"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, 25 April 2017

SECOND THOUGHTS

USS Carl Vinson is the aircraft carrier the American president claimed was heading in an Armada to 
North Korea. He was kidding. The ship was nowhere near Korea. 

Officials as usual, were left to explain the difference between facts and the President running -off at the mouth. 

The Chinese are not amused . The crazy coot in power in North Korea is threatening to sink USS Carl Vinson. it would seem to be a logical response . 

It wouldn't even call for a nuclear option. Plain old-fashioned TNT,in sufficient quantity, would likely do the trick in short order. 

It seems likely for North Koreans not to sit and wait for the Americans to board the ninety-five planes and helicopters on the carrier and scoot over to drop bombs on their heads. 

How often did we hear the clown in the Oval Office talk about the foolishness of letting the
enemy know intent  beforehand? 

As noted, the Chinese are reported to be angry. 

There's a Joker in the White House. A Joker in Pyongyang .No Batman. 

 6,000 young Americans  on the USS Carl Vinson wherever she is at the moment. 

Seems likely they will need to be on board to bring the cruiser off the coast of Korea . 

A nuclear submarine is to join the fleet.

More young Americans on board : fathers ,sons,brothers,maybe mothers,daughters and sisters. 

6,000 souls and then some. 

At home, mothers,fathers,wives,children,siblings....waiting.

Friday, 14 April 2017

AS THINGS CHANGE,THEY REMAIN THE SAME

Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "THERE'S ALWAYS ANOTHER SIDE":

I appreciate and respect the work and service firefighters provide to all of us. They truly are the first responders to an emergency. I've witnessed numerous emergencies where police haven't been around and had to respond and act as both firefighter and cop. Unfortunately their political influence has always been immeasurable to all politians along with the police, teachers and many other government unions. It should be of no surprise how their "collective" agreements are signed. 
Posted by Anonymous to  Our Town and Its Business at 14 April 2017 at 09:37

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Political influence of firefighters has deeper roots and less to do with the union than most realise.

Historically, for most of Ontario,Volunteer  Brigades were the initial and only organisation within 
a community. 

There may even still be small communities  in the Province dependent on Volunteer Firefighters 
for  programs that bring a community together ; from fire protection, organising baseball,support for widows and orphans and anything else that might require a collective effort. 

When I was first elected in Aurora, the Mayor and several Councillors were former Volunteers.
I soon learned that had been the ongoing pattern since the beginning of settlement.Everything grew out of that initial organisation. 

In my time the  Fire Chief was on the town's payroll. He was chosen from the membership by the 
Volunteers. He was in his mid-seventies, showing no signs of retirement. 

Firefighters were paid once a year; $5. a call. 

Council was organized in Standing Committees. Finance ,Works, Parks , Police ,Fire  and Bylaws.

Citizens served on boards and Commissions;Planning Board, Recreation Commission . A council member represented the town on these independent bodies. The library board was appointed by Boards of Education .The  Mayor was Council's representative. 

Aurora's  Reeve and Deputy Reeve represented the town at York County  and a town appointee served on the Holland Valley Conservation Authority. 

Standing committees numbered two members and a chair. 

Most Councillors chaired a committee and served as vice chair or member on another. 

All members were entitled to attend and participate in discussion at  committee level. Only
appointed members could vote. 

Members received staff advice at Committee level and recommended to Council.Only Councillors participated in Council debate .  Committee Reports and recommendations were presented by the Chair. The Chair  had to be prepared to respond to questions and support recommendations. 

The town was responsible only for services to property. Councillors soon learned what they needed to know to be accountable for  decisions made. The public were kept informed through the grape vine and two newspapers. Editorials  were published weekly.

Council meetings were not televised. Committee meetings were in camera. 

With ten times the population and elections reduced from once a year, to one in four,
turn-out was pretty much the same now as it was then.

Thursday, 13 April 2017

THERE'S ALWAYS ANOTHER SIDE

Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "THE ROOT OF THE PROBLEM": 

Maybe if they only fight fires 18 minutes a year, we really don't need them. It is worth the potential loss in property and lives I think to save that kind of money.  

If dress uniforms is an issue, why not take a page out of the military. The military provides standard work dress. Dress uniforms are purchased by the individual.  

Posted by Anonymous to  Our Town and Its Business at 13 April 2017 at 12:15

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The  argument is not that emergency services are not  essential. 

Fifty per cent of calls are for medical emergencies. 

Health care is a provincial responsibility. 

Local firefighting departments are obviously the agents capable of providing immeduate assistance. 

Cutting victims out of cars damaged in highway accidents is also the department's responsibility. 

Ongoing training is a priority and being prepared for natural disasters is also necessary. 

There's no argument fire-fighters should not be adequately compensated for their  work. 

No contribution comes from the government level collecting resources from sin taxes to provide 
that service. 

That being said, the service is part of  larger organisation. Work conditions, pay and benefit 
packages are jealously regarded . Teachers, nurses, librarians, and top administrators are 
not  inclined to accept second place status and the race to the top has no finish line 

In Newmarket/Aurora, staff are engaged year round in e does rounds of "bargaining".
in arbitration.  

I think arbitration  is always lop-sided to the advantage of labour. But not to all. 

Arbitrated decision -makers are not accountable. 

Names are barely exchanged. 

In the  first police arbitration  in my experience ,the police received more than they requested.  

For decades ,municipal administrators have quietly,secretly,furtively, behind the scenes, for fear of offending our local  heroes and the public, petitioned successive Provincial governments , to no avail, to fix the "broken"  system of arbitration. 

Even while they themselves benefit exponentially from a process that bears no resemblance to 
bargaining in good faith. "Feeding at the public trough" is a phrase that echoes down the canyon 
over and over into the foreseeable future. 
 
It was no coincidence Dalton McGuinty was featured on the eve of his last campaign surrounded by 
firefighters in full firefighting gear holding up signs "Firefighters for Dalton McGuinty" . 

Police associations  are not permitted to participate in politics. They  don't have to. Firefighters do the job  for both. 

McGuinty had no shame. 

That  fellow O'Leary, candidate for leadership of the federal conservatives, has touched on the topic 
of generous pensions and long life expectancy.

It may be time for history to repeat itself.  

Tuesday, 11 April 2017

THE ROOT OF THE PROBLEM

Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "AN OUTLINE OF FAILURE": 

14:04 - The money has already been spent by the Town and Region. I'm sure they've already ear marked the development money over at the Magna property and they're not moving out for another 5 yrs. 

Posted by Anonymous to  Our Town and Its Business at 10 April 2017 at 20:50

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That's a given. Provincial rules require five year master plans for every service provided .Development  charges arecalculated on the basis of the plans. That was the provincial solution to exercising control of municipal greed 

Just take it from developers. They can pay for it out of their profits. But of course they don't New home buyers pay for it. The. The rest of us pay for the operation of their facilities. There is no incentive to do 
more with less. 

For example, there's  far more down in arenas than time used. We used to rent prime  time to keep costs down for minor  hockey. We were up at 5 in the morning at the week-end with the youngest kids to play hockey. 

Nothing stands in the way of bureaucratic growth now.  It just grows and grows. 

An army of firefighters  are needed to man facilities paid for with DCs. Sleeping quarters, kitchens, recreation and lounge facilities must be provided for when they are not putting out fires. Which is ....almost always. 

Policemen do not sleep  in stations but they have cruisers,computers,uniforms, guns,boats snowmobiles helicopters and RVs and officers trained to operate all the toys. 

When I first participated  in public affairs, Professional Firefigters Association (the union) were in a labour dispute about firehall maintenance. I think it was in Scarborough. The argument was "professional firefighters " should not have to maintain firehalls. Competitions were held  between firehalls  for the nicest flower beds . It was how time was occupied while not fighting fires which was most of the time. 

When I was first elected, North York had recently carried out a study to determine how much time a firefighter actually spent fighting fires. It was 18 minutes in a year. The  question was posed, why were 
dress uniforms needed. They don't fight fires in dress uniforms. 

Now they spend four days living at the firehall and ten not working at all. Except for the private businesses operated in spare time to augment their living. 

I describe reality behind costs because police and firefighter service is the greatest expense, Wages and benefits , settled by arbitration. impact other compensation levels particularly at upper limits .

At lower  levels ,service by contract,people without benefits or security, working side by side are not treated equally. 

Development charges permeate the system of municipal services forever and a day and to the moon and back. 

Monday, 10 April 2017

A SLIP OF THE FINGER

RAnonymous has left a new comment on your post "AN OUTLINE OF FAILURE": 


Residential Development Charges Effective July 2016 - Single/Semi

Town of Aurora $20,977

Region of York 42,627

Education 4,340

$67,944 


Posted by Anonymous to  Our Town and Its Business at 10 April 2017 at 17:05

The  above comment is posted  here because my finger slipped and I wanted these figures public. 

If you read the page 13 Auroran story on development charges from beginning to end,the rational is clear. It doesn't  matter how big the screw-up  of the Joint Facility  project, it  doesn't really count 
because the money came from development charges,  not taxes. 

The Family Leisure Complex addition was also screwed-up. Work is still outstanding,
The contract wasn't finished on time. And it was over budget 

Apparently  no lessons were learned . 

On the other hand ,three previous capital projects were completed on time, within budget and under different supervision. Namely, Stronach Centre, Seniors'Centre and development of town-owned lands on Leslie Street. 

Director of Leisure Services was in charge of the first two. It was before half of his responsibilities were transferred to Director of Environment and Infrastructure,early in the Mormac regime, before Church Street School was spirited out from under heritage and culture centre to culture centre. 

Development of town owned land on Leslie Street came after Mormac became  history. Responsibility for supervision of the project was assigned to the Director of Recreation. 

Lessons  learned were obviously forgotten by the time the last two projects were undertaken. 

The CAO has since departed for greener pastures. The Director of Environment and Infrastructure 
Has since been terminated. 

If none of this makes any sense... It's because it doesn't .

But we do still have the elected body who carry ultimate responsibility. 

Thursday, 6 April 2017

AN OUTLINE OF FAILURE

O" Meanwhile, the costs and funding of Aurora’s Joint Operations Centre is expected to come into focus on April 4 as Mr. Elliott presents a detailed financial summary of costs and work to date. In his new report to Council, he pegs the JOC coming in $103,027 further over budget which will continue to be funded through DCs.


The report also outlines “lessons learned” through the whole contentious process, recommending for the future “standardization of the Town’s internal project management framework, improved internal financing reporting and project management financial skills; that larger projects should have a financial analyst assigned to assist in the monitoring of project expenses; greater clarification of the roles of any steering or monitoring committee; improved clarity of project scope, inclusions and exclusions from the beginning with clarity for Council as well; improved understanding of the evolution of initial concept estimates through to final construction tender budgets; and clear separation of pre-construction costs and budgets (space needs, concept plans, location and site selection, and acquisition costs) from detailed design, construction and commissioning costs and budget.”

 

 Stephanie cut and copied the above from a four column story by Brock Weir. On page 13. of 

March 30 edition ,took up full width and half the length of the page. Mostly information.Except for the last two paragraphs . They are electric. 


The  chief financial officer reports to Council. 


Now that position was filled by the former chief administrative officer. No competition. No interview. No portfolio. Simply an announcement behind closed doors of an interim appointment made without authority or  knowledge of council. 


We later  learned the job was offered with coffee in a donut shop. The permanent  appointment was announced the same as the first.... behind closed doors. 


References to the Municipal Act's requirement of a competition and bylaw appointment were ignored.

Save for my own opposition, the decision was accepted as presented. 


That was ten years ago. Previously ,Aurora's new top financial officer  was employed for a year by a consultant and before that, served eleven years as treasurer, aka chief financial officer, in the town of Richmond Hill. 


Richmond Hill subsequently adopted a commission  system. The new top financial post was not offered to the treasurer. 


The paragraph copied from the Auroran contains  self -acknowledged absence of skills ordinarily and reasonably expected of the municipal financial officer. Remuneration is paid commensurate with required professional  attributes .


Sound judgement is expected with the package. 

Sunday, 12 March 2017

FOLLOW THE MONEY

"Truth is like poetry and most people  f.....ng hate poetry" 

On reflection. I think that's  probably true. 

I haven't stopped contributing to the conversation. I comment on Facebook regularly. It's instant and less work.

Chris Ballard's machinations  were a distraction. A story waits to be told but it's entirely negative ...full of twists and turns ...and involves many more than myself. 

There's no merit in advancing it at this time and it may never. Yet it occupied my thoughts long 
enough to fall out of a routine that had already become erratic. 

I never made a decision to stop writing. 
Yet I did.
 I knew it wasn't permanent.
 But every day restart  was deferred. 

I don't know how many still tune in but you do matter.

I will be back in force ...maybe  to-morrow. 

On page 15 of last week's Auroran, a final  paragraph on a story headlined how 
capital  projects will be paid, deserves particular attention. It's the end of a lengthy and tedious 
report. Quite likely to be overlooked. 

If I had my druthers, it would have been front page with a blaring, trumpeting headline. 

Stephanie may help me with cut and copy .

Then we can examine it together and jointly determine its significance.  

Councillor Mrakas has a quarterly news letter on-line. References are current to the unfinished joint facility and funds are included in this year's budget to complete the project. 

We will connect  the dots and see where it takes us.