Category: Cobourg politics

I’ve had enough!

The recent plethora of protests, about the death of George Floyd, the latest black man to die as a result of police brutality, raises the key question – how do we stop this pestilence on civil society?

Police brutality appears to be the result of institutionalised police training and control methods. Despite the lethal result of “restraints” choke holds and neck suppression still abound in takedown operations.

However the underlying premise behind these protests is not only that black people are dying at the hands of police operations but the way that police departments run their operations. Increasingly militarisation of police services is the norm, especially in the USA where military equipment is recycled into police departments. Do not think for a moment that Cobourg is immune from this movement. I remember being shocked by the appearance of our local police department turning out for a Remembrance Parade escort and traffic duties armed with fully automatic carbines slung across their heavily padded chests.

There is a better way – some have called for it in the simplistic slogan – “Defund the Police” but few have fleshed it out. In Cobourg we have a police service with four platoons of front line officers – all armed to the teeth – tasers, pistols (glocks) and with access to automatic carbines and shotguns.

The question to be asked is; do we need fully armed officers to respond to every single response? How do we start the debate about the future of policing in our community?

The previous police chief instituted an major increase in part time police, he expanded the number of part-time officers and auxiliary police people. He replicated the full time force and used the part timers to reinforce the front line officers. But he only expanded the existing police ways of doing business!

With incidents requiring a police response being of a non-violent dispute do we really need a fully armed officer to conduct the investigation. In some cases the presence of armed officers may intimidate, especially in family dispute situations. The time has come to send in social workers not armed officers.

It is time for police services to examine the records, just how many incidents require the services of properly trained interventionists as opposed to fully armed officers who may have a smattering of social service training?

If we are able to define the actual operations of police services we can assign the correct response to situations. I understand that some incidents can turn violent and require the reactions of officers trained to respond to violent situations. But a lot don’t.

“Defund the Police” is only a slogan – let’s take it one step closer and actually examine the way we police ourselves. If we do that and establish a police service that ALL members of society recognise as working for ALL then BLM protests should become redundant!

A missed opportunity

As we await the next coming of the new Council, a signal has been sent about the direction of the next four years.

At the last Council meeting a report was received from the Town’s Ombudsman that contained the news that two complaints of three lodged by members of the public were valid, and that the Town was in error when they barred the public from meetings of the Parks and Recreation Committee when it served as a steering committee for the waterfront. Read the report here

Taking that message into account – that the Town should be more open because they had pledged “to engage the public”, it is surprising that the first committee of the whole of the new Council is being held behind closed doors!

In the recent election campaign it was almost impossible not to hear the pledges of: openness, transparency and commitment to engage the public. One might argue that the public should not be allowed to watch the first meeting because it is a training session for the new Council. We at the BR would argue to the contrary as the public is entitled to see and hear what instructions the new Council will receive and from whom.

So why is this session being set up this way? Why cannot the public see just how our Councillors are being trained and the subjects being taught? Where else is public education held in secret? After all if an “engaged public” is to be in place, as a partner of the Council, so that participatory democracy can take place, why shouldn’t they – the public, get to see the rules?

All in all a very ominous sign to the next four years.

Congratulations!

Accustomed as we are at the BR to not getting our votes across the finish line, it is no surprise that the Council we elected is not the one that we chose.

So lets look at the one we did get last night:

  • An unelected Mayor.
  • A Deputy Mayor that has worked hard at being all things to all people and is still a mystery in the long run, as her history on this Council, less than two years of it, has shown her to be a follower of public opinion, and perhaps beholden to the CTA.
  • Three new Councillors and two with only one and a half terms between them.
  • A Council that is proudly proclaimed by some as more gender balanced.
  • A Council that faces few controversies and recognises a few problems.
  • And finally a Council with only three Pensioners, the average age of Council has dropped twenty years!

So what can we expect from this bunch of relative novices?

Firstly a showdown with Staff, but the public will not hear about that type of dirty laundry but as neophytes, guided by a Mayor with a propensity to “jaw-jaw” issues to death and a Deputy Mayor, who on the campaign trail has muttered misgivings about certain members of the Town Staff expect Staff to realise that some of them may be in the sights of some Councillors, institutional gridlock may be a problem.

Secondly just how much progress can we expect from a Council that, throughout the campaign, acknowledged that ‘affordable housing’ is a problem but produced very few original ideas about how to lessen the problem, during that campaign. For example the leading vote-getter – Nicole Beattie ran on a promise to establish a Social Planning Council to coordinate the problems of Society. We surely hope that she investigates the history and failures of the last one that disappeared not so long ago. Other members have mused that the County should be the place to work on the housing problem – expect this issue to be tougher than just talking platitudes during the campaign.

Thirdly, will Councillor Chorley be in the pockets of the Cobourg Taxpayers Association, those gadfly fiscally conservative pennypinchers who have plenty of suggestions that would keep their tax money in their pockets. It is interesting to note that Ms Chorley’s nomination papers included the names of all of the prominent executive members of the CTA. Only one other had a couple of the same names.

Fourthly, just who will the be picked by the ‘striking committee’ to be the Council rep on the Cobourg Police Services Board and just how long will that person take to be ‘housetrained’ by that Board, and the Chief of Police. When so many questions need to be raised about the operational problems of that Service.

Fifthly, with not one word uttered by the candidates about the annual one million dollar deficit at the Cobourg Community Centre, just how are they going to deal with it? Expect much butting of heads between the DM and Director Hustwick, of course the public will not see it but may hear whispers of “how I conquered that guy, and showed him!”

Sixthly, how about an investigation into the lower voter turnout and really dig down and try to find out if the cause was the online voting. We realise that this may be be a discussion between the ‘Luddites’ (who still want paper ballots) and the Millennials who have complete faith in technology, but it has to be done.

Anyway just our two cents worth!

A question asked

The latest comment on the last post produced this question: “Yes, there is a crisis. What do you suggest the answer to this crisis is? I look forward to hearing your solution.”

Okay here is the solution I would put, if the brains of the Council ever asked the public for opinions:

  • Prepare an inventory of all Town owned lands and their zoning.
  • Setup a dedicated cash flow from both the Northam Industrial Park and the Holdco loan and dividend streams.
  • Determine just how big a social housing complex that the Town could comfortably handle. It should be a demonstration project of at least ten units of mixed housing.
  • Establish a Housing Corporation dedicated to coordinating the building of social housing and the infrastructure needed to maintain it. The management of this corporation should be recruited from the Private and Non- Profit Sector, to convince the public that government is recruiting the best.
  • Use all funds available to supplement the Cobourg contribution, we are told that a big Federal Programme is being setup. Apply early and often. There are local experts available to help out in this regard.
  • Town lands should be donated to the project and all development charges waived.
  • The final site is determined by the lands we have but the site should not be a stand alone project, it must be sited in a mixed residential area. The last thing we need is a “ghetto” stuck in the middle of nowhere.

To emphasise this post just remember we have the land, we have the money and we have the local trades to build it, we have local expertise in fundraising and management of housing programmes!

ALL WE NEED IS THE POLITICAL WILL TO DO IT.

The first ACM

The first All Candidates’ Meeting of the campaign was held Thursday 27th September at the Salvation Army Citadel. In a strange move allowed by organisors the Mayor-elect was allowed a seat at the table and acted as a candidate. At least he made his position clear on the issue. The meeting was organised by the Northumberland Affordable Housing Committee. Each candidate was given three minutes to answer three questions posed by the organisors and then an open session question period took place. All of the registered candidates except Emily Chorley attended and about sixty people were in the audience.

The three questions

In order of answering:

Karl vomDorf: It was hard to hear Karl, he has diminished lung capacity which distorts his voice. That impediment coupled with the bass-heavy speakers made it hard to hear but good for Karl he has published his answers here.

Nicole Beatty: Unfortunately Nicole spoke very fast – too fast for most of the audience, and rattled off a load of local statistics but I picked out that she supports establishing a local Social Planning Council to coordinate and collaborate on all related issues.

Johnny Percolides: “As a real estate broker I have the best understanding of the problem!” He then expanded on the idea that the problem is lack of supply. “Affordability is a supply and demand problem. More supply will bring down prices!” He wants Council to amend the bylaws to allow more density and greater heights in apartment buildings.

Brian Darling:He said he has served the community for thirty years and Yes there is an issue. He pledged to work with the new Mayor and Council, together to bring housing. He suggested that Cobourg sell its surplus land to the County and work with them and their programmes.

Aaron Burchat: Aaron acknowledged the problem and he supports the CIP as a means to get more units downtown. He also said that Council had created new units and looked forward to cooperating on the ‘Tannery Lands’ with Habitat for Humanity (HfH).

Travis Hoover: He said he has worked with all governments and many agencies in his his previous job. “I have seen many examples of innovative solutions, we have to bring them here.” Suggested we can use converted shipping containers and that HfH has some answers. “We have to work with partners.”

Adam Bureau: Adam admitted that he has been homeless in his life and it drove him crazy, completely confused but agencies found him a place to live – set him on his way. He admitted there is a horrendous vacancy rate. Adam would ask the County to increase funding for homelessness programmes. “We should examine what other places have done and implement them!”

Miriam Mutton: She admits there is a problem and outlined her qualifications as a person who can be part of the solutions. “Homelessness and affordability are linked to other social problems and all of it has to approached as one.” She advocated changing building codes to reduce costs, and said that everybody must work within the constraints of differing jurisdictions. She also injected another angle to the debate, “We must ensure that good food does not go to waste.”

Randy Curtis: Very succinct and concise – “There is not enough supply, we must work with the County to increase supply by using our surplus lands and the homeless must be housed.”

Suzanne Seguin: Suzanne also related her experience of being homeless as well as her experiences of being a local politician and being solicited by destitute constituents. Her answer to both situations “was to make things happen.” She has learned to listen and wants to use examples of solutions from the world.

Emily Chorley: Absent but her answers were read out and are here.

In the open question session the first questioner asked why Cllr Seguin voted the way she did on the College St rezoning. Suzanne explained herself and then Aaron Burchat also said that they had made the best of a rezoning by using the R4 zone with conditions that limited the full use.

The second questioner asked the panel “In the light of the crisis do we allow developers to do what they want and relax the bylaws or do we prefer ‘social housing’ built on Town lands? All of the candidates responded the answers ranged from full support of the idea of using surplus land and monies from our investments (holdco and the northam industrial park) – come on down Randy Curtis,  to an acknowledgement that it could be done but the private sector had to be involved and an excoriation of the idea from Johnny Percolides who used Toronto Housing Corporation as an example of Governments not being able to run anything.

Okay time to ‘fess up the publisher of the BR was the second questioner and as a result wrote a very skimpy explanation of the answers. Hard to take notes and stay at the mic’ but a much fuller explanation of the answers was written by Valerie MacDonald of CobourgNow read it here

The third question came from a fellow who listed off the available programmes for social housing and asked if anybody had heard of them. A technical question and asked if the Town would commit monies to the programmes. John Henderson and Randy Curtis did so. Nicole Beatty in her answer demonstrated an understanding of the programmes and question, and Suzanne Sequin cautions that the money has to come from the Town’s budget (it doesn’t have to we have a million bucks in play money every year from investments which Council refuse to add to the Town’s budget).

The fourth question came from a fellow who identified as being a member of the Board of a non-profit. “Dozens of my friends are homeless and a question to Nicole Beatty. How would you deal with this?” Nicole answers by saying that the problem is complicated and involves many jurisdictions, “we have to look at it as a big picture!” She suggests that 24/7 ‘wraparound’ programme be initiated. Karl vom Dorf also answered but the speaker problem meant his answer couldn’t be heard at the back of the room.

The fifth question came from a person who identified as an Outreach Worker and she said she has worked with homeless people. Her question was; “what can we do for the people who don’t fit into the warming centre or Transition House?” Nicole Beatty stated that we should have a social worker on staff, a social planning council to identify solutions and all municipal plans must be looked at through a ‘municipal lens’.

The last question came from a man who identified himself as “an ambassador from the Cobourg Seniors Centre – wellness”. “Is there a plan to get good organic food in Town?” Miriam Mutton advocates for a programme to collect fresh but still waste food from stores. “Good food is important!” Travis Hoover states, “I am not sure how Council can do this but I am willing to collaborate.” John Henderson states, “we have community gardens, why are there not more of them?” Nicole Beatty agrees, “we have to have a programme.”

And the meeting ended.

A promised – the Candidates’ responses to a simple question

It was a simple question – “Why do you want be on council?”

This question will be asked of all the candidates many times, almost at every door! But getting an answer and a one sentence one at that was tough.

All of the eleven candidates were asked, by an email – TWICE, seven responded and a big shoutout to those folks. We do not know why the other four candidates did not respond, but we can guess. Arrogance of being a candidate and wanting to drive their own bus, being too busy, (for many unstated reasons) and of course maybe not wanting to respond, after all some of these folks were picky about whose all candidates’ meetings they would appear at. But to those non-responders I would say no publicity is bad publicity, and we promise to spell your names right!

But let us say, we at the BR are evaluating our original thoughts about some of the candidates, all of whom promised in their opening statements to be responsive to voters, perhaps they just meant the voters they like and who they choose to respond to!

Well enough of the pointed remarks let’s get on to the responses. To see who responded and what they had to say click here.

The candidates have appeared!

We are going to have an election in Cobourg. Two people want to be Deputy Mayor and nine people vying for three councillor spots . A smaller list than the historical past, but a list for you to choose from. In the absence of a Mayor’s race turnout maybe lower and interest will definitely be off. So back to basics for the candidates – getting the name out there and meeting voters.

Up until the last day of nomination there was only one candidate for DM – Suzanne Seguin, then a registered candidate for Council switched and filed for DM too. Randy Curtis was the fellow. So will it be a race or a walkover? I think it is a race – two basic unknowns for the job. Suzanne has been on Council for less than half a term and Randy has never been on Council but has followed the issues very closely and one of the declared candidates to watch Council in action on Mondays. Suzanne has been in Town for a few years but Randy has the hometown advantage, with deep family roots. So it looks like ‘campaigning 101’ for both of them.

In the race for the five councillor spots it appears to us at the BR that there is only one person who looks like a shoo-in – Brian Darling, who topped the polls last time will do it again. Aaron Burchat, another incumbent councillor has to overcome the problem that he has of public recognition. Only a councillor for two years he has failed to make his mark due to his anonymity whilst being on Council. Miriam Mutton definitely has name recognition, and a history of good public service but will the controversy of her boulevard garden surface again in the negative? Some comments have already been seen on facebook to this effect.

Some of the others have public recognition – Adam Bureau for one, he is a familiar sight to all who travel King St regularly, as he streetwatches and talks to passers-by outside his store. Nicole Beatty achieved some notice as the Chair of Cobourg 150, Emily Chorley has impressed by speaking before Council in a well organised and sensible way about a few issues. Johnny Percolides has made his opinion known on “Cobourg News” about the the marina expansion and Travis Hoover has made a name for himself by being Lou Rinaldi’s assistant and public face, as well as working on local Legion affairs. Karl Vom Dorf fits the bill of ‘mystery candidate’ to me.

Good luck to all of them and if they want a tip from an old campaigner – the one who bangs on the most doors and plants the most signs will advance. I know door-knocking is derided by some in this day of social media, but the voters in this Town may not be on all of the friends lists and be willing to share posts. But I guarantee that five minutes on a doorstep will make an impression and when the voter casts the ballot in order to fill five boxes the doorknocker will be remembered!

Where are the candidates?

Ok we know we are going to have an election in Cobourg. Six people wanting a space on a five member Council. Brian Darling finally stopped dithering and made up his mind to have another four years. Aaron Burchat was a given to be on the ballot,and so was Randy Curtis and Johnny Percolides. These last two are unknowns as they have made no or few public statements. And as to why they want to be  on Council has yet to be made public. We all know where Miriam Mutton stands as she has an extensive public history.

Having watched and participated in many elections over the past forty years in Cobourg, I can tell you the issues hardly ever change. Every election cycle we have the same major complaints – “Council doesn’t listen!” and “Everything is decided behind closed doors with secret meetings.” This year is no different.

The Harbour is a quadrennial issue. Years ago it was the coal piles and public ownership. Then it became what kind of development was wanted, now  it is what do we do with what we have and how to accommodate all of the interest groups. It never ends but the response by candidates is the same – “I will be transparent, I will listen, I will make decisions in the best interests of you”. But the public criticism still persists.

But having seen Councils in action I can honestly say very few Councillors or Mayors have impressed me with action and vision. We have been stuck with Mayors who just go along – press the flesh and then implement Staff decisions. As to the Councillors we have been stuck with ‘go-alongs’ who defer to the Mayor’s needs. Very few have struck me as being independent, and if they did they were soon isolated or co-opted. Miriam Mutton was an example of this. A very diligent councillor who appeared to irritate both colleagues and Staff with her rigourous qustions of policy and direction. Obviously she came to the conclusion that the only way to get her ideas across was to be Mayor, she failed and took an electorally imposed sabbatical. She is now back because  she either has ideas to be  implemented or she just missed the thrill of being a decisionmaker.

But back to the question, “where are the candidates?” The centrepiece of the election – the Mayor’s race is a shoo-in for the only candidate so far. But why doesn’t anybody have the burning ambition to be Mayor? Doesn’t anybody have any ideas to lead the Town? Sad. Historically the number of people wanting to be a councillor is in the double digits, why not this year?

The big question, with only four and half business days before nominations close is why we haven’t seen a slate from the Cobourg Taxpayers Association (CTA)? This voluble and persistent ginger group is absent so far. Perhaps it is a strategic decision to be late filers so that opponents cannot get on the ballot to knock them off.

So to all the “Progressives” in the Town put your name on the ballot now to stop regressive “taxfighters” getting a place on the board.

Many a true word spoken in Jest

This phrase has been around a long time and the origin is clouded in mystery but is usually attributed to Chaucer. “The first author to express this thought in English was probably Geoffrey Chaucer. He included it in The Cook’s Tale, 1390″. Wikipedia history here.

This arcane phrase came to mind last night as the world, via Youtube, witnessed a throwaway comment from the current Mayor of Cobourg; Gil Brocanier. This thin-skinned and vain person, one who cannot miss an opportunity to put it to the people he doesn’t like, dismissed a delegation in a disparaging manner. Perhaps he thought he was joking, at least his sycophantic Council thought so as they joined in a small round of laughter. But those of us who have watched this social-climbing adherent to all things superior, it was just a demonstration of condescension toward a person that had the temerity to challenge a Council action.

But business as usual at the Brocanier Council.

The “joke” came at the end of a delegation where, Brocanier, grinding his teeth gave the obligatory thank-you to the delegation. The delegation responded by thanking the Mayor and Council for asking so many questions, “…….Normally when I am here nobody wants to ask any questions.” Brocanier responded with the throwaway line – “It’s not that we don’t want to ask questions, Ben, we don’t want to listen to you!” To see this on video click here

A disgusting response from the head of Council to a person who is exercising  a democratic right. But not to be unexpected after all this is the Mayor who is trying to restrict appearances by delegations at a future Council meeting.

A truly Jekyll and Hyde moment

Will the real Forrest Rowden stand up! At the Council meeting of June 11th Councillor Rowden (of Cobourg) obviously had a flashback and travelled back in time to his illustrious (????) career as Mayor of Hamilton Township. In his questions to a delegation, who appeared to question a servicing agreement between Cobourg and Hamilton Township He pugnaciously engaged in questions with the delegation seriously defending Hamilton Twps’ interests. Surely this Councillor in his peculiar inaction to defend Cobourg’s interests has demonstrated just where his interests lie. Truly this guy’s “buy before date” has expired. To prove the point he spoke at length about the time he was on a Hamilton Twp’s visit to Woodstock. He spoke glowingly about the tax-sharing agreements that that Municipality had secured with its neighbours when it supplied cross-border services, and then refused to even consider such an arrangement in the servicing agreement in question – confusing.