childhood memories of growing up in Aurora were being fostered and nurtured.

We are doing a good job I think but it can only happen with a wagon full of good will.

Saturday 28 November 2009

Keeping the Record Straight

It was early in the term when the Mayor ordered an apology to Councillor MacEachern or leave the Council Chamber. It may have been the beginning of the division. When I said"the rest followed" in my "Previous" blog , I meant the rest of the Group of Five.

Councillors Mc Roberts, Marsh and Collins Mrakas were just as dumbfounded as the Auditors and staff at what had just occurred.I shouldn't speak for them but I think they were just beginning to realise the extent of the problem.

Friday 27 November 2009

An Ungodly Hour

I am up again. I decided to throw in a load of laundry and take advantage of the cheap hydro rates. If I wait until the cycle finishes I can hang the first load to dry and put in a second.

When I opened the linen closet, a burst of fresh air was released. It's funny how you don't really smell it when you're outdoors but when you bring in laundry that's been absorbing fresh air, the scent holds it until the next time. Even the dish cloth drawer smells of fresh air. Last week-end I left my bed linen out for two days to get really saturated . I don't think I could buy anything that smells so sweet.

It's small but it is a delight. It cost nothing but time and effort. Life in the fast lane doesn't allow for such simple pleasure.

That's a shame.

Thursday 26 November 2009

Apropos of Previous

People are impressed that I blog. I don't know why. All I do is log in,. bring up the page and write.It doesn't seem like a big deal. I have a steady source of info and the readers come.

The more melodramatic the events, the more people read. When I throw in an explanation of how this or that works, numbers drop. I read somewhere once, gossip is an essential function of social interaction. It keeps the lid from blowing off.

The foo-fa-ra this week about Councillor Gaertner's "Question of Privilege" is an example. The Councillor was dragooned. My tendered apology was part sympathy for her predicament.

We had yet another budget meeting on Monday night. The Mayor was sending out shards of glower power all evening. But we made steady progress. We started at 7 p.m. At ten past ten, we were winding down.

A contingency of $100ks came under discussion. Councillor Wilson expressed his opposition. I contended if we didn't have contingency for unexpected expenditures, we would end up taking money from an unintended source.

"That is not straightforward" I said. "I think that is not honest budgeting."

It was the moment the Mayor had been waiting for;

"Council's integrity has been impugned " she cried out in triumph.

" That's a Question of Privilege"

It was twenty minutes before the hour of adjournment. I decided to leave.

The Mayor was still demanding a response as I climbed the stairs
"There will be a Question of Privilege at the start of the next meeting" she proclaimed.

The Chair is normally required to recognise a Question of Privilege.

The Mayor and Councillor MacEachern have attempted twice to expel me from the Council Chamber.

On the last occasion, a team of auditors ,at our expense, were making a presentation to Council.

Councillor Mac Eachern interjected with a question about our former Mayor monitoring telephones. I challenged the relevance to the matter at hand and all hell broke loose.

The Mayor demanded I apologise to the Councillor or leave the Council Chamber.

I answered civilly and respectfully;

"No Madame Mayor I will not apologise and I will not leave the Council Chamber."

Councillor MacEachern urged that Rick be called in. Rick is our friendly security at the reception desk when Council is in session.

Then Councillor Gaertner rose from her chair and declared she would not sit at a table where the Mayor was not respected. She left and the rest followed, the Mayor calling to Councillor Granger to come too.

The auditors still stood at the podium, books and mouths open, clearly astonished by the turn of events.

With the meeting adjourned, no further business was accomplished.

Councillor Buck's expulsion from the Chamber has been a pending item ever since.

I made plans. First I thought I would lie down on the floor and warn whoever approached that to lay a finger upon my person would bring a charge of assault.

Then I realised. I can't do that. If I got down, I wouldn't be able to get back up.

I thought about handcuffing myself to the brass rail behind me and having a cell phone to call the media for photos.

Procedure allows for the police to be called to deal with disruption and disorder in the Council Chamber.

It also allows for the Chair to leave the Chair and precipitate adjournment.

What chance these two women would opt not to have the satisfaction of having me dragged kicking and screaming from the seat to which I was elected?

On Tuesday, I contemplated the possibilities. Early in the day I learned Councillor Wilson had no intention of seeking recognition for a Question of Privilege.

The Mayor had warned it was going to happen. If the Mayor intended to do it, the chair would have to be surrendered to Councillor McRoberts; who would have the authority to recognise the question ...or not.

What other possibility ? Control of the outcome rested on the question being recognised by the Mayor.

Someone else would have to be dragooned. Now we know. Councillor Gaertner was it.

Councillor Gaertner started by declaring she was unwell and hadn't wanted to be there. There was recount of an exchange from the previous Saturday at another lengthy budget meeting.and a declaration of being offended.

Rules require a Question of Privilege to be raised instantly or before any other business at the next meeting of the Council.

The Question, therefore, was out of order.

What were the chances of that argument prevailing considering the Presiding Member's previously declared intention ?

Not much, I thought. Was this the moment for a knock 'em down and drag 'er out fight ?

I had a crazy fantasy of the Mayor and Councillor Mac Eachern jumping out of their seats to haul me out of mine and propel me from the Chamber.

At best of times, I do not regard Councillor Gaertner a worthy opponent. She has no defences. This situation was clearly not of her choosing.

If it made her feel better and foiled the Mayor's intention, allowed town business to proceed, and I hadn't brought my handcuffs, and never did acquire a cell phone to maximize the opportunity, well then, I could afford to tender an apology.

High Noon could await another time.

Wednesday 25 November 2009

An Interesting Journey

The Blog continues to evolve. Stuff happens There's reaction and response.

Even before Blog, it was assumed my reason for being was to undermine the Mayor. It's not so but neither is it hard to understand.

If I 'd been allowed to participate from the beginning , a working relationship would have formed long ago. I am not talking about friendships, or alliances. They're nice but not required in a civil and productive exchange .

A working relationship needs to be valued, protected and nurtured.

Hostility permeates and trust is destroyed. Nothing is gained or lost. There is no move forward.

There's no grand body of experience to show how Blog might best be used. Trial and error are the options.

Early on, I drew the line on abusive comments against myself. My attackers switched to Citizen Blog. Notice of Intent was filed and they vanished from there as well.

Critical comments about the Mayor and her loyal band of followers have increased in number and ferocity. I have posted them.

But I have misgivings. How can I, in principle, shield myself while allowing others to be exposed.

Some of the comments could be assumed to be coming from inside the Town Hall.

The atmosphere there is terrible for staff. Posting those comments places everyone under suspicion. It's not right for me to be responsible for making things worse than they are.

Robert the Bruce makes salient points about Morris Bashing and the chances it will soon, if not already,cause people to tune out.

A couple of letters in the Auroran are offered as evidence.

One says he falls asleep while reading the letters. The other says Shut up, Shut up, Shut up.

At any time, people can be found who do not wish to be disturbed by things they don't believe they can do anything about. It's valid.

Others react strongly against the feeling they are being told what to think.

Still others take fiendish but understandable satisfaction in contributing or watching the miserable undoing of someone who has done them wrong.

The cauldron constantly simmers, and sometimes boils over a flame.

Blog is a volatile tool. The freedom for immediate expression is a powerful drive.

As it evolves, it seems there needs to be design.The genie is out of the bottle.It's not going back in.

I've been producing and sharing an electronic journal. I think it's been useful.We have enjoyed the new communication tool. But Robert the Bruce is right. A way must be found to keep the discussion relevant, moving forward and fresh.

Ideas for a format would be appreciated.

Monday 23 November 2009

Re-Writing The Record

There's a Memo from the Mayor on this week's Council Agenda. It seems to refer to mayhem at the last Council Meeting when the chair was vacated impromptu. Meetings are taped. For the sake of accurately recording proceedings.

The Mayor's Memo is not in accord with the record. There is an attempt to re-write the record and point the finger of blame at someone else. That's not new. What is new, is using town records to obscure the fact. I take that back, that's not new either, is it.

Things just keep getting muddier and muddier. I had no idea for example, the mayor was accepting text messages during proceedings of Council. It sort of looks like support and direction is coming from outside the Council Chamber. I suppose the same person could be doing the damage control.

How would we know?

What kind of a crazy house of cards have we here ?

On November 30th a new Municipal Clerk will join us. He has twenty-five years of experience and is said to be among the best in Ontario.

Our need is desperate. Let us all hope his expertise will be allowed. If he takes the traditional seat alongside the presiding member, it will be a good omen.

Sunday 22 November 2009

The Market

Was up yesterday for debate. The budget was reduced from $4,200 to $100.

A couple of things emerged. When it was decided Councillor Granger would "resurrect" the market at the beginning of this term, a budget was provided.

It was a commercial endeavour and costs should be recovered from vendors, I argued. What a novel notion.

It was counter-argued to be a "Special Event" . Although they come under the mantle of Leisure Services , this one would not. The Mayor would sign all cheques for a continual program of hi-jinks scheduled to attract customers to the market.

Yesterday we learned the Chief Administrator has been signing the cheques. This is the first market season he has been on board. Well, I thought, that's a switch.

We have been also been receiving lengthy Regional Reports lately, supposedly written by the
Mayor. I suspect they are produced to add bulk to extraordinarily thin agendas. I doubt their
authorship. I think the CAO not only writes the reports he reads the Mayor's regional reports as well in order to write the report.

Every day is a day of discovery.

Last week, I discovered the Administrative Assistant to the Mayor has been re-named Executive Assistant to the Mayor. ManagementTeam has been re-named Executive Leadership Team ,the town clerk has been buried under a new and obscure title and the Public Works Director also has high-falutin' new nomenclature.

For the duration of the last war, all street signs in Britain were removed In case the Germans landed. So they wouldn't know what street they were on.

Yesterday, Councillor Granger moved to add $10,000 to the Market budget. He is
not manager of the Market, he said. He is tired and does not have time for the Market, he said. The vendors do not have time to manage the Market, he said. Therefore the town should hire a manager at a cost of $10,000..

The Councillor seemed a tad upset. His motion was seconded but didn't pass. .

Aha! I thought, What have we here? Trouble in the ranks ?

Robert The Bruce has intoned there's little use talking about the Council because nothing is likely to change.

But something could.

A Mayor has little independent authority.

Only with the gelatinous constant support of five votes, this Mayor does exactly as she pleases. If just a couple of members were to exercise the authority voters gave in the last election , the situation could immediately alter.

I have occasionally seen a glimmer of possibility.

I wouldn't bet money on change. But I wouldn't have bet money on this unnatural alliance holding fast for three full years either .

A Snippet

It is not quite four in the morning.

I have a habit of going to sleep in my big comfy leather chair. By the time I awaken and hie to bed, I have already had my best sleep and my mind tends to be active.Sometimes, there is nothing for it but to unload some of the thoughts churning around inside my skull.

The budget is being discussed this way and that. The Mayor constantly reminds everyone by a variety of strategies, of the need to be mindful of taxpayers concerns about high taxes.The strategy itself is particularly exasperating. In that it is a relative distortion of reality.

The Knowles Crescent matter re-asserted itself around 2.30a.m

I am now sipping a cup of half insipid chocolate and half robust cocoa and sitting in front of my computer. I have this to offer:

Knowles Crescent is a street of fifty-nine homes. When $69 thousand was handed out in cheques in time for Christmas to five or six homeowners a couple of years ago, that represented more than the Town's share of the tax bills of every one of the fifty-nine homes on the street.

And one of those driveways didn't get paved. Not even the town-owned portion.

My hot chocolate/cocoa is finished. Maybe now I can get some sleep.

Saturday 21 November 2009

Budget Saturday Number Two

Most families find Saturday best for historical events; weddings, funerals, memorial services etc. First things come first.

Around Christmas, Saturday becomes meaningful for families for other reasons.

I missed the first budget Saturday. Capital projects were the Agenda. An entire day was scheduled. It didn't get done.

A Special Committee Meeting was held last Monday to provide answers to queries that arose during the all-day meeting. At ten-thirty, that agenda was still only half done.

To-day's Agenda was the Operating Budget. It was due to start at 9.a.m. It didn't until 9.20 a.m.

When I came into the Chamber, Councillor Granger was talking The Mayor had started the meeting by inviting each Council Member to relate what they were hearing from people in the community.

Around ten-thirty a.m. we got to the first item on an Agenda scheduled to begin at Nine

The Treasurer was first up. He provided an outline on how the tax rate is formulated to raise funds needed to cover forecaste expenditures.

It's not complicated. The assessment base is multiplied by a factor to come up with the total. The factor is determined by the amount required. That's the tax rate, or in old- fashioned terms, the mill rate.

The Treasurer is, of necessity, a person of many years experience. He is likely to have explained the process at least once a year throughout his career.

Undoubtedly, he has faced many councils and dozens of individuals gazing toward him seeking enlightenment; people of variable levels of experience and knowledge. The language must perforce be clear and simple.

This morning , in fifteen minutes, he completed the basic premise of how the calculation is made, paused hopefully and prepared to move forward.

Alas, not so fast. Councillor Gaertner had a question.

The Councillor is entering the fourth year of a second term of office. The first term was three years. This is the seventh budget within the two terms.

"I do not understand " she said. "Could you please explain it again"

"What part ?" asked the Treasurer.

"All of it" said the Councillor " From the beginning."

"Oh My God" I said, in profound and prayerful exhortation.

I decided it was optimum time to have coffee.

"Profanity" called out the Mayor to my back , "is out of order Councillor Buck".

It wasn't profanity running through my head in that moment in time.

Wednesday 18 November 2009

Oh Me Oh My

The baleful glare and menacing smile are much in evidence these days as the Mayor twists and turns in the wind of difficulties of her own making.

Thirty- six months into the term of office, councillors are now being advised of individual Rules of Order, the Mayor is planning to enforce in the future.

The rule requiring council approval to withdraw a motion from the table after extensive debate has been discovered. It has always been there. But never before noticed I guess.

Recently an e-mail was circulated by the Mayor citing specific wording of the clause governing mayhem. The closest we come to that is when the Mayor loses it , shouts people down and or bangs the table.rat-a-tat-tat for several minutes as if it was the head of the person challenging her style of maintaining order.

Last night prior to going into camera to deal with three innocuous matters, a lecture was presented about declaring publicly if a councillor was not prepared to accept that a particular item on the agenda should be dealt with behind closed doors.The Mayor's meaningful gaze focused throughout her comments upon myself.

It's never exactly clear what's expected when the presiding member engages in this bizarre behaviour.

Am I supposed to crumple, weeping and begging forgiveness? Or vanish like the Wicked Witch of the West into a fizzle and a puddle on the floor?

The inclination is to place both thumbs on the side of my head and wag my fingers in her direction but of course that would be decidedly lacking in decorum

The lecture about objecting to confidentiality prior to attending an in-camera meeting was not unlike a child care worker admonishing her charges to go to the bathroom before leaving for an expedition. .

Monday night's special committee meeting was electric. It was held to provide responses to councillors' queries raised at a previous all day Saturday budget meeting.

At the hour of adjournment, half the agenda still remained. I hear some people did not leave the Town Hall until 12.30 a.m.

No matter the nature of comments, the presiding member is compelled to deliver a dissertation on the merits or lack thereof of each and every one.

Silent pauses hung in the air as if an explosion was anticipated.

Frequent gushing bouts of self praise and plaudits are spread generously among the Mayor's inner circle and of course directed to new staff who have replaced all the "ne'er-do-wells" long vanished from the scene.

There comes a time, when endless nittering, nattering and self-aggrandizement can no longer be endured.

At ten-thirty, the hour of adjournment, the small body of work only half-completed. I arose from my seat, donned my raiment and left that place.

David Letterman's Late Night Show is currently featuring a list of ten things more painful than reading Sarah Palin's Memoirs.

Tuesday 17 November 2009

If It Wasn't so Hostile

It would be comical. Last night at a budget committee meeting, I referred to Cash In Lieu of Parkland ,(eleven and a half million dollars), as a slush fund.

The Mayor promptly interrupted to direct a query to the Treasurer.

"Do we have a reserve known as a slush fund. Mr. Elliott? she asked.

"No Madam Mayor" he responded with suitable deference.

A chuckle emanated from somewhere.

The mayor declared emphatically, "I don't think that's funny."

"Aye, there's the rub". I thought and then said : "You are remarkably lacking in humour, Madam Mayor."

True to her oft repeated goal of bringing decorum to the proceedings, she shouted me down in mid-sentence.

In similar context, Councillor Collins Mrakas recently exploded in exasperation and exhortation called upon the deity as witness to her trials. "For God's Sake" she implored.

Whereupon the Mayor declared "profanity is against the rules". The Councillor took the "Lord's Name in Vain"and that's an offence punishable by "exclusion" from the Council Chamber.

I suppose the question might be...how great a punishment might it be to be excluded from the Chamber in the current circumstance

That must have been the mayor's reference when she recently explained to a reporter how she had brought "light" and decorum to Council and "had to believe it was right"

Monday 16 November 2009

Fast Forward

The rationale eventually provided for creating an address out of a parking lot entrance in order to remove John West's name from the town's stationery was that it was an unfair advantage for a candidate to have a street named after him. It was worth thousands of dollars in free advertising.

Now fast forward to the beginning of this term:

One of the first disputes with former CAO John Rogers, was the meaning of " Corporate Communications".

Kristen Yemm, the manager of the operation presented an Annual Report to Council. There was hostile interrogation from the Mayor and Councillor MacEachern about the meaning of the word "Corporate".

It might have been the first time I raised my voice in this term. I find it difficult to accept that a person ,who must at all times maintain a respectful demeanour towards elected officials, should be mercilessly skewered by said officials in a public meeting for merely providing a professional

Mr. Rogers explained the Corporate Communications Division informs the public of Corporate matters.. Once a decision is made by Council, it becomes the responsibility of the administration to follow through. It becomes "corporate".

The answer did not sit well. The Communication Division was too valuable a promotional opportunity to be left to the Corporation.

From that point on, there has never been a media release put out by the communications division which has not contained a reference to a comment from Mayor Phyllis Morris however weirdly it fits.

So much for the idea a candidate should not benefit from frequent display of their name on Corporate stationery.

It's pretty convenient also when an incumbent can call up the Fire Chief and order a fire truck be made available at the Town Hall for a photo opportunity with the Mayor to announce an "online" Sally Ann Christmas Kettle Drive.

I think there's a price tag for a fire truck leaving a fire hall.

There's also a rule that no elected official shall direct an employee.

It's in the Code of Conduct.

The Saga Continues

The Mayor had a bad week all round. Apparently Neighbourhood Network has come forward to assist with the Sally Ann Christmas Kettle Drive.

It has never been a Town of Aurora program. But for many years, starting with former and late Councillor Norm Stewart and continuing for many years with John West, volunteers were organised to man the Kettles over the Christmas Campaign. In and out of Council, both men were in the habit of making themselves available wherever there was a need.

The change to Neighbourhood Network generated a great flurry of a photo session with a fire truck, the fire chief the Mayor and who knows who to launch something called the "on-line" Kettle Drive.

Later in the week, it seems things didn't go quite as planned by Her Worship with the Olympic Torch Relay. The event was originally to be co-ordinated by Leisure Service Director Al Downey.
A budget was formulated at $10.000.

Council cut that in half, and the Mayor changed the line of responsibility and included herself and CAO Neil Garbe sharing the responsibility with Mr. Downey.

Such an event calls for precise adherence to requirements dictated by the organisers.

Echoes of the Mayor's screams of outrage were heard throughout the land.

Saturday 14 November 2009

The Week That Was

Continued to be turbulent. The Mayor circulated an e-mail a copy of a section of rules of order that deals with disorder at a Council meeting .

The spectre of expulsion from council was raised. As supporting documentation, a copy of a memorandum of the occasion which the Mayor loves to recall ,when I myself was expelled from Council.

The Mayor's recollection and understanding of the matter are substantially different from my own. Perhaps not surprisingly.

I had no Blog at that time.

I do now.

It occurred early in the last term. First we had the pure and righteous argument the Town should not be spending taxpayers money to go off site for a crash course orientation for new Councillors The public should be able to attend they argued.

I was not eager to go. But not for the same reason. The last orientation I attended, John West dragged us hundreds of miles deep into the boonies in the middle of winter to get the cheapest accommodation possible. .

I wasn't doing that again. There's careful management of town resources and there's just being plain tight-fisted and disrespectful. I am all for careful management and getting the most for the least but there's a limit. Either there's a legitimate reason for using town resources or there isn't. If there is, then it costs what it costs.

After the first divide between the pure and righteous and the rest of us, came the motion to turn the Town Hall driveway into a municipal address.

By 2004, John West had been elected consistently since the late seventies. He had held the office of Councillor, Mayor, School Board Trustee and two more terms as Councillor. He never lost an election. He defeated Dick Illingworth and others for the Office of Mayor.

Fourteen years earlier when the Town Hall was built, Council of the day honoured him by naming the road John West Parkway.

If there was public opposition to that decision, it was never reflected in the several elections that followed. He was still seated at the Council table.

The motion was moved and seconded. No reason was offered to support it. Ms Morris was the seconder. There were five votes in favour. It was clear the supporters were confident a majority was in hand..

I made the statement supporters of the motion were complicit in their objective.

There was an objection to the word "complicit". I was directed by the Mayor to retract it. I refused.

With the support of the Clerk, the Mayor ruled I would either have to retract or leave the Council table.

I chose to leave.

I said it, I meant it and I believed it .

The exchange was quiet and deliberate; no shouts of rage, or violent behaviour; no disorder or disruption of any kind.

A Councillor was exercising authority to articulate how she perceived an event unfolding.

A firmly held conviction expressed in language which accused no-one of criminal or immoral behaviour. A simple contention certain members of council had agreed beforehand on a question they put forward ... for which they offered no logic. Nor could they dispute that fact.

They didn't have to provide an argumenet. They knew they had the votes

A strategy was employed and they were clearly complicit.

By their action, against human decency and the rules of order, they collectively and publicly humiliated and denigrated a Council colleague .

I chose to name it the way I saw it. It was political discourse within the realm of rights and privilege.

Choosing to leave the Council table that night, is a decision I regret.

Damn the torpedoes, I should have stayed.




Wednesday 11 November 2009

If I Were a Writer of Fiction

I swear I would not be able to imagine many of the scenarios we see in the Council Chamber. Last night's meeting was a prime example. It was a comedy of errors.

I had been the presiding member at the previous Tuesday's Council in Committee Meeting. I do not believe the presiding member should participate in debate. So I didn't. The theory is the chair should exercise impartiality.

I did indicate I would reserve my comments for the Council meeting which I did...last night.

Items I called for discussion were two separate recommendations of the Traffic Safety Committee.I had barely begun , when Councillor Granger called a point of order. Mayor Morris supported the point. Councillor Collins Mrakas asked if the Mayor was ruling the point in order. If so, she challenged the ruling

In the ensuing melee, the mayor promptly declared a recess and left her seat.

Rules require a recess to be moved ,seconded and approved by council.

If the presiding member leaves the chair, a meeting is automatically adjourned It cannot be re-convened until proper notice given and an agenda published . But no matter.

After a few minutes , the mayor moved back around the table and stopped at Councillor
Collins Mrakas' place. Turning from the cameras in seeming smiling congeniality, she said;

"People can see right through you, you know"

The Collins in Mrakas is Irish. The reaction was swift but quiet.

The Mayor took her seat and the meeting continued with the usual histrionics.

When we adjourned, something else happened which has become normal practice since before Lucille King left the town's employment.

Normally, Councillors McRoberts,myself and Councillor Collins Mrakas leave the Town Hall promptly at the end of a meeting. By the time I climb into my car and look back, no-one else has followed..

Last night I was slightly tardy in my departure. I noted the mayor and the inner circle of power were waiting. I lingered...still no move.... I left.... and peered in the window, my nose pressed to the glass. They had clustered and were lost in discussion.

Do you know, any time a majority of Council is present in one place carrying on a discussion....
that is a council meeting which has neither been publicised nor has the agenda been disclosed.

The really weird thing is there probably isn't one among them who understands that..

Sunday 8 November 2009

What Are the Poor People Doing

I wondered at a recent sumptuous banquet

There were seventy-five tables in the room. Each seated ten. Tables cost $25ks. Guests were politicians in the main . Hosts sponsors were developers, banks, legal firms or other entities expected to benefit from development.

The purpose of the evening was celebration and support of the Arts in York Region. The Arts did well that night.

The dinner was fine .Centre piece at each table was a piece of art. Twenty dollar tickets purchased by guests went into an envelope and a draw was held later.Another fifteen thousand or so easily slopped into the kitty.

The night's take was probably satisfying. But a piddling amount compared to the revenue pouring into York Region in lot levies. Multiply that by the Regions surrounding Toronto and figures must be counted in billions. All of it reflected in the price of homes and business premises.

I was guest at another banquet in Toronto a couple of weeks later. It was in "celebration" of a
particular political career. It was more sumptuous with a higher level of political involvement. I fancy funds were the objective. .

Among thoughts that went through my mind while I watched the room being worked by the movers and shakers, was what, in other part of the Province, without development charge lot levies or banquets are people doing to raise funds for their various needs and causes.

Of course I know the answer.

They do without. Or have heavy and lengthy discussions about whether or not the facility is essential or sufficient to justify adding the cost to the tax bill in the form of a debenture.

Just as we did before we had much development to speak of and lot levies were $250. When we built the Aurora Community Centre to replace the arena which burnt down one night in a brief and spectacular bonfire.

Following which, for several years, parents rose earlier in the early morning to drive further to wherever spare ice could be found ,mostly Bond Head and King City.

Prominent citizens were appointed by Council to a committee to solicit input from groups about what should be included in a new facility. They subsequently reported.

Whereupon, weeping and gnashing of teeth were heard throughout the land. The town could not possibly afford to pay for all of that.

The Committee quit. A Council Committee was struck and produced a less expensive hybrid that did nothing to satisfy the groups who had enthusiastically participated in the initial process.

We did build a state-of-the-art ice arena with comfortable seating and heating for thousands of spectators anticipated for our Junior A Hockey games. The facility brought the community to-gether in a way that no-one could have imagined. It was completed the year of Canada's Centennial when spirits and national pride were high. Nowhere higher than here in Aurora.

We paid for it by debenture.

It's how things were accomplished without development levies. It's how people still do it where there are no easy pickings.

In answer to a question frequently heard, it's how we will do it again, when the town is all built out and development charge levies cease to flow.

Debentures of course are debt.They carry interest rates. Which fluctuate with the economy. Much like a house mortgage.

The principle is the same. A family needs shelter. Money is borrowed and interest paid. When the mortgage ends, the house is owned free and clear. But while being paid, it provides shelter for those who live in it.

When I first became a Councillor, the town still had a debenture for the Sewage Treatment Plant. I noticed a payment from Collis Leather in the first budget I saw.The first one to break a million.

Clerk-Treasurer Bill Johnston explained Collis Leather and The Town had partnered in constructing the treatment plant. The tanning process created problems which could only be handled by a sewage treatment process.

As a result, Aurora was ahead of most municipalities with a sewage treatment process. It meant people had flush toilets. No more privies to tip on Hallow e'en night. No more new cess pits to be dug on a regular basis.

I imagine it was a welcome amenity though likely some complained there was nothing wrong with the old way of doing things and about the debt and increase in their taxes .

My point is, debt is not necessarily bad. It allows for an equitable sharing of cost while enjoying the amenity.

With development charge levies, the whole community enjoys facilities while new home-owners pay ninety-per-cent of the cost. Existing home-owners pay a ten-per-cent share.

Development charge levies are not the only hidden tax burden on new home-owners.

But when a buyer makes the serious decision to purchase a home and take on a mortgage, they have no idea they will be forever paying property taxes on taxes hidden in the price of their homes. They don't want to know. They need to believe their decision was a good one.

That puts the onus on elected representatives to ensure equity in taxation.


Fat Chance!

Not while there's a fatted calf to feed on.

Tuesday 3 November 2009

Three Posts back

I talked about my problem of discerning between town business to be discussed behind closed doors and that which should not.It was never a problem until this term.

The issue becomes more obscure once discussion has ensued. Things said are not recorded.

There is no audio record. Discussion cannot be referenced. It becomes simply a matter of he said/ she said.

Councillor Collins- Mrakas recently moved to have meetings audio-taped . The idea went down the tube with the usual lop-sided vote.

The Province recently passed regulations to permit a citizen to demand an investigation of in-camera meetings if they appeared not to be in accordance with regulations . How would a person know that?

Aurora teamed with several other municipalities to appoint investigators. There didn't seem to be a point. The agenda identifies the issue. The vote is all that's recorded in camera and if it needs to be confidential to protect the town's interest it cannot be revealed.

What a rigmarole that is.

I posted my dilemma about the last in-camera meeting. Five and a half pages of a six and a half page memorandum, stamped private and confidential, were already in the public record.

I attended the meeting because questions I had on the last page needed answers before I could determine the matter needed closed door discussion.

There was advice from a solicitor which is generally considered solicitor/client privilege.

On the other hand, I am still searching for the council resolution giving the precise direction which required advice from the solicitor. I remember direction but not precise wording .

A review reveals the issue was considered at a public planning meeting . Council received a staff report setting out the position to be taken on an appeal before the Ontario Municipal Board A pre-conference was already scheduled.

Neighbouring property owners were opposed to the development. Staff advice was set aside. A lengthy resolution, penned at the table by Councillor Evalina McEachern was adopted.

Information was received that the neighbours intended to request the OMB to authorise a Consolidated Board Hearing. A resolution was passed giving Town support to the neighbours' request.

The Board turned down the request.

The neighbours appealed to the Divisional Court. The Town supported the appeal.

Evidence presented to the Divisional Court indicated the OMB did not have authority to grant a Consolidated Board Hearing. Regulations were cited by the lawyer for the developer.

The Divisional Court suspended the proceeding and directed the OMB to consider evidence of regulations denying authority to the Board to grant the request.

The OMB did that. They accepted evidence of existing regulations prohibiting them from ordering a Consolidated Board Hearing. How could they not?

The request for such a Consolidated Board was once again denied.

Three legal proceedings have been undertaken. Experts attended as witnesses. Expert and legal fees were incurred by the developer and neighbouring opponents.

Legal fees to the Town; $135 thousand .

Nothing was accomplished.

Zero...Zilch....Nil...Nada...Amen my friends.

Still ahead is an Ontario Municipal Board hearing of potentially two weeks duration and an estimated cost of $200 ks.for legal fees . Expert witnesses will increase the tab significantly. The Town's interest must be protected.

I think legal fees will be a fraction of the cost.

I also believe you have a right to know. To my mind, there is nothing about the public being informed in this particular matter that jeopardises the town's interest.