"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 30 June 2011

Experience Versus The Lack Thereoff

Elizabeth Bishenden has left a new comment on your post "A Productive Day":

"Figure our rules on the run..." is not the same as "first to know his mind and declare his position".

Would anyone prefer a councillor sit back and not ask questions or give opinions while he quietly figures out the rules? He's an elected coucillor. Let him do what he was elected to do... ask questions and opine and vote.

He doesn't have to be a guru of municipal history. He doesn't have to agree with any particular point of view. He does have to be sure that he he knows what is going on now and that he votes for something he can explain to the electorate.


You are absolutely right Elizabeth. The Councillor  is young. energetic and eager to participate.He will learn the history as he goes and acquire a sense of how a municipality operates and a council functions.   If he enjoys the experience, by the time the next election comes along , he will  have something of substance to offer  for a second term in office.

He will have made the most of his opportunity to learn and make a contribution.

Voters in the main,don't ask for more than that. They take a chance on an inexperienced candidate.They watch  the subsequent performance with interest and if their hunch was right, they take personal satisfaction from having made the right choice.

If the opposite is true they do  not have the same satisfaction and may be unlikely to make the same mistake twice. Intuition plays a large part in voter selection of candidates.

The safe thing  to do with a vote is park it with an incumbent.  Inexperience is not generally considered an asset. And not just in politics.

That's why an  intelligent person  functioning in the public arena of politics,without experience,  is wise to appreciate  the  gift  of trust.

It can't be taken  for  granted. Voters have made an investment. A gamble if you like.

They give. They can take away.

Four years is a good long time to grow in the job , demonstrate judgment, dependability and integrity.

It is an investment  by the candidate but even more so by the community.

An imbalance between   experience  and inexperience is not an asset.

An inexperienced candidate can be easily seized  by the proboscus and led in the wrong direction.It's an invitation waiting to happen.

Wednesday 29 June 2011

A Day In The Life Of A Councillor

The following was received
On Tuesday 9.14p.m.
I have been told that the park is going ahead on the old water tower site that is at Mosaics, Henderson and Davis. I would like to express my concerns regarding the park. On Saturday night between 12 and 1 am there were people in the field yelling and screaming and lighting off fire works. This is a common occurrence in the field. That field is not that far from houses and all of the tall trees it is not a great place for people to be letting of fireworks. People use it as a short cut to get to Davis Dr so, besides them yelling and screaming in field they then come through the development yelling and screaming. My concern is that when there is a park there then they will hang around more often and for longer periods of time. There will also be bottles getting broken and who knows what else. So, in the end it will not be a good place for kids to play. One night there was also a bunch of boys passing through the development to the field and one of them was going to go to the bathroom on my daughter's car in the driveway. I just happened to look out because they were so loud and they then took off. I feel that we will have more problems in our development if you go ahead with this park. We will also have people going to the park and the will come into our development to park. We don't have that much parking to begin with so we will have none.
Please reconsider this park. I think it is just going to be a hang out for people to cause trouble

Tue, Jun 28, 2011 at 9:30 PM, I responded
Good Evening Mr.
There was a proposal to use this site for a children's playground in the last term of council. It did not materialise and is unlikely to do so. It is a completely unsuitable location for a playground hidden as it is from public view. All children's playground must be open and visible to passers by.
The vacant site does present a problem though. I think the only way to solve it would be to develop the site for use. Perhaps a small residential building. It is owned by the town and we can decide the best use. I would be interested in knowing if you have any views on the subject. Or your neighbours?
It is only one acre in size and I'm not sure of access. I'm not even sure it has the width of a driveway at the Davis Drive entrance
 On Tuesday 9.42p.m. I received:
Mrs. Buck
I feel that the site should be left as is the kids play in it and people have somewhere for their dogs to run. The only thing that is needed is signs for people to pick up their dog dirt. I think the field should be left as is
A single acre surrounded by Henderson Drive town houses,the Mosaic town houses and Davis Road, in my neighbourhood  the site in question was formerly occupied by a water tower, There probably is the width of a driveway from Davis Drive. The site could accommodate a small multiple residential building.

It is surrounded by trees. There is no reason it should remain vacant.Newmarket has been successful, working with the region in providing affordable housing for families. Not having to buy land is the first step to making a project affordable. We have another piece of land on the other side of Henderson DRive next to the Aurora Village Co-op which would also lend itself to a small multiple building.

There is no reason to keep the properties idle,earning no revenue  and a dozen reasons why they should be developed in the manner described.

Tuesday 28 June 2011

A Productive Day

The meeting ended at 4.30 P.M. We got stuff done. The session on the strategic plan with staff and council and consultants was productive. I'm not convinced it was worth $80Ks but it was enjoyable.

A Strategic Plan is supposed to be a creative exercise; an invitation to let one's imagination soar. But when it's done, it always comes out in the same-old same-old pedantic languageunlikely to stir anyone to greaterthings.

In the afternoon we got to an issue pending; substantial expense forrepairs to the Aurora Family Leisure complex.

The Accessibility Committee wants a new full scale elevator.The one there now goes up half a level and down half a level. A staff person has to attend with a key to open it.

The principle of accessibility is a disabled person should be able to make their way about without help from anyone.

So we are not going to replace the elevator. We are going to have keys cut and give them to those who need them. We don't have any idea how many keys need to be cut. But it will be a lot less expensive than a new full elevator costing hundreds of thousands of dollars that doesn't even need to travel a full floor.

Another big ticket item was repairs to the ice-making equipment.The arna is home to the figure skating club.They like soft ice. They carve it up pretty good neither of which is favoured by hockey players.

The Aurora Family Leisure Complex has always had a bit of a jinx.

The pool was intended to be a family leisure pool, allowing little children to wade and water toys provided. The competitive swim lobby got after council and the design was changed to half competitive and half leisure and turned out to be a hybrid that didn't meet any needs satisfactorily.

For all its eccentricities the people who use it,like it.

Not long after it was built, it sunk down into the earth and we were ten months without a poll while it was rebuilt.

The fitness centre had a concrete floor covered with industrial carpet. Then it was changed to a child care centre. The gymnasium, intended to be a youth centre/indoor sports training facility ended up being the fitness centre.

The ice arena enclosure wasn't insulated. In a summer heat wave it took hundreds of thousands of gallons of water to keep the ice-making equipment cool.Clean but warm water was then released into the sewer and we paid the region for the water and sewer rates. The facts only came to light when water restrictions were imposed in a heat wave. A splash pad was proposed once to make use of the water. But that didn't fly.

Found out yesterday, water used to cool the ice plant is not metered. So it's probably included in the mysterious "water loss" that plumps up our water rates.

So...we are contemplating providng a youth centre. In the long run we will need to build new ice surfaces. We need to look at the whole picture before we spent massive amounts of money in repairs to a facility which might lend itself to a different use. I'm not saying it will. I'm just saying we should make sure.

It was a lengthy discussion. The kind of discussion where I wish I was the only one at the table and everybody else wishes it was a different table to theirs.

The problem is, I know all the history.It gives me a bias.Councillor Pirri is always the first to know his mind and declare his position.

Another wrinkle is the change that came about from re-organization in the
last term. Soemthing else I did not support.

The manager of facilities (maintenance)was transferred to the Department of infrastructure and Environment.The Director of that department knows nothing about ongoing operations.

The Leisure Service Director is now responsible for use of the facilities but not the maintenance and functionality. Re-org took maintenance and functionality away from him.

The Director was regularly denigrated and subjected to cross examination by the six member tag team of the last council. When the poking with a pointy stick didn't accomplish their objective they took half his responsibilities away and gave it to someone else.

Yesterday, during discussion of the building's function, he was not involved. Until he was asked a direct question. And answered it.

"It is the worst building I have ever had to work with" he said. "But if I didn't have it, I would be hard pressed to provide the programs"

So we deferred the decision on the big ticket ice making machinery and directed staff to look at relevant aspects of imminent decisions on facilities,including the paramount one of a youth facility.

It was a good decision. I look forward to reading the report.

Monday 27 June 2011

Snippetts...a Couple

I'm going out to a meeting which I may or may not stay at.

The Region after increasing water rates two years in a row by 10% is planning to repeat the exercise for another four years. This is water we are buying. Not oil, It is ours. We own it.

It is not controlled by O.P.E.C. at a hundred dollars a barrel.

Apparently despite developers paying for infrastructure in the ground and handing over millions in developer charges to pay for capital infrastructure, the region has still managed to incur billions of dollars of debt and  they plan to increase  water rates by 60% in six years to pay for it.

The fee for a vendor in the park during  the jazz festival is $250.Farmer's Market vendors can vend for $125.   It is revenue to the jazz festival  for vendors to sell in a facility with all services , they got  from the town for free .

In the Name of Charity.

Two stories of government failure in the Star today. Millions of dollars of "eco "fees sitting in bank accounts, on the basis of disposing of computer waste.

Family businesses in school bus companies all over Ontario, put out of business  by new government regulations about contracts.

Talk to you later.

Sunday 26 June 2011

Gaertner Logic

The town contracts food, ice cream and popcorn service during summer concerts and events in the park. Proposals are requested.Competition  is not as stringent as construction projects. But it is  competition..

M&M Foods were the best bid . On the night the contract was to be awarded, a delegate from the Optimist Club  came in to provide council with additional information.. The Mission of the Optimist Club is to render services for the benefit of young people and all   funds they raise go to that cause.

Councillor Gaertner expressed her support for the Optimists and moved the decision be deferred for consideration of the new information.

On Tuesday. staff re-submitted their recommendation. It was approved. Councillor Gaertner expressed her view that special consideration should be given to clubs where the funds are being used in service to the community.

It was an opening I could not resist.

This year the Optimists and the Rotary Club have not been invited to provide food and the beer garden for the St. Kitts Jazz Festival. Word in the community is they refused to hand over the proceeds to the Festival organisers last year.

Councillor Gaertner responded promptly. I knew she would.

"The Jazz Festival contributes their proceeds to charity " she declared.

That must be quite a bundle, I thought. The "Platinum " sponsorship of $5,000 from the town recommended for release by the Chief Administrative Officer for still unseen promotion for the town.

There's a  $25,000   Trillium grant obtained on evidence of support from the town.  Councillor Ballard put the argument forward in support of  the sponsorship.

Other sponsorships are solicited from town businesses for the same reason I imagine; $5,000 a throw

Rents from vendor booths set up in our  town park. No permit fees to the municipality.

 $5.00 admission fee to each of the  anticipated twenty-five thousand  patrons.

Now new  proceeds  undoubtedly to be derived from food vendors and beer garden operators invited by the festival organisers.

Stimulated business  hoped for  in town restaurants and taverns, used to justify town  investment in the  cash in hand,free use of facilities, will be unlikely with who knows how many amenities provided on location.

Councillor Gaertner's logic is , it's all just fine. Because it's all going to charity don't you know.  So it's alright to dis- invite  the Optimist  and the Rotary Clubs  to raise funds for  their missions  in Aurora at this particular concert in the  Aurora town park.

While arguing  the opposite for concerts in the park provided by the town and financed by tax-paying, employment providing  business to provide a  hand-out to the imaginative organisers of the St Kitts  jazz festival.

Saturday 25 June 2011

I'm Glad You Asked Me That

Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "What People Write":

Is it permitted to put a motion on the table a second time if there was a vote on the motion the first time? I thought items could not be reconsidered for 6 months?


The motion was put forward earlier in the meeting by Councillor Ballard and defeated in a tie.

At ten-thirty, a motion to extend the hour of adjournment  passed. At eleven. another motion with two-thirds majority to  extend the hour   "fifteen minutes to complete the  business" was approved.

It was already past eleven. I voted against. It's my experience nothing useful happens in a council meeting as the time approaches the witching hour.  .

When Councillor Gaertner was recognised by the chair and proceeded to talk about staff rights,
the  intent appeared to be  making a case for employees to participate  in a council debate.

I am not always successful in masking my reaction to statements  by the  Councillor. I decided  discretion is the better  part of valour. I left.

Councillor Thompson was  absent .Seven members were  present. The  motion to extend was to complete the business. of the meeting.  Apparently the motion was put forward a second time under new business.

The questioner is correct. A motion defeated is not  permitteed  to be reconsidered  for six months; except by a waiver of the procedure bylaw. A waiver  could not have succeeded with a four/three vote.

As  already stated, the sense of the motion  is nonsense. Councillors' Gaertner, Gallo and Ballard reason are easily understood.  Despite the electorate's decision, they still persist in fighting the last election. Unseen hands continue to jerk  their strings in futile and pathetic refusal to relinquish power.

Councillor Humphrey's reasons are not so easily understood.

We have spent  time  reviewing the procedure bylaw as required by the procedure bylaw,  The Bylaw's  purpose is to agree upon rules which will allow us to function in a civil and orderly manner in keeping with the offices we hold. It is assumed we are not barbarians.

We have not seen any intent to behave in an orderly respectful manner towards fellow councillors or the Mayor by Councillor  Gaertner. Quite the opposite.We consistently witness  vestiges of the  old alliance between the Councillors and their defeated friends and patrons.
Combine this circumstance  with the new Mayor's lack of experience in maintaining order in a council meeting and the voters intend for  change will be frustrated for a while yet.

Although sometimes it seems we take a step forward and  two back, I may be  too close to the trees to see the forest.

At each meeting.we have been able to resolve outstanding issues. I expect we will build on our successes.The power of influence for good has a quality of enticement and seduction. It's a taste that expands in flavour.

I  anticipate the satisfaction of accomplishing things together as a Council may  overcome the inclination to keep fighting battles for absent losers.

I don't expect, after more than seven years, Councillor Gaertner to magically acquire an ability for independent thought. But perhaps the personal ambitions of Gallo and Ballard will overcome their willingness to fall on their swords to justify  the  catastrophic  failures of  predecessors.

Friday 24 June 2011

What People Write

Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "Here's What We Could Do.":

Anna (Living in Aurora)I don't think you got the point of this answer. I also agree that there are many things we should move on from and in Councilor Buck's case I think she has every right to keep this in the forefront. This is how some elected officials feel that your tax money should be used!


Anna  comments regularly and is usually supportive. I posted  the comment though it read like a scold  because I think we can only know what people are thinking by hearing what they say.

The comment this morning is also correct. There are  naive people in the community  who fail to  understand  a  malevolent and maniacal scheme can masquerade as  a religious crusade.

People also pay to attend a Mayor's Prayer Breakfast which is not inclusive.

People  think it was wise use of taxpayers' money to spend over six hundred thousand dollars to stop an owner from using his property for a legally designated purpose. Said  designation provided  by the municipality by the Region of York and  acknowledged and agreed to  by the Province of Ontario in the Oak Ridges Moraine Act.

People  refuse to accept the decision of the  last election when the electorate tossed out most of the rascals responsible.

Who still believe council's time and  the town's resources should be  continue to be used to fight a battle that never had a chance of success.

 It would be foolish to imagine the past is behind us and this term  a  fresh clean start.

On Tuesday, in accordance with  distorted order, Councillor Gaertner contrived to place
correspondence from  a resident Don Quixote on the Council agenda.

It was  a familiar dodge made possible by a deliberate corruption of  the rules of procedure by the previous council to suit their purposes.

A resident   who  passionately believes  the town should  continue to  battle with the Dastardly and Nefarious Ontario Municipal Board. He contends, the Board is a rogue agency with plans to destroy the world and the current  Aurora council equally culpable for betraying the community by failing to fight

Three long  letters to the editor challenged  the Mayor and Council tostate a position 

When they failed to elicit a response, he changed his tactics and sent his demands  to the Town Hall.

Prior to the last council meeting, Council Gaertner directed staff in a memorandum to include his latest missive on the agenda .

Town policy prohibits a member  from directing staff. But no sweat.. the rules were changed to suit  those with THA POWA in the last council.

The resident appeared as a delegate,  made a series of  false allegations and  crazy contentions about Council's duty to mount the battlements  to defend the town from O.M.B. deprivations.

His letter, being an item on the agenda ,was brought forward for discussion  on a motion by Councillor Gaertner and by such device , the O.M.B. decision on the Westhill development came back to the Council table  to be re-hashed.

The Planning Director was  cross-examined.  Questions were  asked, answered and asked again and again in true Gaertner fashion.  A motion was put forward by Councillor Ballard to direct the Mayor to write a letter to the Provincial Minister of the Environment telling him what's what.

It failed .

The meeting dragged on. At ten-thirty a motion was put forward to extend the hour of adjournment .  That passed. At eleven, a second motion to extend  for  fifteen minutes "to finish the business before us"

It passed.

Councillor Gaertner launched into another of her  issues. How to get Evelyn Buck.

I left.

Councillor Thompson was not in attendance. My departure left seven members present.

Councillor Ballard brought  his motion a second time to direct the Mayor to write a furious letter on behalf of the town  to the Minister of  Environment.

It passed.

Councillors Gaertner, Humphryes,Gallo and Ballard supported it.

The Mayor, Councillors Abel and Pirri did not.

It will  be interesting to see if the Mayor believes himself obliged to put his name to a nonsensical device to make his enemies proud.

Thursday 23 June 2011

Here's What We Could Do.

Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "Cameras On The Blink":

I am still looking for an answer to a question.
Does anybody know if Gaertner apologized for accusing the town clerk of doctoring the minutes or is her "impugning character" behaviour still out there without resolution? What did mayor Dawe do about that one other than block her microphone?

The Councillor did not apologize for her accusation. She did not acknowledge she did "anything wrong"

There is nothing the Mayor can do about the situation.


We could retain a lawyer to advise on  a solution to the problem of a councillor who simply will not be quiet and pay him $16,200.

We could resurrect the Code of Conduct and re-write it to suit our purpose.

Appoint a third  Integrity Commissioner. Make sure he understands the rules to bring about the desired  result. Pay him $50.000  for enough time to render a decision.

We could retain another  lawyer at a cost of $70,000.also  from the public purse. Instruct him  to "investigate "the councillor. Have him view tapes of meetings and examine all  public  utterances in letters, .e-mails and contributions to debates to seek out miscreance.  Then instruct him to compose and forward a complaint on  to the Integrity Commissioner.

We could publish  the complaint concurrently in the press and the town's website in contravention of all known rules to make sure the unproven allegations are known to the greatest number of people.  At public expense of course. Because it's all in the name  of righteousness and the public good., don't you know.

If the third  Integrity Commissioner does not produce the right result. Fire him and hire another. 

At the end of all that, the councillor might be found guilty of saying something that doesn't please everyone  and we will be able to dislodge her from the seat to which she was duly elected by the simple means  of refusing to pay the remuneration to which the job entitles .

For the token sum of $126,000 of other people's money,  we might be able to persuade the electorate, never ,never,never .elect the Councillor to public office again ,

Then again.  Maybe not.

Oh Yes... and here's the kicker.

When we have undertaken  all this  to hold a councillor  accountable , we have  assurance the town has paid sufficient premiums to an  insurance company to provide yet another lawyer to argue all of our actions were within our authority as elected representatives. Public resources used to accomplish  our  objective were used in service to the community. A Councillor's right to free speech only extends as far as fellow  politicians decide it should. The Charter of Rights and Freedoms has no place in the back rooms of  the town halls of  the  nation.

Now, Mr Anonymous does that give you a satisfactory answer to  the question?

Thank you for asking.

Man, that felt good.

About Rogers' Cameras

I'm not sure if it was  cameras or the truck on the blink on Tuesday.

But here's the thing;in the third year of the last term, Rogers asked  for permission to install cameras in the council chamber.

They would provide a better image. They wouldn't need to be transported and installed every other week.  They would need only one technologist. He would be in a back room.

All they asked was an agreement that if the town wanted to sever the arrangement, Rogers  would be allowed to remove their equipment.  It's very expensive.

It was one of those items discussed behind closed doors for no good reason.

The discussion  though was dumber than dumb.  Dumber than the norm of dumb for a  meeting of the last council. The same level of dumb we still have with us.

The  question was  whether or not Rogers should pay  for the privilege of installing expensive cameras in our council chamber to allow the community the privilege of watching their  regal council at work.

Why should they be allowed to do it for nothing? It probably makes money for them.

They never were allowed.  

The  matter never came back to us for a decision. Like it had fallen off the planet. Stuff like that often happened in the last council....fell off the planet,I mean..

The community  never knew the offer had been  made.

The election came and went.

Rogers offer was one of the first things I raised in the new council.

Let's take Rogers up on their offer, I said, in a few dozen words.

I think cameras in the council chamber are great. Some politicians are not so comfortable. There were  frequent dark allusions to "playing to the cameras"

When I raised it  early in the term, we were told it was underway. That's months ago. On Tuesday, the council meeting was not televised. People are  annoyed.  I am annoyed.

When I came to the town hall and the truck wasn't there, I thought "Oh good. Maybe Rogers new cameras have been installed "

But no! No such luck. There had been  a technological glitch.

It's not Rogers fault we're still using horse and buggy techniques.

Wednesday 22 June 2011

Cameras On The Blink

Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "Still On Water":

Evelyn, Can you tell us why the town council meeting was not televised last night? I was hoping to watch it live to see how the apology to council by the CFO would continue to play out. Can you give us an update on that?

Cameras were not in the Council Chamber last night. Apparently they had a breakdown.

So the  CFO's apology to Council did not continue  to play out. The Mayor covered for the bureaucrats nicely.

I  asked to be recognized on a Question of Privilege. The  procedure   allows a Councillor to declare they have been offended by the  comment or comments of another member. It's a  rule that permits civility to prevail. It keeps the seed of  personal  resentment and animosity from taking root. Without it, relationships quickly degenerate to  the level of the gutter. An environment  which  besmirches everyone exposed. No-one shows well.

There is  no  procedure  to permit staff  to speak during a council debate unless directed to do so by the presiding member. There are therefore no rules of order governing staff  participation  in the public debate.

My statement was as follows:

Mr. Mayor,

You invited me to clarify a comment I made in the course of debate  in the last Council meeting.

The question was re-consideration of Council's decision to adopt  a Bylaw to increase water rates .

The debate was disrupted by a staff person who has since apologized for showing disrespect to Council. The chief Administrative Officer  expressed deep disappointment at the time that I would make an accusation of a criminal nature .

I understand  scrutiny of the transcript of my comments has established I made no such accusation.However, I am happy to provide the context of  my comment as you requested.

Let me first say Mr. Mayor, I have a clear understanding of the definition of the charge of fraud, It is an indictable offence punishable by a jail term. Some years ago, I  successfully defended a young person against such a charge in the Newmarket court house.

The definition of the charge is a deliberate plan by person or persons to deprive someone else of that which is rightfully theirs.

My point in the debate Mr.Mayor was directed to the question on the floor. Council's decision to adopt the Water Rates Bylaw.

No offence was taken by any member of Council from my use of the term. Therefore no Councillor believed I was accusing Council of perpetrating a fraud.

For two years  Mr. Mayor, I have challenged what I consider to be exorbitant increases in the town's water rates.

For five years ,I have consistently opposed the town's budget.

For the reason Mr. Mayor,that I cannot assure the people who gave me authority to occupy this seat, their financial interests are being represented.

I make no bones about my contention.

I believe the methodology used by the administration for water rate increases is seriously flawed.

I believe it is my responsibility to say so, frankly and clearly.

I do not acknowledge any person's right to challenge my authority to speak freely in a council debate.

Interrupt me while speaking.

Criticize my perspective on matters before Council.

Imply ulterior motive for a particular perspective

Rules of Order governing a Council debate  are clear. Mr. Mayor.

I am deeply disappointed that staff were permitted to disrupt a debate with an accusation against a Council Member . A charge that proved to be false was made by Mr. Elliott and supported by Mr. Garbe.

It was an onerous gesture of disrespect toward Council.

An apology will not suffice. No less than a full and public written withdrawal of the accusation is acceptable.

End of statement.

The Mayor chose  not to defend  the authority and supremacy of council. Not a wise decision.

Tuesday 21 June 2011

Still On Water

I just noticed something else in the information insert with the water bill.

If a person refuses to allow a meter to be installed, flat rate for water charged is $90. Wastewater is $70.

If a meter cannot be installed for physical reasons, the flat rate charged is $45.    Wastewater $35.

The average charge for metered water consumption in 2010 was $80.94, in 2011 $89.03

Wastewater for 2010 was $63,35 in 2011 $69.61.

An obvious question is, why is a consumer without a meter charged half as much as another consumer without a meter and half as much as the average consumer with a meter?

A reader has asked about multiple residential charge for storm water pond surcharge? The charge is calculated  by numbers of unit.

Something else that may not be generally understood is our system of management. The Directors form an Executive Leadership Team, headed by the Chief Administrative Officer. The CAO signs off on all recommendations to Council from individual department directors, indicating support for the recommendation

Team support and joint responsibility is assumed. I'm not sure how it is established. I am of course,accustomed to simpler times.

The information pamphlet item on meter reading states the meters are read each quarter to ensure consumers are billed  only for water used.

If the rate calculation includes water the municipality has "lost" or used ,that does not appear to be a correct statement. If entire cost of operations is included in the rate and not shared by the town for its use or "loss" that too would appear to skew things somewhat.

There is a phone number and an e-mail address to direct questions:
 Phone :  905.726.4747
 Email  koreto@aurora.ca

Monday 20 June 2011

A Water Query Or Queries.

Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "I Nearly Forgot":

Councilor , what exactly are you saying here , that the amount of water sold to contractors is not deducted from the amount sold to metered customers, In other words are you saying that the Town is selling the same water twice ,once to the contractors and once to the metered customer.
Please clarify


Being involved in town affairs a long time  means you learn a thing or three along the way.Enough to know what questions to ask if something doesn't  make sense.

Water  meters have always been a source of irritation. Water is in the ground. It is ours to take.Costs involved are pumping it out of the ground, storing ,  treating .and distributing it.

I figured  at the time we did it, the real  purpose of metering was to impose rates for  sewage treatment.

When  meters were installed,I pointed out, not all water used found it's way into sewers.

Eventually  the  sewer rate changed to take that into account. But of course  we have no way of knowing if the reduction was adequate.  Sewers are not metered.

Then  an item appeared on the bill called "miscellaneous".  Eventually it was  identified as  storm water pond surcharge.There are no storm water ponds in my neighbourhood. Then it  was explained  as a means to restore water  quality to Lake Simcoe.

Lake Simcoe is large.  Many towns surround it including Barrie. Are they all paying a surcharge on water. And what does it have to do with supplying water and treating sewage.

We don't take  water from the lake and we don't pump  treated sewage into it.

Then the  question occurred about homes not receiving a water bill, not paying the surcharge the night  before Council passed the  bylaw to increase the rates again in 2011 almost 11%. After increasing them 12% in 2010.

I thought, that's outrageous. Water is a necessity of life. What other cost of living is allowed to increase by that much without  a full and satisfactory explanation.

And that's not happening.

Last year, they increased "water loss" from 8%to 12%. No reason offered.

On April 27th 2010 ,I asked about the town's water use.The CFO responded it was metered and charged to the department budget.

This year we discovered  that is not true.

Councillor Thompson learned  in a private conversation , consideration is now being given to metering town  uses.

When I don't receive full information, or I receive  incorrect answers. I tend to become edgy and obsessive. I think,somebody is taking me for a fool. New questions spring to mind.

The question about the town selling water and where the revenue shows up occurred to me last Friday.

The town has always sold water to haulage contractors. To  fill swimming pools. Top up wells. Forty years ago the Province provided grants to farmers to create ponds on their property. I imagine they might need topping up as well in a drought.

Developers need tanker trucks to wash down streets and keep irrigate new sod. 

So I asked . Where does that revenue go.

An insert  accompanies the quarterly bill. It indicates water rates are not subsidized from the town levy.

It  says nothing about the town levy being subsidized from water rates.

I believe  that 's  happening.

Obviously, I am not an accountant. There may well be more methodology for calculating rates than I understand.

But Council has made  decisions to increase water rates  for the past two years based on information which was neither complete nor  accurate.

I  have not been  able to change that.

The majority rules.

But I can make sure of one thing. If I think consumers are being overcharged for water rates. they will know about it or I am not doing my job.

I made a commitment to look after their interest. They took me up on that and elected me. I took an oath of office and I will keep it.

I make no apology for  that.

Sunday 19 June 2011

I Nearly Forgot

Something else I learned on Friday.

The town sells water to water haulage contractors. They fill pools and top up wells in the rural area.

Developers buy water from the town . New grass gets watered from water tanks.

Both  are commercial  interests. A rate is established. I haven't compared it with the rate home owners and town business pays.

Last year, income from  sales was about $43,000.

It is not included as revenue in the water budget.

It appears in the town budget as revenue offsetting expenditures. Reflecting positively on the tax burden. Not serving to reduce water rates charged to consumers.

Conflict Of Interest

I am asked to comment on Conflict of Interest  charges against the former Mayor

I have a precedent.

On or about  September 12th 2007, York Regionl Chairman and Police Chief  came to a  closed  meeting  to talk about buying an additional  parcel of land to establish Regional Police Headqaurters. A parcel had already been purchased with a clause in the agreement of sale that needed to be adjusted to accommodate a second purchase.

Great news for Aurora. Hundreds of well paid jobs. Potential clients for our economy. 

Ata subsequent meeting of council, also behind closed doors the vote failed  to give the Chief Administrative Officer  direction to proceed with negotiations.

The Mayor, with a knowing look  gave assurance the deal would proceed.

It did not. By November it was obvious.  The deal was dead

I inquired when the decision would be made public. Regulations provide for real estate matters to be discussed in private.  Decisions  must be reported out.

Municipal interest  must be protected in negotiations of sale or purchase of land.

Protecting political  interest when a fantastic opportunity has been blown  is not a factor.

Three months went by.  Erstwhile plans to locate headquarters  in Aurora had been  known throughout police officialdom. Eventually, the story was  a headline in The Auroran.

Ever predictable, if something occurred to reflect unfavourably upon Ms Morris, a great hullabulloo was created to distract attention from the real issue.

Council was new. Not much different from the present. Most without political experience.  Eager to be the best they could be. Being elected is a humbling experience. It brings out the best in most people.

An emergency meeting was declared at the beginning of  a Council meeting.  It was announced Mr. George Rust D'Eye  was present. He would attend upon council at the in-camera meeting. 

I  requested the purpose of the meeting be disclosed.

"Ah  no Councillor Buck" the Mayor replied. "You will not draw me into that"

The Municipal Act requires that. But no matter. The Clerk had only two years to go until retirement. Council proceeded into the back room without the necessary disclosure.

The meeting did not commence immediately.The Mayor escorted Mr. Rust D'Eye to my place at the table and informed me of his wish to speak with me.

I encouraged him to do so.

The first comment was a question." Have  you retained a solicitor?"

I answered with a question. "Why would I do that?"

It was not being suggested, was the response.

The next and greater part of the discussion was about  new legislation governing Conflict of Interest.

Serious penalties had been added to the Act. Realising I was still not following the gist Mr. Rust D'Eye spelled  it out in more detail.

If I attended the meeting, and litigation should result from the meeting, and I heard something  during the meeting that might be to my financial  advantage, should litigation result from the meeting then I would be in a Conflict of Interest from having heard something to my advantage.

Finally, the light dawned.Why was I allowing this man to speak to me at all.What right did he have to say these things to me.

"That's a meeting of council in there" I said

I am a member of council" I said

"I intend to attend a meeting of the council of which I am a member and that's where I am going this minute"

I arose from my chair and proceeded. Mr. Rust D'Eye followed.

Three years later, Mr. Rust D'Eye is again called to advise  a new Aurora Council  in the matter of payment of legal fees incurred by the previous council to finance litigation against three members of the community by the former Mayor.

The same Mayor who brought Mr. Rust D'Eye around the table to  advise me I should not attend a meeting where I might hear information which might be to my financial advantage should litigation result from the discussion being held behind closed doors, the purpose of which was not declared in  public beforehand in accordance with regulations of the Municipal Act.

Neither had there been authority to retain the services of Mr. Rust D'Eye. No elected member has spending authority within the policies of the Town of Aurora.

Irony continues.

Mr. Rust D'Eye has currently  noted, possible Conflict of Interest by the former Mayor in the executive summary of his investigation of events leading up to town liability for $64,000. in legal fees.

Three years since  Mr Rust D'Eye  was brought to my side by the former Mayor,to persuade me from attending a meeting where I might "hear" something to my financial  advantage, if litigation should result from the discussion therein.

Now we have a closed meeting called by the same Mayor, to hold  a discussion initiated  and participated in by  herself  and a decision made to  retain legal services at  town expense to act to her
personal financial  advantage.

Readers can form their own conclusion .

Saturday 18 June 2011

Clues Continue To Mount .

Sometimes I sit and Think.  Sometimes I just sit.

It was the caption  under the picture of a  small white terrier on a calender in my grandmother's kitchen,  a long, long time ago.

I tend not to suffer from anxiety. A lawyer told me once, if you get angry,the other side wins. Even in the last term of council, I didn't  try  to keep up with what the dreadful duo might be planning against me. I figured I would be able to deal with it no matter what. They were not that smart.

The  twins were  always  scurrying about plotting strategy. They were so transparent, they didn't have a Hope in Hades of convincing the sensible that I was the villain and they were the teflon girls.  That's how they came to spend  $126 Ks of public money on legal fees. They had previously retained an Integrity Commissioner to  make something stick. Even that didn't work.

Then another  integrity commissioner heard a complaint on a matter which was already  before the courts but his decision barely made a ripple. Though it cost the taxpayers $40Ks.

Finally a probationary employee was persuaded to file a complaint under the Code of Conduct and when that proved  to be out of time,  a complaint of harassment was processed by the CFO who is also the Human Resources Manager.

Now the Dreadful Duo are gone.  But not quite it seems.

The first person I ever heard complain about  "integrity being impugned" was Ms Morris It sounded like something out of  A Pink Panther movie. A  hilarious scene where Peter Sellars was at a  hotel registration desk asking  "Do You Have Ay Wrooom"   The twisted pronunciation of  words is classic British farce. It  never fails to entertain.

I hear the erstwhile probationary employee continues to be pestered to pursue the cause by the former Mayor. 

I do begin to notice  little things.  I  post  a blog....in the time it takes to move from  blog to  inbox ,  a snarly comment is waiting for me from the rear end of the donkey duo. It means of course a continued obsessive pre-occupation with the blog.

Two  weeks ago,  colleagues asked about the status of my law suit. I responded it was moving along. "That explains it"  they said.  They had noticed certain behaviour at the council table

The schedule of dates is  set for examinations for discovery.
Now we have this foo-fer-a  about my determined challenge to the administration's methodology of calculating water rates. It's the second year of large increases.It was twelve per cent in 2010. This year.almost as much , to a total of almost twenty- three per cent in two years.

The argument hasn't changed but the Council is new. The idea of  collecting a million dollars from water rates to make the  tax bill look  3.5%  better   may not have the same appeal.

The Chief Financial Officer's interruption of the Council debate  with a complaint about integrity being impugned had the effect of  sending the debate off the rails without  logical conclusion.

But it's not done yet.

On Tuesday at 4.P.M..Council met for a discussion on the Procedure Bylaw. It was a public meeting. Press were in attendance. None of the directors who followed the Chief Financial Officer  from the Council chambers the week before. No cameras. No audience at home.

The CFO was present. The Mayor indicated a memorandum to be presented to Council. The CFO  read as follows;

"Mayor Dawe. as you know I have many hats to wear here at the Town . Among those many hats, as a member of the Executive Leadership Team, I have a duty to serve Council with the utmost respect.As the Human Resources Director. I am also charged with guarding the dignity and rights of all staff.

Last Tuesday, I may have acted too hastily or could have chosen a different approach to address my concerns when those concerns got personal. I allowed my emotions to get the better of me. For that, Mr. Mayor, I apologise  to you, this council, the CAO and the community which I strive to serve diligently".

There's always something new happening in  town business. The CFO's interruption of a debate with complaint  against a councillor was a first .The meeting was disrupted. Discussion went off the rails.

The CFO's verbal  apology for his conduct   a week later was also a first.

I asked for a hard copy.

It's in the form of a memorandum to the Mayor with a copy to the CAO.. It was verbally presented  on June 14th  It is dated June 17th. It refers to the Meeting of June 7th.

Minutes of the Council meeting of June 7th contain no record of the episode.

Minutes of the General Committee meeting of June 14th contain no record of an apology directed  to the Mayor,the Chief Administrative Officer and  Council.

There was no apology to the person accused.  Moi .

Thursday 16 June 2011

Lazy Bones Lyin' In The SunHow Do You Expect To Get A Day's Work Done

I went out on  the  deck yesterday and sat down. Didn't come back in for the rest of the day.

I've written  posts on  days that none have appeared . I left them in the  draft folder.

Some  issues are just too tedious and complicated and only make sense if one is actively involved in town business.Yet they are in the front of my mind and I need to write them.

I can tell from  numbers when people are losing interest  and that is not my intention in writing this blog.

I received an e-mail from  a resort area about  a similar discussion  to the one we are having  about the methodology of calculating water rates.Their debate is about garbage tags

The objective is for the  system  to become self-sustaining. That is,  cost of waste management   to be covered by user fees in the form of bag tags. Currently the tax base is  partially subsidising the tag fee.

A  recommendation was made this year to increase fees to reduce the subsidy. The question was raised about  garbage being  collected from  beaches and other municipal facilities.  The town's  share  was eventually determined  to be  about 5% of the total.

A Councillor  put forward the position  the town is a user like all others and should pay the going rate  for their contribution to land fill. It should be a line item in the town budget

Home and business operators in the community should not  pay an inflated rate to cover garbage collected from municipal facilities..

The town's Council accepted the logic and rates for 2012 will be adjusted accordingly. 

Cheez... .I 've been making that argument in Aurora for two years. Despite  almost  twenty-three  per cent increase in  water rates, I've run into a brick wall.  Literally.

Go figger.. 

I can't think of a better time to examine how we calculate rates and seek  ways to minimise increases imposed by the region.

I'm glad to say, it begins to look like the new council is understanding the logic and things will change in 2012.

Better later than never I suppose.

Tuesday 14 June 2011

Bridgton. Nova Scotia

It's close to Halifax.

Oh My Lord. I love Nova Scotia.

It's so easy to see the connection between house designs and ship building and how hard it must have been for the first settlers to keep body and soul to-gether in that rocky place. Once again, I didn't get to Cape Breton.

But while we  were in Halifax, a political drama was unfolding nearby. The Mayor and six Councillors resigned en masse in Bridgton. There were problems with  finances  Stealing was thought  to be a possibility. . But as I read the story, it wasn't at all clear,.

Bridgton has 650 or 950 population, depending on which news story I read. It seems  taxes paid were not recorded . But  payees  denied that and produced  receipts.

It looked like  water bills  might not have been collected for two years.

And nobody noticed . That's what I can't figure.

Bridgton had been economically well off with several  thriving industries. Then they left.

How much of a budget can you have with a population of 650/950 people? That would probably be about  four hundred properties.

Four or five people worked  in the town office. Probably not many more in the works department. Probably a volunteer fire department. Though I think the town is part of the Halifax region. How did the school board get  money to pay the  teachers. The Region would need to get  a share?

Pay cheques have to be issued. Bills paid. How could there  be such a mess and nobody notice?

Apparently the Mayor and Council , when they realised how serious the situation was, decided to resign to step aside and let the Province take responsibility and provide the finances to sort it out.

A forensic audit is being carried out. It will take three months. It will cost $125,000.

A  civil servant has been appointed Mayor and two others as councillors to run the municipality in the meantime.

It was soooo sooo interesting.

I had been pondering the nature of a forensic audit before I went to Halifax.  I had heard the phrase but  didn't know what it meant. How it  might come about?How much would it cost? Would it be less than a public inquiry? Public inquiries cost millions and generally nothing much comes out of it but infomation that reflects badly on all concerned.

I got the answer in Halifax. Although to be honest, I read the story in the Globe and Mail before I went.

It was neat though to be nearly on the spot where   it was happening .

I wondered how could  a tiny municipality like  Bridgton with such a small population get into such a mess without the Mayor and Council knowing about  it until their only option was to  resign.

They probably had an idea but didn't like  to say

The Mayor  was quoted , they decided to  step aside for a forensic audit to be conducted at the province's expense, to find out who or what had gone wrong.

Was money going  where it shouldn't ?

Was it not coming in at all?

Or because whoever was supposed to be bringing  it in  had gone fishin', or for a  liquid lunch, or lost their wits or  or cavorting with a computer salesman like in Toronto's multi-million dollar computer scandal.

Mayor  David Miller and Council  apparently didn't notice what was going on there under their noses either.

I mean, were they sleep-walking or what ?

Did they imagine their  job was strictly decorative?

There's no sensible answer.

Sounds like maybe bullshit can baffle brains no matter where.

Sunday 12 June 2011

An Interesting Juxtaposition

Close to the end of  term, the former Mayor asked  the CAO to direct Department  Heads  to compile a report on  the wonderful accomplishments of  Volunteer  Advisory Committees. 

And so it came to pass.

When it was written, so many good things were listed,  reading took too long . Editing was requested. To make it  easier to read.Like in a campaign leaflet.

And so it  came to pass  

Two weeks ago, the new Mayor noted  the completion of six months in office.He expressed  great  appreciation for the co-operation Council  had  received from staff.

Last year it was the volunteers from whom all good things came.

Apparently, this is the year of  Directors of Various Town Departments

A headline  on the front page of  the Aurora Banner this week,demands  an apology from a Councillor who has had the temerity to put forward a motion for  review of an agreement which hands over half a million dollar in cash and kind, to the board of a facility, heisted from beneath the feet of the Aurora Historical Museum to become a cultural centre.

The story cites outrage of  Peter Townsend, a member of the culture centre board.

The board has a Chairperson. It seems a Sunday meeting was held to discuss outrage over the Councillor's effrontery. No reference is made to a meeting in the news story.  How it was called? Was  notice  given? Was an agenda circulated? Was a resolution moved and seconded? Was a vote taken?  Is the board's position reflected in Mr. Townsend's diatribe? Does the Board have a Bylaw to govern procedure?

Mr. Townsend declares there is no need for this "inquisition"

Centre volunteers and staff have been diligent in honouring not only the letter of the cultural agreement, they have exceeded the terms by providing both financials and performance reports,he added.

Questions could have been answered with a phone call, he argued.

Mr. Townsend has issued an invitation to town staff and council to visit the centre and examine the agreement.

Mr. Townsend is not Chairman of the Board. He does not have authority to speak for the board. Or publicly excoriate, on behalf of the board, an elected representative of the facility's owner which provides half a million dollars of public resources for its operation and is accountable to the people who pay the bills.

I think Mr. Townsend had another option besides taking Councillor John Abel to task for doing what he was elected to do.

I think by publicly displaying such astounding ignorance about his place in the scheme of things, Mr. Townsend should resign from the board forthwith.

His conduct is unacceptable.

Saturday 11 June 2011

D.V.D. of a Council Meeting.

Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "The Cult of Mormac Is Alive and Well":

Councilor Buck I dare say there's not a more astute politician in the land than you , and with any luck just a tiny fraction of your knowledge and courage will rub off on the 6 other very competent members of the new team, Perhaps your next motion should reflect the need for an immediate independent audit of the Towns water delivery process ,after this latest revelation who knows what other gems are yet to be discovered.


D'you know, I don't think of myself as particularly smart. It just seems  questions that occur to me  are reasonable. A sensible answer satisfies me.Non sense does not. Refusal to provide an  answer convinces me there's something to hide. I can't help it. It's the way my mind works.

As a Councillor representing people in this community,  in the absence of answers, I will put two and two to-gether and come up with four or maybe five. I will not be silenced by being denied answers. Or by a senior  municipal employee throwing a hissy fit and flouncing out of the council chamber.

I watched the DVD of the  Council meeting last night. I hate doing that. So much of what we do cannot be classified in any way as  " "corporation business"

Council has been  reduced  to little more than  a social committee. 

Tuesday was a classic. Councillor Gaertner was star of the show.

I moved to re-consider water rates passed in April to take effect on May 1st. It passed. That was  encouraging. It's the second year of the battle. It meant this Council was giving credence and prepared to listen to my argument.

The motion  was seconded. The question was on the floor. I set forth  factors which I believe prove the increase in water rates cannot be fully justified.

Gaertner called a point of order and stated I was providing the public with misinformation. It shouldn't be allowed, she intoned.

The Mayor supported the point of order. He did not offer a rationale.

I challenged the ruling. I pointed out the purpose of  debate. A Councillor puts forward a motion. Takes a position offers points of argument. Other Councillors put forward arguments. They can either refute, support or not respond to the question. Councillors are allowed to speak twice but not repeat themselves. The mover of the motion is allowed the last word. The vote is taken.

The best that can happen is logic will prevail.

Making a flat statement, in a point of order, that a Councillor is providing  misinformation and should not be allowed to mislead people is tantamount to calling a Councillor a liar.

Criticising an argument is not the same as refuting.

The rule is civility. Respect for the role of a Councillor to bring different perspectives to the question. 

Gaertner has no sense of the rule.  Respect is a foreign concept. Hardly a meeting  passes without someone being  accused of "providing misinformation" while Gaetner perceives herself to be the oracle of all wisdom.

At the first meeting  of the new Council, Gaertner  accused the Mayor of not upholding proper procedure and gave dire warning to the public of what was to come.

The Mayor is harried by the Councillor on a regular basis.

Yet on Tuesday, the Mayor supported the Councillor's  grossly out of order point of order.

Do not ask me to explain that.

My argument is that  water used by tax supported services has been inaccurately identified as "water loss".

In fact, it is water taken from  unmetered sources. Millions of gallons  are used in various departments; more in parks than anywhere else.

It is factored in to calculate rates charged to metered users to raise sufficient revenue to pay the bill from the Region. Users are residents and business owners struggling to survive in a terrible economy.

The Mayor believe water is the best bargain we get.

My points were supported. It is established  water parks ,outdoor ice surfaces and irrigation of parks are not from a metered source.Fire pumpers are re-filled from hydrants. They are not metered.

We sell water to water supply contractors. Several times a day they fill up. I don't remember seeing a figure for revenue in the water budget.

These  are not unidentified water loss. They are identified water use. Wrongly classified.

Gaertner, without proof,accused me of lying. The Mayor supported the accusation and ruled in favour of her point.

I perceive the  intent is to shut me up and stop the public from hearing the  argument,  If I am right,it means Council was wrong in adopting increased water rates. Right? We are overcharging meter users for water they did not use.

Shut the woman up. Call her a liar.Make the public choose between who is lying and who isn't.  Not the best way to restore confidence in an embattled administration.

But the strategy is misguided .It has the opposite effect. I am more determined to prove my point. Language becomes my weapon of choice. I use words calculated to capture attention. Sensitivity is not a premium. . There is a fight worth fighting to be fought.

If I can't convince Council,I can make sure the people I'm fighting for, understand the issue.

Am I forbidding? Yes I am. Unforgiving? Most certainly. Are there holds barred? Absolutely not.

A former solicitor once advised a former Councillor and Mayor; "Councillor Buck goes right to the line. She does not cross it"

It's a discipline I acquired long ago.

I recognise no rule that allows stupidity to prevail. People pay high taxes. They are entitled to fair return.

If I don't see it happening, I will prove it.

I will fight the devil incarnate and enjoy every minute.

That reminds me of a poster on the office wall of Dr.Owen Slingerland , Medical Officer of Health when I was Chairman of the Board many moons ago.

It read: " It's not corruption you have to worry about. It's stupidity"

Friday 10 June 2011


Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "I've Been Away":

How many members of council went to Halifax? And why were you one of them?


I was one of them because I am an elected member of council.

For the almost half century I have been involved in the town's affairs, in and out of council, conference allowances have been a budget item.  Councillors can chose  to use the allowance or not.

Halifax  was the  location  of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities this year. Council members from the length and breadth of Canada  were in attendance to  participate in  workshops, study tours,  panel discussions, lectures and hopefully came  home with a wider perspective on municipal business.

I heard there were thirty-five hundred delegates. The Federation has developed contacts with municipal counterparts from developing nations. This year,  the highest international delegations ever attended the conference.  The Federation reaches out  and provides support wherever they can.

I used to attend a conference every year.  Last year I went to Ottawa. This year Halifax. My daughter Theresa takes holiday time from work to make it possible.

During the budget discussion this year, Councillors contemplated reducing the budget for conferences.It is never fully utilised.

I argued against that. Conferences are a valuable means for a Councillor to become informed and knowledgeable and better able to serve the community.

The final point I made in my argument. "The community benefits"

So, I went to Halifax. I enjoyed the conference. Study tours involved standing and a lot of walking, so I rented a car at my own expense and had  my own  tour early in the morning.  I  took a rented  scooter with me and discovered Halifax is a terrible place to get about on a scooter on public thoroughfares.

The hotel and conference centre are connected with pedways and elevators so I travelled  back and forth without going outside  and risking my neck on sloping sidewalks  and ill-designed cuts on the curbs. The little go-go scooter  had only one front wheel which proved to be easier to manoeuvre in tight spaces.

Councillors Chris Emanuel of Newmarket and Brenda Hogg, regional councillor  from  Richmond Hill were successful  candidates for the executive  with the help of our delegation.

The  Federation makes representation to the Federal government on behalf of municipalities.

Many programs involving financial assistance are  cost shared with provincial and federal governments .

The municipal level has input to senior levels through the Federation .

Neighbouring councillors on the executive can only be helpful to us. Councillor Hogg is a Regional Councillor. I worked with Councillor Emmanuel on the joint fire committee for four years. Both Councillors are committed to the community's well-being.

Conferences are pleasant experiences as well as useful.Meeting people with the same interest and passion is always enjoyable. Becoming familiar with a city and checking out what makes it great can only be a bonus.

A Councillor is not required to attend conferences. There is no examination at the end of  term to determine  whether one has learned  from experience.

There is only the judgment of an individual councillor on how best to serve.And ultimately .the judgment of the electorate on who will serve best.

If there is enough money left in my conference allowance, I may also attend the Ontario Municipal Conference in London later this year.

Thursday 9 June 2011

The Cult of Mormac Is Alive and Well

It keeps popping up in  predictable places. It is as expected.The environment is conducive still.

I haven't viewed the tape of Tuesday's meeting yet. Yesterday was busy with phone calls and comments to the post. People watched it as it happened and viewed the tape since. Still others informed me of what happened after I left the meeting.

My thoughts are usually well organised going into a debate. I do not rely on notes. It's a skill one must learn,a  required discipline. The ability  to oppose with force and conviction without causing  personal offense is a political imperative.

The water rates issue came to the forefront last year with 12% increase. Estimated water loss was increased from 8% to 12 % which I was unable to accept.. I sought  precise numbers for water breaks from  the Director of Infrastructure and Environment(formerly Public Works Director) . The Chief Administrative Officer combined with the D,I,E. and the C.F.O.  form a triumvirate of the Executive Leadership Team. (Formerly Management Team).

The  information was refused. Explanation? ..... they were afraid I would  distort the numbers.

My argument  last year was the same  as this.except this year  I was on firmer ground.

Ratepayers are led to believe by the fact of meters,they pay only for water they  use. They have been  encouraged by various regional strategies to conserve water. Everything points to an understanding that they have control.

The methodology used for calculating water rates does not support that understanding.

Again and again,I have repeated the basis for my opposition. Water used for town services is not metered. How is it measured ?  Where does it appear in the town's budget?

How does water loss increase when infrastructure is mostly new and we spend hundreds of thousands of dollars each year to reline pipes to prevent water loss.

Water loss should be less ...not more.

The methodology for calculating water rates is flawed.

I contend  the problem existed  long before  current staff. It dates from installation of meters.  The difference in equity and lack of transparency  grew with the numbers. It can no longer be ignored.

Inequity came about as a result of some homes  being served with wells  and not receiving water bills.

So-called "water loss" , water used for tax supported services is not shared across the town. The $49 a year charge for storm water ponds , a surcharge on the water bill, the purpose is to improve the quality of Lake Simcoe water, is also not shared .

Number of homes not in  the loop, I did not know. The impact for them to be included in sharing the cost of "water loss" and the surcharge for storm ponds was equally obscure.

The actual amount for "water loss" being tacked on to the water rates to consumers was also not revealed.

Until Tuesday evening.... minutes before the Chief Financial Officer declared  he could " no longer think to do his job because  his integrity was being impugned"

Councillor Pirri, speaking in support of my motion,had estimated the difference to the  tax bill of water used for tax supported services, would likely be "pennies"

The Chief Financial Officer apparently decided it was his responsibility to nip that notion in the bud.

He joined  the debate, used the word semantics,  and stated  a  transfer  would  mean a  3.4% increase in taxes. It represents almost a million dollars.

My face must have betrayed my delight in finally receiving hard and fast figures.I was  not about to let the  opportunity pass. I was happy.

So, that was the  amount tacked on to the water rates. The same amount that  belonged in the tax rate.

I remember commenting,  "That's what's so good about these discussions. One never knows what information will come out"

It was after I exploited the opportunity to prove my point, the Chief Financial Officer decided his integrity had been impugned.

 I had previously made the comparison between a municipality having a monopoly in supplying a service and other public utilities  monopolies. They require  approval from C.R.T.C to increase charges.  In the private sector,what we are doing would be regarded as fraud.

I accused no member of town staff. I noted when a Bylaw is approved, Council takes ownership.

The point was made without reaction from anyone at the table.

I still need to see the tape to confirm my recollection of  the debate but nigh these many years, I have learned to trust myself.

During the recess called by the Mayor.  (Shades of the Past)....  I  understand   Councillors were scolded by the Chief Administrative Officer for voting in favour of my motion for re-consideration of the Water Rates Bylaw. He stated with exasperation they "had given me a voice"

On another  budget matter, I voted against spending  $85 Ks for a consultant to advise on how to achieve  excellence in Customer Service.

I believe  people who occupy  positions of authority in a municipal administration and are paid accordingly, should be equipped to train others in the concept of excellence in customer service.

Over the years, I became accustomed to department heads who understood and respected the authority of the elected body as representative of the people.I took it for granted. More so in a  Council meeting than anywhere else.It all came to an end during the last term.

I am well aware of respect I am entitled to receive as a representative of the people.

It will be a snowy day in hell, before I apologize for being disrespected and wrongfully accused,  by an employee of the municipality while doing my job on behlaf of the people who gave me their trust.

If I were an employee, I would have recourse to Bill 168, a Bill to prevent harassment in the workplace.

Wednesday 8 June 2011

I've Been Away

At  a conference in Halifax. I will tell about that later. Last night's Council meeting comes first.

I had several motions on the agenda pertaining to water rates. They are part of my ongoing battle, since last year's substantial rate increase, against the  methodology of the calculation.

I think consumers  are being shafted.

Last year  "water loss" was increased from 8% to 12%. It was jacked up again this year  by 1.5%. An increase of 13.5% in as many months.

I don't believe we are losing water at that rate. Much of our infrastructure is new and various ongoing techniques have been employed to prevent water loss. It should be decreasing. Not increasing.

Since meters were installed in the eighties, water bills have been an ongoing  source of aggravation. 

The quarterly bill once  reflected a charge for "miscellaneous". What  company with a monopoly on service, gets away with  making a charge for  "miscellaneous"

Then, there was the issue of using water consumption as a measure for sewer rate charges.Not all water used receives sewage treatment.

There have been changes. Sewer rates are adjusted  lower than water rates.

"Miscellaneous " is now identified as a surcharge for storm water ponds. Nothing whatsoever to do with water consumed.

Water bills are not sent to every household . It  means  some  property owners  do not contribute to  storm water ponds for  improvement of water quality of Lake Simcoe..

Therein lies  a lack of equity between taxpayers.

Since last year, I've been tracking down unmetered water used for tax supported services which are not reflected in department budgets and subsequently in the tax bill.

"Water loss" has been  thrown into the mix to calculate  revenue needed to pay the Region's bill  wholesale water rates and charged toconsumers. 

The fire department re- fills tankers from hydrants after a fire. Hydrants are not metered. How could they be?

The parks department uses water for irrigation from unmetered sources.

We have two water parks operating   two months every summer.  Nobody knows how much water they use. They are not metered.

We create two outdoor ice surfaces with hundreds of man hours spraying hundreds of  thousands of gallons of water for days on end from an unmetered source.

Last night's debate was interesting. First up, while I was speaking, Councillor Gaertner, on a point of order, stated I should not be allowed to  mislead people with false statements about unmetered water use.

Councillor Thompson said he had a conversation with the Director of Environment and Infrastructureand.He understands a plan is afoot to have all water sources metered

Council hasn't heard about that plan. It will be interesting to see how hydrants can be metered.

 Councillor Gallo referred to water used to fight fires in  King and Whitchurch Stouffville.We have a fire service contract with both municipalities.  Would  we be have to pay  for their water?

Fire calls in the  two municipalities are generally in rural areas without water service. There are no hydrants where there is no water service.

Councillor Pirrie was generally in favour of transferring the cost of water used for tax supported services from  water rates to the tax bill.  He thought it  was fair and would amount to  pennies  difference in  the average tax bill

It would certainly be reduced by being shared across the board.

The Chief Financial Officer refuted the idea. He cited a figure. Almost a million. He said the difference would represent 3.4% points in the tax rate. Almost  He used the word semantics to dismiss the argument.

The tax increase this year was  around  2.7%.

Transferring the  cost of water used for tax supported services,  to department budgets, would mean a total  increase in taxes of  6.1%.

Water rates to consumers would be reduced accordingly.

 I  used the opportunity to point out, once again,  the town is using water rates to subsidise  the tax rate

That is not right. It is not honest. It is not fair. 

I have to obtain  the tape from the town to hear my exact words.

The Chief Financial Officer , apologising to the Mayor for the interruption, declared he could no longer think because his integrity had been impugned.

The Mayor requested  I apologise to the Chief Financial Officer.

I refused.

I left the council table to prevent a stalemate and allow Council proceedings to continue.

If I hear anything  on the tape to indicate I impugned the Chief Financial Officer's integrity, I will apologise.

The Water and Sewer Rate  Bylaw is adopted  by Council. Council has ownership of the Bylaw.Council is responsible for rates charged.  

I will not forfeit my authority to challenge an indefensible rational for water rates. 

Whether or not I win or lose ,I will not docilely accept an argument which does not, pardon the pun, hold water.

Thursday 2 June 2011

Next Tuesday

Council will discuss a policy for giving away money  collected in taxes to provide town services to whatever scam artists presents at the podium and demand we share,  as if they were the spoils
of  piracy.

We already have a grants policyin place.  But this is different.

The last demand was for the town to purchase a "platinum sponsorship"   Staff  recommended providing $2,000. plus a waiver of almost a thousand in user fees.

But that wasn't enough. Bold as brass and twice as brazen the demand came back at  $5,000.

Most Councillors found it difficult to say no. So they didn't. They covered the awkwardness by declaring lack of a policy creates  the  problem.

A resolution was passed directing staff to provide such a policy to provide cover in such a future event..

The question on Tuesday, will not be whether we hand out tax dollars for questionable purpose to whoever has the gall to put in their pitch..

The issue will be how to make it easier without attracting adverse public attention by having a debateand being obliged to provide justification for giving away public resources. . 

Will staff be given authority to decide?

Or will we do it with openness and transparency and risk universal criticism in return for limited approbation?

Will we skulk around with bellies close to the ground and tails tucked tightly between our legs and give the store away?

Or will we square our shoulders and do what we were elected to do; spend tax money wisely and only for the purpose intended?

Tuesday should separate the men from the boys.

Another O.M.B. Decision For The Town

An  Appeal against another refusal of an application for property at the corner of Elderberry Hills and Yonge Street made by the last council, was heard yesterday.

The Town's position was upheld. It was a vindication of sorts.

The difference  in the sort was.a change in  the town's position. It was no longer a refusal.

Staff had worked with the applicant . Since January, neighbouring residents had worked with the applicant and  town's planners. The plan was scaled down .It seems a newly formed ratepayers' association were satisfied.

Susan Walmer and friends were not. Despite there being only eighty residents in Elderberry Hills, an entirely new group appeared at  Council last Tuesday. they vowed innocence of all knowledge and  argued since  they had known nothing about the proposal until hours before, an emergency meeting of Council should be held to give them  opportunity for input.

Council recessed and gave them opportunity. 

Still Councillor Gaertner requested council consider the request for another meeting before accepting  the staff recommendation. The  recommendation was presented in January and   deferred since that time.

Walter Mestrinaro  had  delegation status at the  previous meeting but surrendered it to the other delegate 

Walter Mestrinaro came back again last Tuesday and  was granted  delegation status again after the commencement of the meeting. .

He presented  his contention the application was not in conformity  with his interpretation of several of the town's planning instruments.

The Planning Director was once again requested to repeat a lengthy  response to Mestrinaro's  inaccurate contentions.

Finally after what seemed like endless repetition of  tedium in the extreme,  Council's previous decision, which could not be undone ....was not .

The hearing yesterday lasted 3.5 hours. It was chaired by the Vice-chair of the Ontario Municipal Board, who heard the appeal  against the town's refusal of the Westhill development application, Which took weeks and cost the town $650,000. in legal fees alone, to say nothing of all the  hours of staff time wasted.

The decision was made and verbally presented there and then   The Board supported the town's position.

The application  is approved with a written decision to follow.  

Yet another tortuous process  behind us;with hundreds of hours and  torrents of  useless verbiage and false accusations.