"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

Tuesday, 28 June 2016

SARTORIAL ELEGANCE

Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "IT'S MY PARTY": 

Would be appropriate
 in Bermuda.

Posted by Anonymous to  Our Town and Its Business at 28 June 2016 at 13:58

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Are we still talking about Councillor Abel's nether garments?

Bermuda shorts are neat, above the knee in length with a belted waistband  and knife-edged creases typical of tailored trousers.

Fabric is usually neutral in colour and impeccable. 

Long before becoming a fashion item,they were part of a military or police uniform in desert climes like Sidi Barrani. 

They are not cut off across the middle of female butt cheeks. Neither are they ripped,ragged, bleached or paint- stained. 

They don't slide halfway off the male backside with crotch almost at the knees.Nor hang,crumpled, wide and flapping  below the knees with ties dangling from the outside hem like a pair of upside down laundry bags. 

No..Councillor Abel's nether garments worn for the official opening ceremony of a new business in town would not be  Bermuda appropriate.

My impression of Bermudians is they tend to be fastidious

IT'S MY PARTY

Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "HOW HARD CAN IT BE FOR BUSINESS TO FAIL IN AURORA": 

14:59 - Agreed, a petty shot at someone's looks. Very offside. 

Posted by Anonymous to  Our Town and Its Business at 28 June 2016 at 07:45

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The occasion was Councillor Abel taking the Mayor's place, carrying out a formal function of cutting a  ribbon to open a new business.

One might argue an opportunity to promote the Town.

The Councillor's "looks" were not the issue . 

Reference was to the Councillor's wardrobe within the context of the ribbon-cutting occasion of a new business in town. 

There  was no comment. Merely an observation.

 At the end of a post on the lamentable lack of vitality in  retail business downtown.

If I were sufficently computer savvy, I might have simply reproduced the photo. 

But it's my blog and my town and I'll cry if I want to. 

Monday, 27 June 2016

HOW HARD CAN IT BE FOR BUSINESS TO FAIL IN AURORA

I"Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "THE BREXIT PHENOMENA": 

So Evelyn you disagree that the current development in the east of Aurora is not having an impact on the downtown core?  

Don't get me wrong, the downtown core is great if you need to visit a bank, a doctor or a lawyer. But if you want to buy anything, there is little opportunity. If you live west of Yonge street, you are more apt to drive to Newmarket or Richmond Hill versus the east side of Aurora

Posted by Anonymous to  Our Town and Its Business at 27 June 2016 at 07:38

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I don't profess to be an expert but I have observed certain features over the years. First being ,
things are never easy in retail business . It would be impossible to make a list all the businesses started  closed within months downtown in Aurora. 

Before the town had an Economic Development Department, a small planning department handled the task. The planning director devoted her entire professional career to Aurora and enjoyed highest respect in the development industry for fairness and efficiency. 

We had  conversations about the downtown  "problem". The reason  that sticks out from all the rest  was rents for old inadequate space without  convenient parking were too high. 

It became apparent, mall rents were too high. People loved the amenities of the mall. They didn't necessarily spend any money there. Malls stopped being built. 

The Smart Centre on the east side of town didn't  exactly get off to a booming start either. Businesses  have come and gone  there as well. 

I've never seen that parking lot filled. Considering all the paving, trees, ornamental benches that represents considerable investment with no return for years. 

Business fails for many reasons.  Not least is the assumption by others, every business is a roaring success as long as the doors  open. 

Business is  target for every fund- raising organisation.  And doesn't that seem like a roaring trade.Municipal  taxes  are horrendous. They can't turn around without. a permit and  application fees are in the  thousands with no guarantee of permission. 

Business  is built on goodwill. Quarreling with the Municipality is not advisable. They can't complain about the Legion or the Soccer Club competing unfairly  for business. 

Without an option, they just up and close doors in defeat.  

The Chamber of Commerce should be their voice but shows little interest in their problems.

Endless, empty, meaningless, yammering  and millions of dollars fed into the maw of out- of -town consultants by a continuing procession of  fat cats, elected and appointed at the town hall are a bitter pill to swallow during the struggle to meet a pay-roll and nobody notices until they're gone. 

In early days, business was well represented in town and village councils. Farmers were prominent on County Councils. Policies, principles and standards were hammered out to reflect fairness, consistency, practicality and economy.

Taxation was of prime concern. Revenue from property development was recognized as the essential fuel for growth that kept the motor running. 

Municipal  corporation business was relevant to large and small operations in stores and factories that provided a living for those who made their homes and raised children in the community. 

People made the connection. 

Nowadays, millions of dollars for wild life reserves, for arts and culture, millions more to provide land for soccer fields for private enterprise to reap profits, additional  millions to remove land from  development and forfeit revenue, to say nothing of the public sector setting up in competition to the private sector. 

Small business are asked to sponsor concerts in the park, hockey teams,soccer teams,baseball teams.Christmas parades, July 1st parades, Easter Eggs hunts and whatever other fun and games come to mind. Not forgetting, Sports Hall of Fame,lucrative advertising magazine and Sport Aurora organization riding in the backs of the taxpayers. 

None of it regarded as too great a burden for anyone  ptrying to make a living from a business or professional service in Aurora. 

The  town is  currently advertising for citizens to volunteer as Business Ambassadors. Huh.

Last week The Auroran had a photo of Councillor  John Abel cutting the ribbon for a new business wearing a shirt and jacket over shorts and sandals with socks. 


Saturday, 25 June 2016

WHAT THE BUTLER DIDN'T SEE

Page 7,June 16th edition of The Auroran had a third story of interest. Ratepayers were advised by  solicitor at a meeting in the town hall. 

private meeting  to receive legal advice was held in public with press in attendance.  That's a switch.  

The solicitor's advice was telling; the last three paragraphs most revealing. 

As an expert in municipal law,  Mr. Agostina has acted for developers and opponents and is "well-versed with both sides of the coin" 

Acting  for a developer, he  claims to "almost invariably win".  

Mr. A  explains  "the OMB process is evidence based and ratepayers generally just show up and sound off on why they don't like a particular development and leave"

"That" he said " is the kiss of death at any OMB  Hearing" 

"It is a myth that the OMB is pro-development" he states 

"What it is, is ratepayers don't typically understand that this is an evidence- based process.Secondly 
ratepayers don't have the financial benefits that a developer has that allows them to invest in the cost of an OMB proceeding and the cost of this  process is large not only in terms of time but real dollars. 
You have to compete with someone who is going to make millions of dollars if  they are successful.
What do you get if you're successful? You get to maintain the value of your home."

The ratepayers received sound advice. As far as it went. 

They did not hear the developer was liable to lose millions already invested before even reaching the point of a formal application to the municipality. Nor that the provincial economy would be undermined. Jobs in the thousands would be lost. Tax revenues would evaporate. Ontario would sink  lower into depression. 

They did not pay to hear about that. 

Nor was potential cost of lining up a parallel team of experts to refute the evidence-based development application outlined. 

It was not noted that  town staff will likely be called to give evidence-based testimony on behalf of  the developer. Evidence that would not favour the ratepayers, despite absence of a report to Council on the application. 

The ratepayers received fair warning . Even if they had to  exercise their minds and think for themselves.

They were advised to participate in the OMB mediation process.

They were nudged along in the right direction. 

But they are no closer to winning. 

How, for example, can they prove lost property value in the event of  development?

The headline to the story read :

"Ratepayers prepared to go "toe to toe" with developer over Highland Gate "

No doubt encouraged by the town's initiative in urging the Province to " reform" the OMB.

And that is also part of the  story. 

Friday, 24 June 2016

THE BREXIT PHENOMENA

Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "SEND THE MESSAGE WHERE IT COUNTS": 

20:55
Here's news for you. Statefarm (Dejardan) is already moving things to Quebec. One of my kids has already been "trimmed".  

Regarding the lease signs that Watts has pointed out... The problem is the how the previous planning and councils of this town have allowed commercial development to go to Bayview and Leslie. Basically they killed downtown with the allowing of commercial development in those areas.

Posted by Anonymous to  Our Town and Its Business at 24 June 2016 at 07:29
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No.....that's not accurate. Aurora's downtown started to fade when the first shopping centre was built in Richmond Hill. Dwindled a bit more when the Davis Drive Shopping Centre was built in Newmarket. 
Larry Rubin who owned the IGA, built his first new supermarket in Newmarket. 

 Hillcrest Mall became  the destination of choice and after that Upper Canada Mall came into being  and presented still another option. After decades serving Aurora and surrounds, Ardill's moved from the south-east corner of Yonge and Wellington into the new mall in Newmarket. 

When Norm Cook closed his men's wear store in mid-block, it was not replaced. 

Old family businesses closed and new businesses opened and closed with dizzying frequency. 

Practical reasons other than planning and Council decisions, hindered development in Aurora.  

In development, we trailed behind Richmond Hill and Newmarket. Brought up the rear end, so-to-speak. 

For fifty years,complaints and laments about what should and shouldn't be done in Aurora to revitalize the downtown core has become a chorus. 

At the same time,candidates are elected who vow to maintain the small town environment
without understanding the limitations.  

Aurora acquired a reputation for being "difficult" . It may have been deserved. I've seen developments elsewhere that wouldn't have been permitted  in our town. 

But the  town is no longer " difficult ". It's well- nigh bloody impossible.

Yet  chosen nineteenth in the top twenty five best places to live. 

Judging by vacancies, including a hotel, obviously it's not the best place to do business. 

Notwithstanding advice from the Chief Financial Officer that whatever the tax burden,residents can bear it because of their high level of education. 

One thing we can't do , is move the heritage core away from Yonge Street. 

It is a regional road and a provincial highway. Despite the 400 and 404, it carries traffic from town to town, through some of the most beautiful scenery in Ontario and there's not a thing we can do about that.

Newmarket's heritage downtown is not on Yonge Street but they have had  ups and downs. The town has invested heavily over and over 

Nobody knows how well a business is doing until they close their doors. 

All a town can do to support local business is get out of their way. Let them do what they know best and the town do the same. 

We are not doing a good job of that and haven't  for some time. 

We don't even know enough to get out of our own way most  of the time. 

Thursday, 23 June 2016

SEND THE MESSAGE WHERE IT COUNTS

Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "THE DICE WILL BE CAST": 

20:24 - There's more than half a dozen! Culture is one of the new economic industry in government. Culture and Environment, both are to improve the quality of our lives don't you know! 

Posted by Anonymous to  Our Town and Its Business at 23 June 2016 at 08:42

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Yes indeed there are more. They started before the current Council. There was an election and changes were made. But not really. The "change" turned out to be phony and things continued 
as  before with barely a pretense. 

The multi-million dollar hydro property being used for our own purposes spirited away to the Queen's York Rangers with a ten year lease was given an extended the lease to thirty years. 

Councillors were so be- dazzled by the royalty connection, they paid the Feds over half a million for the mouldering, contaminated shed vacated at the corner of the town park. 

Former Councillor Ballard had the connection to QYR and the former Mayor. 

Then there was a  culture board member with a dream of hosting piano concerts in Aurora. The newly renovated museum,$3 million cost, was turned over to a Culture Centre Board, rent free, with half a million annual funding .First purchase,with town funds, for the empty space was a grand piano at a cost of thousands. 

A couple of world-renowned pianists have played for a capacity audience of seventy-five. Both concerts sponsored by the board member with the passion. 

The current Mayor really appreciates culture so close to home,particularly the free parking. For the taxpayer however ,the price  can hardly be justified. 

The Heritage Park boondoggle  in the Hillary House triangle had thousands  expended on consultants before that crazy Idea was laid  to rest. The current Mayor's signature was top of the  supporting list. 
 It wasn't his idea but he swallowed it, hook line and sinker,followed by a number of other prominent, well-intentioned citizens. 

A Sports Hall of Fame has been established with a free address at Aurora Town Hall. It supports a 
lucrative magazine and a sports organization with membership far and wide  within and beyond town boundaries. 

We don't know for sure because details are sketchy but we think the multi-million dollar  Aurora Youth Soccer Association has been accommodated with another  $11 million purchase of employment lands to use as soccer fields to support their commercial growth and also  a lease of an industrial building for all season  indoor facilities for training.

Another acreage taken out of the revenue side of the ledger with no input from the Chief Financial Officer paid a salary likely closer to $2 than $1 hundred thousand a year  to do exactly that. 

A summer music festival has been  re- located from the bandshell in the town park to the  Highland Soccer Club facility which the town leases to Aurora Men's Soccer for the princely sum of $1. With a prohibition against renting it out for any other purpose. 

The advantage is murky but certainly not, as stated by Councillor Abel,nuisance to neighbours of the town park. It has to be said town park neighbours cannot argue a musical event is unwelcome in the neighbourhood. The bandshell has been there  since before them. 

The most notorious give away of all time was to the St Kitt's woman and her travelling band. Their music can still be enjoyed in the Town of Newmarket. Photos  in The Auroran of various personalities wearing Chris Ballard Ontario Liberal T shirts holding St Kitt's business cards  up to the camera, at the Aurora Chamber  of Commerce Street Festival. 

Make whatever you like of the waft and weave but there's ittle doubt or shame either that certain people with connections, have free access to all the goodies the town treasury can provide. 

If you don't want $200,thousand spent on yet another consultant ,so  the Conservation Authority can 
make  the decision for an unlikely Wild Life Reserve, I will publish your opposition but you really ought to contact the people who were elected. 

If you don't, they will assume you are on board. 

Wednesday, 22 June 2016

NO READY ANSWER

Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "THE DICE WILL BE CAST": 


What became of the 80 plus acres of land that Frank Stronach was prepared to give to the town?

Is this history, while we get dragged through a couple of acres of wildlife reserve that will cost millions?

If I appear confused it's because I am.

Posted by Anonymous to  Our Town and Its Business at 22 June 2016 at 21:13

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The Stronach proposal came to Council twice in the last term. It did not return a third time. 

The first presentation was a beautiful thing. A large acreage of land, predominantly forested, to include a restaurant, a gift shop,an education centre and a foundation fund established to manage a new amenity for the enjoyment and education of the community. 


For some reason ,it was not immediately, graciously and enthusiastically,except for myself, accepted. 
The plan was referred to staff. 

No new town department needed. No disputes about user fees. Some pay, some don't. No political involvement.

At some point, it was never clear where or when,  concern must have been expressed about the restaurant, gift store and other amenities . When the plan came back to Council a second time ,they were no longer included.  I expressed disappointment. 

A report from a citizens' advisory committee which included Mr. Tomlinson and Mr.Wehrenburg  recommended the plan be referred to their committee  for approval before being considered  by Council for approval. 

Mr Tomlinson's particular interest was the Wild Life Reserve at town expense. Mr. Wehrenberg's all-consuming interest was the trail system .

Council accepted the committee's recommendation. No explanation offered. I never understood 
why Aurora would view a gift that way. 

I may not have been the only one with  that reaction. 

To this day, as far as I know, the Stronach offer was not made a third time. 

THE DIE WILL BE CAST

 The last post was difficult to write. Being familiar with the evolving circumstances, a starting point
was hard to choose. 

I have edited and re-edited and I apologize for that. I remind myself of unlikely impact whether I 
tell the story or not. A handful may be better informed but to what advantage ?

Sometimes I think people may be better off not knowing what's going on.

 But I can't live with that. My time is my own to do as I will . I learned  only yesterday about a capital budget of $1million a year for the next five years for this pie -in-the-sky impracticality. 

To be fair to Mr,Tomlinson, I believe the initial expenditures were never his intention. On the other hand, twenty years is long enough to discover how Topsy grows and changes. 

A wild life reserve, if it was ever practical, has become an impossible dream. 

It appears Mr. Tomlinson has decided to turn to the public to rally support for the idea that was always his and his alone.  

Telling his story, he avoided mentioning public access to the area would be prohibited.

He failed to mention the forecast capital cost of $5 million over five years. 

He earmarked $2 million from the Hydro Reserve without as much as a by-your-leave. 

He said  it would be necessary to transfer two acres of development land from private to public 
ownership without considering the bread and butter issue of lost earnings to relieve the burden of 
taxation. 

He strongly opposes a walking trail  already designated within the area. 

Building houses on the 2 acres will be "catastrophic" to the plan, he says.  

Still he persists on the project's feasibility. 

Mr Tomlinson has never been a candidate nor held status as an elected official. He speaks
for himself .

And yet... on his  admission ,Council has already spent $400 thousand on consultants to achieve
his objective but accomplishing nought. 

Plans are to spend  $200 thousand more next Tuesday for an engineering consultant to pressure the Conservation Authority to change the rules to accommodate a multi-million dollar tax-funded scheme that prohibits public access to a  small area of flood plain enclosed by urban density. 

At the last Council meeting before summer recess .

Tuesday, 21 June 2016

TO THE POINT

Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "TWO FOR THE PRICE": 


Thi is just another typical government story - you pick the level.

The people elected to spend (invest) our money wisely don't have a clue.

How do they survive in their personal lives?

It's interesting to note the Christopher Watts piece on vacant business premises, primarily in the core, after the speeches and propaganda from the mayor about Aurora's business growth. 

WHERE'S THE GROWTH?

Not in the core.

Posted by Anonymous to  Our Town and Its Business at 21 June 2016 at 21:52

TWO FOR THE PRICE

On page 12 and 13 of last week's Auroran Brock Weir provided two separate narratives of the same topic. I just finished reading the  second story for the second time on page 13. I read the first story on page 12 , twice before.

It occurs to me  anyone taking the time to read both all the way through, could have trouble finding the logic. 

The second story spans twenty years. It twists and turns and things are left out. 

 $3 to $4 hundred thousand have already been fed into the gaping maw of consultants  by this council and another $2 hundred thousand is poised to be tossed down the chute, good money after bad, at the meeting of June 28th. That's $600 thousand for Councillors to gain clarity or avoid making 
a decision. Whatever the reason, not cheap at any price. 

The topic is a wild life reserve that doesn't exist. It never has and grows less than likely with each passing year, though   a million dollars has been included  in the town's capital budget every year for the next five for construction  of the project. 

It has been a dream of David Tomlinson,a horticulturist and landscape architect resident. He believes it's going to happen. 

And yet. 

From his narrative , reported in The Auroran, it seems ,with an additional  $200  thousand, a total of $600 thousand will have been spent by Council with absolutely nothing to show for it.  

Mr. Tomlinson has contributed thousands of volunteer hours. Like the tennis club spokesperson, he is convinced his expertise and the town's  authority is sufficient to persuade the Conservation Authority his plan is viable and should be approved. Policies  of the Conservation Authorities  should be set aside or " modified"

He also believes  a couple of million should be scooped out of the Hydro Reserve  to make his dream come true. 

Well, why not?  Council has set precedents.

 6 acres of development land  have been transferred from private to public sector for a park within1 kilometer of two other fine facilities  in the Mavrinac neighbourhood. The land cost millions plus legal fees. Construction of the park is estimated at another $1.3 million. 

It's an outrageous extravagance that can never be justified. But it can be used to rationalize similar
future lack of logic. 

No figures were ever provided for  loss of assessment revenue to show consequential  loss of earnings for the town, forever and a day. 

As nineteenth in the top twenty-five places to live in Canada, it seems the only apparent problem Aurora has, is finding ways and means to spend money to prevent urban development in an urban municipality. 

But Mr. Tomlinson notes other new and practical problems in the way of realizing his  dream.

 Council it seems has had secret discussions on  his request the town buy two acres of development land to prevent "catastrophic" impact on the wildlife reserve  if the land gets developed. Despite the fact Mr. Tomlinson has approached the developer and obtained agreement to sell to the town at market value...no decision to purchase  has been made by the town . A development application for the entire six acres has been made by the rightful owner. As is his right. 

It appears Council may have  made a decision not to purchase without informing  Mr. Tomlinson or any of the rest of us. 

From the beginning, it has been determined the Wild Life Reserve will not be accessible to the public. 
Mr. Tomlinson avoided that reference in his narrative. Though he did speak if the trail in the wrong place.  

Enclosed  as it is ,by homes,residents,children,cats and dogs, such a prohibition would likely prove difficult to enforce. A fence,electrified or otherwise armed, may  not be willingly accepted by taxpayers who have paid $5 million plus another $3 million to acquire land and pay consultants. Every bit as difficult to enforce as a wild life reserve would be to maintain in an urban neighbourhood. 

$200,000  has already been spent by this council  to establish feasibility of Mr. Tomlinson's original proposal. The consultant hired agreed it was feasible "providing a few non-legally binding Lake Simcoe 
Conservation Authority policies were modified." 

Well that was hardly useful. 

Lake Simcoe Conservation Authority is unlikely to modify policies because a consultant, paid by the municipality, has declared its  authority  to be  not "legally binding". Until now , challenges to conservation authority are not familiar in municipal circles. Membership in Conservation Authorities are are municipalities themselves. 

Developers, on the other hand ,would certainly rejoice to hear policies in place for more than sixty years relating to protection of flood plain lands are not intended to be enforced and are not "legally binding".  Nesting places for birds hardly takes precedence over human habitation but nobody challenges that either. 

As Chairman of Lake Simcoe Conservation Authority, Aurora's Mayor may find himself compromised by the circumstance.

So...what we have here ...are two separate narratives that do not come together at any point. 

A Council, over six years has spent $400,000 on consultants and prepared to spend  another $200,000 next Tuesday , to  justify a decision which according to Mr Tomlinson ,will be  "catastrophic" to a Wild Life Reserve

In the unlikely event, the Conservation Authority modifies policies held fast for decades; the plan envisaged by Mr. Tomlinson would cost the town millions for land acquisition alone. 

Public debate has never been held about the merits of the plan. 

 A realistic estimate of cost has never been publicized.

 Acceptability and practicality of a Wild Life Reserve, enclosed by a fence to keep people out, abutting urban development, has never received whole-hearted support of anyone but Mr. Tomlinson.

Brock Weir did well to separate the narratives. The two stories could never come together to make a single tale.