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

Monday 31 December 2012

A Story Evolves

In the course of our critical analysis of the pantomime, I told Stephanie about the people who came to grief on the aisle of the theatre. 
She told me one of the cast members had a similar experience and suffered as a result , severe bruising in the mid-section. Hers that is.
This morning, I went on line and learned the Centre opened in August 2011. 
It has been functioning for  more than  a year.  
Either the problem has not been identified or it has and  obviously no adjustment has been made.
The city must be getting close to or beyond warranties in the contract.Cost of adjustment may be theirs alone 
Project management  costs and supervision for a project like that would be colossal. 
No doubt the entire Council relaxed completely, knowing everything was in the hands of  the best, to ensure completion without flaw.
After all, how could a lowly Councillor be expected to know anything better than  experts  retained  to ensure excellence i all things. 
This morning, I e-mailed the  Mayor informing  him of what I had observed in  two hours as an audience member in a very fine  municipal  facility
City Hall in Burlington was closed from December 24th. It will re-open on January 2nd, 
They have a population of 175,000 plus souls. The Mayor writes a blog. He  has a u-tube on the town's web-site wishing everyone the best of the season and urging them to enjoy all the facilities their city provides.  
I received an out-of-office reply from the Mayor's office. 
Immediately following, an out of office reply also came from a woman named Daphne at  the Performing Arts Centre.
Unless the matter is urgent, I will hear from her on January 2nd.         

Sunday 30 December 2012

A Good Sign

Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "If We Do Not Learn From Our Mistakes We Are Doomed...":

.I fail to see a proven ' need ' for this money. Council has no idea - or do they ?- if any funds remain from previous years. It would be prudent to have a look at the books & ensure that the flow of money is not simply a reflex.


Cash is not  handed over. The group makes  decisions about how it is to be spent. 
 I've seen  money not spent in one year simply added to the amount  provided in the second year. 
It's  not the same as the Culture Centre Board.They get a free buiding that had $3 million invetsed in it for another purpose. 
They get the mainetnace of the building provided free. 
And they get a chunk of money handed on a silver platter for a "purchase of culture"   
There is no "proven need" for those  funds to be spent either. 
A huge forecast increase in taxes in hard times would be a better than excellent  reason not to continue the funding.
The  Town Treasurer frequently uses the phrase "needs and wants"  
Things we need and things we would like to  have. 
It never really comes down to making  much of a difference in a tax increase advisory.
Council has made  decisions this year on their own authority. 
At the last  meeting of the year, a  staff recommendation was made for a Bylaw to govern disposition of  2012 assessment revenue surplus ,
The  recommendation was not approved.
Councillor Humfrey' s reported receiving phone calls from residents requesting  no tax increases. 
A recommendation was made for the Capital Budget to be approved at the same meeting. Council referred to the fact the Capital budget had not been finalised.
Neither recommendation received approval. 
I am heartened. 
I think it's a good sign for the New Year.      

The Last Day Of An Old Year...that doesn't seem that old.

I have laundry in the machine and every room in the house is bright with winter sunlight. 
I'm a long way from the place and time when no  project could be left unfinished, every item in the house polished and sparkling. Shortbread was baked , black bun in the cake tin and wine made from Sheildhall Co-op  products was bottled and ready to be served in tiny glasses to whoever came and many did.
It's another lifetime. Another cast of  characters. .
I went to see Aladdin yesterday. Enjoyed it tremendously I will tell about it another time. 
I was looking forward to seeing the Burlington Arts Centre.I will tell  all I observed about that another time. 
At the moment, I have something  particularly  extraordinary to tell.
The theatre is beautiful. The asile to the first half of the orchestra seats are on risers, the width of a single row. 
The lower half are not.
The floor is  highly polished terrazzo. Lights shine down at the side of each aisle seat.
The floor is shining. Terrazzo is polished. 
There is no demarcation to show where  risers start and end.
I was in an aisle seat on the second from last riser.
In the interval, many of the audience  left their seats
I had to watch  the movement of feet  to determine  where  risers  stopped and  slope began.  
I was not surprised when  man  almost tripped and fell on the
When a woman  tripped  and fell full length it was anticipated.
The floor was hard.
I said, "You're not the first." 
"Really" she said. 
When the show was over, and the entire audience was leaving, an 
elderly woman ahead came to grief on the second from last riser. 
She was short. As round as she was tall. She sprawled at an angle, her shoulder hitting the seat  and maybe her head also. 
Everyone around her felt the shock.
It was one show.  The high shine of polished terrazzo,separation between risers and slope and  lack of demarcation  to mark the separation  caused two people to  come down hard and sprawl full length on and one almost had the same experience. 
The last, I am sure will be hurting from a bruised shoulder today, and maybe a substantial bump on the  cranium. 
Diamond and Schmit are the architects.
Diamond was a frequent  speaker or panel  guest at Municipal Conferences forty years ago.
His  status has grown. No doubt his fees are commensurate.
The theatre is beautiful. The entertainment exceptional. Tickets are reasonable. The community is well served.
But three people,at one show, on one side of the theatre came to harm ,while making their way from seats to  lobby because of a flaw in floor design. A simple thing like ensuring  the edge of a riser is  marked clear and unmistakable was overlooked.           

If We Do Not Learn From Our Mistakes We Are Doomed To Repeat Them.

Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "The Good The Bad and The Ugly": 
The money isn't for the benefit of the thirteen Arboretum members - it is for all fifty-five thousand of us to enjoy their efforts.
(So much for the Season of Goodwill)
Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "The Good The Bad and The Ugly": 

I have found the Master Plan for the Arboretum Project. It seems just fine & ambitious. What it does not supply are facts & figures about how to achieve the aim. Perhaps taxpayers would be more sympathetic to money requests if they were confident of the financial management being as solid as the planning for plantings.
When I first heard of the plans for the Arboretum, I thought of Edwards Gardens . I went there with a cousin on a visit from Scotland. A famous singer  made a video  there and that's how they  heard of it in Scotland. 
It was a  summer day. Wedding parties were lined up to create memories of a special day.It was magical . 
Years later, it wasn't hard to persuade me  the  ravine on Lambert Wilson's former farm would lend itself  well to that purpose.
The Arboretum group were already active planting memorial trees  behind the Seniors Centre. They were creating  beauty and not costing the  taxpayers .
I was in full support of using some of the asset from sale of hydro to create an Edwards Gardens. 

But that's not how it worked out. 
The money came from tax dollars.
The first contract awarded by the  group was for weeding  flower beds
My illusions were not the fault of the group. 
They were mine. All mine. 
The parks department does the heavy lifting. Yes, there's lots of  volunteer labour.   
But decisions about money are made by people who are not accountablefor the decisions.
An entire parks and urban forest budget needs  to be funded.  Every year we planted  trees. But we never budgeted  to maintain trees we already had. 
Adding to the payroll is a tough sell. 
Yet, every year  we commited $100,000. to a group  who were not elected,  to spend as they see fit. 
We are staring at a 7%  annual increase in taxes, yet we give away 
$100.000. like it was pin money.  
As we  know, they are  not the only group with free access to public money in hundreds of thousands of dollars.
They are one of a number .
They are a special interest group. 
They are favoured.
They are preferred. 
All groups  have special interests. I doubt any one believes theirs doesn't count. 
All  are entitled to fair  and equal consideration from their Council.
All  cannot receive $100,000 of taxpayers money every year  TO SPEND AS THEY WILL.
We are not speaking of wasting money. 
Or  stealing money. 
We are talking about the elected body making  the decisions they were entrusted to make.
The main one, and surely the one that means  most to  people who are compelled to pay taxes, being managing the money we have the power to take from them.  
Giving it away to small groups to handle, regardless of  priorities, is not  good fiscal management.
Or stewardship to any degree.
It is not a criticism of the Arboretum.
It is a criticism of the elected body of which I am a member and am prepared to acknowledge a previous error in judgement that started this particular ball rolling.       

Saturday 29 December 2012

A Rose By Any Other Name

Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "A Silk Purse Out Of A Sow's Ear? Nah!":

Now you're resorting to name-calling? Who got a lump of coal in their stocking?

And who was called a name? Who dat? What name ?
If no identifiable being is there, how can they be called  by a name?
"Nincompoop!!!!!!"  they say.

But I did not say.
I said  the word "Nincompoopery"

It describes an  argument. Not a person. 

Friday 28 December 2012

A Silk Purse Out Of A Sow's Ear? Nah!

Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "A Day In The Life Of A Councillor": 
"The claim was repeated that light-coloured vehicles produce less pollution in hot weather. To which I respond; 
How would you go about proving that?"
That was not the claim that I read. I think it said that dark green vehicles will require more A/C because they will be hotter in the summer. That means that more fuel will be required - not pollution. I think it is a common fact that darker colours retain heat (instead of reflecting it). Not much to prove if you ask me.
No, I do not recollect reading that claim. But thank you for repeating  yet another foolish argument.
How much time do you think parks employees spend in air-conditioned trucks in the summer ?
As little as it takes to get them from one park to another. Air-conditioning is unlikely to be turned  on. 
Any time I see  them, dark arms lean on open windows,
faces are  turned to catch the breeze and shout a friendly greeting  in passing at whoever they may know.
Air conditioning in a parks vehicle!!!! Gimme a break!!!!
Nincompoopery to the nth degree/
This debate is concluded. The majority voted  that green trucks for parks were eminently suitable.
Except for snarkety-snark-snark,  not a word of protest was heard throughout the land.
It was one for the good guys. 
White vehicles because everybody else has them  is not a logical rationale. 
Mayhap, the objective is for town vehicles to be indistinguishable from  Regional.
Maybe  we are being not so subtly influenced to think of ourselves as a minor unit  of regional government.
Certainly  enough former regional employees  are within our  administration to make that theory plausible and  equally repugnant.
The town has a strategic plan for the next twenty-years, four times beyond the limit of reasonable  influence considering neighbourhoods and towns are not built by municipal corporations.
Developers are the principal partners. 
The Region has a thirty year plan. . 
We  are advised by the Chief Financial Officer, once 2013  budget is approved ,our eyes will not rest upon projects within it  again until  contracts  are  presented for award.
I think that's pretty well how it happens at the Region. 
Regional Councillors do not read staff reports. Staff write the reports ,  then they write condensed regional for municipal agendas to  appear as if  they have been  written by Regional Councillors. 
What a farce  !!!! 
Tis the season to be fanciful.
Feel free to throw in other  arguments  so they may be dissected on my table and shown for the weakness of their parts. 
I suspect the drug has not yet been invented to create substance where there is none. .   

Thursday 27 December 2012

The Good The Bad and The Ugly

I have tried and tried  to reproduce a Christmas Greeting received from  Aurora Arboretum. The photo is spectacularly beautiful.
A creek flows through snow-covered  banks with blonde reeds on either side, stuck together here and there with cotton balls of snow ,
Frozen scrub trees lean over to form a higgledy-piggledy sentinel   as the  creek twists and  meanders and narrows  out of sight.
The water is so precisely edged with snow,  it hardly seems natural..
I know it is because June Yates is the photographer. 
June is the editor of the Arboretum News. Husband  Tom and herself are also  members of the Seniors Club . Photography is a passion and Tom always credits June as the best of the two.
My grand-daughter Stephanie,  tried without success  this morning to reproduce the photo.
It really does  need to be shared. 
Anna ,if you are reading this post , maybe you could make contact with June and  ask if you can share this and other beautiful photographs regularly presented in the Arboretum News. 
There would surely  be sufficient to create an annual  calender  of breathtakingly beautiful spots in Aurora. Enough calenders for the next  twenty years.  
There's another  reason for wanting to share the greeting .. It bears  the names of the  Arboretum members,
There are thirteen. Alfamiliar. All well- meaning volunteers with  passion for creating  something spectacular  in  the Lambert Wilson  ravine that stretches from St. John Sideroad to John West Parkway. It ends at the Senior Centre. Precisely where Petch House has been  re-located and is near completion.
The town has  provided half a million dollars already to the group .
Last year's grant was $50,000. Every year before  $100,000. I believe this year  is the sixth year. 
I supported the grant initially.  I thought it was a good use of  interest from the hydro reserve fund. 
For various reasons, I changed my mind. Not the least of them  careless, thoughtless disregard for increasing taxes.
The funds are derived from taxation. 
Added to those  handed over to the autonomous Historical Society which hasn't provided a  museum service since 2002. 
Added to half a million dollars annually to another autonomous board  that sells culture out of a rent-free building.
The funds are no less than 3 points of the annual the tax rate increase
It's money filched from tax-payers pockets to be  handed out , given away freely, to non-elected, non-accountable bodies to spend at their pleasure and publicly supported in statements made by an  appointed official of the municipality. Like he knows no better.   
With the best intentions in the world, I don't believe any self-respecting elected body, charged  with responsibility for stewardship of public resources can  tolerate  such flagrant excess.and such disrespect for the electorate who gave us  their trust.
Good fiscal management it is not.          

Wednesday 26 December 2012

A Day In The Life Of A Councillor

A Councillor with common sense  is a work in progress in skills development. Perhaps I should say, feelers. They  wave about . gathering morsels of info wherever it is to be found.
We don't have a Council meeting again until mid-January. I have time to elaborate. 
A late comment came last week about  green trucks for  parks.  I have to guess where it came from but I won't waste time on that.
The claim was repeated that  light-coloured vehicles produce less pollution in hot weather. To which I respond; 

How would you go about proving that?
After three separate staff reports with different  rationales  each time, Council's authority prevailed  and green trucks were chosen.
In the 2013 capital budget, four light trucks were recommended to replace personal vehicles for public works inspectors.
Council authority prevailed again.Some arguments didn't even need to be used.
I want to use them  to show how a sensible person can make a deduction with just a few details. 
The  average allowance for use of  a personal vehicle is touted at $50.thousand dollars a year. 
It's not a full year. More like half.  Construction season lasts from May to November. Inspections with personal vehicles  used are the period for which expenses are  incurred. 
The work week is five days.. Seven hours is the average day. Statutory holidays and vacations reduce  the number of days,.
$50 thousand divided by six ( months ), divided by four (weeks) , divided by five (days) divided by seven (hours) identifies a substantial amount of change  for gas charged.  Besides the car allowance for other expenses.
Inspections of new infrastructure are not carried out on wheels. Hard hats and construction boots are provided for  work done on the hoof. The town is not large.
The municipality is therefore payinhandsomely for  gas.
Councillor Pirrie was righteously indignant that Council would compel an employee to use his own vehicle.
He had to be informed there was no compulsion about it. 
The Mayor brought out, use of a vehicle is a condition of employment for the inspectors.  
Be that notwithstanding, recommending  replacement of  personal vehicles with town- owned trucks was a solution worse than  the problem. It was not presented as a solution for a problem.
Capital costs are incurred. Development charge levies were to be used. .
More space  for storage of vehicles is required ..
Insurance coverage. 
fuel to run the vehicles.
Mechanical service.
Tools and space for mechanics. 
Extra service bays .
Extra management of extra mechanics.
Extra supervision of  management. 
Oh Yes,,,and extra space in the  $598,000 software program
Allowanc for a degree of laxity in management
The list goes on 
...and on 
...and on.  
Comparatively speaking., four new trucks is not a huge ticket item. But it is substantial. Other  new vehicles are  recommended.  
Council exercised  judgement and deleted these trucks  from the capital budget. 
It was a satisfying moment. 
Councillor Humfryes didn't have a lot to say. But when it comes to trucks it's always  worth hearing..
Sandra's other half is a truck aficionado; literally, a walking encyclopedia.
Also a firefighter in the fire department, he understands budgets. requirements. problems .solutions. and  non-solutions.
I expect Sandra  to be well-briefed in the matter of trucks. 
I listen for affirmation of my own gut instinct. 
I am never disappointed.