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

Saturday 30 April 2011

We Got Principles ... If You Don't like 'em ...We Got Others.

Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "A Regional Question or Two And One At the Town Lev...":

Could you list ALL the events/charities to which the town makes a contribution, be it cash, waiver of fees, providing facilities requiring town staff labour/vehicles or any event that doesn't fall within the aforementioned?

Which are charities, which are entertainment and which are something else?

Finally, can you provide the cost to the town for each event, in direct dollars when cheques are issued, in waivers of fees, in labour provided by town staff including use of vehicles, and in any other category you can think of?

This will go a long way to being able to understand the demands made on the town, the problems, and how an appropriate policy might come to be written that is clear and fair to all.

Thank you.


The request requires a staff report. I believe any member of the public has a right to request such information from the town. There may be a fee. Certainly there is a cost for a page of printing.

The town has  Grant Funds in the budget. There is a  request form. .There is criteria within which staff may recommend a grant to Council  If the request does not fall within the criteria ,the  applicant will be advised of refusal and  has the option to approach  Council.

There is a  user fee policy  for use of town facilities. Arenas and swimming pool facilities have an hourly rate.

Rates for  groups and organisations  can be subsudised by revenue from commercial organisations.

For example, if the auditorium at the Community Centre on Aurora Heights Drive were to be in use  all the time,  revenuea would keep the hourly rate for  ice down.

Revenue from the Roger Neilson Hockey Club means  the swimming pool  deficit is  less than it would be without.

The more a facility is  used  the less the user fees. There are hours in the day when  facilities  are not in use.Competitive swimmers can be  in school or  at work. They can be out in the middle of the night to get the time they need to compete.

Ice time for figure skaters is more expensive than hockey players. A figure skater needs a patch. So there are not so many users on the same expanse of ice.

The Men's Soccer Club pays nothing for the Highlands  field. They have a club house with a licence. They cater weddings and funerals and election victory parties in competition with taxpaying businesses. They pay neither rent nor taxes nor user fees.I'm not even sure they get a bill for water or sewers. They get fire and police protection, garbage collection and snow clearing but they contribute nothing to the cost.

The lawn bowling club pays no fees . They used to maintain  the lawn  themselves. Numbers fell to twenty-seven and  members were not physically able to continue maintenance.So they asked the town to take it over. The town  did. No user fees are  charged. I noticed in the Aurora Citizen Blog, they are soliciting new members.

The Chamber of Commerce has a highly successful Home Show annually. The pay for the facilities for the days the home show is in operation.  They don't pay for the days it takes to set up and take down.

They also have the greatest street sale in the world in June. They don't pay for clean-up after it's over.

The town has a membership in the Chamber and we give them $8,Ks a year for something called a Platinum sponsorship. Nobody gets a prize or anything. The Town's Logo appears on the plaque.

The Bob Hartwell race for the Heart and Stroke Foundation was started to commemorate a Councillor who died while running a marathon.

Fees for facilities were waived when the event started. It has became highly successful. This year the name was  changed to  A&B Courier Service, A Newmarket company. The event  no longer commemorates Bob Hartwell  and we don't know if the organisers are local any more but we continue to waive the fees anyway.That was $750. worth of  manpower and vehicles to transport picnic tables and garbage bins and clean up afterwards.

A councillor commented when the decision was being made; "We should do it this one time"

The Relay for Life event, a fund-raiser for cancer is not a local organisation but they received a waiver of fees to the tune of $650. They raised  $80 Ks for the charity last year and expect  to do better this year. I guess they figured they needed free facilities. One Councillor figured the picnic tables and garbage bins wre just sitting there anyway. They didn't cost anything.

I'm inclined to think when  the name of the event  was sold  to A &B Courier Service, the Bob Hartwell Race for the Heart and Stroke Foundation might  have contracted  fund-raising out to a commercial fund-raising organisation. That would mean much of the money raised,  pays for salaries and such. It would be another reason why they would not be entitled to a grant.But they got it anyway.

Then of course we all know about the "sponsorship" for the  Commercial jazz festival in the park. They get the $975 user fee waived for the park and the bandshell. Plus a  $4Ks hand-out. The operator is not a town resident.

So we have policies in place to govern  grants. The purpose is to take the decisions out of politics. To ensure people are treated fairly and  equally and not by having friends in positions of power.

But the policy  allows the policy  to be bypassed and politicians to make favourable or unfavourable decisions as the case may be.

The main difference now is they can't do it without you knowing about it. 

Last year  staff granted a sponsorship  to the Jazz Festival without Council approval.

So,you see, while we convey to the world we have policies and principles that guarantee fairness and equality. ..   in reality we don't even pretend to be fair.

Tax dollars are collected and distributed  here and there in varying amounts  and  you are allowed  to guess  at the reason why.

Certainly no logic is offered because there is none.


Anonymous said...

Oh and lets not forget about the biggest charity of all , its a little shack on chruch st where the town throws just about half a million of our tax dollars a year,

Tim the Enchanter said...

"But the policy allows the policy to be bypassed and politicians to make favourable or unfavourable decisions as the case may be"

That's the problem councillor.

Policy - worked out by staff and debated and approved by council should be a 'done deal'

Staff will have a clear direction on:
what fees, if any, for use of facilities.
Under what circumstances, if any, are those fees to be waived.
Clear rules regarding permissable uses of town facilities.
Clear definition on what constitutes a business venture or charity application.
Clear rules regarding advertising and financial reporting of deals involving town 'sponsorship', if such arrangements are allowed.

Interested groups apply to staff.
Decision made as per policy.
End of.
No delegations.
No appeals to council.
No "just this once" waivers.
No council involvment period.

Groups that violate the rules lose their right to apply in future.

On an annual basis staff can bring a report to council with any recommendations they have for improvement or changes to the policy.

Council can debate and vote on changes to the policy going forward but never on a case by case basis.

I share your frustration with the Jazz Festival 'cock-up'. Approving something and then debating same a month later makes council look silly but I think at this point it should go down as 'spilt milk'.
Hopefully in the next few months the policy can be set properly.

AlexReil said...

Good-Day Councilor Buck,

I would love to speak with you regarding the Aurora Relay For Life event.

While I understand and appreciate your perspective on town support for charity events, you really portray the Canadian Cancer Society in a poor light to make your point.

For example, while the office that oversees services to the community of Aurora is located in Newmarket the event itself is totally co-ordinated and run by local volunteers.

I would very much like to have some tea and chat about this event and give my thoughts on town support to charity events.


Alex Reil

christopher watts said...


I believe the anonymous poster is asking a lot from you and I applaud your efforts in trying to provide them with some insight but as you indicate this is a matter that requires a staff report.

It is unfortunate that staff reports are not forthcoming on matters of transparency and accountability like matters of this and several others, as their is obvious demand from residents.

I would like to see disclosed the expenses of councilors as done in Toronto.
I would also like to see a greater break down on water rates and their increases, just to mention a couple.

I recognize that communications is not its strong suit, however it is unfortunate that staff doesn't feel it requisite to produce such reports, nor council demand it of them.

If their is one job that staff should be required it is to report. I don't see the advantage of a wall between citizens and the administration, and citing legal issues doesn't help.

Both council and staff needs to be advised that if you don't want taxpayers to be suspicious of your actions, than by all means report out, in a timely and user friendly fashion.

That hardly has been the case here in Aurora, at least as long as I've been here.

Elizabeth Bishenden said...

Tim the Enchanter hit the nail on the head. If the Council were to focus on developing policy with respect to charities/not for profits/business ventures/tax write offs and give the staff a clear way of developing how to deal with charities and not for profits, then Council could get on with what it should do best... get back to governance and policy and get its politically sticky fingers out of the day to day operations.

Or Council can continue to walk blindly into controversy.

If one Councillor espouses the "no charity gets a break" philosophy, she probably isn't really working with what is going on now in Aurora, and she might find herself sidelined without any realistic expectation of having an impact on the conversation.

I'm not saying her viewpoint isn't valid. I'm saying it might be one that needs to look at timelines and commitments in order to ensure everyone in the not-for-profit/charitable sector is treated fairly and can reasonably expect that the Town's contracted commitments will both be honoured and that the end-dates will be actual end-dates.

Some of the Town's end-dates are beyond the current Council's mandate. So, how does anyone who opposes the deals that have been set up with longer end dates propose to deal with them? Councillors, you have a lot of work ahead of you.

Anonymous said...

Bravo, Tim the Enchanter! You have covered it all brilliantly. I wish this council would wake up and deal with this once and for all and keep itself out of the decision making other than related to policy. The "never being able to say no" and being inconsistent is really troublesome to us taxpayers. Haven't they got that message yet?

Anonymous said...

"...council could get on with what it should do best... get back to governance and policy and get its politically sticky fingers out of the day to day operations."

I think you have hit the nail on the head too. After 4 years of micro-managing, it is time to get council back on track to assume its proper role. However, I am not sure that anyone has explained to them that theirs is a role of governance, not operational management; or else it has been explained and they just don't get it!

Anonymous said...

I wonder if any or which councillors have ever sat on a board. If they have, they should understand the difference between governance and Ms. Bishenden's "sticky finger" day-to-day management.