Time and conflicts in mayoral politics

No time?Being a mayor today, even in a small town like Collingwood, takes time. A lot of time. Time that working people are hard pressed to find in their busy days. I know from the experience of three terms that even councillors who work cannot attend every meeting, every event, every activity they are invited to.

Mayors have to be on call, doing town business and dealing with residents’ calls during every day, and many, many evenings. Even on weekends they have little to no free time outside their mayoral duties.

They have to attend meetings with staff, with residents, local associations, with developers and businesses, and be at the county and on county committees often several times a week. There are also the extras – meetings with school boards or provincial representatives and politicians, even ministers and their staff. Plus there are the additional boards and committees a committed mayor will join – such as the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative that our current mayor chairs.

And then there are the frequent social demands: visits to seniors’ homes, cutting ribbons at business openings, giving congratulations in person for fiftieth wedding anniversaries and 100th birthdays, the mayor’s levee, Legion events and so on. There are the regular media interviews, radio shows and TV broadcasts, too.

All in all, it adds up to more than a full-time job, even though it’s only paid as a part-time effort. It’s very demanding to be the mayor today. A part-time person cannot effectively fulfill that role nor fully represent the town or the council.

We need someone who can do the job without having to beg off from municipal duties to attend to work or to leave town hall to go skiing during budget meetings (yes, that did happen this term!). We need someone who can’t beg off their mayoral responsibilities because they’re “too busy” elsewhere. Someone who doesn’t have to choose between personal work (or play) and representing and attending to the community. Someone who can be called up at all hours and every day to perform those tasks.

We need someone who has the time to live up to the requirement in the Code of Conduct to educate himself by attending workshops and seminars. We need someone who can take off afternoons or sometimes several days to attend conferences like AMO (where municipal representative get to speak with ministers and their staff) without being pressured by employers not to attend, or to cut it short to get back to work.

One of the reasons retirees and seniors tend to get involved in municipal politics is because they have the time to dedicate to an increasingly-demanding job. But it’s also because we want to put a lifetime’s experience to use. We want to apply what we’ve learned in both careers and personal life. And we have the time to do so.

Even deputy mayors have demands on their time that are above and beyond any daily working role. When mayors cannot attend events or meetings, it is usually the deputy-mayor who gets called on to fill in.

Doesn’t Collingwood deserve a mayor and a deputy-mayor who are accessible, available and who can participate fully in the town’s business?
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Block bullies are at it again

Abusive bulliesMay 14’s council agenda (p. 40-49) contained yet more evidence of The Block’s bully-boy tactics and pettiness: a complaint made to the integrity commissioner against our mayor. They damn her no matter what she does.

This complaint was filed by someone who might charitably be called the Block’s pet barnacle for his concreted attachment to them, dragged along by their momentum without any of his own. He’s also nicknamed the “frequent filer” for his habit of filing FOI requests against people he doesn’t like, apparently looking – unsuccessfully – for something evil in their emails he can then share with the Block. And as you might guess, he’s a candidate for council using a tawdry ploy to get his name in the local media before the upcoming municipal election.

At the same time, it is yet one more underhanded smear of a good and honourable woman by The Block bullies again. One wonders who wrote the complaint. Someone lawerly, perhaps? Someone actually literate? Certainly unlikely that the named complainant had the skills to do it himself.

The report notes at the beginning (sec. 2):

The essence of the complaint is that Mayor Sandra Cooper, given her brother’s position as Senior Vice-President of Operations and Business Development with the Clearview Aviation Business Park, had a conflict of interest in that she contravened s.7 “Improper Use of Influence” of the Collingwood Code of Conduct when she voted on the report.

Yet Sections 3 and 4 explain that the mayor “attempted to avoid contravening s. 7, “Improper Use of Influence” by checking with the Director of Public Works and with her brother to ascertain whether CABP had made inquiries about the Airport property…” So no matter what she does, no matter how hard she tries, no matter her efforts to show respect for the will of Council, The Block are out to get her and drag her name into the mud. But rather than attack her themselves – that would have taken a spine – they used a wannabe council candidate who eagerly jumps at the chance to get media attention.

First let’s consider whether the mayor had a conflict of interest – direct or indirect – in the Collingwood Airport Business Park or the airport itself. That requires you to read through the updated Municipal Conflict of Interest Act. And you’ll quickly see she didn’t. She has no pecuniary interest in the development, but because her brother does, she has stepped away from the table during discussions and votes where CABP was involved.

But is her brother really an issue? or just a canard? Section 3 of the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act says he isn’t:

Interest of certain persons deemed that of member
3 For the purposes of this Act, the pecuniary interest, direct or indirect, of a parent or the spouse or any child of the member shall, if known to the member, be deemed to be also the pecuniary interest of the member. R.S.O. 1990, c. M.50, s. 3; 1999, c. 6, s. 41 (2); 2005, c. 5, s. 45 (3).

Parent, spouse of child only: siblings are NOT considered for conflict of interest.

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