Category: Council Notes

More light needed on this one!

In a swift move the Art Gallery of Northumberland (AGN) will be getting $160K from the Town of Cobourg. This stunnning move by Council has had less than a week of public notice and was not debated at the Committee of the Whole, last week. 

It is no secret that the AGN has been in turmoil for the last few years. Last year the President appeared before Council begging for more money to stabilise the institution and said the money would fund the next year. Well obviously that move didn’t work, even after a highly successful and acclaimed WW1 exhibition. So now the Council has decided to give the AGN another $50K and toss in an additional $65K for good measure. One good question is – “where is this money coming from?” Cllr Seguin has answered this – see below, but as she explains The Town’s operating budget is only hit for $30K. The rest comes from Council’s ‘play-money’ – the HoldCo fund; and free rent in Vic Hall.

Another good question would be to whom are we giving the money? The present Board is in a state of flux and may not be up to full complement. The Northumberland connection is severely hurt after the AGN severed its ties with “The Gallery” in Port Hope and now the AGN is what appears to be a Cobourg organisation! How can it call itself the AGN if outreach to the County is severely limited?

But of more concern to the BR and we suppose the CTA too, is the haste in which this matter is being dealt with by the Cobourg Council. Surely the memo, from the Community Services Councillor, was ready last week and could have been discussed informally at the CoW meeting. The Memo was signed by the AGN President on May 9th four days before the CoW and could have been placed on the Agenda as an addition. Then the public would have had ample notice of this “hail mary giveaway”. But by receiving the memo in the first part of a regular meeting and then voting on it in the middle part of the meeting the scantest of public notice has been given to those interested in such a large handout.

These questions were sent to Cllr. Seguin, and she rapidly answered (within seven hours on a holiday weekend):

1. Why is this memo being introduced and signed at the same meeting, this is very little, if no, public notice. The MoU was signed by the President of the AGN four days before the CoW where it could have have been discussed in public?

The MOU was written by Dean Hustwick, Director of Culture and Recreation with input from the AGN. It was approved at our May 9 board meeting and signed by AGN President, Mary Donaldson. The town received it the next day so I do not know why there was a delay in presenting it at the May 14 COW meeting. We asked for the MOU to be included in the Council agenda for May 22 in order for it to be approved by Council in time for it to be presented at the Annual General Meeting of the Art Gallery scheduled for May 29 at 5pm in the Art Gallery. I do apologise for the limited time for public engagement.

2. Where is the $165K coming from and is it in the budget?

The funding was approved in the Town of Cobourg 2018 budget. The art gallery is a key part of our cultural assets
and we asked for it to be included in the budget. The breakdown from the budget is as follows:
Grant 		$160,000  (operational and $45,000 rent)
Recovery
From Holdco	-$85,000
Subtotal	$75,000
Less Art
Gallery Rent	-$45,000
Cost to Town	$30,000

3. Who will evaluate the progress of the AGN in meeting its goals, necessary for quarterly funding?

Council will be provided quarterly reports from the AGN on specific dates as outlined in the MOU. By November 30, 2018 the
 AGN must provide a draft business plan to the Town showing that it has met its goals for 2018 funding and to build
 a business case for 2019 funding.

So now we have answers to some of the questions but the issue still remains – why little or no public notice? After all the CTA would probably have questioned this amount of money!

A sad admission of political cowardice!

A clear admission of political cowardice. Just got around to watching some of the proceedings of Cobourg Council on Youtube watch here. At the 41 minute mark Paul Pagnuello of the Cobourg Taxpayers’ Association appeared as a delegation. He spoke about the need to pay a functioning Council a proper rate, “at the moment Councillors are working for less than minimum wage!”

However at the end of the presentaions, and with the first question, Cllr Rowden blurted out the feelings of most of the Cllrs present; but from a different angle. “I would not want to knock on doors with is proposal, if we approved this.” So there you have it – political cowardice and absolute pandering to the basest emotions of the perceived voter.

To his credit Mr. Pagnuello defended his argument and one he will make to the voters by countering that if you want to attract more diversity on Council then you have to pay them. He also pointed out that the annual cost of doing this would be an additional yearly cost of $15.58 for each household.

In the voting part of the meeting, 1 hour 11 minute point, members of Council spoke. Debra McCarthy, after revealing that she is not running would make the case at the door that her work as a Councillor is worth a raise, “it is not charity it is doing your best and giving the time to do the job”. Cllr Darling also spoke, “I am having a tough time with this”. He made a motion not to eliminate the 1/3 tax deduction, “because if this goes through the raise will be a deduction”. Cllr Seguin again wimped out and said “I am not happy, but will support the motion”. This was after her remarks that basically supported the raise movement had been made. Another motion was made as an amendment – to look at the CTA proposal if the 1/3 deduction is removed. This amendment was defeated.

The Deputy Mayor punted off the discussion, “my whole intent is to make the next Council deal with this”.

Hmmm stay tuned on this one!

The view from seat number eight

“Mr Chair (in  a CoW meeting one addresses the Chair not the person in it), a short agenda tonight but due to the law of inverse proportion – the length of the agenda is inversely proportional to the length of the meeting, it’s going to be a long night.”

Two presentations one to a successful sports team and one from a successful local media guru. Seven motions and the usual puff announcements from each Councillor. Of the seven motions three should be worthy of debate as they are new to the public and may be controversial.

The first up is the Ad-Hoc committee on Council remuneration read it here . We wrote about it a few days ago in a post called “all that work just to maintain the status quo” . Somewhat cynical the post the post was critical of the way the committee did not get to the issue and took the easy way out and recommended that Council stay in the middle of the pay chart. The question here is: will the Councillors actually say something about the report or will they just vote to get it off the table. We know that at least one Councillor thinks the job should be full time and paid accordingly, but now that she is not running again will Councillor McCarthy tell the truth? After all there is an election coming and who wants to be tagged with voting for a hefty raise or asking for a job?

The second report is a report from the Cobourg Police Services Board called: ” Memorandum of Understanding-Business Services Unit-Non-Taxation Proceeds” Yep and the rest of the report is just as hard to read and understand check it out for yourself here. For an organisation that wants to be understood as one that communicates well this report is tough reading due to the way it is written e.g “The risk of continuity of extraordinary proceeds coupled with the preference to insulate the community from acute fluctuations in the municipal tax base results in both streams of funding (taxation and non-taxation) remaining synchronised, though independent, for their distinct purposes.” really means “we are in a risky venture and want to keep the profits separate or else taxpayers may take a hit!”

That’s the reason for this MoU. The CPSB is making a killing at the moment with its Business Unit and it may collapse at any time if the Feds or the RCMP change their operations. So a means to keep the money away from the budgeteers at City Hall has to be devised.

The third report is the memo from the Planning and Sustainability Advisory Committee that asks for a report from the CAO on how to obtain the resources to do the jobs they should have done in past years. This report “Memo – Planning Secretary RE Sustainability Resources” points out that in their efforts to direct the way to a Sustainable Cobourg the Town has to follow through on previous efforts, the Committee quotes:

Past and Present Impacts
•  Despite taking many significant actions over the past decade, the Town has also missed
opportunities to complete plans, deliver and communicate. Examples include:
•  Cobourg’s 2010 Climate Action Plan — a draft plan was prepared and accepted by Council, registered with theFederation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) as a ‘draft plan’; and activities implemented. Yet, the plan was never registered as a ‘final plan’ and was not well communicated nor were additional actions/ongoing needs considered in an updated plan.
•  Cobourg’s Corporate Energy Conservation and Demand Management Plan — was prepared by Public Works in 2014. The Plan called for the town to produce an annual Energy Consumption and Greenhouse Gas Emission Template for operations. To date, we’ve not been able to find a single report published for Cobourg.
•  Community Energy Planning — Cobourg has been a leader in community energy. Many past examples exist, perhaps starting with LED traffic lights a couple of decades ago; and more recently, renewable energy implementation at our waste water treatment plant, public, commercial and residential buildings. However, recently, we were unable to respond to suggestions (by a community partner) that Cobourg participate in a national community energy planning and scorecard pilot project being implemented by Quality Urban Energy Systems of Tomorrow (QUEST-Canada).
To date, Cobourg has not completed — or even started — Municipal Energy Planning, a value added activity supported by both federal and provincial governments.

On to the Coordinators’ reports and then the meeting should be over, notwithstanding additions to the Agenda.