Four more years

brocanierFirst of all let us say four years is too long for any Municipal term of office. Secondly let us say we have a few things to say as we enter the start of this interminable term, and we say this to any Council not just this one.

Knowing Cobourg as we do, we don’t expect major changes – after all that’s what Cobourg voted for – the status-quo and no change in direction; just a couple of new faces. So what can we expect from this Council? If we look to the past and parsing the Mayors remarks from his first post-election interview read it here, all we will get is business as usual. More standard planning proposals that will push the envelope on existing zoning regulations and and increase the tensions with Heritage interests, more plans to beef up the Town Staff as the bureaucrats seek to “increase efficiency” by building empires. Of course if the Deputy Mayor succeeds in releasing the “Municipal Review” that was completed this summer and then promptly sat on by the previous Deputy Mayor and the CAO this projection may be shot to pieces, but we don’t hold out much hope. The big campaign 2014 issues – the Harbourlands and the Downtown Revitalisation will be touched and massaged and then compromised and then forgotten for three years only to reemerge as issues in the next election – these things never go away.

However what we want to propose, to the new Council, is simple, not costly to do and would be effective:

  •  Setup a Community trust

We have noticed over the years two things. One is the propensity of Councils to use the revenue from the Town owned assets – LUSI and the Industrial Park, as discretionary spending. No policies exist for the use of these funds consequently Councils have used them as “Playmoney”. This is not a wise use of these substantial funds. The approximately one and a half million dollars should be used to establish a “Community Trust” and this trust should be governed by a Board that is arms length away from Council. This is not new and a couple of communities in the County do it already. For a really good working model we should head up Hwy 30 to Campbellford and look at what Trent Hills has done with theirs.

These funds must be used for Community Development. Two items come to mind for funding – one is the Venture Fund for Downtown Revitalisation (DR) and the other is the Park Theatre, which must become publicly owned and be the Municipal Arts Centre – this too can be an essential part of DR. If anybody thinks this would be a drain then go to Campbellford and see the successful Aron Theatre complex – it makes money and was funded with contributions from the Community Fund in the initial stages.

  • Start to name the new streets after World War Veterans

This is a small change with big implications. In a report issued last year read it here there was a section that outlines how new new streets should be named. In the report one will see that there are criteria for new street names: dead Mayors, old Heritage people, and Fallen Boer War and World War One Veterans. The report also has a list of these names and if one looks at the checkboxes to see whose name is in use it is plain to see that the Fallen Veterans names have been ignored. This a sad commentary on our history and its relevance. As we will still be commemorating the First World War for every year of this Council’s term would it be so hard to implement this policy and insist that only Veterans’ names shall be used for new streets, in the next four years?

  •  Establish a proper study to look at the cost of One-Tier government.

This an exercise that needs little money but mucho big cajones, but the political payback from the “taxfighters” would be huge. As we know the topic of a One Tier Government for Northumberland County has been around for many years but for any living politician to touch this is a political kiss of death. But it shouldn’t be!

All we are saying is that the two major studies, of how to implement one-tier, should be dusted off (the King Report of 1975 and the later amalgamation study done in the late 80s) and updated with 2015 dollars. We the taxpayers have to know why the Pols do not want to save money and just how much money would be saved if it was implemented. After all then the people who are dead set against amalgamation would know how much extra they are paying to maintain eight political fiefdoms.

So if the new Council were to be truly progressive and were living up to their promises to be open and receptive surely any one of the members will take any one, or all of these suggestions,  and bring them into the public domain for discussion, and if they were truly democratic they would not be afraid to tell us we are on the wrong track if they don’t.

Kicking Port Hope into the 21st Century

Bob-AOne of the first things that the new Mayor of Port Hope did publicly was to rearrange the seats in the Council Chamber and eliminated the perception of Imperial rule – he refused to sit in the raised throne seat preferring to be the centre of consensus. Now he has published a procedural motion that proposes to eliminate weekly Council meetings preferring that the alternation of weekly Committee of the Whole (CoW) meetings and the next weekly Council meetings be replaced by one night of meetings that combines both in one night. To maintain the separation of discussion from a complete rubber stamp the CoW held on the night of the Regular meeting will not be discussed until two weeks later. This will give another week for the proceedings to be digested by the Council watchers and also give an additional week for arguments to be assembled in the discussion of any topic deemed worthy of discussion by those Council watchers.

It will also give the members of Council a week off – prompting the question – “if they only meet biweekly should they still get paid the same as they did if they met weekly?”

But surely the decision to compress the democratic schedule is pushed by the desire to “run the Town like a business”. Something that was pushed by at least three of the elected during their campaigns. As we know this sentiment can lead to all kinds of shortcuts being institutionalised, the need for speedy decisions for one. Perhaps in the other part of the procedural amendment – the action that would allow the delegation of authority to the Staff during the hiatus between meetings is one of these. Send the little things to the Staff and let the elected only deal with the big stuff. An attitude like that can lead to the malaise that critics of the adminstration have pointed out. Surely one of the big issues in the campaign was the autocracy of the CAO and Mayor. Allowing delegation to that very person of the decisions that have to be made between meetings only reinforces the authority of the CAO. We read the campaign to be one of the curbing of that very authority, what has changed the new Mayor’s mind. Perhaps he never really felt that way in the past but only led everybody to think that he did.

To be fair we will have to wait and see how all of this works out but the question still remains who wanted to change the status-quo and Why?

These people talk a good tune!

Four of the seven new Councils have been inaugurated and in each one of the ceremonies the new leaders have told us what they would like to achieve. The leaders of the smallest municipalities have made a lot of noise about having to cut the cloths of their budgets and what they personally would like to do at the County level. This is where the action gets interesting as the membership of County Council is made up of the seven Mayors in the County. There was no election for this job and therefore no notice, or campaign. to tell the electorate about their plans at the County level. Of course all the Mayors will make nice noises about  their plans. Mark Coombs for instance says he wants to be the Warden, I guess in the face of upcoming retirement the Warden’s salary and expenses (may be up to 50K if he plays it right) would be a nice easing into retirement. But both he and the new guys from Grafton, and Hamilton, also express a wish to be able to share services to cut their own costs.

This is where it gets more interesting because one cannot share costs of services and be successful without questioning why we need eight administrators for each Municipal departments. It is no secret why in the last review of shared services, dated 2014 - read it here, very few services have been shared – the Pols don’t want to. County wide planning has come in and replaced the third party share that the smaller municipalities used, but at what cost will it be to have the County Staff do it instead of the third party? So how do we get to share road and  maintenance costs without uploading them to the County, how do we get to share administration? Just as an aside the County has far too many County Roads anyway.

So in the face of their own political backsides the smaller municipalities and their Mayors have snowed their voters by rejecting any kind of amalgamation for the fantasy of ‘shared services’. As we get into the next years – four at least – let’s have some political honesty and lay the groundwork for some realistic cost sharing by not being afraid to talk about the elephant in the room – amalgamation by any name.

It also appears that the new Mayor of Port Hope has taken on the Churchillian slogan – “I’d rather jaw-jaw than war-war!” He has rearranged the seating of the Council Chamber to reflect consensus rather than deference and intends to allow the Citizens to tell the new Council in the first couple of sessions what they would like the Council to do in the next four years. Most encouraging almost like governing from the bottom-up instead of imperiously top-down. But with the risk of raising expectations that the Council might actually be able to achieve some of the suggestions we suggest that this process be looked on as a useful exercise and wish them luck in trying to achieve Municipal Consensus.

Now in ten days time it will be the turn of Cobourg. We await with bated breath to discover the plans for that Town.

A Few Words About Flying Monkeys

droneThe recent dumping of lake-effect snow in Buffalo, upwards of 5 feet, brought with it a major dumping of media coverage as well. CNN alone dispatched at least three of its big names to take shifts standing on the same street corner where plowed piles of snow were particularly impressive.

Another Post from our Fearless Port Hope Correspondent

Fear Itself

 “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”  Franklin D. Roosevelt, Inaugural Address, March 4, 1933.

 Rick Norlock is about to leave the building. He won’t be running in the next federal election to represent what is now Northumberland-Peterborough South. A combination of relief and nostalgia has descended upon the riding. As I sort through my stack of Rick Norlock constituency updates,

Went to a political meeting last night

And came away very depressed. Because it was just that – a political meeting designed to show off the talents of the two people wishing to be a candidate in the next federal Election. Both people demonstrated a wealth of knowledge about the policies they expect to defend. Both showed that they will be a credible candidate and will do the party proud. But what was depressing was the realisation that this next election is going to be like no other and consequently different tactics must be considered.

A Guest Post from our Port Hope correspondent

Death Of A Salesman 2.0

There’s an old salesman’s adage that says you can’t sell anything unless you sell yourself. Millions have taken to something called Linkedin to do just that -sell themselves.

I’ve never been a fan of Linkedin, partly because I have nothing to sell. I’m retired. I’m not looking for a job and I have no credentials to exaggerate or misrepresent. But a look at Linkedin this morning has me thinking I’m in the minority. There’s a lot of desperate people out there that will say almost anything -or worse- nothing, about their background and qualifications just to get a job.

If you don’t find this out of line you should be on Cobourg Council

coiAt a special meeting  of the outgoing Council it was supposed to be clean-up time – you know finish off the the business of the year before the the new guys come in. One of the items was the approval of the Town assuming the cost of building Home Hardware’s new driveway a.k.a Kerr St. This stub of a road is intended to allow the customers of the new store to drive safely from Division St into the new store without creating a traffic hazard at the old driveway.

Two days to go, if you count today

election snipAn interesting post on FB this morning. So where are the other 73% of eligible voters and will they vote this weekend. Unfortunately Voting Day is now a farce and for all purposes it does not exist any more. The ritual of leaving work early, going to the local polling station and putting an X on a paper ballot has been consigned to the rubbish of history.

I do not know who I will be voting for

electionBut I do know who I will not be voting for. If we hear any body else intone “wasteful spending”, “taxes are too high” (without the explanation of a solution), “I am for the people” and other useless election phrases we hear every four years from candidates without imagination or the brains to offer solutions, we will, as a commenter once put here “puke”.

First Impressions

pano2Went to an All Candidates Meeting (ACM) Thursday night and came away with the feeling that on the surface anybody on the platform could do the job of being on Council. But how does one filter out the ‘remainder’ and and leave behind the ‘winners’?

Some lighthearted pics from last night

The candidates on stage
I wonder what they are going to say about me tonight?
I wonder which of these bozos they will saddle me with?
The lonliness of the long distance runner
A slice of the audience
Guy in the red shirt - You do not want to know what I am thinking!
I really am a good listener
I have to get this - it might be an angry condo owner
The candidates' tables

CLICK ON THE IMAGE TO ENLARGE

A Guest Post by Anonymous

From time to time we get unsolicited work, this is one of them and it poses a very serious question to all of the Candidates in this Municipal Election. We ask that they watch and then answer the question in the last frame.

This question – “How do we clean up downtown?” was asked last night,