Council’s First Year Reviewed

This post has already been read 1054 times!

DilbertAs we come close to the end of 2015, it’s time to take stock of what your Collingwood Council has accomplished in its first year in office.

Let me start by saying it’s up to you to decide whether we have the best people at the table to represent our needs. Or  are they gormless, brainless, pursing a political agenda set for them by unelected outsiders, and/or blindly following the lead of administration staff? It is up to you to decide whether they have lived up to their election promises or led this town astray.

First, here’s the complete list of everything council has done for you: for your benefit, for the greater good, for the good of the whole community, for the welfare and wellbeing of you, the resident and voter. Scroll down to see the full list:

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

(keep scrolling)

.

 

.

(a bit further to go…)

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

(just a little more…)
.

.
.

.
.

.
.

.
.

.

(almost there)

.
.

.
.

.
.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

(here it comes….)

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

Dilbert cartoonNothing! 

Ta da! You expected that, didn’t you? You already knew what I was going to write, no doubt, because you’ve watched this council (although you’d never get that from biased local media…)

Well, it’s just the first year. Maybe they haven’t got around to actually doing anything for residents yet because they’re still wet behind their collective ears, and still trying to figure out how an agenda works. Or perhaps it’s because they still haven’t finished doing things for themselves yet.

Council should consider the words Shakespeare gives to Mark Antony in his play, Julius Caesar:

The evil that men do lives after them;
The good is oft interred with their bones;

No matter what good council might attempt in future, what lofty goals it aspires to in the coming years, or even whether it actually does anything for the greater good,  Collingwoodites will always remember  council for this year. First impressions and all that.

Collingwood Council
Collingwood Council, 2015

Maybe they will excuse their inaction by claiming they had to wait for another outside consultant’s report to tell them what to think. After all, they’ve had more consultants’ reports this year than most councils have through their entire term. PLUS they’ve hired more lawyers this year than most councils ever use in a whole term. Ka-ching! Our hard-earned money going to outsiders to tell us what to do. Who really expected leadership this term, anyway?

So far, all the many consultants’ reports and even more numerous in-camera meetings have done is help destroy decades-old relationships, make partnerships toxic, mislead the public, destroy staff morale, and fill councillors’ heads with false information. But they have bolstered the administration’s position. And what else are our tax dollars meant for, if not to pursue personal agendas?

Maybe council is planning to do something. Or planning to plan to do something. Or proposing to study a possibility of planning to plan. After all, we can’t decide on anything without a plan to plan for the plan… and they need a pre-meeting to prepare to plan for the consultant to tell them what to plan for… It’s like a Dilbert cartoon come to life.

Dilbert

Planning to do something isn’t the same as actually doing it. At least they have their committee-based wishlist crafted by their friends from which to cherry pick what they can safely not accomplish (and then stick the angry blue ant logo on it).

But the year wasn’t entirely without activity. Oh no. Council was quite busy feathering its own nest and fulfilling its ideologies, while gleefully making Collingwood into the regional bully and/or laughingstock. Most of which, of course, the local media ignored or whitewashed (but this isn’t a post about the media’s lack of credibility or competency…).

Here’s what council DID do this term:

  1. Council raised your property taxes in 2015, most of them voting for the tax increase without even looking at the whole budget. None were allowed by admin staff to dare question it;
  2. Council is contemplating raising your taxes EVEN MORE in 2016!
  3. Only one councillor even bothered to read the whole 2015 budget and ask questions about hidden costs before voting on it before being shut down (and then bravely voting against it);
  4. Council ignored the town’s accumulated surplus in 2015 (~$3 million -including the budgetary excess from policing) that should have meant no tax increase this year (and should mean NO tax increase in 2016);
  5. Council raised your water rates to satisfy an administrative staff whim that accomplished nothing more than gouging consumers;
  6. Council gave themselves a raise in their first few months (no doubt to cover the tax hike they gave the rest of us…);
  7. They’re planning to give themselves another raise in 2016;
  8. Council gave staff a raise higher than the cost of living in 2015;
  9. They’re planning to give staff an equally large salary increase for 2016;
  10. Council demanded the PRC hire a supervisor (desk jockey) instead of the recommended lead hand (a worker) to oversee some arena operations;
  11. Council allowed admin staff to promote a plan to allow retail opening on statutory holidays – which will seriously affect local workers – without getting any public input. The town advertised that the BIA and Chamber of Commerce had asked for it, but that was untrueneither organization was aware of the proposal when the town advertised it. Plus council’s committee approved the proposal before any local organization or worker could comment on the proposal;
  12. Council extended the contract of an unpopular, interim CAO when they could have improved staff morale and saved taxpayers $50,000 or more by hiring a new, permanent CAO;
  13. Council increased the expense account of Councillor (aka The Senator) Jeffrey by $40,000 so she could pursue her own personal political ambitions outside the town; wining and dining her luxurious way across Canada with no benefit to the town or our taxpayers – and never once requested any accountability from Jeffrey for her spending;
  14. Councillor Jeffrey stayed at the table, spoke during the discussion about engorging her own expense account, and even voted to raise her own expense limit. Ethically and morally she should have stepped away from any discussion that involved her own expenses;
  15. Council would not back the request for funding support by the popular Jazz & Blues Festival as the town had done in previous years (it was, fortunately, saved by private sector individuals who stepped at the last moment);
  16. Council sole-sourced a taxi contract without any tender or RFP, to the company owned by the sister and brother-in-law of Councillor Fryer (who voted for the proposal; he didn’t declare a conflict or step away from the table);
  17. Council sold a piece of town property to the company owned by the sister and brother-in-law of Councillor Fryer (who voted for the proposal; he didn’t declare a conflict or step away from the table);
  18. All but one councillor let staff ignore council’s own direction to provide a budget forecast for 2015 with 1% and 2% increases, and instead passed the budget at a much higher rate without having that vital information;
  19. Council accepted a flawed and controversial consultant’s report on the shared service agreement with Collus that created negative publicity and hurt utility staff morale, but would not make public the 100-plus pages of corrections and challenges the participants made to the report;
  20. Council dissolved the shared-service agreement with Collus and left it up to the CAO to rewrite a new one – which still hasn’t been done almost a year later, despite mounting legal and consulting costs;
  21. This move helped destroy the 150-year-old productive and friendly relationship between the PUC and COLLUS, it grew sour and then toxic;
  22. The provincially-respected and highly competent COO of the water utility couldn’t take the bullshit here and left for another municipality. Other senior utility staff have resigned, and staff moral is at an all-time low;
  23. Council replaced the experienced, competent and long-serving utility board with a selection of their own inexperienced, newcomer councillors, who have no knowledge or understanding of the water service, the legislation, the technology, their responsibilities or the liabilities. Collingwood’s long-held 100% performance rating for its water system was dropped to 96% by the Ministry of the Environment in 2015;
  24. Council removed the experienced and provincially-respected CEO of COLLUS from the PUC board and replaced him with the town’s CAO, who has less (if any) experience and technical expertise in water issues than the CEO;
  25. Council abandoned the downtown by refusing to appoint a council representative to the BIA board, and thus prevent downtown issues from getting public visibility at the council table and has ignored requests for a council rep ever since;
  26. Council vocally supported a resident’s anti-bullying campaign but did not speak up about cyberbullying because many of them continue to be supported by the town’s most vocal cyberbullies;
  27. Councillors have had at least four complaints about their conduct to the Integrity Commissioner followed by investigations (that I know of), two of which were made public (Doherty and Fryer);
  28. Council has had at least one OPP investigation already (that I know of);
  29. Council has had at least one investigation about leaked personal information by the province’s Information and Privacy Commission (that I know of);
  30. Council voted to accept a 2014 report from the Integrity Commissioner criticizing former DM Lloyd, even though that report had been rejected by the previous council because the IC did not follow the town’s bylaw rules for reporting. The complaint was made by a campaign supporter of now-Deputy Mayor Saunderson. The complainant held a neighbourhood meet-and-greet to introduce Saunderson to his neighbourhood the day before he filed the complaint. Saunderson voted to accept the IC’s report but never acknowledged the complainant was actively helping and contributed financially to his election campaign;
  31. The majority of council voted to accept a report from the Integrity Commissioner that criticized Councillor Doherty while saying she did no legal wrong. This is the same conclusion the IC made when reporting on a complaint against former Deputy Mayor Lloyd. The majority threw Coun. Doherty under the political bus in order to justify accepting the above report;
  32. Council got so fed up with having their behaviour and ethics being investigated that they fired their own Integrity Commissioner to avoid further scrutiny this term. No longer will their wrongdoings be investigated and exposed to the public;
  33. The strategic plan we were promised by the deputy mayor within the first 90 days never arrived: instead, nine months later we got a wishy-washy list of things a committee of council’s friends wanted, many of which are outside council’s jurisdiction. This so-called woo-hoo “plan” came with no measurable actions, budget or accountability, but cost taxpayers at least $50,000 for outside consulting fees;
  34. Council ignored an opportunity for the town to host a Junior B hockey team that would have been funded entirely by the private sector without subsidies, and instead opted for a Junior C league (allegedly being promoted by campaign supporters). This league will depend on ice time subsidized by the taxpayer and likely by public funding;
  35. There were behind-the-scenes private discussions about extending the interim CAO’s contract and about his salary;
  36. There were behind-the-scenes private discussions about increasing your water rates;
  37. There were behind-the-scenes private discussions to promote the subsidized junior C hockey league application over the privately-funded junior B league;
  38. Councillors engaged in numerous closed-door meetings about the airport (at least seven in 2015, possibly several more). These were of dubious legality and certainly were ethically inappropriate;
  39. Council is probably planning to sell the airport, even though it has not been declared surplus. Council has not even attempted to get public input on selling one of our largest and most important assets;
  40. Council refused to grant a non-binding letter of intent to a major industrial park developer to allow access to airport property, putting at risk a $300 million project and 1,400 jobs. Council held the discussions entirely in secret, away from public scrutiny;
  41. The refusal to grant the letter of intent flies in the face of three recommendations by the airport service board and similar requests by Clearview Township council and the developer. Regional cooperation has been destroyed and our municipal neighbours have expressed their indignation and disrespect for Collingwood publicly and in the media;
  42. The refusal to grant the letter of intent severely weakens the airport’s argument against proposed wind turbines near the runway;
  43. Council, with the administration’s help, ruined the town’s reputation with our neighbours, our other staff, our partners, businesses and developers over this and other anti-business initiatives. The general view is that the town is closed for business;
  44. Instead of actually doing something useful about the waterfront, and help bring more business downtown, council delayed, hesitated, and made loud noises about planning to plan to prepare to plan to for a possible waterfront plan, but not even accomplishing that much;
  45. Council refused to sell or trade a small piece of undevelopable and unwanted public land (block nine) to a local developer who promised to clean it up, build a parking lot and a public parkette on it. The property has been unused for 150 years except as a hydro corridor; and it supports a breeding pond for mosquitoes (now cheekily referred to as “Saunderson’s Pond”). The town could have received a six-acre plot of shoreline wetland in exchange, or $330,000, but refused to because of ideology and personal agendas;
  46. Council refused to extend the harbour’s sidelaunch dock, which would have brought more visitors to the harbour and more business (and customers) downtown;
  47. Council dropped Collus employees from its staff Christmas dinner  invitations for the last two years; the first time they have been excluded since the dinner has been held, and the only public employees to be thus excluded;
  48. Council allowed administrative staff to hire numerous outside consultants to give council staff’s opinions in a way to make them appear legitimate. Three consultants’ reports were used in the 2016 budget preparation alone;
  49. Councillors who attended the 2015 AMO conference in Niagara Falls all had taxpayers pay their expenses. Yet at least one was seen asleep during meetings; one allegedly rode a bicycle around the city instead of attending workshops and seminars, and one allegedly visited friends in the area without once attending a single event;
  50. Councillors turned their backs on their many (former) supporters in Georgian Meadows who were protesting the density and height of a nearby development proposed by a company owned by the brother-in-law and sister of Councillor Fryer. Council chose the developer’s goals over the residents’ concerns.

And all the while, councillors brayed in public over their integrity, openness, accountability and transparency as they did the above. It’s up to you to decide if they were telling the truth.

I’ve heard people sum up council’s first year this term in one word: destructive. Perhaps toxic would be a better choice. Either way, there is a growing number who believe this is easily the worst council ever elected since this town was formed. Are you among them?

This Dilbert cartoon says it all in so many ways:
Dilbert on leadership

Post Stats
  • 2535 words
  • 16292 characters
  • Reading time: 826 s
  • Speaking time: 1267s

One Reply to “Council’s First Year Reviewed”