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

Thursday 31 May 2012

Nitpicking In The Real Sense Of The Word.

Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "A Budget Rant":

"Her critic's..."

There's one of those pesky, incorrectly-used apostrophes that so perturb grammarians. It should be "critics," as in plural, multiple - and there are many, even in the comments section of this blog.
Note that sly dig ."EVEN in the comments section of this blog."
It's eleven o'clock.
I should make a point of not reading  comments at this time of night. 
I am inclined to wonder how many " perturbed grammarians" are writing blogs people are inclined to read despite "pesky, incorrectly used apostrophes"

Facts For The Record

I know that the Region - particlularly their spending habits - is a constant burr under your saddle councillor Buck so I'm willing to take your little rant with a grain of salt.

For those readers who are interested however here are a few facts for the record.

1. The noise barrier has been in discussion for at least 10 years.
Much of the time was consumed by taking decibel readings and measurements and clarifying exactly what the Regions previously undefined noise policy was going to be.

2. There were several public meetings with the area residents - one was at AuroraTown Hall where we met with Regional staff and consulting engineers.

3. Each homeowners property was inspected and a determination made as to the noise-reduction effectiveness of a barrier and any environmental effects the barrier would have.

Where the barrier was of no use - such as homes with driveways onto Bathurst, homes too far below grade or homes already protected by the natural terrain - a barrier was not put in.

Existing fences on the barrier "right of way" were removed.
Each home lot plan was detailed even to the point of which existing trees had to be removed and which trees would be planted as replacements.
Maybe York Region staff didn't keep Aurora council informed but as far as I'm concerned they were very forthcoming and open in their communications with residents.

Did it take too long to happen?
Is it perfect?
perhaps not.
But it's a vast improvment for homes that have seen Bathurst go from a country cowpath into a very busy four lane thoroughfare.

One could always argue about the cost and whether or not the area "deserved" to get a noise barrier but bear in mind a couple of points.

The noise barrier is in keeping with the Regions noise policy regarding homes abutting 4 lane roads and yes I know - new subs have the cost "built-in".
Expect more arguments when Leslie and Bloomington are made four lane one day.

Also expect a barrier on the west side of Bathurst when King gets developed.

Also - the train whistle argument doesn't quite hold. Train whistles aren't banned in certain areas - they affect anyone that lives near the tracks just as traffic noise affects anyone living next to four lane roads.
Telling some residents that they'll have to put up with the noise is like telling some "whistle" residents that they should have bought a house along a different section of the track where whisltes aren't allowed.

Sorry to be long-winded but one shouldn't assume this was a "midnight madness" quickie job on the part of the Region.

If you want to know more contact the Region's engineering department - talk to the residents in the area.
It's not a secret.

I challenge none of the facts above. I was there for some discussion in a Council meeting with some of the Bathurst Street residents.
I enjoyed watching regional officials interacting with Aurora residents.
Considering the potential for unimaginable cost precedent
throughout the Region of installing barrier fencing at publicexpense
long after subdivisions had been completed, I did not envy  the problem.
I as mistaken. They had no problem. They simply said Yes.
As I watch that fence being built, mile after mile, I cannot comprehend how the Region  accepted that responsibility.
It's not unusual for a municipality to receive a complaint from a new resident about the traffic.He bought a house on a major artery, probably on a Sunday morning,  and finds out after, it is not a quiet little layby safe for his children to play. 
He demands the municipality divert the traffic onto somebody else's  street.
We cannot do that.The street was designed to be a major collector. Traffic increases with time.Traffic flow cannot be changed.
If  there was a mistake, it was made by the homebuyer.
If he cannot live in the house he bought because of  traffic he didn't see, a new decision is his to make. 
The municipal public purse will simply not stretch to take care of all the surprises  people discover  after  they  have purchased  a 
Aurora's homeowners are paying for the Region's  project.
People  having a  having a hard time finding resources to repair roofs, driveways fences,cut down dangerous trees , pay the mortgage. and senior's with no mortgage, forced to give up  homes because property  taxes are beyond their means. 
The crippling taxes include paying for the handsome, expensive, acoustic amenity the Region is building  for Bathurst Street  homeowners at the expense of  the rest of us
That my friend, is one of the reasons for the burr under my saddle about  regional  spending. 
Don't make the mistake of dismissing it with a grain of  salt.
The ground is not too steady under your feet.
I have heard how Regional staff nurture and care for regional Councillors. How they bend over backwards to cater to every little whim.
I have seen examples. 

The Pesky Pest Preoccupation

So, we have several government agencies cooperatively monitoring the little green beetle from Korea:
The Region of York, The Canadian Food Inspection Agency, The Provincial Ministry of  Environment,conservation authorities and six municipalities  in the Region.
Conservation authorities are Lake Ontario and Lake Simcoe.
So there you have it:
A little green bug contentedly munching its way unimpeded  under the bark of ash trees throughout the region  being  monitored by a dozen different government agencies.
York Region is the only media release I have received.
Nothing new is communicated. No dramatic discovery. No warnings of what to do in the citing  of.
Just information  and a picture of a green box hanging in a tree fifteen  feet  off the ground that should not be touched. They have an adhesive substance on the outside and  emerald ash borer attracting substance on the inside. 
There are warning signs not to touch the boxes because they might cause mild skin irritation  and  there's information about the emerald ash borer.
Short of spending millions of dollars over decades  in a futile effort to fight the colourful  critter from doing what emerald ash borers are born to do, there is no option  but let them chomp away,and replace ash trees with a different species as  decimation proceeds.
All this has  happened before. 
No great calamity ensued.
The planet has not been denuded.
The human species has  survived
But we have the comfort of knowing York Region Stands Guard. 
They can't do a  thing about  the bug. 
But they are watching it. 
Think of  the green moolah, they have been able to dispose of in the process of not disposing of the emerald ash borer.

The Regional Municipality of York continues Emerald Ash Borer monitoring survey program
Traps deployed to monitor spread of invasive insect

NEWMARKETThe Regional Municipality of York continues to monitor the spread of the Emerald Ash Borer (EAB) with the placement of 250 monitoring traps throughout York Region.

Bright green prism-style monitoring traps will be placed in mature ash trees on public lands, to help determine the spread of the EAB. The invasive species is native to Asia and has no known Canadian predator. It was first noticed in York Region in 2008.

Monitoring traps are being placed approximately four to five metres above-ground and one square kilometre apart in the following municipalities:

  • Northern portions of the Township of King and the Town of Whitchurch-Stouffville
  • Towns of Aurora, Newmarket, East Gwillimbury and Georgina

York Region is working co-operatively with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, the Ministry of Natural Resources, conservation authorities and local municipalities to monitor the impact of the insect.

Traps feature an adhesive coating on the outside with an EAB-attracting substance on the inside. Signs will be posted in the vicinity of the traps, providing information about the monitoring program. Residents are asked to avoid contact with the traps as they may cause mild skin irritation.

For more information on the Emerald Ash Borer, please visit the Canadian Food Inspection Agency website, www.inspection.gc.ca/pests or call 1-866-463-6017. Information can also be found on the front page link at www.york.ca

Wednesday 30 May 2012

The Supremacy Of Ideas

Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "A Budget Rant":

"It would be refreshing if the next budget represented items that Council was really anxious and enthusiastic about - their ideas. The last one struck me as a wish-list for staff & trying to clean up past errors. A positive spin would be welcome."

And this would be the only time that this Town's or any town's council did that. Municipal politics breeds the local lobbying that we see. It should not be a surprise.

While this councillor contends she represents the views of those that elected her, there is an equal representation by the others around the table. Why should one councillor's opinions have more validity than another?
This Councillor  does not contend, for the purpose of this discussion that  one Councillors opinions have more validity than others.
I do contend that any and all Councillors opinions are more relevant that any individual who may attend a budget meeting and seek to have input. 
Councillors represent the public. An election was held to establish that principle. Nine people sit around the table. Some argue that's too many. It should certainly be enough to hear whatever opinions might be expressed in the community, if everyone is doing what they have been chosen to do.
Having private meetings with Directors  for questions to be answered and  willfully allowing themselves to be overwhelmed by professional expertise is not what they were elected to do.
We are not administrators. We are not part of their team.
We are there to maintain authority in the hands of the people who pay the bills.
Questions need to be asked and answered in public and therefore shared with each other and the public.
We need to ask the questions they would ask,were they in our place. We need to take the positions they might take in the circumstance, without fear or favour.
We need to maintain separation between ourselves and the administration for the purpose of decision-making. 
We are not required  to take the same position as any other. There may be safety but there is no virtue in that. 
In a town of  twenty-four thousand voting adults, it is entirely possible there could  be at least nine different positions on any given issue.That would be a democratically robust  and vigorous Council of strong-minded individuals prepared to duke it out for the supremacy of ideas. 
We don't have that.
But I  keep trying.

Public Input

My  thoughts ae organised for the post on the page in front of me.
When it's  finished, my thoughts continue.
Last night's discussion about ways and means of encouraging the public to participate in the budget process reminded me of my reaction when I returned to Council in 2003 after a fourteen year absence.
I wasn't impressed then and I'm not  now.
People will find their own way of letting a Councillor know what  they think they need to. 
The only people who have came to budget meetings were  individuals or groups  who wanted Council to include something  in the budget.
I didn't regard that as particularly useful when the task at hand was to keep  budget increase to a minimum and ensure services were maintained at a satisfactory level.
Besides, individuals may speak only for themselves
Councillors, on the other hand, each have authority to speak for 
several thousand people and combined , we are  accountable to all.
In the last several years I have not been able to support any budget 
because of what I considered to be sheer bloody extravagance  and no concern whatsoever for people who are experiencing hard times.
I have not noticed much attention at all to my objections to specific items in the budget. 
If they wont listen to me, elected by a considerable number, why are they so anxious to  hear from people who represent themselves alone.
Where's the logic? 
We may be streaming the process this year so that people can watch it on line. 
But of course, it will  be an add-on to the budget. 

A Budget Rant

At the Special meeting of Council  last night to discuss budget- making , we heard  how the City of Barrie does it.. 
Councillors meet with staff, singly or in pairs or few enough not to constitute a council meeting.
They ask all of their questions and receive a thorough explanation  from the experts  in a private setting.
Then after  a day long public session , they clinch  the budget.
From my perspective, Aurora Council is not looking for a shorter more expeditious way of creating a budget. 
It appears  to me there is dis-satisfaction that for all the hours we spend on the task, the feeling is Council did not have enough influence on the final outcome.
Yet, for a bunch of hedonistic politicians, hugely reluctance hangs about to say  anything that might hint of  criticism,
The slightest negative inflection is accompanied by overwhelming assurance of the wonderful work staff do. .
I do not find clarity in the budget process. 
In my judgement, an operating  budget should set out previous year's budgeted amount, actual cost and proposed cost to continue the program and source of revenue.
Everybody should be able to follow the budget.
The  increased spending figures over the previous year are  more relevant than per centage factors.A percent of sixty-nine million is significantly more than a per cent of seventy-nine million.
Increased   revenue  from growth should be a  highlight.
Growth in  spending should be relevant  to growth in revenue. .
A statement often heard is that growth does not pay for itself. 
Why oes it not?.
It's easy enough to spend like drunken sailors and then toss out the 
the suspect phrase, growth does not pay for itself.
Education  has not increased on the property tax for several years. The treasurer argues the  provincial intent   is  to give municipalities  more room to tax.
I entirely disagree. 
We build facilities we could never contemplate without  90% development charge revenue.
We require developers to pay for infrastructure. Then we incease
taxes to pay for infrastructure.
The federal government provides a share of gas tax..This year it was $1.4 million dollars. 
Assessment growth was $1.4 million give or take a dollar.
We didn't  have $650 thousand to pay for an extended O.M.B. hearing.  Nor $65 thousand for legal expenses to sue town residents.
We continued to hand over half a million of tax revenues to a non-accountable body to spend on stuff that by no stretch of anyone's  imagination could be considered  essential. .
$50 thousand dollars to the Arboretum to plant trees.
 Another $50.thousand to the Historical Society while we have no museum to operate.
We increased taxes by 4.7 per cent and continued to blather on about growth not paying for growth.
We contend  people living  today should be obliged to put money in a reserve  (a rainy day fund)  so that people living twenty years from now won't have to pay what it costs to  maintain facilities we built and they continue to enjoy. .
I figure,  increased revenues from assessment and gas tax sharing from senior  level , reduced expenditures here and there.in 2012 we are spending  $11 million dollars more than we did  in 2011.
If it keeps up this way , in our term of office, this council will have presided over an overall budget  increase of  about thirty million dollars. And there will be  added debt. 
At a time when we  foresee an end  to the town's  growth, we will have  increased full-time staff,  let hundreds of thousand dollars worth of consultant contracts,. constructed  forty million dollars worth of administrative and works facilities.and other cockamamie schemes like snow- melting  treatment facilities, sidewalks on both sides of an industrial road at a cost of a $1 million apiece, where no  pedestrians are ever seen to walk.
We will be purchasing  "culture" at an annual increased cost of 3% 
to the tune of  best part of a million.
We will  bleat about how growth doesn't pay for growth while spending  hand over fist,  greedily absorbing whatever assistance senior levels of government choose to hand out to lessen the burden on homeowners.while ensuring no such relief is realized.
Yes sir, we will have something to account for at the end of our term, if we do not take hold of the budget now.   


The Internet Is Great

Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "A Tangled Web Was Woven":

Believing is not the same as knowing. You can't state as fact what you don't categorically know to be true.

You need to qualify a lot of what you write.
Can  so state categorically what I believe to be true and my reasons for so believing.
Further, if the commenter will state his/her name and provide compelling evidence to suggest another explanation for the factors that lead me to believe what is true, I may revise what I  believe   and come to a different conclusion.
In politics, what is true is not always at first evident . 
Smoke screens abound. 
As in life, on the one hand this is true and on the other that is also true.
Both are true. But they contradict one another.
Seeking logic is sometimes like following a will o' the wisp.
In municipal politics, time is on one's side. If a situation  makes no sense, one  must simply watch and wait. Sooner or later a pattern  emerges and all is clear. Like life,  pieces of the puzzle simply fall into place.
People are not logical.They are not mathematical  equations.They are mostly predictable.
Having opportunity  to observe people  for a period of years, gives  one  a sense of what they are about as politicians. The pattern of the political being is familiar. Language and deportment in the fish bowl of politics  are signs and portents.
Nowadays, time can be spent  texting or twittering  while awaiting one's turn to speak .
Or one can use  time and the opportunity to  study  the human political condition.
Enough time spent on any exercise creates an aptitude.Being proven right a sufficient number of times generates confidence.
Confidence and aptitude are  useful qualities in the practice of politics.One might even say, essential for success.
Last night, Council spent two hours discussing the process of budget making.  Clear disquiet  with the current process was expressed. 
A specific concern was how to encourage  the public to participate.
I think the public who care, did all they could to participate, when they chose the  nine people who would represent them for four years. 
I have a contract with people who elect me. They lent me authority to participate on their behalf.  I gave them assurance I would. "Without fear or favour"
"Go there", Evelyn" they told me. " Poke into all the neuks and crannies. Find out everything you need to know and cast your vote on our behalf. Don't worry if you're the only one.Do what you think is right. Don't expect we will always agree. But we will always know you did what you thought was right. Short of being there ourselves, that's the most we expect.
Oh! and one more  thing. Evelyn. We like to be kept informed.The internet is great for that " 

Tuesday 29 May 2012

A Tangled Web Was Woven

Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "Contretemps":

Is that a question we can answer definitively, Evelyn? I mean, could you just ask our CAO who wrote the agreement? Even if it is not just one author, that's ok. He should be able to identify who participated in the actual writing of it. That shouldn't be a state secret, should it?
No indeed it should not be a state secret.
On the other hand.. the question was asked in a public meeting by Councillor John Abel; 
"Who was involved in constructing  this agreement".
The solicitor's answer ; "I have not been able to discover that"
The exchange took place after the solicitor presented his review of the contract.
At  the time I thought the solicitor was being discreet.
Reader's may recall when I moved the solicitor review the agreement, the Mayor demurred on the basis of the solicitor's work load. 
I have since learned the former Mayor spent many hours after the election, shredding documents in her office. 
Concern was expressed but it was not prevented. 
It is logical to assume on the basis of the information,town files may be missing or incomplete.
Going back slightly further to  my request to an erstwhile solicitor for a record of  all  invoices for legal services incurred  by the former Mayor:
Initially I was I would receive the material. . I was asked if I minded the solicitor having a word with the CAO.
I said I didn't care who he had a word with as long as I received  what  I was entitled to receive.
A week went  by. I continued to be assured.
Further time passed and  the information continued to be withheld. 
Eventually, a motion was presented by former Councillor Wilson and seconded by former Councillor MacEachern , directing staff provide information pertaining to legal costs. It  was passed by Council.
The Town Treasurer was asked if it could be done. He replied in the affirmative. 
There were Cheshire cat grins all around the table that night.So pleased were they by their astute handling of the situation. .
The resolution resulted in graphs being presented showing comparative  legal costs for the past ten years. 
The solicitor subsequently advised he could not provide the information I had requested  as it would be contrary to Council's direction.
I was ultimately able to establish without staff help,  cost of  legal services  to  assist  Council in formulating a Code of Conduct complaint against myself  was $70. thousand. 
Now back to the question of  who wrote the agreement with the Culture Centre Board:   information is the town had no solicitor on staff at the time. A legal clerk provided  input. 
I am unable to accept an agreement of such consequence would be the responsibility of a law clerk  employed in the town's  legal department. 
The administration  had authority to access services of an  external law firm on the  approved roster to carry out this important task.
 Under all the circumstances noted,  I have no trouble  believing information provided to me recently the former Mayor herself wrote the contract. 
If anyone  has a different, more credible account of how that awful agreement came to be signed by the Mayor and Town  Clerk, we would certainly be prepared to consider  it. 
As a Councillor I am empowered to exercise judgement.


I received a comment in response to a comment from Tim the Enchanter. It could have started a new thread of discussion
However it referred to Tim with an obscenity particularly repugnant to myself.
I have heard Sean Connery use it and had the same reaction. 
Some advice I received recently.."If in doubt leave it out"
So I am,. If the writer cares to send it again without the offending term, the comment will be published.   


Small things occur that indicate  remnants of gang mentality  survive still.
Last week, the solicitor sought an opportunity to advise in closed session on a previously discussed issue/ Gallo. Gaertner and Ballard  decided the issue should not be  behind closed doors.
They stayed out and waited for council to report out.
Their plans were never discovered.
 Council returned and waived solicitor/client privilege and spilled the beans. 
To cut a long story short: first reaction to the problem with the agreement with the Culture Board was to have Council representation on the board. Time went by and the full complexity of the agreement was revealed. Disadvantages of the plan became apparent. 
I speak for myself now and my understanding of the difficulty. 
Articles of incorporation  detach  this board from the authority of Council.
The theory was to remove the board from political interference which  would, in theory, prevent the operation from becoming financially self-sufficient.
Politicians are inclined to give away services to peole with voting clout, or not charge enough to cover costs of operation.
Politicians  love to be loved. 
You have to acknowledge the irony.
Anyway, a potential problem with  Councillors on this  board is, a Councillor  cannot serve two masters.
Since the board receives  funding,  ad infinitum,  from the Town, and are not legally  accountable to the town , a Councillor serving on the board  might find him/herself in a conflict in a Council meeting. A solicitor might have to be consulted at the Councillor's expense or a conflict of interest  declared and be unable to participate in board-related  business.
An option would be for two  councillors to be appointed to attend board meetings to observe  but not  participate.
Y'all know I have not agreed with the agreement since it was created. I didn't even know then the agreement  had been written by the former Mayor.
I do not believe the instrument  is redeemable.
Difficulties in negotiations are no surprise.
Apart from the amazing arrogance displayed by the current  Board, to my mind, there is only one solution to the problem.The Town must withhold funding ,take back Church Street School and start afresh.
The library board is not the same. Town funding  provides  library service.The board decides how  funding is used. 
The entire Board  is  appointed by Council ; three  are council members.The town is  accountable for service and cost of same.
Another irony comes to mind.Every year of the last term the library  budget was challenged. In the last year, Councillor Wilson and Rebecca Beaton were appointed to the board, no doubt  to bring the board  to heel
In the last board meeting of the term, the gang of five filed in, one by one. Purpose of the invasion was never discovered..
Even this year, Councillor Gaertner voted against the town's budget because the library board did not  reduce theirs
The same group  within Council, Gaertner Gallo and Ballard ,are bound and determined ,extravagant support to a board with no accountability whatsoever  is justufied.

Monday 28 May 2012

Au Contraire Mon Ami

Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "Don't Aski...Don't TEll":

Anonymous 5/26 7:13pm said: "Why is there no one from the town explaining this? Why is no one from the organization explaining the procedures and how everything has been covered satisfactorily? Public Relations person? Anyone?"

Is this a serious question? No one from the Town is explaining it because except for about 25 people that hang out on this blog, no one cares! Stop anyone on the street and ask them... they don't care. Hell I spoke to my supposed "smart, well-read" neighbour and she has not heard of this issue.

The above  is the kind of argument regularly dismissed by consultants and other experts as "anecdotal" and therefore without substance.
More than twenty-five people "hang out" on this blog on a daily basis. It is not "anecdotal"
It is recorded for quality purposes.Sniff! Sniff!
It is probably true that a casual check with  the "man on the street" or the "smart, well read woman" would  disclose  complete indifference to the issues discussed on this blog.
We do not claim to be the world.
 This is a local blog.
 It's not the Globe and Mail. 
One could argue we are insular.
Is that a fault in our small part of the world?
Read the title; "Our Town and It's Business" This morning's collection of comments are the best yet. Hardly a mean swipe amongst them.
All kinds of things are discussed. There's a t comment from an  author who objects to the Wump World being on U tube.
I had never heard of the book. So I listened to it on Utube. NOw I know about it. 
Someone from the Region  logged in to give us a full history of the Bathurst Street fencing issue. 
I've been  back in office  for nine of the past ten years  so I know it's accurate. It doesn't take away from the point I made about parts of the fence being down in hollows and  houses, it's supposed to protect, well above  the fence. 
Also, fifty years ago, Bathurst was a gravel road.in our neck of the woods.
In the seventies, contours were reduced, it was paved and straightened  and throughout that time it was always a regional road and before that a county road.  It was never a cow path. It was never a local road. It was opened originally  to carry traffic from Lake Ontario to Bradford.
It was re-constructed within the first five years after the Region was created because the Province was paying half the cost to make up for the years the Toronto and York Roads Commission refused to fulfill it's function.
Funds spent on the  acoustic fence and wasted resources on trees that died are a burr under my saddle because of   deliberate obstruction to the town's objective of providing trail links and underpasses on major traffic arteries, regional roads, to provide safety for pedestrians, on the basis of cost.
On the one hand we have examples of faulty financial management by the region and on the other, refusal to co-operate with the town on  what should be a  priority for both levels of government.
Safety for the greater numbers of people.

The Things You Hear

Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "By The Way":

Does the permit say anything that fences are NOT permitted?

 The permit states  in detail what is permitted..That is the  purpose of a permit.
It states a user fee is to be paid  for the band shell and zero for use of various parts of the park.
No fence or sub-leasing to vendors is permitted in the permit. 
On the other hand, the Parks Bylaw state  no fences shall be erected by anyone. 
The Director has sole authority to allow a fence to be erected.
The  Parks Bylaw makes it clear, food and  beverage vendors are allowed at the sole discretion of the Director. 
It would seem therefore, there has never been any authority for the St Kitts Jazz Festival, now known as the Aurora Artisan's Fair, to erect a fence or lease space to vendors in the town's park
They did not have  authority to do it before.
They do not have it now.
So now, it appears, all that is needed is to ensure the Bylaw is observed 
No fence is erected.
 No vendors  permitted to locate and vend  from  a party without authority to provide them.
At the week-end I heard  of Farmers Market vendors possibly being offered a better deal  from the Artisan's Fair than the town gives 

Sunday 27 May 2012

By The Way

I  received a copy of the  jazz festival permit application .Noticed a page of information.Thought it  would copy and paste but it wouldn't.
So read it again,,,carefully. 
The applicant is Sher St Kitts, Chair of Aurora Festival of the Arts
c/o Susan Morton Leonard. address Aurora.
Place for signature is Sher St. Kitts 
Nowhere, in all the documentation, is there any mention of a fence being permitted by the Director as required by the Town of Aurora Parks Bylaw. 
Neither is there  reference to vendors being permitted by the town in the town park during the event. 


Another List

Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "Ka-non Responded":


Do all the 'issues' in the town lead to only one doorstep?

None of the issues in the town led to one doorstep.
I would have thought that was  more than apparent.
None of the normal checks and balances that prevent such an appalling record did in fact function. 
People who could not silently comply took their leave.They were replaced.
The turnover has been remarked upon here many,many times.
The insidious effect spilled into every corner.
It took four years to accomplish what  they did.
Of course they had help.
What are you thinking?
Director of Public Works. Quit
Deputy Director Quit.
Town  Planner. Retired . Didn't have to. Different circumstances, wouldn't have. Work was a joy .
Chief Administrative officer.
Associate solicitor,
Director of Corporate Services.Retired.
Director of Corporate Services Number Two. Quit.  Eight months into the job. 
Manager of Bylaws, Communications Officer. Public works foreman, administrative assistant, numerous others under the radar but very real .
Ah Yes.... let's not forget the Integrity Commissioner who had  a contract that lasted  scarcely long enough to throw out the first complaint which had been filed and  then signed, by six members of  council.    

Only The Shadow Knows

If you care to  drive north on Bathurst Street., please note a fence building project being undertaken by the Region. The last figure I heard for this project is $2.million.
The fence is to protect  owners who  complained about noise of  increasing regional traffic.
It's similar to where people bought homes backing on to a railway track, then complained about train whistles. 
Normally,  responsibility for protection rests with the subdivision developer. Cost is then be included in the price of  homes.
This way, the rest of us get to pay for the amenity of a privacy and accoustic fence for the Regional  Street dwellers.

If that's not enough aggravation, let me draw  attention to the rise and fall of the land and how this beautful , no doubt most expensive fancy fencing follows the contours of the land. 
Yards of it dip deep into the hollows.
 Houses it is supposed to protect are up at the level of the road and therefore.... the traffic. 
In those areas, the fence serves no purpose whatsoever.It is lost in the woods.
It would appear,whoever drew up  specifications for the fence , never moved their backsides from the draftsman's stool that accommodates them  throughout their working day..
For  almost fifty years the Town of Aurora  strove to control development  so that Bathurst Street retained its rural ambiance.
Trees and brush were not disturbed. Houses were required to be built thirty metres back from the road  and hidden  in the woods where there was any. 
Now  trees and shrubs are hidden behind the fence.Whatever  vegetation was in the way, has been cut down and removed.
It's  sort of like the great slabs of concrete that appeared on boulevards all over town, at a time there  was raving or rhapsodizing, depending on one's perspective, about the urgent need to protect  Oak Ridges Moraine.
Owners with homes in the Moraine can't as much as lay a slab for a garden shed ,without making an application to the committee of adjustment for the right,at a cost of several hundred dollars.

But the Region can drive around ,apparently in the dead of night, and like the shoemaker's elves,lay hundreds of yards of concrete to accommodate bus passengers who are never seen,. waiting for,  getting on  or off or  riding on a regional bus.
Did they ask anybody?
Only the Shadow knows. 

Ka-non Responded

I posted the Banner Editorial on the personal blog  by mistake.  One person responded to my  challenge. .
The editorial dealt with Council's decision to take a step forward to discover community ideas for use of the  asset from the sale of Aurora Hydro..... currently 33 million dollars. 
Official policy  is it will not be used without community consultation. It will  be used for a purpose we would never 
contemplate placing as a burden on the taxpayers.
The editorial position was it should be used for infrastructure.and repairs.
The opposite of the stated intent.
Ka-non took up that point  and used a few recent projects to establish it..
We are in the throes of making highly questionable decisions on high cost infrastructure
The editorial followed a news story in a previous edition. The Chief Financial Officer was quoted :
However, as Aurora treasurer Dan Elliott pointed out, building the facility is only part of the cost, as operating a large facility can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars per year.
While some of the money should be spent on a project with a lasting, visible legacy, such as a youth centre, most of it would be better spent on what many people take for granted: maintaining what already exists.
As noted in this year’s final budget report from Mr. Elliott: “The ongoing aging of infrastructure, together with the past deferrals of projects, continues to place pressure on the capital budget and reserve funds and on staff to deliver effective and satisfactory performance from our infrastructure inventory.”

Herein lies the crux of  a serious dilemma
Council's decision  to take a step forward and consult the community on a use for the Hydro fund  was well received.
The concept that any  project should enrich the community in a way  that could not be contemplated as a tax burden was not lost. 
The decision is ours to make and the time is right.
Direction to staff was clear.
A plan be prepared to obtain input from the community. People who live here. Pay taxes here and elect a council to represent them in  the decisions to be made.
Yet even before we take a single step, negative and critical reaction is reflected  publicly in a staff comment quoted in the editorial. 
I  have said before this  Council  has  no sense of  its authority.
A  Regional attitude pervades.
Council subservience reigns.
There is no sense of place.
We are not only neutered at the region  by having  one member, we are close to eunuchs in our own domain as well. .

Saturday 26 May 2012

I Withdraw The Questions.

This morning there's  a comment about deleting comments wholesale.
How would anyone know that without knowing they were made?
How would that be known without having made the comments?
They would know it from information provided on the blog that comments have been deleted  by the blog administrator.
My mistake.  

The Litany Continues

Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "Don't Aski...Don't TEll":

But are we in different times? I have read all the comments & it clearly is a matter for Council to decide. Unless and until they do so, there is nothing that I can find to prevent a senior staffer from providing the necessary permits. It might require the passing of a by-law. That could be done. There is a real problem with establishing a precedent. A possible legalistic quagmire. But are we really in different times?
There is a Bylaw governing  use of parks and the authority of the Director. An amendment might be timely.
There is no permit  for  a fence  to be erected.
There is no permit to allow a fee for use of the band shell, to extend to lease of  park space, to whatever number of vendors to generate revenue for the party of the second part.
LCBO requires a fence of a particular height to create an enclosure for a beer garden.The height is one metre.There is no maximum.
Revenue -producing opportunities were repeatedly accorded to  a person  honored by the former  Mayor in a public meeting as an outstanding volunteer. 
We  most certainly are in different times.
In the previous term, six  consistent votes authorized whatever decision might be made  by the head of Council , before or after the fact.
A majority  Council vote  trumps everything except senior government  legislation. . 
Policies were  interpreted to mean whatever was intended to be accomplished. .
A  legal contract with the Town was differently interpreted at  a different time, in the same  circumstance.
For example, a contract with an Integrity Commissioner was cancelled not quite in time to prevent the  first decision from being issued.
A second contract with a second Integrity Commissioner was signed in murky circumstance. 
Legal  agreements  with  Church Street school governing body were written by the Mayor.With neither legal input nor financial advice either apparently  to the benefit of the town.
Residents were sued by their own municipality, during  the course of an election, based on an ambiguous resolution on an issue that was not the town's business;  at a time when  Council was not scheduled to convene, therefore no authority could be sought or given  to pursue litigation. 
The list goes on...and on...and on.
It is certainly tedious for some. 
Unfortunately, the worst decisions cannot be reversed. Harm done  to individuals, can never be undone.
Some decisions that could and should be reversed are proving difficult to turn around. Some election promises have not been  fulfilled.
Reminders are necessary
Lest we forget..

Don't Aski...Don't TEll

Please explain for me. If all the reasons to remove the fencing are valid, why did it get erected the first time? It must cost a lot. on
The first year the Jazz Festival was held, the St Kitts woman pretty well  had the keys of the kingdom and ownership of the park. 
Staff under her direction were ordered to rent port-a-potties for the children in the water park.While  she had ownership of the public washrooms in the park.
Delegation to Council noted  photos of a market vendor with a vehicle in the park, contrary to the Market Bylaw. The vendor was invading space claimed by the  Festival organizer. The vendor was ordered out. 
Market clients, enjoying a breakfast sandwich, in a space set aside for them on the ball diamond, were ordered out by the  Festival organizer. 
The fence eventually  prohibited access to the  washrooms ,despite advice from the town's legal department beforehand, washrooms had to remain accessible.
Standby staff had to be called out to  move the fence to provide access to the washrooms. 
Not only were  user fees of $975. for the band shell waived., a sponsorship of $2,500  provided by the town's  manager of  economic development, in support of economic development.
I know of no permit granted for erection of a fence or  to permit vendors inside the fence to the financial benefit of the festival organizers.  I queried  and obtained no answers.
They were different times. 
No reasons needed to be given  for decisions made. 

You Are Entitled...As Am I

Sharon Brookes has left a new comment on your post "A Letter from S Morton Leonard":

I like the comment about "go sit under a tree in the empty park". My husband and I are amazed how few people use the parks in Aurora, at any time of year. Empty most of the day. Dozens of parks and no one in them. Take a look yourself and see if this isn't true. I think if this wasn't Sher St. Kitts event, there would be little drama over the music festival. I'm not one to favour shameless self promotion, don't personally care for the woman myself, but have no problem with fencing the park for a few days, because NO ONE ELSE IS THERE ANYWAY.
Your comment was still in my inbox. Your name separated it from the list of anonymous .
With respect, I disagree that  it doesn't matter if the town park is fenced because no-one uses it. Your opinion is based  on the fact  you don't see the park being used while you are using it.
But you are using it.You may be the only person there at that moment.  You are there. The park is being used. 
Being there... Being able to see the park in all it's tranquility is a use, in my opinion. People pay a premium for a home abutting a park and even more  for a golf course. 
Three days of  being secured with five foot chain link security fence  for a commercial  purpose with an admission charge, is not the function  of a public park.
I freely acknowledge the St Kitts woman and her friends are not among my favourite people, with good reason. 
I would oppose the park being fenced by any group with the same determined opportunistic bent to make money.
The Aurora Horse Show was a town event. The Town  and the Aurora Agriculture Society were partners.The Park was the  fair ground  It had always been enclosed by a white picket fence..
The last time the horse show wasthere, the picket fence was in bad shape. It was decided to remove it for the fair.. 
Council decided the park looked better without the fence so it was never replaced. 
You are the first person who has suggested  parks are not needed because people do not use them and so they might as well be fenced for a  jazz festival.

That's like Councillor Ballard's rationale the band shell should be free because no-one else is using it. Like user fees  should not be paid  for  arenas, soccer fields,  baseball diamonds,  swimming pools or fitness centres, any time they happen not to be in use. Because,of course,it costs nothing to provide and maintain, even when  they are not in use.
Councillor Ballard is a business consultant. He charges fees for his expertise. I guess he provides advice  free  any time  he is not  being consulted  by  fee-paying clients.  
Thousands gather in the park for band concerts in the summer The Festival of Lights and outdoor ice create a fairyland in the winter.. No fence is erected. No admission is charged, No cost to the taxpayer except for staff to organize and solicit sponsors.No programs better appreciated..
You are certainly entitled to your opinion Ms Brookes, without being accused of  ulterior motive   
I hope you will accord me the same right.

Friday 25 May 2012

Comedy And Other Stuff

Yesterday several comments came through, four I think, all saying pretty much the same things; nobody uses any of the parks in Aurora,
the fence is no big deal and further blah.blah,blah blithering nonsense.
I  instantly blankety-blanked them out .
So they were never seen.
This morning there's  a comment about deleting comments wholesale.
How would anyone know that without knowing they were made?
How would that be known without having made the comments?
It's like the two arsonists who blew themselves away  lighting a match  in an enclosed space to fumes they themselves created.
I also received an extended list of offenses from  the fifty years I've been involved in Aurora politics.Written by  the same bitter individual who claimed earlier, it's a shame my blogs have become so objectionable because she has always been a supporter and enjoyed reading them but not now no more.
Oh  yes and she added she thinks all  the anonymous are only one person. pretending to be many. 
Well, she would know about that alright.
 By the way, I received a copy of the permit for use of the park for three days and fee for the band shell. No reference is made to permission to erect a fence or lease space to vendors and food and beverage purveyors.
The Parks Bylaw says no person may erect a fence without the director's permission. Also,  the town has authority to contract food purveyors and the LCBO to license beer gardens.
Until I hear differently, I am assuming no such permission has been given.    .

Explain Yourself Councillor

I made reference recently to a "regional attitude"
The Mayor demanded to know what I meant.
I was happy to oblige. 
It's the attitude of people who do not have to explain. Do not have to account. Have no direct connection to the people who pay the bills. 
Today I have the perfect example. New trees are being planted on Bathurst Street to replace dead trees removed last year.
Recently a statement was made that the Region had spent $20.million on tree planting . 75% of the trees died. It represented $15 million wastage.
Trees on the east side of Bathurst, immediately north of Henderson Drive were  probably planted seven years ago. All the paraphernalia surrounded them;, plastic shields.... supports and wires... and mounded soil and mulch.
Not a leaf ever appeared on those suckers. There they stood. Dead as door nails for seven years. Sure enough seventy-five per cent of them had died.
They stayed there  in their blighted state for seven years. 
Last year, the evidence of failure was finally removed. 
Currently  the sad relics  are being replaced. Saplings, with the bright fresh green  leaves of Spring on their branches are being planted. 
In the same holes in  which the  previous trees died.It will obviously save the contractors, time and money. If there is no warranty , as likely inthe last planting, why should they care.
If that happened in the Town of Aurora, more than a few people would be seeking a sensible explanation from Councillors and staff.
I doubt the Region  has  fielded a single phone call on the issue. 
It's what I mean by a Regional attitude.They do not have to  account to real people.
A corollary to this story: the Town has adopted recommendations
to provide underpasses at particular locations on Regional roads to form links in the trail system and safety for pedestrians from residential neighborhoods to retail services. 
Support from the Region has been turgid. High costs have been cited without reference to design.
Money wasted on failed tree-planting, could  have paid  to have  seven underpasses  constructed, even at the price cited without reference to design.
I'm guessing there will be persistent stone-walling against the council adopted strategy. Not just by the Region.       

Sorry For The Inconvenience.

Four  political posts went to the personal blog . Yahoo  has put up a new window with different prompts . I would change it if I could.  
I don't know how it got there. I don't know how or if I can get rid of it. So I am learning to deal with it the hard way by making mistakes.
So bear with me. It can only get better.
New Post: 
Blog Is Not The Only Place in Disarray
The rule in government requiring notice of motion is there for  a reason; 
Councillors  must  have time to research for themselves a question   and be prepared  and  properly informed  to debate the issue when the question  is tabled. 
On Tuesday, the question, due notice having been given ,was tabled to have  parks vehicles in the colour green.
Since the parks department was created, vehicles have always been green.
Until this  administration decided all vehicles should be the same  and the colour should be white.
Council's opinion was not sought.
The motion noted , if vehicles needed to be the same colour ,the colour should be green.It also spelled out the change should take place gradually, as new vehicles are purchased.
There had already been some informal discussion already. It had   been stated.  it costs extra for vehicles to be green.
I had been reliably informed, it does not. 
On Tuesday, the motion was deferred.
Director of Environment and Infrastructure was asked by Councillor Thompson, if there is an extra cost. He answered,yes.
Councillor Thompson launched into argument,Council must be concerned  how we spend town resources.He would not support the motion.
Councillor Ballard was outraged by the suggestion extra be spent  . He shouted the figure would probably be $1,000. a vehicle.
No Councillor was averse to parks vehicles being  green.
So, on the one hand  we had the proponent of the motion, prepared for the debate,  informing Council there is no extra cost. 
On the other, we had a  director informing Council ,there is a cost.although he offered no specifics. 
I contributed, there are only three colours that require extra cost; red, yellow and orange. 
So the motion, already on  notice for two weeks, was deferred  for another two, to obtain correct information.
 It boils down to the question, who is telling the truth? 
Who is providing  correct information?
The person  recommending the change and  prepared to meet all arguments?  Or the staff person?
I called three dealers on Wednesday,  To confirm once again, what I already know to be true.
There is no extra cost for the dark commercial  green  traditionally used by the parks department, never  at any time known  to cost extra.
It would appear, to prove I am not  lying, I must obtain in writing, from three dealers, who regularly supply vehicles to municipalities, confirmation,  there is no extra charge for dark green vehicles.
It's an odd  circumstance. 
I  have a hard time believing it is happening.
I  most certainly do not believe it should. 

Thursday 24 May 2012

The Letter From John Abel

To: Chairperson of AFA Jazz+fest 2012
Att. Susan Morton-Leonard
Good day Ms Morton-Leonard;
Residents have asked me to respond to a troubling trend with regards to communications from Board Members and/or organizers of this year's Jazz+fest.
I have reviewed 2 such communications this month, and ask for comments from you as Chairperson, before I respond to the residents.
1) Ontario Visited Newsletter, called the Insider, a monthly publication, May 2012, front page, written by Gary McWilliams.
The article is titled " What were they thinking?"
Mr. McWilliams has stated that the AFA Jazz+fest has advertised with his site for the last few years.
He has also stated that his article was published using information supplied from the organizers of this year's Jazz+fest.
The article portrays the Town, and its Council in a negative light.
The site advertises this year's AFA  Jazz+fest

2) GSK Blog ( George St. Kitts ) has 2 entries on May 15th. His blogs are offensive, if not just plain vulgar. George St Kitts was hailed in the Auroan last year as the  festival's primary organizer. The letter was penned by you.
His blog features an advertisement of this year's AFA Jazz+fest.
You have stated numerous times that the AFA Jazz+fest attracts thousands of visitors to our town and that they bring dollars to the Town's merchants.
You have stated that your advertising is read by tens of thousands of potential festival visitors.
If we refer to the month of May, is this sort of commentary from the Board and/ organizers,  partnered with AFA Jazz+fest 2012 advertising campaign,  what the residents of the Town of Aurora should expect for the coming months leading up to the festival in August?
I look forward to your reply.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

No Apology Due

Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "Is This A Ringer":

Whoah, mule!
My comment about playing with the kids in the park last year on the Sunday afternoon has taken on a new face. Sorry I even brought it up. The idea of being able to enjoy the park in harmony with the Jazzfest (that was very well run last year) was my point. I don't care about previous years, as the mistakes made by a few organizers have been corrected. I am usually a big supporter of yours Evelyn, and look forward to your comments. But this last post shows a side of you I'm not sure I want to encourage.
It seems the above comment disappeared. I can not locate it anywhere. It's a reason it has been copied and pasted. The other is because I want to respond:
The writer has the advantage of knowing who I am. I do not have the reverse advantage.
The original comment reads to me like a defense of the fence around the park.
Fencing people out of their own park is abhorrent to me. It is a big deal. Until now, I have been the sole voice in opposition. I knew I was not alone. I'm nothing if not persistent.
Sometimes it takes a while for a point to finally register but so long as I have a voice, I  have no intention of giving  up until that  fence is recognized for what it is and is no longer. 
When I receive a comment that seems to say the fence is no big deal, I can't afford to ignore that.
I won't apologize for doing my job.
That side of me has always been there.   

Monday, May 21, 2012

Is This A Ringer

Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "Occupy Aurora Town Park":

Hoe Down is a ticket only event on private property. Rib Fest IS partially fenced AND patrolled. I sat with my kids last year enjoying the playground and water park and listened to some of the music for free. It was no big deal. There was lots of parking in front of the water park at that time, and it was a lovely afternoon in the sun. Hope to do it again this year.
Is this a ringer. It suggests the fencing off the park, is no big deal.

A family enjoyed the playground, the water park and the music for free and  there was plenty of parking at that side of the park.
They hope to do it again this year.
The last part makes me suspicious. If the "jazz" bash  is so successful, one would imagine  parking would be full all the time. It's not that plentiful around the park.
A thought has occurred; supposing  soccer or baseball associations decided they could  get revenue  from  charging admission to tournaments.
They could put up a fence around the park.  Rent space to vendors. Have a beer garden and a food purveyor and charge them a percentage of their take.
Minor hockey does it . The difference is the fee they  pay is not just for ice.They have dressing rooms ,wash rooms .spectators'
seating , lighting  and all that other stuff. 
 Hey!  Wait a minute! The jazz bash gets most of that .
So how would the town  refuse  minor sports associations a request to fence and  a waiver of user fees
 "Oh Bless my soul,No! You can't have that.  You are not Cultural. . You are not a recipient of  a Trillium Grant. Heritage Canada has not Granted you. . You have not brought fame to Aurora."

Baseball is probably more Canadian Heritage than  Jamaican Jazz  but that's an argument  they would have to take up with Heritage Canada or the Honorable M.P. Lois Brown when she gets back from foreign travels.

Read And Tell

The editorial below appeared in May 17th edition of The Banner. I want you to read it carefully and tell me what, if anything, strikes a negative chord.

Sitting on nest egg makes little sense

ISSUE: Aurora has $33M waiting to be spent after 2005 hydro sale.
Aurora council is in a position many other local councils would envy: It has a big pile of money to spend.
The town sold Aurora Hydro in 2005 and has $33 million from that sale waiting to be spent.
Council of the day decided to save that money until it could determine a use that would provide the greatest benefit to the community.
Now, at the request of Councillor Evelyn Buck, council has directed staff to consult the community to find out what residents want to use the money for.
That’s a great first step.
There’s no good reason for the town to sit on the money, as there are plenty of areas of need.
Asking the public to weigh in on how to spend it is obviously essential, as it’s public money being spent.
Some people, Ms Buck among them, have talked about using at least part of the money to build a new community facility.
As council is seriously considering building a new youth centre, that is one place some of the money could be spent.
However, as Aurora treasurer Dan Elliott pointed out, building the facility is only part of the cost, as operating a large facility can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars per year.
While some of the money should be spent on a project with a lasting, visible legacy, such as a youth centre, most of it would be better spent on what many people take for granted: maintaining what already exists.
As noted in this year’s final budget report from Mr. Elliott: “The ongoing aging of infrastructure, together with the past deferrals of projects, continues to place pressure on the capital budget and reserve funds and on staff to deliver effective and satisfactory performance from our infrastructure inventory.”
Aurora is not alone in this respect, as municipalities across not only Ontario but Canada face significant challenges finding the money to repair and replace aging roads, sewers, buildings and more.
While it might not be as sexy as building a new theatre or arena, spending most of the $33 million on infrastructure repairs and replacements would ease pressure on the tax levy and town reserves, allowing council to keep tax increases low while maintaining or improving services.
BOTTOM LINE: Taxpayers would benefit most if Aurora Hydro sale money went to infrastructure.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

It Will Get Better

Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "Accountability...The Theme Of This Post.":

Have you ever considered your knowledge and experience to be a disadvantage because quite clearly you are seriously challenged to get your fellow members on side, Last term there was no hope at all with all the personal attacks, animosity and jealousy that your knowledge garnered, This term the air around your circles is smelling of sweet congeniality and willingness to do what’s right for the tax payers yet still you are faced with resistance to cut the fat, the frills, the 0 value added initiatives and get back to basic government over a mere 50 + thousand minions
It is not a new experience.  Fighting for common sense to prevail has,surprisingly, never been easy.

The best years were when I was Mayor. 

Obviously  knowledge and experience would have to be seen as an asset. It's  another one of those things that never change. 

The anomaly we have had in two recent elections was  a huge turnover in council membership.

The norm is for most incumbents to be re-elected.  One or two newbies  have the benefit of  obscurity while learnig the process.They have  an opportunity to  acquire  skills without drawing attention to the lack thereof.

They still  have to exercise judgment and vote.  Experienced Councillors would still have differences in the past. But background to issues would rarely be challenged.

Municipal staff  generally represent continuity. Institutional history resides with long experience. We do not currently  have  that advantage. Upheaval and disruption have been the operative terms.

Current  Councillors spend an inordinate amount of time in discussion with staff. I can't fault them. They dont have experience and they are trying to acquire it fast

Time is of the essence.  So for now, influence of the administration is out of whack.

Council's  role is authority and control. How is that exercised if constantly seeking advice from the people under council's authority.A council collectively light on knowledge and experience is a definite disadvantage.

Normally even that might not  be too severe a problem.

In the last term we lost experienced staff.  We lost continuity.  We lost our institutional history.

At the same time we picked up  a reputation for a being a bad place of employment.

Ontario has four hundred and forty-four  municipalities.It's a family of sorts. Bad news travels fast.

We are in the process of rebuilding a reputation. Rebuilding is harder than building.

I  do at times despair of ever returning to our traditional political character. Aurora has always been feisty But perish the thought of not even trying.

We do have a council that means to do a good job.

I am nothing if not persistent.

And I have you.

You must tell your Mayor and Councillors, regularly, what you expect. Call them. E-mail them. Greet them in the street and in the supermarket.

Wherever you see them, engage them.  Remind them why they were elected.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Off To A Budget Meeting

Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "A Lively Exchange":

It looks as though the bulk of Aurora taxpayers don't have a word of protest. Was nothing learned over the past few years ? Guess not. Ignorance can be bliss.


I don't agree that the bulk of Aurora taxpayers don't have a word of protest That's why they gave me the job again despite all that was done to  destroy my reputation.

Certainly a great deal was learned over the past few years from the blogs which would not have been known otherwise.

But there is  truth in the last sentence.

When people don't believe they have any control over events,they make a conscious choice not to pay attention. That would be the fifty per cent who regularly do not participate in municipal elections.

I find myself irritated by the amount of  time and space given to events in foreign lands over which I have no control, at the expense of events happening right here in our own neck of the woods.

We had a fantastic turn-out to the Santa Claus  parade on Saturday evening.Thousands of people lined the route. I can hardly believe the number of small children we have in our community once again.

I'm off to a day long budget session ,starting at nine o'clock,finishing at four.Hopefully. Seven hours of hammering and chiselling at figures is a tedious task.Not so tedious, if a difference is being made.

Catch you later


.. The children were pre-school . Since she did not speak Korean,  the objective was to introduce  them to  English. Obviously  that  was a challenge.

Since  the twins are first children, there was  no experience with  mothering a single child.Twins are the norm.For them, twins are the norm. For someone watching, twins are amazing.

They are not identical. They are not alike. Not in looks, personality,size, agility, sound or anything one  can imagine. But they are twins. They  have been to-gether every moment of their existence.Nothing they do or that happens to them, happens separately.They have shared every experience.

They are happy, healthy, boisterous, inquisitive, quick and expressive.Twice as much in each as a single child. It seems being two has that effect.

They are a joy to watch. Which is a good thing. Because nothing much else can get done.

I don't have time to edit either

Sunday, December 26, 2010

A Fire In The Hearth

So, on Christmas Eve I turned out the light, put my feet up, watched the fire burning and listened to the endless rendition of Christmas songs. The wood burned fast, flames licked high up the chimney and every now and then a two pointed poker appeared and re-arranged half burned logs or a hand put another in place.

Flames licked high and burning wood wood sparked loudly.It was very realistic except the pale bricks at the back of the hearth bore no trace of smoke.

I almost imagined my cheeks were hot. Except,I could not of course smell burning wood. Sparks have a way of shooting out from a fire and need to be snatched up fast and bounced in one's hand until thrown back.

It wasn't real of course. My television created the illusion.

It reminded me of a lifelong yearning. A fire had been the heart of every home in my life.

If weather became warm enough to do without ,the empty grate seemed dead and lifeless.The house is not the same without a fire or a mother.

Coal was the fuel. The hearth quite small. Furniture would be  arranged around the fire.

Before television, lights would be put out as we listened to the radio and conjured scenes from the words in our minds that television could never produce.

Before radio, older children told ghost stories and sang camp songs and we played guessing games like "My Grannie had a sweetie shop and in it she sold" Sweetie shops in Scotland were places of wonder. I think sweets were craved to make up for lack of sunshine.

I taught my children and grandchildren Grannie's sweetie shop game for long car rides and the dark and  spooky shapes of the forest around the camp fire.

Coal burns longer than wood. Flames are smaller with more colours. Coal produces gas and a ripping sound as it escapes.

Embers form and hold shapes and pictures, revealed only to the individual seen from a particular angle. Like clouds.

The fire was used  for cooking.The baby's bath would be set up in front of the fire, with blankets hung around to keep out the draft.

A coal mining breadwinner would stand in front of the fire to thaw out the clothes
frozen solid on the three mile walk home from the pit. A tin bath on the floor filled with kettles from the fire, waited to scrub his skin clean of the penetrating coal dust.

A muffler tied around the neck and cord around the trousers under the knee were attempts to keep coal dust out of every pore in their bodies. It didn't.

Brass and copper were arranged around the mantlepiece to augment the light from a gas mantle or an oil lamp and generate the feeling of warmth. Most of the heat went up the chimney.

The fire range would be polished every morning with black lead and the brass and copper kept to an equally high shine.

Houses were cold and damp.The wind off the sea whistled and howled and rain would be driven against the windows. The familiar intermittent sound of the fog horn was part of the element when a dense white mist rolled in and obscured everything.

A heavy curtain would hang inside the door to keep the cold out. When it had to be opened a long sausage pad at the bottom had to be shifted back and forth with the door

When we wrote notes to Santa in the days before Christmas, we threw them upwards. The heat would carry them all the way up the chimney.

It only made sense that Santa would get them.

Monday, December 20, 2010

My House

Is filled this morning with the aroma of crunchy morsels of a bllend of beef,veal and pork seasoned with onions, Worcester sauce, nutmeg,freshly ground pepper,sea salt and blended with soft breadcrumbs, moistened with eggs and milk.

With one pan,the frying continued for hours. The sauce was made the night before. The flavours of savoury,like a soup or stew,meld better from simmering,cooling overnight and simmering again. Ingredients were onions softened in oil and butter,ketchup,lemon juice, vinegar,yellow mustard,Worcester sauce,salt,pepper, brown sugar,chopped celery and green peppers.

I didn't count them but they filled the crock pot and still filled another dish.

Meatballs made with 6 eggs and 3 cups of milk milk are tiny souffles. They're not the same if allowed to cool and be reheated. They must be kept warm until served and a crock-pot is perfect for that happen.

Everything was transported to Heather's house where the Christmas gathering was held. We do it the week-end before. Then everyone is free to decide where to be on Christmas Day.

Great grandchildren twins, Reid and Claire were here from Tacoma, Washington.Their grandfather, my eldest son Stephen was absent for the first time in his life. He had stomach flu which hit him that morning.

Great grand-daughters Cheyanne and Abigail , were with us to contribute to the excitement.

My youngest son Andrew ,seventy miles apart from Stephen , was also laid low with the same complaint so was also absent.

His daughter Hayley was the guest of the parents of her best friend, who hosted an expedition to the Elgin Theatre for Beauty and the Beast. But Megan and Rhonda were there.

Grand-daughter Lizzie didn't make it . Lizzie lives in Oshawa. She has two degrees, a dog, a cat and an apartment. She works as a sales clerk in a health food store and does not own a vehicle.

Oshawa is not far away. But too far to scoop Lizzie, carry her here and transport her home again later. Parents, Martin and Marnie did that regularly when she was a student in Peterborough. They live in Barrie.

So Lizzie was missing and missed. We were together recently for Melissa's memorial service. Grand-daughter Stephanie proferred to collect Lizzie for the get-together. Stephanie lives in Sudbury. She had to get back there for work to-day and could not cram any more into her schedule.

It was a merry throng nevertheless. Heather's house is not large.Except for the little ones, there are no short people in my family. There are more males than females. Men love the kitchen.

Heather cooked turkey the day before.It was sliced and resting in an enormous warming pan purchased for the purpose.

The oven with a big red bow tied to the handle, was filled with vegetable dishes brought to the feast from various kitchens.Rhonda brought a dish of golden buttery scalloped potatoes.

Turkey broth,a new addition and very popular, and turkey gravy were simmering on the stove. A dish of milk with onions and cloves rested by the oven vent absorbing flavours and awaiting the addition of breadcrumbs, butter and cream at almost the last moment before serving.It's an English medieval sauce for turkey which combines well with cranberry.

Heather's freshly baked buns wrapped in napkins filled two enormous baskets.

Our hostess moved congenially between the giants who shifted slightly here and there to allow her to check that all was well. Robyn brought out the gigantic salad bowl on its own stand and tossed the Caesar salad.

Storm brought two rounds of brie wrapped in pastry to pop into the oven for the cheese to melt hot and creamy and be served with red pepper jelly.

Frank and Lorna brought crackers, an enormous variety of cheese and a new buttery crunch confection, freshly baked from a simple but incredibly delicious recipe.

It's been years since I allowed myself to be persuaded against the possibility of setting a nicely appointed table with matching china, fine flatware, crystal and plates warmed before serving

We eat from throw-away plates, plastic cutlery. Wine is served in glasses.

If there's a place at a table,fine,otherwise everyone seems to enjoy the feast and the company notwithstanding.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

A Sad Christmas Story

I remember Ian Agnew at Christmas. Every time I pass his house on Murray Drive I am reminded of unbearable sadness.

Ian and Rena had to wait a long time before they were blessed with a child. One Saturday night, at family skate a the community centre, I saw them skating around and around leisurely and happily. Each holding the hand of the little six year old girl between them. She was dressed like the beloved little doll she obviously was. Her rosy-cheeked little face encircled in white fluffy fur.

At around ten years old, weeks before Christmas, she became ill with a virulent form of measles. They took her down to Sick Kids. Within days she was gone. They came home with empty arms to a dark house, an unlit Christmas tree with presents gathered underneath for a child who would never come home again.

I saw them now and again out walking swinging hands together, engrossed in each other,oblivious to the world.

At the Community Centre one night in the back row,I was watching my son Andrew's hockey game. Ian was there hanging over the railing. He saw me and came over.

For more than an hour he talked to me about the trip he took to Scotland with his wee lassie, the summer before. She was introduced to all her Scottish relatives. He rented a car and together they went to all the places he always wanted to see but never had.

He was so grateful for that time they had, just the two of them.

I heard later he and Rena adopted an older child. I don't know how that worked out.

Ian retired and I saw him going up and down Murray Drive between his house and the house of a couple of elderly neighbour ladies. He cut the grass in the summer and shovelled the driveway in the winter.

Rena died of cancer. Ian eventually took another wife. Then he died too.

Now every time I drive past the house I think of them, especially at Christmas.

A couple of weeks ago I saw a story in the Star with a headline about lifestyle and twins.

A professional couple waited until they were established in their careers before
starting a family. When their first child was a suitable age, they decided it was time for a second.

They learned to their dismay, the second pregnancy was twins.They took the action available to them and had one of the twins destroyed.

I started reading the story because I have twin great-grandchildren and know something of what it's like having twins and remembering our surprise and delight when we learned they were on the way.It was the headline that attracted me

As the Star feature unfolded I realized it was a horror story.

My position on abortion has been ambivalent over the years. I would never do it myself. I would not advise anyone to take that path. But I would not judge anyone for making that decision.

I've changed my mind. The professionals who decided there was no place in their lives for their own child and had it destroyed are not natural humans.

The Star writer learned from the medical professionals who provide the service, the decision to destroy a fetus because a child does not fit into the planned designer lifestyle of its parents is not unusual and is in fact common practice.

Christmas is about celebrating the Birth of a Child.It's about gathering our children around us and doing whatever it takes to show appreciation for the blessings we enjoy.

So this year, gather them closer. Make sure they know they are loved and cherished. Because unnatural forces are around us would have them believe otherwise.

Friday, December 3, 2010

I Have To Go

We are attending a memorial service In Missuassaga. A girl of twenty- seven years has died.

Only a little while ago, we attended her wedding on a beautiful summer day in Ottawa. The setting was a golf course. The reception was outside. The colour theme was soft rose petal pink.

It was the first wedding of the third generation. We are a substantial crowd to-gether.

My grandson Adam started the dancing. He is a dancing fiend when the music starts.

Pretty soon other grandsons were drawn into the competition. Then the uncles' feet started to shuffle and shift.

Melissa and Myles took their vows. They promised to love and to cherish. The wedding was beautiful,no less for its joy and happiness.

Now she's gone. She was off work for a couple of days feeling ill. Other than googling symptoms online,she did not seek medical advice. She was twenty-seven for God's Sake. She was alone when she collapsed. She died before the ambulance reached the hospital.

What is there to say? Young people die every day. Some in accidents. Some in senseless violent crime. As if life has no meaning or value.

But life does have meaning.

Joy and happiness and new life give it meaning.

The finality of death and an empty chair give it measurement.

There is no comfort when it's snatched away before it has earnestly begun.

The grief must simply be endured.