Chris Potts Nails It

Nailed it! In his latest blog post, former Town of Collingwood employee, Chris Potts writes about our council’s ill-conceived plan to hire a “climate change specialist” to add to the already egregiously expensive and bloated town payroll that taxpayers are burdened with:

The Town of Collingwood seems to just hire and hire and hire, the next time we see this the position will be a coordinator, or director and listed on the sunshine list.

Lets get to the real point here, Collingwood is in a water crisis, a building crisis, a park crisis, a leader ship crisis, did you know that your local CUPE1217 ( Public Works) have been without a contract since May 1 2020, that’s 13 months. ( Director is to busy to meet).

All the Town wants to focus on is Traffic Calming, and Climate control, they are forgetting about the people of Collingwood and what we need everyday to survive.

Simply hiring someone is not a solution if you don’t understand the problem. A creative, inventive, resourceful council would first explore ideas, host workshops with guest speakers, and invite community participation. That way they could make an informed decision. But, apparently, ours is not that sort of council. Ours is a spend, spend, spend council, and damn the consequences. Besides, informed decision-making requires reading and thinking. Too difficult.

One has to wonder whether our lackadaisical mayor — for whom the job is such a burden he can’t wait to slough it off, but yet continues to take the town’s paycheque — acted like the leader he’s supposed to be and contacted our own Environment Network to see if they could provide services or support for climate change issues.

Before this came to a vote, did anyone on council or staff ask the Environment Network if they could do something to help? Like conduct a survey of the town’s facilities, vehicles, processes to analyze our carbon footprint, and offer recommendations for reduction and mitigation? Did anyone on council or staff explore local resources and services? Did our mayor assume the unaccustomed role of actually doing the job he was elected to do and consult with local agencies and service providers first? Do our elected representatives feel they already know everything and have no need to ask for advice?

Did our mayor or anyone on council ask for public input, to determine priorities, discover local services that might have been overlooked, identify problems, or even ask why we needed to spend public money on this position? Did anyone on council ask if our own department heads had any suggestions or ideas of their own to further improve the town’s climate change profile? Or if we had anyone in-house who might step up? Did anyone ask other municipalities what they’ve done and for suggestions and ideas we could implement without hiring someone new?

Apparently not.*

But, you ask, why would our mayor engage the public or a local agency? Why would he condescend to assume any mayoral responsibilities now? Wouldn’t that set a precedent? After all, the ICBL was passed without consulting any of the affected parties, although it would have been ethical to do so. L’etat c’est moi has been his operational style so far, so why change now? Potts says we have a “leadership crisis” but that would suggest we actually have any sort of leadership at all.

And you have to also wonder: will the recommendations of this new employee be binding on any department or service? Will he or she have any authority to mandate changes or simply suggest? If not endowed with any authority, why are we spending the money? What will it cost to implement any recommendations? What are the new employee’s powers and responsibilities, and how will they affect taxpayers? Will the cost of any changes be offset by any savings? And why wasn’t the public consulted?

The job offers $60-$80,000 a year for three years (plus benefits, resources, office space, expenses), so the real cost over that time will well exceed $250,000 — of YOUR money, of course. And at three years, it means this council won’t even have to answer for the majority of that (municipal election in 2022). As Potts comments, existing staff might take umbrage over this highly paid position:

… its a real kick in the face to our dedicated staff, so who made this decision???

And what about the ongoing failed negotiations with the existing unions? Why isn’t this being resolved BEFORE any new staff are hired? As Potts notes;

…your local CUPE1217 ( Public Works) have been without a contract since May 1 2020, that’s 13 months. ( Director is to busy to meet).

To fully understand the failure of council to appreciate or deal with staffing issues, their failure to understand finances and the impact on taxpayers, you have to look to the former council of which our mayor and his three sycophanti were members (Madigan, Jeffrey, and Doherty). That council cancelled a collaborative agreement to get IT services from Collus PowerStream that cost the town about $140,000-$160,000 a year, and instead hired three new people to work from town hall. Council allocated them office space in town hall, and spent hundreds of thousands on new hardware and software. Now we pay almost four times as much for IT services every year. Good financial savvy, eh? That’s our mayor.

But back to the new hiring: why didn’t any of the newcomers to council ask if taxpayers really needed to shoulder yet another payroll cost? Or defer the hiring until the town had explored less expensive alternatives?** Are they too obsessed with lavishing public money on the Saunderson Vindictive Judicial Inquiry to actually do the job they were elected to do? Or are they simply incapable of such independent or creative thought?

Collingwood deserves better.
~~~~~
* To date, the town has had a dismal track record in dealing with climate issues. Take one in particular: trees.

Planting trees in the town should help mitigate some of climate change’s effects. Simple, fairly inexpensive, low maintenance, and in many other communities an effective solution, right? Yet our town has a history of planting trees and then abandoning them. Low maintenance? How about NO maintenance!

A dozen or more trees planted along Third Street two years ago were left without water during a blisteringly hot summer, and many (at least half if not more) of them died. Those few that survived did so only because nearby homeowners made sure they got some water in the heat of the summer; several others are expected to die this year. Many trees planted on the berm in the dog park at Second and High Streets died from similar neglect. Several trees planted along the north end of Heritage Drive near the terminals also died from neglect.

The town destroyed more than 50 mature trees beside Hurontario Street this term in order to build a sidewalk for a councillor too lazy to walk across the road to use the sidewalk on the far side. And how many trees have been replanted so far to replace those losses to the urban canopy? Right… none. Based on these past failures in mitigating climate change using easy means, you might wonder how effective our new “climate change specialist” will be…

** One of the criticisms made by some witnesses in the Saunderson Vindictive Judicial Inquiry was that the 2010-14 council voted too quickly, without taking time to explore alternatives to the recreational facilities they approved. And yet here is our mayor and his sycophanti doing exactly the same thing that they castigated others for: not exploring, not taking time, not weighing options. Gee, you’d almost think they were utter hypocrites.

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2 Comments

  1. Another thing: why didn’t anyone on council (like our lackadaisical mayor, whose responsibility it is) contact the Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO) about their climate change initiatives? After all, Collingwood is a paying member of AMO and the association has been working on these for years. Surely all those council members who attended the AMO conferences in the past should have learned about these initiatives (if they actually attended seminars and workshops there):

    https://www.amo.on.ca/advocacy/energy-environment-planning

    Or why didn’t the mayor contact the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) about their initiatives? They have been doing this sort of work for a couple of years too, and some of our councillors have also attended their conventions. Our own Councillor Jeffrey is a member of the board of FCM:

    https://fcm.ca/en/programs/municipalities-climate-innovation-program

    Saunderson, who should be leading not dithering, apparently didn’t consult with anyone or any agency, even those the town belongs to, who might actually have ideas, solutions, or recommendations (that might have cost the taxpayers nothing). He should resign. Now.

  2. https://www.cbc.ca/radio/ideas/why-this-icelandic-writer-says-99-of-climate-talk-is-meaningless-white-noise-1.6060620

    “Magnason’s hopes for avoiding the worst scenarios in the coming century depend on a belief that people now in their 20s will not desire the sorts of energy-consuming practices associated with life in the 1970s in the U.S. “

    An interesting perspective… no, I don’t expect anyone on our reading-averse council to read it, much less understand his point of view. After all, they weren’t elected because they were deep thinkers.

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