More council secrecy, more council scheming

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SchemingOn Monday’s council agenda there are again two in-camera topics that reinforce just how much little respect The Block have for process, ethics, the public, legality, openness and transparency. The Block will – again – secretly discuss privatizing our water and wastewater services to the out-of-province, for-profit corporation, EPCOR, and also secretly discuss appointing new directors to the Collus-PowerStream board.

Both should be discussed and decided in public. Both should have had public input or consultation. But why should The Block change habits now?

The backroom, sole-source EPOCR deal is so shady it could have been a script for The Sopranos. No public input, no public discussion, no RFPs. Make ’em a deal they can’t refuse. It doesn’t get any dirtier than this.

The result has already been decided behind closed doors. The taxpayer is screwed. Again.

As for the board appointments, the town’s own policies, procedures and bylaws require all board and committee appointments to to publicized and open to residents. These appointments were handed out like party favours, instead.

And all applicants MUST signs an application stating they are eligible residents. Unless of course you are one of the nudge-nudge-wink-wink cronies of The Block. Then they just appoint you without the muss and fuss of legal process. And they’ve done it TWICE this term already (after first illegally firing the former utility board). Looks like they’re doing it again.

Of course, you’re not surprised. You’d only be surprised if they did something ethical, something for the good of the community for a change.

The public has never been told why The Block hates our own water utility staff so much it would give up control of our public water services and rates to the private, out-of province, for-profit EPCOR ($309 million profit in 2016 paid for by municipal utility users like you).

EPCOR will likely get a 99-year deal that guarantees the corporation’s profit margins. Yes: GUARANTEES. So if you conserve water as you should, your rates will rise to cover the difference. You’ll be paying the $1-million-plus salaries for their top executives. (CEO wants a new yacht? Just raise Collingwood’s water rates again and one will appear!)

Some of The Block no doubt believe in their clouded minds that EPCOR will be handing out free money. But EPCOR is in it for the cash. Whatever they lend, whatever they use to buy a utility, they claw back from the consumers. Under their control, when the town needs infrastructure, EPCOR will fund it and do the work, then charge the town at a rate MUCH higher than any bank would charge us. The town will then raise your taxes to pay EPCOR back. No one ever claimed The Block were very bright when it comes to money.

And customer service? Just look at this lease – one of those they make customers sign. Friendly? Welcoming? Welcome to the machine…

Under EPCOR, there is no open and transparent operation: their board makes its decisions in Edmonton, not here. Under EPCOR, what happens in Alberta stays in Alberta. And you won’t be able to do a damned thing about it.

In October, 2014, Brian Saunderson promised the residents of Collingwood he would, if elected, “Ensure all major decisions seek out community input, and ensure there is rigorous staff research and due diligence before any decision is made.”

Stop laughing. He really promised that, and you can still read it online. Two-and-a-half years since he was elected deputy mayor and we’re still waiting for that promise to be kept. That and the other empty promises The Block gave us. *

In fact, The Block have broken every promise of openness and transparency they made on the campaign trail and have become The Most Secretive Council Ever. Everything this term has been done behind closed doors to avoid public scrutiny. EVERYTHING! The Blockheads do everything in their power to hide their actions and discussions from us.

They even fired their own Integrity Commissioner to avoid investigation into their unethical behaviour.

Collingwood deserves better.

~~~~~
* Here’s some of what the Block members promised in the Connection article. Judge for yourself if they were telling you the truth:
Brian Saunderson: Improve communications to ensure the residents of Collingwood are informed of all council initiatives and engage the residents regularly to get community feedback.
Result: The joke’s on us. Community feedback? None. Community engagement? None. Informed of council initiatives? Never: everything is discussed behind closed doors.

Bob Madigan: Openness and transparency are the keystones to this upcoming election. I believe the community as a whole needs to be more involved and have input with key decisions. In doing this, the elected will be accountable for the final decisions they make.
Result: Community shut out of decision-making process – no consultation, input or explanation. No openness or transparency. But “Madigan listens” (cue the laugh track).

Kathy Jeffery: …review/create/implement a two-way communication strategy with the assistance of the communications manager and in consultation with the residents to provide the most effective and consistent manner for two-way circulation/collection of information.
Result: Nothing done.  Residents? Let them eat cake… But she was voted an unlimited expense account by The Block to wine and dine across Canada. Ah, the sweet smell of entitlement…

Tim Fryer: …ensure proper process is followed including providing to the public, at the appropriate time, all pertinent information pertaining to any decision by council. Guidelines have been put in place to establish how decision-making should be completed… council does sometimes require in-camera sessions because the municipality has to operate like the $70-million corporation that it is and protect its interests on behalf of its citizens. Once those interests have been fully protected though, then Council should provide the protected information to the public. That is how Council can show it is accountable and prove to the public it has made the best decision possible.
Result: Unethical and illegal processes followed, no guidelines, no in camera information provided, unaccountable and secret council. No information ever provided.

Mike Edwards: Openness and transparency are responsibilities all members of council must practice if they are to be effective and creditable leaders of our community.
Result: The Most Secretive Council ever. Credibility? Loud guffaws.

Cam Ecclestone: …At council meetings in the future council should make a point of telling the viewers at home and those attending the meeting exactly and specifically why they are going in-camera…
Result: Nothing done to inform public. Is he even awake during meetings?

Deb Doherty: We urgently need to restore trust in our elected officials and renew citizen engagement in the current and future affairs of the town… I intend to strongly promote effective citizen participation within the new model of governance that we will be adopting. The number of in-camera meetings must be kept to the minimum necessary to legally conduct council business. The role of the integrity commissioner must be acknowledged as critical in upholding the integrity, transparency and fairness of council and staff. Long-range plans must have measurable long-range goals… I am promoting a new forum called Evenings with Council, which will be regular informal gatherings and information exchange between council and residents.
Result: The Most Distrusted Council Ever. No citizen engagement, participation and no evenings with council. Integrity commissioner fired to avoid more investigations into Block behaviour. No long-range plans and no measurables in place.

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One Reply to “More council secrecy, more council scheming”

  1. One of the other things The Block will decide in camera tonight without ever having opened the issue for public input is the sale of the town’s share in Collus-PowerStream to EPCOR. The RFP was kept secret, the bids were kept secret, the bidders kept secret. The general belief around town is that the whole deal was cooked up and approved in back rooms a long time before the RFP was ever sent out.

    The Block have never explained why they hate Collus, why they hate PowerStream, why they hate its employees, why they want to sell. Why they hate so many things and so many people/

    The Block have never explained why they think a deal that was praised across the industry as a model for partnerships is a bad deal, why The Block despised the contract that gave the town equal say in the utility management, services and rates, why The Block chose a secretive process shepherded by a hired gun lawyer instead of the full, open and public process overseen by internationally renowned KPMG and a strategic committee of staff, board and politicians we had last term.

    The Block have never explained why they think it would be better to sell the whole utility to an out-of-province, for-profit private corporation and lose control over it forever, with no accountability or transparency in its operation ever again.

    The Block have never told us ANYTHING about their machinations,schemes and conniving that they have done for two-and-a-half years behind closed doors to decide the fate or OUR utility.

    Collingwood deserves better.