Collingwood is being investigated

Rasputin?Collingwood Council and town administration are in trouble. The Ontario Energy Board (OEB) is investigating them and their recent activities with regards to Collus-PowerStream and its board of directors. This is not good news for those at the table or those behind the scenes who guided their hands.

A letter was unexpectedly added to the agenda for the Wednesday, Sept. 21 Strategic Initiatives standing committee from the OEB. It reads in part:

…the Ontario Energy Board (OEB) is commencing an inspection under the Ontario Energy Board Act, 1998 (Act) to review Collus (PowerStream Corp.’s (Collus) compliance with the Affiliate Relationships Code for Electricity Distributors and Transmitters (ARC).
The OEB was recently made aware of changes made in the composition of the Board of Directors of Callus, and through this inspection will review whether Collus is in compliance with section 2.1.2 of the ARC. That section requires that at least one-third of the Board of Directors of a licensed electricity distributor be independent of any affiliate.
We plan to commence this inspection with a meeting at your offices in Collingwood.
During that meeting, you should be prepared to provide information about the current members of the Collus Board of Directors. This includes, for each member, the date of their appointment, the term of their appointment, their relationship to any entity that is an affiliate of Collus and their qualifications, as well as any other details that may be relevant to our inspection.

But that letter wasn’t sent to the town. It was sent to Collus-PowerStream. The meeting will be at the Collus offices, not town hall, with Collus staff, not the interim CAO. So the utility has the opportunity to finally tell its side of the story without interference from town administration or their pet consultants and lawyers. The prevarications and disinformation about Collus presented to council and the public in the past will be exposed.

This is serious. The OEB is heavy artillery in the energy sector. They aren’t those little one-and two-person consultants or chequebook lawyers the administration has hired to fudge the facts and justify The Block’s destruction of our utility. The truth will come out at last.

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Hospital destruction avoided… for now

Sorry he got caughtCongratulations. Your efforts worked. After getting severe backlash from the community and even from their (former) supporters, The Block was chastised enough to recant their stubborn foolishness long enough to approve the hospital redevelopment after their previous debacle caused such an uproar.

That earlier motion blindsided council, the mayor and the hospital board: they had not shared with others before it was read aloud. A blatant show of partisanship and petty personal agendas over the greater good

The Block always plays to its supporters, no matter how drastically that group has shrunk over the past two years. And that little group was in the audience for that first motion to make sure their pet politicians followed the script. Which, of course, Blockheads did.

Still, with the threat of the hospital moving out of town directly because of their actions – or worse, not happening at all! – The Block was pressured by saner heads to back down. They folded like an origami frog and accepted the conciliatory motion at the Sept. 12 council meeting, which read:

BE IT RESOLVED THAT the Council of the Corporation of the Town of Collingwood herein support the Collingwood General and Marine Hospital Board Trustees’ decision to submit its Stage 1A Master Program and Stage 1B Master Plan on September 30, 2016 to the Ministry of Health and Long Term Care, which includes both their preferred site and other viable options;
AND FURTHER THAT Collingwood Council is committed to ensuring a future with excellent healthcare for the region, which also includes the Township of Clearview, Town of The Blue Mountains and the Town of Wasaga Beach.

Nice, safe, supportive motion with a little wiggle room. Let the Ministry of Health and Long Term Care know we support our hospital and we want it to stay in Collingwood. Now, just quietly shove the former motion into the shredder.

But it was a near run thing. With this group of a half-dozen Dennis The Menaces in control, it almost didn’t come to be.

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Blockheads severely chastised over CG&MH motion

Shame on youThe following emails were forwarded to me following my recent post on the debacle council made over the hospital redevelopment. That action has certainly upset many in the community and several people have spoken to me to express their disgust at the motion approved last week.

More to the point, some residents have severely chastised those behind this scurrilous action. And you, dear reader, should know what is being said to and about our council. I take no credit for them: these are the words of others.

The first email was sent to Deputy Mayor Saunderson and Councillor Kathy Jeffrey, by Bud Christensen. It has been widely circulated and copied to many people in the community:

Brian and Kathy, the depth of my disappointment with you is complete. I once considered you friends, capable and honest. Neither of you will receive any support from me in the future. Fortunately I am fairly well respected in Collingwood and will do my utmost to ensure that you are not re-elected.

How could you contest the results of the CGMH Redevelopment Report.

Brian I thought that after our meeting with Guy that you now understood why it is important to wholly support the Hospital’s Selection for the the Poplar Side Road Site.

Kathy you have been on the wrong side of so many decisions for the town. eg. You wanted !st Street to be 3 lanes and thank goodness you did not win the day… the 4 lanes and one turning lane has done wonders for the congestion on 1st Street…and what about the sidewalk restaurants to name another.

If you have not read it already I hope you will right click on the article below….How low you stoop.

The article mentioned is my own post on the”Wasaga Beach General & Marine Hospital.”

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Their secret emails, redacted

More secrecy at councilA Freedom of Information (FOI) request I recently filed shows just how devious and secretive some of our council and administration are. You can read the entire series here. The cover letter is here (it is instructive…).

In late July, Council approved sending out a request for proposals (RFP) to sell our share in our publicly-owned electrical utility (without any public consultation or input, of course). On July 25, the clerk – on behalf of the interim CAO – sent an email to council members asking for input (with, of course, no public discussion or input allowed):

Further to the direction provided to Mark Rodger with respect to his exploration of our potential share sale, John Brown would like to invite any member of Council to think about other items you may wish considered in a share bid (besides price). If you have items please send an email to John or set up a meeting to discuss.
Other items could include retaining a local presence, commitment to customer service, treatment of existing employees, etc…

I can find no directive from council made in a public session to get this information: it appears to have been dreamt up solely by the administration. The tail wags the dog.

This, of course, should have been discussed in public so residents could hear what their elected representatives believed was expected from a sale that no one in the public has so far been allowed to comment on or question. But that’s not the style of The Most Secretive Council Ever. Instead, they determine policy about a public asset in secret through emails rather than open, honest discussion at the table.

Illegal, immoral and unethical. But not surprising from The Block. As I expected, some of the emails were redacted to the point of being useless (thus cleverly avoiding public scrutiny and criticism):

Access Decision: Records No. 1-5 and No. 10-13 will be released to you in full. Records No. 6-9 will be released to you in part as per the exemptions listed on the Index form provided. These records remain confidential at this time and under the review of the Town’s solicitor. In addition, should this preliminary information be released it could potentially affect the economic interests of the Town as it relates to the potential share sale of our hydro utility.

The “economic interests” of the town? The RFP has already gone out. revealing the comments would not affect the wording since it’s already gone out, and anyway, the OEB will make the final decision about any deal.

Consider what damage The Block has already done to our town’s economic interests: trying to subvert the hospital redevelopment, holding up the airport industrial park, spending hundreds of thousands of tax dollars on outsiders for reports and legal advice solely to pursue vendettas and private agendas, ruining our relationships with municipal neighbours, with local developers, destroying the morale of our water and electrical utilities, jobs lost… everything they have touched this term has been a toxic disaster. They have turned our town into Chernobylwood…

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Can the mayor fire the interim CAO?

FiredDoes the mayor have the authority to fire someone by herself? The interim CAO, for example? It’s a question I’ve been asked a lot of late by residents.

I think so, but it’s not clear to me in the Municipal Act. She is, after all, legally both the head of council and the chief executive officer, and while related, these two roles can be interpreted differently.

The mayor doesn’t have any more political power than any other member of council (e.g. she gets one vote). But we are the Corporation of the Town of Collingwood and as such shouldn’t our officers – our legal CEO – have the ability to act like their private sector counterparts? Shouldn’t she have more management power and authority, like a CEO?

CEOs in the private sector have such abilities, so why not in the public sector? It seems reasonable to assume that the legislation grants her powers usually ascribed to that corporate title, but she’d need a real legal opinion before doing anything arbitrary.

Under the Municipal Act, section 225, the role of the mayor as head of council is as follows:

225. It is the role of the head of council, (emphasis added below)

  1. to act as chief executive officer of the municipality;
  2. to preside over council meetings so that its business can be carried out efficiently and effectively;
  3. to provide leadership to the council;
    (c.1) without limiting clause (c), to provide information and recommendations to the council with respect to the role of council described in clauses 224 (d) and (d.1);
  4. to represent the municipality at official functions; and
  5. to carry out the duties of the head of council under this or any other Act. 2001, c. 25, s. 225; 2006, c. 32, Sched. A, s. 100.

Then under section 226, it adds:

Head of council as chief executive officer
226.1 As chief executive officer of a municipality, the head of council shall,

  1. uphold and promote the purposes of the municipality;
  2. promote public involvement in the municipality’s activities;
  3. act as the representative of the municipality both within and outside the municipality, and promote the municipality locally, nationally and internationally; and
  4. participate in and foster activities that enhance the economic, social and environmental well-being of the municipality and its residents. 2006, c. 32, Sched. A, s. 101.Head of council as chief executive officer.

But a CEO is much more than that in pretty much every other place the title is used. And while fine-sounding, words like uphold, promote, foster and so on are not defined. Isn’t firing someone you believe may be harming the economic, or social well-being of the municipality an activity that upholds and fosters the purposes of the municipality?
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The Wasaga Beach G&M Hospital

How the committee must have felt
You’d think supporting your local hospital’s redevelopment was a no-brainer for municipal politicians. And since ‘no-brainer’ has been the exemplary style of Collingwood Council this term, they should go hand-in-glove. But apparently for The Block, ‘no-brainer’ means merely thoughtless focus on personal agendas, not the community’s well-being or future. That’s not news, of course; just signs that another disaster is brewing.

The Wasaga Beach General and Marine Hospital. Like that name? Get used to it. That is likely what this council’s actions are going to result in. And Wasaga Beach council is as firmly behind making it happen as our own appears to be.

Hospitals are really outside municipal jurisdiction, and local politicians have little to no say in them aside from the generic issues of zoning, parking and planning. A redeveloped hospital that stays in our municipality is good news, given that the competition wants to move it outside our borders. And look: it’s been offered free land. Sure looks like a good news story.

To everyone, that is, but The Block.

A story in this week’s Connection, Collingwood council supports hospital redevelopment, raises concerns about proposed site, tells us that council chose a mean-spirited, delaying approach to erect road blocks, instead of wholehearted support.*

Oddly, the online headline (above) contradicts the print version, which reads (more accurately), “Council challenges preferred hospital site.” Not entirely accurately, since it really should read “The Block challenges preferred site.”

In fact, it’s been suggested to me that some of The Block are actually actively working behind the scenes against the move. They, along with members of the town’s administration, want to keep the hospital tied to its current location and will do everything in their power to keep it there. I suppose they’d prefer to see it move out of town before it moves within the town.

And, of course, they’re doing most of it in secret, away from public scrutiny. On August 8, council discussed the hospital redevelopment in camera. Unless I misread the Municipal Act, that’s illegal. It certainly is immoral and unethical to determine policy about a public institution (and one we don’t own) behind closed doors so the public can’t hear what their elected representatives say. But ethical considerations have never disturbed the machinations of The Block.

Ah, did you really expect openness and transparency from The Most Secretive Council Ever? Me either.

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Another Collus conspiracy debunked

Bad newsAs a former reporter and editor, I always feel a twinge of satisfaction when I read a well-written story in the local papers that gets all of its facts right. When everything is stated correctly, the English is good, the facts well reported, the reporting unbiased and everything clearly posited. It just makes me beam.

Sadly, I haven’t felt that joy for a few years now. I too often feel our local reporters are on cruise control, and don’t work very hard at getting their stories right. They are too quick to swallow the propaganda issuing from town hall or from their ideological buddies at the table. And fact checking? Local investigative journalism seems to have gone the way of the VHS and 8-track.

This week’s bog-paper story appears in the Enterprise-Bulletin, titled, Power deal remains up in the air.

Collingwood CAO John Brown reported to council this week that despite best efforts of the town’s lawyer, PowerStream has still not responded to the town’s request for satisfaction on the working of the shared services agreement.

As you, dear reader, know, this is codswallop. My sources tell me that every request for information – and there have been many, often the same one sent over and over and over and over – has been fulfilled: reams and reams of papers have been supplied to town hall.

Except, of course, for personal, confidential and legally-protected data on employees’ salaries. Which the administration continues to demand for no logical reason. It certainly has nothing to do with the shared services agreement. Saying so has always been a thin ruse to justify the intrusion into confidentiality.

In fact, the previously appointed members of the Collus-Powerstream board – an experienced, respected group of professionals – were summarily fired and replaced by pet staffers with no experience or knowledge in the electricity sector (in violation of the town’s own procedural bylaw…). They were chosen solely to get that information for the Block who want to share it with their buddies and bloggers like school children sharing salacious gossip.

Then the staffers who replaced the board snottily refused to sign a standard non-disclosure agreement promising not to share confidential information with non-board members.

Like I said, readers know this has all been merely a part of the Block’s ongoing vendettas, fuelled by personal agendas and conducted in secret while the group labours to sell YOUR utility without any public discussion, let alone input from you, the taxpayer. But let’s return to the article.
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Deputy mayor & interim CAO missing in action?

MissingThe headline in the Connection story reads, “Collingwood meets with provincial ministers about waterfront plan.” Well, that’s incorrect: it wasn’t “Collingwood” – it was Mayor Cooper and two staff members at the Association of Municipalities of Ontario conference this month.

Notably absent from the reporting of these important meetings were the deputy mayor, Brian Saunderson; our interim CAO, John Brown; and senior administrative staff.

Why? Saunderson was at the AMO conference. Was he not invited? Or did he simply disdain to attend? I don’t know.

I doubt the interim CAO attended AMO. I suspect he was too busy hectoring Collus PowerStream staff from his corner office to attend anything as trivial as a major provincial municipal conference where ministers could be met, issues discussed and causes advocated. Not to mention the learning and networking opportunities. Permanent CAOs have attended in the past. Another reason we deserve a permanent CAO.

I don’t know why the other admin staff didn’t attend. I would have thought it beneficial for them to help present a united front on our waterfront plans, discussing funding and support opportunities and the impact on our local economy and budget implications.

The mayor had meetings with the Minister of Tourism, Eleanor McMahon, and the Minister of Economic Development and Growth, Brad Duguid. How important can they be to a town that survives on tourism and desperately needs to maintain and grow its economy? Right…

Hats off to the two staffers who did attend: they, at least, know what’s important for the community.

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A brief update on Collus-PowerStream

Just a brief note to give my readers the opportunity to examine two documents related to Collus-PowerStream and our council’s secretive efforts to sabotage our utility. Both are in PDF format, linked below.

First is the presentation given by the Electricity Distribution Association (EDA) to AMO delegates earlier this month. I referred to this in a recent post about the opportunities this council has thrown away in their headlong rush to fulfill their petty little vendettas.

Collus-PowerStream was mentioned during the presentation (page 14) as one of the leading innovators in LDCs in Ontario. Bet you’ve never heard The Block say anything like that at the table.

Never a good word for all the hard work our utility staff have done comes from The Block. They can’t stand hearing good news about our utility they want to destroy and they never, ever pass any positive news along to you – the actual owners of our utility.

We could have been in the forefront of a remarkable exciting new development, been a player in new organization – had The Block not interfered with their petty, personal agendas. But you’ll never hear them admit it.

Second is the EDA’s weekly newsletter for August 16, 2016 which also provides a summary of the presentation. On page 2, you’ll read how our own utility was profiled for its efficiency:

Collus PowerStream’s SmartMAP which has improved outage restoration and operational efficiency.

Once again, we are being recognized by the provincial association, esteemed in the eyes of LDCs and municipalities across the province. But do you think you’ll ever hear The Block mention this at the council table? Of course not! Nor will you read in in the local media, which, sadly, does little more than regurgitate The Block’s slimy propaganda.

The weekly newsletter is also interesting because it highlights news, issues, events, policy changes and events in the energy sector. Which, of course, The Block never reads because they don’t receive it. That would require them to actually taken an interest in the energy sector and learn something. Both of which are anathema to all Blockheads. Besides, they already know everything. Actually learning something would just confuse them.

The newsletter would normally go to LDC board members, but given who The Block placed on the utility board – their administrative pitbulls – they are unlikely to pass it along to the public, either. It’s kept secret, like everything else done around, with and to our utility. But here, at least this one time, you have a chance to read what The Block doesn’t want you to know.

You’re welcome.

Collingwood deserves better. You deserve better.

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No consultation with customers or neighbours

Collus distribution areaDid you know Collus-PowerStream serves thousands of customers in Stayner, Thornbury and Creemore? More than 4,000 residences, businesses, restaurants, stores, churches, municipal facilities and farms are on the Collus-PowerStream distribution network, along with almost 12,200 in Collingwood.

Do you know how many times Collingwood has consulted with the councils of Town of the Blue Mountains and Clearview over its plan to sell our utility to Hydro One that will crucially and negatively affect those customers in their communities?

Right: none.

The same number of consultations they have had with local customers. It’s all been done furtively: behind closed doors with high-priced, unctuous, lawyers and oleaginous administration staff. A disgraceful breach of public trust.

The Most Secretive Council Ever plans to sell the service on which these customers depend to a utility that will quickly raise their rates roughly 10%. Perhaps even higher.

This will impact the living conditions and quality of life, the economic livelihood and the viability of local businesses and farms in these areas. It will greatly affect the municipalities themselves. How will it affect the already-growing problem some people have making their existing electricity payments?

Right: The Block don’t care. 

Sure, it will make it harder for everyone, especially seniors and those on low or fixed income. All part of The Block’s war on them.

My sources say they haven’t even officially informed our neighbours of anything yet, let alone included them into their secret negotiations. That shows the arrogant level of disrespect this council has for our municipal neighbours and regional partners. They’re just going to let it be a surprise when the bill-shock comes in.

Collingwood deserves better. So do our neighbours.

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It’s not the town doing this: merely staff

Yellow journalism“Collingwood laywer (sic) says town won’t sign confidentiality agreement regarding Collus employee information” says the headline in a story in last week’s Collingwood Connection. Yes, it really does say “laywer….” (ah, proofreading…)

Well, that’s wrong: it’s not “the town” that won’t sign, but rather merely three members of the administrative staff. The Block recently replaced the town’s experienced, democratically-appointed members with staffers in order to push through The Block’s destruction of the relationship with PowerStream. But it’s not “the town” behind it at all.

They would sign it if instructed to by council. But council is controlled by The Block. So that will never happen: it goes against the ideology.

The Block wants this information so badly it hurts them to even think about being thwarted from it. They figure there’s some secret buried there, some imagined evil lurking in the salaries of staff. Rubbish, of course. Their wacky,but viral conspiracy notions have ruined the town, but they continue with the demolition amidst the rubble.

That confidentiality agreement is meant to protect the right to privacy and confidentiality that our utility service employees have. The Block and its pet administration know that, but they want to distribute personal information among themselves and friends. It’s despicable and unethical. Just like The Block’s other actions.

Ask yourself: why does “the town” need this information? It isn’t relevant to anything, certainly not the shared services agreement (what should have been a 30-minute negotiation has taken more than two years and is still in limbo). The information is not relevant to any operational issue or efficiency issue. It doesn’t affect the share value or the town in any way. In the 25 years or so since the corporation was first set up, it’s never been needed for anything.

The utility’s auditors and accountants, the Ontario Energy Board, the former CFO (now on council), the corporation’s lawyers, the municipal partners, and former boards haven’t found anything wrong or improper in the operation that would require making public this information. Why does The Block want it, then?

It’s just part of The Block’s vindictive personal agendas and vendettas against the utility staff. Always has been. You already know that.

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Opportunities Collingwood has lost

I spent two days in the trade show at the AMO conference this week, looking at the booth across the aisle from me. It constantly reminded me of the opportunities for Collingwood this council has thrown away, of what great opportunities we have lost this term.

The booth across from me was announcing the upcoming merger of four of the province’s top utility companies – Horizon, Enersource, Hydro One Brampton and PowerStream. This will make it the largest LDC (local distribution corporation) in Ontario. The four most innovative, customer-oriented, conservation-minded, efficient and forward-thinking utilities are merging.

You remember PowerStream? They are our municipal partners in Collus. So why haven’t you heard about this venture? Because The Block doesn’t want you to know about it.

This will be the start of a powerhouse operation that changes the face of the utility sector in Ontario. It will streamline operations and combine resources – all for the betterment of their customers.

Collingwood could have been part of this exciting new development. Should have been part of it – had our council and administration not aggressively destroyed the once-great relationship between the town and our utility partner, PowerStream. Had our council and administration not aggressively destroyed the relationship between our utility, and its excellent, hard-working staff, and the town. Had our council and administration not aggressively destroyed our town’s reputation and standing in the province.

But, of course, they did, as you, dear reader, know from reading the tragic news here. Deliberately, they pursued personal agendas and private vendettas. And we watch slip away the opportunity to be part of something new, dynamic and exciting. The opportunity to be in the forefront vanishes while we shuffle to the rear.

No one wants Collingwood at the table these days. That was driven home to me during the conference through several conversations with people in the energy sector and other municipalities. No one could understand why our council wants to alienate one of the most progressive LDCs in the province and align with the least efficient, least respected power company – the one with the highest electricity rates and lowest customer satisfaction.

No one could understand why our council insisted on shooting itself in the foot. Again, and again, and again.

To outsiders it seems like madness. Only to the small, myopic circle of Blockheads at the table does it make sense to destroy what everyone else in the energy sector heralded as a brilliantly conceived, mutually beneficial, morale-boosting partnership.

Once lost, we can never recover it. Lost opportunities will be this council’s lasting legacy.
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Why is this man still working for Collingwood?

You're firedI am appalled and disgusted, and you should be, too. In what seems only minutes after council and staff received a remedial presentation on roles and responsibilities that emphasized the MAYOR speaks for the town, no one else, the interim CAO was at it again. Speaking out about town issues and events when it is the mayor’s role and responsibility to do so. Not his.

This breach of etiquette should not be tolerated. It shows no respect for the mayor, or her office, let alone the actual events. Such insubordination undermines her authority.

In a story in this weekend’s Collingwood Connection, interim CAO John Brown is quoted as saying:

“The 50 per cent share sale has caused this council to spend money which resulted from the activities of the last council. There is always legal fees (as a) result of us doing our due diligence. I think this council is doing a better job than these figures show.”

This is outrageous and misleading.

During the discussion, Brown said the current council has incurred significant legal fees as a result of the sale of 50 per cent of the town’s stake in Collus.

These weasel words falsely attempt to put the blame for THIS council’s egregious and excessive consulting and legal fees on the former council when it is clearly THIS council’s responsibility.

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What did the former council ever do for us?

What have the Romans ever done for us?
TIM: What exactly are the demands?

BRIAN: We’re giving Powerstream two days to dismantle the entire apparatus of the Collus utility, and if they don’t agree immediately, we execute the shotgun clause.

TIM: You mean, cut their nose off?

DEB: Cut all our noses off. To spite our collective faces. Show them we’re not to be trifled with.

BRIAN: Also, we’re demanding a ten foot mahogany statue of the former mayor with his conflicts hangin’ out.

KATHY: What? They’ll never agree to that, Brian.

BRIAN: That’s just a bar– a bargaining counter. And of course, we point out that they bear full responsibility when we sell our utility and the rates go sky high, and that we shall not submit to blackmail!

BLOCK: No blackmail!

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Time for council to learn the rules? Nah…

vengeance takes timeBeing a councillor is hard work. You have to scurry around in dark corners looking for places in which to hold secret meetings, you have to plan the destruction of town facilities and services, you have to spend whole minutes calculating how much to raise taxes, you have to wrack your brain for hours trying to determine the best way to discourage business, offend developers (except those who are your in-laws), you have to spend countless hours listening to staff drone on and on and on about boring stuff like planning and finances before you can get back to figuring out how much money to pump into an expense account so the Senator can party around the country without having to fly economy or eat in 4-star restaurants (answer: unlimited expenses!).

You have to plot how to make staff morale crumble even further, how to punish anyone who might have even smiled at someone on the former council, and how to squeeze more from the taxpayer to reward those out-of-town lawyers and consultants you’ve become buddy-buddy with this term.

And then there are all those secret meetings and passing along confidential information and emails to your mouthpieces and sycophants so they can fuel their whisper campaigns.

Whew. It sure is a busy life. Vengeance takes a lot of effort. Let up for even a moment and you fall off your path of malice and mayhem. Being petty and vindictive requires all your attention.

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