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

Saturday 31 December 2011

Invisible Hands

I  don't try to make sense of it. When you've lived past half a century. allowed life to take its course,  you notice a  pattern.

I am wont to say in  less than intellectual terms, life is like a big jigsaw puzzle; the pieces are scattered on a card table and a pair of invisible hands are poised above one's head, ever ready to move the pieces into place.

With  a few election victories and defeats under my belt, I tended to think of it like a book. A chapter ends, I turn the page  to see how the next chapter will  unfold. As the  main character,I do of course have a role; like recognising cues.

I never felt the need for a plan. I  went where life took me. Of course I had to pay attention. Large and small, the signs were always there. Sometimes they just said, STOP and WAIT

A small sign appeared on Thursday. I  was searching for something and unearthed  something I wasn't looking for but was both  delighted and disturbed to find

Recently  the town solicitor reported on his review of  the Culture Centre Contract. He  noted it  was written when the  town solicitor's office was vacant; the associate solicitor was on maternity leave; a  law clerk was the sole legal resource.

The contract does  not reflect the municipality's interest.  He recommended,  at minimum, Council  should have representation on the board.

Readers may recall the Mayor's opposition to the proposal to review the contract.

It was an intriguing position. The Mayor had no responsibility in the matter. No obvious reason to throw a veil over the facts. Except  perhaps  to avoid the necessity of  undoing what was done, if what was done proved to be untenable.

When the report was presented, I expressed appreciation.  I noted it was probably a discreet version of what actually took place

The solicitor's task was to review the contract for shortcomings. Nothing more. He did that. But offered more. He  provided an explanation or excuse for the wretched contract.

When I remarked on discretion,I had no idea what would come to hand.

On Thursday, I had occasion to scan a portfolio. On page 5 of Council Minutes, dated March 24th 2009, a heading jumped out at me.

14. F.506-014. ..........Church Street Cultural Services Agreement.

The Clause recommended the contract be signed and $113,000. of the 2009 budget be paid on signing, prior to approval of the budget.

A further $113,666, be paid in two installments after the 2009 budget is approved.

An amendment was made to the motion; moved by Councillor Mac Eachern ... seconded by Councillor Buck;

That the Mayor and Clerk be authorised to sign the agreements subject to review by the Town Solicitor,Christopher Cooper; and

That should the solicitor find any areas of concern or the need for substantive revision, Council be notified and the matter be brought back to a Special Meeting , if called for, prior to execution of the agreement; and

That a definition of the word 'permit" be added to the definitions section of the Lease Agreement.

It was an incredible find.

From the first meeting of that term, it was made clear, in a steady shower of denigration, that nothing I had to say would be relevant to anyone at the council table.

MacEachern was first up to bat when I was  first recognised by the Chair. A spurious point of order was raised and supported by the chair. Suitably chastened and placatory, I apologised and said I would try to do better.On my mother's grave,I swear I did that.

Minutes later, former Councillor Wilson repeated the point of order fiasco  to the scarcely hidden amusement of other members.

Wilson used to let his eyes roll into the back of his head and tongue loll from the side of his mouth to the tip of his chin in full view of the camera, each time I spoke.

Despite the futility  but with full  confidence in  public discernment and  that approbation would fall where it must, I carried on relentless.

Later, MacEachern, being chief hatchet man ,so-to-speak, adopted a different strategy. Substance in my comments would be recognised and amendments made to recommendations, appearing to take my concerns into consideration.

The amendment noted above is a classic example of the modus operandi, an expression frequently coined by Mor of Mac while pointing a bony little finger frequently trembling in rage in my direction.

The point I make here and now is our current town solicitor,  not part of the administration then, did not discover that the town solicitor of the day was directed to review and bring to the attention of council, modifications if need be. to the two contracts with the Culture Centre Board. Even though the recommendation  providing authority to sign  and the amendment is part of the public record.

We learn now , there were indeed modifications necessary to the contract to protect the town's interest which were never brought forward  and I submit, were never intended to be brought to public  attention.

From the record of March 24th 2009  Council meeting  it appears , even now, information provided to Council on the eve of 2012, is not precise.

Speaking About Gifts

Oh that God the gift wid gie us
To see oorselves as ithers see us

I'm not sure that would be much of a gift. I doubt Rabbie Burns was thinking about himself when he wrote it either. He was likely reacting to those who thought they knew what he was about and didn't approve at all, at all.

My mother used to say, you can't know a person unless you've lived with them. I think she said it because of how she thought of my father that others didn't. She had to believe it was true. Because, if he was what others  thought, then maybe herself was not as blameless as she was sure she was.

To be sure, it's hard enough to acknowledge self-imperfection without  responsibility for trying to figure out why other people behave the way they do.

Each of us is endowed with a package of traits from the moment of being. Even siblings are not the same. We can take neither credit nor blame. It's the nature of things.

Cloning is not.

Mostly, we are a work in progress. Doing the best we can one day at a time. Some days managing better than others.

As far as politics is concerned,I'm aware many people like what I do and how.

Enough to encourage me

I've not always enjoyed the same level of support.

Not always been viewed in the same light. I'm nobody's idea of a poster child.Nor have I made that claim.

Not all people have seen the same. Not even the same people have seen it at the same time.

So what's to be made of it ?

How we see oorselves ? Or how others see us?

Can we think too much about it? In so doing,try to be something we are not?

Or is it best to be...the best we can be...and content to continue to try to be better???

Friday 30 December 2011

Idle Hands

An anonymous edited and re-wrote yesterday's post. Twice. Forwarded it with the covering comment I would be unlikely to post it as it would break the spell I have over Aurora residents.

It's probably a fair indication blog is well received. The sentiment was repeated several times recently in less than Christmasy language. It's a good sign people are paying attention to what I have to tell.

I have mentioned several times the overwhelming influence staff and the Mayor have over council members.  It's not unusual. There's safety in numbers and following the leader is a natural human inclination.

But Councillors are individually accountable.Voters vote one at a time. Judgement starts from the time election results are known.

Allowances are made for learning.  A councillor who learns well validates the voters choice.

Budgets are key performance indicators. We are now on our second with  one left to go. The first was a major disappointment for most taxpayers including me.

We have spent many hours at it. Estimates have been approved as presented as per resolution prepared by staff.

I know Councillors intend further debate. I also understand staff's understanding of the accumulated votes. Final approval was expected to be achieved before Christmas.

At the last scheduled meeting, it was not accomplished. Staff's timetable was not achieved. Carte blanch rubber stamping did not happen.

Further debate was pending.

Then... Whammo...another meeting was slotted in days before Christmas.

I notified all and sundry of my discontent. I did not attend the meeting.

It was a low point. Me against the world. I decided Christmas was the best time to opt out of battle.

I boycotted a public planning meeting later in the week as well.

The calender of meetings will receive closer scrutiny by all in January.

I did not inquire about the results of the slotted in budget meeting. I did scour The Auroran though. Had to read almost to the last page to discover, despite best efforts of the triumvirate, the budget as presented was not given final approval.

The Mayor offered pending completion of the Strategic Plan as a rationale.

No matter.

I took comfort.

Council may finally have collectively decided they are neither subservient nor irrelevant.

They do have ultimate authority.

Lord knows,I keep hammering that home. In the kindest way of course.

Then, as often happens in a power struggle, a hand was overplayed.

Thursday 29 December 2011

A Very Good Year.... It Was Not.

Though elected in October, Council did not take office until December 1st 2010.

The ousted Mayor  kept herself busy up to that date with amendment to a secret lease agreement with the Department of National Defense which benefits the town not a whit, and pursuing  legal action against various town residents with public resources, perhaps unknowingly, authorised by councillors,  also defeated in the election  and the town's  administration.

Council met once in December and  cancelled  the lawyer retained by the ousted Mayor or  town solicitor. It's not clear.

In the New Year, we spent a further $8,500. to still  another lawyer  to advise if the town  had an obligation to pay bills for legal action against three citizens for exercising their democratic rights.

Newly elected, flushed with support from the electorate to undo horrendous damage of the previous four years, nevertheless, Council  did not have sufficient confidence in their own judgement to say;

"NO! We will not acknowledge responsibility for public resources  being  pissed away without purpose"

The  $55,000.bill was paid. We were elected in time to stop it. We did not. We added $8,5000.

The case continued to court. To be thrown out months later with a tongue-lashing from a judgefor a totally  inadequate  performance.

Approved by a  brand new council, taxpayers of Aurora  paid $55,000. for  a lawyer to pursue a will-o' the- wisp  argument, apparently of insufficient substance to pass the test.

The case continued.  Three Aurora families were obliged to  expend family resources to defend themselves against  charges which ultimately failed and failed miserably..

How it continues for recovery of costs and damage to  reputations is not known. I think we can be assured, it is not over.

We live in a country which guarantees rights granted under a legal charter.

We do not expect to have to spend personal resources to defend them.

We particularly do not expect to have to defend them against those trusted,with authority in a civil and orderly election  at the level closest to the people

Yet with the abused force of money and power combined, that is what happened.

Under our very noses.

No checks or balances exercised.



Evil triumphed.

And continues..

Tuesday 27 December 2011


It's a day like any other day. It starts. It ends. What you do in between makes the difference.

If you're alone, what you do makes no difference to anyone but yourself.

This Christmas, I resolved to take a holiday from  town business for at least a couple of days.

I bought  two books.  Books have always been my refuge.I could always lose myself completely in somebody else's story if it was a good one. It entirely depends on the author.

It used to be, I had to  finish every book I started.  I literally wouldn't put it down until the end. Then I would slide into bed before daylight to conceal that I wasn't there all night. 

When the kids were small it was the book, the mouse in the house and me.

He was a field mouse and only came into  the house in the fall.

With a high chair in the kitchen there were always crumbs on the floor. When  the house was quiet  and I  would be  on the couch with my feet up, I would become aware of movement in the kitchen.

After he'd eaten, he would come into the sitting room, make his way along the wall under the couch and climb up under the curtain to reach the window sill. I could see the curtain move as he made the ascent.

The sliding windows had  metal knobs to open and close. They were easily removed and  whoever was the youngest and on his feet. would spend lotsa  time doing just that. So  holes left by  missing knobs allowed free passage of cold winter air. He would make his way along the window sill to the first hole and sit there for a while breathing in the cold.

Then he would  make his way back to the end of the window sill,climb down  the curtain and return to his lair, wherever that was. Years later the frig was being replaced  and I learned it had been on top of the warm workings underneath .

People told me he was filthy and disgusting. Where there's one mouse there's a dozen,they said.

That's how I knew he was a male mouse and single, at least during the winter months. First things first,I guess. 

He came in Fall and left in Spring. I didn't encourage him. I told everybody in the house to keep doors closed. There were cats galore in the neighbourhood.

I figured, if he could survive outside long enough to need winter shelter and never venture where he should not be, I could let him be. He wintered over at least twice.

Later, there were mice. They had to go. I placed sticky paper traps. Mice were caught but escaped leaving a good part of their coats behind.There must have been a few bare butts behind the walls.

I bought a trap-alive and took captured creatures to the ravine on Henderson Drive and set them free.

Invariably they would run frantic back and forth before finding their way to the ravine. I held my breath in fear they would head for the road and get run over.

Those left behind in the house learned how to get into the trap, eat the cheese or peanut butter snack, and leave the way they arrived.

Then and only then, did I resort to desperate measures.

This post was not to be about the mouse in my house who only came out when he and I were the only ones awake.

It was to be about the book. "Don't Vote. It just encourages the Bastards"

The title was a quote from somebody's mother.

I started it yesterday. Haven't finished it yet. I will though.

Saturday 24 December 2011

Santa's On His Way

The sky is blue. Not a cloud in sight. Snow is on the ground and some branches of the maple are outlined in white. It's cold enough to stay that way.

A woodpecker is pecking furiously and pieces of bark are flying in every direction. A hawk just flew over, his great feathery wings like blankets, flapping leisurely.

Great-grandchildren, Cheyenne and Abigail were here overnight on Wednesday for a children's Christmas party in Toronto on Thursday where they saw Santa for the first time this year.

They are the ages of my sister and myself, the last time we knew Christmas as children.

Santa was not seen around then.We just knew of him. Nobody really expected to see him. Contact was made by throwing scraps of paper with wishes scribbled laboriously in pencil, up the chimney.

The up draught from the fire carried them where they needed to go. 

We  hung stockings except they were knee highs. Nothing fancy. We never had more than one pair. We would literally take off our socks and hang one.

It wasn't from the mantle. They hung  on a cord stretched across the smoke board, a contraption that slid up and down to keep the smoke out of the room if the wind was gale force which wasn't uncommon

We lived close to the sea.

That last Christmas  stocking  probably had the same gifts as previous. An orange and  an apple or a pomegranate. Treats only enjoyed at Christmas. A small white sparkly sugar pig  with  a pink nose.pink eyes and half an inch of pink cotton for a tail. Five candy cigarettes in a paper package like real Woodbines and a small  truck filled with chocolate and covered with cellophane paper. It crackled when I ran my hands down the stocking  to try to guess what was in there.

A doll  stuck  half in and half out of the stocking.  She likely came from Woolworth's. Probably cost sixpence. Nothing cost more than sixpence from Woolworth's. Except shoes. They cost sixpence each.

Her body must have been paper mash. When she was only a couple of weeks old ,I washed her clothes. Couldn't wait for them to dry. Put them back on wet  Her body collapsed.

Christmas wasn't a holiday in Scotland.  Stores opened. We had no special meals.New Year's Eve was the  Scottish celebration. Probably pagan.New Year's Day was quiet as the grave. Children were sent to the movies.

We never saw Santa.

One time he was supposed to come to our school. We had a Christmas tree in the gym. It cost  a penny to go to the gym and see Santa. He didn't  show up. Which was just as well because I didn't have  the necessary penny so I didn't get to go to the gym.

Christmas  carols were sung in church and school. There was no radio. Electricity didn't exist in our neighbourhood. A man rode around on his bicycle  to light  gas street lamps. Without getting off the bicycle, he rested one foot on the sidewalk and did everything he needed to do with a long pole.

So  Christmas carols were not heard often enough  to be tiresome.Cards were not exchanged.Everyone we knew lived close by.

Santa didn't show up  every day of the week in every venue imaginable. He was truly  mythical.

The Nativity scene  in  its humble surroundings was  in our church. It was truly mystical.

People keep reminding me of how things have changed. As if those of us who lived through  change need to be reminded by those who  have not

But you know,  having  known another time  in another age and place, I don't see modern excess,  the endless quest  for the perfect  gift or gifts, Santa on every corner,  endless efforts to write another  top of the chart Christmas song or play for the umpteenth  time,  the same nauseatingly sentimental movie, as  change for the better.

So...what I wish for you my friends is a Christmas day of peace and quietude with people you love and time to contemplate the blessings you enjoy and share. If you are lucky enough to have small children in your life,try to catch a little of the sparkle from their starry-eyed innocence.

Friday 23 December 2011

A Ballet in Three Parts

 Uxbridge has passed an indignant resolution demanding the Province pay 100% of the plan to restore purity to the waters of Lake Simcoe. They point out no development is  planned in the villages and hamlets of the Region.

York Region doesn't get excited about  trivial stuff like that.

In Aurora, we just tack on a supplement  to  water bills of  metered properties to pay the ransom.

We figure people won't notice piddling little sums. Certainly they will  never  guess  they're being shafted by their own elected body. 

Developers  pay for  pond construction. It means new home buyers pay in the price of their homes. It's part of the overhead. Properties are  then assessed at market value,  price  paid, and taxes are paid on  taxes forever and a day.

I heard a cost figure to build a residence is forty-per cent of the market price.

Sixty-per-cent  is  cost imposed by taxes of one level of government or another.

A figure this week indicates current  house prices are ten-per-cent over-valued. It happens in a heated market.  Couples  bite off more than they can chew, then when the market cools down, they  discover the house is worth less than the mortgage. The down-payment is swallowed up. They have no equity.

And who cares? Buyers  never know how they've being shafted. They don't even want to.Who can blame them?

People think those dastardly wealthy developers make so much money they deserve to pay.

But they don't.

I watched a feature on Bernie Madoff, billionaire jailbird, this week.

The amazing thing about the story was how eager  organisations and individuals were to shovel money into his hands.

How much was already  known by the public finance control agency, ten years before he was apprehended.

His status in high society was such, he was untouchable. He was a generous contributor to charities in accordance with his status.

He was paying more interest to clients  than they could get anywhere else. Clients were not  allowed to ask certain questions.  Bernie was King. He was making them money.  So... doubts were set aside.

On the day he was arrested,  Bernie  looked pleased.

Like......look at me! I fooled you all !  I will be forever famous and the lifestyle I enjoyed was worth every minute

A modern-day buccaneer.

That was before the  eldest  of his two sons took his own life.

Bernie will probably write a book.

Like Conrad Black.

Bernie  may not be an exalted guest on our T.V.talk shows. He is not Canadian.

Ah..but wait a minute !  Conrad isn't Canadian either. He gave it up to become a  Noble Lord wearing silk stockings and satin knickers with rosettes and ribbons at the knees , red robes trimmed with  ermine and  a constant supercilious smile.

Strutting about the stage like a character in the Nutcracker Suite

I watch that every Christmas and marvel.

Wednesday 21 December 2011

No Muse Today

The first thought in my head  this morning was something I can't tell you about yet.

I wakened from a dream that wan't  a nightmare but wasn't  pleasant either.

I don't know about  the budget.  If there were were no changes,it means the entire budget was approved as presented and as the Mayor intended.

It means I can't vote for it. I have to provide reasons. There are so many, I have to be selective.  It requires substantial thought and preparation. It won't make a difference. Except to people who think as I do and know at least  their voice was heard.

I dreamed  the moment had arrived and I was unprepared. The Mayor came to pick me up in a vintage  Rolls Royce. It was khaki coloured. The place was a church. It was filled with mourners. People were standing three deep in the aisles. I had to get into the  farthest seat from the aisle, against the wall,  in the last row. I had a small boy to look after  and  I  had to prepare my comments without anyone seeing

The mourner bit,I think, was from  news images  of North Korea.

The church was St.Mary's, Irvine.Ayrshire Scotland. Where I was baptised  before the date on my birth certificate, made my First Confession,First Communion  Confirmation  and married.

How weird was that! 

First  inclination in any debate, is to heap scorn on the heads of all who disagree. It would be easiest.  But not  smartest. And it's not allowed.

It contributes nothing to  debate. The obvious response would be name-calling. It might be fun to stretch one's imagination in that direction but it would certainly not be civil or  regarded as  proper decorum even in whatever sense that is in these changing times.

Which bring to mind something else that has been bothering me in the last year.

The  debate system we have pits  the  elected  directly against  the appointed  in any challenge to a recommendation.

It should not be. But when  Councillors request  staff to provide a  rational for  their  position, it is unavoidable.

The situation gets messier when  Councillors insist on introducing the question of staff competence by commenting on their excellent  work.

It's a slight against the Councillor challenging the recommendation.

It's a goody-goody two shoes  innuendo.

Any point introduced into a debate calls for a response.

How would it be if the person on the receiving end, decided to argue the point  in a public meeting about how well staff  can be perceived to be doing their job.

How does someone with weeks of experience  of public business rationalise  the comment?

What comparator can be used from limited experience ?

Take the time the Treasurer left his seat in a hissy fit , accusing me  of  accusing him of fraud because of the methodology  he  used for calculating water rates.
According to Councillor Ballard,  all  department heads took  umbrage and  left the meeting in support of their wrongly accused  colleague.

Everybody, except  those with ears to hear , thought I should  apologise.

I did no such thing.

Turned  out I was right about faulty methodology and people with meters being overcharged  for years   for  water.

I  accused no-one of fraud. 

My phraseology is usually carefully constructed.  

I  have yet to  receive  an apology for being wrongly accused by any person..

Things can easily and quickly turn  messy and  mean  and not  easily forgotten  in a public debate. 

This council spent months discussing  rules. If there's no  sense of what's right, rules make little difference.

Tuesday 20 December 2011

What You Don't Know Is Not An Asset..

I kept my dentist appointment. Afterwards  I  went to Chapters Book Store.  I by-passed the fabric shop. I had a couple of ideas in mind.

I could knit or sew hats. I can knit a hat or a sock in less than a day. Socks take twice as long for a pair.Everybody likes them.

I went to Chapters thinking I would find a book of new patterns. I did. I took my walker and enjoyed myself sitting for a couple of hours looking through knitting books. So many. All beautiful. Lacy or Fair Isle. Socks from every country and culture in the world and distant generations.

Hats. WOW!! Knitted hats are stylish again. Cowls and shrugs and shawls are featured galore.

Who would have thought. I've been knitting since I was six. I have a memory of swinging on the gate, knitting by lamplight and daylight too, of course.

I didn't buy any of the beautiful books. Patterns were on graph. I don't knit by graph. I knit by memory or written instructions. Next time I may spend another couple of enjoyable hours looking at the graphs. The books are expensive.You have to know you can handle graphs. I've done it before. I had a collection of Phildar books. They were French. Not as intricate as Scandinavian but lottsa style. They have mysteriously disappeared.I keep waiting for them to magically re-appear becaue they no longer appear to be on the market.

My browsing was interrupted. On the way back,I walked through the political science section. I lifted a couple of books off the shelf in passing and never went back to the knitting section.

One was a Thomas Friedman best seller. I've heard him talking about it with Charlie Rose.

I took the second because of its title.

"DON'T VOTE. You'll only encourage the bastards"

The author,P.J.Rourke is familiar.

I'd been stewing about Monday's scheduled meeting and its stated purpose "to approve the draft budget" since we received unexpected notification.

A Public Planning Meeting to deal with a solitary application,scheduled two days before the Town Hall closes down for twelve days does nothing to sweeten my mood.

Lack of consideration at the town hall for Councillors' private life continues to confound me.

From my perspective, it demonstrates ignorance and disrespect. It consigns council to a level of total inconsequence.

Bad things happen if allowed. Councillors exercise authority individually and collectively. This circumstance calls for each member to take a stand.

So I did.

I circulated an e-mail to all of Council and C.A.O.notifying of my intent to be absent myself from these meetings and why.

Councillor Gallo responded with complete support. His is a two-parent-working family with two small children with the rightful expectation that parents participate in their lives, particularly at the exciting time of Christmas.

A person's commitment to town business on a part-time basis does not suggest indentured service.

We are not subject to unreasonable scheduling on command of the institution.

We do have control.

The meeting schedule at Christmas is the last straw in a year-long record of similar slights.

Council appears to be regarded as little more than a cipher, at times a nuisance, in the scheme of town hall business.

Erosion of elected authority didn't start with this term.

It will not continue however without public awareness.

Monday 19 December 2011

Crime And Punishment

I have a dentist appointment this morning so I can't spend long. I'm trying to make up my mind about attending the budget meeting to-night. There's a public planning meeting on Wednesday.

It shows a complete lack of respect for councillors for two meetings to be scheduled the days before Christmas.

The same can be said for committees scheduled on Thursday and Friday evenings during the year. But if Councillors do not  indicate  unavailability, they have no-one but  themselves to blame.

Notice of the meeting indicates the purpose is to  approve  the draft budget.

A question was asked during the week-end about Mayor Hazel McCallion  of Mississuaga being ineligible to run for office after being charged with a Conflict of Interest.

The Mayor was charged after the last election. The next is three years away.

Being charged is not the same as being found guilty as charged. If that happens part of the penalty might be ineligibility to run for office for seven years.

Apparently there have been few convictions under the Conflict of Interest Act.

A former Mayor of East Gwillimbury was charged. He voted for something that would have increased the value of his farmland. The Judge found him guilty but did not impose a penalty because "he didn't mean to do it"

Of course, it may be  ineligibility for  public office  is automatic.The clerk might ask if she has ever been convicted of a crime.If the answer is yes, the clerk might be able to refuse registration. The name would not appear on the ballot.

Such is Hazel's mystique ,there might be people who would write her name on the ballot anyway. But that would just spoil the ballot.

In any case, Hazel's hash has not been settled yet.

Sunday 18 December 2011

Blake Said:

On a different topic,perhaps you could speak to your present members of council and past who were a disgrace at the heritage meeting Friday night.They were disruptive and rude and Mr.Gallo and Ballard and the Ex-Mayor should be ashamed of their behavior.


I wasn't there. Councillors Humfryes and Abel are members of the committee. Councillors Thompson,Gallo,Gaertner and Ballard were in attendance.Councillor Pirri was not.

The former Mayor and her retinue of followers were also there.

So what was it all about? Four items were on the agenda.

The owners of the building, propped up with two-by-fours on Yonge Street have applied for a demolition permit.

Why would that be controversial? It's a horrible eyesore. A blight on the street scape. There are plans for something new. They remind me of the Wells Street School.

Why anyone would opt to save that old pile of bricks beats me.

There was a recommendation for something or other connected with creating another heritage district.

Properties will be tied up in all kind of persnickety regulations.

I don't know why anyone would want that. Most don't pay attention until they find themselves caught in the sticky web. Usually a couple of people are taking care of their own interest.

Council is doing it to us as well because we pay for this never-ending nonsense.

If residents who think they are protecting the value of their property had to pay for it themselves,they might think twice about it.

Seems the former Mayor was giving loud instructions from the sidelines to the chair about how to conduct a meeting. That must have been irritating for Councillor Humphryes. It's hard to know how to respond without dropping down to that level.

What the rest of them were up to I can't even guess.

Reminds me of a library board meeting at the end of the last term.

Councillor MacEachern's willing hand-maiden had been appointed to the board to make as much trouble as she was instructed to do.

At the particular meeting a resolution was tabled for debate. Prior to the debate Councillors and the Mayor filed two-by-two into the small room.

Like the animal pairs in Noah's Ark.

Only the deluge never arrived. And the boat didn't float.

The occurrence became another piece of the jigsaw puzzle of on-going plots and schemes of intrigue to forever remain a mystery.

Like Friday night. Another few new people had an opportunity to witness shadows of the shame filled past.

Like Old Geezer Ebenezer hisself.

Hear Me Roar

Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "Authority By Default":

Evelyn, I've admired your blog, your views, and your contributions to the well being of Aurora for years, but I do have a question.

Do you wake up in the morning wondering if it snowed in the night or do you lie in bed thinking of things to complain about here?

I've noticed the Aurora Citizen blog has pretty much gone dormant. I guess they feel that if you can't say somthing nice maybe it's better not to say anything at all.


Is the comment  above nice or not nice?

The blog has been a journey of discovery.  It  relates the saga of town affairs as they present.

I waken up often with a post already written in my head. Then  I log in and read the comments.

A question  commands an answer. Invariably it keeps the blog on the  topic of the last post.

Sometimes I start with an idea already fleshed out in my head but  blog takes off  in a completely different direction.

I am  content to be doing what I do.

While I  disclose stuff  that probably  makes colleagues uncomfortable. It's not malicious

I like  the people on Council. They are friendly, thoughtful and  generous. Oh My Lord, they are generous. I just wish they were spending their own.  

They have heretofore shown themselves frighteningly unwilling to challenge bureaucracy .

That  problem is  exacerbated by a bureaucracy that does not identify with people  in the community.

Yes, there's  lots  of  talk about "clients" and "stakeholders"

 It's not about us. I am not even sure who it's about. It's  so far removed from us, it's scary.

They don't live with us. Nor identify with us. They don't care what we think.They don't think they need to .  It's a regional mindset.

Three of them are running the show. With the Mayor alongside that makes four.

 I think you need to know that's how I see it.

My instinct is towards preservation not destruction.

I'm not talking sticks and stones here.  I'm talking about a place without artifice. A place of stark naked public affairs, a great place to raise children, look out for  parents and care about neighbours.

We have all the tools.  All  the rights and freedoms.The collective will.to make it happen is the final piece of the puzzle.

What I do here is not whining and complaining.  It's more than that.

It's my determined  effort  to turn the wheel and get this frigging bus going  in the right direction.

Hear Me Roar.

Or don't.  It's your choice.

Saturday 17 December 2011

Authority By Default

"However, the Treasurer has circulated the figures with instructions to have all our questions of directors answered before Monday's meeting" I'm sorry should this not be the other way round "Council has circulated instructions that the Directors have all the answers on how to cut the fat by Monday" Who's running it ????


From my perspective the bureaucracy is running it. By default.

The Mayor is at one and the same time, profoundly grateful and virtually ecstatic by the assistance and support he has received from the administration.

He graciously expresses his appreciation at every turn.

To the point of hosting managers for golf at an exclusive club during the work week.

You can't play golf in secret. I heard about it. I hear things in round-about ways.

It's not my job to cover any person's posterior. So  I asked. It was affirmed. But the entire question wasn't answered.

I had asked if the hospitality was during working hours or was the employee on vacation?

Since that answer was not forthcoming, I was forced to assume not.

But the Mayor does not, by himself alone, show warm appreciation to staff.

I personally choose to maintain arm's length distance from the administration.

If I were to spend inordinate time in town hall offices, listening to bureaucratic rational on a daily basis, it would be natural for me to think like a bureaucrat.

I see my job alongside those who shoulder the inordinate burden of taxation.

The Mayor is not alone in his selfless devotion.

On occasion,I find myself at odds with the administration about what's best. I opposed administrative re-organisation. I saw no merit when it was proposed nor have I noticed any improvement since.

Customer service was touted at no extra cost. Staff would be drawn from elsewhere in the administration. Two different accounts of where else were given.

In the current  capital budget, an expenditure of $120,000 for a new phone service to accommodate the customer service is identified.

If I draw attention to contradictions in blunt and simple terms, colleagues tend to follow up with abundant and effusive assurances to staff of  excellent work.

No question is directed without a prologue of grandiloquent assurance of massive measures of goodwill between council and staff notwithstanding my own perverse conduct.

It's not said directly of course. It doesn't have to be for staff to take their cue.

Don't worry. Be happy. If need be.

the Mayor will expound:

" I will  not allow the question" ......... "Mine is the opinion that counts."

Friday 16 December 2011

Budget Back On Schedule

Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "Let Nothing Ye Dismay":

Does that mean there will be another chance to stop
the soft-ware purchase or is it cast in concrete like a
chicane ?


Unfortunately no. But it is not cast in concrete like a chicane. It will quickly be obsolete. The software cintract was part of  a  million dollars worth of contracts we approved  in the last month.

I did a little tally on Tuesday.  We spent in excess of  $440,000. on that one night.

Apparently there's an expectation of another budget meeting on  Monday.  We have calenders issued regularly.  The one I checked before I wrote the post this morning had no meeting scheduled for Monday. A special  meeting was called for 6.30 on Monday evening to  award a contract to service lands we are selling at Highway 404.

The  meeting is at 6.30 p.m. to award the  contract. Following which,  we are discussing budget again.

It seems. at the time the schedule of  budget meetings were approved, December 19th was scheduled "in case it was needed."

When Councillor Pirrie moved his motion to direct further details of " other expenditures over $25,000." be provided, the understanding seemed to be, the budget would not be approved before Christmas.

However, the Treasurer has circulated  the  figures  requested  by Councillor Pirri in an e-mail to  all members of Council with instructions to have all our questions of directors answered before Monday's meeting.

It has apparently been decided, without council participation once again, that it's O.K. to conduct town business by e -mail.

Just as an aside; the Heritage Advisory Committee  has their meetings on Fridays.   They have a full agenda to-night with delegations an' all.

There's a cry out  for Councillors to man the Salvation Army Kettle  at the Beer Store for a two hour shift.   Councillors Thompson and  Abel have volunteered.

And there's another  call out  for volunteers for Operation Red Nose.

I think maybe those guys don't have families.  Or they don't celebrate Christmas . Or something.

Of course, if the administration gets the budget  draft approved by Monday, they will certainly be able to enjoy their  twelve days off at  Christmas when  the town hall closes down.

Secure in the knowledge  they managed to get  your tax burden settled for 2012 , just as they planned all along ,without any interference from  the elected body.

Let Nothing Ye Dismay

Had a post  at 11.49 a.m. yesterday noting a high number of anonymous posts were written by the same cryptic poster.

A wee while later another anonymous  comment noted  how astute the observation of   11.49 a.m.

Really, I  thought. What did I miss? I googled cryptic. It means mysterious or obscure. No clue there

Comments  were higher than average.  I read  all comments. If they contribute anything to a discussion  I publish them.

If  it's a  plug for something like designer boots or bags  in Chinese,  I delete them. I don't speak Chinese.

Abusive and insulting slams  have  virtually disappeared since I stopped publishing them.Larry Fine's was the last comment  assigned to trash.

I don't think my enemies have stopped reading. They've  merely  toned down the malice. If I publish  a sly dig here and there,  they probably think they have been exceptionally clever.

Anyway, I went back and read  the comments again to see what I missed. Other than they were generally supportive of the post, I couldn't see  being "cryptic"  identified  a single writer.

Why would a person?

Maybe they were so supportive, they needed to say so in a dozen different ways.

Well, hey, I can  accept that.  I'm not writing a scientific paper, an academic dissertation or a legal argument. My entire future  doesn't depend on getting a pass. 

The commenter noted I must have a fan.  Well, Whoop..dee..doo.   Judging by the average  of daily readers, I  allow  that might be.

I take great  satisfaction in having  the freedom to tell the story as I see it.

I worry sometimes the stuff  might be too  consistently worrisome. Then I think  how things would be if I wasn't  chronicling. Who else would  provide the nuances from my particular angle? Eh!

Would  Aurora's political scene be  clearer and brighter without the colour I provide?

Maybe.   Nothing  is clearer or brighter than a blank page.

Council will not meet again until New Year.  The budget  has not been  pushed through before Christmas, despite the Mayor's best efforts.

Previously prepared  motions  by staff to approve each department's  budget as presented were passed by a majority.  It appears however not  to be what the majority intends.

Since deliberations were in committee, nothing is binding.The intent, it seems, is to make decisions after the entire  picture is on display.

That's sensible.

The community still has  opportunity for influence.

A quiet word here and there over Christmas could  have  wondrous effect.

Thursday 15 December 2011

Reading Comprehension

Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "It's All Interesting And It's All Real":

O.K. It was tactless and probably cost the Town some
money but people are more concerned about big
expenditures that might be avoided. That evening
sounds like a plan conceived by a councillor which is
what we want them to do. It back-fired so will likely be
done more appropriately in the future.
Still i t was better than the $300. event produced by
another Councillor. A for Effort for first time try.


I had to read the above comment a couple of times to relate  it to my post on the Town Awards night.

In response, I don't know who conceived the new plan.

The evening was enjoyed by all present.

I don't know what $300 effort is being referenced.

Here's what I do know. An annual ceremony to recognise excellence has been held by the town for forty years.

This was not the first time.

Special events staff have managed the evening with extraordinary skill ,experience and success to the vast enjoyment of all present,without help or interference by politicians but with their participation.

Council were not privy to this change. Which begs the questions.

Who decided the event better belonged with the communication department?

Does it mean henceforth the event will be viewed and exploited as promotional?

Like Walmart might?

Is everyone comfortable with that concept? Is there merit to it?

I have no answers to these questions nor has the opportunity presented to ask them.

It is clear a sea change in town values is afoot. Who is responsible or even if there is a plan and who is in on it, is not apparent.

Therein lies my concern.

Should the community be a party to such discussion?

As opposed to, on the outside looking in?

Like in private enterprise?

Which  the town  is not.

Wednesday 14 December 2011

It's All Interesting And It's All Real

Anonymous said...
Interesting body language on the Council Meeting.
From the rhetoric, Dawe would appear to be doing
better but he looks like a dog's breakfast Evelyn would
appear to be losing every round and she looks great. So
what does that tell you about the inner workings of
these people ? One is comfortable about herself, the
other really uncomfortable in his own skin. One will
sleep well tonight. Psychology 101 Really basic stuff.


People often  comment  things are the same  at every level of government.  I agree.

Except where government is closest to  people as in a small town like Aurora It doesn't have to be as it is at every other level of government and institution.

In  the last election, Aurora folk  took control. Almost a complete  council  was ejected and replaced albeit  with new and inexperienced members. Because of inexperience , there is almost complete dependence on  bureaucracy. It may stay that way.  I'm betting it will not.

There is much goodwill in the community towards  Mayor and Council. Yes, there's disappointment as well. But we have three more years to correct  that and build on the goodwill. I believe the intent is there  The community will influence town affairs for the better.

Stay involved.

My chronicle  draws a picture. It's only partial. It will grow and improve.

I read  in the Auroran last week about the Town Awards ceremony. I had to read it  to discover what had been going on in the town hall for months . 

A division of  Leisure Services  has been handling special events for years. Everyone is familiar with the spectacular work of  Shelley Ware and her small staff .

The Easter Egg Hunt,  Santa Claus Parade Under The Stars, July 1st Celebrations in the Park, Summer Concerts in the  Park,  Haunted Forest, and  the spectacular Winter Festival of Lights in the town park.

All enjoyed  by thousands. All  acclaimed for excellence. All provided at  minimal  cost.to taxpayers.

The Annual Awards night was also a joyful annual celebration in the Town Hall. The place would be teaming with families. Council  always fully engaged.

This year it  changed. The communications division had charge of the event. A single Councillor and  the Mayor were involved. A partnership with Neighbourhood Network organised.

Strangers were at the town hall to  greet  guests.

I was greeted at  our own  town hall by someone who did not know me and whom I did not know.

When I inquired as to the role of  council, I was told to find myself a seat in the gallery.

After fifty years of vigorous, forthright, few holds barred participation in  town affairs. I am not inclined to  be easily offended.

I could be described as a battle- scarred veteran.

I do not seek affection
 I  expect respect.

 I am offended in the lack thereof within the town hall on that occasion.

I am disturbed by  disregard for town policy.

Only Council  directs staff and authorises use of town facilities.

Process is  governed by the procedure bylaw. For  change or action, notice must be given, a motion  duly  moved and  seconded,  tabled, debated and voted on  for direction to staff.

None of that happened.

I had to read  in the newspaper  how  the new awards ceremony came about. 

None of  it engenders warm and fuzzy feelings of appreciation.

Quite the opposite .

Tuesday 13 December 2011

More Budget Talk

Yet another special committee meeting. It started out interesting.

We had an audience. Library board and fire department budgets were being presented

Historical Society and Chamber of Commerce were there to support requests for grants.

Culture Centre representatives came to give a glowing account of their program.

A few residents were in the audience.

The Mayor opened the meeting with a statement about the tax increase. Regional staff had been able to reduce the increase and he cited a new combined figure for Aurora .

There was nothing in writing. I hesitate to name a number. It might not be accurate.

Later, I asked the Mayor to explain his statement. He said he would.  But not then.

The evening was like that.

When culture's presentation was complete, the Mayor invited comments or questions.

I had only one. I asked why is there no museum at the Church Street School?

Lickety-split the Mayor intervened and stated he would not allow the question.

He didn't say why. Simply repeated his refusal to allow the question.

Sometimes, nothing more needs to be said.

Councillor Pirrie stated he was not prepared to support the budget without further detail than had been presented.

The Mayor said  the budget  was philosophical.

Other Councillors had similar concerns to Councillor Pirrie.

Councillor Ballard did too but he didn't want to start the budget process over again.He suggested we  discuss  process in time for the next budget.

I said there was nothing philosophical about a budget. It's about hard facts and figures, the burden on the shoulders of the taxpayers and how is it justified.

Finally,a resolution passed to direct staff to provide more details.

The Mayor noted it meant the budget would not be approved before Christmas. Like it was a present or  timing was more critical than doing it right.

About then I asked the Mayor to explain his statement at the beginning of the meeting about the combined tax increase.

He said he would. "but not now

At ten minutes past ten, the water and wastewater budget was presented by a tag team of Treasurer and Public Works Director.

Pages of figures and graphs were raced through to be completed by ten-thirty. the hour of adjournment.

Documentation was provided at the table.

This budget is complicated. A shift from water rates to tax rates is recommended.

The documentation should have been in hand beforehand to prepare for discussion.

Instead,. at ten thirty the Mayor called for extension of the hour of adjournment.

Since seven o'clock, we had been absorbing business plans and figures.

All of it together did not equal the significance of the water-waste-water budget.

Nothing has captured public attention as much as the question of water rates and method of  their calculation.

A budget of several million dollars with so many twists and turns. deserves serious attention.

I packed my gear and left. There is only so much a body can absorb.

At ten-fifty-two p.m. a vote to approve the water-waste-water budget as presented was cast.

Monday 12 December 2011

Sugar Plums? Ya Think?

The last Council Meeting of the year is December 13th.

From Christmas Eve the Town Hall is closed.

It re-opens on January 3rd.

I've always thought it weird that nobody has business with the town for nine full days. That's the reason given for the town to close for that length of time.

I went to sleep last night thinking about expenditures recommended by council to be approved at tomorrow's council meeting.

I calculated eighteen days until year's end. This morning I awoke thinking...Wait a minute... it's not even that long.

It's only eight days before the town hall closes.

Within eight days of the end of 2011, Council will authorize $404,685.to be spent.

1. Ice plant retrofit $174,855.
2,Front end loader $134,869.
3.Consultant contract award $94,961.

Think about it.

The projects were budgeted in 2011

Approving them doesn't mean they will be started let alone completed within the year.

But the books will show those funds in the 2011 budget were expended.

It's almost half a million dollars.

If not approved, actual spending in 2011 would be that much less.

That amount represents close to 2% of last year's tax increase.

We approved numbers of big ticket items in the past few weeks.

Almost like a rush to get it all spent under the wire.

Like we put so much stuff in last year's budget,there simply wasn't time to spend it all.

Under the circumstances, it could be could argued since none of it was acquired within the year,none of it was needed within the year.

I'm not even considering the half million we gave away to the Culture Centre under an agreement that reflects zero town interest.

$100,000 to the arboretum, $85,000 ,for a strategic plan update,a make work project if ever I saw one, and a customer service plan and $440,000 worth of computer software to track assets.

Oh yes...we also have an estimate of seventeen million dollars for a combined works and parks yard and five million on the town hall to accommodate all the new managerial staff we have hired.

As noted by critics. I am not an accountant. I am minus an engineering degree.

I am equally unimpressed by certificates of excellence from a self- aggrandized institute situated in Ottawa.

But I recognise baffle gab when I hear it. Oh My Lord yes children,it does not take brains.

Eight per cent planned increase in town spending in 2012 currently being contemplated by council and thus far approved exactly as presented, is a tax grab on top of a tax grab of obscene proportions.

It may be sugar plums for some.

It's a bloody great leaden chunk of coal in the toe of a Christmas stocking for the taxpayers.

Sunday 11 December 2011

Let Nothing Ye Dismay

Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "Transit Strike":

Ontario is big and passive. We simply do not react.
There is nothing someone who feels small and useless
when reading such material can do. Sometimes we yell
but actually confronting a problem seems unacceptable.
Until the whole thing implodes and then it will be too late.
Such negative thoughts with which to end the year.
I have a vague hope that the internet could intervene
but that also requires will and wisdom.


Great oaks from small acorns grow. The internet in Aurora is in its infancy.

Yet some very dramatic changes have evolved.

In the last election, despite four years of catering to every self-interest that raised its head and needlessly spending hundreds of thousands of dollars in the process;

Despite changing the town's administration almost entirely ,creating upheaval and disruption;

Despite a relentless four year campaign to seduce every person who ever raised a hand to help another as a potential campaign worker;

Despite spending hundreds of thousands of public funds in a blatant and unconscionable attempt to destroy a person who dared to express opposition.

Despite engaging in the shameless pandering that gives politics its reputation for sleaze....the plan did not work.

Against the odds, the principal architects went down to defeat.

Under no circumstances may we under-rate theinternet and its potential to change the world.

Learning about disturbing government activity is by no means a negative.

Knowledge is power.

Four years ago the information would still have been behind the scenes.

Awareness is the beginning of change.

God Rest Ye Merry Ladies and Gentlemen

Further to "Transit Strike"

An e-mail provided the information about  foreign private enterprise being contracted by the region to operate transit service and the information about millions of dollars of profits being sent out of the country.

I  responded  and asked  for permission to publish  the e-mail  in my blog.

I received no response.

There could be two reasons;

1. The information might not be strictly accurate.

2. The information could be accurate but a union rep referring to it might be considered bargaining in bad faith.

Either way, if true, we still have a right to know and consider the implications.

I think it's more than likely true. Why else would the  Region NOT be a party to contract talks?

Why would the Regional Chair state intentions not to intervene in contract negotiations? How would it be intervention if the Region is a party to the contract?

I know of two transit systems involved. Maybe three. York Region Transit functions within the Region. Viva carries commuters beyond Region. Handicapped transit could also be a third operation.

York Region Transit was originally local. Viva was founded I think by an organisation appointed by the Province and funded by three separate levels of government.Management is at the Region. We have received presentations from the Region on both systems.

It makes sense, since there are three separate systems there would be three contracts.

Another question outstanding would be who waas responsible for contracting out the service to three separate companies, Foreign or otherwise?

Was Regional Council involved in that decision? Or did the Region delegate their authority to an organisation appointed by the Province? Or is Viva really not regional but provincial ?

Are regional councillors  quiet in the issue because, like the union, they too have been neutered by contracting out the service?

Is what appears to be public service, not public service at all? But private service with no profits generated from fares but straight from the public purse instead?

Is no-one accountable for service provided or withheld or costs therof.

What kind of a thrice bastardised hybrid is that???

Saturday 10 December 2011

Transit Strike

Weirdness  surrounds  this strike. The Banner had an editorial on  the subject. That's weird.

Mayors and Councils have received e-mails from passengers and union members. That's not weird.

The strike is seven weeks old and nobody  is at the table. Seems York Region  doesn't care much whether or not there is a service. Maybe their real intention is to fold it.

You gotta know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em
Know when to walk away and when to run

The Regional chairman says the region will not intervene. That's weird.

The service is regional. But the chairman thinks of regional involvement as "intervening"

I received an e-mail from a union member indicating York Region Transit is operated by private companies. Four. Foreign companies.

Profits are sent abroad.

Millions of dollars.

That can't be right. Right?

Not necessarily.

We know of regional transit and Viva.

We know the service is subsidized at a rate of four and a half dollars a fare.

The Region collects that from municipalities. Municipalities collect it from property owners.

It's hard enough to see regional transit trundling round our streets at all hours, like the headless horseman, a huge omnibus with driver obscured and no passengers. Then we fully understand how public funds are swallowed in great gulps.

But private companies do not contract to lose money. Profit is their reason for being.So,where does it come from?

Well bless your heart. From your pocket of course.

What kind of a Faustian deal did the Region make when they set up the transit system?

Was the sole objective to neuter union organisation? At whatever the cost?

Contracting out for least cost is a legitimate business plan.Low cost means less taxes or lower prices.

Except, how is it legitimate to subsidise transit fares by $4.50 each from public funds to while profits are generated for private companies?

How can it be legitimate to drain resources from our own economy to improve foreign economy.

What kind of twisted logic is that?

How does it serve?

Other than subsidy, residents depending on transit to get to and from work do not benefit from strikes.

Regional residents and business operators do not benefit from an excessive tax burden.

Country Canada does not benefit from resources draining out to foreign economies.

Without taking a position on whether or not union demands are reasonable,I think
resources are not all that has been funneled out of Canada.

I think we have exchanged principles of fairness in labour practice, the right to organize and negotiate in good faith, for the law of the jungle

Like many other phoney claims to excellence, the Region is big on Character Community.

Like it's something you can frame, hang on your office wall or use in a resume.

Like a brand.

Friday 9 December 2011

The Devil Didn't Make Us Do It

Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "Encumber...in Accounting Terms?":

Two wonderful answers to Evelyn's question clearly
reflecting the diversity of individuals reading her Blog.
You can pick whichever makes the most sense to you.
I'm partial to the Sesto reply. He doesn't treat people
like idiots and make them ashamed to ask questions.

It also reflects the diversity of  interest and resources  in  the community ready and willing to engage.

We  have ten year and  used to have a five year capital forecast and  numbers of reserve funds.

I just never heard them referred to as "encumbered" funds before. The Treasurer has raised the possibility of amalgamating  reserves into a single fund..

I do not profess to be an accountant or even a book-keeper.  Nor is the need acknowledged.

A Councillor needs  to be able to understand what they are hearing. If not,they need to ask and recognize  the difference between a sensible answer and baffle gab. They must have  the courage to resist when  answers  are inconsistent and unacceptable and vote a resounding no to a recommendation that makes no sense. 

We are not just a ring of pretty faces sitting around the table.

We have a serious purpose. We should be able to call a spade a spade and a consultant contract a boondoggle if that's how we see it.

It is what we were elected to do. 

It stands to reason, if a person does the  job long enough, a thing or two is learned in the process.

We are looking  at another  substantial increase in taxes.

I do not believe it can be justified.

It will do no good at all when taxpayers are angry, to argue that, the devil made me do it.

Encumber...in Accounting Terms?

Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "A little More Light On The Subject":

Does the Town of Aurora encumber their expenses? Is encumbrance accounting used at all in the Town


I don't know the answer to that.

I don't even know what it means.

A little more explanation is needed please.

A little More Light On The Subject

Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "It's A Novel Notion":

Just a couple of questions.

Was the design cost arrived at by the submission of tenders, or is it an estimate, pie in the sky or otherwise?

Is there any chance that the dollars spent on the design, to say nothing about the actual construction, have a chance of staying in town by using local contractors?

It would be nice to think that our residents might be benefiting somewhat from all of these various tax dollar expenditures.


Council had a recommendation before us at the general committee meeting to award the contract to a consultant for $94,000.

After discussion, three members voted against the recommendation. Five voted in favour.

The decision is not ratified until  the formal Council  meeting on Tuesday.

The actual sidewalk construction  estimate is $300,000. For both sides of Industrial Parkway from north to south.

Provincial regulations do not permit municipalities to give preference to local business.

Design of the roadway dictates the main elements of the sidewalk. Alignment is already set as are grades. A sidewalk is a metre and a half wide and three inches thick. That's a given.

 The construction contractor, who does the digging, is the party responsible for determining locations of underground utilities.

Water and sewer lines must be at least below the frost line which is four feet in these parts. So sidewalk comes nowhere close to utilities.

I don't know if the region retained consultants to design the concrete pads for the bus stops. It wouldn't surprise me considering  two billion dollars of debt they are carrying and the fact they are several levels removed from the people paying the bills.

There is another aspect to  this expenditure at this time. A contract  willalso be approved on Tuesday for a front end loader. I think the two items will be close to $300.000.

It's mid December. These expenditures were budgeted for 2011. The year is almost over. The projects are being squeezed in under the wire.

They were budgeted but not acquired in 2011.

The books are closed on December 31st. Money not spent  in the year budgeted, can't be spent until a new budget is approved.

It means if these two projects were not approved, actual spending for 2011 would be less by that amount. If re-budgeted in 2012, percentage increase in 2012 over actual spending in 2011 would be that much higher than stated.

A flurry of contracts have been awarded in the last few weeks. Including $440,000 for a software program for an asset management tracking system. We have managed fine without it until now and the full cost is not yet known.

These numbers in the final weeks of a fiscal year can really do a number on the appearance of percentage increases in a budget.

Few people are unaware of how governments race to spend money inthe days and weeks before the end of a fiscal year in order to get maximum increases in an upcoming year while distorting appearance of the annal increase.

Staff  initially projected 6.5 % increase for 2012. We had 1.5% increase in assessment growth. The real increase in spending is 8%. The Region's projected increase is  about 3%. That adds up to 11%

Take away all the  last minute expenditures  for goods and projects not required in 2011, the increase in 2012 spending is considerably higher than 6.5%

Education spending  has not increased for several years.The Treasurer sees that as more tax room allowed by the Province to municipalities.

I see it as encouragement to municipalities to keep taxes in check.

No doubt someone else would argue, things change and I should get with the program.

D'you know,gobbledigook does not change. It stays the same.

Nothing makes me angrier than someone not particularly sensible taking me for a fool.... or you either.

Thursday 8 December 2011

Accountability...The Theme Of This Post.

Stephanie took my mail box out of outlook express and replaced it with something better. I am in her hands. She knows more about computers than me.

 I know more about me. I like  familiar things . But I also do not wish to admit to a grand-daughter I can't do what she can do. I am doing it. It just  takes a bit of getting used to.

This morning I published a comment that was intended just for me. It can be deleted but I have to get  the post done first. If I don't write it while it's in my head, it has to be re-generated. Double the work.

I don't usually post comments critical of staff. There is one  this morning  suggesting  staff are responsible for  decisions. I published it because it's the theme of this  post

Staff do not decide. They  recommend.

During  Tuesday's  discussion on the award of a consultant contract for design of a sidewalk, the statement was made, too much work in the job for staff  and they do not have the time. Underground utilities are situated  under sidewalks. A lot of research  is needed to determine  locations

Underground  utilities are in the boulevard. It makes them easier to access. Each property is serviced  with sewer and water lines.  They cross under  the sidewalk.  They are sufficiently deep,  not to interfere with  placement of the sidewalk.

Construction  contractors are  responsible for determining  location of utilities.  They are the ones  doing the digging.

To get back to responsibility for decision making: Staff provide best professional advice.

Council makes  decisions.   Staff are accountable to council. Council is accountable to the electorate.

It is not in the least odd  I have a different perspective from other members of council

I make no apology. With forty-four years of experience twenty-five of it hands on. it would indeed be odd if I shared the same perspective.

Decision-making is collective. Listening  is a political imperative.

But that's not as simple as it sounds.

New councillors should  seek understanding about how the municipality functions
from staff.

Mayor Dawe takes every opportunity to express profound appreciation for the help and support he has received from the administration.

 It is  staff's job to provide information.

Difficulty  arises  with inexperience. When is it information? When does it cross the line and become heavy-handed influence.

Inexperience  in the Mayor's chair is a definite disadvantage . The role spelled out in the Municipal Act is to provide leadership and guidance. Humans have a natural tendency to look for and follow leadership.

In the last term we had a despot.Changes were made to suit the intent. This term the stage is set  but without malignant intent.

The Mayor clearly finds it to his liking.

Then there's ego. No shortage of that among politicians.

Council's function is the force that keeps public spending in check.

If counter-pressure  is not exerted.....Oh My God...millions of dollars  have been flushed and continuing to be flushed from  the town treasury.

I  have told much ...but not everything.

 Aurora's  town hall has become a mini-region . Identification with taxpayers is seriously lacking.

Time and resources  are  devoted more to  style than substance. 

I don't know if all councillors read my blog. Or if they do, do they also  read the comments.

My  dialogue with  readers  keeps me focused. The  logic is not obscure. Conclusions are  concurred..

Snarky sarcasm still  emanates from  the usual suspects. Less of late. They seldom challenge  solid  reasoning.

Council's decision to spend $94,000 for a consultant to design sidewalks is  inexcusable extravagance.

 It builds not a foot of sidewalk

Other departments construct such projects  without  benefit of  consultants..

A consultant has none of the  skills  experienced staff  have at their fingertips.

Information used by  consultants, they  have to get  from staff

Wednesday 7 December 2011

It's A Novel Notion

A poster asks if  comments made to this blog, critical and otherwise could be forwarded to the persons referred.

I'm not sure  they would be welcome. I have often thought comments I receive should really be going to Council at large to have an impact. It  would require the writer to identify him or herself.

I believe it is important for the Mayor and Council to know what people are saying. But I think it has to be direct communication.

I have a story this morning. It started yesterday or to be more precise  last year. Now it is unfolding.

It's about extension and gap filling of sidewalks in the town.

I brought the problem to the attention of Public works when I  got my scooter. Now there's  a map.

Last night  a recommendation was made  in committee to approve a consultant contract to design  sidewalks on both sides of  Industrial  Parkway at an estimated cost of $300,000. The  design  is to cost   $94,000.

Here's the deal.The town has a team of certified design technicians on the payroll

They are too busy to  design  sidewalks. There's a lot involved. Research to determine location of  underground utilities and such.

We just  awarded a contract for $440,000 or thereabouts to buy a software program to be able to track infrastructure assets on a computer. We already have them on excel spreadsheets.

Of course we have. You can't have stuff like gas lines underground without knowing where they are.

The region just laid twelve feet of concrete pads  at all the bus stops in town.  They are at least as deep and definitely wider than any sidewalk. They are for  bus passengers to stand on and not get their feet wet. The region it seems  had no trouble determining where underground utilities were before they slapped down the concrete.

It's not even their responsibility. They must have gotten the information from town records.

I do not accept  that tons of research is needed to know where underground utilities are.

I do not accept design technicians on the town's payroll for the purpose of designing, can be too busy to design sidewalks.

If that's not in their work program, I want to know exactly what is.


There can be nothing simpler than a sidewalk to design.

We farm out road designs to consultant contractors.

We spent $168.000 on a consultant to design a cockamamie treatment system to remove salt from snow when any elementary student knows salt and snow cannot exist together.

Where there is salt, there cannot be snow. Where there is snow,there cannot be salt.

When the vote  on the award of the sidewalk design contract, was taken last night, I think Councillor Thompson must have experienced a sense of  what it's like to be me
He had suggested to the director if the design technicians on the town's payroll are too busy to design sidewalks, a technician on contract could take care of the excess work load and design the sidewalks.

The director simply indicated he would not do that.

When the vote was taken and declared  to award the  contract  Councillor Thompson was sufficiently stunned to ask for it to be taken again.

Mayor Dawe, Councillors Abel, Pirrie, Gallo and Ballard voted  again to award the contract.

Councillor Gaertner was absent.

Do not ask me for an explanation of the majority vote. It is beyond comprehension

There was nothing, absolutely nothing in the director's rationale  that persuaded me to its  merit.

We are currently spending  thousands of dollars on another " system" to improve customer service to "our stakeholders".

It appears satisfactory answers to  questions from Councillors is not part of good customer service.

Elected representatives who ask questions and expect logical answers are clearly not the stakeholders they have in mind.

Then again, why should it matter when five other "stakeholders' are  on hand, who ask no questions and accept non-answers, an are clearly satisfied with the "customer service".

Councillor Thompson.Humphryes and myself did not accept the recommendation. I for one am a dis-satisfied "stakeholder".

The committee decision will be ratified in Council next Tuesday.

If nothing else like public indignation intervenes.


Tuesday 6 December 2011

I'm Up And Running Again

A friend brought  a keyboard that  functions. And Sae the Lord be thankit...it is compatible with my four years old software.

 I read the last post. It triggered  memories  of  Toronto computer scandal.

Millions of  dollars of computere programming was over-purchased while the  public servant  in charge  was  wined and dined and  transported and bedded by a computer salesperson; the brother of Ti Domi the hockey player.

A public inquiry costing the city $13 million  was commissioned by then new Mayor David Miller.

The result of which, the Province passed legislation giving  Municipalities  authority to pass whatever assupwards Codes of Conducts they chose to devise. With penalties yet. And appointments of Integrity Commissioners.

Then there was the six million dollar inquiry into Hazel McCallion's conduct in Mississuaga. That has resulted  in a Conflict of Interest charge being filed against the legendary iconic  leader.

All that money to call witnesses, swear them to tell the truth, days  and weeks and months bringing out  degrading evidence of greed and malfeasance.

I thought of  the Honorable Paul Martin,  Canadian Prime Minister, living  his father's dream. He  did the noble thing and ordered  an inquiry  into sponsorship scandals and personally paid the political price.

I am certainly glad I have a keyboard compatible with the software in my computer. 

Thank  You Friend

The Point Continues To Be Lost.

Two keyboards later, I have discovered new hardware is not compatible with four year old software. Now I understand what Stephanie, my grand-daughter says about planned obsolescence"

very interesting observations Councilor , sort of drives home your point about the needless software program the town is buying , only multiplied by hundreds of thousands, Hits home when you see it for yourself                          

Probably the most frustrating thing about being a councillor is feeling absolutely convinced  about something  and being the only one.

$440,000 of taxpayers' money was spent. Additional staff will  be added. Licences will need to be purchased. Hardware  needed in the field to gather information which has never been needed before nor will  be useful in the future.

Not a glimmer of doubt mars the cheerful friendly faces around me.

Neither  a trace nor a scintilla....Zilch...Zero....Nil and Nada.

Last night during the planning presentation, new software was noted  to replace old software. New licences  for the employees.

Still the connection wasn't  made.

The budget process continues.... as in a state of somnambulance.

Each  director  makes a presentation and circulates a hard copy. Councillors gaze transfixed at the monitors while presentations proceed one after the other.

As each is completed, the Mayor calls for GENERAL, stressed general,  comments or questions. Then pages of details are contemplated.

A resolution already prepared is on the page before us.

"Move the presentation be received" and

"Move the budget be approved as is".

And so it comes to pass.

I am finding this lap top computer screen hard on my eyes. I just discovered, if I push the monitor back. the print is not so light  but it is still very small.

Tonight's agenda has a recommendation to award yet another contract to a consultant for $94,000, for extension of side-walks on the industrial parkway

Side-walks are a simple construct.

Recommendation is we spend $94,000 on consultants to design the sidewalks.

Not an inch will be built for that money.

Just sheets and sheets of paper will be produced covered with lines and figures.

Nothing that couldn't be taken ready made  from a shelf.

Nothing that couldn't be done by certified technicians  already on the payroll.

Who cannot now at the end of the construction season, be overwhelmed by work in progress.

Council may sleepwalk their way through that approval process also, under the kind and steady guiding hand of our Mayor.

Then wind their way home....to sleep....perchance to dream.... with visions of sugar plums dancing in their heads.

At peace with the world.

Confident of a job well done.

Monday 5 December 2011

Sic a Wee Thing

I'm writing this on a lap top.  Since the last time we talked I have been on a round of discovery. I have accomplished nothing.

The keyboard of my former system  has been determined to be kerplunk.The computer is not. I receive comments  and e-mails. I can publish or delete comments. I cannot acknowledge or respond to e-mails. Nor can I post a blog.

I have visited John who spent half an hour with me showing all the wonderful things an Apple lap top  does   ninety per cent of which I am unlikely to do.

It is a beautiful machine that does magical things but well beyond my means.

Two keyboards later, I have discovered new hardware is not compatible with four year old software. Now I understand what Stephanie, my grand-daughter says about planned obsolescence.

To buy new software to be compatible with a thirty dollar keyboard is more expensive than to buy a new laptop.

So ... before I spend $500, or thereabouts of scarce resources, the hunt is on in various satellite homes of my family for an old but functioning keyboard which may be compatible with the 2007 software in my computer

Which by the way, four and a half years ago cost $1,750.

My grand-daughter Stephanie is here with me this morning. Ready to respond to my shouts of frustration and reassure me it will take only a little time to get used to the laptop keyboard.

But the screen is small. The type is minute. The keyboard is somewhat similar but sufficiently different to keep my shoulders tense.

There's another budget meeting to-night. It will be conducted by the Mayor along the same lines as the last. Council will be efficiently manipulated into approving everything as presented.

From where I sit, the Mayor has melded seamlessly with the administration.

So, the administration has added a voice to their side.

Council on the other hand has lost the essential voice of leadership on theirs.

If I say that out loud everyone will go berserk and  bend over backwards to assure staff of the wonderful job they are doing, without taking in what I am saying.

The administration has a role. They wrack up expenditures.

 They are accountable to the elected body.

Council determines validity and affordability of expenditures proposed.

 They are accountable to the people who elected them.

In the public sector, separation of the roles is essential.

When a  Mayor melds with the administration , we have a private sector format.

The administration is ecstatic.

The public interest is not in any sense served.

Thursday 1 December 2011

Computer... Tab 1

I got up this morning not knowing if I would be able to post. Last night the computer was not doing anything  it was supposed to. When that happens all sorts of things get moved about. Buttons pressed with apprehension that  I know nothing about. The final desperate and only solution possible was to turn the damned thing off and let it rest.

So I lay in bed this morning with a post churning in my head and contemplated  having to  buy  a new machine. Possibly a lap top. Probably an Apple.Wondering what it would take to transfer everything stored. What  would an Apple cost. How long would it take to get used to a lap top.And would I????

 I finally decided I had to beard the lion in his den and got up.

I  pressed the on button.

The blue light came on. The tower did not purr.  The screen remained dark. The monitor,  turned  on its side last night was again turned  on its side. A plug was out. The wire was taut. Caught somewhere .

The desk wouldn't jiggle  because of weight. So nothing did nothing to loosen  the taut  wire.

Finally  the plug  was back into its socket. Screen still dark. Buttons on the side. Daughter had warned not to touch. Grand-daughter messed around with them plenty.

This morning I gazed at them long enough to decipher  words.

AHA ....One said power. Another said plus and another minus. Pressed power, then plus for good measure.

Lo and behold... not only did the screen light up,letters are larger and  they seem darker. That's something else I have wished for some time.

Last night  I gazed at  the non-responsive screen  and calmly contemplated the satisfaction of attacking it with my cane. The one with the heavy metal handle.

I silently warned, brain to brain.... your future is at risk.

This morning computer with  slightly tardy keys is once again my best friend and advocate.

If not exactly the  most trusted.

Now I can have my coffee and try to recover the post that was already written in my head before I opened my eyes this morning.

Wednesday 30 November 2011

Why Oh WHY

Anonymous Anonymous said...
Why do you constantly refer to politics as a "Game". A game tells me that it is a hobby or recreation or a distraction. If you were serious about politics, you would consider it your job and not a game.
30 November, 2011 8:38 AM
Why do you constantly read my blog and suggest  meaning that is not there ?
And why do you still, after all these years and all  evidence to the contrary, continue to argue  I am not  absolutely  as serious about representing my community as they are about having me represent them?

It Was Indeed A Stylish Affair

I was an invited guest at a town hall  last night.  Awards were being presented. I was aware  the date of the  annual event had been changed but little else.

Councillors normally have a role role in the program  and are informed beforehand.

I wasn't paying much attention so I didn't think of it until I got to the town hall.

I was greeted as a stranger by strangers in  theatrical costumes . Councillor Humphryes was by the  Chamber door, clearly in an official capacity. The Mayor was there as well, in  white tie and tails.

As I encountered various councillors, I asked if they knew  anything about the program. Councillor Abel said he had attended a dress rehearsal in the morning. Well, I thought, that's new. What else don't I know?

Councillor Gallo didn't know any more than I didn't know. I kept going  and found Councillor Ballard who was also as much in the dark as myself.

Finally I encountered  Rick, the smiling face behind the reception desk in the evening, who prepares the council chamber for meetings, tidies up afterwards and takes care of security. He was busy with preparations but he went off to inquire. He came back and said  councillors should  find seats in the gallery.

Programs were handed out. The audience was smaller than  usual.  The chamber floor  was  set up differently with red carpet and all.

The event proceeded.  Only volunteer awards were  presented.

Videos were shown  on the two screens at the back of the chamber.

Nominators  gave  the background for  winning  nominees.  It was very nice.

It became obvious  the audience was made up of  winners and other nominees. The Mayor commended the organizing committee of  communications division staff , chaired by Councillor Humphreys.

Finally it dawned on me. The event was by invitation.I was an invitee.

It was a very nice  affair but  something about it didn't sit right.

Later I  expressed  as much  to Theresa, my daughter.  It  was a public event in a public place.  It should not have been by  invitation.

"Things change, mother" she responded archly.

No, I thought. Some things do not change.

But  conscious of my  super critical bent that must be kept in check. I said no more and  sat down  to watch  television. 

When I wakened later,  I was no  longer in  doubt.

The town hall and town resources can not be used that way.

Either the people who pay for the whole shebang get to attend  or there can be no shebang

It will not be me who tells  the community, awards were presented in their name, in their town hall   organized by staff on their payroll  and they were not welcome at the party.

Doing it while planning to increase taxes adds insult to injury.

Tuesday 29 November 2011

What Price Influence?

Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "Keep The Record Straight":

How is it that someone as dedicated as you are (politics is your life), someone who is as knowledgeable as you are, and someone who is as clever as you are, has so little influence, regardless of who is on council?


And the sting is in the scorpion's tail.

Supposing my life is dedicated to politics as the game is  played.  And not to the community that chose me to represent them.

Supposing I am as knowledgeable as you say.

And  as clever as you claim.

What does  it take to be as influential as you think I am not?

How difficult  can it be?

The last council thought they had the secret. They gave and gave and gave.  No matter how outrageously selfish and shameful  the demand....  council gave what was not theirs to give.

More often that not mine was the only opposing vote.  Solitary status  held out to prove my lack of relevance and how little influence I had  in the scheme of things.

What is the scheme of things? Where lies the  influence?

Is it with  a bunch of toothless tigers seated at the table for a single term in office?

Or is it twelve thousand, full red of tooth and claw,  who move things about a bit  every four years.to better fit the scheme they have in mind?