"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

Friday 30 April 2010

I Haven't Finished With My Impressions

St.Max opened last September. They are coming to the end of their first year. Only Grade Nine and Ten were in operation last year. Each year a Grade will be added.

On Tuesday we had a chance to see results of one year.

Two girls, not more than sixteen, if that, rendered several songs with complete professional composure

.A young man who needed support to stand, sang Ave Maria.

A Grade nine student played a Chopin piece...you know... waterfall music.

A grade nine class performed a dance interpretation of Life before the Nazis, life in death camps, the Saint's ministry to his fellow prisoners and his death .

There was an incredibly, graceful and professional interpretive dance by Grade Nine girls.

Come to think of it,I'm not really sure if that was Grade Nine or Ten, no matter, it was incredible.

The Arts are a part of the phys. ed department. They have a dance studio.

As far as I could see. and in accordance with my limited awareness. the stage is fully equipped for dramatic productions.

A manufacturing process is part of the school curriculum.

They have White boards throughout the school.

Workshop programs are available to all of the students.

I am not aware the Separate School system has ever offered Continuing Education Courses
and I don't know what would be involved but it boggles the mind to think of what might be possible.

In the Catholic school system, students with different abilities are not segregated. I saw a younger dark-haired edition of my grandson Adam participating with his peers. I knew he would be there.

Sports facilities are already underway and some are completed. They hope to have a football team next year.

The Separate School system has a record of sharing facilities with the community.

Aurora. we should be taking note of what we have here and what new opportunities are possible.

This was a celebration we can all share.

Thursday 29 April 2010

A Special Guest

Max Eisen was a special guest at the High School Blessing and Opening Celebration. He was identified on the program as an Auschwitz Survivor.He was an inmate in 1944.

Father Maximillian Kolbe was a Franciscan priest, also an inmate of Auschwitz who was executed there in 1941. He gave his life in place of another's . Of Mr. Eisen's family of 65 members almost all were executed in 1944.

A group of students and staff of the high school went to Poland and France last year to learn what they could of the man whose life is commemorated in the spirit of their school.Mr Eisen had helped them understand how things were in Auschwitz.

I was not able to watch that part of the video. I have vivid memories of what the allies found in the death camps when the war ended. The images will haunt me as long as I live.

Father Lucian, also a guest,was a colleague of St Maximilian Kolbe. He spoke of him as a brother. Of his scholarly intelligence. Of his interest in science. How he embraced the modern media of his time and thereby attracted Gestapo attention to himself.

I have never met anyone who knew a Saint. I don't even know anyone who has. I have no doubt he was everything they said he was.

Yet the message Father Lucian brought to the students from the saint was simple.

Love...Love your neighbour.

The auditorium was full of students, parents, teachers, two parish priests and a Bishop gathered together to make a joyful commitment, to their faith , their future, their community and their world.

The evening, the school, the ceremony, certainly made the connection for me between the evil that was The Holocaust and school in a small Town in Canada, thousands of miles distant and a mere seventy years apart.

I personally expect great things of St Maximilian Kolbe Separate High School on Wellington Street, Aurora.

Cost of The Ad

I have on occasion posted political on the personal blog. Any time I've done that. I've needed
Heather Sisman to switch it for me. Well today I did it myself. I cut and pasted successfully once again.

I also have the cost of the ad that ran on the April 15Th edition of The Banner.It cost $3,700 for both pages. exclusive of GST. I calculate that at $455. The total therefore would have been in excess of $4,000.

In the ebb of a four year term, within weeks of an election campaign, I think public
perception could easily be, the ad is promoting incumbent politicians rather than the town.

No fair. No fair.

Springtime and Mayhem in Ukraine

Last week, on international news, we saw Ukraine Parliamentarians throwing eggs and other non-lethal stuff at each other. Similar events have been caught on camera in a Japanese Legislative Assembly.

Members there were climbing over desks and reaching for a throat to throttle.

It doesn't happen under British Parliamentary Rules of Order . The objective there of course is to maintain civility at all costs. As in a court room.

Tuesday night was mayhem in Aurora.It started with Councillor Gallo raising a Question of Privilege.

The Councillor's Question was a letter of mine to an editor which set out how committees are chosen in the Mormac regime.

A Question of Privilege allows a Councillor to object to his motives having been impugned or of being accused of wrong doing during a council debate.

The Question must be raised immediately the offending comment is made, or at the start of the next meeting before any other business has been conducted. Expectation is, the comment will be withdrawn and an apology offered. All very civilized.

Councillor Gallo's Question of Privilege was not apt. I expect he was advised by the presiding Member and her terrible twin, Councillor MacEachern.

Councillor Gallo is earnestly trying to acquire the skills necessary to function with ease in Council debate. Unfortunately, he has chosen the wrong teachers.

It was an evening of repeated similar attempts to call me to task. Councillor Gaertner did something equally inapt

Then there was a letter from Rebbecca Beaton stating my formal motion of request for re-consideration of a previous council decision was shameful.

I've known Rebbecca since she was a toddler.She grew up on my street. Went to school with my children.

There have to be icons in her life. She tags along willing to provide whatever support her patrons may require of her.

When I read her letter, it reminded me of Mister Wilson's conduct before he became a Councillor and after. I had taken the last seat at the table in his second bid for office. Rebecca used to sit beside him in the darkened back row of seating in the Council Chamber.

Wilson would descend to take the podium in public forum and heap abuse on my head, his voice rising to a hysterical shriek as his outrage grew.

The first time he did it I waited for the Mayor to put a stop to it. He didn't. I told the Mayor, no citizen has a right to behave like that in the Council Chamber.

It is disorderly conduct.

He repeated the behaviour.. Again the Mayor did not stop him. I told the Mayor , if you let him do that one more time I will not be responsible for how I will respond.

Next time he started , the Mayor stopped him. But Councillors Vrancic and Keane also thought a citizen had the right to behave that way.

It takes two to start a brawl. Once it starts, there's no telling where it will end.

It was Mayor Morris's turn on Tuesday to insist a citizen has a right to verbally attack an elected representative in a formal meeting of Council within the Council Chamber.

Of course she is wrong. Her ignorance knows no depth.

No-one has that right in a civilized society.

But since this presiding member makes up the rules as she goes along and as it suits her, the options for a Councillor are few.

A brawl is the most likely.

It will not be this Councillor who turns Aurora Council Chamber into a mud-wrestling pit.

Still ....I am not completely without resources.

But Rebbecca Beaton is not likely to be the target.

I suspect the Mayor and her terrible cohort Councillor Evelina MacEachern urged it upon her to write the offending comment.

The attack was personal but not made in person . Rebecca knows me. She might very well expect a vigorous response to a gratuitous insult.

I cannot imagine why anyone would think it's safe to attack this politician in a public meeting.

Wednesday 28 April 2010

Ten Best Signs

I left Council at the hour of adjournment last night three hours and thirty minutes after the start.

The Mayor was putting on a slide show of seemingly permanent blighted sites down town and re-writing history as she went. Apparently Her Worship and a Department head or three took a conspicuous photographic tour to create a record, so that Councillors and the home audience could become aware of how bad things are in down town Aurora and what the Mayor is doing single handed to correct the situation.

I had asked immediately prior to the presentation about a massive coloured advertisement from the Town of Aurora that appeared a couple of weeks ago in a local newspaper. I queried who authorized it, what was its purpose and how much it cost.

The Chief Administrator claimed responsibility and said its purpose was to show how good things are in the Town of Aurora. He did not know off the top of his head, how much it cost

I was home in time to watch David Letterman. Some nights he's better than others but last night I particularly enjoyed his show.

A regular feature of the program is Ten Best Signs. Last night, they were Signs Your Neighbour is An Alien.

I thought....sipping on my single malt, with ice, no water, a gift from my son....I could do that. It could be... Ten Best Signs Five Councillors and a Mayor have a hate on for Evelyn Buck.

The possibilities are endless. I would need a tape of last night's meeting.

Ten Best Signs Mayor Morris is out of her depth. . Tina Fey would be perfect casting.. Sarah Palen's line still gets a laugh. "I can see Russia from my house" to illustrate her depth of foreign policy awareness.

Sue Walmer's character could be featured as Champion of her beloved leader and all that is pure and virtuous and if it's land abutting yours, keep it idle in perpetuity.

I had an inquiry at the week-end. At a silent auction for a cancer fundraiser a Certificate for a Splash Pass at a town facility was an item. Donor was Mayor Morris. My correspondent wondered if that should have been the Town of Aurora.

I asked. The Town's Parks and Recreation department have a policy of providing certificates, value $40. for charitable causes.

The request for a donation was funneled through the Mayor's office.

My inquirer was correct, the donation to the charity should have been credited to the Town of Aurora.

Monday 26 April 2010

New Evidence

Three years ago , an anonymous letter was placed in each Councillor's box . It bore no date stamp for incoming mail, however delivered. The Clerk said it had been received at the Mayor's office and brought across to the Clerk's department. .

The Councillors room is secure. No-one can gain entry without the little do-hickey that does the open- sesame thing. Only Councillors and staff have access.

The letter was six pages long and full of hate. My experience and age were a specific target.

Colleagues felt it should not be ignored. An R.C.M.P. officer informally reviewed it and deemed it " incitement to hatred"

I forwarded it to Chief Armand La Barge and an officer attended on the Clerk. The nature of the letter was not disputed but tracking its source was next to impossible.Also "incitement to hatred" is an offence in only certain circumstances.

The letter, if not written, had certainly been distributed by a Councillor.

Mr. Wilson's frequent personal attacks in the public forum during the previous term of Council made him a likely possibility.

I referred to the letter publicly. Councillor MacEachern denied either she or Councillor Gaertner were responsible. I believed that. Councillor MacEachern is famous for her vituperative style of self- expression but she always signs her name.

Recipients of the Councillor's insults compared notes and established her most spectacular missives were usually dispatched around midnight... the witching hour.

At 8.31 p.m. on Sunday, Councillor Wilson sent an e-mail to Mayor Morris, copied to Councillors and the Chief Administrative Officer, expressing similar sentiments to the anonymous letter.

Authorship is no longer in doubt.

Councillor Wilson's unhappiness with my conduct continues. He is confident however the good work of Council to improve the Town is recognized and appreciated.

The following is an exert:

even with years of experience there can be a complete lack of understanding
of how to effectively deal with issues and conduct one's self in the 21st

This consistent style of negativity and conflict while directed at staff as
'the punching board' is clearly meant to discredit the whole Council and
thereby the Town in any effort of continuous improvement, change or
potential success;
'the true motive has become more than obvious'.

The good news is that this 'mud slinging' has failed! It simply is not
effective; the constant combative poking, negativity and critical style
towards individuals, in this case again senior staff, (often it is the
elected &/or the public) can only be for a personal agenda, almost a
vendetta, and does nothing to make Aurora a better place.


The Councillor continues along the same vein , vows to defend staff against me and encourages other Councillors to do the same.

I have no doubt he believes what he says. He is consistent.

A question occurs;why he is not prepared to shout it from the roof-tops when he is so confident of his rectitude and public appreciation of his good faith.

I think of the conference I attended in St.Johns, Newfoundland.

Staff went out from the University and asked people, in their homes and places where they gathered, what are the problems and how they could be fixed.

The film- makers returned later with videos for the participants to hear what they had said and examine their own logic.

In effect,people took their thoughts out, laid them on the table, to poke them and prod them and see how they stood up to the examination.

It's a Catholic idea. Examination of conscience.Impure thoughts and all that. The ritual becomes the habit of a lifetime. A particular genre of humour has been developed from the practice. We all recognise a Catholic when we hear one.

The University's project was so simple, it was brilliant.

Hundreds visit this Blog every day. Numbers continue to grow. I remain content I am making a contribution. It's not the one I would chose but it is the only one available to me.

I do not claim to be the single voice of the people. No-one can.

Mr. Wilson and his colleagues resolved from the beginning; no input from myself would be welcomed or permitted. They made no bones about it.

Time passed. Other Councillors were marginalised. The claque continued to hold the majority and added to it when former Councillor Grace Marsh resigned.

Four years is too long to sit quietly with hands folded in submission.Well,.Hell, four minutes is
entirely unlikely.

It is too long to spend being idle. You know what they say about the devil. I chiseled out my own role.

Councillor Wilson's bitter reaction is not surprising.

I recognize no obligation to uphold or explain decisions I strenuously oppose.

I do not hold staff responsible for decisions made by the Mayor and her following.

To allow them to pass unnoticed. To be forgotten by the time of the election.

No No No...Laddie

It's not going to happen.

If I were to copy the anonymous letter and Councillor Wilson's last e-mail and provide them to the two students invited to join this Council at the table to discover how this Council functions behind the scenes,

What impression would that make on fresh young minds, I wonder.

But I wont.

I will leave that up to the Councillor's own judgement


Sunday 25 April 2010

The Question Has Been Asked

A citizen can file a complaint under the Code Of Conduct against a Member of Council

A staff person can file a complaint under the Code of Conduct against a Member of Council.

A Member of Council can file a complaint under the Code of Conduct against a Member of Council.

There is no provision for a Council to file a complaint against a Member of Council. Mr Mascarin the solicitor retained by Mayor Morris, pointed that out several times before six of them did it

See How They Run

The following is an exert from a Sunday Toronto Star report of a Mayoralty debate that took place yesterday. An issue was the sale of Toronto Hydro. Front runner candidate George Smitherman is opposed.

They’ve seen what happens when we lose control of public assets like we did with Highway 407,” he elaborated in a brief interview after the debate.

In February, a freedom of information request turned up the fact that after selling its street lights to Toronto Hydro in 2005 to raise $60 million, the city of Toronto will pay more than $420 million over the next 30 years to rent the lights back
Let's consider for a moment that information in the context of a Mayoralty debate:

Obviously Toronto owns Toronto Hydro.

A few years ago, the city sold the street lights to Toronto Hydro for $60 million dollars. They needed the money and the street lights were a mess.

In effect, they sold the lights to themselves.They took money out of one pocket and put it into another.

Then, in the story without attribution, the point is made that over thirty years it will cost $420million to rent them back.

Quick now, how much is that a year?

So the city will pay themselves all that money to rent their own lights back from themselves.

The lights on the other hand will show up in Toronto Hydro's books as assets. If Toronto Hydro is sold, assets create value.

So Toronto could get the money for the same lights twice..

Unless the lights have been replaced with newer lights. Then the city could get new lights back for the price they paid for the old lights, if they didn't sell the lights with Hydro.

Are we all following the logic?

What if Toronto got enough for Toronto Hydro to clear off all their debts.

Why are Mayoralty candidates talking sale of Hydro without referring to value and what could be done with the money.

How much transit would it buy?

Would they stop looking for innovative taxes like a toll on the Don Valley Parkway, to avoid raising the property tax and boasting about Toronto having the lowest taxes in the GTA.

Smitherman refers to the Province's sale of the 407.

What about it?

None of the other candidates it seems, referred to the Province, ruminating publicly about assets they might sell, like the Liquor Control Board of Ontario. to reduce their deficit.

GTA residents need to pay attention to Toronto's Mayoralty race. Smitherman is the front runner.

How much influence would he have convincing his former boss to unload more of Toronto's costs on to taxpayers in the rest of the GTA.

It's been done before.

And who do we have in York Region likely to put up a fight against that?

One Of The Good Things

and not the least of them, is Blog does not use paper.If a post is read every day by a couple of hundred people and not a single page of paper has been used that must be a good thing. Think of all the paper not printed, stapled,collated or circulated that doesn't need to be collected, re-cycled, pulped or take up space in a landfill site

Last week's Council in Committee agenda had 203 pages.

A report from the Director of Infrastructure and Environmental Services on new speed limits on Regional Roads had a twenty-two page regional report, complete with tables, already circulated at the region, attached to it.

Last time I asked, we were circulating thirty six copies of agendas. We added two more for students who don't attend council-in -committee meetings and even if they did, would be unlikely to read a twenty two page regional report complete with tables while attempting to follow discussion at the table.

In the same agenda ,we had a copy of a report circulated on- line to all Councillors from the Ontario Association of Municipalities. It had thirty-three pages of print, including cover and content pages. It was down-loaded and copied and circulated to all members of Council and sundry others to a total of probably forty, at the request of Councillor Gaertner.

It was entitled a Joint and Several Liability Paper submitted to the Province about the hardship of municipalities becoming third parties in law suits because we are the ones with the money.

No reason was given for its inclusion in the agenda. I didn't stay to ask.

Councillor Gaertner is a founding member of the Town's Environmental Advisory Committee,which advised creating the position of Environmental Engineer within the Department of Public Works, now Department of Infrastructure and Environmental Services.

When I asked about return on investment of a hundred thousand dollars a year on the position, The answer was; "identifying environmental initiatives"

I ask during budget discussions each year ,which environmental initiatives have been identified?

The answer is; no answer. Just a glance of complete mystification cast in my direction.


On Friday I received a lengthy e-mail from the Mayor, circulated to all Councillors except one, entitled "harassment". the mayor took me to task for "criticizing" a senior staff member.

I had inquired of reasons for advertising for Parking Control Officers.What did it cost? Were we adding to the complement? I did not re-call an increase in officers discussed during budget.

No we are not, was the answer. The jobs are contract positions and therefore it should not be assumed the best people are in the jobs.

I had done a little digging and determined two officers have done the job for ten and twelve years and two others five years apiece. The fifth officer works from October until May. The jobs are all part-time.No benefits are paid. No union representation.No job security.

A job with serious responsibilities done for minimal cost...one might say, cheap at the price.

The one job which has changed, very recently, is Manager of Bylaw Services. Also recently Bylaw Services have been transferred from jurisdiction of Town Clerk to Chief Building Official.

Human Resources has also recently been transferred from the Clerk's jurisdiction to the Treasurer's. Both have new long-winded titles.It was the Treasurer/Human Resources Director who responded to my inquiry.

It seems to me, when people have been doing a job as long as the parking control officers have, it is reasonable to assume it has been done properly.That's a sensitive job. If it were not being done properly and fairly, elected officials would certainly hear about it. Nobody...but nobody..likes getting a parking ticket.

I have had the temerity to say, I am unable to accept the rational for recruiting new parking control officers.

Heavens to Betsy!!!!!!

The Mayor says that is criticism of senior staff and harassment.


Within the last year, the position of Chief Financial Officer, now Human Resources Director as well, was filled without recruitment or a competition. Despite there is a Provincial Regulation which requires recruitment and a Town Policy setting out the process.

Council was informed of the interim appointment behind closed doors.

The position is statutory. Statutory officers must be appointed by Bylaw. Only Council has authority to pass Bylaws.

Ergo, only Council has authority to appoint.

The Bylaw was passed after the fact.

It happened again when the interim appointment was made permanent. The morning after the last Council Meeting in December of last year, Council was informed, by e-mail, along with all employees, the appointment of Treasurer/Human Resources Director had been made permanent.

Again without authority.

Again without the Bylaw.

Provincial law requires municipalities to have a Treasurer. We did not for several weeks.


Municipalities carry insurance against the possibility of loss of funds for whatever reason.

Everyone who owns a house or a vehicle quickly learns the significance of fine print in an insurance policy.

It occurs to me to wonder if our insurance indemnification protects us in the circumstances of a loss, if the legal process(recruitment) for filling the position of Town Treasurer/ Human Resources Director by competition,to ensure we have the best person for the job, has not been followed.

Thursday 22 April 2010

Look Look I did it again

I wish to respond to your blog.

Firstly, the granting of a charitable tax receipt by the OHF does not mean there is a sale involved. A right of use can be considered a gift and attract a receipt. The nature and condition attached to the gift determines its nature.

The discussion about the town getting part of the property and letting OHF sell part did not emanate from the OHF, but rather the Town(See www.bryanmoir.ca)

Finally, as I said before, a thorough review by a competent solicitor hired by the town confirmed that Mrs. Bartley-Smith intentions were to preserve this property. I concur with that view and even suggested that a court decide the issue, which OHF were not interested in.

Does not the fact the OHF is interested in a custodial agreement fly in the face of their position that they can do with the property what they want?


The foregoing is a comment to my post about the Ann Bartley Smith lands and Ontario Heritage Trust.

There's a reference to Bryan Moir who was a candidate in the last election.He was never a Councillor so, wherever he is now, he was never in a position to speak with certainty about the town's actions.

His web site references a letter in which he claims Ann Bartley Smith put a curse on the land. and suggests she and her husband are buried there.

He also claims to have been a founding member of S.W.A.T. So how much credence should we give to his statements?

There is also a contradiction in the claim, the town proposed development, while at the same time retaining a lawyer to confirm Ann Bartley Smith's intent was the opposite.

While I am not disagreeing the town obtained a legal opinion to opine on Ann Bartley Smith's intent, it still seems to me, if that's what she wanted to do with the land, that's what she would have done.

People do make straightforward bequests in wills, don't they?

And....wasn't that will challenged in court by the son? And upheld?

I'm just asking.

We have a custodial agreement with Heritage Trust of Ontario. It has been in place for years.
This week we have to try to change the mind of an official that a permeable product, very expensive, should be used to pave the parking lot at Shephard's Bush.We have a federal grant to pay for two-thirds of the project.Our share is $250,000.

Nobody should have any illusions that agreement gives us anything but responsibility for maintaining the property. At the time we were planning the artificial turf installation, Councillor Gaertner noticed a clause in the agreement that concerned her. It required permission for anything we do there. And further requires that anything we do, they can order us to undo at any time.

Councillor Gaertner successfully moved the clause be negotiated out of the agreement. Well,
that didn't happen.

No sir...A custodial agreement on the Ann Bartley Smith lands would do nothing but cost us money in exchange for Nothing, Nada, Zilch and Zero.

It's an illusion Mayor Morris is planning to point to, as an achievement in her re-election campaign.

Like the custodial agreement with the McLeod lands on Leslie Street owned by the Oak Ridges Moraine Trust. We get to pay four years back taxes and don't even get to take a walk in the woods for another six .

Like the Promenade Consultant Study which the Mayor claims is a greater investment than any Council has ever "invested", is, as we speak, restoring the downtown core to a vibrant commercial centre.

Smoke and Mirrors. Smoke and Mirrors.

1992 Was Not A Good Year

It was the year I lost my mother. I was aware of what was going on around me but my heart was elsewhere.

It was the year la merde hit the fan over Heritage Trust of Ontario's ideas for the Ann Bartley Smith lands in the south west of Aurora.

It was Councillor Phyllis Morris' second year of a first term in office.

The year Mr. and Mrs. MacEachern of South Aurora were in the forefront of a cause celebre.

The year Susan Walmer entered the scene and S.W.A.T, South West Aurora Taxpayers organized to do battle against the forces of evil so dominant in our fair town.

Ontario Heritage Trust was a villain. Fair maiden, tied to the railroad tracks by evil landlord in black cape and pointed, curling moustache, being the Ann Bartley Smith lands.

The issue emerged again on Tuesday evening at Council in a recommendation for a custodial agreement for the lands be formulated between Aurora and Ontario Heritage Trust.

The agreement would provide for the Town to be responsible for maintenance of the property and assume liability for all who might use it without enjoying any of the authority and benefits of ownership.

The Ontario Heritage Trust would be relieved of all responsibility for maintenance and liability for any person who might use it while continuing to enjoy full benefits of ownership and authority.

The Mayor argued it's a good deal. Councillors Granger and Gaertner waxed eloquently on a wonderful opportunity.

Councillor Mac Eachern declared a Conflict of Interest.

Conflict Of Interest means a Councillor has a pecuniary(financial) interest in the outcome of any decision. It's difficult to comprehend how that might happen over land in the public domain.

But...there it is.

Also participating in the discussion, a resident, Mr. Guy Poppe, who was involved in 1992 and continues to be passionately concerned the lands be used by the people of Aurora as intended by
their former owner Ann Bartley Smith, now deceased.

Added to the documentation, two e-mails of support from residents rallied to the cause.

So... history was resurrected. Idid it. The Mayor thanked me. She just happened to have Ann Bartley Smith's will on hand The Mayor declared the lady's dying wish was the lands be held in trust for all time for the benefit of the people of Aurora.

The Mayor re-called she had been a member of a committee struck by Council of three members and three residents to deal with the issue.

And further re-called how she had resigned from the committee because the matter was being discussed behind closed doors. Former Councillor Bill Hogg took her place, she noted.

Mr. Poppe said Heritage Trust maintained they had the right to sell the land to developers for $9 million and intended doing so..

Mr. Poppe is a retired solicitor. He passionately contends Heritage Trust has no such right
and council should be vigilant to ensure the land be kept in perpetuity for the benefit of the people as intended by its original owner.

I had a dim recollection of the matter. I doubted Council of the day and Ontario Heritage Trust were the villainous rascals as portrayed.

On Tuesday, I asked Mr. Poppe, if Ann Bartley Smith had intended the people of Aurora to enjoy the lands in perpetuity, why did she not just give the lands to Aurora instead of Ontario Heritage Trust?

At one point, Mr. Poppe introduced the figure of $9 million dollars into the discussion.

Remember that.

Now.... here is what I understand. When an agreement is made between a property owner and Ontario Heritage Trust, a full and current appraisal of the property is made and credited as tax relief to the erstwhile owner.

Ownership is transferred in consideration of a full and current appraisal.

That's important.

That represents a sale.

Not a Gift or a Donation or a Bequest.

It's a sale.

A municipality has no authority to grant tax relief. It must be assumed the sale price for the land took precedence over any sentimental notion that the people should have full and free access to the lands for ever more. If they ended up with that advantage, that was a bonus. I daresay one could plead that at the pearly gates. It might make it easier to get through the eye of the needle despite having once possessed all that wealth.

A development designation on the land would have formed part of the appraised value. That's almighty expensive for the government to be paying out without consideration of a return.

The land was pre-serviced for development.

I have not seen the will. I understand no strings were attached to the deal with the province. .

On Tuesday, Mr Poppe referred to Ontario Heritage Trust's intention to sell "the land to developers". He named the figure of $9 million. He argued vigorously, they did not have the right.

I have learned, the proposal from Ontario Heritage Trust was to transfer sixty-three acres of land to the town and sell thirty acres of pre-serviced land for development.

Now the question is:

Did the Province agree to pay $9 million from taxpayers resources, for land with a development designation, on the understanding it could be recovered, while the sixty-three remaining acres could be transferred to the municipality for the full and free access and enjoyment of her inhabitants?

Was that the real deal?

Was the controversy deliberately created based on misrepresentation of the facts?

Did the Councillor privy to the details not understand them or were they deliberately misrepresented for wholly political purposes?


We have seen this game played before.

What goes around comes around.

The Code Again

Clause 11 Harassment

Harassment of another Council Member, staff or any member of the public is prohibited under the Human Rights Code and the Town's Administrative Procedure 44 -- Harassment Free Workplace.
It is the policy of the town that all persons be treated with dignity and respect in the workplace in an environment free of discrimination and of personal and /or sexual harassment

I am hoping for no further e-mails from Councillor Wilson similar to the one I cut and pasted yesterday. I don't feel good about doing that. It's getting pretty close to his level of function.

It is only one aspect of his personality. He is a compassionate man in many respects and I do seem to bring out the worst in him. It dates all the way back to 2003,when I came back after an absence of thirteen years and was elected. He wasn't after two immediately previous attempts.

I cite Clause 11 of the Code to make another point.

I consider the e-mail harassment and disrespect. It is not a solitary example.

Councillor Wilson is a fierce advocate of the Code. "Bring it on" he said, when the possibility of punishment was explained.

I laughed and said "It's a double-edged sword, you know. You too can be caught in the Code."

But they lusted for revenge against me for being more open and transparent than anything they had bargained . Also determined not to listen to anything I had to say.

In politics, all manner of human failings are likely to be let loose. It's why we have Rules of Order. They are intended to ensure dignity and respect. Providing, the presiding member is competent and understands their purpose. Impartiality is another requirement.

That's a joke.

Councillor Wilson's e-mail is at one and the same time, a complaint against the code and an affidavit

I could file it and a dozen others against the Councillor.I could provide employment for our Integrity Commissioner for his retainer from the treasury ,whether earned or not, for a number of months.

There are video tapes of Council Meetings. The Mayor's regular comportment of sneering condescension in my direction and less so towards Councillors McRoberts and Collins Mrakas is often commented by people who watch meetings on Cable.

Cameras don't lie.

The Code prohibits such behaviour.

The Code requires Councillors to read and understand the Code and sign two copies to signify to the community these are the standards to which they are committed.

Ample evidence indicates they are not.

The Code requires Councillors to regularly review the document and remind themselves of their
signed commitment.

Ongoing E-mails and public comportment indicate they do not. If they read it, they clearly do not comprehend it.

Yet there can be no doubt, appointment of an Integrity Commissioner for the remaining months of the term signifies Council's intention for individual Member's conduct to be submitted to his judgment prior to the election.

What is a girl to do?

Just what I am doing, I think.


Wednesday 21 April 2010

The Mayor's Input

Thank you for explaining and clarifying the facts that
Staff are pro-actively ensuring that the best individuals possible are hired to represent the Town when contracts are due for renewal

I also understand that Ruth Beaton is the Acting Director in Techa's absence

Mayor Phyllis Morris

Following Councillor Wilson's e-mail to the Chief Administrator, The Treasure received the Mayor's commendation.

I'm Trying..I'm Trying..I Got It

Mr. Garbe, the following email trail would suggest that a member of Council

has gone directly to a junior member of staff for information.

It is reassuring to know that your staff do understand proper procedure
(even if the councilor refuses to follow it and thereby creating even more
unnecessary work)

And referred the inquiry to the Director for response.

While these seemingly trivial requests for information, which I am sure are

more frequent than I care to imagine, are disruptive, inefficient and

inappropriately directed, I am pleased to see that your staff are in fact

following procedure however they should also copying all members when

information is provided to any one member. While I am not thrilled to be

receiving even more email, especially such 'stuff' which should be dealt

with at the table, at the same time I do not expect your staff to

determine what should be forwarded and what is clearly just 'junk'.

The above e-mail was sent to the Chief Administrator of the Town of Aurora by a colleague,
Councillor Al Wilson.
The Councillor regularly sends such e-mails to staff. No response is ever circulated. It would surprise me if there were.
At no time have I ever indicated I am in need of any counsel or advice from the Councillor. It doesn't hinder him however from sending regular admonitions from the lofty peak of his expertise.
Once I acknowledged receipt of his e-mail and assured him I would file it with all the others.

I was convinced I could hear the scurrying of little feet behind the wainscot as he scuttled to
reverse himself.

But it didn't last. He was soon at it again.

Maybe if someone tells him select messages will be published for all to read, it may help him to exercise a little discipline over his worst inclinations.

I think of the first workshop conducted by our first and former Integrity Commissioner.

Close to the end of the session I asked how much he knew about municipal politics. He smiled
at me like a kindly adult to a child and referred to "collegiality" within the body of a council.


Love was such an easy game to play.

Not really.

It was a strange day.

Last week I came across a Town of Aurora Ad for Parking Control Officers

There was no reference to vacancy or numbers. Considering the current town climate I take note of these things

The cost of recruitment for the Clerk's position was cited as $14,000.We had to do it twice within
a year which would be $28,000.

Cost was the reason cited for not "recruiting" a Treasurer.

So it occurred to me to wonder how much this process cost. Are there vacancies or are we adding to the complement of parking control officers.

There was no talk of needing extra parking control officers during budget discussions. We have a brand new Manager of Bylaws Services.

So I asked.

Turns out we are not hiring additional officers. There are no vacancies. A message from the Treasurer indicates the following:

These positions are contract only and they are up for renewal.
At the manager's request advertising was placed and a recruitment
conducted to ensure we have the best candidates in these positions
rather than blindly renewing the contracts with the existing group of
There is no intention to increase the number of positions or the cost
to the town.rather simply to ensure the Town is best served in the
responsibility and service area.

I share this information but residents need to know my bias:

1. I believe every decision made within the Town Hall is either approved or instigated by the

2. I think people who have been doing a job for several years, presumably satisfactorily.
contract or permanent, part-time or full-time, are a known quantity. They are an asset
to the corporation.

3. I think people who have every reason to believe their work has been satisfactory, should
not have to compete for their own jobs.

4. I don't think that's fair labour practice.

5. My final bias is my role in this matter. I am elected to provide oversight of the town's
administration to ensure all things done in the name of the people are done with
equity, fairness and justice, according to my understanding of those principles. .

I asked my questions openly. I followed protocol . My questions and the answers were circulated to all members of council.

That was yesterday.

A thoroughly scurrilous and insulting e-mail referring to my inquiry from Councillor Wilson to the Chief Administrative Officer was circulated to all Councillors.

If I knew how to cut and paste it, I would.

Councillor Wilson, in particular circumstances is belligerent and abusive at times. At different times the injustice of it all is a great burden to him.

The "re-org" approved by council on a consultant's recommendation concerns me. Changes were made ,the purpose of which were not immediately clear.

Traditionally, Bylaws, Human Resources and Communications have been the responsibility of the Town Clerk. An experienced clerk has experience in all these areas.

The "re-org" transferred Bylaws to the Chief Building Official. Human Resources were transferred to the Treasurer.

No evidence is available to suggest there is any experience in the new responsibilities.

Last night, in General Committee Meeting of Council. Councillor Al Wilson was in the chair.

It started at seven p.m. At nine-forty-five p.m. all I needed was a place to hide away.

So I went home.

Monday 19 April 2010

Artificial Turf

I have a sheaf of pages of itemised costs for the artificial turf soccer field in Sheppard's Bush.

I thought with all the numbers and particulars in my hand I would be able to impress with my expertise.

Not so.

I have no clue about all the nitty gritty details that go into preparing supports needed for artificial turf to serve the purpose for extended years of intended use.

We can't let dogs defecate all over it. The practice lends nothing to enjoyment of the sport. So it has to be fenced.

The project was undertaken in 2007. In 2006, lights were installed. They were transferred from the soccer field behind the Legion when the bubble was erected. The cost was $65,862.65.

Cost of work undertaken in 2006 and 2007 totalled $691,842.44.

$60.000. contribution from Aurora Youth Soccer and a labour credit from the contractor in an amount of $6,783.28 took the price down to $625,059.16.

Altogether , there are 265 itemised details in the accounts. I have scanned them looking for familiar terms .

All I can tell you is this; people who play soccer think it's great. More people get to play longer.

People who provide facilities for soccer players thinks it's great. It cuts down on maintenance. and overuse of natural fields.

Money is collected from developers, who build homes which contribute to growth which creates the need for additional soccer fields and that's how it should be used.

If or when, I am a candidate in the next election, I will not be claiming expertise in the business of installing artificial turf as a reason why you should vote for me.

Good Morning

My post about Mr Whitehurst still being involved in town affairs was in response to a comment suggesting he is not.

There is probably a tidier way to respond to comments. I don't know it.

Whatever a moderator is, I am it. Other than comments received by e-mail
and one on Facebook, no other person has anything to do with this blog.

I've been reading comments to Toronto Star stories, particularly to Giambrone matters
and the Toronto Mayoralty contest. I think we are fairly well-behaved .

It's like a conversation. People reading it are interested in what I have to tell. Some want to talk about it. Others just want to know what's going on.

Except that it's in writing and has a wider circle, it's not much different to what has always been except that anonymity gives people more freedom.

Politicians always know what's being said about them Often it's said to their faces. If there's enough anger, it can get rough .One might even say abusive.

Whatever a politician might feel, nobody worth their salt whines about it. It's part of the territory.

No-one is compelled to run for office. Being there means actions and conduct are judged Why would anything else be expected.

Being a Councillor means nothing public should be expected to be secret.

It behooves a Councillor and particularly a Mayor, to conduct oneself at all times as if the planet is watching.

We are not Kings or Emperors or Chiefs or Witch Doctors nor do we possess any of the mythical powers believed to be imbued with majesty or magic.

We are just people. Like the people who elected us. No worse and no better.

Wording of the Code of Conduct notwithstanding, getting elected does not suddenly prove or bestow superior judgement or saintly character, no matter how one might strive to prove the opposite.A bunch of words on a page doesn't make it happen.A majority vote does not remove individual freedom or responsibility.

If a candidate isn't sensible, honest and straightforward before, attaining public office is not likely to turn him or her from a toad to a prince or princess.

Abracadabra is kid's stuff.

Sunday 18 April 2010

After the Fact

The Mayor's opening speech for the renovated Church Street school was written by the new communications director. He had been on the job, a matter of days.

The wisdom of the council of 1950 was noted in acquisition of the building.

In 1950, municipalities had their own school boards. When the school was no longer required it automatically belonged to the town.

Why would it not? It was a town asset.

When I came to Aurora in 1961, the building had been on lease to Remington Rand . After they finished with it, it was used as recreation space.

Two of my children took drawing classes from Mabel Pearson there. Mabel and Cathan Schonicker two young mothers from Jasper Drive and Sunray Place, were founders of the Aurora Art Show, forty-eight years ago.

Regency Acres school became over-crowded in the sixties and students had to be bussed to re-opened Church Street School. Parents were none too pleased.

In 1950, the building was sixty-five years old. The same time as it has not been a school.

Students graduating from Grade 8 in that year would have started at six years old in 1941/42 There was no Kindergarten.

Aurora residents, seventy- five years old and younger would have been students.

Were they sought out as special guests to the opening? Were their memories solicited to make it a real historic event.

Dunno. My input was not invited.

In 1969, when County Boards of Education were created, the building came back into full use. The town leased it to the new board for administrative offices for $1.00 a year.

In 1976, our deal was realised. The Board built new administration facilities. We partnered and built a fine building together on Wellington Street West.

The late Bill Devins called it Bucking Palace.

The school again became available for community use.

We provided the entire second floor to the Aurora Historical Society for a museum. They obtained a provincial grant for rental of a facility. They moved out of the old waterworks building, we gave them when the town police force was swallowed by the region. In time they acquired the services of Curator Jacqueline Stewart. Before that I think there was a volunteer curator.

Aurora Seniors had the space on the left side of the ground floor and were able to provide programs .

Big Brothers, Big Sisters, new organisations, and Boy Scouts, shared the space on the left side of the front door.

At one point, during the tenure of the Board of Education ,sloping floors became sinking floors in the centre. They had to quickly move huge computers to the outside walls and promptly reinforce the floor on either side of the wide central staircase.

Over the years, various projects had to be carried out to keep the building upright and weatherproof . When excavation was done around foundations, it was noted mortar had crumbled and disappeared. Daylight could be seen between the stones.

Plumbing for lavatories in the basement had eroded. Effluvia was unmistakeable and left little doubt as to why the school board had decided to vacate the premises in 1950.

Money was poured into the building over the years by various Councils. John West operated a youth club there for a couple of years while he was a Councillor,a fter the seniors had
moved into the former fire hall.

The late and former Councillor Earl Stewart, had no patience with spending on "the old blister".

John probably knows better than anyone how much had already been spent .My guess would be at least three million. Last time I asked, Scott Somerville was our CAO, between Larry Allison and John Rogers. Scott was on a six month contract

Nobody could provide a precise tally. They did not argue with my figure. I think on occasion, people have selective memories.

Where public funds are concerned, I think public accounting is a must.

At the Gala opening, I noticed, with small comfort, the grand piano was in a corner created by two outside walls.

Ruby Tuesday

A Saturday Night Live character is a parody of someone everyone has met at a point in their lives.

She pops up alongside another and reiterates comments, aimlessly twisting her hair and gazing about without focus but clearly with a purpose.

Last Tuesday's Council Meeting was the first opportunity to make an observation on the "Gala" opening of the Church Street School.

I noted Honorable M.P.Lois Brown, commended Federal Finance Minister, the Honorable Jim Flaherty for approving a grant .

The Honorable MLA ,Mr. Frank Klees took slight credit for the Trillium grant of $750 thousand received from the Province of Ontario.

I further noted no reference was made to the contribution of $2.3 million provided from the Reserve Fund created by the sale of Aurora Hydro Corporation during the previous Council term.

The Mayor promptly countered with the statement; "Aurora Hydro was not sold in order to pay for renovations to Church Street School"

It was a classic example of irrational disconnect with a purpose.

The funds received from the senior levels of government were helpful in completing various aspects of the project. That the project happened at all was the story worth telling.

In 2005, Aurora and Newmarket were in negotiations to partner Hydro. The Province had made it clear, there were advantages to small utilities forming partnerships and disadvantage in trying to go it alone.

At the very last knockings , an offer was made by Power Stream, jointly owned by Markham and Vaughan, that was too good to refuse.

$25 million were realised in the trade. A resolution was passed by Council which would prevent the money from being frittered away without a clear and significant benefit to the community.

Such a fund generates interest.

At the time, the Aurora Historical Society had committed themselves to raise funds to renovate the old school, take responsibility for the project and for operation once completed. They went so far as to require a legal contract with the town to protect their interests before investing the money they raised. No public resources were committed.

The school had remained vacant for several years. The museum collection was in storage. The curator, whose salary was funded in the main by the town, eventually decided to retire.

$1million was the estimated budget needed . $75oKs. had been raised.

I moved the motion, Councillor Ron Wallace seconded, the shortfall be funded from interest of the Hydro Reserve Fund and let's get the job completed.

Council supported the resolution.

It was the single and last straightforward action taken in the matter.

It turned out the cost to create a useful facility was $2.3 million. The Historical Society forgot all about the contract protecting their interest and backed out completely from any responsibility. Membership numbers (59) were too small, they said.The $750Ks they had raised for the renovations was not mentioned again.

To cut an uninspiring story short, were it not for funds generated from the sale of Aurora Hydro, Church Street School, despite millions invested in it since 1969, would simply have become the eldest of the buildings, comprising half of library square,which fail to justify the space they currently occupy.

It wasn't money from the feds. It wasn't money from the provincial government.It wasn't commitment from the Aurora Historical Society that brought the project to fruition.

It was availability of funds from the sale of Aurora Hydro.

Still On The Scene

Mr Whitehurst, the Mayor's friend and campaign manager/adviser who was appointed to the committee to plan the establishment of an administration for the Church Street School Heritage and Cultural Centre, now just Cultural Centre, and from there to a paid position as resource person to the committee without resigning from the committee, is still on the scene.

He is a member of the Leisure Services Advisory Committee of which Councillor MacEachern is chair. Together, they re-wrote the Consultant's recommended Master Recreation Plan which cost
the taxpayers $53 thousand dollars and change.

Saturday 17 April 2010

Two More

If this keeps up, I shall have to compose a new list of departees for the full extent to be appreciated.

A Museum Curator left and a Heritage Planner took his leave as well.

The Curator was relatively new and serving as resource person to the Arts and Culture Committee, planning for the opening of the Church Street School Heritage and Cultural Centre.

Councillors Gaertner and Granger were the town's appointees and of course the Mayor's friend and campaign organiser Ken Whitehurst was also on the committee.

When the Curator left, the Mayor's friend was appointed as paid resource person while continuing to serve as a committee member.

Prior to the facility's opening, Heritage had already been taken out of its title.

Although a full time, permanent staff complement is at the building, there is no curator " as such".

There is a grand piano.

The "Gala" opening reception was a standing event with wine served. The entertainment was a
piano piece rendered by a Toronto professional.

It was long.

I was glad I was sitting.

Unless it's jazz or it sounds like a waterfall transposed to music, or it's accompanying a sing-along, piano music is wasted on me.

The building has been staffed since last September.

The opening was organised by town staff. The Chief Administrator was Master of Ceremonies. The brand spanking new communication officer wrote the Mayor's speech.

Helen Mc Roberts, Past President of the Historical Society also gave a speech.

Since none of the parties have history in the town, the lack of history in the speeches was hardly surprising.

I fancy few of the audience would notice. I didn't see too many familiar faces. Not a great crowd at all actually after staff administrators. library board members and councillors were counted off.The contractors were probably there as well but I didn't meet any of them.

Seems a shame.

Hardly fitting for a grand old lady, veteran of two wars, a depression. and probably the entire recorded history of the Town of Aurora.

She was The School for God's Sake.

Students of that school made their mark in the world. Many others laid down their lives for their country.Many have stayed in the town all of their lives and are still here.

What an opportunity to celebrate the living history that is Aurora's.

An opportunity missed.

There was time to prepare.

There were people on the town's payroll at the facility.

People in the community who would have been glad to share memories.

Were they asked?

Or were they slighted?

I am as sure as anyone can be they were not asked.

What Ho

Yesterday I received an on-line newsletter from York Region Arts Council. It was dated April 16th

It was full of information about the Regional Arts and Heritage scene

There was a calender of events in various municipalities . Newmarket had twenty-four lines of

Aurora had three- and -a- half.

I dunno ?

Friday 16 April 2010

How Much For the Ad?

I do not know. Council were not consulted about the ad in The Banner. It is clearly campaign promotion material. People will judge.

By it's size, picture content and colour numbers , my guess would be it cost no less that $4,000. I will find out

It could have been placed by the Communication Division or the Economic Development Department or Ecdev, as the mayor likes to call it. Either way, direction would likely have been given.

I have asked for a final accounting of the artificial turf project.

Before the bubble was constructed behind the Legion, the open soccer field there had new lighting. It was removed and stored.

When the artifical turf was placed, the lights were brought out and located in the new field.

Only one town soccer field has artificial turf.

The parks department did a considerable amount of the work.They are a versatile group.

Aurora Minor Soccer accepted the obligation for 10% cost of the project. That was $60,000.
Ninety per cent was paid with Development Charge Reserves which are collected to pay for facilities which become necessary due to increased population from growth.

Minor Soccer have paid $20,000 a year for the past three years. So their share is probably paid up.

Taxes were not raised to pay for the facility.

I expect to have an exact accounting at the beginning of the week.

There's no need for confusion. Costs are a matter of public record . Accurate figures would be provided on request .

Another One Who Bit The Dust

Michelle Cofield Francis sent a message on Facebook. Michelle was Administrative assistant to Bob Panizza for twelve years and wishes to be added to the list of departees from the Mormac regime.

There it is.

Conversation about how to deport ourselves on Blog are a good thing. I think Blogs will have an impact on current acceptable standards of written dialogue. New standards will be established.

First time I logged into Facebook, the language horrified me. Look who is logging in now or more to the point, who isn't?

Even dictionaries change nowadays. As a word becomes common usage, it appears in an
updated dictionary. Dictionaries used to be static. Not any more.Of course, spoken language has always been fluid.

Language used in stand-up comedy on television is hair-raising. It's obviously used for shock value. It's not funny. It offends me.

But, there it is.

Tiger Woods is famous for excellence in the game of golf. Sponsors are testing reaction to his moral behaviour. We have to listen to his mea culpas, ad nauseum, as he tries to repair his image. But people apparently want to watch his prowess with the little white ball on the fairway and the green.And why not? Since when are commercial advertisers the arbiters of moral conduct.

Blogs are new. They are destined to evolve. It will take more time for the full effect to be established.

They do represent more than a writing exercise. It's not just about news. It's about people sharing thoughts , ideas and feelings on an instantaneous basis. What can be wrong about that?

We should be able to do it without without fear or favour.

How people express themselves should be of secondary importance to having the freedom and an outlet to do so.

I'm working this out in my mind as I write it.

Feel free.

Thursday 15 April 2010

Another Figure

If the new Integrity Commissioner receives thirty days notice from the next Council, that means we can tack on $2,800 a month to his remuneration to reflect the cost of his recruitment.

His contract is a matter of public record but not his monthly remuneration. Except that it cannot go over $60.000 in twelve months. What that means, if his contract only lasts five months, I do not know.

Quick Answers

1. If the Anti-Litter Ad was separate, whatever it costs was too much. We have a web site or several and the Town Notice Board costs us about $80.000 a year in the Aurora Banner.

2, Residents who back on to the lane provide for its maintenance. Its an unopened road allowance but not really. It's only twenty feet wide. Not enough for a road .

3. The Mayor has a habit of re-phrasing my comments to reflect something completely different to what I've said and to my detriment. No doubt she sees that as exemplary conduct in a leader, raising her to the lofty standard expected of an elected representative as enunciated in the Code of Conduct.

4. The request was for a list of people who left the town's employment during this term.Why they left is not relevant to the point of discussion. The loss of knowledge of the history of the operation is the same.

The Mayor and Councillor MacEachern were thoroughly entertained when I referred to the one year estimate it takes for a new person to get up to speed in a key role in any administration .

It cost $14,000 to recruit the municipal clerk and we had to do that twice within a twelve month period . That was $28,000.

We had three town clerks in that period. The first retired. The second signed a five year contract.
Decided eight months later, the day after returning from two weeks vacation to take "early retirement" That was the day after she provided me, as required to do by law, with the first decision of the first Integrity Commissioner.

That was the same week the first Integrity Commissioner was " stripped of his authority "

The third clerk commenced employment within twelve months of the first one's retirement.

We saved money when we replaced the Town Treasurer who submitted his resignation on the day the new Chief Administrative Officer commenced employment.

We didn't have a recruitment despite the fact the Municipal Act requires it. He was appointed by the Chief Administrative Officer ,despite the fact appointment by Bylaw is the jurisdiction of Council.

Then we had the recruitment of a new Integrity Commissioner with five months left of the current term of office to run. That probably cost $14,000. But that contract can be terminated with thirty days notice.So if a new Council decides they have no need of the service, they are not stuck with it.

Is there anything else?

Comments! Questions! Answers! And more Questions!

The comment I didn't publish refers to trees and a clothesline.

My mind stores nitty gritty details . I am not disagreeing some comments seem to be over the top. They could be called pithy.They could be called obnoxious.

I cast my mind back to the first letter I ever wrote.

We had a meeting in Regency Acres school with the developer. The auditorium was packed with irate new home-owners. The President of the Ratepayers Association chaired the meeting and appeared to be running interference for the developer.

Eric Franklin of Richardson Drive and John White of Jones Court were publishers of the RARA News. I spoke to Eric about President Murray Smith's performance. He suggested I write a letter. So I did.

When I read it in print I was appalled by the force of my criticism. .

That's when I learned how much more powerful are words written than spoken.

When I became involved in the town's affairs, I learned something else.

People would express agreement with comments I'd made in Council or T.V. When I tried to pin down specifics, they had no re-call. What they remembered was reaction to what I had said at the time I said it. .

The spoken word is ephemeral. The written word is solid.

In my first letter, I wrote as I would have spoken without understanding the difference.

I don't publishing everything negative written about the Mayor.

But because I am so close to things , I know the many reasons for bitterness and hostility. Whole families have suffered. incredibly and unjustly.

The hostility in the more extreme comments is uncomfortable to read. It's ugly. And maybe I read more into it than there is.

The Blog is still new to me. We learn as we go. I have some questions .

Does the anonymity of a blog generate hostility that wouldn't be otherwise?

Or does the hostility already exist and need to be expressed and accounted for?

Do comments, however well or badly expressed, have an important place in the exchange?

Could a blog be considered a safety valve?

Is there merit in providing a safe place to vent?

Wednesday 14 April 2010

It's An Ongoing Dilemma

I am still marvelling at the opportunity for instant communication. I value the feedback. It makes no difference to me if people don't identify themselves.

It may be fanciful and I don't want to be condescending but I think some respondents may be discovering a new outlet for expression. Like I did.

Sometimes a comment indicates a lot of thought with only one discordant note. It 's probably self-indulgent on my part but I don't want to reject it.

There's a thoughtful one in the comment box now that ends with a suggestion of physical harm towards the Mayor . I know I can't publish it but I wish I could explain why . So I keep it.

I agree hyperbole can detract from logical argument.

But I'm reluctant to throw away a contribution to the discussion as if it doesn't count.

There is such a thing as poetic licence. I know it's not that. But maybe there should be a parallel
figure of speech for the new dimension. I did think twice about posting the comment. Then I thought I would publish it for a little while then "collapse" it.

Now I find because there is only one comment to that post, the " collapse" option isn't available. .

Sometimes I feel guilty that Phyllis is the probably the first Mayor of Aurora to be subject to this new communication .

Then the terrible twins will do something else that makes it easy.

I've been in politics a long time. It doesn't grow you a thick skin like people imagine. It keeps you on your toes in the thrust and parry. What they do to me is not what matters. I can be quite clinical

It's what they've done to people who couldn't fight back that brings out the worst in me.

I have never claimed to be a saint. Not even to myself.

TRy TRy Try Again

A few months ago I wrote about three options presented to Council on how to re-imburse four residents for legal costs incurred in opposing the Westhill Development application.

One of the options was to provide a grant.

I took the position there was no justification for discussing the matter behind closed doors.

It appeared to go away.

Then it came back. I took the position again in public, during the vote to approve an agenda for a closed door session.

I said it should be discussed in public.

People have a right to know how their money is being spent.

Council were advised the discussion could reveal legal strategy therefore it should be discussed behind closed doors.

So, I attended to listen and understand how that could come about.

I saw no evidence. I claim the right to exercise my judgement

I do not agree public discussion of this proposed disbursement of funds could negatively affect the municipality's interest.

Three times this issue has been discussed.

Last night was the third.

We spent more than two hours re-hashing the same points over and over. In the end, the same result as before.

No result.

There is no obvious majority in favour of the proposal. Councillor MacEachern was missing . It would have made no difference.

At close to eleven , tempers flared. the meeting came to an end. No vote was taken.

A parliamentary rule of order prohibits the same issue being re-hashed time and time and time again.

It would be hard to describe the goings-on behind closed doors. But the rules don't permit that either.

Suffice to say, a plan to siphon money from town coffers and funnel it elsewhere, on the pretext of value has not caught on.

If the water-wearing- on- a- stone technique prevails, I will let you know.

All Is Revealed

Well probably not all. But more time will tell more.

Council agendas have become noticeably thinner over the past year. There's a sense of something missing.

You can't say; you are not being informed when you don't know that which you are not being informed of.

This week's agenda was thin again.

One item was an Interim Bylaw . We have never had one of those before. It had to do with a lane between houses fronting on Yonge Street and houses fronting on Temperance Street. The streets run parallel, north and south in the old part of town

Months ago, an old run-down semi-detached two storey house on Yonge Street sold. It had been on the market for decades. Signs of construction were soon apparent. Then.....nothing. Windows were covered with skewed massive sheets of plywood held on with slanted lengths of two by four. What was shabby before became a total blight.

E-mail messages came from residents of Temperance Street. The plan for the old house was for a Montessori school for 152 students. There would be more than a hundred cars using what I thought was a private lane serving residential property.

Turns out, over months, all kinds of stuff has been going on between the planning department, the building department, residents on Temperance Street, the new owner of the old house on Yonge Street, the Chief Administrative Officer. the town solicitor and the Mayor.

Everybody it seems was in on the action except Council.

First we hear of it is an Interim Bylaw on the table before us.

Normal process is reporting from staff outlining details of a problem and the need for Council action.Sometimes there can be several in-depth reports updating information along the way.

In last night's meeting ,members had to dig for every iota of information. It was like pulling teeth.

We got it and more.

Seems the Mayor has been keeping things from Council. Keeping them to herself.

Trees were cut down. Unlawfully.

No charges were laid. Deliberately.

Later in the same meeting, I raised the issue of a horrifying episode on Easter Sunday. A small dog was killed by a large dog, off leash. The little dog's owner was severely bitten.Police were called and an ambulance

The incident was witnessed by a neighbour who called me before the Council meeting in a state of outrage. The attack dog is still in the neighbourhood. My caller owns two small dogs. It is my neighbourhood and I knew nothing of the matter.

I claimed Councillors should be kept fully informed of such matters by staff so that they can respond to residents' concerns with up-to-date information.

Turns out the Mayor was fully informed. To the last detail. There was nothing about the incident, the Mayor did not know .The status of the killer dog. The role of the Humane Society.
The injured dog.owner has received visits from the Mayor.

Staff apparently knew everything as well. Only Council was kept in the dark.

Aha, I thought. Now we know why agendas are thin. It's all part of a plan. .

At the beginning of the term, I advised colleagues Council was being disrespected. In their lack of experience, they were not convinced.I guess they thought it was only myself and that didn't seem to bother them too much.

The message may finally be getting through.

Yesterday, we had to learn of the sudden termination of a long-term employee in the media.

We are still not informed of particulars.

I have heard of two others, union members, who were terminated and had to be re-hired.

We were never informed about that either.

Last night, I raised the issue of Neighbourhood Network's plan, in co-operation with Lake Simcoe Conservation Authority, to plant trees with a volunteer army of high school students in parks in Aurora and Newmarket on April 24th

It's a go in Newmarket.

Not in Aurora.

It's the Mayor's Anti-Litter Day

The Mayor responded she was not aware a request had been made.

"Does that mean Madame Mayor," I asked " if there had been a request, the tree planting would have happened"

As often happens, there was no clarity in the response.

People such as Boy Scouts and Adopt- a- park volunteers have been planting trees in the parks forever without having to ask for Council approval.

I heard of a conference between Former Mayor of Newmarket protagonist for Neighbourhood Network Tom Taylor, with Mayor Morris and others, for the purpose of clarifying the tree-
planting event. Seems he did ask for permission.

And was refused anyway.

Tuesday 13 April 2010

An Oversight

We lost one First Class Councillor as well.

An Administrative Assistant to the Municipal Clerk is an add-on.

Now Let Me Think! ! !

A comment calls for a list of departees.

I may not know them all. But here goes.

One Chief Administrative Officer.
One Director of Planning
One Integrity Commissioner
One Treasurer.
One Public Works Director
One Acting Public Works Director.
One Manager of Works Operations
One Solicitor
One Assistant Solicitor.
Two Clerks/Directors of Corporate Services.
One Deputy Clerk
One Human Resources Officer .
One Manager of Bylaw Services.
One Council Secretary
One Administrative Assistant to the Mayor and Council.
One Economic Development Officer who chose not to renew a contract.

There may be others whose faces were not familiar. We know of at least one displacement.

We also had the "re-org" which added thirty five persons to the complement.

Various and sundry solicitors appear on the scene at a time of the Mayor's choosing.

And Oh Yes... A Second Integrity Commissioner. Still with us.

To Be Precise

I referred recently to the town's negative experience with a Business Improvement Association many years ago. I said they voted themselves out of existence without paying a nickel of their share of the agreement they made with the town.

I also referred last week to the Boondoggle called Hadley Grange Nature Reserve being a pandering exercise to Hadley Grange residents.

The references are accurate. But not completely

A majority of benefiting members of the BIA voted to disband. Not all.

Two residents of Hadley Grange were pandered . Not all.

Many residents feel the same way I do about the Boondoggle.

What's Wrong With This Picture

I had to read about it in the newspaper. A main man in public works no longer works for us.

Another one bites the dust.

Many a conversation have I had with the man. Usually he was explaining something in response to an inquiry. Always articulate. Always civil. Always helpful. He's been with the town eighteen years. I've been back on Council seven. Long enough.

Confidence that a job is being capably and conscientiously handled and the people you represent are receiving value and respect for the tax dollar, means everything to this politician

We don't know names and faces of every employee. We don't know details of their daily work. There may not even be a single job within the operation ,we would qualify to hold. But we do know their work contributes more to our political well-being than any other factor.

Politicians come and go.Employees provide the continuity and consistency. That's where the institutional memory resides. They are its keepers.

When a valuable employee leaves, a great deal more than willing hands and sturdy shoulders are lost.

A successful employer plans for succession. A second capable person must have an opportunity to work alongside and absorb the history of the town's various works acquired over decades . It's not enough to have the job skills. No operation can afford to lose its history.Such loss is catastrophic and cannot be recovered.

God knows, our town has been devastated during this term.

I had to learn what I know of this particular loss from a scant reference in a newspaper.

Monday 12 April 2010

What Is The Real Deal.

The location of a gas fired peaker plant in the Holland Marsh area is being challenged by King in an Ontario Municipal Board Hearing.

The main argument appears to be damage to growing fields. I keep waiting for the evidence. The argument doesn't make sense.

In the first place, marsh muck contains no natural nutrients. Chemical fertilizers must be added.

Much of it washes off in rain and massive sprinklers used by farmers, into the canal.But maybe the water in the sprinklers comes from the chemical drenched canal. The most difficult problem restoring health to Lake Simcoe comes from the fertilizers required to be added by marsh farmers.

Phosphates from detergent were also a major problem but less so since sewage from urban municipalities,Aurora and Newmarket are carried away by the regional trunk sewer.

When I was travelling, I noticed vibrant colours in the gardens of the City of Hamilton. Rambling roses grew with the profusion of dandelions. I commented one Monday morning when the board gathered that I thought pollution must be good for gardens. In Hamilton,you can taste and feel grit in your teeth.Windsor across the river from the foundries of Detroit was the same. But both cities had spectacular gardens and both had famous public botanical gardens.

Then there's Aylmer and vegetable farms all around. Farmers dump truck loads of broccoli,snow white cauliflowers and gigantic cabbages at the side of the road for sale,in an area, also in the fall-out from the foundries of Detroit and Windsor.

A board member who lived all his life, near Exhibition Place, in a narrow little street with tiny little garden, which he was especially proud of at this time of the year, commented on a Harrowsmith magazine feature.

Since the government banned soft coal burning in the U.K., after thousands of people choked to death in a 1956 London pea soup fog, English gardens were no longer legendary.

I was there then. I remembered; soot from chimneys was added to garden soil. Ashes from the fire as well.

Eight hours exposed to sun in London, wouldn't bring as much as a tinge of pink to the skin, let alone a tan.

The layer of pollution between the sun and the earth was so dense, no ultra violet rays penetrated. The only thing missing in summer was the fog

A bit of a wind over the Holland Marsh, lifts the soil and swirls it away in a black cloud and that becomes a problem of loss for the farmers.

Marsh muck is only a good growing medium because it allows roots to grow in perfect
shape. Nutrition must be added for the vegetables to be nutritional.

Even if there were chemicals falling from the peaker plant's especially tall chimney designed to carry the smoke away, would they not be the same chemicals that fell from chimneys that burned coal that made English gardens legendary.And the foundries of Detroit and Winndsor and Hamilton.

In Scotland, gas was produced from coal. The process left massive clumps of cinders as a by-product. I think they were crushed and used for certain road surfaces.

In Canada, natural gas comes from the ground. The same place as oil, The same place as coal. All are fossil fuels in different stages of decay.

Well now, I am not trying to be an expert. I do not argue for a peaker plant in an agricultural versus an industrial area.

If I were a resident of King, I would certainly enjoin the battle.

It sure looks to me as if the location was chosen because it was a line of least resistance.

But I would like to hear the counter argument that fall-out from a peaker plant will destroy marsh soil as a growing medium.

I also like to note how apparently inexpert, experts can be.

Sunday 11 April 2010

Still On The Code

Policy Statement

This Code of Conduct is a public declaration of the principles of good conduct and
ethics that members of the Council of the Town of Aurora have decided its
stakeholders could reasonably expect from the Members of Council to demonstrate
in the performance and responsibilities as elected representation.

After each Councillor has spent six weeks or more, communicating with residents in the hopes of gaining support in the election.

After the votes have been counted and the elected realizes he/she has been chosen.

For me it's a humbling experience. At that moment, my prayer is, that I can be what people expect.I will not let them down.

I know few people who have sworn the Oath without being moved by its meaning and solemnity.

We swear before an audience. The words are plain and clear.

We sign the declaration... once.

The Code of Conduct is ten pages long and came into being during the term of office. We have required ourselves to sign it twice, as if to impress ourselves with its significance.

My sense of commitment is my own. Some might say it's fastidious. Others say I'm a stickler. I govern my own standards.

I made a solemn contract. My Oath is my bond.

The right to judge, did I fail or fulfill is for voters to decide. I acknowledge no third party intervention.

Which brings us to the Complaint Process in the Code of Conduct.

It's not complicated.

We have an Integrity Commissioner on the payroll. We have the Code of Conduct on the web-site.

We have proclaimed a duplicate standard of conduct expected of elected members.

Every other week, we conduct ourselves in front of cable cameras.

You are invited thereby, each and every one, to be the judges of our conduct.

In the Blog, we have examined various clauses in the Code.

In this post, we repeated a principle espoused in The Code.

The onus is now upon the "stakeholders" , you, to decide if the lofty principles articulated are being followed.

Pre-paid resources have been provided, at your expense, to complain of every infraction you perceive to have been committed.

Affidavits can be obtained from public records.written and video- taped. The Clerk is the keeper of the records. He is also a Commissioner of Oaths.

The election is no longer your only resource .

If you work it right, by virtue of the penalty of witholding remuneration, you can get rid of a councillor or more who may displease you within the term of office.

Courtesy of The Code and Appointment of an Integrity Commissioner, all paid for from your own pocket, you no longer have to wait for an opportunity to vote in an election.

In fact, now that we have a Code of Conduct and an Integrity Commissioner, elections themselves may become redundant.

Think of the money we can save.

Friday 9 April 2010


No previous post has generated as much anger as the one about the Mayor's order not to allow planting by students in the town's parks on the day of the Mayor's Anti-Litter Campaign.

It was not a Council decision.

It would certainly not be mine. I believe there are probably at least two others who feel the same. We will not know if there are more unless we provide them a reason to indicate their position.

There were Councillors who saw a partnership with Neighbourhood Network as a good thing but no vote was taken .Instead the matter was sidelined by being referred to staff. No report has been received by Council.

The date for the tree planting is April 24th.

Council meets on Tuesday April 13th. There is time for Council to reverse the Mayor's order.

Time for residents to make their voices heard.

Clause 9 of The Code

Professional Development:

"Members have an obligation to promote,support,pursue and partake in opportunities for professional development, including but not limited to Federal, Provincial and Municipal conferences, seminars and workshops. Council Members are encouraged to stay updated on issues and trends so that they can be as efficient and effective as possible in the carriage of their duties and responsibilities"

Each read The Code and signed two copies, as they required themselves to do.

The first workshop that came our way after passage of The Code was held by our first Integrity Commissioner.

Neither the Mayor nor Councillor MacEachern attended. It was closed to allow free and uninhibited exchange of questions and answers.

The second workshop was held in public and turned out to be something of a tug of war. . No understanding of the purpose of the Code became apparent in the process.

A resolution by Councillor Collins Mrakas to hold educational workshops on the Code was
brusquely dismissed. Councillor MacEachern was adamant she had no need of being educated.

The first complaint filed under The Code, with the assistance of a lawyer, at taxpayer's expense
was dismissed summarily.

The first Commissioner was "stripped of his authority"

This year, On a motion by Councillor Gaertner, Council trimmed by two- thirds the budget for Councillors to attend seminars and conferences et al.

It was the first Council in many years not to have the benefit of off-site orientation at the start of the term to bring new Councillors up to date with workshops on town business.

The Mayor had the benefit at the regional level. But not Councillors in Aurora.

Staff have annual Leadership Conferences off site, but not Councillors.

Yet there it is in The Code.

A high-minded statement about the merits of exercising one's intellect for the benefit of the Municipal Corporation.

I think, one can say without equivocation, at this point in this term of office, at no time has there ever been any evidence of this objective being sought, let alone attained. .

Even to the minimal extent, as required by the Code, of reading and understanding the document.

I believe it cost $16,2000 to be advised of The Code as a solution and $4000. in legal fees to write.

Clause 3 of The Code

3. Communications and Media Relations.

"Members of Council will accurately and adequately communicate the attitudes and decisions of Council even if they disagree with the majority decision of Council"

That's tricky.

If you say potaaato and I say potaeto. And that is how you see it and I do not. How exactly does one explain another person's " attitude and decision" ?

Why would I want to? Why would you want me to? The only person accountable for me is me

"Members shall show respect for the decision making process of Council"

That's easy .

Decision making is by vote. That's the deal. It's the principle we live by. The majority rules . The minority get to have their say. As often as they choose and anywhere they choose. Except in the Council Chamber. You can't keep re-hashing stuff time and time again. The rules take care of that

" Communications with the media by Members of Council shall be conducted through proper interviews or media releases. Members shall refrain from submitting letters to the editor or writing a regular column in the newspaper or hosting /co-hosting a regular television program."

This is interesting .

The Mayor is frequently quoted in the press. The Mayor of Aurora has written a weekly column in one or the other local newspaper for forty years. No-one has ever suggested that's bad conduct. I think people appreciated it.

Even this Mayor apparently committed a couple of times to writing a regular column. That she never followed through is unlikely to have had anything to do with the Code of Conduct.

Yet there it is.... in The Code;

" Members of Council shall refrain from writing a column in the newspaper"

Why is that thing in there about hosting a T.V. program? No Councillor in Aurora has ever done that. Some of us, including the Mayor, have been guests on occasion. No-one ever suggested that was discreditable. They probably didn't like what I had to say but who said they had to.

Yet it's in there. Whose values does this Code reflect?

And that bit about " letters to the editor"

Have we not seen letters to the editor from the Mayor, Councillors Gaertner. Granger and Wilson in the paper.

Of all the pesky clauses. I think that one is the most inane.

Now we have someone on the payroll to keep an eye on all publications and correct misinformation. How will that be accomplished, I wonder ?

I didn't agree to a trumped-up Code to dumb down Council when I ran for office. I did the opposite.I said I would do whatever it took to inform people of their town's business...as I see it.

I can't believe when the Province came up with this ill-written legislation to allow municipalities to adopt a Code of Conduct, they contemplated depriving elected representatives of the liberty that allowed them to be elected and the reason thereof.

If I were to attempt to explain the attitudes and decision of Council when the Code was adopted, it I am fairly sure they would not be pleased.

It could probably be filed as a complaint to the Integrity Commissioner of their choosing.