"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, 27 August 2015

Wednesday, 26 August 2015

ANGER MANAGEMENT

Grace Marsh posts on Facebook  a photo of a thirty-five year old street tree marked with a red R signifying slated removal. The tree was damaged during street re-construction two years ago. 

The Marsh's have watched the tree grow for thirty- five years. Grace is sad.

I am shaking with a familiar sense of  frustration and frankly...recurring rage. 

I drove down that street on a Sunday and saw the roots torn away and canopy burned to a crisp with the heat from the ripping and tearing digging machine,

It didn't have to be.The contract called for protective fences  to surround the trees. Distance from the trunk was circumscribed. 

The town's an arborist drew up the specification. The parks department is responsible for the urban forest. The contract  called for the arborist to be on hand  to supervise at contractor's  cost.  The  contract included the specification at the award price. 

The town department responsible for the project  failed miserably. The tree in front of Grace's house will not be the only one destroyed. The entire street of thirty-five year old trees were subject to the inexcusable irresponsibility. 

I raised the issue at the Council table. No  interest. No reaction. No support. No response. 

Times  change. Yes indeed. 

In the past, shameful incompetence could not have been ignored. It would have cost at least one highly- placed individual his job. 

Two years later, one has departed. 

It's not enough. 

Responsibility for supervising  re-construction of Grace  Marsh's street was the same for renovation and addition of the Aurora Family Leisure Complex. It's still not finished and hundreds of thousands over budget. 

Imagine what it's like to conscientiously specify in a contract what must be done to protect thirty-five year old trees trees only to see the requirement ignored and trees destroyed despite best effort. 

It's  been like that in Aurora for five years. 

The years of Geoff Dawe's absolute mindset against micro-management. 

To say nothing of the maudlin hypocritical crap endlessly spouted around the council table about a Bylaw to prevent injury and destruction of trees on private property. 

A DAY IN THE LIVES OF

Theresa called and said " I've never seen Niagara-on-the lake, why don't we go today"

I first thought " Ooh a day withTheresa ...Yea .....Then ...Oh....Niagara-on-the-Lake on a Saturday in August. then ....  a day with Theresa .....right ...let's go. 

We went. .... the long way. Across King, through Kettleby, Pottageville. Schomberg....over the hills on Highway 9 to Orangeville.  

It was a favorite Spring  break out after winter drive in the old blue station wagon ....when snow still lay in shady places. 

Over the hills and far away, before seat belts. The kids would tumble out on Main Street and round a corner for an ice cream at the dairy bar and stroll back licking cones and the drive home.

 Sometimes it would just be my gang. Often a friend or two came. One Sunday we went to Barrie and Martin's friend Gary Simpson packed in with us. They might have been ten years old. Best friends still both living in and have raised their children in Barrie.

Orangeville had a great wide Main Street and matching sidewalk.  People gathered in clusters enjoying the Spring sunshine and catching up on the gossip. We had to walk around them. I wrote a column about that once. Councillor Walt Davis told me that' s how it was in Aurora when folks came in at the week-end from the farms around to shop and gather on the sidewalks to catch up on the weeks news. Walt said if you needed to get anywhere, you had to step out on the road, the groups were so 
tight.

Collingwood and Lindsay  and many other Ontario towns have beautiful wide streets like that lined with stores that have been in business forever. 

Orangeville has taken up a third of the street's width with raised concrete islands in the centre.  A huge sculpture  of  the founder ,Thomas Orange in the first and a massive fountain in the second. No doubt a consultant  an architect and a ton of money were involved . 

 Oh my ...Oh well 

We drove  down Highway 6 through scenery as beautiful as any to be found. 

Theresa worked as a courier for a while . Driving is her element. I like it too but am content to be driven. Theresa now works for TTC and is currently involved with the new subway construction. There's always plenty to talk about.

We went through Elora to see what might have changed. My son Frank lived there for a while In his twenties. He had a hugely successful concert sponsored in the Elora Mill Hotel owned and created  by a friend and his wife. Rooms were beautifully appointed with  Mennonite furnishings ,quilts and crafted accents .

Frank lived in a lovely old building next door in excellent condition with a balcony over the river. 

Elora was founded by an army officer from Irvine in Scotland, the place I was born. He had served in India and named the village from a place in India. At an intersection, a swinging board sign on a building  caught my attention. I looked up and read " Irvine Lodge " 

 I had no idea of the connection until that moment. 

Frank had happy times in Elora. Everybody in the village knew each other and collectively did not enjoy the touristos. 

Other than the mill,the village had changed  little in over a hundred years.It was intriguing to think people who came there as pioneers would undoubtedly have known my grandparents and their families. Maybe I even had a distant relative who helped to create that community and built the old rusty disused bridge.

It has changed. The old village is still there but less visible. Touristos pack the streets and stores. tra
Traffic was horrendous, cars filled every space.The Elora Mill Hotel  is abandoned. Surrounded  by chain link fence and a rusty gate with a rusty padlock.  

We drove on to Fergus, to Guelph and down to Burlington. 

My brother lived in Burlington, raised his two sons there and died in Joseph Brant hospital. 

Stephanie played two Christmases pantomimes in the Burlington Arts Centre. She acted in two productions in the AtriumTheatre attached to GuelphUniversity,  a play in Fergus Theatre  that used to be the local movie house and graduated from Guelph University. Pamela Wallin gave the commencement address. She was Chancellor before she was a Senator.Theresa and I were there. 

We hit the bridge and  highway at Burlington and moved  at a crawl to the other side of St. Catherine's.

It's a nice town.  I held many appeal board hearings in a government building attached to the library across from the court house and shopped  in the Farmer's Market for fresh eggs and vegetableson  Wednesdays. 

Red brick houses,white paint trim,black shutters and roofs and wrought iron railings. My house is like that. There was a dairy bar there I with black and white tiled floor. And bar and high stools with red seats and booths.  They had the best hot rhubarb pie straight from the oven. The dairy bar was a chain and there was one on College Street just west of Yonge. 

My grandson Cameron is construction manager at an almost completed Arts Centre in St Catherine's. It's behind schedule and over budget. Initial bid was too high. Cuts  were made. Change orders during construction. Architects are not without fault. HIs next project might be in Kingston. 

Finally we were in fruit land. Seemingly mostly grapes and wineries. One named .... Organised Crime Winery. 

Vines in orderly rows and extremely well groomed. Can't imagine them lending anything to a Niagara Blossom Festival.  A craft beer festival was very well attended. There were ribs. 

Then we arrived at our destination. Much like Elora only more so. The lovely old homes can still be seen on residential streets but the green lawns that once surrounded them are fully built upon with more recent construction. Stores are reminiscent of Main Street,Disneyland and thronged with similar crowd density. 

Cars parked both sides on every inch of every street. Parking meters have an eight hour parking limit.

King Edward Hotel is spruced up. Stayed there once with Theresa's Dad. It was the welfare holding.
Room doors did not fasten well and the fire escape was a thick rope securely tied to a radiator in front of  the second floor window. We attended a Shaw play in the old court house a couple of doors down. The  audience was mostly American. Talked throughout. 

Last Saturday, we toured the town by car. 

It was a beautiful day. The best part being the drive over the hills and far away down to Lake Ontario. Theresa had never seen Niagara on the Lake and ahe never will now because it doesn't exist as it once was. Hotels and hostelries and commercial tourist attractions have obscured the past. 

On our next outing, we plan to drive to Tobermory and take a trip on the glass bottomed boat and visit 
some of the picturesque little towns situated on Lake  Huron. 

Tuesday, 25 August 2015

WHAT'S UP DOC ?

Continuing reading the news report on the interim CAO, I was diverted by a rendition of a line of thought from the Mayor. It sparked a previous post.

I read the CAO item on line but hard copy is needed for reference. A monitor is somewhat ethereal. Butterfly comes to mind. Flitting here,flitting there,seldom settling anywhere. 

Scott Somerville, Aurora's last interim CAO  told me, five years in one place is  average for a CAO.  We had lunch on the last day of his contract and talked about municipal hiring patterns. Somerville was many years a municipal clerk before becoming CAO .

Authority in a municipal administration is like walking a tight rope. Politicians need to be seen to be in charge. People expect it. 

Municipal Clerks are  bound by legislation.  The  purpose  is to ensure Provincial law and regulations are observed.  A Clerk allowed to do his job wields considerable influence and control. 

Tension is inevitable. Nifty footwork is handy. Eminence Gris is the salient feature.

Mr Moyle's terms of reference for CAO  are similar to municipal clerk; except a clerk is certified. A CAO is not. 

 From an executive position of the Ontario Municipal Association,Mr Moyle has discerned Aurora does not have social problems  like other towns, has " a reasonable healthy financial situation". He observes the town is "blessed with good quality staff" His own background is land use planning. 

His task is to work with Council  over "several weeks " on credentials for  the CAO  position and  prepare a structure  to be approved by the incoming CAO. 

The last CAO re-organized within weeks of arrival. Didn't wait to see how things were before changing them. The re- organization was  regularly re-organized after that to suit exigencies. Things didn't really function well any time since. 

Up close and personal, I observed no improvement. Changes reduced  influence of the Clerk and authority of the Director of Leisure Services .

Numerous responsibilities were transferred to Chief Financial Officer, Director of Environment and Infrastructure and  Chief Building Oficial. None were long-term employees at the time nor did they possess required credentials for the new responsibilities.

The CAO came from York Region where he was manager of data base in the  office of the CAO

Impact of the changes was ongoing. 

An order prohibited staff  from speaking to Councillors. All queries were to be directed to the director to determine within days if and how  and when they would be answered.

The most dramatic shift  was untrammeled power to the Office of Mayor. Except for the in- group, Council was not in the picture.

Lawyers hired,staff  fired, Conduct Code approved, Integrity  Commissioner hired and fired almost , but not quite, before his first decision.

He found a complaint against a Councillor, written by  a lawyer, paid for by the town, on  behalf of Councilor Al Wilson, signed by Mayor and four Councillors and published in every venue possible was made for purely political purpose. It was dismissed. 

Best efforts were made to bury the decision.The Municipal Clerk decided to take early retirement the day she handed it over to the person complained about. Nine months previously the clerk had left a secure position and signed a  five year contract with the Town of Aurora.

A P.R. firm was retained  and paid from town resources  via legal invoice to avoid publicity, to mitigate bad  publicity  caused  by the Integrity Commisioner's decision.

There were other skirmishes. Too  many to list.

 A probationary employee was pressured to file a complaint of harassment against a  Councillor old enough to be his grandmother with whom he had no personal contact. The Chief Financial Officer hired over a coffee in a donut shop, in his duplicate role as Human Resouraces manager, processed the complaint at town expense.

Police were brought on site  to measure threat. Windows  in the Mayor's office were obscured for protection. The windows are on the second floor with nothing overlooking. 

Litigation was launched  and processed by the corporation against three residents of the town for anonymous criticism of the Mayor published on a blog. The complaint was dismissed  as designed to silence participation. 

Eventually there was an election.  Hard fought. The Mayor and others were replaced. 

Unfortunately,the circumstances that allowed unbridled power in the Mayor's office did not change The new-in -every -sense-of the word Mayor was content with the situation. He knew no different. 

Hirings, firings, shifting responsibilities and the passing parade of lawyers and consultants continued unabated. 

Fantastic schemes were floated and exploded at horrendous  expense in time and  resources. 

After eight remarkable years the CAO has departed . 

In his own words ,the  new interim will spend the next several weeks working with Council developing a candidate profile for the ideal CAO. Mr. Morley outlines all qualities required in the news story.

Also planned, work on what a structure would look like "if, in fact, there are changes to be made"

Mr. Moyle has stated the town has no problems, is in a favourable financial position with "good quality staff" and an involved community. What changes can he contemplate in the circumstance?

After reviewing the story, an obvious question arises; what is the purpose of an "interim " CAO? 

Interims have been appointed before. The Chief FInancial Officer's interim appointment morphed to permanent in contravention of the Municipal Act which requires recruitment.

A communication manager was  hired by the same means. 

How many others ? We shall never know. A Berlin Wall was erected between Council and administration. Only the select were allowed to peer beyond.

Well ...y'know...when logic fails to present...speculation is rife. It would surprise me not a whit if this 
"Interim" CAO turned out to be permanent and hand-picked. 

Monday, 24 August 2015

RELEVANT TO OUR TIMES

Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "THE LAST FIVE COMMENTS DO NOT BELONG": 

It must give you a bit of a jolt when you decide, and you alone, to edit someone's comment, for whatever reason.

If it is not a personal affront, libellous, since it would involve the written word, then what is the harm in publication?

We are already swamped in "virtual libel" during this brain-dead election campaign. Did you read that the PM spoke directly to the Governor of the Bank of Canada to enquire about the global market free-fall? Do you honestly think that either of them has the foggiest idea? Shares of General Electric were down over 20% at one time today, ending down 2.5%. Do either of these economists have an explanation? 'Tis dubious!  

Posted by Anonymous to  Our Town and Its Business at 24 August 2015 at 22:37

******************************************

I do not edit comments. They are published as written or not. 

The blog is not available to be hijacked for someone else's purpose. Or no purpose at all. 

I did not read about the P.M's conversation with the Governor of the Bank of Canada. 

I did see a feature on the news last night about young Ukrainian men leaving home and applying for refuge in Poland. As soldiers in the Ukrainian army they would be killing their own cousins  in the Russian army. One interviewee stated the Ukrainian army had no weapons. Soldiers are given clubs to fight heavily armed young Russians.  

A few days ago, the PM announced his intention to spend billions to increase the Canadian Army. 
He supports Ukraine against the big bad Russians. I believe he has already sent weapons to Ukraine at taxpayers expense. 

Do I think he has any idea about domestic politics between Russia and Ukraine. I do not. 

Do I believe young Canadians should be sent to kill and be killed where young Ukrainians will not for very good reason. Certainly not. 

No more caskets should pass under the Bridge of Heroes, brought home to families from countries whose government can't muster support for their own defense for reasons we cannot know. 

Fourteen thousand young Canadians suffering from post traumatic stress following experience in the Canadian army in those countries, is fourteen thousand too many. 

I am not talking about financial cost although that is a serious consideration the Harper government is apparently not meeting. Spend billions to send them into harm's way but don't take care of them when they come home damaged.
 
Thank you for your comment. It is current and relevant to our times


Sunday, 23 August 2015

THE LAST FIVE COMMENTS DO NOT BELONG

 All too often I have to press the delete key. It's not my preference  If a person takes the trouble to read and respond it means something.

In this place ,information  is exchanged; ideas, humour, opinions on just about anything, leaning mainly towards the Rain in Spain and town business. 

Correct spelling and punctuation are not de rigueur..

Parliamentary rules of order  do not apply. Motives may be impugned, aspersions cast, intelligence or integrity challenged and any other means are used which might reasonably be expected to provoke a reaction. 

It is not required  to address each other  as "My Horrible Friend " or " Your Humble Holistic" or any other unlikely courtly terminology .

Neither friendship nor any relationship is needed to enjoy a tumble in the tangleweed of intelligent thought or language in conversation.  

Robust argument earthily salted is welcome. Anonymous becomes real. If an item can't be turned over a few times and examined from various angles and a conclusion drawn, it might be necessary to push,nudge or prod with a pointy stick to establish membership in the human species. 

Make music or create a cacaphony, draw beautiful or horrific pictures or just join aconversation. At the end of a day ,something needs to  give to show life and intelligence do co-exist.

Social media has made it possible like never before though  much of the stuff flying through the ether to be snatched out of nowhere is just not worth the space it occupies. 

The last five comments are not being published. 

STOP IT.

Friday, 21 August 2015

FOLLOWING A LINE OF THOUGHT


The Lawn Bowling Club pays an annual fee of $1,000. for use of the facility. For years they maintained the lawns. The numbers dropped,remaining members were less able and the town was asked to take over maintenance. I posited, to be equitable with other user groups, user fees should be payable. 

The Club Hiuse was built by the Lion's Club is owned by the town and shared by Lawn Bowling and Tennis Club.The clubs pay utilities. Not sure if lights at the courts and lawns are on the meters. 

Men's Soccer Club at the south end of town pay $1.00 a year rent. 

They have use of  a prime industrial acreage site worth millions for a dollar a year . When it was given to them Councillor  Earl Stewrat described it as worthless. The Club operates a restaurant and bar  in competition with catering businesses  We have on occasions  seen invitations to,the general public  in contravention of their agreement.  

We read about AYSC hosting seventeen tournaments during the PanAm games. That was probably a lucrative source of revenue for the club.

It was interesting to read the Mayor's ruminations in his column this week about the worth of public/private partnerships. He referred to the  artificial sod on Separate School property. 

The town and school board are both public agencies. 

The town does have a public/private partnership that hasn't worked out too well . The Soccer Bubble 
behind the Legion is  owned and lucratively operated privately. 

The town has paid  Regiional and school board taxes annually to the tune of $50.000 a year for maybe twenty years. A million dollars out of taxpayers pockets for private gain. Not a good model. 

The Director of Recreation says there is a way to correct that. The CFO says no. 

The town has  agreed to allow the Baseball Association free use of  a million dollar facility  in return 
for  undertaking maintenance. They will hire students for maintenance as opposed to the town hiring students to work  under professional supervision. Aurora has the best maintained facilities in the Region. The town will not save money with the new arrangement.  The Baseball association will save $8700 for non-payment of user fees. 

Council agreed to excuse the fees at the same time the Baseball Association amalgamated with King Baseball Association. 

So King gets Magna .....AND they don't have to provide baseball facilities. 

BTW , 90% of the cost of the Baseball field was funded by development charges paid by new homeowners in the neighbourhood. Nothing  at all by King baseball players. 

The  Mayor's thoughts about municipal hardship having to pay so much for infrastructure while  receiving minimal share of revenues from taxes was intriguing. 

I wonder how new infrastructure built by developers  and millions in iDevelopment charges  funneled into the town treasury is discerned as hardship. While a million a year is forked out from taxes  for  a culture surplus, half a million transferred to the federal treasury for a smelly old contaminated structure that took up a corner of our town park for a century and a half and two and a half million was paid for six acres of land for which we have no  known purpose. 

To say nothing of relieving  some of user fees and development charges while others are required to pay with no opportunity to appeal. 

Sport Aurora Magazine is a private commercial advertising operation. Fre space  provided in the town hall and  benefit of a municipal address from which to launch applications for grants to other public agencies as a non-profit agency. 

The town buys a full page of advertising in the magazine. No discount . 

At least three other publications, The Auroran,The Banner and  Snap are in the competitive business
of advertising. 

Summer Concerts in the Park are sponsored by local business also expected to sponsor local teams. 

The Mayor ruminates about advertising as a possible source of additional municipal revenue.

 Not to reduce taxes.  Oh Dear Me No. The Mayor has publicly eschewed that notion. 

The  hidden objective must be to increase largesse to have more to give away.

Thursday, 20 August 2015

HOW MANY TIMES CAN A MAN TURN HIS HEAD PRETENDING HE JUST DOESN'T SEE ?

Today Anna blogs and muses about, among other things, an update on the Stronach proposed wild-life park.

Anna's own update is not complete. The final public reference on the park was a report from the town's Environmental Advisory Committee, recommending further designs be submitted for their approval. No staff guidance there.

GOOD GOD ALMIGHTY  ......    IT WAS A GIFT 

Jesus,Mary and Joseph what have we ever done ? 

Fully developed with an educational facility and other attractions  and a foundation with funds for self-sufficient government. A restaurant and gift shop included in the original plans were removed to meet previous concerns expressed at the council table. 

GREAT BALLS OF FIRE .....IT WAS A GIFT

Jesus,Mary and Joseph...May the Saints Preserve Us.....They had no concept of what they did. 

I was there. I pointed to the incongruity.  It made no never mind. To a man and woman, excluding myself, Council approved the recommendation of the advisory committee.

Next heard, through media, Magna was leaving this burg. Shaking off the dust,so to speak.

"Oh My Goodness " Council  wondered  " What did the Economic Development Department do to prevent that from happening" 

The answer ...Nought they could do. The department is mis-named. It's a languid sham. Even if it had a function, It would effectively and repeatedly be sabotaged  by recommendations from various advisory committees, inert administration and Council inadvertence. 

Aurora is a corporate structure with a fifty-five million dollar operating budget. 

If a municipal image can be acquired....a giant phallus in top hat and tails,Chain of Office and Certificates of Excellence wrapped around it like a gigantic condom to prevent the seed of a sensible idea from escaping...that would have to be it. 

Anna picks up the theme that the town needs no more residential development. If only it was that simple. 

Sixty years ago Premier John Robarts of Ontario did all possible to prevent the GTA from becoming an ungovernable megalopolis like every other major city in the world. 

The Metro Toronto And Regional Transportation Study scrutinized the history of government, it's growth and the tax burden. plan to prevent ungovernable sprawl and maximize return on public investment in infrastructure was presented in the seventies. Growth would be directed along the waterfront from Port Hope/Cobourg to Niagara with ready access to hard services and arching in a horseshoe from  points  east and west north to and from the City of Barrie. 

A green belt parkway of substantial depth would hem in Metro.

York Region's role,inside the horseshoe, was clean fresh air, agriculture and recreation to serve the needs of the populace.

I was in the Queen Elizabeth building in the CNE when it was presented to politicians and media from throughout the GTA . It was received with a sense of relief and certainty. It was so obviously the right way to go.

We all know it has not worked out. 

Like our Culture Centre Board's failure to understand self-sufficiency is the solitary reason for their being, York Region has long forgotten its purpose. While politicians messed about with Character Initiatives and similar  innocuous programs having nothing to do with government, the  juggernaut inexorably advances. 

TALLY HO ....urban density all the way, lickety-split, from Lakes Ontario to SImcoe and devil  take the hindmost. 

Transit routes already built, are blanketed daily with sulphurous pollution, hanging low until it disperses overnight to the outer atmosphere. Three hours minimum added to the work day getting to and from, exhaust the populace. 

Politicians claim the environment is a special concern while every day,maybe every hour, decisions are made that contribute to it's destruction. 

Premier Kathleen Wynn worries about her grandchildren and  pensions while ignoring the obvious in regular daily smog alerts.

The Feds commit to oil extracted from oil sands to feed increasing demand while mouthing pious sentiments about cutting down on pollution .....caused by oil extracted from oil sands.,

So Anna....

        The answer my friend, is blowin' in the wind. 

        The answer is blowin' in the wind.