"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 30 January 2010

A Reader Comments

"You should write a book . It should be required reading for every candidate "

I've thought about it. .

In the wonderful world of technology I understand it's relatively simple to publish a book.

But much of the stuff of this Blog would be redundant to the average candidate.

This Council is an aberration. In great part, the Blog is peculiar to it.

People are right in their instincts. Personal hostility is out of place in a council. Everyone is degraded by it. Inevitably it spills into the administration and out into the community.

Trust is the first thing out the window. Grounded reality is next. Without trust or reality. megalomania flourishes, mayhem ensues, the ship pitches and rolls and it takes all one's energy to stay upright.

On average, council members need the skill to be forceful without being offensive.

The endurance and stability to put forward every resource you have in an argument, win or lose it, then move on with equanimity.

Cordiality and respect are essential, while battling for one's ideas to prevail.

You need to believe the job is worthwhile, traditions have stood the test of time and whatever it takes will be the price.

Sandra Day O'Connor , retired U.S. Supreme Court Justice was interviewed on Thursday night by Wolf Blitzer, CNN political correspondent.

The former Chief Justice is seventy-nine years old. There was an edge in her response to the question of retirement.

Mr.O'Connor has Alzheimer's. He needs to be in care. Two of their three children live in Arizona. It was the best place to be and too far to commute to Washington.

The edge disappeared when she spoke of creating a computer game, to make it easy for teachers to teach and children to learn about their country's constitution and justice system; obviously, the subject of her passion.

Surely no-one is better qualified for the task than Sandra Day O'Connor.

I thought as I watched, of Pierre Berton, an octogenarian, in his last T.V. interview when he knew he was dying, raging against the Ministry of Education decision to drop history as a required subject for Ontario students. Taking advantage of his last opportunity to make a difference.

Not a minute to be wasted.

Friday 29 January 2010

Truth and Consequences

A reader asks if there are consequences for "accusing" Councillors of being in a Conflict of Interest,

The writer probably watched the last Council meeting.

I moved the item of appointment of an Integrity Commissioner be removed from the Agenda. There was no seconder. The Item stayed .

When it came forward for debate, I declared a Conflict of Interest. I cited several factors which led me to believe it would be inappropriate for me and for six other members of council to discuss the appointment.

The Mayor promptly stated I had made a serious accusation.

See how it works in Morrisland.

The fact is, a councillor must decide for him or herself, if they have a Conflict of Interest.

Consider what I said. Litigation is in process involving myself and six Councillors.

Everyone knows about it.

It has a financial component.

The Mayor and five Councillors filed a Statement of Defence.

It has the same financial component.

With the exception of Councillors McRoberts and Collins Mrakas who refused to sign the complaint and repudiated it before the Integrity Commissioner and are not party to the suit either way, I believe that puts all the rest in a Conflict of Interest.

I declared. According to my understanding of the Act, it was necessary.

Responsibility to acknowledge a Conflict of Interest and refrain from influencing a vote where there is a financial advantage rests with the individual Councillor.

No-one else can do it for them

A Councillor is expected to state the reason and should be allowed to do so without themselves being accused of wrong-doing.

But not in MorrisLand .

Vengeance is mine, saith The Lordship.

Clues and Trivial Pursuit

Even sitting at the table, clues are often all we have. We read and listen and wait for the plot to be revealed.

It doesn't take long. The Mormac Twins are not subtle.

In addition to their own, they have four votes tied up at all times. When decisions are made, little is left but to tell the tale.

Input is more difficult as the Mayor becomes more determined that hers or her designates will be the only voice heard. Even Councillor MacEachern ,who normally gets a lot of leeway, sometimes has to be reminded; "there's only one chair, Councillor "

There's a rumour abroad . The Councillor may be thinking about a leap for the chair. It would make things interesting. Ms MacEachern is skilled at implying wrong-doing. Somewhat similar to the Mayor, except not so heavy with the mantle of Madame Virtue with a capital V.

In the last election, it was thought MacEachern supported Kean for Mayor.

Kean made a pact with Morris not to attack each other. Both would attack Jones. MacEachern contrived with associates to impugn the integrity of Candidate Jones

Rebecca Beaton, active supporter of Candidate Kean has since become friend and helpmate to MacEachern.

Yesterday, I heard speculation a new candidate for Mayor might be in the race solely to serve the purpose of current incumbent, Morris.

You know... split the vote and slide up the middle or down as the case may be.

I personally doubt the story. It would be remarkably stupid.

Great Jehovah ...what am I saying?

We will await with bated breath to see how Councillor Gaertner will lean. The lady frequently expresses fervent admiration for Morris and MacEachern and clearly respected Kean previously.

Last term, Kean often had to lean towards her and advise how to vote.

Rebecca and Gaertner used to be very anxious for the Agenda to be posted online on Friday.
Apparently they conferred at the week-end with MacEachern who provided questions to ask on agenda items. Gaertner came to Council loaded for bear with a hand-written list..

It didn't work out too well. The Councillor studiously and painstakingly asked the questions but had difficulty understanding the answers. Blackberries were not invented.

We all know an election without a Mayoralty contest stirs up a vacuum. Voters stay away from the polls in even greater droves than normal.

It seems however, whatever may be the eventual result, we will have a contest for the Office of Mayor this year.

In the memorable words and staircase pose of Bette Davis in the movie "All About Eve"

"Fasten your seat belts. It's going to be a bumpy ride"

Thursday 28 January 2010


Continuing yesterday's thought that a sensible politician needs to listen to what people are saying and understand .

I am accustomed to the comment that I am no angel, I am wrong, I am just as bad as the rest.

Robert the Bruce insists I should not continue disputes in the media after council makes a decision. He rationalises that by claiming I am too old and no longer relevant..

Robert, is undoubtedly younger than me. I have sons who are older. But he's the one behind the times.

He uses the Internet to express himself in a way he never could before.He insults me without revealing his identity but he doesn't understand the difference it makes in how we do politics.

I,on the other hand, know very well how it was before and have a full appreciation of the new opportunity.

Politicians were always dependent on media and word of mouth to get a message across.

Not any more.

Anyone who aspires to politics and cares to confide , can elucidate on everything that might be relevant to a voter.

Controversies can be kept alive right up to an election.

Details can be provided in a way they never were before. Right down to body language or a phrase like "playful banter"

A Blog or a Letter to the Editor can be read or not. It is not cocktail chatter. It is not council debate where discipline and civility are supposed to be the rule.

It is not a church social.

Politics has rules. Mostly no holds barred with the individual's sense of fairness and decency as the only limit.

Robert's instinct tells him what I do is not fair.

In your world maybe Robert.

But all is fair in love and war and politics.The Internet is the great leveller. Let participants beware.

In this rough territory, no politician in their right mind goes out of their way to make gratuitous enemies. They never have.

Morris and MacEachern did that at the outset of this term. At first, I tried to establish a working relationship. They wanted no part of it.

Then,when it became apparent what they were doing, I wanted no part of it.

The battle lines were drawn, the gloves off and the fight was on.

They used lawyers, town resources and cloaked their methodology behind Ethics and a Code of Conduct.

They made one incredible oversight.

I am not an employee of the municipality.

My life cannot be made a living hell while they tag- team taunt and torment.

I cannot be escorted from the building.

I don't need to be everybody's darling.

Like Shirley Valentine, her kitchen wall and a rock on the beach,

I have Blog and people who read.

And sae The Lord be thankit

Wednesday 27 January 2010

Old Habits Are Hard To Break

Politicians are ready targets for criticism. It's par for the course. No politician of any skill, ignores what people have to say....good or bad.

It has to be considered, the merits determined and how the criticism may have been generated.

My long serving routine, when I come home from a council meeting, is to take refuge in favourite comedy shows. It used to be Archie Bunker, Mary Tyler Moore, Barney Miller and Mash. It put a little distance between the council meeting and sleep.

Nowadays, my respite is Becker and David Letterman.

Eventually, I retire thinking about Council. It's not a comforting thought.

The Mayor is usually taut but last night's agitation was to the point of incoherence.

Coals of fire were heaped on my head at every turn. Councillor MacEachern extolled the need for an Integrity Commissioner to deal with Breaches of the Code of Conduct..

I used to cite the Code's procedure to the Councillor;

A complaint must be in writing. It must be provided to the person complained about. There must be a response in writing. It's not a one-sided process. Results may turn out to be the opposite of your intention.

The Councillor is seldom of a mind to listen.

Another aspect of being a elected is self awareness Nothing said in public is entitled to confidentiality. Even without reporters or cameras present. If you don't want people to know you said it, don't say it.

People will hear and they are entitled. What a politician has to say is owned by the electorate. They will also hear things that aren't true. But when there are witnesses, there can be no denial.

Last night, I went to sleep thinking about the charge I am a carping critic of town staff . I reviewed events that might support that impression.

I wakened with a stark and clear recollection.

Councillor MacEachern's friend, Walter Mestrinaro recently returned repeatedly to Council, courtesy of the Mayor, to argue for a contract which he had failed to win.

He sent e-mails accusing treasury staff of impropriety. The mayor allowed him to repeat the charges in public.

Chief Administrative Officer Neil Garbe intervened and bluntly stated he was offended by the attack on staff.

Still Mestrinaro was allowed to continue.

Treasurer Dan Elliott started to speak. His microphone went suddenly silent. Mr. Garbe had switched it off . Mr. Elliott's outrage was about to spill over.

The Mestrinaro tape might constitute a valid complaint under the Code of Conduct. Last night's meeting probably would as well.

Toronto City Councillors are entitled to $20Ks for legal defense costs when a complaint is filed against them

But the idea really has no appeal:

Yes you did.

Did not.

Did so.

Oh My Lord!

Monday 25 January 2010

A Quandary

Council will decide to-morrow night whether or not to appoint a new Integrity Commissioner.

Everybody knows of my legal action against six members of Council.The complaint by the group of six, filed with the former Integrity Commissioner is part of the suit.

Also known, the six are being defended by counsel provided by the town's insurance company. They take the position, they represented the town in their action ,therefore town insurance company should indemnify them..

Staff were directed to recruit a new Integrity Commissioner in August. A Request for Proposal was advertised, six proposals were received .

In the televised New Year's address, the Mayor stated the complaint against me is still pending, to be dealt with by the new Integrity Commissioner. The Mayor also claimed "staff" had complained to Council.

I have no knowledge of that. I am a member of council. I don't feel slighted though. Other councillors are also not aware staff had complained.
I have heard of Councillor Morris and Sue Walmer, soon after the last election, being informed
by the Planning Director,they had no right to be in the planning department, ordering junior staff to provide particular information on the spot.

I have heard a public argument from Councillor Nigel Keane about his right to attend management team meetings.

I have heard playful banter between Councillors MacEachern and Gaertner and the Treasurer
indicating a friendly association.

I hear lots of things. But I have never heard of a municipal employee making a complaint to elected representatives against an elected representative. Generally. I think it would not be considered wise or bode well for a good working relationship.

The Mayor, by making the statement in her televised New Year's message, implicated staff in a matter of litigation. involving a complaint which the Mayor also claims is yet to be processed.

We all know, the former Integrity Commissioner made a decision, gave it to the Deputy-Clerk for distribution to the complainants and the person complained about. We know it was first distributed to Councillor's inbox and shortly thereafter, mysteriously scooped back up again.

After a bit of a tussle.I obtained the decision. Our relatively new Clerk, who had just recently signed a five year contract, promptly retired immediately after.

Complainant Councillors vow they did not see the decision before they made the decision to "strip" the Integrity Commissioner of his authority.

Other Councillors who were neither complainants nor complained about, were refused the decision because they did not sign the complaint.They were Councillors but not complainants.
Apparently it made a difference.

Following council's direction, staff are recommending a legal firm to replace the erstwhile Integrity Commissioner who was stripped of his authority after making and submitting his decision. According to the Mayor. the new arbiter of ethics, is to deal with a complaint in which staff have been implicated by the Mayor.

The Chief Administrative Officer, acting as spokesperson, has informed the media, "we" decided an Integrity Commissioner should have a legal background.

I am not sure who "we" are. I was not a party to any such discussion or decision. Nor were others. I fear a resolution to that effect might be hard to locate in the public record.

The selection process was as follows. A Request for Proposal was advertised. There were six responses. Proposals were evaluated on points scored. Highest score, successful proponent.

An appointment is recommended. Not making any appointment at this time is a suggested option. The report was received by Council in Committee.

Council in committee is recommending the recommendation to appoint to Council for ratification.

Herein lies my dilemma. I am not sure I should participate in the debate and vote. But if I don't, neither should six other members of council. Nor, since the Mayor has made staff party to the complaint against me, still pending, I am not sure staff should be participating either in the recommendation of a new Integrity Commissioner.

But we all know what happens to anyone who crosses the Mayor's intentions.

I can see my Scottish mother. One arm crossed over her chest, the other raised to her face, chin resting between thumb and forefinger pressing into her cheek. I hear her voice.

"Imagine that" she would say in disbelief. "Is that no' the limit?"

Sunday 24 January 2010

Aurora Coalition has left a new comment on your post "Sins and Omissions":

"You have written tens of thousands of words, the majority of them very informative.

But to date they have had no real effect. Very few of the wrongs you have identified, the money that has been squandered, the organization restructured, the meaningful titles rendered incomprehensible, are ongoing with no end in sight.

It's easy to say that justice will prevail in October.

The only way this will happen is if a goodly number of experienced citizens of sound moral and ethical character are prepared to run for public office, and in the course of their campaigns destroy Morris and the "five who follow" so thoroughly with proven examples of the Morris years blatant megalomania, that she and her troop will be roundly trounced.

The first order of business for the new Mayor and Council should be By-laws to do away with the Code of Conduct and the Ethics Commissioner.

If nine honest citizens, whoever they might be, are elected, one would expect that they would, between them, know how to conduct themselves with honour, distinction, morals and ethics; their character would shine through.

Posted by Aurora Coalition to Our Town and Its Business at January 24, 2010 11:35 AM"


The Coalition assumes the public being informed means decisions can be altered and better judgement exercised. They can't believe council keeps on doing what they do even when they are aware that people are aware of what they are doing

The key is, they are doing what they think politicians are supposed to do.They believe their decisions are righteous. They are not alone.

My blog on town business and letters to the editor are considered by some to be no-fair and disruptive. No good can come from my activity. My sole objective, they say, is to undermine the House of Morris They are not inclined to think otherwise.

While I, on the other hand. maintain I am simply keeping to the contract I made when I last asked for voter support.It wasn't a secret.

The governing process of Council meetings does not permit issues to be re-hashed continually. Nor should it. Comes a point, when blether has to stop, the vote cast and get on with the next order of business.

No issue can be re-introduced until six months have passed, unless two-thirds approve.

A majority vote is a done deal.

Since power was wrested from Kings and Queens, it has always been this way.

Our current council's consistent majority believes the rule providing structure and order in a meeting, is intended to prohibit public discussion and possible dissent as well. She who must be obeyed has so informed them.

A solicitor was consulted. A Code of Conduct was created to enforce the principle. Even if opposed to it, a councillor is required to explain the decision and attitude of the majority in the making of it. It's not clear who inserted that clause. But that's what was approved alright.

Many residents think it's fine. The Code is a legal document, they say and by golly, everybody should get in line and obey it.

Failure to obey, triggers investigation by a solicitor of all one's utterances, a formal complaint being filed and ultimate judgement being pronounced by a separate party. All at substantial public expense and disregard for the people's right to choose.

My intention is to inform.

I don't tell people what to think. I give them the raw material. They expect it from me.They ought to. I do what I said I would.

I have shameless passion for the liberties we enjoy. I think it would be a good thing to break through the apathy that chokes us like a nuclear cloud of sticky pink spun sugar.

I state the case,complete with details. Hit it with a pile driver, then again and still one more time, according to the advice of a famous and wise political person .

It is not conventional wisdom. I hear from people who want to be informed. But for some, facts are inconvenient and others do not wish to be disturbed.

Computer technology is a marvel. Information is easier to come by all around.

We will soon know if it has made a difference.

We always have numerous candidates in Aurora. With a Mayoralty contest, there will be interest in the election.

I think an accounting will be required. New candidates would be wise to be at least as well informed as the voters. Records have never been so readily accessible so it wont be hard.

Avoidance of issues will be a measure of a candidate.

Being positive is a good thing. Denying the obvious will not obviously be right.

Playing safe may no longer be a viable political imperative.

The electorate as always, will make the decision. One by one, in private, they will mark the ballot.

Once in four years, we have our chance. No Knight on a White Charger can ride to the rescue after the fact. The decision is not variable. Only a new election, four years down the road, will unmake it.

Senior levels of government can decide at any time to bring a four year mandate to an end to re-establish authority with the electorate.They can throw the dice a second or third time and risk all.

We have no such option.

We should have nine independent thinking individuals, each recognising their separate authority and responsibility to the people who elected them .

A candidate slate does not conform to the structure of a municipal council. It's not a new idea. We have learned to our cost.

A well functioning council is not a team with everyone pulling in the same direction. Tension between ideas is wholesome, natural and necessary. Debates should be hard fought. Order impartially maintained. Respect begets respect. The right to disagree is paramount. Civility is essential.

Elections are easier for some than others. But they are never easy.

The free flow of information may have made a difference to our town's affairs.

We can only hope... and continue the endeavour..

Friday 22 January 2010

Sins and Omissions

I erred in my calculation of the total number of pages of print. There were eighty-four pages printed both sides. That's still humongous and questionable use of town resources.

The agenda is distributed to nine councillors, ten staff including a person from the communications division and a copy is sent to the Library. A person from communications is lately an attendee at council meetings.

Reporters have one each. I got the complete number from the Clerk. I could ask for exact distribution but the new process is that only department heads may respond to Councillor inquiries. I don't think it's a good use of a department head's time. I hesitate to go that route.

We had a debate early in the term about Rebecca Beaton getting a free copy of the budget. . Councillor MacEachern made a motion to that effect. " Because of Rebecca's interest in the town's affairs" she said.

I didn't see why the fee should be suspended. The Mayor offered to give her own copy to Rebecca, if it was such a big deal.

Rebecca is special friend and handmaiden to Councillor MacEachern .I think town policies should apply to all. If town residents have to pay for town documents, special friends of Councillors should as well.

It was probably one of those eight to one votes that friends and supporters of the Mormac regime like to refer to as negativity and I think of as consistency and equity.

We have had another change in protocol. E-mail communications from staff and the Mayor have dispensed with normal civility in address to Councillors. I assume it's not just me.

For example, the response to my query about how many copies of agendas are distributed came back simply as "35"

Recent e-mails from the CAO, Director of Human Resources .and the Mayor had the same tone. Frankly, I think it lacks civility. Maybe I should convey my feelings privately rather than confide in you, dear readers. But what the heck, they didn't advise me before they collectively decided how to address elected representatives from now on.

First they make a policy that only department heads can provide answers. Then they convey displeasure at being asked, by withholding civility.

A couple of weeks ago an e-mail from the Mayor had a green happy face at the bottom and a request not to copy. "Think about the trees it takes to make paper" it said.

New titles adopted, like "the Executive Leadership Management Team" instead of Management Team, The Director of Infrastructure and Environmental Services Department, instead of Public Works Director are a contradiction in terms of conservation and economy.

When one realises the times titles are repeated in public documents and verbal references, economic efficiency is clearly not what the changes are about.

Thursday 21 January 2010

Freedom of Information

It seems many people believe a request for Freedom of Information needs to be filed in order to get any information from the Town Hall.

It's not the case. In public service, information is currency.

Probably 99% is a matter of public record. If a request involves preparation and copying documents, there has to be a fee. If you want town staff to do research and prepare documents ,you need to pay for that service.

The Aurora Library has records. The town's web site also. Public meetings are all recorded. Agendas and minutes are available. About everything you always wanted to know about the Town Hall is on the web site.

Traditionally, the town clerk's office provides information. If an inquiry needs to be directed to a particular department, they will steer it accordingly.People who work in the public service, generally like what they do. They are inclined to do it well.

E-mails generally get a prompt response. The Mayor's Office and Councillors are also a resource.
It's an important part of our function.

Last term, we talked about streaming council meetings. It would have meant you could log in to council meetings at will. We had the technology. We needed extra hands. They were not provided.

Having to file an application for Freedom of Information should be a last resort.

If you were asking for a list of all recorded votes in the past three years and it required 84 pages of print and numerous man- hours to compile, that would cost you a tidy sum. But if you thought it would prove something and really wanted it, you could do the work yourself from records available.

Personally I found the report too tedious to read let alone research. One thing it revealed was a
frightening lack of knowledge among people who should know the purpose of a recorded vote.

The only significant item I have had trouble obtaining, was my last request for legal expenditures of the previous two and a half years.

The first time I asked the cost of Mr. Rust D'Eye's service. It took a little while to compile but a figure of $16,200 was provided by the treasurer without demur. The Mayor later stated Mr. Rust D'Eye had written or helped to write the Code of Conduct. That came after I received the figure mentioned. Obviously, there was an additional fee for that service.

Next time I asked, I received a sheaf of invoices for three months service. It was never at any time suggested information about legal costs were not my right to receive.Quite the opposite in fact.

My next request encountered no initial opposition but the figures were not produced either. My right to know hadn't changed. Principles don't . But after the solicitor consulted with the Chief Administrative officer, a convoluted resolution approved by council, directed the interim treasurer to compile accounts in a particular fashion. He agreed. The resolution was taken by the solicitor to mean my request for the list of expenditures could not be granted

I think we may take that as an sample of the "change" referred to by the Mayor in her New Year's message.

A citizen's group filed a request under Freedom of Information for details of legal expenditures. The time frame of the request is not known.

Solicitors present invoices according to their own schedule. Whether information was up to date at the time of the citizen group's request I cannot say.Although there was an apparent discrepancy between a previous report and the information provided in response to the FOI request.

Providing information freely and without equivocation tells a story.

Refusal to provide it tells another. Both are a revelation.

Margaret Brookes of Kettleby

Margaret of Kettleby has died. I received the call as I was preparing to leave for Council on Tuesday evening. I'd been expecting it. Though it wasn't a surprise, I thought, if I carry on as usual. it will be a day like any other.

It wasn't.

Margaret has been a good and constant friend for forty-five years. We raised our children to-gether. Lakeside picnics in summer, Christmas and Thanksgiving Feasts. I was expecting Heather when we met. Now Heather and Margaret's son Andy, are parents of four . They found each other. Margaret and I were grandmothers- in- law.

All my grandchildren have known the affection and interest of Margaret and Doug throughout their lives.

When our kids were raised, we took a few memorable trips together. Quebec City, Vermont, New Hampshire, Bar Harbour to Nova Scotia and Cape Breton and San Francisco.

My single casino visit was on the ferry crossing from Nova Scotia to Bar Harbour.

We each allocated a specific sum to play the one-armed bandits. Afterwards we hung on the boat rail to feel the ocean wind on our faces. Wholesome stuff like that. A jangle of bells and a mighty cheer would erupt from the casino. Our heads would slowly turn to look at each other and without a word between us, we'd rush back to the casino with more quarters.

Our times together were a return to girlhood. We laughed till the tears came. The silliest things struck hilarious.

Now Margaret's journey is over. When the end is long, one realises, there are worse things than dying. The end of suffering is a blessed release.

We will grieve. Every day the sorrow will be a little less. Life goes on. Something new is discovered.. When a person's life has been a part of yours for a lifetime, they never really leave.

For the rest of your journey, they walk beside you, you hear their voice and most of all their laughter.

Wednesday 20 January 2010

Questions and Answers. January 2010

The cost of the report giving a definition of the word" storage" would not be exorbitant. It took the Chief Building Official's time to look up three defintions and write the report.

It would be passed through the agenda of the Management Team meeting. It would be forwarded to the Clerk's department to appear on council's agenda. Thirty-five copies of the agenda would be circulated in order to reach the Council table.

It might have given the appearance of substance to a Council Business Agenda. But it was all about nothing.

However much it cost was too much.
The Chief Building Official's job is onerous.. She is responsible for ensuring all buildings in Aurora are constructed in accordance with the National Building Code and the Ontario Building Code. Regulations governing her responsibilities are extremely demanding.

Penalties for failure are severe. Not just for failing to adhere to regulations but for making sure buildings in Aurora and the people in them are safe and sound and healthy.

Building Inspectors have to be certified. Training is on-going to keep up with the skills required
In the re-organisation, the Chief Building Official is now made responsible for Town Bylaw Enforcement.

I think the responsibilities of the Chief Building Official are as much as one person can handle
and do the job right. I see no merit in loading the position with additional oversight .

When the Chief Building Official was appointed, by Bylaw, it is a statutory office, the job had specific requirements. Now, after the fact, it has more and different credentials. How logical is that?

I receive comments which are nor relevant to posts. I don't publish them.

A recent comment was barely intelligible but I thought it may be from someone with English as a second language. If I didn't publish it, I felt I would discourage the person from participating in the conversation. I didn't want to do that.

On my post on the spokesperson and speech writer position, Anonymous asked what was I babbling about..... Was I drinking at the time I wrote it.

I didn't publish that. I haven't received those kind of comments since I served Notice of Intent to Sue. I thought I recognised Councillor Mac Eachern's style of communication.


To make sense of this post,you have to read comments to previous posts. There's a way of setting
things up to make it easy to follow. But I don't know how.

Tuesday 19 January 2010


It's what comes to mind when I contemplate the town hall these days.

Councillors have been provided with names and titles of every employee in the administration. It was intended for ease of access to whatever information a Councillor might require to fulfill the role of judicious oversight.

The resource is no longer available to us.. Staff have apparently been instructed not to answer queries directly. Inquiries must be referred to department heads. Presumably for the purpose of control.

I had a question to-day. I sent an e-mail. An hour passed without response. I do not expect department heads to be stationed at computers, awaiting requests for information from Councillors. It would not be best practice. Yet it 's the new protocol in the Mormac regime.

I needed an answer. I called a secretary's number, then another and another and another and. finally I spoke with a voice and received the answer.

A run on copies of reports to Council is thirty-five .

We have received a report of eighty-four pages. Printed on both sides it is one hundred and sixty eight pages of print. Copied thirty-five times adds up to 5,880 pages.. That's a Magnum Opus

Content? A record of recorded votes during the current term of office.

A recorded vote allows a councillor's opposition to a decision to be a matter of record. Or conversely, to record names of those in support. It is the means available to a Councillor who wishes their opposition to be on record. That's its purpose.

It is not unusual for a member of this council , usually the Mayor, to request a recorded vote when there is no opposition. It's an exercise in futility.

It's like children playing officialdom and officialdee
My critics accuse me of being disruptive and not being a team player becasue I am frequently opposed to motions presented. I've never understood why a person should be expected to surrender the right to think and vote accordingly, by virtue of having been elected to office.From my perspective, it is the point of being elected.

Early in the term, Councillor MacEachern's friend, Walter Mestrinaro was encouraged to return to council time and time again to challenge the competence, authority and integrity of the CAO, Chief Building Official and Town Planning Director. His arguments were exhausted and in a final flourish of defiance, after weeks of virtual harassment, Councillor Mac Eachern moved to direct staff to submit a report giving a definition of the word "storage"

The report was prepared by the Chief Building Official. It had three separate dictionary references to the word. It was copied thirty-five times , submitted and received without comment.

Whether or not the vote was recorded to direct staff to undertake such a purposeless exercise I do not recall. I was most certainly adamantly opposed.

Neither did I support a current motion to compile a report using 5.880 pages of print, showing recorded votes cast during this term, so that someone with a Warrior pseudonym like Robert the Bruce can meekly and dutifully echo Team Mormac's complaints that I am"confrontational", not a "team player" and only need "enough rope to hang" myself.

Anyone undertaking the tedium of reading the report will no doubt form an opinion on how well town resources are being utilised and where the bones are buried.

Erratum: total pages of print in the report were eighty-four. It was still humongous.

Thursday 14 January 2010

It's Odd

For a sitting Councillor to learn of dramatic new initiatives in town communications from the media.

This week the Chief Administrative Officer, acting as spokesperson for the town (the Mayor) announced the town's intention to add a spokesperson to the administration to improve communications . Speech-writing and perhaps engaging with Facebook will be part of the job..

Council last met on December 8Th. The budget will not be ratified before January 26Th.

Already we are off and running. So fast off the mark, no time has been allowed for discussion at the Council table.

Everyone who reads this blog knows, because I say so, I do not present as competent in computers.

But Facebook, for God's Sake. Facebook !!!! Can anybody at the town hall possibly not understand what Facebook is about.

We are to pay for someone. with a Masters Degree in Communication , at a cost of $100Ks annually, to engage Facebook !!!!!


Facebook is the domain of the Rampant and Reckless ,Totally Irreverent and Sacrilegious Youth.

I keep tabs on my grandchildren on Facebook.

The Town has a Corporate Communication Division. The Mayor monopolised it from the start as her personal public relations flack. Along with Notice Board in the Aurabanana which costs probably $75Ks a year. And various and extravagant resources expended in the ongoing effort to vanquish dissent and destroy her enemies.

Despite all that, there's still an apparent lack of confidence that the community fully appreciates the myriad of ,marvelous Mormac accomplishments of the administration..

So now we are to have a Masters Degree in Communication on hand to polish that which may be tarnished, in time for the next election.

Speeches will be professionally- prepared for the Gala opening of Church Street School Heritage and Cultural Centre, the pitch of the first ball at the new diamond in the summer and all other possible occasions.

We may even have articulate speeches from the Throne at the opening of every council meeting.

If Buckingham Palace has a Spokesperson, why not Mayor Morris' Town Hall in Aurora? May we not aspire?

The Press Secretary/Spokesperson may possibly hold press conferences with the Town Hall Press Gallery There may occasionally be scripted appearances by her Worship.

All on the taxpayers' dime.

Remember the admonitions of righteous Professor Robert McDiarmid of York University, an invited guest of Her Worship to read scripture to Council on the evils of incumbent advantage over challengers and how corporate contributions need to be rigorously controlled in election campaigns.

Little did the naive but well-meaning Professor know how many municipal corporate contributions can be used for a campaign without a single red cent showing up in the candidate's mandated Statement of Expenses.

Tuesday 12 January 2010

Making of A Ball Diamond

Fifty years ago, the Town Park held the only diamond. It had probably been there for fifty years.

Parkland was provided by Mr. Mosely ,who subdivided the original grant of land from Yonge Street to the railroad tracks. The tracks came later.

I never understood why the town's history aficionados never cared about preserving the park's heritage. It's likely among the oldest artifacts along with the ball diamond. Maybe it was because the residents around were employees of the various industries in town.

During the recent diamond controversy, much was made of the small number of players;about the same as the Aurora Historical Society. No weight at all was given to the fact a ball diamond is an investment that serves an endless succession of generations of residents.

It wasn't the only oversight.

The Master Recreation Plan was ignored. Development charge levies for the project were equally disregarded.

But the worst of all was the chosen site.

The project was identified as a priority in the Five Year Master Recreation Master Plan. That's a mandated device to determine needs and justify development charges to meet them. Justification. for the levy is required by law.

In the 2007 budget, staff recommended a purchase of land. They knew of a suitable site and recommended speedy acquisition . Council cut it from the budget. .

Next year, same thing. Councillor Mac Eachern considered the lands adjacent to the Stronach Rec. Centre. to be most suitable. Although they belonged to the town, they were not designated at the time, so could not be used.

At the same time, an estimate of $600Ks for construction showed in the forecast.

It was also cut twice.

The night the 2008 budget was approved, the Aurora Ball Association came to Council to plead their cause. They had assumed because staff had twice recommended the facility as a priority, Council would recognise the urgency.

They were wrong.

But they did not depart empty-handed. The Mayor showed complete empathy and
inquired as to specific wants and needs, With a magnanimous flourish, the Leisure Service Director was directed to commence the very next morning, to plan a facility in line with the requests, to be located on the 2c lands adjacent to the Stronach Rec Complex, the project to be included in the budget of 2009.

Nothing more was heard until the item came forward in the 2009 budget at an estimated cost of $1.6 million dollars.

The stage was set. Once again the proverbial matter hit the fan. Councillors in sequence with an assigned question, aggressively challenged the competence of the Leisure Services Director.

We still had Team Management but the Director took the brunt alone.

Gone was the memory of specific instructions from the Mayor to include everything requested by the Ball Association.

Councillor MacEachern had done her own research and discovered a number of municipalities who had built facilities for less.

Advice to acquire suitable land for a ball diamond was conveniently forgotten.

Overlooked was the fact, the initial estimate was without site preparation because there was no site in mind.

Eventually, after much sound and fury, public outrage against a diamond whipped up, and direction to the new CAO to take the matter in hand, a contract was awarded for construction on 2c lands abutting the Stronach Rec Centre,since amended by the Region, at a price just under a million with no contingency fund and leaving most of the site ungraded.

The project start was three months later than optimum.

I visited regularly since work began. I can't walk the area as Councillors' used to do in the olden days, accompanied by the engineer. The land had substantial contours and the mountain of top soil. I saw earth movers parked in a corner of the field at week-ends and slight signs of progress in levelling the land.

Mine is an unpractised eye. The amount of earth to be moved no doubt impacted the time it took to move it. Snow came early and sub zero freezing temperatures. Not the best conditions. .

Cutting down hills and filling depressions have contributed $400Ks to cost of the project.

Had staff advice been accepted, suitable land for a diamond would have been purchased in 2007,
the facility might have been built at its original estimate of $600Ks .

Use of the facility would have been maximized.

Player numbers would have grown

Development charges would have been used for the purpose intended.

The community would have been well-served.

Instead, there will be a gala opening in election year. All will be forgiven and forgotten and ball players will prostrate themselves in gratitude and obeisance before their Mighty Mayor and Benefactor

That would be the plan.

Saturday 9 January 2010

Telling a story

Is like knitting a sweater. It's constructed one stitch at a time.

I wasn't there when Petch's cabin was lifted from it's foundations and parked at the side of Leslie Street . The development company committed to re-locating it with a new foundation wherever the town chose.There wasn't a place or use for it then and there isn't one now.

The cabin was one of a pair. The twin was a chapel. It was sold privately, transported , re-constructed and restored to use in cottage country by one, Van Nostrand of Vandorf.

He makes a business of salvaging old buildings. I think that's an art and a labour of love. All power to Van Nostrand of Vandorf.

The modest little building ,too far gone to begin with, has perched forlornly in full view on cinder blocks for more than six years. A great hole clawed open in the roof by generations of raccoons which lived and died there. The clapboard siding that originally protected the boards almost all gone and six years of hurricanes and blizzards saturated the building inside and out throughout the seasons.

Every year it's fate would be discussed. Every year $100Ks. tax dollars, to restore the building would be included in the budget. An anonymous donation of $8Ks swelled the pot.

In 2009, Van Nostrand, at no cost, examined the interior of the building and gave an authoritative opinion .

It could no longer be moved in one piece. It would have to be taken apart and the rot cut from corners. Already a small structure, the size would be reduced considerably.

Feces and carcases, floors and walls smothered in mould, made it impossible to determine the extent of interior damage.

Van Nostrand's advice was not accepted.

A second opinion was obtained at a fee of $2,900.

Again: the building could not be moved in one piece. It would have to be taken apart. Vintage boards would be needed as replacements. Cost of restoring was estimated at $400Ks.Even without knowing the condition of the interior.

Councillor MacEachern, the Mayor's right-hand and the town's representative on the Conservation Authority had persuaded staff and Chairman of SLSCA, to accept the cabin at Sheppard's Bush. As long as no trees needed to be removed for access..

I often find myself in a quandary. If I put forward a motion, it will not receive support. Because it was mine. So sometimes I do, sometimes I don't. It makes no never-mind.

After some debate, a motion was moved, seconded and approved to obtain still another opinion spending no more than $5Ks.

Mine was likely the only negative cast.

The point of the story is, the motion passed. The vote was in favour of spending still more money for another report.

Except it never happened. Months passed. Despite Council direction , no further report came forward.

Some Council Agendas had little more than previous committee minutes to approve. Hardly worth a meeting. Yet the direction given by Council on the Petch house was not followed.

On the one hand, the majority publicly decided on the side of the angels. In fact, the decision was not implemented.

Clearly a different decision was made by persons unknown outside the public eye.

Because the project was not completed in 2009, $105Ks. continues to show in 2010 budget

Despite the fact the last estimate was $400Ks. and no location or use has been identified.

The plan for a ball diamond identified a concrete structure to store equipment at a cost of $17Ks. The item was excluded to reduce cost out of consideration of the taxpayers.

The last discussion at the council table talked about locating the diminutive Petch House at a cost of $400Ks. as a facility at the ball diamond.

Mr. Petch was clearly a religious man. He built a chapel for worship. What would he think I wonder, about the cost and proposed re-use of a cabin he built more than a century ago which has served its purpose well.


Thursday 7 January 2010

We Had a Chance

To take one small step forward to reduce our carbon footprint on the earth during this term. With grant money yet.

We had a list of projects, not included in the original $2.3 million renovation budget for the Church Street School. We were choosing a heating system.

A cost was provided for a conventional system and another, much higher, for a pump to draw heat from the ground.

Annual cost of natural gas and maintenance was estimated at $75.Ks. Total annual maintenance for the building, on top of the $350Ks purchase of cultural services contract, without curatorial staff, was estimated at $140Ks. A cool half million. Not far from a percentage point on the tax rate.

Cost of heat from the earth ? Zero...Zilch...Nada. Not a copper. Hallelujah . Amen my friends.

Did we take the opportunity?

Can a pig fly?

Not a red cent for a heating system for a building with ceilings rising fourteen feet from the floor and windows with single diamond glazing for historical authenticity, would be provided to utilise heat from the ground around.

Original heating was wood furnace in the basement. Pupils stoked the monster. They had to wear coats in class to stay warm in winter. Smoke residue still stained the ceiling tiles when the building was gutted by the Historical Society. A false ceiling had been installed by previous users to conserve heat.

Neither a dickey-bird nor a whisper of support was heard from any green roof aficionado, clothes line crusader, environmental initiatives engineer hired on the advice of the multiple member environmental committee or any other person fond of clothing themselves in shining raiment while gushing crocodile tears and grim foreboding about melting polar ice caps.

Silence in support of clean and free heat with a heat pump was deafening.

Instead the vote was for a conventional, fossil fuel, carbon producing , power driven, vastly and annually extravagant, natural gas furnace.

If he knew about it, I think His Royal Highness, the Prince of Wales and Organic Farming would probably take his award back.

Wednesday 6 January 2010

2010: A Year of Change?

Change has been the rule rather than the exception from 2007 on. We are already on our second round of replacement staff.

In November 2008, a new clerk was appointed.

On January 5, 2009, the Chief Adminstrative Officer assumed his post.

The same day, the Treasurer submitted his resignation

In April 2009, an interim treasurer was appointed.

In August 2009, the new clerk resigned.

In December 2009, a new clerk assumed the position.

Also in December, the interim treasurer was announced to be assuming the permanent treasurer's post. Later corrected to be appointed to the new additional role and not the treasurer's That appointment is to be made in January by Council, by Bylaw.

In the 2009 budget, $95Ks was budgeted for re-organisation study of the administration.

In the 2010 , $341Ks is budgeted for additional personnel to accomplish the re-organisation recommended by consultants.

The purpose it seems was NOT economy. Come to think of it, the purpose was never clear

Also in 2010, $295Ks is budgeted for re-organisation of town hall space to accommodate re- organisation of administration.

Titles changed. None more puffed up and pretentious than "The Executive Leadership Team" previously known simply as senior management team. Early signs are team aspect may be more apparent than real.

Public Works now known as "The Infrastructure and Environmental Services Department'
already referred to as I & E.S .

Leisure Services and Clerk's department have been gutted and others beefed up and re-titled but hardly for clarity .

Officials appointed with credentials for a statutory function now preside over areas for which they have no credentials. Compensation has been commensurately increased.

Four new managers have been created.

Works Department trucks already sport nomenclature to signify the brave new age proclaimed in the Mayor's New Year's Message.

Cultural services are being "purchased" from a board operating the Church Street School. We paid $231Ks in 2009 for staffing. Saw nothing for it. In 2010, the contract will cost about $350Ks. Consultant theory was revenues would grow by $100ks a year to cover costs. No estimate for revenue is made in the second year of operation.

The building was designed as a one- of- a- kind museum .We assumed plans from the Historical Society. However, according to the Historical Society, no curatorial staff are on the payroll

An additional grant of $50Ks therefore is budgeted for the fifty-nine member Historical Society to provide curatorial service for the town's artifact collection, among other things.

The facility was supposed to open in 2009.

It didn't.

In 2010 $7,800 is budgeted for a gala event.

Council has not met the people who will provide these "cultural" services at our expense. We have not had the courtesy of a formal introduction nor heard anything of progress.

$105Ks is still in the budget for the pesky Petch House project. Last figure provided for restoration was $400Ks. Still no decision was made and the item persists.

A new ball field is under construction. Well not exactly. It was halted in December. Grading is a problem on account of refusal to provide sufficient funds to allow the entire site to be graded in order to contrive to award a contract under a million dollars and we would look like careful custodians of the public dollar. Without a contingency fund, further council approval will be needed to resolve problems caused by soil conditions.

$120Ks is a cost to contract landscaping maintenance in modern subdivisions. Developers dress up entrances with fal-de-rols and the town parks department had to expand the budget to maintain the same. Such new workloads are created all the time without thought for financial consequences.

Residents in old subdivisions maintain public property fronting their own.

Volunteer groups are encouraged to "Adopt a park" to save on maintenance.

New neighbourhoods have floral beds and grassed medians to be maintained forever and a day starting at an estimated cost of $120Ks a year .

Saturday 2 January 2010

Another Budget Detail

I drove down both Bayview and Yonge to Bloomington Road a couple of times during the holiday.

Once in the dark on Christmas night and once in daytlight on New Year's Eve.

My quest was for sidewalks.

On Yonge, the sidewalk curves around Vandorf Sideroad and ends shortly therein. On Bayview it curves around the north-west corner of Stone Road and continues .

In the budget, we have $75Ks for a needs assessment of sidewalks, bicycle path,illumination and boulevard on Bloomington Road from Yonge to Bayview and Yonge to Bathurst.

Bloomington Road is our southern boundary shared with Richmond Hill.

West from Yonge Street to Bathurst, there is no residential development and none likely in the near future. Provincial property, Blue Hills Academy and a couple of high schools are located on the North side. The south side has residents of Richmond Hill.

East from Yonge to Bayview has two roads running parallel; Old Bloomington which is ours and strictly local and the Regional Road.

The key factor is the absence of sidewalk leading north from Bloomington on Bayview. Yonge or Bathurst. Sidewalks, bicycle paths boulevards and illumination would serve a minimal number of town residents and take them nowhere except along Bloomington Road.

Original figures in the works budget for these two projects were in excess of $600Ks apiece.

Money does need to be spent on sidewalks. There are more gaps than sidewalks in the urbanised areas of the town that need to be filled and are unlikely to be paid for by developers.

When an illogical proposal is made, I still tend to look for reason. What's going on behind the scenes that brought this idea forward? Who made a visit to the Mayor with a request for sidewalks on Bloomington Rd ?

My suspicion may be unwarranted. Unfortunately, experience says otherwise.

I suspect $75Ks in the budget to spend on a consultant will produce politically expedient advice. It will look like a move in the right direction.

Like the one on the Nokidaa Trail/ Mackenzie Marsh/ Hadley Grange Nature Reserve?. $50Ks to produce a rationale for not making a decision after almost a year of endless and fruitless "consultation" .

Friday 1 January 2010

A Perfect Example

Of the argument against secret selection of professional staff is a recent discussion on a sidewalk link in the re-construction of Nisbet Drive.

The road allowance is completely adequate to provide complete urban standards. Sidewalk should be separated from the travelled portion of the road by a boulevard. Principal concerns are safety and utility . Street scape is also a consideration.

A single resident delegated and demanded no sidewalk abut his property. He would lose parking space in his driveway, he said. A convenience he has enjoyed for almost forty years on property not his own.

A recommendation was already prepared for the sidewalk to swerve out to abut the travelled portion of the road instead. For concrete to be twice as wide to accommodate snow storage and the road to be moved a metre to the west. The expense of re-locating utilities would be saved.

Twice as much concrete costs twice as much.

Utilities are normally located under sidewalks. It makes them easier to find .

In blizzard conditions,pedestrians would have no access to sidewalk because of snow ploughed over from the road. Twice the width of concrete would mean twice the room for snow to store.
Still no room for people.

At a time when we are investing hundred of thousands of dollars, by provincial mandate, to make public facilities accessible to the disabled, the design was not referred to the Disability Access Committee.

Moving the road a metre to the west means new excavation, new gravel base, re-locating underground services either for the complete stretch of Nisbet from Murray Drive to Golf Glen,
or create a crazy jog in the road to match the ludicrous curve in the sidewalk.

No management team input was sought. No financial impact presented.

Only the Chief Administrative Officer, the Director of Infrastructure and Environmental Services and no doubt Her Honour the Mayor were privy to the compromise before presentation to a formal meeting of Council. No time was allowed for second thought.

The Director of Infrastructure and Environmental Services (formerly Public Works) stated the design is an "acceptable compromise".

Who asked him for that?

Speaking for those I represent, professional staff are not paid to offer compromise entirely lacking in logic or substance. That's the political prerogative.

Best professional practice are the expectation from staff . No more and no less.

Unfortunately, I expect to see more not less of the new strategy of staff providing compromise solutions in 2010. It's probably the change referred to in the Mayor's New Year's Message.

My message is not new. From a ring side seat, I will keep you informed.