Madigan’s motion jeopardizes town

Conflict of interestOn January 15, Councillor Bob Madigan made a motion (seconded, of course, by his puppetmaster, Deputy Mayor Saunderson) to limit the progress of the Indigo/Eden-Oak/McNabb development at the south end of town.

Madigan’s motion demanded that,

…council provide no further approvals to the Eden Oak/McNabb development until such time as council as a whole has the opportunity to review the concerns expressed by the neighbouring residents and agree upon any mitigation options.

(Yes, I wondered who wrote it for him, too… whoever did it wasn’t very bright because he or she failed to identify what those mitigation measures should entail, who would oversee them, or if there was any deadline or timeframe for approvals – or what would happen if one councillor went on vacation and couldn’t “review the concerns” for several weeks. Very sloppy and nebulous; an amateur’s wording.)

This motion sets a very nasty precedent for the town: in future, any NIMBY group of neighbours who don’t want a development to go ahead, can stall it indefinitely as long as they can get someone on council to side with them. Or to say they don’t agree with any “mitigation options.” Or isn’t available to review anything.

In this case, there were seven on one side, as you might expect from the groupmind Block. But just one person in opposition or away would mean council “as a whole” isn’t in agreement – that’s what the motion reads – and can hold up a development.

Second, it puts the town in a significant financial and legal liability. If you were the developer and found your work was being held up for weeks or even months while councillors hem and haw over an approval (one they clearly don’t comprehend), all the while you are paying for workers and equipment to sit idle  – think you might want to sue the town for the costs?  Or if you’re one of the buyers and had planned your move-in date, but now found it delayed for an indefinite period, and had to find new accommodations and storage for your belongings while you wait – get enough buyers together and you have a class action suit against the town.

And that means taxpayers will have to shoulder the costs of any OMB or legal challenge by the developer, or its prospective homeowners (councillors have taxpayer-paid insurance against these lawsuits). Yes, I know: The Block don’t care about how they spend your money or what it costs to get their private agendas embedded in town policy. They’ve been spending like drunken sailors on leave in a whorehouse throughout this term, so why stop to think about it, now?
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Bullshit and hypocrisy again

You have to hand it to our Deputy Mayor: for all his many, many faults, he does do two things remarkably well: hypocrisy and bullshit. Neither does he do in halfway measures. No, when he dons their mantle, he wears the emperor’s new clothes with pride, head to toe.

At January 15’s council meeting, Brian took both bullshit and hypocrisy to stratospherically new levels. Astounding levels seldom seen outside today’s White House; truly breathtaking to see it here in our little town. More proof the kakistocracy is alive and well in  Collingwood.

At 2:23:04 Brian made a notice of motion for the town to give the hospital up to $150,000 to help cover their bills. I know: the arrogance of such an offer staggers the mind. After all, it was our very own Blockheads and the town administration who helped make the hospitals costs larger than anticipated. Had they not put up such resistance to the redevelopment, had they not erected so many roadblocks, had their resistance not forced the hospital to hire a consultant planner and lawyers to defend its plan, those bills would not have been so high.

I know, it made me throw up a little into my mouth when I watched the recent council video. Have a bucket beside you when you watch. The hypocrisy is jaw-dropping in its arrogance. Not that anyone will vote against it – but the slime trail this motion leaves is thick and gooey.

The result of the town’s fight against the redevelopment meant the hospital missed the funding window and stalled the creation of new, better health care services in this area by at least three years, if not a decade or more. If we ever get the chance, should a new government get elected. Patient care? Community health and well being? The Block never gave a damn about them.

My sources tell me the town’s refusal to support our hospital’s redevelopment plan cost the hospital more than $100,000 extra in legal and consulting fees. The town also hired a sole-sourced (of course), high-priced lawyer and a sole-sourced (of course), expensive consultant to defend their actions. This, as I understand, cost taxpayers more than $40,000. So far the cost as a direct result of the town’s bullying has cost local residents at least $150,000 – all unnecessarily. And now Brian wants us to double that, simply to pay for the Block’s bad behaviour twice.

Isn’t it great how easy and loose Brian plays with our money?  And he doesn’t even bother to stay within the ongoing budget process. It’s almost like he doesn’t give a damn about how he spends it. After all, these snollygosters have already raised our taxes three times this term and plan to raise it a fourth time. It doesn’t hurt them because every time they do so, they give themselves a pay raise to compensate. So why not try to bribe the hospital to forget their actions?

This is the same guy who only a few months ago demanded the Ministry of Health reveal what it reported to the hospital because he clearly didn’t believe them when the hospital posted the Ministry’s comments on its website. The same guy who publicly pretended there was no problem between the town and the hospital, even though he was the cause of much of the adversarial relationship. Ah, the hypocrisy runs deep in this man. Kind of like the Force in Star Wars, except on the dark side.

And yet neither he nor any of his Blockheads have told us why they opposed the move that all of our neighbouring municipalities, and all of the hospital medical staff and more than 95% of the local medical community have supported. Does it have something to do with the developer who has bought up all the property around the current hospital, and has a vested interest in the hospital staying in place? Or are the Blockheads just too inert to do anything but raise their hands and vote as told?

Here’s a suggestion: take the money from the pay of those who argued and voted and whined about the hospital redevelopment. That would pay for Brian’s largesse from their own pockets, not ours. Let them take responsibility just once this term. Make those who caused the problem pay for the solution. But of course, you well know, The Block always blame someone else: they never take responsibility. So they’ll spend OUR money to try to fix their own mess.

Don’t expect this bribe will make anyone forget Brian and his group’s actions against the hospital. Certainly no one at the hospital, on its board, or in the medical community is fooled; no one among the group of activist doctors who have committed to turfing out Brian and his bunch next election. The Block’s war against our hospital will be a central, critical issue this coming election.
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Who ya gonna call?

This song keeps running through my head:

If there’s something strange in you neighborhood
Who you gonna call? (your councillor)
If there’s something weird
And it don’t look good
Who you gonna call? (your councillor)
With apologies to Ray Parker, composer of the Ghostbusters theme song.

More than three years after I left council, I still get calls from residents, still get stopped in grocery stores or when I’m walking my dog, dragged into conversations with residents unhappy with local politics and how they’ve been treated by this council. Specifically by members of The Block Seven.

I get asked about snowplowing, about why we don’t have more stop signs, about off-leash dog parks, about tree planting, about our utility bills, taxes, sidewalks, the BIA and pretty much everything else. I think I’ve been approached by more residents and town staff to discuss local issues these past three years than I was ever approached when I was actually on council.

I listen politely, remind them I am not on council and cannot do much as a private citizen, then I always ask, “Have you contacted someone on council about it?” And every time I get one or more of the following responses:

  • I tried, but they wouldn’t listen.
  • They won’t answer their phone (or email).
  • They brushed me off.
  • They wouldn’t give me a straight answer.
  • I don’t trust them.
  • They never returned my calls (or emails).
  • I tried but they couldn’t understand my problem.
  • They told me to speak to someone else on council.
  • They told me to call someone on staff.
  • After what they did to our hospital, I don’t want to speak to any of them again.
  • I did but they’re as thick as a brick.
  • They talked down to me.
  • I did and they promised to look into it but never got back to me.
  • I did and they promised to look into it but nothing ever got done.
  • And so on.

Well, it’s not true of everyone at the table, of course. Only The Block. Seems many residents find The Block uncommunicative, impolite and inept. Not a surprise, given their love of secrecy and deception, and dislike of learning and reading. Of course, no one ever claimed we elected the best, just that we elected a clique of self-serving people with private agendas and vendettas. But I’ve said that before. But that’s not where I was going. This post is about how to elect people you can speak with, by improving our election process.

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The report The Block don’t want you to see

Huge reportLate last year, BMA Management Consulting produced a hefty 517-page report called Municipal Study 2017* that examines a wide variety of socio-economic indicators in more than 100 Ontario municipalities: taxes, user fees, population, average home value, water/sewer, economic development programs and more. As Owen Sound notes on its website:

The study identifies both key quantifiable indicators and selective environmental factors that should be considered part of a comprehensive evaluation of a local municipality’s financial condition. Use of the study over a number of years provides trends to allow decision-makers to monitor selected indicators over time. Trend analysis helps to provide interpretive context. In addition, context can be provided by comparing a municipality’s own experience with the experience of other municipalities. In 2016, 105 Ontario municipalities participated in the Study.

Sudbury also notes on its website (with links to studies from 2011-17):

In 2017, 102 municipalities participated in the study which provides comparisons of financial information, select user fees, tax policies and rates, sewer and water services, and taxes as a percentage of income.

Collingwood data is listed among those 100+ participating municipalities (see pages 10 and 25 of the full report). But as far as I can tell, we were not presented with a copy – at least not for public consumption.
Did we even participate? If so, why hasn’t the report been released to the public? Are The Block hiding it from us? (I know what you’re going to say: because The Block encourages the culture of secrecy in town hall, they don’t ever like to release ANYTHING). A search for it on the town’s website turns up as much as you’d find in our Blockheads’ grey matter: no results.

Or was the data merely lifted from an earlier study BMA did of the town? By my count, we have used BMA for at least four such reports (Jan. and Dec. 2014, Nov. 2015, and Nov. 2016). I cannot find any record that these were actually put out to tender, but given The Block’s and the administration’s eagerness to sole-source everything and hand out contracts like party favours, I doubt it.

Maybe the town declined to buy it because some folks in town hall didn’t want it to be made public because it might reflect badly on their policies and practices.

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Collingwood’s culture of secrecy

Soviet politburoFor the past fifteen months, I have been trying to get a copy of the Request For Proposals (RFP) sent out to potential buyers for the purchase of our public utility. For the past fifteen months, the town has fought me, has refused to hand it over, has challenged my appeals to the Information and Privacy Commissioner (IPC). The public is not allowed to see it, even though it affects us and our once-public utility. Even though it is in the public’s interest to know what has been going on.

Why not? After all, the RFP was released in August, 2016, the responses were received that fall, and this council decided to sell our utility to the for-profit corporation, EPCOR, shortly after. All done, of course, behind closed doors with no public input or engagement. So why not release the RFP? It’s not a legal document, it has no bearing on the sale nor the conditions of proposals. The process is completed.

Seeing the RFP now surely has no effect on any of the already-completed negotiations. But the town still says no. The inescapable conclusion is that the town is hiding something. Something devious, unethical, something The Block don’t want revealed to the public.

The public can’t see it simply because of the deeply entrenched culture of secrecy and deception in town hall. This culture is so ingrained in everything this council does that it acts more like a Soviet politburo than a supposedly open, democratic government.

The RFP was crafted by the sole-sourced lawyer hired by the administration (with The Block’s unanimous approval). He sent it out, not the town, and it was not shared with council. This is not merely highly unusual: it was a deliberate act to ensure the secrecy of this document. Not only can the public not learn to whom the RFP was sent, but what it asked for because now the town can hide behind client-solicitor privilege. Very devious.

That’s right: this was set up to deliberately block public scrutiny. But as you already know, the entire process has been done behind closed doors to avoid all public scrutiny and input. As I wrote before, this council held at least 37 (and possibly more) closed-door meetings about the fate of our public utility yet in three years has never ONCE said why they want to sell it, has never ONCE asked for public comment on the sale. An open, transparent government would not behave like that.

Who can forget the promise made by candidate Brian Saunderson – now deputy mayor, in the Connection before the last election:

Ensure all major decisions seek out community input, and ensure there is rigorous staff research and due diligence before any decision is made.

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