Deputy-Mayor Stan Frost, after seven years of watching has evolved into a wonderful character study and the end result is not that pretty. First elected in 2006 he ran on the platform of “taxfighter”. This image was reinforced when he appeared to, almost singlehandedly, whip the runaway Police budget into shape. A good job done he then decided he wanted to do the same thing to the Town’s finances and ran unopposed to become the Deputy Mayor, in 2010. Assuming the position of Town budget Chief and the coordinator of Government Services. Thus he became the most powerful person on Council, the Mayor only has one vote and if Stan decided to defy the Mayor on anything it could be done procedurally.
The problem is now that after being the head honcho of the money and procedures he seems omnipotent and dictatorial. In this term he has displayed some rather bad personality traits – he doesn’t take advice or criticism very well and tends to be overbearing at times even arguing, and shouting at, on occasion fellow Councillors on the floor.
Thus his latest move, to move both sides of the current Legion debate into a reconcilable position, by means of a simple motion to extend the time for a final decision for the approval/disapproval has set off a firestorm. The proponent immediately went to the OMB claiming that the Town had not rendered a decision within the allotted 120 day period, notwithstanding that he had willingly participated in the extended process until he didn’t get what he wanted then ran crying into the arms of the OMB. The Town Staff then independently of Council decided to send all the material pertaining to the application to the OMB all the while not telling anyone on Council, if they did then whomever they told – the Mayor, Deputy Mayor – kept it secret. Incredibly the Coordinator of Planning, the political pointman wasn’t told for six days, and Council still hasn’t met to discuss this issue.
The net result is that Town Staff by its actions acted independently of Council and sent a response to the OMB that has no Council authority or backing. Who makes the decisions around here? Some Staff may make the point that this act was pure Staff work and didn’t need to be ratified by Council, others will claim that it is a sign of a runaway bureaucracy. The questions still remains what and can Council do to recover from this huge faux-pas?
There are two ways to look at this: one is take it at face value and allow Mr Frost to take the role of mediator, he says he made the motion without any advise from the legal or Town Staff and did so to “get a compromise on a Yes decision”. The three month time period was supposed to allow Mr Sofer and his challengers to come to a meeting of the minds. The image of “The myth of Sisyphus” comes to mind on that challenge – an impossible task.
Or more conspiratorially (we at the BR love conspiracy theories) the second scenario is that the Staff and Planning Department favoured this proposal, all the time the approving committees were split on the issue, and decided to give it an inside edge by pushing the application over the time period of 120 days, perhaps to let the OMB decide on the issue and let Council off the hook by not having to make a decision [who thought this one up? - ed]. Unfortunately, as is the norm in these things, opposition grew and emerged at subsequent Council meetings and media reports. The final straw was the rumour that one Councillor was reconsidering his vote at the final Council meeting on December 9th thus the application was going to fail at the last minute. Enter the mediator – Mr Frost, a calculating man with an accountant’s disposition and a confidant of the Mayor, a person who favours development at any cost and who had the chance to deliver to the Legion, a major constituency, a new building. It is hard to believe that Mr Frost just decided at the last minute to make a motion, out of the blue – one that stunned all listening to it, without a lot of thought and doing so completely independently. So the idea of him making this motion,in his own mind, and not realising that the consequence would be that the applicant would pick up his balls and head off to the OMB appears to be implausible.
So we have two motives behind this action, one of a simpleminded but good hearted person who wants keep everybody happy by achieving a compromise or a cold calculating person who knew what he was doing all along. Either way it demonstrates one thing: this Council is completely dysfunctional. Nobody is talking to anybody, nobody knows what is going on with the biggest issue to hit this Council in its present term and that is not only sad but municipally criminal. It is a demonstration of the present Mayor’s lack of leadership skills and teambuilding ability that his leadership is missing and his team is split, it is a demonstration of the rest of Council’s ignorance of the current situation, that allows individual Councillors to head off in their own directions and above all it is a systemic failure of the governing system that has failed to breakdown the ‘silos’ that prevent the free exchange of information and corporate discussion and final decisionmaking. More than that by allowing Mr Frost to make a ‘motion to defer’ and then calling it a ‘motion to table’ the Mayor and the rest of Council demonstrated their total lack of understanding of the rules they govern themselves with.
All we, at the BR can say is – Thank the Lord that is the last year of this Council’s term because if this is any example of what we should expect in the next term, providing all of them decide to keep their jobs, the majority of them don’t deserve to be elected again.
Tomorrow is the start of the 2014 Municipal election campaign and we urge all those who want to see change go down to the City Hall and ask for nomination papers, so they can run in the next election – after all what is the use of continually harping on the faults of others without offering their own opinions as an alternative.