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

Saturday 27 June 2020


I told a story. Had to resist a number of tangents. Edited it and re-edited and finally stopped. I asked my grand-daughter to do a final edit and it was finished. The product of many days work. I am typing with one finger with the ipad on my arm. I have a keyboard and could be using it but it takes new co-ordination. I’m inclined to resist.

After the final edit of the post, I thought I would add a last sentence a single word appeared with two s’s instead of one. I tapped the word to remove one “s”. The whole blog turned blue. I tapped again to remove the redundant “s”. The whole post vanished. It’s happened before. But Stephanie has managed to retrieve it. Not this time. It has vanished forever. 

I once heard Mordecai Rischler say in an interview, once he had finished working a story, he never read it again. The obsession is obviously such, it will not let you go. You keep re-writing improvements. So, you have to cut yourself off. So, now I have to start all over and re-write the story. 

I was only weeks a Councillor. It was my first big battle. The town owned fourteen acres of land abutting the railroad, north of Wellington off Industry Street. It had been acquired by non-payment of taxes; a process that takes no less than three years. Provincial policy directs municipalities to dispose of properties redundant to their needs. Being a landlord is not a municipal role. 

So, the property was for sale but had not been advertised in a competition to obtain the best price.

Somehow a party, in the person of Dodie Hershkovitz, approached a councillor with a proposal. She had half a dozen small industries ready to locate in Aurora if she could buy the Petlavaney property. Eager for new tax revenue and employment, council were ready to sell. They’d done it before. When the arena burned down, they advertised the site to whoever would establish the best retail business. Sold it for a pittance. That would be sixty years ago. Several remediations of the site have been accomplished. The creek crosses Yonge Street at that point. Still it has never been developed. 

I did not agree with the proposal to sell the Petlavaney property. There were no guarantees the town’s interests would be protected. In an extraordinary move, councillors were invited to speak to the town solicitor, Tom Macpherson, on the phone during a meeting to be assured the town would in fact be protected. I declined the invitation.

Councillor Illingworth was my main protagonist in the debate. He muttered darkly about my socialist thinking. My support of the NDP was no secret. Bob Buchanan, the Banner editor, also an NDP supporter, took no editorial position. Buchanan took a year to familiarize himself with Aurora politics before using his influence. He was extremely helpful in how to conduct myself in debate. He was a veteran journalist in municipal politics and thoroughly conversant with rules and practices. 

The Town made an agreement of sale to Ms Hershkovitz of $35,000. They advertised a contract for a road and services that cost $35,000. On the day the contract was awarded, Hershkovitz sold the property for $75,000. It was sold to the owner/operator of the school bus service. It would be used for parked buses. No jobs would ensue and tax revenue would be minimum. It was not met with approval. It never happened, the land would remain idle.

Years passed. Elections happened, Dick Illingworth was the Mayor. I was out of office that term. A decision had to be made to re-locate the town works yard. It was situated on Wellington Street. It accommodated two rusty old Qaunset huts, a pile of dirty sand collected from the streets in the spring clean up. Vehicles in various stages of deterioration. Scrap metal collected by the work force and sold to provide Town employees’ children with a Christmas party. 

Town vehicles were used until no longer reliable. No capital levy funds were available to replace them whether or not they need to be replaced. If the need was dire, we borrowed from the water reserve. In short, the work yard was the biggest blight in town. It had to be re-located.

Guess the new location of the new Town of Aurora works yard....right...Scanlon Court, the former Petlavaney property disposed of by the town for effectively no advantage whatsoever. 

I was Mayor when the new works yard was built and presided over the opening. I never inquired how much the town paid for the site, I didn't have the stomach, and nothing could be gained. 

But I did have the personal satisfaction of knowing I was right and the advantage of that was to bolster confidence in my own judgement.

The second writing of this story is shorter and less elaborate. It may be less interesting but has no less clarity. I shall ask my trusty editor, Stephanie to edit once more and publish it without letting me at it again.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Wow, just wow! In all your years at council, can you remember any real estate transaction that the town benefitted? I could be wrong, but in the 25yrs that I've been here, I can't think of one.