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

Monday 31 January 2011

About Ratepayer's Associations

Anonymous has left a new comment on my post "H.E.A.T.":

"The neighborhood has an interest in the Promenade Plan. They will need to speak with one voice. Town policy requires an association to be formed to speak for a neighbourhood. The association will be needed as we go forward."

Is this in fact a policy, bylaw, tradition or the way it been done for years?

Seems to me that it's a cart and horse thing. If you demand that a neighbourhood must be represented by an association before council will listen, you invite the confrontational names (ie. HEAT or SWAT).


It has been a policy for years. If council is to consider a presentation is being made on behalf of a neighbourhood,there must be documentation to indicate it is so. Logical means for that is to form an association. I believe provincial regulations require it to be registered. A constitution and election of officers are essential to the process.

It wouldn't stop an individual from making a presentation and claiming his/her views represent the neighbourhood. Claiming it doesn't make it so.

Having an association doesn't prove everybody in the neighborhood thinks the same. A majority vote at an association meeting would simply indicate it is the view of the majority.

Even then, it's only a majority of the people present.The neighbours who do not agree with the objective may not choose to join the association. May not even know it exists. The association may be made up of a group with a single objective and not be welcoming to people who do not share their intent.

The group determined that Wells Street School be kept open would not likely have members within who didn't agree with the objective.

A Ratepayers Association might only come into being for the purpose of pursuing a single objective. Naturally, the members would all be of one mind. The association might never be active again once the issue has been decided.

Confrontational names are not invited by the town. People who choose the acronym have to take responsibility for that.

H.E.A.T. is coming to a Council budget meeting to-night to convince the town to put money in the budget for a consultant study to make their neighbourhood a Heritage Neighbourhood.

Somebody made a comment about my being out of the loop in relation to the Culture Centre board of management. It is a correct statement. We own the building. We pay
the maintenance. We provide half a million dollars, inclusive of maintenance out of the town levy. That's two points on the tax bill. But we who are accountable have no influence whatsoever on how it is spent. Apart from the maintenance.

We just hand over the money out of the public purse and sing Hallelujah.You don't even have to purchase your own culture any more. Your municipality will provide it for you.
Now you will all be so much more cultured than you were before. It's a new age in Aurora.

Saturday 29 January 2011

Question on ...... A Bit Of Light

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

I'm confused by this post in many ways, so I'll just pick one part:
you were somewhat supportive of Michael Seaman when he was the Heritage Planner, so has the responsibilities of this position changed since his time? Did something happen in the big re-org?


I am not aware of any change. Michael Seaman left and was replaced. Our current Heritage Planner reported to Council on an application in December.

The application related to an addition to a house on Larmonts Street with a heritage designation. I took the position the application was more efficiently processed due to circuitous route of reporting to the heritage advisory committee being removed. The committee is not currently in place.

If we are concerned about customer service, I suggested, a more speedy process must be seen to be better customer service.

If on the other hand, we are more concerned about providing opportunities for non-elected residents to be involved, then we are not concerned about efficient service to residents whose property rights are subject to heritage legislation.

I tend to favour efficient processing. However if a heritage group can contribute, outside the formal process of approving applications,I would be in support.

The post was an answer to former Councillor Bob McRoberts whose family is one of the oldest in Aurora and who has a deep commitment to the town's history.I think we will probably be looking for ways to satisfy the need for efficiency and for dedicated history buffs to make a meaningful contribution.


Council were informed yesterday of a new Ratepayer's Association in town;
Heritage East Aurora Taxpayers. It's the old area of town from Wellington, the railroad, Yonge and I don't know where in the south.

Susan Morton Leonard is co-chair. Ms. Morton Leonard is a board member of the Aurora Culture Centre which hi-jacked our museum. Also a good friend and supporter of Mormac and the St Kitts woman.

The neighborhood has an interest in the Promenade Plan. They will need to speak with one voice. Town policy requires an association to be formed to speak for a neighbourhood. The association will be needed as we go forward.

But what about the name. H.E.A.T. Why start out with swords and shields. Why not assume your new council will welcome involvement from the neighbourhood and put our collective heads together to resolve clearly recognised problems.

Like helping to restore our museum to its rightful place in the Church Street School Heritage Centre.

Friday 28 January 2011

An Answer

Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "I Agree With The Comment":

1) the day it happened blair and ford did speak about it via press conferences

2)that day many media reports and articles i have read since indicated he was not in pursuit of the suspect, rather, because they were tracking the truck via its GPS system, they had setup numerous blockades...sadly, the truck driver rammed the blockade that Sgt. Ryan Russells car was in (he was standing outside of it).

3)I know you have a desire to know the facts and all the details, but our legal system and the accused are the priority there.


Thank You

I do need to know why. I feel the same way about the ending of a policeman's life, as a firefighter, a soldier, or a seventeen year old on an unsafe scaffold
washing windows of a high rise building, or a person out of his mind and behaving irrationaly.

One way or another, we are all destined to die. Senseless death infuriates me.
Sometimes a death reported in the news doesn't even warrant the person's name.

Every life is precious.

When I was on the Social Assistance Review Board, I sometimes found myself in a rickety-rattly little plane looking down on thousands of miles of snow-covered wilderness. I'd think of snippets of news about a small plane vanishing with seven or whatever number, government officials on board. No names. Just nameless government officials.

I thought of my children at home and having to choose between being safe at home with them and providing for them.

I don't believe any man applies to be a police officer believing their lives will be at risk. It should not be expected of them.It should not be a sacrifice the community expects.

A Bit Of Light On The Subject

It has been suggested an e-mail circulated by myself to all councillors that took a one and a half hours to write must be discussing town business by e-mail and that would be inappropriate. I am providing said e-mail for readers to judge.

Good Morning Bob,

The Mayor has circulated your e-mail to council along with John McIntyre's comments about the time citizens have been involved in the town's heritage.

Indeed it goes back farther.

Les Oliver almost single-handed carried the torch in the early years of my involvement. Before that, Les's father 's hobby had been to create a photographic record of every elderly structure in Aurora,leaving Les a rich volume of streets and buildings.

I was the Council member on the first L.A.C.A.C.when the work of local heritage buffs was first recognised by the provincial government.

Council is going to review advisory committees and I'm sure input will be welcome. We have an enthusiastic council. Everyone is looking forward to knowing every part of the town's business.

At this point, I have only one firm position on committees. The Municipal Act permits Council to appoint citizens to advise. The committees must have a greater number of elected members than non-elected.Since the elected are the only ones accountable for decisions made I believe the Act is sound. I do not understand how the town went off base in this regard.

I also do not favour large committees.

John McIntyre is right. Staff cannot always handle the work load. Since Jackie Stewart retired and was no longer the main source for research as well as being the curator and providing an excellent and meaningful museum program for the community,a full-time permanent heritage planner has been  added to planning staff complement. We also retain consultants to carry out such as the North-east Heritage Neighbourhood Study.

The town has never neglected it's heritage. Awards and accolades are well-deserved by the community. Without community support none of it would have been possible.

I have heard from a great number of people in support of my determination to restore the museum to its rightful place. With the exception of yourself, I have received no expressions of support from members of the former Heritage Advisory Committee. I've long thought John McIntyre's interest was confined to his own immediate neighbourhood.John is an elitist.

Bob, I am writing this long epistle for the benefit of my colleagues. There is never enough time to fill in on history. There are nine councillors and nobody has a right to monopolise the time that's available.

I think it's a good thing to review how we are doing things. I think the best time is when a new council is elected.

The town's administration has an interest in how advisory committees function.

When Jackie was curator of the museum,theoretically she was employed by the historical society. The town paid a good part of the salary with a $50K annual grant and made it possible to provide benefits by being part of staff complement. When Jackie was asked for research assistance by the planning deparment, the service was willingly provided. It was an informal but odd arrangement that worked very well.

Now we have a heritage planner,an employee of the town, not subject in any way to direction from an advisory committee. It is an area of potential conflict that needs to be sorted out and not only with the Heritage Committee.

So,things have changed over the years and it's time to look again at the way we're doing it and make sure it's right.

I have no doubt there will be an opportunity for input .That's another thing that makes Aurora different.

Patience, Mon Ami


Have a great day. It will not come again.

I Agree With The Comment

Anonymous has left a new comment on my post "Why Did The Sergeant Die?":

I believe that the whole tragedy is a very powerful statement about the condition of services and support for those with mental health conditions. As someone who has struggled with severe depression and has had to access mental health services, they are disgracefully underfunded and under-resourced.
I think it is a statement about how little we care about those who suffer from metal health conditions and how the stigma associated with them is still overwhelming.


My mind dwells on unfinished stories. I have yet to see a rational explanation for why Sergeant Ryan Russell lay dead on the ground.

I do not understand why, if he was chasing the snow plow, his police car would have been rammed resulting in his death.

Additional police cars arrived on the scene, rammed the snow plow and stopped the rampage.

The driver jumped out and ran away in his bare feet, Why was it necessary for the officers to unholster guns and shoot him?

There were no witnesses. People reported hearing shots.Pop Pop Pop

Why did theft of a snow plow, and a driving rampage,warrant shooting? Even if there was justification,a hail of bullets from several guns, no matter how skilled the shooters, are not in the interest of public safety.

Why is a person with authority to obtain the answers not asking the question?

Thursday 27 January 2011

A Not So Funny Commedy of Errors

If the Code of Conduct had been crafted with the intent to apply to anyone, other than yourself, we would already have enough violations for about 4 complaints by my reckoning. The Tunaman still feeds at the trough until February 20, maybe he should earn his daily bread.



Violations to that Code were legion after it was adopted.

I never chose to file a complaint because I was opposed to a Code of Conduct. I did not vote for it because I do not agree with giving politicians a club to beat each other at taxpayers expense. It was never intended for any other purpose.

What kind of insanity is that? My God, I hate the righteous crap provided as an excuse for every bad public policy. It is such blatant hypocrisy on the part of everyone connected to it.When Aurora adopted it,there were only about four municipalities in the province with a Code of Conduct. Bow they seem to be flocking to it like sheep to slaughter.

Also the Commissioners fee was a retainer.An invoice would be received for time spent investigating complaints over and above the fee at an hourly legal rate.

Someone else asked if Tunaman was paid for the complaint he recused himself from.

The contract, allowed delegation to another. The agreement set a top limit of $60K for twelve months.By the time he finishes he will have been paid at least $40Ks. That's what MacEachern's complaints cost the taxpayers.

The complaint delegated was withdrawn six weeks after it was filed.

The real irony is that we provided a twelve month contract four months before a
four month moratorium was placed on complaints and a new council taking office.

August 1st was when notice of termination should have been given. Former Councillor MacEachern argued the moratorium could be spent reviewing the Code of Conduct. As usual,that's what happened.

Dec 1st was the next opportunity we missed. January 1st was the next chance we missed.

Tunaman had not delivered decisions on her complaints until after the moratorium
began.The last complaint was received on July 31st. The oerson complained about? Me again.

The first one to the first Integrity Commissioner was also withdrawn. It was from Sher St Kitts, another special friend of the former Mayor. Yes,you guessed it. I was the complained-about there too.

I am paying a high price for having been a Councillor in the Town of Aurora.

No Post Yesterday

I spent half the day yesterday responding to a flurry of e-mails that arrived before Tuesday's Council meeting. Residents of the Hartwell Way area were upset the decision made by the last Council, on the eve of the election, that the street not be completed as planned, was reversed.

It's easy to say purchasers should ask the right questions before they buy homes. Many do. Others just accept what they are told by a real estate agent.
I know I did.

So, because I understand their dis-appointment, I sent each an e-mail to explain why the alignment could not be changed. It was set years before their lots were created. It is the determining factor of where the lots will be.No subdivison is planned in isolation. Roads alignments are the route for water and sewers and land contours are the determining factor for both. Dead end roads are verboten.

Keyhole courts are the safest place for children. But no roads are safe. Environmental sensitivity is paramount in planning.If valley land has to be crossed by a road, for best practise that's how it has to be.Rivers are crossed. Ravines are crossed. Valley lands must sometimes also be crossed.

The previous Council were or should have been aaware of all the factors and the region's authority. The decision to end the road where it sits was neither practical nor possible. It was political. It's the reason Councils suspend operations during an election campaign

No doubt, the residents are not consoled. But I thought,in a little while it might help them to accept it. If they decide to sell their homes for a different location, they will be a little wiser second time around.

That's why I didn't post yesterday.

Susan Walmer came back again as a delegation on Tuesday. This time she wasn't lambasting Council and staff for undoing all the good work of the previous council. Instead she requested Council delay a decision to give the residents and developer to sit down and possibly settle their "differences" and perhaps prevent an O.M.B. hearing.It was a change in tune.

On Tuesday we dealt with half the items we didn't get done at the previous meeting.
We will deal with the other half at the next meeting.

We still didn't finish until almost midnight.But at least we got some stuff done.

Councillor Gaertner's constant quest for clarification and repeat profession of not understanding the clarification requested, no matter how many times it's repeated and re-phrased to assist her understanding, is something of a trial.

It is not in accordance with any Rules of Order I am familiar with.

A Terrible Tale of Perverted Loyalty...and Intrigue

A public planning meeting held last night had one item on the agenda; a re-zoning application for a house on Wellington Street to be used as an office.

A policy was struck by the town almost fifty years ago, to encourage adaptive re-use of fine old homes and maintain the old town's heritage intact. It was before L.A.C.A.C. Long,long before the Heritage Advisory Committee and newcomers who now claim credit for protecting the town's heritage as if it has just been discovered.

Some days,it irritates, other days it irritates more.

In the latter circumstance,I am inclined to mischief. Last night was one of those.

The application was a simple affair but we had to go through the hoops.

Councillor Gaertner has been ill-tempered since the election when her idol was defeated. Being re-elected has not been a solace to her.She continues to grieve.

Former Councillor MacEachern is the star in Wendy's universe.Councillor Gaertner is nothing if not blindly loyal to her idol.

So last night the Promenade Study so beloved of Mormac,,had to be referred on the re-zoning.

I have something to say about most issues.Sometimes nothing needs to be said. But if talk starts and meanders aimlessly and endlessly,I am quite likely to explode and say something which contributes absolutely nothing to the debate. I have never claimed to be perfect.

Except for Councillor Ballard and occasionally Councillor Gallo. I don't think there's a Councillor at the table who doesn't want to push Wendy down and sit on her at recess.

She on the other hand, appears to be sublimely indifferent.

The latest gaffe has had a significant impact.

After the off-site orientation ,alright as far as it went but not as fine as the Mayor said, Councillor Ballard, who did not attend, sent an e-mail to the Mayor with questions and assertions to which the Mayor responded politely with some of his own... assertions that is.

Councillor Gaertner joined the e-mail discussion. She forwarded a suggestion to Councillor Ballard about how to use the Mayor's e-mail response for implied nefarious purpose. Unfortunately for Winsome Wendy, she clicked on Reply instead of Forward and the e-mail went astray.

At first blush,it was quizzical, then hilarious,then astounding and horrific.

Councillor Gaertner had copied her response to Councillor Galahad to the Dreadful Duo, MacEachern and Morris.

So now we think we know what was always suspected. The Terrible Twins waiting in the wings are in Councillor Gaertner's confidence every step of the way.

What to do ....What to do ....

Judgment can be learned. It cannot be taught.

A Councillor either has it or not.

Tuesday 25 January 2011

Why Did The Sergeant Die?

I watched part of Steve Paikin's program “The Agenda” .last night. The topic was the funeral of Police Sergeant Russel of the Toronto Dept. The question “ was the funeral excessive.”?

I listened for a bit. Not because the question was relevant. I wanted to see if they would discuss why a young man of thirty-two years of age, with a wife and a two year-old son was dead. How did it happen?

Didn't sound like they were going to touch on it so I turned to something else.

It's been more than a week now. I still haven't heard anyone, not the Mayor,,not the Police Chief, not the media talk about why?

They had the usual things to say about the hazards and heroism of a being a policeman, how much
society owes them . Seventeen thousand people turned out to pay their respects, Probably very impressive in their uniformed strength.

Every media outlet on the boob tube had something to say about the tragedy.

But nobody asked why.

We know something about the individual charged with first degree murder because the sergeant was a police officer.

We are told he is a homeless man. Had been staying in a shelter. He was out on the street in his bare feet in a deep freeze in the middle of the night and came across an unattended snow plow idling in a parking lot.

He apparently jumped into it and careened down the street smashing into parked vehicles
like a crazed individual.

We know he was unemployed . Had lost a wife and family. Had taken a government sponsored
training course to drive heavy trucks and equipment like snow plows We know he failed
the driving course. He did not have the ability.

Now he is in hospital in critical condition with bullet wounds. Seems he was shot at by several officers. . But not Sergeant Russell . Sergeant Russell was dead.

They say the Sergeant was run over by the snow plow. They say he was running after the snow plow. They say the snow plow was stopped by being hemmed in by more than one police car
Then the bullets started to fly..

They don't say how Sergeant Russell was run over by a snow plow he was chasing..

It seems no-one saw it happen. And nobody talks about why a young man of thirty-two years old had to die, leaving a young wife and a two year old son and a heart-broken family.

A pitiful crazed individual ,out in the middle of the night. from a men's homeless shelter,in his bare feet in sub zero temperatures jumped into an idling snow plow and careened down the street smashing into parked vehicles.

He is charged with first degree murder because the person he is said to have killed is a police officer.

If he dies at the hands of the police ,there will be a Special Investigative Unit inquiry to determine how that happened...

Maybe then we will discover how Sergeant Russel came to be run over by a snow plow he was chasing.

Monday 24 January 2011

White Queen And Her Travails

Anonymous has left a new comment on my post "A Shambles":

I have 2 comments:
The first is in response to your quote,
"One delegate spoke of having to rise at five in the morning to have his child at swim practice at six."
So? That's what hockey kids and parents do all the time and kids in soccer play late at night sometimes. It's all about the number of hours in a day. I fail to see that swimmers are any different from other kids enrolled in their chosen sport.
Secondly, with respect to the following quote, I have a question:
No support there for town policies or the director responsible for upholding them. Quite the opposite.

"Clause 4 of the Code of Conduct provides a principle for elected representatives to follow in their relations with town staff."
Isn't this the very same crime that you were accused of and found guilty by the former mayor and a bunch of councillors including Gaertner? You were hung, drawn and quartered in front of the so-called Integrity Commissioner at huge expense to taxpayers, I might add.
Hypocrisy, hypocrisy, hypocrisy! ........ She obviously hasn't learned a damn thing from everything that has happened over the last few months.
She and a few others in the previous council always did give staff a difficult time but the difference is they got away with it.
My hope for this term is waning fast.

I removed a phrase from this comment. It's a quote from Alice in Wonderland.
In our current Wunderland it would undoubtedly be complained about as a threat of bodily harm.

As to your second point. The Integrity Commissioner who received that complaint
did deliver a decision. It was not to their liking so they stripped him of his authority in true Kafkaesque fashion.

Off with his head!!! Off with his head!!!

But you are right; from start to finish,the effort was a huge expense.

Say no more! Say no more! Nudge Nudge! Wink Wink!

A Story About Relations

I have one, prompted in part by Chris Watt's recent post about things done by last council that need to be reviewed by the current council. And undone.

In part also by my own reference last week to Clause 4 of the Code of Conduct which refers to Council/Staff relations;the need for councillors to acknowledge and respect the role of staff.

I know of no written policy for staff to acknowledge and respect the role of a councillor. To be honest,I never before experienced the need.

Where does a councillor complain when staff overstep the mark into the political arena? What role for an integrity commissioner in that situation?

Staff are being asked to review the Code of Conduct for Councillors.


Why would any self-respecting councillor ask staff how to conduct themselves in political office? Do we not present themselves for who we are, when we ask to be elected?

Does the person who marks a ballot endorsing an individual,not do so with hope and trust,that's the one, with all his faults and failings?

Is a person successful in election,expected to become someone else's idea of what he/she should be in office?

Which brings me to the story:

Last year during the World Cup Soccer Tournament in South Africa, a board appeared on the road allowance serving the Highland Soccer Club advertising the facilities.

It is a five acre parcel of land provided free of any charge by the town. There's an agreement that states the club cannot use the facility for profit.The obvious logic is the club cant compete with business in the community.

The board advertised to the passing trade of a liquor license and wide screen television and extended an invitation to the public to enjoy the facilities.

I waited a week for staff to do their job and inform the club they were in violation of their agreement. It didn't happen.

Then I did what a conscientious councillor is supposed to do. I drew the administration's attention to the issue for staff to ensure terms of the agreement were observed.

I dealt with the issue without politicising.

The next council agenda included a report updating the soccer club's lease.

Seated opposite me in the council chamber,in the back row were a dozen burly soccer players,arms folded,eyes fixed upon me as if daring me to speak.

The former Mayor wore a grin like a Cheshire cat, obviously pleased with the success of her scheme.

It did not work out quite how it was supposed to. I gave an account of myself.

The point is,the line was crossed to put me in that position.

That they did is not in doubt.

It was no coincidence the agreement appeared on the agenda. Any more than it was coincidence for twelve soccer players to arraign themselves opposite me in the council chamber. It was a clear attempt to intimidate.

They must have been recent arrivals in town.

Successful operation of a municipality relies on clear understanding between council and administration of separate roles and responsibilities.

A staff person who crosses the line into the political arena takes a needless

The pattern was set in the last term. It's something else that needs to change if we are not to bog down in its morass all over again.

Sunday 23 January 2011

A Shambles

Town business got short shrift last Tuesday Two items were discussed in depth and ended in a tie vote, which is a non-decision.

Of the two that went behind closed doors at midnight,only one was decided. At one in the morning, we were too tired to make a decision on the remaining matter.

We never got to "new business" where notices of motion are given of items to bring forward for action.

I called a number of items for discussion at the start of the meeting but they had to be referred to the next meeting because not enough time was left after all the time taken by Selkies and Walmer delegations

Selkies swim club got on the agenda for a second time to make the same pitch from a different angle and it stretched out substantially with the help of Councillor Gaertner.

An exchange related to the Selkies item proved revealing.

The Selkies owner got on to the agenda of the previous meeting with the help of Councillor Ballard. Accusations were made against the Director of Leisure Services of unfair and unequal treatment. He was directed to provide a report on the history of negotiations with Selkies and a proposed pool allocation policy. (It was the idea of former Councillor MacEachern with silent back-up from the former Mayor)

At the previous meeting, dates of meetings with Selkies owner were demanded. Like he was telling lies and needed to produce the evidence.

He did provide the dates. Apparently they were overlooked in the reading by Councillor Gaertner. Councillor Ballard e-mailed Mr. Downey and pointed out dates were not provided.

Ballard's attention was drawn to the pages. Councillor Ballard apologised to Mr. Downey.

Councillor Gaertner later audibly apologised to Councillor Ballard in the closed meeting stating she had not read the report properly.

In the public meeting, Councillor Gaertner requested Mr. Downey make his presentation first. So Selkies owner could respond . When that didn't happen she wanted Selkies to have a second round to refute the Downey report.

The procedure bylaw allows delegates five minutes. Councillors may ask a question for clarification. No debate is permitted between council and delegate.

I asked Selkies delegate if he and other club members were aware of an offer of hours at Aurora Leisure complex,refused by the owner. He said no. Owner sneaked up behind him and he added owner was also unaware of the offer.

Downey was asked to name the dates. He did. And particulars of hours offered.

Councillor Gaertner said. "No wonder she refused those hours, kids are in school"

Seats in the chamber were filled with little swimmers and parents no doubt encouraged to attend in support of "fair and equal treatment"

That is not what they saw.

One delegate spoke of having to rise at five in the morning to have his child at swim practice at six.

Downey reported the facility was opened earlier to provide additional hours.

The owner of Selkies is not much interested in anything but getting what she wants, whoever has to be pushed out of the way to get it. Fudging facts and making unfounded accusations and allegations against a public servant or anyone else who gets in her way is apparently all part of the game plan.

Councillor Gaertner is clearly in her corner just as the Dreadful Duo always were before.

No support there for town policies or the director responsible for upholding them. Quite the opposite.

Clause 4 of the Code of Conduct provides a principle for elected representatives to follow in their relations with town staff.

It calls for Councillors to read and understand the Code.

Well that's a joke!

If Councillor Gaertner ever read the Code, Clause 4 was no doubt overlooked same as dates in the Director's report.

This and That

A poster comments:

With respect.... how have you come to the $500k cost figure? I hate it when numbers are pulled form thin air - what is the background of this cost?
One can never know for sure what an O.M.B. hearing will cost. Staff notes five weeks have been set aside for the appeal. I asked the external lawyer prior to the Westhill Hearing,the cost of a regular appeal. He said an average hearing would be $250K. Five weeks is twice the average.

That cost didn't include five times we went to the board and court in futile attempts to obtain a consolidated board hearing. To obtain a decision which apparently could have been determined before all that money was poured down the drain.The Board never did have authority to grant a consolidated board hearing.

We forked over hundreds of thousands to chase a will o' the wisp on the recommendation of the environmental lawyer first hired by opposing neighbours and then taken on as part of "our team" to fight the OMB Hearing after the neighbours decided they didn't want to spend any more of their money.

The half million I project is only the town's share. It doesn't include the property owners' expense.

Another poster claims I am selectively overlooking that the owner had to be stopped from moving soil about on his property. People often do stuff that bylaws prohibit. It's why we have the expense of a bylaw department.

It doesn't remove his right under the Planning Act to file an application and appeal to the OMB,if the town refuses it.

It will not improve our chances at the Board in the face of the town's planning advice, that the application is deficient in only two aspects and more than meets requirements in all others and we should accept the Board-ordered mediation route which permits neighbours to participate in the process.

Ms Walmer contends we should pay no attention to the planner's advice because the application contravenes all of the town's planning requirements.

It's not hard to decide whose advice to accept. We can also add the cost of the planning department,to the cost of an OMB hearing.

If the Board makes a decision in favour of the applicant,all those opposed can scream in unison with Ms.Walmer about the lack of integrity and competence of the Municipal Board,along with the Board of Education,Council,the town's planning
department and all and sundry other institution who dare to offer a different
perspective to Ms Walmer.

The lady has never chosen to put her name on a ballot. It has not stopped her from regularly presenting as a person with authority to speak for the community and ever ready to excoriate those who have that responsibility.

As noted in another comment,the law provides Ms. Walmer and all the rest of us with that right. It does not protect her or any elected representative from encountering opposition just as strongly expressed.

Someone else asked where is Elderberry Hills? It is near the south end of town on the west side of Yonge Street, The original proposal to develop the Elder horse farm had some very ambitious ideas for the Yonge Street frontage we are now discussing forty years later.

A hotel, an equestrian centre, riding trails were part of the original vision. If I had my druthers, the land would still be a horse farm.

Saturday 22 January 2011

Portrait Of An Urban Organiser

Legendary organizing skills of Ms. Walmer may be wearing thin. Only five e-mails were received since Tuesday. Opposition is to a development proposal on Yonge Street frontage east of the Elderberry Hills subdivision.

Two e-mails had lists. Examination revealed names repeated. More than one residing at the same address,. Two names on the list had forwarded their own e-mails.

The same segments of planning documents said to be contravened by the application. Both were the Walmer interpretation.

It's a familiar strategy; a deluge of e-mails, tried and true methods to inflate numbers and pressure on the most vulnerable Councillors.

It worked well for the traffic calming plan in the north-east quadrant early in the last term. Forecast estimate for the project was $80K. The bid came in at $211K. Council duly horrified by the price, gave clear indication at the GC meeting,the project would not be supported.It represented 1% in the tax rate. The amount was not included in the budget.

Staff were directed to hand-deliver letters to listed residents.Predictably,they filled the council chamber en masse the following Tuesday. One after the other,they took the podium and poured their vehemence on the heads of the new council.

A resident put a photograph of his beautiful dark curly-haired infant son on the overhead and said simply;

"He is my reason why the project should be approved" He received vigorous applause.

The Mayor's eyes filmed over with emotion as she declared when people come to her for help that's exactly what she intended to give them.

The pressure of phone calls and e-mails over the previous week-end had been horrendous.

Former Councillor Bob McRoberts took considerable abuse. He lived in the neighbourhood,declared a pecuniary interest and had not participated in the debate.

"What use are you, if you won't support us?" they demanded .

The purpose of an election is  nine among us are chosen as representatives to make decisions. Based on professional staff advice, listening to the community and exercising judgment gained from life's experience,  decisions are, or should be ours to make and account for.

At the Council meeting where delegate after delegate took the podium to demand the project  be supported, Councillors were outnumbered two to one. They all had pecuniary interest.They were prejudiced in their own favour. They had no authority or accountability for the decision to be made.

Council, fresh and new, eager to be the best they could be, aware and intimidated by the game being played, caved and approved an insane, extravagant plan that is still the bane of the neighbourhood's existence and made the town the laughing stock of the Region. Many residents are awaiting the pesky nuisance that prevents them from reaching their own homes, to be undone.

Stuff like that happens in politics in the normal course of events.

In the Mormac regime it was encouraged and nurtured.There were no scruples. No conscience. The former Mayor held it up as an example of righteousness and a gold standard of democracy.

Susan Walmer was always in the forefront. Others in the ranks were ever ready to lend assistance and write a letter to the editor or appear at the podium when requested.

The Dreadful Duo no longer have control. They have not yet acknowledged defeat. Their army still stands at the gates.They have spies within.

Friday 21 January 2011

Response To Yet Another Elderberry Hills Resident

I responded to yet another e-mail  this morning. It had a circulation of dozens. All members of council were circulated and numerous residents of the Elderberry subdivision.

I wrote the e-mail  and clicked on Reply All. But this time my response came back to me as undeliverable. I have no idea why. The e-mail was three pages long in small type, I admit I did not read past the first couple of sentences.
Good Morning Mr. Manning.

Thank you for your  message. I note you attended the meeting on Tuesday,heard the Planning report and the debate and are still of the opinion  the town's planners  have not undertaken due diligence in planning and legal matters.

It is clear therefore nothing I can say will alter your opinion.However, for the benefit of the neighbours  circulated with your lengthy opinion, let me say this:

I am completely confident in the competence and integrity of  town  staff.

The following facts are relevant.

Property owners have rights in Ontario; a right to make an application
for development of land they own, a right to have an  application
processed and considered as to how it conforms to all legal planning
requirements of the municipality.

They have a  right to a  decision within a specified  period of time. and a right to appeal the  decision to refuse the application.All of these rights are assured  under  provincial law.

It follows therefore, a municipality does not have the right to refuse
an application without  reasoning based on the town's adopted plans.

The Municipality  is governed by Ontario law.

The property owner made the application some time ago. It was refused by
the municipality. Too many aspects of the proposal conflicted with planning requirements.

I voted to refuse.

An appeal was filed with the Ontario Municipal board. The application
became dormant.

On Tuesday evening, the applicant was represented by Ms. Jane Pepino,
senior partner of the Toronto  legal firm of Aird and Berliss.

An OMB  mediation process has been provided at the request of the
applicant. It means the applicant, neighbours to the  plan and the town
can work together to resolve outstanding deficiencies in the plan. You
were there Mr.Manning ,You heard that as well as I did.

There are two deficiencies; the set back from Yonge Street and density.
In all other respects the new plan more than meets the town's requirements.

As a Councillor of the town, I have a responsibility to the entire
community.To turn our back on an opportunity to bring he plan into conformity would not in my judgment be a responsible decision.

The alternative is to spend hundreds of thousands of taxpayers dollars
and surrender the town's authority to the Ontario Municipal Board.

That is not  in the best interest of your neighbours despite your
efforts to convince them otherwise.

You also have rights. The first is to participate in the process and
provide your input. The second is to appeal any  decision of the town to
the Ontario Municipal Board

If the plan is as contrary to town requirements as you contend. If  town
staff have indeed failed in their due diligence no doubt it would be a
simple matter to obtain a decision in your favour without incurring any 
expense other than the few dollars it takes to file an objection.

I voted for the staff recommendation on Tuesday. I will do so again next

I do not take my responsibility lightly. I have complete confidence in
the integrity and competence  of our planning staff.  I accept their
advice over Susan Walmer's because  they have the credentials  and the
mediation process will serve  you,  your neighbours  and the property owner  better than an Ontario Municipal Board Hearing.

If it goes there, the decision is no longer ours to make.

With respect.

I Simply Could not Resist Sharing

 New Govt. Programs for Seniors:
Due to the current financial situation caused by the slowdown in the economy, Parliament has decided to implement a scheme to put workers of 50 years of age and above on early retirement, thus creating jobs and reducing unemployment.

This scheme will be known as RAPE (Retire Aged People Early).

Persons selected to be RAPED can apply to Government to be considered for the SHAFT program (Special Help After Forced Termination).

Persons who have been RAPED and SHAFTED will be reviewed under the SCREW program (System Covering Retired-Early Workers)..
A person may be RAPED once, SHAFTED twice and SCREWED as many times as Government deems appropriate.

Persons who have been RAPED could get AIDS (Additional Income for Dependants & Spouse) or HERPES (Half Earnings for Retired Personnel Early Severance).

Obviously persons who have AIDS or HERPES will not be SHAFTED or SCREWED any further.

Persons who are not RAPED and are staying on will receive as much SHIT (Special High Intensity Training) as possible. Parliament has always prided themselves on the amount of SHIT they give our citizens.

Should you feel that you do not receive enough SHIT, please bring this to the attention of your MP, who has been trained to give you all the SHIT you can handle.

The Committee for Economic Value of Individual Lives (E.V.I.L.)

PS - - Due to recent budget cuts and the rising cost of electricity, gas and oil, as well as current market conditions, the Light at the End of the Tunnel has been turned off.

Thursday 20 January 2011

Pressure Techniques

Susan Walmer knows them all. But we may have discovered the path of resistance. I will respond to every letter and respectfully present the facts.

It's better than what goes on in a council meeting.

For one thing, in a debate, you can't keep repeating your argument to emphasize the point. You can't respond to every point made 'cos you only have two chances to speak.You can't criticise another councillor, such as suggest they may sitting on their brains. No matter how insane or perfidious you may think they are. You can't tell them that they are nothing but a bunch of panderers and or associates.

You have to be eternally civil and respectful and that's often quite a strain.

I so wanted to say to Councillor Gaertner on Tuesday; "I cannot believe what you just said, "

Councillor Gaertner is known for saying stuff that sucks the air out of the chamber, leaving everyone with mouths open like a fish out of water.

I had made the point, an O.M.B.hearing of five weeks would likely cost $500K. With approval in principle of the application recommended by planning staff, a decision to refuse would have no chance of success.

Councillor Gaertner agreed the town would be vulnerable in that circumstance and suggested it isn't proper for staff to make recommendations to approve an application in principle when council is opposed.

Councillor Gaertner is very proud of having been re-elected. And rightly so. Conscious of seven years of experience, she is confident of superior knowledge and judgment.

A person would have to have a good understanding of the Planning Act to understand how far off base the comment. But three other Councillors joined Councillor Gaertner in voting to reject planning staff's recommendation.

Councillor Michael Thompson was absent from the meeting. It meant we did not have the mandatory odd number to guarantee a majority vote either way. There was no decision. The issue has to come back to Council.

If Councillor Thompson is not back next Tuesday. If the tie vote holds. We will be heading into an O.M.B. hearing with a potential price tag of $500K with no hope of defending the indefensible.

Councillor Ballard says we should not "cave-in" every time a developer "threatens" an O.M.B. hearing. He acknowledged he is not a planner. He didn't say the town's planning staff advice was not worth considering or acceptable.

Councillor Gallo didn't say much of anything that I recall. Councillor Humphreys didn't either.

It is a very cost-significant decision. We will be spending $500K of taxpayers money to fight a battle we don't have a snowball's chance in hell of winning.

That's more tax revenue than we collect in a year from five hundred homes of average assessment.

Opposing residents have clearly been misinformed. By voting against the recommendation, Council members are as much responsible for promoting misinformation as is Susan Walmer for disseminating it.

Other than the blather from Councillors Gaertner and Ballard, it would be kind of nice to know the rational of the other two Councillors for voting as they did.

There is no obligation to participate in the debate. To vote is mandatory.

Second Letter To Elderberry Hills Resident

I expect there will be more. It is part of Ms Walmer's pressure technique.Did I tell you, every time a group of Selkies Club supporters left the council chamber on Tuesday, Ms Walmer hurried out after them. No doubt to give them the benefit of her expertise in influencing decisions.

Most of the Selkies Club swimmers are not from Aurora.

Good Morning,

I have received your e-mail. It's the second one from your neighbourhood citing various sections of the town's planning instruments.I expect there will be others.

We received two delegations on Tuesday at Council-in-committee. Ms.Susan Walmer also cited the merits of our adopted planning documents and contended the application you refer to is not in compliance. I do not agree with Ms.Walmer.
Her information is not correct.

Mr. Wong, our agenda, is publicised before our meetings. It includes a full and
comprehensive report from our planning staff.

Ms Jane Pepino, a senior partner in the Aird and Berliss law firm attended the meeting on behalf of the owner.

An O.M.B. hearing is scheduled for the application. Ms Pepino informed Council she had approached the O.M.B. and requested a board ordered mediation process and that has been granted.

It means the applicant, the town, and neighbours participate in a process to bring this application into conformity with the town's planning requirements. We are advised by staff it more than complies in most areas and is deficient in only two.

Staff recommended the plan be approved in principle and they be authorised to
participate in the mediation process.

The alternative would be for the town to surrender our authority to the Ontario Municipal Board .The decision would no longer be ours to make.The only opportunity for your influence would be as interveners at the formal process of an Ontario Municipal Board Hearing as objectors.

The cost of a five week hearing, I estimate on the basis of information received on other hearings, would be an estimate of $500K. The favourable staff report would not support a second refusal .

Opposition from council would be seen for what I think it is, political posturing.

It's the reason the Ontario Municipal Board was created. Well, not the first reason.
The first was to prevent municipal councils from bankrupting their towns during
the depression in the 1930s

The fact is Mr. Wong. property owners in Ontario have rights. They have the right to make an application for development. The right to the application being considered in its relationship to planning requirements. The right to a fair,reasonable and cogent decision from the municipality.

I do not take my responsibility as a councillor lightly, Mr.Wong. My accountability is to the community as a whole. I do not regard spending $500K on an Ontario
Municipal Board hearing trying to defend the indefensible a responsible decision.

I voted to approve the staff recommendation last night and I will do so again. I am frankly at a total loss to understand why other councillors voted against it. Their
vote does not reflect your best interest.

I would ask you to avail yourself of the planning staff's report to council to acquaint yourself of the true facts of the matter.

I have complete confidence in the integrity and competence of the town's planning department.

It is a reliable source.

You have my permission to circulate this e-mail to any of your neighbours who may have similar concerns as yourself. It may help to cut down on the internet traffic.

With respect.

Have a great day. It will not come again.

Wednesday 19 January 2011

Letter to Elderberry Hills Resident

With respect

Last evening council had before us a staff recommendation to approve in
principle the P.A.R.C.E.L application and authorise staff to continue to
negotiate with the property owner to bring his plan into conformity with the
planning requirements of the town.
The owner was represented by Jane Pepino a solicitor with the firm Aird and
Berliss. Ms Pepino informed us she had approached the O.M.B. and
successfully requested the board to order mediation with the Town of
The process has the possibility of avoiding a half million dollar Ontario
Municipal Board Hearing. It also allows for neighbours of the development to
be involved in the planning process.
I voted against the initial proposal with the last council.
I voted for this recommendation because it makes absolute sense to me. The
vote was a tie, therefore did not succeed. One councillor was absent from
the meeting.
However the matter must be dealt with by Council. It will be before us again
at next
Tuesday's meeting.
I will vote for it again.
Because...In Ontario, property owners have rights.
They have a right to have an application processed under the Planning Act.
They have a right to consideration of their proposal from the town within a
time frame dictated by the Planning Act . And they have a right to a fair
and reasonable decision based on sound planning principles.
They have a right to appeal a decision if they feel it is unfair or
Neighbours to a property where development is proposed also have that
I have complete confidence in the competence and integrity of the town's
planning staff.
They advise the new design is deficient in two respects and more than
meets the town's requirement in all others.
They recommend approval in principle and ask for the authority from council
to continue to work for improvements to the plan.
I am not afraid of an O.M.B. hearing provided the town's decision meets all
the criteria referred to above .
In my judgment, it is not in the town's interest to proceed to an O.M.B.
hearing at a huge burden to the taxpayers and without a leg to stand on.
Ms Susan Walmer attended Council as a delegate and presented her opinion the
is contrary to all the town's standards and urged council to reject the
planner's advice. She took no notice of Ms Pepino's assurance the process
would provide for involvement and input of neighbours.
I do not accept Ms.Walmer's contention. I feel no obligation to do so.
There is little merit in a municipal corporation maintaining a team of
professional planners at considerable expense and ignoring the advice they
are required to present to us.
I see even less hope of convincing an Ontario Municipal Board panel that a
decision to refuse under these circumstances is anything less that political

It is hardly likely to carry any weight in an argument before the impartial
Once before the panel ,the decision will be rendered by the board. It is no
longer the town's to make.

I am aware of Ms Walmer's prejudice against the integrity and competence of
board members. I do not share that prejudice.

I do not carry my responsibilities as a councillor lightly. I place before
you the rational for my decision out of respect for your right to know.

You ask for the right to participate in the process . Staff's recommendation
and the board ordered mediation provides for that right. Nothing will be
approved without you and your neighbours having had the opportunity to be
involved and at least know for yourselves how the final plan will impact
your properties.

The Posts Below

Two responses posted below are in reply to e-mails received in reaction to Council decisions.

Actually they were not decisions. Councillor Michael Thompson was absent from council last night. That left us with eight at the table. The only reports we dealt with were a development application on Yonge Street and the staff report on the Region's modifications to the 2C Secondary Plan.

Before the latter was passed on September 28th a resident of Hartwell Way came to Council and asked the plan be changed and his road not be continued as planned.He didn't know the road would be continued before he bought his home. He was fearful of the traffic volume.

Council agreed.

The problem was Council does not have the final authority. Roads and of necessity,
underground services are planned long before lots are created. It has to do with contours of the land.

By the time homes are built and occupied the design of roads and underground services are fixed. Cannot be changed.

Councillors were risking nothing by agreeing to the resident's request. They knew or should have known,the region could not and would not agree Now the Region has said no, Councillors can blame the big bad region and still come out smelling like roses.

The second is a response to a resident who is appalled that Council would even contemplate an application for development on Yonge Street in the Ederberry Hills neighborhood.

I made the point in debate about the cost and not having a leg to stand on at a
potential OMB Hearing.

Councillor Gaertner said I was right and staff support for an application not supported by council makes the town vulnerable at a Hearing. The Councillor suggested it was not appropriate for staff to be making recommendations contrary to Council's position.

Even as we speak, so-to-speak, I have no doubt Ms Walmer will be rallying neighbours to deluge Councillors with e-mails demanding they opposes the project.

It just occurred to me there's no reason why I shouldn't share .

Another Piece of Correspondence

I received your e-mail and understand your frustration. No decision was made at last night's meeting because one councillor was absent and the vote to accept the region's modifications was a stalemate...or a tie, which does not succeed.

The last council voted to end Hartwell Way in a dead end. It was a futile gesture ,
The Region of York has planning authority over the municipality.

Roads are planned long in advance of houses being built and occupied. They are part of a greater design. An arterial collector is what it says. It collects traffic from other roads and provides a flow through from one collector to another.

All manner of engineering details are considered for the route to be acceptable including underground services, specifically water and sewer lines. I may be wrong but I think the division of lots are determined after the location of the roads.

So...long before your house was built the decision was made that Hartwell Way would be the arterial collector road for all the other roads and your home would be impacted . It cannot be changed.

The councillors who voted to do as you asked, undoubtedly believed the decision was within their authority. Four members of the present council still do. That's why they voted last night not to accept the staff report.

They are still wrong. The region's authority will prevail for all the reasons stated above.I know that's not what you want to hear. Sometimes an elected representative has the unhappy task of telling people what they do not want to hear.

It's much easier to do the other thing and convince oneself it's right. I've never been able to do that. I don't expect you to be happy about it but it may be easier if you understand why.

Have a great day. It will not come again.


Good Afternoon,
With respect,

I am a councillor voting in support of the staff recommendation on the development proposal on Yonge Street which you find so offensive.

I am confident of the professional competence of Aurora planning staff.

I did not support the first application because it did not conform to the various
planning instruments used to guide development in our town.

Since that time the property owner has filed an appeal with the Ontario Municipal Board.

He also retained a solicitor who sought a board directed mediation procedure
which would require the town and the property owner to work together to bring the plan into conformity with the town's planning requirements.

The recommendation before council last night was to give staff authority to work with the applicant.The current proposal is deficient in two respects and more than meets the requirement in others.

The alternative to this route is an OMB hearing expected to take five weeks. I believe the process would cost taxpayers of Aurora half a million dollars.

To spend that money and go before the board while our professional advisers are
telling us the application does conform in all but a couple of respects , would not in my judgment be serving the community well.

Property owners have rights in Ontario, as you are well aware. They are entitled to make an application and have it processed in accordance with the Planning Act. They are entitled to straightforward consideration of their application and a fair and reasonable decision within a certain period of time.

Contrary to popular opinion, municipal councils have no authority to refuse an application without good and proper reason. If we don't do our jobs properly,the Ontario Municipal Board will do it for us.

I voted in favour of the recommendation last night . I will do so again next Tuesday.

I do not take my responsibilities lightly. As I am doing with you, I will make sure the people of the town know that I do not favour spending half a million dollars of their tax money to defend the indefensible.

The Question Of The Hour

I am attempting to do something for the first time. It is a timid effort because I am not at all secure.

christopher watts has left a new comment on your post "This Morning":

in regards to the whiskey does anyone else think that it's a complete waste to unearth such a treasure to test it and then put it back. What is the point of that?


Robert the Bruce has left a new comment on your post "The Question Of The Hour":

I makes no sense to put it back other than good press for Whyte and MacKay.

I would not be too excited that it's 100 years old however. The "aging" of this wonderful beverage occurs in the wooden barrels before they are put in bottles. Once in the glass bottle, it does not "age" any more. If nothing else, it's a really old bottle of 15 year old malt.

We are only a week away from Robbie Burns Day! Make sure you have a dram or two on the 25th.


christopher watts has left a new comment on your post "The Question Of The Hour":

I agree that because of its container it would not have continued to age but that's hardly the point.

When you can get Whiskey in a can ( http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1347824/Scottish-whisky-way-South-Americans-like-.html ) the excitement here is obviously because of its age.

Whiskey made 15 yrs ago will taste nothing like that of 115 years ago. The process has evolved and the ingredients are different.

I agree about the P.R. but the discovery gives Whyte and MacKay, putting it back doesn't make any sense.

This is of course the complete opposite of discovering the corpse of some tyrannical Scottish King and deciding to wear him like a technicolor dream coat while prancing through the interwebs.

IMO Whyte and MacKay should just keep it on their premises in a climate controlled environment for further testing/consumption or for show purposes.

The real Robert the Bruce on the other hand should lie buried in the ground. If nothing else he's just a really old relic of 12th century thinking.


I think the whiskey should be shared. With limited company. It should be sipped. After the first one that knocks your head back, it should be slowly savoured with appreciative glances exchanged all the while. Talk would not be required. It would be better enjoyed in front of a fire,in a big comfortable chair that wraps around, in a room fill with the smell of wood burning, rain driving against the windows and the fire crackling in the hearth.

It should be treated with all reverence for its antiquity. The lights should be turned down low, a glow from the fire with occasional flames flickering.

A journal should be kept of the occasions. It should always be winter when the skies are grey all day. The place should be near the sea so the howling wind outside makes warmth and comfort and company and whiskey that much more realised.

The whiskey should be brought out when all the stars are aligned. It should not be for a wedding or a birthday or any of those trivial occasions. When there's a death now, would be a good time to remember all the good things in life. After imbibing,there should be no journey home. It should be enjoyed at home. And the only place to go after, a large comfortable bed with a firm but soft mattress. big puffy pillows and a down feather duvet billowing around,like sleeping in a cloud.

Aye, Ye ken, That Arab that owns the distillery and a plane, that flew the Scotch back to a science lab to be tested and back again for heritage-keeping,has no appreciation at all for the finer things in life.

Democracy...What is that?

I would have taken the greatest satisfaction in saying:

"No Sir, you will not. That is not what the rules intend.You have one minute more, wrap up your comments or I will silence your microphone"

It was the second meeting of the new council. We were elected three months ago and it's only our second meeting.As might be expected the agenda was full of significant items for discussion. The meeting was scheduled from seven until ten-thirty. It would take considerable discipline to complete the task.

We did not.

Despite referring the greater part of the business, we finished after one in the morning too tired to make a decision on a very serious matter indeed.

The owner of a late entry private swim club got all the time she wanted for a second time to make her pitch about why two other swim club businesses should be pushed aside to make room for her while she continues to grow her business and sign up more clients than she has space to accommodate.

Most towns provide the privilege of addressing council under certain rules.

Elections determine the decision-makers.

A rail separates the council chamber. The elected body sits on one side, visitors on the other. In a House of Parliament, the public space in the chamber is called " the stranger's gallery". It distinguishes between those who are in their place and those who are not.

It dates from the first parliament in history. It hasn't changed.

Last night, we had a long list of delegates. More than two hours were spent listening.

In the end, we did not deal with the town's business. Only two items were discussed and even they ended in a tie vote and had to be referred to the next meeting.

The tie was; Councillor Humphreys, Gaertner,Ballard and Gallo versus Dawe, Abel,
Buck and Pirrie.

A councillor argues "that's democracy"

It is not.

It is falling down on the job.

Democracy means standing on a soap box in a park expounding one's views to all and sundry.

it means renting a hall and rallying all to the support of whatever.

It means demonstrating with placards that tell the world.

It means writing a blog and freely expounding views on any subject under the sun.

It means requesting the privilege of addressing Council

It doesn't mean abusing or cynically exploiting the privilege and hindering the public's business.

We have had two meetings and at both the owner of Selkies, a private swimming club, has done just that.

The first time a meaningless memorandum was placed on the agenda by Councillor Ballard ,to get past the rule the delegate may only speak to an item on the agenda.

Three named delegates requested the privilege, including Selkies owner,

When the owner was advised by the chair to wrap up because the five minutes,(another rule) was almost over:

" No " she said "there are three delegates and I'm using fifteen minutes"

Had I been in the chair, I would have responded.

"No,you are not, that's not what the rules intend. I am in presiding member of this council. You will do as I say"

The same stunt was pulled again last night. Got away with it again.It was like Mormac had never left. Susan Walmer was there too.

Aggressive,abrasive,plays ducks and drakes with the facts, doesn't much care what harm she does to get what she wants. Selkies owner steamrolls over everybody.

The amazing thing is how many people are ready to lay down and be steamrolled.

Being on a council allows one to observe patterns. Different faces, amazingly similar characteristics.

I expect three more requests for delegation status each,on two separate issue next week.

The town's business will fall further behind.

The play will be the same. Only faces will be different.

Tuesday 18 January 2011

The Question Of The Hour

christopher watts has left a new comment on your post "This Morning":

in regards to the whiskey does anyone else think that it's a complete waste to unearth such a treasure to test it and then put it back. What is the point of that?


This Morning

I just sent a reply-all e-mail to council which took an hour and a half to write.

E-mail is a great opportunity to fill council in on background of various issues without monopolising time at Council meetings. Not that we've had many.

We are having our first general commiittee meeting to-night. I've read the reports,
Now I have to read them again and mark up the parts I need to question.

The Chief Administrator approved several hundred thousands of contracts during
Council's "recess" between elections. I don't know what the word "recess" means in the context of a council. I have never known a staff to have authority to approve contracts over a certain figure.

In the atmosphere around the town hall these days, if staff are challenged by an elected representative, a suit for defamation could result, a complaint could be made under the town's anti harassment policy or filed under the Code of Conduct
or all three.

The occupational hazards of municipal politics have never been thus.

Staff are being asked to examine the Code of Ethics and the Code of Conduct and advise councillors how to conduct ourselves in office.

Any way, it's eleven o'clock , I haven't had breakfast. I have some phone calls to return and e-mails to acknowledge.

I just read a snippet in the Toronto Star about bottles of Scotch being buried in the ice under Antartica for a hundred years. It was still sloshing in the bottles when they dug it up.

I'll get back to you to-morrow...or maybe sooner.

Monday 17 January 2011

Affluence Is Neither The Problem Nor The Solution

Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "Things I Cannot Explain":

That's an interesting statement:

"We established there is no economic hardship in Aurora."

How was that derived? A little futher explanation may be necessary on that statement.

Just because Aurora may have a high average household income doesn't preclude it from having citizens with no economic hardship. If we follow that line then the previous council's statement that Aurora doesn't need affordable housing holds true and perhaps the local food bank is not needed. Whether you are a homeowner or not, I believe Aurora is an expensive place to live. Apartment rents are on par with Toronto and there's not many options. The people you speak of in working in retail in Aurora soon won't be able to live here and perhaps they already don't and have to commute from outside. I am sure there are people who bought in Aurora, 5,10,15 or 20 years ago who would not be able to afford to buy in Aurora today.


When I said "We established there is no economic hardship in Aurora" I should have said I took that from the various graphs and tables presented at the orientation for new councillors. The information was followed by the outline of how a budget is constructed.

It may well be true, a large number of Aurora homeowners are in an income category far higher than the average represented in the tables.

It may also be true I don't have to worry my pretty little head about how they can afford to pay Aurora taxes.

I am not prepared to make that assumption.

If the town exercises restraint so as not to create hardship for people in the $15/$20K income range, we can be certain the interest of those in the half million dollar bracket will not be jeopardised. No matter the income bracket, I don't think any sensible person appreciates needless extravagance or seeing money spent without value received.

Am I making any sense to you?

Things I Cannot Explain

because I don't understand them myself. People in my age and income group are unlikely to be spending a fraction of $124,208 annually. Another chart presented at the budget session at the week-end orientation showed the average household income was $144K a year.

RTB wants to see the figures to help him understand.

Aging in Aurora is the fastest growing group . Actually that's a silly statement I just made. All of the people in Aurora are aging.Just like in every other place. We all grow old one day at a time.

Other things happen as well. Families break up. People become ill. Sometimes they don't get better. People lose jobs . If they don't have well-paid public service positions,they do not have protections against life's potential difficulties.

I don't think the figures helped to explain anything. Income for people at the basic Canada pension level is approximately $13,000.a year. Annual expenditures are hardly likely to be $124,208. There won't be children in the house. No $22.361. to pay for shelter. No child care costs. Nor $14,554.for transportation.Not even $15,529 for "other" expenses.

They won't be spending $11,621. on recreation and education. Or $39,809. on taxes and securities. I don't even know what that reference to securities is about.

I have no idea how the estimates were derived. So I can give no guarantee as to accuracy or relevance.

I know a person working in Canadian Tire, considered good employers in the retail industry because they provide benefits, are likely to have take-home pay of around $20,000.annually. That bracket pays the greatest share of income taxes because there are more of them. Both parents working would provide annual income of $40K.

A single mother working with dependent children would have earnings of $20K.

We talked about the average income and expenditure and the percentage of people with university degrees and graphs establishing the population of Aurora are well educated, well heeled and spend a high level of income on non-essentials.

We established there is no economic hardship in Aurora. Everybody is well able to pay whatever taxes we impose.Then we talked about how a budget is constructed.

There was some give and take on the subject.

RTB thinks it's silly to think about free use of swimming and skating facilities.

I grew up by the seaside. Warm summer days were spent at the shore.It didn't cost anything at all. We didn't always have bathing suits. The bottom half of our underwear often had to suffice.

The sea,the sun, sand dunes and sea shells, creatures in rock pools,hard sand when the tide went out, sometimes smooth sometimes with hard ridges, where soon hundreds of sand worm castings appeared as if by magic. It built great castles,and holes that held until the tide came back in and flooded them. If we didn't fill them with pails first. Scuttling crabs racing about, the waves ,the wind.no watches, no clock to tell the time.

The walk home that took us past the harbour and boats being loaded with coal and bricks and lumber from railroad cars and the dredger that kept the harbour mouth from silting up were all on one side of the road.

On the other,houses and shops in building hundreds of years old,still in use. The Ship Inn that was Rab Burns favourite pub when he was seventeen years old and a womaniser and a roustabout and living in Irvine.

His life already half over although he didn't know it and I just typed in Aurora for Irvine and had to correct it.

Towering behind the street was a great heap called the Blue Billie. There was blasting every day at noon for shale needed for construction... I suppose.It's not there any more. They changed the landscape.

The shore was always the place to be on sunny days. Some kids had mothers with them. I was with my sister Kathleen,two years my elder.

On rainy days, we played cards or guessing games in the lobby leading to our homes. Outside we played hide and seek and Leave a' and guessing and running games at the window of the wee sweety shop in the building next door. We climbed lamp posts when it was dark and gathered in the circle of light to tell ghost stories and scare ourselves half to death or silly rude jokes that had us collapsing in giggles with the sinfulness of it.

There were always crowds of kids. And chalk and a peever to play beds. Spinning tops, marbles,skipping ropes and balls to bounce against the walls. There were chestnuts hardened and pierced to draw a string through, Everybody didn't have these things. so turns were taken so that everybody could play but skills were not even.

There were dozens of games to be played with a ball. A rope game had two people
turning the rope and a line-up of kids waiting their turn to jump in and skip to a dozen different songs sung in chorus by the group.

There were many places to play.The drying green,the yard with the hard packed earth surrounded by the coal cellars and the wash-house in the corner that backed on to the communal lavatory. Between back yards were walls with round slippery tops to keep kids from climbing over. We walked on them with arms outstretched for balance and sometimes teeter and fall to the ground.

The lavatory had a stone floor. It was so old, the stone was worn to a hollow where thousands of feet had rested over hundreds of years. The wood door, with a hole in the middle big enough for a person's arm, probably started as a knot hole, was stuffed with newspaper. The door was held closed by a large boulder that had to be pushed into place. Easier for some than others.

Well...didn't I get off topic. I was saying I would like families to have free access to leisure swimming and skating programs. I wasn't proposing it. But I tell you what...If I were the solitary authority in our town, I would be looking for ways and means... and I fully understand why the city does it.

Children learn many worthwhile life skills through play with others of varying ages. If they don't get that opportunity and they are left out, they learn other things.

I Just Thought

I re-read the last post and realized something else.

At the off-site-orientation in 2003, the new council was briefed on matters pending. The most significant was disposition of various buildings which had been
replaced and which the previous council had left undone.

Studies and valuations had been carried out but no decisions made.

Two library buildings on Victoria Street were replaced. The new building had two meeting rooms to accommodate a variety of events.

Parking for the new use was totally inadequate.Still the old buildings stood. taking up valuable space and staff resources.

Since then,the former seniors' centre has been replaced. It was a parks building before it was a senior's centre and before that, a three bay firehall.

I was chairman of the fire committee in my first term. A bay was added. It cost $18 K. We borrowed from the water reserve account to build it. The roof leaked after. A lean-to at the back was the Volunteers Club House.

We paid a flat rate for water. About $4.95 every two months. It paid for the water, it's distribution and produced a reserve fund.

Victoria Hall was a dark, dingy and smelly little building previously used as a seniors' centre, before that a library and before that a meeting hall.

Since then Wells Street School has been added to the inventory. It was Aurora's fist high school before being replaced by Dr.G.W.Williams on Dunning Avenue.

We are all familiar with the battle to prove the school board didn't know what they were doing when they decided the building was no longer adequate or suitable to house students.

We don't have to gaze into a crystal ball to see the future. We are looking at it now. Old buildings are replaced. The new library is nine or ten years old. The "new" firehall on Edward Street is thirty years old

The old un-needed buildings still sit on prime real estate. Since the Church Street school has opened for use, the parking problem has duplicated many times over.

Still we have not had the intestinal fortitude to do what's required and demolish the old.

The Petch House is the classic example. For almost ten years we have had $100K in the annual budget for restoration. No use has ever been identified. No place to put it.

It sits forlorn at the side of the road on cinder blocks. No support under it, roof torn open,clapboards long gone,interior filled with unspeakable refuse.

We received advice free from an expert about what was possible.We did not accept it.

We have since spent 25% of the budget on engineering consultants to tell us it would cost $450K to restore. When completed, it would be reduced in size,not bigger than a three hole privy. We still would have neither a use nor a location.

We contemplated hauling it to Shepherd's Bush to sit beside a similar cabin also without use or purpose.Ontario Heritage said... not on your life, buster.

Still we advertised again for proposals because a person invited by former Councillor MacEachern came to Council and said he would restore it for the piddling sum of $125Ks.

So....at the same time we are advised of the wisdom of taxing to-day's residents to pile up a fund to replace buildings forty years down the road, we have shown ourselves completely and utterly incapable of deciding to dispose of half a dozen crumbling structures, long replaced by new buildings, soaking up resources and taking up valuable space desperately needed for other purposes.

The one property in our ownership,not derelict, worth millions and capable of providing employment opportunities, we went counter to a policy established by bylaw not to give up employment opportunities and entered into a ten year lease with the federal government for a pittance in rent, to be underutilised as a place for "the kiddies" at week-ends, to quote the town's former Mayor and by the way invest hundreds of thousands of tax resources to upgrade it to suit their purposes.

I didn't get a chance to mention all that at the off-site orientation.

Thank God for The Blog.

Sunday 16 January 2011

Offsite Orientation

We had useful discussion at the off-site orientation held yesterday. I think the location was not far enough from home, not long enough and material presented from the perspective of a Councillor's role and authority was not how I would have planned it.

Knowledge will be acquired as we go forward but it will be slower and harder. A crash course on limits and restraints is always better received and more easily accepted from an outside,impartial expert.

We heard from staff how a budget is constructed.

I had something to say on just about everything. But I'm conscious that mine is a personal political perspective. Every Councillor has to develop their own. An off-site orientation would normally provide some of the tools.

From the cold hard analytical level of finance, it may make sense to levy taxes in 2011 to create reserve funds for replacement of buildings in 2051.

I think the idea is prepostorous.

The Community Centre on Aurora Heights is an example.

The theory is when a facility is completed, depreciation sets in immediately. For planning purposes presented ,estimated life span of a building is forty years.

The community centre is forty-three years old. We paid for it by debenture debt.The same way we buy a house. We had no development charges in those days. The building still stands. Properly maintained,I expect it will for another forty-three years.It was built stronger than Church Street School and that building is still there, more than a hundred years after completion.

Then there's the Illustrious Petch House.

I feel no inclination to pay taxes to-day so that residents forty years from now, can have the funds to build a new community centre at no cost to themselves. Courtesy of people who, by that time, may not live here or anywhere else for that matter.

History of the Hydro Reserve fund was provided. Estimated balance in 2010 is $32.2million.

We used $2.535million for renovation of Church Street School.

The fund has been there five years. Council passed a resolution to make it difficult to spend in dribs and drabs with nothing to show.

That can be changed but I wouldn't vote to change it, unless it was to be used for an important project. We disposed of a substantial asset.We should replace it with a substantial asset. Whatever that might be.

In the meantime,we use the interest for a variety of projects.


Toronto families can swim and skate free in city facilities.

I would like to be able to provide that.I really mind that families who can't afford to swim or skate have to subsidise families who can afford it.

Statistics provided at the orientation,showed the average family expenditure in Aurora is $124,208.

I find that incredible.But I've always had trouble understanding how people are able to mortgage a $300.K. house and pay what it costs for day care and commuting and all the rest.

We're doing a lot of crystal ball gazing at the provincial and municipal level. We probably spend millions, maybe billions on forecasting all kinds airy-fairy stuff.

I wonder of anybody forecast that Ontario would become a have-not province ten or even five years ago.

Thursday 13 January 2011

You Were Asking

Anonymous has left a new comment on my post "Taxes":

Dear Evelyn:

What form of support do you require?

Picks and shovels, sacks and barrows and a mid-sized truck?

Please let us know how we can support and assist you in your quest.


Council are being polled for an all day budget session on Feb 14th. In the past, we have encouraged participation by residents. It usually amounts to people who want something included in the budget.

These things are usually tedious but if enough people were to indicate interest in attending, there may be a format to make the invitation to participate meaningful.

Half a dozen members of council have not had the experience of budget deliberations before so that puts them on a par with the rest of the community.

It's a long day, from nine until four in the afternoon. I think it's too long to be crunching figures. But we are late starting. Like four months late.

Lunch is usually provided which means there's a break.

If any citizen wanted to spend the whole day with us, I think we should spring for lunch.

I have no idea of a workable format myself. It might not be feasible.But I think it's worth talking about. At the public forum of council or in an e-mail or in conversation with your favourite councillor. At this point, everybody has an open mind and anxious to do the job best we can.

Which could mean trying something different.


Robert the Bruce has left a new comment on my post "Toronto's User Fees":

Regarding taxes in Aurora. Do you agree that part of the problem we have now is related to the "zero tax increase" years a few years ago?

Would it not have been prudent to make a marginal increase and save that money in reserves "for a rainy day"? I know this was a hot topic when the taxes went up, but I think there is still fallout from that.

Your opinion?


If council struck a budget with zero tax increase for town purposes it would not necessarily mean property owners were not billed for increases. It's only in recent years School Boards and York Region have not increased their share.

The province has absorbed increases in education spending. But homeowners have seen no benefit.

Increased revenue from new assessment should absorb increased expenditures but that hasn't happened either.

Factors in last year's spending should still be fresh in everyone's mind. They are in mine.

Half a million dollars was new spending for staff and maintenance for the Church Street School.

$100,000. were made available for the Arboretum group to plant trees.

$50.ks was granted to the Historical Society for a museum but we have no museum.

Three road projects came in $2 million under estimate. Councillor Wilson was thrilled. I wasn't. Over-estimates of 2million dollars does not represent to me competent financial management.

Water rates were increased. $250ks. was transferred from budget accounts to water accounts. Water "losses" were increased from 8% to 12%. We tacked new figures
to the rates while the Region increased the wholesale price for water.

It meant budget estimates for water accounts were reduced by a commensurate increase in rates billed to consumers.

Hundreds of thousands of dollars were spent on legal fees.

Numerous futile court procedures undertaken to obtain a consolidated board hearing for Westhill 's O.M.B hearing.they failed.

We had two lawyers instead of one for seven weeks of Municipal Board hearing.

Nisbet Drive was shifted over by 3 feet to accommodate the self-serving interest of one resident at the expense of his neighbours and the taxpayers.

We spent thousands of dollars on consultants to satisfy a couple of residents in Hadley Grange who didn't want a walking trail abutting their rental property . We included a snake hibernatum and a turtle pond to persuade them at an
additional cost of $450ks but they still didn't like it.

They figured the town wouldn't build it because it was ridiculously expensive.But we didn't say no.

Remember $211ks for traffic calming in the Heritage Neighbourhood. Tourists visit but not to view heritage. They come to see nutty traffic calming.

We put $250ks in the last budget for a hidden away playground that would create hazard for any child who might play there.Neighbours didn't want it.

We budgeted $100.Ks to restore a rotting,mouldering, worm eaten, pile of lumber sitting at the side of Leslie Street for eight years, roof open to the elements and harbouring generations of racoon feces and carcases.

We are still inviting proposals to tell us how to spend money on the ruin. Already reduced by the amount of consultant fees paid.

We budgeted funds for trails. We built nary a foot. Instead hundreds of hours of staff time were spent talking about trails. Staff time is money.Time wasted is money wasted.

$53ks went on consultant fees to draft a master recreation plan. We tossed it in favour of something else.

I could go on and on and I'm not even looking at the last budget.

We hooked up Canadian Tire parking lights to the town street lighting system.

Meetings went on past midnight, racking up time- off- in-lieu or overtime pay for Department Directors.

Untold hours went into writing a report on accomplishments of four years of advisory committees so the former mayor could rally support of volunteers to her re-election bid. The funds were ill-spent.

I don't even know the total settlements paid out to long serving employees who left the town without good reason.

Staff time was spent in useless pursuits while consultants were engaged to tell us how many extra bodies we should add to staff complement.

What was done a few years ago will not influence this year's budget.It's what was done last year and shouldn't be corrected this year that should make the difference.

I'm the only one on this Council who knows where the bones are buried.

I'm going to need support.