"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

Thursday 31 March 2011

A Perfect Illustration

Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "Bedtime Story....Not":

I'd like to know how you can sleep at night when you publicly criticize staff like this.

First off, you're obviously waging a public campaign to have the CAO fire. You've written non-stop recently about him and what a terrible job he's doing. It's beneath contempt for an elected official to behave this way.

Second, you publicly criticize bylaw staff using a "source." So you have no first-hand knowledge if staff is doing what the source accuses them of. Perhaps the source has an axe to grind against the bylaw officers.

Either way, I can't believe your new colleagues haven't taken you to task over your continued public abuse of staff.


My first inclination was to delete this comment. Then I thought...no.  It  serves to  illustrate a couple of points I have been trying to make but I'm not sure are understood. 

Use of the social media has been front and centre lately.Generally it's considered a good thing. I failed to convince Council they  should know and authorise  how it might  be used by staff. The  majority  clearly believe there need be no parameters.

The question comes down simply to how we govern ourselves. Do we elect a Council to  govern. Or is the elected body just a tool of the administration and subject to staff authority.

Call me old-fashioned.  I  believe we  are elected  to govern. It means each member of council exercises  authority as best we can  using whatever tools are available to expedite the task.

Until now, I have never known municipal staff  to have trouble with the concept.

On Monday evening ,struggling to make inroads on a budget which I cannot justify, I suggested town departments be asked for input  as to savings they might identify in their level of operations.

The CAO responded that staff were confident the budget presented   was defensible. I did not choose to challenge the statement. Budget deliberations this year, with predominantly new councillors, have been lengthy. some might say tedious, could easily become fractuous, but I would argue are necessary because those  at the table are accountable to the people who sent them there.

I did not   react  to the CAO's comment. I let it pass. It was not  however a missed opportunity.Friction between a veteran Councillor and the CAO would have detracted from  the process.

Nevertheless, my request for input from staff at the lower level was not frivolous.  I do not acknowledge the authority of the CAO to summarily dismiss a proposal by an elected representative.

Though it was not the time to engage on the question, there was  nothing  to indicate it would not subsequently be engaged.

The social  media which council believes staff  should have free rein, means  the argument  can be taken  up at any point without wasting  precious time at the council table and risking  frayed tempers and whatever else might happen in the heat of the moment.

A councillor receives many confidences. We are the ears as well as the voice of the people. The issue of not renewing a particular  contract and how it was accomplished, happened months ago. It disturbed me. I did not keep my concern to myself. Being powerless to correct what I perceived to be an injustice and cowardly incompetence, I  was obliged to publicly hold my peace.

I did not forget. I watched. I was further informed.

My job is not simply to strive to keep the cash grab in taxes at a reasonable level, it is also to make sure the service we pay for is the service we receive.

When the CAO responded  negatively to my suggestion staff at the lower level be invited to make input into possible budget savings, he sought to close that door firmly in my face. He  opened another at the same time.

By declaring  administrative confidence in the budget, he provoked a political declaration that I am not.

My confidence takes precedence.

He crossed the line.

He is in my territory.

Whatever tools are there, are mine to use.

I am not satisfied we are getting what we are paying for from the  Bylaw Department. I do not accept adding a full-time bylaw officer at a cost of $85 a year as the  answer to the problem of low productivity.

At the height of a controversy last year, failure to call for proposals  when the OHSC contract was due for renewal, an  incomplete  report  in January of this year, giving inaccurate information to the new Council with the recommendation to extend the contract, months after it's termination,is just another example of why I believe  we are  not well served .

Now does any other brave anonymous person who may or may not be a  member of staff , feel the  need to defend the  defenceless administration from the no mind, no account, two bit politician,  want to tell me  what I may or may not say on behalf of the people who  pay the bills and  elected me to  keep an eye on the store ?

Bedtime Story....Not

I shouldn't have done that. I read the story about the budget in the Auroran immediately before retiring.   No chance of sleep now.

I suggested at the last budget  meeting that various town departments be asked to look for savings in their budgets. The CAO immediately responded that he was very confident staff had put forward a
defensible budget.

Problem is, with all due respect, I do not share his confidence. 

If I were in the Mayor's chair, my voice would  certainly carry more weight. But I 'm not.

So, what to do...what to do.

Well , of course , when all else fails, I will do what I always do. I will  confide in you,. my friends.

On Monday night  at yet another budget meeting, we discussed a recommendation from Chief Building Official that a full-time bylaw officer be hired with a price tag $85 K.

Council  changed it to a contract position and since it wouldn't be filled for a full year, the price tag was reduced almost by half. It was a council recommendation. Not staff.

The job  was one of the items on my list to be cut.

I received a distress call from a part-time contract bylaw officer last year. He felt his job was at risk. Human Resources and the  new manager of bylaws  had decided to  advertise the  five part-time contract positions. He was certain his job was the target. . He had been with the department for a number of years. Did his job conscientiously. Traded   shifts  with others  at holiday times when they wanted to be with their families . One of the key performance indicators for a traffic and parking offence  officers  are numbers of  tickets issued. His record was  solid and consistent. Never a complaint.

He had however been outspoken about  full-time officers not pulling their weight.  Seldom leaving the town hall in fact. He felt  sure of  the reason for recruitment and  suspected  his  would be the contract  not be renewed.

Guess what.  He was right.  After advertising  five positions with  all the work and expense that entailed, his was the only contract not renewed. When he asked for a reason after seven years of productive employment,none was offered..

He did receive a severance package..

He called again a few weeks ago. Told me the person hired to replace him, had already been let go. He wasn't  showing up for work or court dates. He wasn't likely issuing  tickets

Council had been informed of a reduction in tickets.. Reason being the equipment was down. My  information was  the equipment had been down  two years already.

From another source I  have heard  bylaw officers spend  more time in the town hall than they do out where bylaws are being contravened. 

Readers may recall something  I wrote about a huge sign on the road side outside the Highland Soccer field during the South African World Soccer Tournament. The club house was being advertised and the public invited in.  The sign was there for some time. I finally  drew it to the attention of the administration.

What happened then  was a lusty team of soccer players positioned themselves opposite me in the Council chamber to stare me down when their  new agreement was promptly  presented at the  next council agenda for renewal.

The sign was the business of the bylaw department. It was not the business of a councillor to bring it to the administration's attention. It  was certainly  not appropriate for a Councillor to be subject to intimidation in the Council chamber for doing what  was  essentially someone else's job.

Before that, there was a fleet of school buses parked in the parking lot  at the Highland Field for several years. The agreement does not allow the club to use the property for profit. The big orange buses were hardly hidden. They were not likely parked there as a favour. But a blind eye was being turned nevertheless.

They are not there any longer.  All sixteen of them are parked at the Auirora Legion when they are not out on the road transporting school children here, there and everywhere. The Legion parking lot is considerably reduced  under the site plan bylaw with sixteen big buses occupying many spaces and a whole bunch of canoes tucked in behind them as well.

There are similarities between the Legion and the Soccer Club. Neither contribute a cent towards sharing the burden of property taxes.

The Legion shows on the town's books as  taxes due and paid. The town transfers funds to cover the taxes.

Like a grant,don't you know. But it doesn't show up anywhere as a grant.,There are two buildings on the site. The facility caters to all kinds of  revenue producing events. $5.K was paid to the Legion for use of the facility for the last fund-raising event held for the July 1st parade that didn't produce any funds.

The Legion gets police protection. fire protection, snow plowing, garbage collection and  every other service provided by the town. But the Legion pays not a penny in taxes.

Nor does the Highland Field Soccer Club. They cater to weddings, funerals and election victory parties
They have had free use of  a  prime five acre  industrial site for probably thirty years. They also receive  all the services cited above that the Legion does. They pay not a red cent for any of it.

There are other situations like that, The lawn bowling club. The tennis club. The Chamber of Commerce use of a town facility  for the Home Show and paying  only for  days of the show. They don't pay for the days needed for  set-up or take down.We forfeit revenue but they do not pay.

The Street Sale is a  popular and I fancy  financially successful annual event. Significant  town man hours are spent setting up and taking down  and cleaning up. The Chamber  pays none of those costs. . 

Like all the rest, it's a give away. It  doesn't show up in the books anywhere as  expenditures with offsetting revenue. Yet there it is. For everybody to see. Who runs a business like that?

I don't call that a tight ship.

I do not share the CAO's confidence,  the budget is defensible.

Maybe I can sleep now.

Wednesday 30 March 2011

Paul Pirri has left a new comment on your post "Another $68 K Tax Dollars Slithers Out From the T...":


Although I concede that last night I used the words Just and Unjust, I may not have used them in the way that I intended to use them, these things happen when speaking without notes on the fly.

With my copy of The Nicomachean Ethics at my side I can better elucidate what I was trying to say. To Quote:

"...Now it appears that the words justice and injustice are ambiguous; but as the different sense covered by the same name are very close to each other, the equivocation passes unnoticed and is not comparatively obvious as it is where they are far apart...
Let us begin, then, by taking the various senses in which a man is said to be unjust. Well, the word is considered to describe both one who breaks the law and one who takes advantage of another, I.e. acts unfairly. Then evidently also both the law-abiding man and the fair man will be just. So just means lawful and fair; and unjust means both unlawful and unfair..."

What I was trying to state is that generally speaking what is lawful and what is fair go hand in hand because their meanings are very extremely similar. However, there are some instances where what is lawful is not what is fair. My vote last night was for what is lawful, I believed that is where my responsibility as a councillor lies.

With that said I still have some work to do because I'm not satisfied.

As always Evelyn, I enjoy hearing your perspective (although I disagree at times) it is extremely beneficial to Aurora politics.

Many thanks

So that accounts for why I couldn't find the specific Aristotle quote on Google this morning.

I believe there is no university that provides the learning experience one receives as a council member. We all learn from one another.

Being in agreement is not a requirement. Ideas put forward with force and conviction is a purpose. Supremacy of ideas is the ultimate objective.

If you have asprations of going forward in politics ,you can have no better grounding than serving at the municipal level.

Only at our level do you make personal contact with people and acquire what it takes to be an effective representative.

Only at our level can the bond of trust be formed to stand you in good stead.

Once the bond has formed,it can never be broken except by your own hand.

You build it by being true to yourself first.

I do not agree that Council's decision to pay the fees was necesssary because it was lawful.

Council is a legislative body

Council were not informed nor did they authorise litigation. Nor is it likely majority support would have been received for that action.

The law firm was responsible for the advice that an anonymous posted comment critical of a politician was grounds for litigation by the municipality against three residents of the municipality.

In my judgment the advice was seriously flawed.

The law firm's first responsibility is to administration of the law. Their second is to the municipality. They were not chosen for the roster of external legal service to serve as a personal legal resource to the Mayor.

Now who is going to deliver justice to the three families who were subject to this spurious action and face the horrendous financial burden of defending themselves.

We have acknowledged responsibility for the litigation by paying the legal fees, should we also acknowledge responsibility for the financial hardship imposed on the families by the litigation.

As Councillors, a principal obligation is to "save the town harmless"

A lesson learned in my lifetime is that two realities can contradict each other yet both can be equally true.

In politics and in life, the challenge is not to choose between the two; but to accept the reality of both.

It's one of life's conundrums.

I'm sure Aristotle had something to say about this as well.

Another $68 K Tax Dollars Slithers Out From the Town Treasury

First responsibility of a member of the legal profession is the administration of justice. A  town solicitor's responsibility to the municipality comes second.

Five members of Council voted last night to pay $68 K for a spurious law suit launched against three members of the community. Three families in our town are burdened with legal costs, probably equal to that amount, to defend themselves against an action which could never be justified in  any sense of the word.

Councillor Paul Pirrie used a quote of Aristotle in speaking to his decision to vote to pay. "What is right is just " he  said and continued;  |"Unfortunately in this case, what is right is unjust"

The sentiment was echoed by  the Mayor and three other  Councillors who voted to pay. I have no doubt of their sincerity.I am equally certain the decision was wrong.

The swathe cut through the town's administration by the  last Council   left  many victims scattered in its wake.

That one or more might anonymously post a severely critical  comment against the Mayor,  in a blog, should surprise no-one. The language may have been intemperate. People who have suffered egregious injury  tend to cry out in  anger and distress. Yet it was fair political comment in my opinion.

The candidate registration list closes several weeks before the election. It is the end of a council mandate. Except in emergency, no substantive action is undertaken during the period of recess.  Council is described as lame duck

 The electorate is engaged in judging performance.

Litigation requires Council authority. No authority was given  to launch an action against three members of the community. Nor was it likely to be given. Yet that is what happened.

At the beginning of each year, a municipality appoints a roster of external law firms, each with a particular field of expertise. As with a member of the law profession, their first obligation is  administration of the law. The second is to act in the best interest of the municipality they have offered to serve.

Litigation against three  residents  of the municipality cannot in any way be regarded as to the benefit  of a municipality.

The electorate certainly recognised the impropriety. The politician responsible was tossed ignominiously from office; as was right and just.

But the lawyer... the municipal expert.... whose first responsibility is the administration of justice... and second  is the best interest of the municipality....he is to be paid for his role in this scandalous affair.

In my judgment ,what is unjust cannot be right.

Monday 28 March 2011

A Quandary of Significant Proportions....Like In The Millions

Tonight  the budget will likely be approved. It has to happen at some point. I have not been able to support a budget for four years. I may not be able to support this one either I may have to cut my losses and hold my tongue.

 I have copies of the 2010 and 2009 budgets in the house. I spent the day yesterday cross checking items in the three, this year's,last year's and the year's before.It  was not an easy task. There's  ample cause  to give me pause and definition.

I have stated  before, I did not agree with last year's re-organisation of the administration. I considered  the exercise dis-organisation. In my judgment, there was no higher intent than to denigrate certain officers of the corporation and elevate others. It was the final solution to bringing everyone to heel.

Responsibilities were  transferred from people with  skills to  people without. Those whose jobs were reduced  did not lose remuneration  and those whose skills were deficient had theirs increased and status elevated.

To compensate for the deficiency, new managers were  to be hired.

So we have people whose skills are under-utilised  receiving salaries commensurate with their skills and people without skills, over-compensated and raised high in the scheme of things.

I know it because I was there.  I watched it happen. I have paid close attention since to the results.

They are not good. Considerable time is spent in senior executive training. Hundreds of thousands of dollars are spent in never-ending consultant studies.

I think when people reach the level of officers of the corporation,they should be functioning at the level of teaching others and planning for the future.

Consultants are not gurus in the field of consultancy. For the most part, they are displaced municipal personnel. They have to make a living and many municipalities cannot afford to have highly trained staff complement.

In the midst of this and because of this, we have a Council with six new members. Former members responsible for the current circumstance were  relieved of their authority.

There are those who believe it's a good thing for Councillors to be without experience. In certain instances, it is better than the alternative.It is however problematic.

There is among people  in  general, an antipathy towards  unhappy and disturbing information.Politicians are just people in general.

I myself have been scolded for continuing to refer to the past and urged to look towards the future.

Therein lies my dilemma.

Do I point to the obvious and prove my case knowing  full well how difficult that will be for eager neophytes to comprehend. Even if they want to.

Or do I keep my  own counsel, smile brightly and aplaud the emperor's  new clothes.

Or do I  do the best I can. say as little as I need to  and vote against the budget for reasons  known only to myself.  Believing that whatever I say at this point in time will have little influence and may even be detrimental.

Only in politics, is telling the truth not always the best policy. Sometimes, it's a liability.

Sunday 27 March 2011

TheThings That Get Lost Along The Way

There once was a  question about the Town Crest.It wasn't certain it had been registered with the Heraldic  Agency. We continued to use it anyway. And jealously guarded the right.

If anyone person or organisation presumed to use it.they were quickly informed in no uncertain terms to cease and desist.If a request was made to use it, it was firmly refused.

When George Timpson received the highest number of votes in an election, he proceeded  to have stationery printed for himself as  deputy-mayor. There is no such office  and George had included the town crest on his stationary. He was  immediately informed he could not use the crest.the title  or the stationary

Only one person represents the town in  a higher office. The appointment to deputy-mayor is to ensure  responsibilities attached to the office of Mayor can be carried out in  absence of the Mayor.

During the term before last, the town chose a logo . It's like branding  a product. We  become known across the land and beyond by our brand. I would  have assumed it would be just as jealously guarded as the Town Crest. We pay for it to be registered. It is ours and ours alone. No-one else is entitled to use  it.

Except, in a queer twist of logic, it turns out if we pay  $5 K for a platignum sponsorship for the Jazz Festival,   they will display the Town's  name  and  logo online, and on  hundreds of thousands of leaflets distributed  to promote the festival and they will mention us at their black tie gala prior to the festival.

Susan  Morton Leonard forwarded  particulars to the Mayor and Council in response to the request for information about what  exactly do we get for a $5K Platinum Sponsorship.The material had already been provided to the CAO. Who  apparently felt there needed to be more.

Seems there isn't.  There are  claims of "huge benefits" to  sponsors.A little less to  Gold,less to a Silver,and less still to Bronze sponsorships.  For $50 you can buy a" Friend "sponsorship. No doubt with all the enthusiastic appreciation for the festival, sponsorships of all levels have been simply flying off the shelf by people certain of benefits.

I was looking forward to seeing  documentation of the Foundation now responsible for the event. I expected  to discover when it was incorporated and names of officers.. But no. Nothing to report on   that.

We purchase a similar sponsorship from the Aurora Chamber of Commerce every year. One time it was gold. Now it's  platinum as well. We pay $8K for that one. Our name and Logo go on the Awards presented to most successful business of the year and I think on the menus for the Annual Gala Dinner.

We used to buy a dozen dinner tickets at $125. a person and distribute them to Business Ambassadors, who were members of the Economic Development Advisory Committee.

I was not very appreciative,I must admit.

We did it until I pointed out one year,$125 might be the grocery budget for a month for some person living on a welfare cheque and depending on the food bank.

The Chamber of Commerce is an active and successful organisation. They  hold beer gardens and contribute large amounts of money  to charity.

I have never been convinced they needed  $8 K from the town every year for a tom-fool platinum sponsorship. An award for Business Achievement surely means the same without the town's  name and logo attached.

Between the two ,that's another $13 K I would cut from the budget.

Saturday 26 March 2011

Budget Chit-Chat

There seemed to be a murmuring consensus at the budget meeting on Monday night that residents were not concerned about a tax increase. I observed we didn't have to look farther than the last election to know how people felt about how the municipality was being managed.

"few of you would be sitting in these seats if the community was satisfied. They voted for change. Not same old, same old."

 I also believe people do not object to paying taxes when  assured the money is being spent wisely. We have added pressure this year of knowing many people have lost long term jobs. People who invested careers in a single employer. People who have found their working lives cut short by eight or nine years

People who spent  first years of employment,paying off student debt, delaying families and buying homes later still have mortgages. They are hanging on with the skin of their teeth, struggling to pay the mortgage without employment for a year or permanently.

A whole new class of people have entered the spectrum of experiencing hardship in Ontario.

Councillors hear regularly about affluence in Aurora. Especially when the discussion is about taxes. I don't feel  the affluent need me to worry about them I  am very much aware of the others.

I am making a list of the items for  the next and possibly last budget meeting that can  be removed from the budget without reducing the level of service.

I went up to the Aurora Leisure Complex last night to see the Arboretum project in 2010.I recommend concerned taxpayers reading this blog take themselves up there. In the driveway,just ahead of the building, look down the slope to the valley.

At the bottom observe a  narrow  soil  bed supported  by massive blocks of stone. The stones continue down past the soil beds.e  scattered  in a haphazard fashion towards a small bridge.

Construction material was removed and replaced with amended soil to create the planting bed.

It cost $87,000. The town allocated $100,000 to volunteers. That's how  $87,000 was spent.

The Arboretum is a small group of individuals dedicated to creating beauty. They started their organisation selling memorial trees and planting them in the valley behind the seniors' centre. The parks department assisted them with heavy work and great satisfaction was derived from doing something really positive while creating beauty at the same time. Who could not support that well-meaning endeavour?

I did. I still do. But $100,000 to the Arboretum in 2011 is first on my list to go.

The $346.000 allocation to the Culture Centre. This morning I received a phone call. The Farmer's Market is at the Centre for the last time

A stalwart market vendor was seen packing his wares two hours early. He had been removed from the main room to a side room to make room for a booth for  the St Kitts Jazz Festival

My mind was made up before the phone call.

The Board has occupied   a free building for 18 months. They have been provided with full maintenance service and payment of utilities.Funds in the amount of $691.000 have been provided. Said funds came from the tax levy in 2009 and 2010.

The Board has used some funds to pay artists to exhibit and perform.

Revenue  showing in financial statements is negligible. The town has used the facility for various meetings. I was never able to discover if we paid fees or used the space to give an appearance of activity.

Unspent funds have  been invested by the board.

$346,000 to the Culture Centre Board is on my list.

There is nothing going on in that facility that could not be just as easily programmed by town staff  who are already providing similar programs in other town facilities.

Bullfrog Power  adds $20,000 to the cost of energy for the town hall. It is not green power. It contributes to promotion of the concept of green power. I don't want to pay for that.

$60,000 is in the budget for a consultant  heritage plan study of the town centre. We have a heritage planner on staff. Council has agreed to re-constitute the heritage advisory committee.Both are an investment in protection of heritage. We don't need to increase taxes for another elitist neighbourhood heritage plan.

The $60,000 is on my list.

A manager of customer services  with a salary of $80,000.was advertised in January. Add benefits and tools and that's a $100,000 additional cost. I've heard two explanations for the job. It is a replacement and not a new hire. I do not accept either. Don't take me for a fool.

Another $100,000.

An additional bylaw officer is recommended. Probably upward toward a $100,000.

Last year,the contract for animal control services ended in early fall. Services at the Ontario Humane Facility were the subject of huge controversy. No effort was made to prepare specs and call bids for the new contract. A report submitted to the new council in January recommended the contract be renewed without bids because t no other service providers existed in the area.

The information was inaccurate.The report was incomplete.

Last year ,  a recruitment process was put in place for five contract bylaw officers. One conscientious officer did not have his contract renewed. No reason was given. He was replaced but the level of  service he provided was not.

I am not confident an additional  bylaw officer will improve the circumstances.

It's another $100,000.

There are other items I can and will argue.

But for the purpose of this post, the tally is$726,000

A  decimal point in taxation Is $250.000.

The town experienced 2.2 % increase in  assessment revenue in 2010. It allows for increased spending  to that level without increasing taxes.

A  colleague commented last week, he could find no fat in the current budget. He is a  new councillor.I'm not sure  he would recognise fat if he saw it. But he is doing his homework.

We took off two points be reducing the cash to capital reserve contribution. We didn't reduce the account. We reduced the contribution.

The vote was five to four in favour. Four people voted against reducing the  tax increase  by two points.

We received hundreds of thousands of dollars from the federal government last year in stimulus funds.

We spent it.

We received hundreds of thousands from the provincial government from gas taxes.

We spent it. 

The province flat-lined education taxes. In recognition of severe economic hardship in Ontario I believe intending the relief to be passed on to homeowners.

Still we keep on jacking up the property tax.

I do not find  justification  for that.

I don't need residents to tell me why I am occupying a seat at the council table. 

I am not there to think about how to grow the administration. I'm there to curb that easy inclination.

If my list were to be  accepted ,we would have a reduction in taxes and you wouldn't even notice where the cuts had  happened.

It's not hard. It's easy.But I am not holding my breath.

Ruby Tuesday

We had a general committee meeting on Tuesday. Among other items on the agenda were a couple of reports from the Leisure Services Director.

The first was a  recommendation for increases on a short list of user fees. There was an increase of 25cents an hour on a few and a couple of new fees, where none had been charged before. The Director reported  they were  intended to keep up to date and generate a little extra revenue.

User fees are generally not increased on an on-going basis. User groups need to know what their expenses are in order to calculate  registration fees. The  town's objective is to obtain the widest possible use of facilities and ensure no group is left out because of inability to afford the cost of recreation.

It's not an easy task. Fortunately service clubs  are there to help out.Local businesses help with sponsorships that outfit teams with uniforms. Parents volunteer. Mothers raise funds. An awful lot of work goes into providing equal opportunity to participate.

A second  report  was submitted by the Director. A request had been received from the South Lake Run for Cancer for a waiver of $750 fees at the community centre. The Director asked for direction.

the Run  is an extremely successful event originally organised to honour&nbspthe late respected  Councillor Bob Hartwell who collapsed and died of a heart attack during a marathon.

Since it's inception, the town has waived  the fees.

Also since then, there has been a steady increase in demand for waived fees.

Sometimes they are waived. Sometimes not.

I recall the two young mothers who asked for a waiver of $75. for
a celebration of the tenth anniversary of Aurora Grove Elementary School. The fee pays for  staff to  provide picnic tables and garbage bins and clean up before and after.

The waiver was not recommended. I felt bad about that. But I did not argue against it. There has to be consistency to ensure everyone is treated fairly.

If you do it for one,you have to do it for everyone. If you don't do it for one, you can not do it for anyone.

A few months later, we broke the rule. Wells Street School  Parents group asked fora waiver of  fees of $300, for a final graduation ceremony in the town park with use of the bandshell.

We  granted that.

Though they may not even have been aware of it, I felt we betrayed the Aurora Grove School parents.

I could not fathom how a politician with any sense of fairness or equality could do that. But they kept doing it.And I kept telling you about it.

Leisure Services staff solicit sponsorships from local business to finance summer concerts in the park.Hundreds of people turn out to enjoy.

Last summer, another staff provided a sponsorship pf $2K to an outfit organizing a commercial jazz concert.This year they are back demanding as of right, $5K.

On  one hand we ask local business to donate to provide something to save  cost to the taxpayer. On the other hand we put our hand into the taxpayers' pocket to give  a hand-out to a fast talker bullshit- baffles- brains artist.

On one hand we struggle to keep  user fees reasonable  so that no-one will be shut out. On the other, we forfeit revenue to give free use of a facility for a week-end.

No equity. No consistency. No integrity.

People are not being treated fairly.

Council should not choose from among those who ask, which are worthy of  support and which are not.

A municipal council is not a philanthropic organisation.

The South Lake run is well established and highly successful.  Payment of the user fee simply means the final charity cheque handed over would be $750. less.

What is that about?

Taxpayers in our area  already pay  the cost of constructing the South Lake facility. Runners obtain sponsors to create the charitable funds. People from places like Bradford .Alliston.Barrie and Uxbridge use the facility and contribute nothing in property taxes to its constructon.

Already, even without fund-raising, there is  inequity among taxpayers to provide the facility.

Is that a reason to exacerbate the situation by waiving the user fee?

I think not. I urged council to start with a fresh slate and  not grant this or any other waiver.

Councillor John Able agreed with the points I  made.  But added   "just this once" he wanted to waive the fee.

And that's how the vote  went.

Sad to say, pretty much like it would have done in  the last term of council.

P.S. The decision  to waive the fees is not yet final. It must be approved in Council. I just thought of another argument that can be made;

The councillors  in favour of contributing $750. from the pockets of the taxpayers to this charity have other options.  They can  participate in the run.  They can sponsor a runner.They can collect the sum from among themselves  and contribute  to the cause.

They should not ask me to join them.

I like to make my own choice about the charity I will support.

I  prefer to keep my choice to myself.

It is my business which or whether I support charity.

It is inappropriate to use  sympathy to a cause  for political advantage.

I believe it is  politics at its most fundamental.

l have advice to anyone  who thinks they have a right to dictate to me how to use my private resources.

Don't even think of putting your hand in my pocket. You may not get it back.


Yesterday's Absence

We have unwanted guests in the house. Yesterday was the day for giving them the  heave-ho, the pitch,so long my dears, it has not been good to know you. 

My daughter Heather, aka   general contractor came down and after an hour or so of catching up on each other's lives we got started.

She climbed the ladder and handed things down. I sat at the sink and washed dishes and implements.

We threw out packages. Washed out containers . Walls were washed and cupboard doors.

Scouring,washing and pitching went from floor to ceiling.The only place still left to do by the time she left was the cupboard with bottles of vinegar;malt.apple cider.Worcestershiresauce,hoisin,soy,teriyaki

They will have to wait until next time.

We thought we  got the message across. months ago.  But a few  weeks since it became  obvious they had returned.

Initially they arrived with a bag of wild bird seed .

Never keep wild bird seed in the house.

Or,  for that matter. any other seed for any length of time.

We had purchased sticky cardboard sleeves in numbers and put them about all over the place. What may have been the  fiftieth  or hundredth generation were no longer attracted. Nothing else on the store shelves appeared to fill the bill

Yesterday we put our minds to a natural product that might be in the house that could  be scattered on food cupboard shelves. I had Borax.It's an oldie. So that's what we used.

Last night, the population was reduced to one which  we soon  slapped  out of existence.

If anyone knows of a repellent that deters pesky little moths from staying where they are not welcome we will be glad to hear of it.

It's the reason there was no post yesterday.

When Heather calls ,I have to be ready.

Thursday 24 March 2011


A word to describe something with seemingly contradictory qualities.

Could be used to describe a budget process.

In January an ad appeared for a manager of customer services for the town with a salary of $80Ks. Add benefits and tools and the cost for budget purposes is $100K.

The budget had not been passed. I challenged the ad. It was explained the position was not new. It was a replacement. I questioned which. The position cited had  already been filled.

It was agreed the job would not be filled until after budget approval.

On Tuesday,the position was questioned in a different context. Again it was explained it was not new. It was a replacement. But not the same as previously described.

A budget is an extensive process. Department Managers prepare estimates, submit and justify them to Directors, who in turn submit and justify them either to the CAO and Chief Financial Officer or to what is now known as the Executive Team.

So, theoretically estimates have run the gauntlet at least twice.There should be no unrealistic expectations.

They should be tight and tidy when they arrive before Council. From then on, scrutiny is under a spotlight.

The end result is nothing less than increasing the burden of taxation. A serious responsibility.

When Council completes scrutiny and approves a budget,  ownership of the document becomes theirs.

No-one else is to blame. No-one else is accountable.

There is no place for cosy,comfortable.smooth and silky acquiescence.

I did not vote for re-organisation of the administration in 2010 with the addition of managerial positions proposed in 2011. I have seen nothing since to convince me I was wrong.

We have received two contradictory accounts of the need for a customer services manager. It is not for me to choose which is  most plausible.

The opportunity to convince me of the merits of the addition of that or any other manager's position is thereby lost.

They will be added to the list I want to see cut from the budget next Monday night. No doubt other Councillors will have their own ideas.

Unanimous support for a budget is the best assurance the interest of the community has been served.

We have work to do still.


I wrote from 8.11a.m. I completed a post and clicked on publish at 11 a.m.

The post has vanished.

I have a dentist's appointment at 2.00 p.m.

Have not had breakfast yet.

Gotta go.


Tuesday 22 March 2011

The Budget

Council is still conscientiously going through the town's budget. We were at it again last night until eleven.. We had a week off for the March break.

We've gone through the thing line by line. Last night's meeting was scheduled to approve it.That caused a bit of confusion.  A few bits and pieces had been trimmed.  Big ticket items had been removed, for now, from the capital budget. They will be considered in June at a special meeting.

That was a good thing.

There still remained the operational budget,which is the part that affects the tax rate. The increase was still in excess of 8 per cent at the start of the evening.  .A few more  bits and pieces were taken off. Then we arrived at a point when each Councillor was asked to state their position on the remaining increase.

That process resulted in a bit more coming off.

It wasn't enough . We are building a budget on vastly bloated previous budgets. I  have waited four years to get at that.Things that needed to be done were  not while  stuff with the perceived  favourable optics and political payoff  had  money thrown at them by the bagful. 

I know I come on strong. Believe me when I tell you, I have tried to acquire a more persuasive approach. It's no good. I know too much and when I dwell on  it, I turn ferocious.

Readers who  paid  close attention to the last term will remember many of the issues.

Last year  three  road construction projects came in two million dollars under budget. Councillor Wilson was ecstatic. He felt it was the result of good work.

Turned out one of the projects had been estimated with replacement of underground services, They were never intended to be replaced. That was part of  the two million dollars under budget. The money for underground services would have been taken from water reserves.

Remember the  increase in water rates last year. Increased  estimate in water loss and  a few other factors were used to justify the increase.When I asked for a record of water breaks to justify the jump in water loss estimates,we've been carrying out a program of re-lining water pipes for years to prevent water loss,  they wouldn't give me the  figures for  fear I would distort them.

They just said no. 

Last night ,there was no sign of  surplus of two million dollars in that or any  line of the 2010 budget. 

Then there were  hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees that poured  out of the treasury.

Remember Nisbet Drive; we shifted the  road  and services over by a meter to please a single self-serving individual on the street who didn't want a sidewalk abutting his property line.He spends the winter in Florida.

In 2009, we funded the Culture Centre to the tune of $483K. They are duplicating many  services already provided by our leisure services department and the Library and a variety of independent small self- sufficient groups throughout  the town.

The boards payment for purchase of service is  another  $500K this year. That's a full  two points of the tax increase. 

Last night we talked about the need for cash to capital reserves. In simple terms, that's putting money in a sock under the mattress for a rainy day. To keep taxes down for future taxpayers. We reduced the amount of the increase from 3% to !%.

In the meantime, the Culture Centre Board  put money we gave them in 2009  and again 2010 into another  sock under the mattress.We tax people for services already provided and they tuck it away in a safe place for a rainy day.

Remember Knowles Crescent where we pushed the public works director out of the way and hired a consultant  to placate dissatisfied residents ,five of  whom ended up pocketing the $69 K contingency allowance from the million dollar project. Five cheques were issued in time for Christmas. One of them for $10K

And who can forget the quarter of a million dollar traffic calming boondoggle in the north-east heritage neighbourhood quadrant in the first year of the last term.

I know y'all remember. Because I keep reminding you. That's why you elected  an almost completely new  council.

Now they need to be informed. We're getting there. We did some good work last night and more to come.

Look At This

Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "Twittering or Tweetering":

"Within the last two years I have seen the corporate communications department changed to a public relations arm of the Mayor's office without approval of Council."

Where does it say that council has to approve this? Please provide links to either the Town bylaw or to Provincial legislation to justify your contention that this is illegal. If it is not legal then I guess you just have your nose out of joint that you were not consulted. Too bad


Yesterday I added a  post in response to this comment. I kept it in draft. This morning I  deleted it.

The Comment  can be allowed to stand by itself.

I invite readers to imagine who might have written it.


I make only one point; When the corporate communication division was established , it would  have to have been approved by Council. Staff had to be retained. Budget had to be provided.Only Council can approve a budget. Only Council is accountable for taxes collected.

No  administrative functionary  has  authority to impose taxation on the community.

The purpose of  corporate communications  would certainly have been spelled out to Council and the benefits thereof  and funds approved by council.

Expansion or changes to the function, leading to increased hiring  and cost,  remain  the function of Council. Not the administration.

My nose is not out of joint.

When a function changes  and expands without Council approval, the  authority of Council is disrespected.

When Council  is disrespected, the people who chose the Council are disrespected.

Even when Councillors are ignorant of their  collective authority that is still a fact. It is also a problem.

When  people  without  municipal  experience,  hired into an administration, are not wise enough to know what they do not know,they are certainly not wise enough to teach, as I was taught,the difference between elected and administrative authority.

That is a much more serious problem.

The weight of responsibility falls squarely on the shoulders of whoever  does know ,to make sure the ignorance  and disrespect does not continue unabated.

No-one should imagine,I am not up to that task


Some hae meat and canna eat. And some would eat that  want it.

But I have a blog. And a council seat. And sae the Lord be thankit.

What's in a Prayer?

 Dear God in Heaven!  Holy Mary Mother Of God!  Sweet Jesus, Mary and Joseph!

They're selling tickets in Newmarket  for a  Prayer Breakfast with the Mayor.

Did ye ever hear the like of it?

What would the ticket be for I wonder? The Prayer with the Mayor?  Or the breakfast? I wonder if  points are given.

The paper says there are still  tickets left. If they can't sell them ,will they give them away I wonder to some poor soul who might not have breakfast that day.

Will they invite him in?

They had something like that in Aurora last year. Council was asked to endorse it. I heard the tickets were not inclusive. Some folk  thought that wasn't nice.

I  couldn't imagine  what the Mayor's Prayer Breakfast was about  so I wasn't sure if  it was nice or not.

Maybe everybody wouldn't want to be included.

They said the Mayor was going to pray for the council.

A Member  cried  out  in Council once " Oh My God "  Another member gasped in  horror.  The Mayor accused the supplicant  of taking the Lord's name in  vain.  "Inappropriate language' , she called it

I'm  sure it was a fervent plea sent  heavenward for endurance in the face of a particular test.

In fact, I'm certain , a pair of us  appealed to a number of deities  on many an occasion. Whatever it takes, to get you through , don't you know.

It  makes me wonder if a Mayor's Prayer might be different and that's why they're selling tickets.

Aye well... Saints Preserve Us! There's  aye room for something new.

Sunday 20 March 2011

Twittering or Tweetering

Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "Safe Passage":

"As an elected official, I have no authority to direct or advise a municipal employee of the requirements of his job."

But you're doing just that!

How is using social media any different than printing the town page in the newspaper? It's the same information, just presented in a different way.

I can imagine how efficient it would be if staff had to run everything they do past council.


I  am not doing that.

My blog is posted for those who choose to get  my  personal take on town affairs. People  have to rely on  Councillors.   Over the years  some have learned they can depend on me.

It may be because of all the years of knowing how I think.

It's not  about being right all the time.  I  often  see merit to more than one side of an argument.Straddling the fence is not a luxury Councillors have.  When it's time to vote, you have to choose , one way or another.

Staff receive Council direction  through policies adopted by Bylaw. Every experienced employee understands that unless of course, we have a Council like the last one.

If  an idea presents  which has merit but is not covered by policy,council must approve.

Social media is a new form of communication; hardly likely to  be covered by an existing policy.I absolutely disagree,  it's the same as designing the Town Notice Board.

I know how long it takes to write a post. I know how much of me goes into it.

I know how much time it takes to respond to comments.When censoring is required. When I need to cut off  the  discussion. Or choose which comment to respond to.

I know how much a personal response is appreciated. Can that service be provided by staff?  Can we afford the cost? Is it worth the cost?

How many staff  would be required to fulfill  the expectations? What is the added  benefit?

The social  media is personal. What happens if a Council decison is hard fought and results in a split  decision; is it  the  function  of a  tweet on twitter to convey  differing perspectives  as expressed in the debate? Or is  the majority only to be represented?

In our system of government, the minority must be heard.

How does an employee handle those decision to everyone's satisfaction ?

I say they can't.

Of course, I have heard  no arguments to the contrary. They have not been offered.

Within the last two years I have seen the corporate communications department changed to a public relations arm of the Mayor's office without approval of Council.

If having your name on the Town Hall address gives an incumbent candidate an advantage,   Imagine what a plus  it is to have an entire   public relations department on hand ,at public expense, to write and circulate   promotional material in your favour every day of the week.

The function of the corporate communication division has been changed to allow that. Last Council did not debate the change. This one hasn't either.

I know of at least one intelligent person who thinks it's just fine. I do not.  I don't think those who read my blog would think so either.That's why I'm keeping them informed. I think they have a right to know.

And&nbspfrankly my dear, I don't give a damn whose tender feelings might be offended.

Tapping my toes

Eyes closed ...  Nodding ....  consciously  enjoying
Bruce Cockburn singing
I'm  wondering where the lions are.
It's a great tune ...  pulls you in...first time I listened to the words.
Couldn't catch all of them
Wanted to know more
Googled the lyrics
About young men and war
And eternity.

Safe Passage

Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "Another Stunt For The Election":

I think it's highly inappropriate -- not to mention cowardly -- for you to continue to publicly criticize staff on this blog when you know damn well they can't respond publicly.

Why aren't you asking these type of questions at Town Hall instead of in public? All you're doing is continuing to add to the poisoned atmosphere and, no doubt, further eroding staff morale.

And I'm sure the irony of you using social media to question the town's use of social media is not lost on your readers


Had a staff report been submitted and authority requested for blogging, posting on Facebook and tweeting; had the  report  not included answers to  questions; I would have argued the points in council debate when the report was being considered 

Several options would have been available to me. I could have moved the report be received;  deferred,  referred for further information to be provided,  tabled indefinitely,or the recommendation  be turned down. .

It would be a debate between  equals. The decision would be made by council, accountable to the community for how tax dollars are spent.

It would have been a recorded vote, if it got to that point.

That's how it should be.

That's not how it was.

It would not now be a  public challenge for council to justify a  lack of concern  and respect for due process.

A media release  indicates the Mayor's support for the program. I assume that means he is confident of Council support or he doesn't think it's needed.

Anyone who doesn't understand, has no experience with  how a municipal corporation functions.

They do not understand the difference between a privately owned corporation which accounts to no-one but its owner and a public corporation  with the requirement, to publicly account for how public funds are used.

They do not understand the need for open and transparent decision-making.

As an elected official, I have no authority to direct or advise a municipal employee of the requirements of his job.That responsibility belongs to his supervisor.

I would not however hesitate to advise any employee of the wisdom of  paying  close attention to the line between elected and administrative authority.

You stay on your side. I will stay on mine. I was elected to do a job. It's what I mean to do without fear or favour.

I am not just a pretty face.

I am also  confident  readers of this blog are, in the main, as interested in the answers  as I am.

Mind  who you call a coward, Mr.or Mrs Anonymous.

The Debate Continues...History Versus Culture...What!!

David Griffith's letter to the Mayor and Council appeared in both local newspapers last week.One gave it a heading of The Jewel in Aurora's Crown.

I printed the letter in a previous post. It applauds  use of the Church Street School as a centre for culture.

Church Street School is situated next to Aurora's library which is relatively new and  heretofore considered by many,  to be the  Jewel in Aurora's Crown. I guess we  have two jewels.

The  question is, can we afford two jewels doing the  same thing.

This week's notice board has a number of programs from the town's leisure services and the library  relating  to that question.

Last night, dinner and  a movie  suitable for ages 11 to 14 was offered at the library for $3 admission.

During  March Nancy Newman & Linda Welch are exhibiting in the Skylight Gallery of the Aurora Town Hall.

High school students, a  growing population in Aurora are invited to participate in a first ever Art in the Park event. Picnic tables will be painted and the completed tables will be judged and placed in parks for the community to enjoy.The program was initiated by Chris Catania, youth co-ordinator  on  town  staff for at least eight years

Currently on display  until April 23, at the Colleen Abbott Gallery in the library, is an exhibit of floral and landscapes by award winning  Aurora artist Nancy Newman.

Again at the library, every Thursday from March 31 to April 21 and from May 5 to May 26 is a Splash into Spring event where youngsters can learn to watercolour with award winning Aurora painter and teacher Alana Biasi. The program is for beginners and advanced students.

On March 24th , beading  and  fashion a suede bracelet is being taught to 9 to 14 years old at the Aurora library.

The library is a beautiful facility. It can only  be described  as uplifting. I believe it was built in the tradition of Aurora but it was and is being paid for in large part by development charges.

In  early days of Ontario, the only functioning  level of government was local. Council members came from  local employers. They had little  inclination for children of the labour force to be educated.Their own children went  abroad to boarding schools.

Subsequently. the senior government took responsibility for education away from local councils. They created school boards  and gave them authority to requisition  funds needed from the council..

Aurora's early families were English, Scottish, Welsh, Quakers and  Dutch. Church Street School, we have heard, is unique in Ontario. This community, unlike others, valued education for itself. That was a Scottish tradition.
A scan of  town  history reveals education was not the only art appreciated.The town has always been progressive.And  always in a competition with its neighbour, Newmarket.

If David Griffiths  doesn't  know that he should.

The entire world  knows  the beauty of  the Welsh Eisteddfod, a tradition in Wales that dates back to the 12th century.

The  families Griffiths and Davis, both Welsh, have  spread like the  roots of an almighty tree in the history of Aurora.

Collis Leather and  Davis Tannery in Newmarket  were only the  latest survivors of hundreds of small  tanneries that existed at one time or another on Tannery Creek. Tanners were  possibly brought  from the same place as the founders of the industry. It was how settlement happened in the early days.It was how the country grew.

Aurora doesn't need to take a back seat to anyone in terms of appreciation the lively arts. The town wasn't waiting for the renovation of Church Street School  to be exposed to the arts.

What disturbs me most about the dispute, is the  lack of awareness of what actually goes on in the community, by the people who should know  but made the decision the facility should not be used for the purpose intended.

The library has always provided arts programming.  Leisure Services have done the same. Our little theatre company has been providing performing arts, including musicals  for at least fifty years.

Local churches have sponsored musical performances. The artist community has been vibrant, well supported and facilities provided for almost as long.

Where did the idea come from that the town needed to support with half a million  dollars of our taxes  an arts program at the Church Street School  at  the exclusion  of the town's museum ?

Last week, I heard of an all day  training session for department heads at the Church Street School.

The week before I heard of the facility being used for a meeting of a commercial association. What are the implications of that to businesses in town offering the same service?

Are we competing for business with tax funded facilities with business who are carrying the burden of the taxes ?

How fair or logical is that?

Saturday 19 March 2011

Another Stunt For The Election

Was distribution of a couple of thousand leaflets called "Clean Up Aurora "  throughout  part of the old town in time for the election campaign. As if four years had passed unnoticed and all of a sudden, there was a need to show something for it .

The leaflets were  mailed. I tried  to find out how much they cost and where the money came from. I received a curt note saying they were done in house and cost $12, or some such ridiculous figure.

I  know what  it costs to mail leaflets. Stamps costs more than  leaflets  which were substantial in size with many colours. 

During the term before  last , Council met with the developers of Smart Centres. They committed to  $150K  contribution of top of all other payments, specifically towards downtown revitalisation.

The money was paid in installments. Council has never made a decision about how it would be used.

Somebody obviously decided, it  could be used to encourage part of the community to clean up by way of two thousand more pieces of litter being  mailed out to two thousand homes.

Councillors did get an e-mail notifying us the first stage of the project had been carried out.

I suppose the courtesy of informing us of the project  made up for not seeking authority  to do it in the first place.

I'm not even sure  any of that money left.

It's  like the new program of  blogging, tweeting and posting on Facebook. Council wasn't consulted about that either.

I note the Mayor is happy to report  the town's use of  new technology.I myself have  questions I would like  answered. Neither  does it look like answers will be coming soon because it seems i.m the only one concerned. 

I think  Council  should  receive a report on cost- benefit of any new  program with the request for  authority to proceed.

How much time needed?  What  is not being done while the blogging, posting and tweeting are going on.

Was there a person with time on their hands who needed to be occupied.?

Has  a new person been hired for the project.  Is that the extra $100K in the budget for a person in the communications department? I always add benefits to salary shown.

I do not claim  authority on new technology. I  know it took time to get the web site working  at an appreciable level .  I have not heard of any demand in the community for blogging, posting and tweeting by town staff.

I know  at least as many in the community are not on line as are; what value is the new service to those who are not?

How does one measure the value of stuff like that ?

Basic cost is obviously man hours and we know that's  not cheap.

What do you use as a comparator  to suggest it's worth doing?

 I know how a newspaper reporter's time is measured. He is assigned a story to cover. Space for it to appear.It has to be readable. Generally speaking,line advertising governs news space available.There has to be a cost benefit.Or the paper goes bust.

In the private sector, that's as good a comparator as any.

Reporters don't claim to be impartial any more.Why should tweeters be thought to be unbiased?

How  does one  quantify value, quality  and return for tweeting. Where does it fit  with services to property? Which is our legal justification  for collecting taxes.

Who said the taxpayers want to pay for tweeting and posting and blogging ? Nobody asked me or anyone else on Council I know of.

 If  we are not the ones to decide,what else  is our reason for being?

Why bother with elections for individuals to sit around a table many, many hours a month for...well....table dressing?

Why encourage the electorate to believe they are somehow in charge of their own governance

If it's not O.K. for a Councillor to tweet from the Council table, and I don't believe it is, (and  I  believe it's utterly ludicrous to have to tell a grown person  it's not) why is it O.K. for a staff person to be sitting in a cubicle blogging , posting and tweeting to his heart's content.

Is this stuff  serious?

A major  erosion  during the last term  was  the line between administration and political authority.

It disappeared.

Update on the Somewhat-Secret Lease with the Feds.

The town does have possession of the lease. The Freedom of Information applications goes to the Federal Department of National Defence. I do not know who informed the Clerk I could not have access to the information .

Our Mayor has filed a Freedom of Information application. So I don't have to.

I keep thinking of a very funny movie called "The Russians Are Coming".   I watch it each time it comes around and enjoy it more every time.

I do not suspect a fiendish plot. No-one I know is capable of masterminding such a thing.
Efforts at skulduggery  were usually puny affairs. Sooner or  later, somebody  spills  the beans
I believe honesty is the best policy. For politicians it is definitely the safest.

I think the lease to the Queen's York Rangers  was exactly how it was presented.  A last ditch desperate attempt to make the last administration look successful.

It didn't . Now it's coming back to haunt us.

Friday 18 March 2011

Once Again I Am Telling You

Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "This Just In":

Has the Town never entered into an agreement with the Federal Government on leases?

I think that your thinking that some clandestine thing is/was going on is a bit much.

The Federal Government has departments that do nothing but this sort of thing. The feds are the ones that are in control and set the terms. There is no negotiation invloved. Why? For the reason that you are on about now. If the feds required councils to sign off on leases that they enter into, they would NEVER get a lease done. Municipal councils appear to have nothing better to do than fiddle about on small stuff like this. In order to get things done, you have to expedite the process.

I defy you to find something wrong with the lease.

 Anonymous has left a new comment on your post:

Not sure I understand. Does the restriction specifically say that members of council are not allowed to review it, or that it may not be released to the general public? If somehow it says or implies that council may not see it, how is it that the Mayor could sign it? I mean, what is the mayor if not a member of council?


I  provided  exactly the information  I  received on  my request to view the lease for the hydro property, which  the town owns. 

I asked  for a copy  I was informed my request could not be granted. I asked for a written refusal. 

I will receive a form for an application to the  Federal Department of National Defence with my agenda package.

I must make an application to the Federal agency .They will decide what information will be provided and what not.

I am not trying to explain . I do not understand it myself.

The disposition of the hydro property  was a decision  pending in the 2006 election.

Would it be sold? Would it be used for town purposes ?

The Parks  Department made use of the building as a paint shop and a workshop and as storage .

A Century barn on development property with no use determined, was carefully dismantled ,nails pulled one by one, and transported to the hydro building and stored carefully indoors. My recollection was Mr.Panizza our former town clerk  referred to  other storage uses but they were not identified.

Four years went by and no attention paid to the building.

Suddenly on the eve of the election, a joyful proclamation that the building had been leased to the Department of National Defence.

 I objected on several grounds. Not the least was the impropriety of an outgoing council committing an incoming council to a decision they had no part in making.

It is never done.

Another aspect occurs  even as I think about the situation; if the town owns a property and decides to sell it, a bylaw must be passed declaring the property  surplus. The property must be appraised and offered for sale in an open and transparent process.

I  know of  no reason why the disposition of the hydro property  should not have been handled in an equally open and transparent fashion with any person with an interest invited to submit a proposal.

It did  not happen.

During budget discussions at the beginning of the month, I noted  rental revenue for the property  was not showing in the revenue table.

The treasurer responded , it was  in the budget for the department of environment and infrastructure. But rent did  not start to be paid until February 2011.

The joyful proclamation of the lease was made in September or October of 2010.

It was then I decided I needed to see  the lease.

My request has been refused .  I have provided  the reasons I was given for  being refused  access.

Yes ,the CAO negotiated the lease.

Yes,  the associate solicitor "worked" on the lease.

Yes, the Mayor and Clerk signed the lease .

Yes, the lease was probably copied and printed by other  personnel.

But NO, as a representative of the owners of the  property, I am not allowed to see the lease and understand what the town committed to, with the federal department of national defense, on the eve of the last  municipal election.

Now you know everything I know.

In all my years, I have never seen the like of it.

This Just In

I cannot  have a copy of the lease the town signed with the Department of National Defense.

Despite being the  landlord of  a public  property, the lease the town has signed is bound by the tenant  not to be  released on request.

It is incumbent upon myself  to pay $5 and make an application under the Freedom of Information Act to obtain details of the lease. It will then be a decision of the Department of National Defense to decide what if any information they will release.

The lease was worked upon by the associate solicitor of the town.

Council  was   informed  by the Mayor,  the deal was negotiated by the Chief Administrative Officer.

It was approved to be signed by the Council without being informed of the terms of the lease.

It was signed by the Mayor with the Clerk's signature as witness. 

No doubt the lease agreed to by the DND is the norm for them .

It is not the norm for the municipality.

Yet  council was not informed of the abnormality.

Why not?

Is the use of the building equally secret?  It is  an industrial building in an industrial area.

What is their intent? What works have been undertaken in the building at town expense since the lease was signed ?

When or if I learn more , by transparent and lawful means of course, I will let you know. 

The Race Is On

It looks like  a Federal Election has started. The  sound media are full of predictions the government will be re-elected.
An election at  the federal level  is like a war. The side  that makes the most mistakes is the loser. Or  something calamitous happens at the end  without  enough time left to deflect attention. .

The Conservatives of course are first out the gate. They've been doing those nasty adds about Ignatieff for months. If the Liberals do it back, it will be like tit-for-tat.  Provincial Liberals have started similar nasty adds about Provincial Conservative leader.

Yesterday, it was about  a $10million  federal gift for the  proposed Vaughan Health Sciences Centre because of all the jobs and industries created around the health  industry.

To-day,  it 's about the ten million dollar gift they didn't give to the  Health Sciences Campus underway in Oakville. The Mayor of Oakville is having trouble making contact with his conservative member of
parliament to explain why his town  only got $75K last year. The Mayor hopes it was  a down payment.

It's early days .The writ hasn't even been dropped. But M.P.Julian Fantino, the  Conservative elected in
Vaughan in a by-election , promised  he would get money for the proposed hospital during the campaign a couple of months ago.

Sure 'nuff , the money came.  From the Minister responsible for industrial development..

It's  interesting    health problems stimulates all kinds of money-making enterprises. If they build it,patients will  come. There  will still be wait times but various sectors will  make tons of money all around  and it will be a gigantic headache for the provincial government..

When it's built,  problems will start for the Province having to meet the cost of operating . They  control that by  getting  patients out of hospital as fast as possible. Then they ration home care to  minutes a day to  control those costs.

The people on home care are saving  on hospital costs.

All the while , people in the health care industry are making money hand over fist .  The GTA takes in 250.000 new people from other places every year so its  impossible to keep up with the demand for hospital beds. At  the same time all the talk is about the burden the elderly  place on the health care industry er system,  not about the newcomers.

Thursday 17 March 2011

Curlicue, Curlicue, wilt thou be true,Not By The Hair On Your chinny,chin,chin

Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "Bits And Bobs":

"Why the fear that details may not be conveyed accurately?"

Oh, I don't know....it might just have something to do with all the other times you've twisted information to serve your own self-interest.

Staff's probably grown tired of you taking what they give you and having you turn it around to attack
them with it


I  have published the foregoing  as an example of how accusations continue and the facts were regularly distorted  in the past term.

No specific example of  inaccuracy  was ever provided.

When  a resolution is passed by Council  it is owned by Council. Criticism of a political decision is not criticism of staff .

Readers may recall halfway  through the third year of the last  term when I requested a list of all legal invoices paid  during the term.  Expenditures from the public purse  are a matter of public record.
Three times, I was assured the documentation was forthcoming.

A resolution moved  and seconded by Mac Eachern and Wilson contrived to provide  a reason eventually not to provide  the information.

Staff had no reason to be afraid of how  information might be  perceived. The CAO had  been employed by the town for six months , the solicitor and Finance Officer  both  followed  his appointment.

No, indeed.  It wasn't staff who needed to keep information  under wraps.

It was the dreadful duo themselves,who were hell bent on  legal devices, no matter how much of the public resources  they  used for the purpose.

Our  new Council  should certainly  require figures of  actual spending as opposed to budget forecast, to make sense of  the requirement  for legal services in 2011

If I recall  figures correctly, a  legal reserve  of $100K in 2009,  was emptied in 2009. In  2010, a reserve of $250K  created that year was also  used up in the same year, over and above the annual budget estimate.

That means in those two years alone $350K more was spent than anticipated needs reflected in the budgets, by the legal department.

I have yet to discover where, in last year's spending, is the total figure paid out in wage settlements in the last term.  I think that might come under the heading of  legal  spending as well.

There has never been any question about whose pocket was emptied.

Bits And Bobs

I've just been deleting comments on the post about the Hydro building.It's amazing what came out of that post:

Two very  confident statements  that the building  had not been in  use for four years. That was patently  untrue. But I've no doubt the person who made it, believed it to be true. How could that happen?

The statement, at least the building will now be put to use. Well it has been. But if it wasn't why was it not placed on the market for sale four years ago.

Why would we opt to keep a solid, practically new, well designed building ,meeting all  town's requirements for landscaping, parking ,illumination and a huge yard for storage. empty and idle for four years and then  go about finding a handy tenant  in the very last minutes of the term. 

Where was the economic efficiency ? And how come the lease was proclaimed  and signed prior to the election but the rent not paid until four months later?

Then there's the  reluctance for  the lease to be revealed. What's  that about? It must be a public document. How and why should it be secret?

If  military reasons  mean  the people of Aurora  cannot be privy to a commercial  lease, why would the town  opt  to tangle themselves up in such complications. Where is the municipal advantage to that?

And how would staff, obviously involved in negotiating and writing the lease, and the clerk and Mayor in signing the lease, thereby  be privy to the lease, yet an elected representative not.

Why the fear that  details may not be conveyed accurately?  The best way to deal with that is to publish the lease.

Then there's all the chit-chat about Councillor Ballard's connection to the military. That was news but hardly meaningful..

It doesn't appear  to amount to anything but it's just as well to have it explained.

Chippy comments were made  about municipal councillors having no influence on military matters.

Where did that come from? I don't ever remember Aurora Councillors having anything to do with the military. Except for  once,when   it seemed  the entire Canadian  army  was doing military  motorised maneuvres  and  neighbours objected to war games, tracer bullets and  smoke producing missiles being tossed about in the  park  in the early  hours of a  summer Saturday morning.

Oh Yes and there was the night of the War Measures Act ,when Ron Wallace and  the late Bob Buchanan making their way to the Officers' Mess  for a brief watering sojourn, were stopped in their tracks, at the point of a rifle and ordered  to identify themselves.

We have had annual passing out parades of course and Honorary  dinners,Freedom of the Town  presented at  The Town's Inaugural Ceremony.  All very pleasant and mutually complimentary.

Can't think why we would want to jeapordise friendly relations with the military by signing a lease that had to be confidential because of national security.

Or why  would  we risk making  the natives restless  and wondering what on earth can  they be doing on Industrial Parkway that might have anything at all to do with  national security.

Why would  the Mormac Administration see that as a good thing?

Were the Gang of Six sworn to secrecy when they agreed to the lease? I certainly wasn't. But that may be because I didn't...agree to it, that is.

Of course, it was all done during an election  campaign. No municipal council  makes substantive decisions in the interim period between a Council ending a term  and a new Council taking over.

There might even be something in the Municipal Act that mitigates against that eventuality.

It was weird at the time. It just keeps getting weirder.

Answer To A Question Nobody Has Asked

I will answer it anyway. One of the legal responsibilities of a Councillor is to protect the town's interest . Information obtained as a result of being a Councillor , can  under no circumstances , be revealed  that might bring harm to the municipality.

 The information does not belong to the Councillor. It is not hers or his to disclose.

Even if a Council or Councillor is  under  political  pressure or criticism , to release the  information, if it can harm the municipality in any way, it cannot be divulged.

Failure to adhere to the obligation represents, at any level of government, a Breach of Trust. It is the real meaning of the Oath of Office.It is also an indictable federal offence. 

A second serious responsibility is to protect the individual right to privacy. No person  who has obtained information about another, as a result of being a Councillor, which,if released. would invade the right of privacy, can divulge the information.

In one instance an individual can be harmed, In both instances, the municipality can be harmed.

There are circumstances in which a matter of interest to the public, might  never be made public so long as the possibility exists of harm to the municipality.

The Municipality's interest takes precedence. The Municipality's interest is the community's interest in particular circumstances.

A Blog Is A Blog...What is A Blog ?

Until August 2007, I had no idea . I've been posting since then  and increased to a daily offering . I have a better sense of it now than at the beginning but I'm still not sure how it might  precisely be  defined.

It is certainly not  traditional media. 

It  can have  dynamic impact.An average of two hundred and twenty people a day read my blog. Considering the narrowness of its scope , I think that's pretty remarkable.

Citizen Blog has  more readers than mine. It has a better format for an exchange of views.

There are  posters  who seem to be intent on changing that at the Citizen.

Different blogs can have a different focus. The Citizen ,in response to reader demand, introduces different topics from time to time.  But mostly it deals with Aurora politics. Traffic slows down significantly when the topic is changed.

I think it's odd for readers  to ask for a blog to be changed. Why not instead seek out a blog that suits your taste?

Or if there isn't one, start your own.

It seems obvious to me ,if people  log in  regularly, it's because they know what to  expect.Why ask for something different?

I  have kept tabs on the  Citizen conversation since the beginning.   Posters  sometimes ask questions I can answer.  So I do. I  thought it was a useful contribution. I like to be helpful.

Sometimes posters  will  express their appreciation.

Lately I seem to be taking a fair amount of flak.. Critics are mostly anonymous but there is a common thread.

It  appears  they would like  me to butt out and  stop talking about Aurora's politics.Something about it seems to bother them.

Of course,butting out of  town's politic is not a possibility. A current term of office  is always a  continuation of the  previous term.  There is no fresh slate. The budget is the  immediate task. Everything in the document is a spin-off from the previous council.

The election left little doubt as to the community's decision.That budget needs to be changed.

If we do not learn from their errors, we are doomed to repeat them.

And therein lies  the common thread I have recognised. 

Identities  may claim to be  anonymous.The cast is familiar , still alive and active and  style easily recognisable.   If they can suck the life out of  Citizen Blog ,the over-all plan of sabotage will move forward.    .

In a comical  juxtaposition of e-mails recently Councillor Gaertner  intended to forward an e-mail from the Mayor  to Councillor Ballard. The covering message suggested  it be shared with the media.  The way "Buck" does it .  The whole  was copied to the Dreadful Duo.

The Mayor's e-mail was completely innocuous.  Comedy lay  in the fact,it  was returned to the Mayor,instead of Ballard, complete with the covering message. That it was  cc.d to the dreadful  duo was noted. Considering  confidentiality of information  a Councillor is privy to, the realisation  is problematic.

To those of us in the front line, the intent is already obvious. The gauntlet is already thrown down.  Further evidence  was providential.

So my plan  now, is continue to keep tabs on the Citizen. If there are questions I can answer,I will continue to do it here.

Wednesday 16 March 2011

What Was The Deal?

That was quite the flurry of comments about the  hydro building lease.  Councillor Ballard's involvement with  Queen's York Rangers  was unexpected.

The understanding the building had been sitting empty and idle for four years was also a surprise. Especially since it certainly was not.

The building has been in use ever  since Powerstream left.

There was reference to all the revenue coming in.

Rent  started in February. Council was informed about the lease out of the blue, in September/October.

Town money has been spent on the building since.  No authorisation was sought from Council .How could that happen? Where did the money come from? How much has been spent? What secret stash exists that doesn't need Council approval?

Why do you  want to see the lease,someone asks. So that you can skew the facts, she answers.

That's an interesting observation. If the deal is as  fantastic as the former Mayor proclaimed it to be,  how could it be twisted to reflect something else?

If  it is a public document, and I contend it is, how can it be misrepresented?

Why do I need to be a real estate lawyer or a forensic auditor to understand a landlord/ tenant lease? What can be so complicated?  What it is that needs to be kept secret?

Yes indeed. An interesting reaction.  One might even say  panic in some quarters.

Why would our erstwhile open and transparent administration consider it appropriate  to sign away a lease on a property of considerable value either as a sale, or for  town use, to another government  institution which  requires details of the deal to be kept secret from the  public owners of a public  property?

Does anybody else notice a powerful aroma?

Tuesday 15 March 2011

A Clarification of Use of the Hydro Building

The previous post generated swift response.

The statement has been  made several times  the building was not being used for years.  Indeed it was.  By the parks department for several purposes..

I   went to check  it out  at the time the lease was announced.

It was orginally built by Aurora Hydro prior to the Harris government edict that local utilities be privatised. It  is an architect designed building.Head offices.  Landscaped in the front. Wide paved and illuminated driveway and parking lot. The property is an  acreage,the enclosed yard  at least half , completely secured with a high chain link fence and power controlled  entrance and I believe, an alarm system.

A substantial workshop forms the  larger part of the building and is enclosed with the yard.

Bob Panizza  was clerk of the municipality until November 2008. After him came Lucille King. MsKing
decided to" retire" on the day or the day after handing me the decision of the first Integrity Commissioner, who dismissed as wholly political the complaint filed against me at a cost to the town of $70K for a lawyer retained to "investigate" my blogs, letters to the editor and comments in council,by Phyllis Morris,Evalina McEachern,Steven Granger,Wendy Gaertner, John Gallo and Al Wilson.

Six months after Lucille King left. a new clerk was appointed. He is still in the position. That makes Bob Panizza three places removed from the current clerk.

I was informed about the artifacts and other uses of the building by Mr. Panizza. I am assuming the barn from a development property, carefully dismantled and stored, probably at  developers expense, was  one of the artifacts stored in the building.  Now after a mover was  hired to re-locate it at the time the lease was signed ,  the dismantled barn is  now resting in the works yard fully exposed to the elements.

We Have $98K in the budget for an architect consultant study to examine space needs in preparation for building a project at the expense of  $8 to $10 million dollars to accommodate the parks and works department.

Both  facilities currently occupy space at the end of Scanlon Court. The hydro building could have been a factor and was a factor for four years , in the solution to whatever space needs there are.

Instead it was whisked out from under  and leased out to week-end soldiers to accommodate
"the kiddies",  within hours of an election.

With no rental revenue showing for still another four months.Instead $100K expenditure for a sprinkler system for the new tenants. 

I am a Councillor and I can't tell you how that came about. . I have asked for a copy of the lease to gain a clearer understanding, so that I can pass the information along.

I have been  given to understand a copy  will not be forthcoming.


In response to another comment,  other than  becoming  chairman of the Town's  Economic Development Committee, and being  assigned the role of cutting ribbons during the former Mayor's absence and trotting  behind the former worship on more than one occasion, I know nothing whatsoever about Councillor Ballard or his connection to Queen's York Rangers.

Except  I'm told  he tweets and  I am a favourite target of his tweets.

The Councillor  fails to intrigue.

The Saga Of A Lease

A question and answer that came up at the last budget meeting deserves to be expanded. 

In the course of  budget discussion, we had finally reached the town's revenue table. I noticed  rent for the hydro building was not on the list. The figure understood is $139K

I asked about that.

The treasurer responded that revenue was in  Public Works Department budget. But there was none.  Rent had not been paid until February and there had been expenditures.

You could say the answer  took me back a bit. I asked for it to be repeated. 

Residents may recall the triumphant announcement made  close to the election,about the great success of leasing the hydro building to the Department of National Defence,

There  was a glowing media release and  commendations  to the Chief Administrative Officer who concluded the lease.

The Mayor  referred to it in her speech at the all-candidates meeting she attended.

You may also recall I  was distinctly underwhelmed by the announcement. Considering the value of the property, I felt the rent was peanuts. The fact no jobs would derive from the deal made the prospect even less appealing.

The deal was being pushed through while an election was in process. I was supicious  of the motive.
I went so far as to call the Honorable  M.P. Lois Brown and seek her  services to delay the Minister's signature on the lease.

The Mayor commented in a council meeting,  it would be a place for "the kiddies" at the week-ends.

The building had been  used by the Parks Department for the previous four years. At one point I understood from  Bob Panizza, our thrice- removed municipal clerk , the space was being used  to store  artifacts.

A century barn which  had been dismantled ,board by board, nail by nail, was stored carefully indoors in  part of the building.

It was an extraordinarily fine building with an excellent yard completely secured by fence and power.
Parking lot. Landscaped. Illuminated.  It had housed twenty-nine employees when hydro was in place.
If I re-call correctly it had potential of $69K in assessment and millions as a capital asset,  

My preference was to sell it from the day hydro vacated . Restore opportunity for twenty- nine
unemployed  to become employed. Increase the town's revenue base. Realise millions from  the sale.  Decrease the tax rate.

It never happened . For four years the decision was pending. Then all of a sudden, the building was tied up in a lease  producing  none of  the above advantages.

It was said the deal  protected  our relations with the Queen's York Rangers .

There was never  an indication  our relationship with the Rangers needed any help. .

Two weeks after the lease was announced, at the time of the election  and after I spoke to M.P. Brown, the former Mayor circulated an e-mail with the good news, the  Minister of National Defence had signed the lease.

After that  there was work going on in the building. $100K , our money, was being spent on a sprinkler system.

The barn board artifacts so carefully stored were transported  equally carefully to the works yard and left out in the snow and rain.

Time went by. No sign of occupation of the  building.

Last week, we learned  rent did not begin until February. .

I requested a copy of the lease. At this point  I understand  I may not  receive said copy.

Legal documents are signed by the Mayor and  Clerk. The Chief Administrative Officer was credited for negotiating the lease. The town's legal department would be responsible for  writing the lease.

Therefore,  numbers of people  have had access to the lease and  its details.

Yet an elected  representative of   owners of the building has been denied access to the lease.

I await to be advised of the refusal  in writing before determining next steps.