"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, 18 February 2017

THE TEAM , THE TEAM , HAS SAGGY SEAMS

Anonymous left a new comment on your post "WHYS AND WHEREFORES": 

Call me a cynic, but I can't help thinking that the one spearheading the call for OMB reform is also using this as a vehicle for self-promotion. I think that he's set his sights on the mayor's chair. He really likes to trumpet that he's "#GettingThingsDone." 
Posted by Anonymous to  Our Town and Its Business at 18 February 2017 at 19:18

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I've known Tom Mrakas since his wife Alison was elected for one term.  He attended meetings and became involved . Ever since, for ten years ,he has never hesitated to take a position and let it be known. Long enough to vouch for his integrity and commitment.

He worked long and hard to win his seat and hasn't stopped since. He was enthusiastic and throughout the last campaign and promoted the idea of "team" to get things done. 

Main difference since, he no longer talks about members working to-gether in team mode.

It may have been first lesson learned.  

Being a councillor is a continuing succession of lessons.

 It never ends.Nor should it. 

I have the greatest respect for Councillor Mrakas' integrity and commitment. 

I do not agree the OMB should be subject to municipal political decisions. A council may decide to re-define the Official Plan on the hoof. 

The OMB must accept the O.P. as written and stamped Approved. 

I believe property-owners, all of them, have legitimate rights to consistency, integrity, reason and equity in decision-making. 

They need the protection afforded by the OMB  against sly, dis-honest, under-handed ,self-serving,  decisions made by shallow, lazy, unintelligent, double-dealing, two -faced human beings at the municipal level of government. 

Tom Mrakas' no doubt intends best interests of the community. Unfortunately, he cannot guarantee  the intentions of others. 

The last ten years in Aurora established by a long and growing chain of decisions, the well-being 
of the community takes second-place to  vested interests of groups and self-interest of elected "leaders".

The anonymous comment introducing this post was likely contributed by an elected member of the Aurora "team".

WHYS AND WHEREFORES

The point of explaining details of little general interest can easily be challenged. There's so much I  think important but I  often think few people share my  when it comes to how a town is supposed to be governed. My last post triggered no response whatsoever. 

To-nights news triggered an example of a catastrophe that perfectly illustrates why voters  need to 
be informed and why the media falls short. 

Mike Harris was Ontario Premier in the nineties. Among other measures, he abolished Ontario Water Resources Commission to cut government spending. 

The agency was set up to ensure water quality. Public health was too important to leave to municipal councils whose main pre-occupation was to keep taxes down and be re-elected. Education was the biggest expense and they had no control there. 

Subsequently In Walkerton Ontario , a small rural municipality, numbers of people died horribly from the town's contaminated water supply. 

It hadn't been treated properly. E-coli had seeped into the wells from surrounding fields dressed 
In animal manure.

The person in charge of treatment,brother of a volunteer fire-fighter , was charged, tried, found guilty and was sentenced to jail.

He wept with remorse during the trial. He was not capable of handling the serious responsibility assigned to him. He was hired notwithstanding. 

It would not have happened if the OWRC had not been abolished. 

No politicians were called to account. 

Subsequently, the Province passed legislation making local councillors criminally responsible for any future failures. 

The Ontario Water Resources Commission was never re-instituted. 

Higher levels of chemical treatment in water were established in law for all water systems. 

 Public health is a provincial responsibility. It was the Provincial Premier who made the decision 
that  put public health at risk in the very places that needed OWRC  resources. 

The Ontario Municipal Board has a similar responsibility although lives are not at risk. The purpose is to ensure decisions made are based on logic and consistency. 

Not all Municipalities follow that rule .Aurora's decision to exempt St Andrew's College from development charges is an example.  A recent one to relieve  a hotel from development charges 
to spur economic development is a classic example. 

The decision to lease  away the hydro property for thirty years which was needed for municipal purposes Is another example that flies in the face of logic. 

They were elected to represent the community's interest. What hidden reasons caused  them to sell out the people they were elected to serve. 

In the absence of satisfactory explanation, people  are entitled to speculate the worst. 

Without the OMB , what warranty is there developers and speculators will not receive the same 
unequal ,irrational, inequitable treatment? 

More municipal Councillors might end up incarcerated for various improprieties and how would 
that contribute to the well- being of  society?

Saturday, 11 February 2017

A REASON FOR BEING

There's barely  a law governing munipalities in Ontario that has not responded to corruption of some 
degree.  

The Ontario Municipal Board jwas established by the need for a watchdog in various circumstances. 

At one time the Board had authority over municipal debt for example. During the Depression municipalities spent money they didn't have and declared bankruptcy to avoid paying the bills.
  
Municipal Official Plans were approved by the OMB.

The Municipal Act is intended to ensure honest, efficient and equal treatment within the law at the hands of municipal councils. Clerks and Treasurers are Statutory Officers responsible for ensuring council decisions stay within the law. Municipal Clerks are certified and sworn into Office. 

At one time all it took was a word from the clerk to advise this or that was outside the law to stop
a decision. 

The last clerk in Aurora who did what the law required, against the will of  Mayor Morris, was out the door within twenty-four hours. 

Our  town is currently spearheading a move to abolish the OMB. 

The City of Toronto has just declared its intention to wrest power from the Province 

The media will exploit the issue .The media generation is no better informed than the current generation of Councillors. Neither history nor the record  is relevant. 

Councillors will thump their chests and strut their stuff without a snowball's chance in hell the 
Province will accept  liability for untethered municipal councils. 

Whatever authority municipalities have, the Province has assigned. 

When York Region was planned a single "urban node" was proposed for Aurora and Newmarket. 

Valid economic arguments presented against the plan won the day. 

Forty-six years have passed. The arguments are no longer valid. 

Different arguments carry more weight. Aurora's autonomy has survived against odds.

REVISIONS

I had to re-write the previous post. I crammed too much into it and lack of practice has had an effect on organization skills. 

The biggest problem was misinformation about  departure of the Chief Financial Officer from town 
employment. I was told today,by someone who should know ,that information is not correct.

I'm sorry about that. 

I wrote another post at the week-end. The Blogger app crashed and I needed to sign in again. 

It's six months since I create the password. I remember it being clever.  Obviously so clever, I  
couldn't remember it

Nor could I recall  in which of many small books I recorded it. 

So...now the post will have to be checked  for legibility or alternately....deletion. 

In the meantime, I'm still knitting. I have a very satisfying little pile of garments for next year's 
Christmas presents. 

Then there's the continuing carnival going on to the south of us. 

Thursday, 9 February 2017

ELECTIONS ET AL

Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "A PIG IN A POKE": 

And yet, all the incumbents who ran in the last municipal election were re-elected. Oh, wait ... ALL
BUT ONE

Posted by Anonymous to  Our Town and Its Business at 9 February 2017 at 19:11

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The above writer is thirty-three per-cent correct. Three  incumbents were replaced in the last election. One had been elected to the provincial legislature .The second was challeger for the Mayor's office.

I came within forty-nine votes of re-election Certainly closer than the mayoralty challenger. 

Probably ninety-eight per cent of  the challenger's previous term votes were the same as the rest.

So what does that prove?  

Not a  damned thing.  

When  mayoralty is uncontested, voter-turn-out takes a dive. The election  is hardly worth holding.
I've seen it as low as twenty-percent .

When there's no real choice the  contest is a lackluster affair. 
Many residents simply didn't find their way to the poll. Several assured me later of their support
had theymade it to the polls.

Klaus Wehrenberg told me when he called for assistance weeks later, he was out of the country 
at the time of the election. He didn't vote.

I spent fifty years proving to myself what needed to be said could be and still garner enough support  to win a seat at the table.

It's a risk and there's a price to pay. Not everyone appreciates plain speaking.  
 
I would have been elected with fifty more votes. Over the long term, I have been elected more often than not. My philosophy never changed .

I gained more ,much more ,than I ever lost at the ballot box. 

I wouldn't change a thing. 

I hear John Able has formed a friendly association with  the former Mormac regime. 

John Gallo regularly attends council meetings.

 Al Wilson has also started to attend meetings. 

A PIG IN A POKE

Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "NEW YORK ,NEW YORK IS A WONDERFUL TOWN": 

Wonder why they took that stupid green roof/floor off the list for the building? Where they worried about over bugeting? LMAO! And why does government justify the spending of tax payers money for Gold,Silver or bronze Leeds designations? So that they can all pat themselves on the back for a certificate the they can frame and put on a wall? Does the average tax payers really give a shit about that crap? I wonder what the tax payer would say if a bugeting was given for a Leeds designation and one without, which would they choose? 

Posted by Anonymous to  Our Town and Its Business at 9 February 2017 at 00:33

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Government competence is a project completed on time, at or under budget. 

It's no small feat. 

Town-owned land development on Leslie Street was completed at the contract price on time. 

The Seniors' Centre was similarly successful. 

Church Street School renovation was  satisfactorily completed on time and at budget. 

Stronach recreation facility on Wellington Street was efficiently effected on time and if memory serves me correctly , slightly under budget. 

Leslie Street land development was a public works project; roads, contours and land division,underground services and lighting were all engineered butthe task was assigned to the Director of Recreation.  

The foregoing projects were all supervised by the same director. Also the longest serving director 
on the town's payroll and the only line with institutional history. 

Within weeks of his own appointment , the  former CAO , re-organized the management team. He wasn't on the job long enough to understand howthe town functioned let alone 
how it might be improved. It was not. 

He did what he was hired to do by the Mayor of the day. 

Authority was shifted from Municipal Clerk and Director of Leisure Services to others,with no 
more credentials for  new responsibilities than they had for their original. 

Re-organization was repeated regularly to sort out the mess, without ever recognizing  the hopelessness of the cause. 

The joint Centre  financial debacle  is only the project that has finally hit the fan. 

By the time the CAO took his leave for greener field,  problems would already be
apparent. He had previously assigned the Director of Recreation to the industrial park project
onLeslie Street. He obviously recognized who was capable of doing it. 

I have heard the Chief Financial Officer left. That information is not correct. 

Against regulation, he was appointed without Council authority . He informed colleagues he was
hired a  coffee in Tim Horton's. 

Human Resources manager was doing the hiring for a significant period. He was fired eventually. .

Communications manager, joined the town "on loan" from the region. He's gone.

The position of Director of Corporate Affairs was eliminated for "economy"

Responsibility for the clerk's department was assigned to the town solicitor. 

Two solicitors were required in the legal department  because there was too much work for one.

But not so much apparently that the solicitor could handle supervision of the municipal clerk's
division as well as his own responsibility.

Traditionally and still in many municipalities, the municipal clerk  is certified ,appointed by bylaw,sworn into office and manages the entire administration. 

Remember the multi-million dollar asset give-away of the hydro building on a thirty year lease and  forfeiture of property tax:

A WAMS software package waspurchased  at $400,000 ,without consultation with the IT department  to determine compatibility with service already in use:

Eighteen months later, it was still not up and running:

A  million dollar treatment facility to remove salt from snow? Hundreds of thousands spent before cancellation: 

Remember the refusal  of the Works Director and Treasurer  to respond to questions about water and sewer rates?

A communication division budget was increased tenfold without notable improvement. 

And the contract with a self appointed Culture Centre Board with annual hand-out increases of hundreds of thousands of dollars. 

The curators and museum program was created , in addition to ,not in place of, close to a hundred thousand dollar grant to the Historical Society?

Then half a million dollars was paid for a contaminated shack  to the federal government. 

We are not talking about thousands down the drain my friends. We are talking millions. 

Not stolen. 

No cheating that I know. 

Just given away, filched from the people, by the people,elected to prevent that from happening. 

With nary a sound word of  professional advice or caution from those paid in full to provide it. 

Sunday, 5 February 2017

NEW YORK ,NEW YORK IS A WONDERFUL TOWN


Retaining lead staff and governing practices were not the only surprisesof Mayor Dawe's first term, considering the reason for his election

The previous term had been tortuous with numerous personnel biting the dust along the trail. Almost without exception, replacements were individuals who knew what was expected of them and the 
wellbeing of the municipality was not it.

The clerk's position was an exception. The Municipal Act spells out responsibility of the clerk'soffice and requires legal conformity. Certification is required. 

Replacements of questionable fit,repeated re-organizations and increased dependence on consultants became the critical norm within the Dawe administration as with the previous council.  With few exceptions, staff  could no longer be depended upon to keep the municipality  operating on an even keel. 

Now I have a confession to make. I have been paying scant attention to town affairs since I 
stopped writing the blog.
 
I learned of termination of the Director of Environment and Infrastructure by phone last week. The news prompted a  post

To-night I started reading The Auroran on line to catch up and learned a final report on the Joint Centre had been presented and concerns were raised. One of the items removed from the contract with Council approval is  included in 2017 budget. Numbers and explanations do not co-ordinate. 

The greenhouse floor is also missing, as well as the green roof on the building . The Gold Standard.

But we awarded a contract with all of these items included in the price.  Every last fol-de-rol was was included in the project. No expense was spared. 

Then came news of the Director's termination. It made sense. It would have made more sense if a person of adequate credentials had been appointed to the Director's position  in the first place.

That was true of so many. 

But what is also true is the Mayor chaired an financial oversight committee of the Joint Centre  build.
A management consultant was hired to supervise. How many people are needed to create an 
almighty  mess.

Watching the  appointment process of President of the Good Old USA  to his cabinet has a similar surreal quality of familiarity and foreboding. 

A long list of comings and goings and shifts about over the last ten years has never bode well for the municipality's interest. 

Every one has a story. 

All of it bizarre.

The tax bill arrived in the mail today. 

 Without doubt it is twice as much as it needs to be for half as much value.  

Councillor Kim  posted  on Facebook of proposing the  addition of an Economic Development Board  similar to Aurora Library Board and Aurora  Cultural Centre Board .That means another budget item in 
the millions. 

Oh Lordy Lordy

An economic development department with at least two persons  is already on the payroll. 

The CAO's office has a planner  for "Special projects" 

The Historical Society has a budget hand-out of thousands to spend as they will to promote town heritage with negligible results.

A minimal museum program and  two curators are on the payroll .

The planning department includes  a heritage planner to protect  heritage. 

 Aurora Arboretum has authority to spend hundreds of thousands of tax dollars. 

Nigh on a million dollars is about to be dropped into a hole in the ground under Leslie Street. 

And If I'm going to keep posting ,I have homework to catch up on.  

Friday, 3 February 2017

GRANDE-MERE TRICOTS

Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "GIVE US THE FACTS, MR.MAYOR": 

I remember there was some outside person that was hired to keep their eye on the ball with this project. I guess he got paid in full for his outstanding performance? Maybe even given a bonus? Im sure the director got one sweet severance. He's probably high-fiving it all the way to the bank, then after a nice long vacation, get hired in another Town somewhere...they all do. I don't think the Mayor is staying for another term Evelyn, so why would her care about giving us facts now. I'd like to hear from the other Councillors and what their take is on this whole shit show at the Ops center. 

Posted by Anonymous to  Our Town and Its Business at 3 February 2017 at 21:01

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Being a Councillor is trickier than it seems. Decisions are made in the majority. Employee matters are protected, rightfully so, by privacy regulations. Councillors are bound by confidentiality. 

Former Councillors continue to be bound in matters protecting the municipality. 

I did support the director's appointment. He did not have the background I felt was essential. 

Obviously others felt differently. John Abel was not a Councillor at the time. But others shared his 
view that staff are there to ensure Councillors are re-elected. 

I expect  competent professional advice . Political decisions are the politician's domain 

I found much of the director's advice unacceptable. Water rates, a treatment system for snow to remove salt and pathogens were two examples. There were others. At no time did I challenge his competence in a public meeting. 

He was appointed at the beginning of the single Mormac term.  

He kept the job during Mayor Dawe's time. 

Twelve years in total .

He is no longer in the town's employ and not by his choice. 

I contend qualifications for the job were not there from the beginning yet the compensation was second highest in the administration. 

So who was/is responsible?

He did not appoint himself . 

What he had to offer was what the majority decided they wanted. 

They can't tell you why they changed their minds. 

So you have to take what you know and make up your own minds .

I'm going to keep knitting but I do have to give my hands a break. 

GIVE US THE FACTS, MR.MAYOR

Opportunity to tour the facility is not the same as an official opening. The latter calls for a speech and the speech IS  the accounting of how well  the project proceeded. That's what's missing. 

If I re-call correctly ,this was $26 million project . The town undertook substantial debt to pay for it. The contract was advertised and awarded according to provincial regulations. 

It means , estimates were prepared, bids were closed at a precise hour with all parties entitled to be present for the reading thereoff. 

Bids  were listed and referred for expert analysi to ensure complete and accurate pricing.  It is my understanding that subsequent change orders , during construction,items were removed because 
the budget allocated was not sufficient to complete the contract at the price awarded.

As well as failure to complete the project with funds allocated, regulations have been circumvented.
 It doesn't take much more than that for a municipality to get a reputation for serious incompetence and questionable integrity. 

What use are provincial regulations if they can be so easily ignored?

Council appointed an oversight committee. The lCAO and a financial controller  had oversight responsibility,as well as the director, to manage this project. Did they not hire a project manager as
well? I think so.

The CAO left the town's employ a year ago. Time enough to realise the problem with the contract. 

The Director has now been terminated. 

 Council is now requested to fork out additional financing to include  items removed from the original contract .

An official opening is the occasion for the final accounting. 

Successful completion of a multi-million dollar construction project is no small accomplishment. 

In a municipality,more than one person is responsible for failure. 

The town went into debt for this project. 

And what have we got? 

With all those public servants watching Why is the public last to know?

How much has been discussed behind  closed doors ?

How many reports dealing with it , were not called for public discussion? 

Thereby keeping the problems under wraps?

Tours don't cut it Mr.Mayor.

Just give us the facts man. 


I TOLD YOU !!!!

Question of the week? Termination of the town's second highest paid director last week. 

There will likely be no explanation. 

Whatever .....Council, particularly the Mayor, is responsible. 

The Mayor is C.E.O...responsible for oversight of the whole shebang and compensated accordingly. 

The termination  provides opportunity to examine how oversight  happens...or not. 

The outgoing director has been employed nine years...since early in the Mormac regime.

The vacancy was  first of a succession.

The new director had never supervised  a public works department. One of many following re-organisations assigned additional responsibilities for which he held no credentials. 

Indeed,qualifications were sparse. Immediate previous employment was with the regional waterworks. During the last term of Council, remuneration for the position increased to close to $200,000.
 
At the time, as a councillor, I was never assured the town would be served according to reasonable expectations.

Councillor Abel can be quoted that responsibility of staff is to ensure council's re-election.
He is not alone. He is not entirely wrong. 

A council does get credit for an efficiently run municipality.

 But that was not his intent. 

So ...it's taken a while but we have arrived. 

We will not be formally informed of the reason for termination. 
The story may never be told. 
Yet nothing prevents speculation. 
It's our only option. 

What do we know of potential for council embarrassment?

We know something . It's  not secret. It's been pending since prior to the last election. 

The joint facility.

Remember ! ! ! estimates escalated ...non-essential appointment to council to ensure a winning vote for the project.


No expense spared...
Green roof ...Gold standard.

The  building has been occupied for months. 

No formal opening. No public invitation to view the final product. 

An opening calls for a  final report. 

No opening. 

No report. 

No wonder.

It seems the finished product is unfinished though all the money is gone. 

No green roof. No floor in the greenhouse. Who knows what else is missing ?

The Mayor, chair of the financial oversight committee. 

More money  is needed  for completion. 

How does that get explained away ? 

How did that contract get awarded?

How does it get finalized?

Mayor Dawe is in charge .

Come clean Mr. Mayor. 

Tuesday, 31 January 2017

NONE SO BLIND AS THOSE WHO WILL NOT. SEE


Three blind mice ...
See how they run.
They all ran after the farmer's wife. 
She cut off their tails  with a carving knife. 
Did ever you see such a sight in your life. 
As three blind mice. 

Monday was quite a day in the news room. My television is not usually turned  on until Charlie Rose on PBS at 5 . Sometimes,  not even then lately. But yesterday, I turned it on at 9 in the morning 
to learn the facts about a shooting in a Quebec City mosque on Sunday. 

The few facts already reported were confusing but  our fearless leader nevertheless was already calling the murders " terrorism" .

Steve Paikin had already rounded up a panel by evening to discuss the situation . There  was a lot of talk around the table about the importance of the Muslim community within the larger community and
appreciation of the effusive outpouring of expressions of love and support from the community at large and our political  leaders in particular. 

Kelly  Leitch , Conservative leadership candidate, came in for a bit of a hammering for her comments 
linking Muslims to  national insecurity .

It was agreed eventually  by all ,it is wise to know all the facts before reaching any conclusions. 

No-one cited the Prime Minister for the opposite to  wise. 

The Honorable Ralph Goodale, Minister of National Security, announced on the evening news, the level of national insecurity was medium.

Six people, going about their peaceful business and five others seriously wounded. families plunged into shock and grief, lives changed forever, and certainly it looked like a competition for the limelight 
among politicians of every stripe, at every level. 

Yes I know that's harsh criticism. No doubt their sentiments are sincere. But they are our leaders.

Shocking as the story is, it seemed to me, even before the facts were known, to have more of the elements of the madness of Mark Levine at Ecole Polytechnique  in Montreal,fifteen years ago.
No-one called that terrorism. A man's mind crashed a a terrible weapon was at hand. 

Whether the crazed reaction we witnessed yesterday, will lead to calm, frank,honest discussion about why Middle Eastern citizenry continues to  bear the burden of the current Apocalypse is doubtful. 

They have had the talk already in Europe. It hasn't changed much. 

It seems likely we here in North America,will keep on barreling blindly ever deeper into the inferno. 

There's plenty of blame to share.