Last term, council was presented with an angry, 14-page screed from the “Friends of Central Park” (aka “Build the YMCA a Taj Mahal at Taxpayers’ Expense,” later called Better Together Collingwood…yes, you know who was behind them both!).
The mouthpiece attacked the honesty, the credibility, competence and the behaviour of the former council – all because we chose to build new recreational facilities that were not the expensive option a group of well-off residents demanded we build. And because we didn’t raise taxes or incur significant debt in our choice.
I realize it’s not often one gets lambasted by taxpayers for not raising taxes, but we were severely criticized for choosing the path of fiscal responsibility. Can’t win them all, I suppose. But I think it’s time to see if this current council – elected by that group and their minions – has followed through on the demands made of us last term.
I have deleted some of the specific rec facility-related content in the letter because it isn’t relevant any more. But I think you’ll find what remains (shown in italics) very informative and relevant. My responses follow. I’m sure you’ll chuckle over the evident hypocrisy.
That Council ask staff to report back on the following best practices in municipal good governance.
Answer: Not seen in these first 21 months in office this term. Likelihood of ever being seen: same as winning the lottery twice in a row. Municipal good governance would get in the way of personal agendas and entitlement.
I. clarify the values and respective actions that they interpret to embrace good governance and share these with the public;
Answer: Ditto. Okay, first you have to know what good governance is. The Most Secretive Council Ever has no idea because that would require coming out from behind closed doors. And learning. Toss this one in the bin.
ii. direct staff to revise the Procurement Policy to reflect more stringent guidelines and procedures reflective of other municipal, provincial and federal procedures; specifically articles on sole sourcing amongst a more robust review;
Answer: One of the very first things this council ever did was to approve a sole-source bid for a taxi contract, to the company owned by Councillor Fryer’s brother-in-law. So it’s do-as-I-say, not-as-I-do with this lot.
III. develop a Strategic Plan – in concert with the residents – for the remainder of their term and include community priorities, accountability/transparency measures and a supporting communications plan at a minimum.
Answer: Instead we got a committee-based wishlist with no clear priorities, no budget, no communications plan, no governance measures, no strategy and no plan. But lots of fluff. The previous council met twice to create and renew its strategic plan, and that included collective priorities, measurable achievements and budgets. And no fluff.
IV. include funds for the development of a long range master plan for the development of parks, recreation and culture infrastructure and service delivery with specific focus on the changing demographics, social issues and working better together with other service providers.
Answer: Not even on the agenda this term. However, the waterfront master plan we initiated last term is underway. You’re welcome.
V. direct staff to define best practices in public engagement/consultation and internal and external communications with a view to completing an analysis and improving same as soon as possible within Collingwood.
Answer: A communications officer was hired last term, but her role is currently managed by the CAO instead of someone versed in communications. The Block seems fine with this arrangement. Probably because they don’t want to tell you what they’re really up to behind those closed doors.
VI. provide an overview of current priorities (until a strategic plan is drafted), plans to address these priorities and communicate quarterly (at a minimum) as to the progress that is being made.
Answer: Not even being considered.
VII. request an independent body of residents to complete research with a view to implementing an Ombuds (sic) and Ethics Office (contract) for Collingwood; whereby the public can be assured of transparency, honesty and fairness in local government in the future and the right to an independent review of questionable governance practices.
Answer: An integrity commissioner was hired last term. After several complaints about their ethics and behaviour, this council FIRED the integrity commissioner to avoid being further investigated for their activities. No public scrutiny for this lot!
VIII. ensure the initiation of a Lobbyist Registry for Collingwood to communicate what firms/individuals are lobbying for what projects and initiatives and with which specific Councillors and senior staff.
Answer: They huffed and they puffed, but they backed down, possibly because of the potential conflicts several of The Block would have with family and friends. It seems rather ironic that a lobbyist group would want the town to implement a bureaucracy that would limit its own access to the political process, and hamper open public interactions. But clearly they wanted to limit the access of other people, not themselves.
IX. all expenditures including expense accounts be listed on line on a monthly basis – that this be implemented as soon as possible to include all costs associated with the development of recreation facilities in Collingwood.
Answer: Not even in the planning stages. Besides, you’d reel in shock upon seeing “Senator” Jeffrey’s unlimited expenses for wining and dining her way around the country on the back of taxpayers.
X. articulate the current debt per capita, the approved debt tolerance level, the long range capital plan, the strategy to reduce Collingwood’s debt and plans to address longer term infrastructure needs.
Answer: This council doesn’t even receive a complete budget report, let alone read it, before they vote for whatever the staff wants. There is no fiscal awareness at the table aside from whatever staff tell them. The Block just raises your taxes as told. And give themselves a pay raise while they’re at it. Twice.
XI. Ensure that there is a panel of qualified citizens appointed by an independent body to oversee the recruitment, participate in interviews and the transparent selection process to fill the vacant position of Chief Administrative Officer for the Town of Collingwood.
Answer: The Block voted to extend the interim CAO’s contract TWICE so far and will likely extend it a third time, even though hiring a permanent CAO could save taxpayers $50,000-$75,000 a year! They don’t want public input on this or any other issue.
XII. develop the terms for an independent body to oversee a full governance review including how the Town measures against best practices, the size of Council, remuneration and ward representation at a minimum.
Answer: Not even being considered. They don’t want public input on this or any other issue.
2.1 Good Governance There appears to be a discrepancy between what the two parties (Council and FOCPC) define as “good governance” FOCPC defines good governance as a Council that “walks the talk” and demonstrates;
– Inclusive and informed leadership
Answer: This council immediately cancelled its subscription to Municipal World to avoid being informed or educated by peers. They have resisted every request to have the Collus-Powerstream board come in public and give their side of the fairy tale council’s lawyers and consultants have been spinning. They do not want to be informed or educated because it will interfere with their personal agendas. They’d prefer to be”just another brick in the wall.” That’s the “governance” The Block demonstrates.
A compelling vision and strategic plan for the community that is developed with the community through citizen driven input…
Answer: See above. Instead of a visionary strategic plan you got a flaccid wishlist with no focus or direction. But it has fluff.
Long range planning based on projected demographics and psychographics
Answer: Too informative, too much work. They’d rather let staff tell them what to do.
Accountability in meeting the milestones articulated in the plan
Answer: Accountability? With this council? The Most Secretive Council Ever? Not even a word in their vocabulary.
Transparency – clear communications and accountability for Council and staff through regular reporting
Answer: See the note, above. Another word raised during elections to be forgotten afterwards.
Adherence to approved By-laws and regulations
Answer: The Block has broken the Code of Conduct and Procedural bylaws so often that it’s old hat, now. Laws don’t apply to The Block. They do what they damn well want, laws be damned.
Collaboration with agencies and partners…
Answer: The Block has offended, alienated or harassed our utility partner, our municipal neighbours, local developers, the airport developers, the municipalities who buy our water, housing advocates, town staff and local residents… who is left to collaborate with?
Services that exceed public expectations
Answer: Public expectations of council are so low that few even expect they won’t fall asleep during meetings. And with some, that might even be a blessing.
Fiscal sustainability – long range plans for both capital and operating dollars
Answer: The financial planning and asset management plans were initiated last term. You’re welcome. Most of this council doesn’t even bother to read their budget, so what more can you expect from them?
Strategies to attract and retain businesses and residents
Answer: Last term council hired a marketing and economic development officer, consolidated business services in the office beside town hall. They seem to be doing a good job. You’re welcome. This council has contributed nothing to their efforts.
Accountability to build a culture of trust in the community.
Answer: Too late. The Block are selling our utility and our airport in secret, with no public input. Who can trust them?
2.2 The Role of Council Members and Staff – Closed Door Meetings It appears that this Council has confused the independent roles of Council and staff. Council is directing staff to rationalize their decisions before issues are discussed and decided on the Council floor.
Answer: Prescient. Clearly this writer was thinking of THIS council. Most Secretive Council Ever.
This also leads the public to think that closed meetings were taking place outside of the chambers; how else were these major decisions decided without being open public meetings?
Answer: Ditto. Secret meetings among councillors and administrative staff HAVE taken place, including at least one at a Thornbury restaurant, but also in local homes and restaurants.
2.3 Public Consultation and Communications. The public was perplexed and outraged that Council chose not to include them in their thinking and decision making.
Answer: He must be writing about the recent secret negotiations by THIS council to break up our utility services, to secretly sell our publicly-owned half of the electricity utility, to harass top staff from their jobs and to sell our airport.
2.6 The public has strongly communicated that the lack of due diligence is appalling.
Answer: Again, that is exactly the situation now, with THIS council.
Due diligence on this particular project would have called for an open consultation with the public and stakeholder groups
Answer: Is he talking about THIS council’s lack of ANY public consultation over the sale of the airport? The secret sale of our electrical utility? On our water selling agreement? On the breakup of our water utility from hydro? Because there has been ZERO public input or consultation on these issues. None. Nor will any be allowed.
A fulsome communications plan that encouraged public engagement
Answer: This term you get a flyer risibly called a ‘newsletter’ that contains no news, just old, recycled content from the town’s newspaper ads. Fulsome only in the sense of ‘offensive to good taste.’
Once the due diligence was completed a public meeting should have been conducted to get the public’s reaction as to what the best building program was considering short and long term implications. Anything less would fall and has fallen short of credible due diligence.
Answer: Although this is about the rec facilities, the same logic should apply to the sale of our airport and utility service. But where is the outrage over those secret negotiations? Over the current lack of public consultation and due diligence? Where is this group now? Hypocrites.
2.9 Long Term Impacts to the Community The long term service and fiscal impacts to the community remain a very significant issue.
Answer: The long term impacts of the utility sale, the airport sale, the dismemberment of the water service, the firing of competent and experienced water and hydro utility boards… not even discussed in public, although they are SIGNIFICANT issues that will cost this municipality millions. But l’etat c’est moi, after all.
2.10 Systemic Governance Issues. A common theme in the feedback that has been received to date …has been that many issues that Council addresses fall short of credible due process where the public should be engaged in an altruistic way.
Answer: Exactly what people are saying about THIS council. It’s not only that they fall short – they never even tried to engage the public. credibility? Meh…
There is little consultation on most issues and what advice is sought is often ignored.
Answer: Actually there has been NO public consultation this term. Advice? Sure: they get it from the little one-and-two-person buddy consultant firms and ambulance chasers chosen by the administration’s to reinforce its views.
It has lead to a perception among the public that the issues as outlined are systemic in how this Council chooses to govern.
Answer: Yep, he’s talking about THIS council. It doesn’t govern as much as it dictates. From behind closed doors, of course.
There is no strategic plan, no proactive communications, no true sense of public engagement, no accountability and little if any transparency.
Answer: Yes, that confirms it. This council it is.
These are broad statements but there is great room for improvements especially to gain back the trust that has been lost.
Answer: Too late. the damage has been done. It’s extensive to our community, our governance, our operations, our staff morale and to our financial health. Everything The Block has touched has become toxic. The only salvation may come next term with a newly elected group. If we survive it.
Is it possible that Council chooses to ignore due public process or do they just not know any better.
Answer: Both, I’d say, if you mean The Block. As directed by the administrative staff, of course. The ignorance at the table is deliberate, and intentional.
Another common trend which is very disturbing is the perception that Council’s decisions are motivated not by the public good but by self interest.
Answer: Wow. Hit the nail on the head: describes THIS council perfectly. Personal agendas dominate here. And vendettas.
This perception is continually reinforced by behind the scenes leadership, closed door decision making processes and decisions which appear to be arbitrary and unresponsive to the identified needs of the community.
Answer: This is getting eerie. Is he a psychic? This is so accurate about the current lot it makes goosebumps.
Many, many residents have publicly questioned the motivations of Council and cited a perceived history of misfeasance and self-dealings by a number of Council members. Justified or not, decisions like this call into question the motivation and good faith of this Council.
Answer: Boy, this guy’s good. That’s The Block clearly described. Why isn’t he picketing in front of town hall? Where are the signs demanding we “inpeach” council? Oh wait, that was the partner of someone on council now…
3.0 ACCOUNTABILITY TO THE PUBLIC Strong and leading local governments hold themselves accountable for targets and goals and objectives that the community has indicated are the current and future priorities. This Council has failed to develop a strategic plan for its term of office and therefore the public has no idea as what this Council is setting about to achieve. What are your priorities? Better stated; what are our priorities?
Answer: Good questions. I suggest your friends on council might have a difficult time answering, since they don’t hold themselves either responsible for or accountable to anyone or anything. Your priorities don’t count for diddly among them. It’s what they want that matters.
3.1 Critical Questions Remain Unanswered. These questions remain and must be answered to the general public’s satisfaction.
Answer: They sure do. If we had real media, we might get answers this term. Or at least an investigation.
b) Why is it acceptable for Council to break its own by-laws but not for the public and businesses?
Answer: Because The Block feels it is above the law and they have no citizens’ group or credible media to scrutinize their activities or protest their arrogant abuse of power and position. Your own group shirked its responsibilities to the community at large as soon as your friends were elected. You helped elect this group; this debacle is YOUR responsibility!
c) What was to be gained by truncating due and credible processes?
Answer: Our community is already reeling and our reputation is in tatters. Apparently that was the goal. If so, your friends have succeeded beyond their wildest expectations. And you’re to blame.
d) What will Council do to ensure that this never happens again?
Answer: Nothing. They will, in fact, repeat their unscrupulous, secretive actions over and over and over before the term ends. But take heart: in 2018 we have a fresh chance to elect ethical, moral and honest councillors.
Actions The prevalent discussions, communications and subsequent recommendations have centred on three themes;Much better planning with respect to the development of recreation, parks and cultural infrastructure.
Answer: Forget it. They have personal agendas and private vendettas to see through first. Culture isn’t even on the radar.
A significant improvement to the quality of governance in Collingwood,
Answer: That opportunity will come next election.
Improved communications and public engagement.
Answer: You’ll win the lottery twice while being struck by lighting before that happens with The Block.
Recommendations are listed in the beginning of this report and centre on the following; a) Define and Operationalize Good Governance…
Answer: Not even being considered. Good governance is now what the administration tells The Block is appropriate.
b) Articulate Values and Behaviours…
Answer: The Most Secretive Council Ever has no intention of articulating anything. Especially not values. They’d have to have some, first.
c) Develop a Strategic Plan (with community input)…
Answer: Instead, we got a feel-good wishlist created by their friends. No one was fooled by the emperor’s new clothes, of course. But it has a cute ‘angry blue ant’ logo we can enjoy.
d) Corporate and Community Communications…
Answer: You’ve seen how it works. You get pablum in your mailbox while council plots behind closed doors to sell your utility, your airport, your water. You’re mushrooms: council keeps you in the dark and feeds you manure.
e) Community Engagement,
Answer: Bwah ha ha! Not this term!
f) Parks, Recreation and Culture Master Plan
g) Procurement Policy and Policy Review
h) Long Range Capital Plan
i) A guarantee of transparent processes in the future
j) Debt Reduction Strategy,
k) Transparency and Accountability Measures
l) Full Governance Review.
Answer: These are all things you demanded of the previous council but which were all already being done or were initiated last term. Why haven’t you held THIS council’s feet to the fire? Demand to know why they failed the community in these issues? Why haven’t they lived up to your standards? Where are the protests? The Facebook pages? The angry websites spewing displeasure at this abuse?
3.3 There appears to be a systemic misunderstanding in Collingwood as to what good and transparent governance means in a local government…
Answer: There is no misunderstanding of good and transparent governance among the populace, only among the current council and some staff, but thank you for admitting yours. Admission of a problem is the first step towards recovery.
We understand that this Council attends conferences at the taxpayer’s expense on good governance and therefore cannot claim ignorance.
Answer: Well, this council’s knowledge of good governance hardly comes from attending those conferences, since some party during the time there, some visit friends outside instead of attending workshops, and some go cycling or simply fall asleep during workshops. The Block refused to keep current on trends in municipal governance through research, reading, online forums, and Municipal World articles and books. So yes, they CAN claim ignorance, but it is self-imposed. Deliberate and planned. But ‘Senator’ Jeffrey did get voted an unlimited expense account… and see what it’s done for Collingwood so far?
The public is truly disappointed and embarrassed at what this Council feels is… good governance.
Answer: Absolutely. I have spoken to hundreds of residents and staff since the election and that is the popular sentiment about this council. Most folks are shocked by their actions and blatant abuse of power and position. Their stench of entitlement offends most residents I speak to.
We would ask you to accept responsibility for this lack of good governance and due process… and move forward by adopting best practices, sound and transparent approaches and much, much better accountability to the residents that have put you in office.
Answer: Good luck getting that out of this lot. They’re too busy chasing personal agendas and private vendettas to give a shit about the community. Toddlers take more responsibility for their actions than The Block.
This will clearly be the election issue in the next election; it is time to put accountable and honest Council members in office, people that really care about a sustainable future and put the residents first.
Answer: Exactly what we need, next time. We had a good council that “put the residents first” last term and you helped replace them with a group of selfish, greedy, dishonest, corrupt, immoral, ignorant and unethical council members with an engorged sense of entitlement. Maybe you should own up to the responsibility for this mess.
Friends of Central Park – Collingwood will continue in this void to communicate with residents, seek out information from the Town and share same with the residents.
Answer: Right. Where did you go? Friends, then BTC all vanished as soon as you got this lot elected. Turns out you weren’t actually a citizens’ group, after all. Just another bunch pushing personal agendas. You weren’t concerned about the community, just in getting your friends into power. And you succeeded… the result of which is the Worst Collingwood Council Ever.
Collingwood deserves better.