Category: Council Notes

The difference four years make

“Mayor Brocanier and Town of Cobourg Council invite citizens to the podium during the first four meetings of Cobourg Town Council in 2015.”

This was the invitation given to Cobourgers in 2015 read it here. This is in strict contrast to the message sent by the new Cobourg Council in its first meeting of its term. In that meeting they propose to adopt – for information, a new procedural bylaw that will severely restrict access to Councils by the public. Read the new procedural bylaw here. Jump to section 15.0 to read the proposed rules for delegations, whereas Mayor Brocaniers uninhibited invitation stands in stark contrast.

The reason for this post and the comparison to last Council’s attitude to public engagement is simple; section 15 intends to restrict the number of delegations to a Council meeting to four.

This intention is vague: it does not state if four delegations are for the topic under discussion or four for the complete agenda. This also subject to questions of the integrity of the system.

For example if only four delegations are allowed how do we really know if they were the first four that asked, there is no procedure for recording delegation requests in this bylaw, or if the drafters of the agenda will pick the four they want to hear from? All we know if this proposal is adopted then some policy will have to be written to eliminate the charges of “delegate picking” to allay the fears of the suspicious.

Leaving those questions aside let’s look at the recent election campaign where all of the candidates pledged fealty and allegiance to the principles of ‘transparency’ and ‘public engagement’. This new bylaw certainly puts the boots to those pledges!

But knowing us as you do the real story here is the back story and we will raise it here. If the procedural bylaw needed to be amended who decided that it did? The only issue raised during the last election was the issue of a question period after or before Council meetings. Why do we have a wholesale massacre of the status quo in this revision and who ordered it to be written. The obvious culprit would be the new Deputy Mayor and yet in the last term of Council she was a huge supporter of ‘listening to the public’ so much that Ms Seguin was often chastised for dithering in her decisions until she had heard all she wanted to hear. So what changed her mind to produce a section of a bylaw that limits public participation. If it wasn’t her who was it? The Municipal Clerk? or anybody else. The public deserves to know who pushed for this proposal. Because if we don’t discover just who it was then all of Council are suspect. Including every one of the newcomers, as they all pledged to be more open than the previous Council.

All in all not a very good start to the Council cycle. All we, at the BR can hope is that enough other people are exorcised over this egregious powergrab that will emasculate local democracy. And if they are will speak out at the public meeting on the 28th of January, after all it may the last time that a full list of unedited delegates will be allowed to appear at a Council meeting!

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!

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.

Weekend Jottings

Had an interesting email exchange this week with the guardians of the public agenda:

On Tuesday evening the Publisher of the BR emailed the Municipal Clerk a request to be placed on the agenda for the June11th Regular Council meeting. Using the somewhat unfriendly application form , unfriendly in that on order to attach the form to an email the form needed to be filled out, printed, scanned and then attached to the email. Perhaps a “mailto” button could be put on the form to eliminate this? The bylaw, on the Town’s website dated 2016, asked that an outline of the presentation be submitted by Friday of the week. He received a confirmation email on the next day timed at 9.13 am. At 11.18 of the same day another email came from the Municipal Clerk:

Thanks for your Delegation request. In regards to your request the Mayor is asking that all delegates follow the Procedural By-law 079-2018 and you should provide myself the Municipal Clerk with an outline and a hard copy of your delegation to be included on the agenda of what you plan on presenting at the June 11th Regular Council Meeting, to provide Council and the Public within information. Please submit a hard copy to myself by Friday at 1:00 P.M in order to be included as a delegation for Monday June 11th, 2018. 

Well, that started an investigation with the procedure, what the Publisher discovered was that the bylaw on the website was an old one – 079-2016 had been replaced by 079-2017, and 079-2018 didn’t exist; but the website had not been updated. This bylaw was not written very well and confusing at first glance. Needless to say the requirement for the supply of a hard copy of the remarks is not in the bylaw – just an outline required. This is because some Councillors, as well as the Mayor wanted to know what was going to be said before it was delivered from the podium. It was explained to me that “councillors want to be ready to ask questions”. An ironic suggestion considering that some delegations never get asked questions as it is the ultimate political insult that can be applied by a sitting Council to a Delegation they either don’t like or don’t want to see. On reflection, it seems that the Mayor is bound and bent on trying to control public access to Council. We’ll see if it succeeds – just how many people will be upset by these attempts to restrict. Oh by the way the Publisher did not submit hard copy of his presentation – just an outline as prescribed in the bylaw.

Well aren’t we glad that is over – the election that is!

We at the BR would like to point out that Ontario is not “FordNation”. This disgusting way of labelling a Province into a Tribe is a silly way of classifying people. However we do note that although Mr Ford did win the majority of seats with only 40% of the total vote one can honestly say that he does not enjoy majority support. Let’s hope that he resists the normal Conservative way of ruling – only for his supporters and neglecting the opinions of the others. This attitude is summed by the phrase – “We won you didn’t – Go Away”. Any bets on how long Mr Ford pulls the usual political trick – “We have examined the books the the Liberals left us and they are in bad shape. We cannot fulfill the promises!” Gee there goes our “Buck a Beer” promise – the only one (promise) that made sense to us. 

There will be an interesting delegation to Council on Monday

The Publisher of the BR – Ben Burd will be speaking as a delegation about something he feels strongly about, and wrote about in a post (read here) last week. The outline of his remarks are here, on the agenda, but tune in to see what he really thinks he will be speaking to those points.

A few more candidates for October:

Four people had picked up nomination forms by the end of last week, one of them has said he has filed but the official list doesn’t show this yet. Johnny Percolides – Bio from CobourgNews – “A local real estate broker who has called Cobourg home for 10 years. Past experience in owning and operating a business, revenue and expense accountability and the ability to communicate with the public in three languages are some of my assets.  I am against any expansion of the Marina first and foremost because the local residents have repeatedly said they don’t want it.  It’s time for Municipal government to listen to their constituents and remember that they are voted in to represent them.  I believe the harbour and waterfront will be enjoyed by the majority today and for the future as opposed to the minority if the Marina were to be expanded.  I will be asking for your support on Election day to be your voice in Council who will listen and vote for what the clear majority wants.” We don’t understand the delay in filing with the other three – one of whom is a high profile person who used to be on Council, but surely more news soon. Other people have officially filed but they want to be School Board trustees:

  • Roger Brideau for the School Board – French Public
  • David Bernier for the English Catholic Separate Board
  • Anthony Caruso for the English Public School Board

One high point and a Verrry low point

The Waterfront saga rolls on. Council, rolled the dice on Monday evening, and lost. They had gambled that by cancelling the open meeting to be held at 1pm, where the merits of the Waterfront Report would be discussed by members of the public and wrapping it into a Committee of the Whole meeting they could control the process. Obviously they didn’t but set into motion a huge rubber stamp the next time it is debated. The meeting listened to twelve delegates and asked questions of the Consultants and the Direct of P&R. The result was a motion of deferral and a subsequent motion, from the Mayor “Restrict future delegations on the Waterfront Study to different presenters who had new information only that must be submitted for approval prior to delegation status approval” Hmm now the censors are coming into the act!

 

High Point of the meeting

The report was over 500 pages and most councillors agreed that they had not had sufficient time to understand all that it contained and also that the public would not have had enough time so a final vote on adopting the report was deferred to the Council meeting on July 3 instead of on June 11. It should be noted that those who complained about not getting the information had, or should have had, identical information if they read the documents from the Parks & Rec committee proceedings of May 16 (these documents had been posted on the internet at that time).

 

Low point

At the end of the meeting Mayor Brocanier put forward a motion that would “Restrict future delegations on the Waterfront Study to different presenters who had new information only that must be submitted for approval prior to delegation status approval”.  His idea is that he doesn’t want people presenting the same old information.  His motion passed. As said before the only comment to be applied to this motion is one of contempt for such a motion. Surely Council should be able to stand a few more people telling them how they feel! On a video review the notice of motion that the Mayor made was legal in a CoW but if he wants his name attached to it in a regular meeting he cannot – Roberts Rules state that the Chair of a meeting cannot make a motion. He must step out of the Chair to make a motion – let’s see if he does!

Congratulations to Jorge DeSousa – whoever you are?

To This
Click on image to enlarge

From This

Finally the biggest eyesore on King St is being renovated. On Monday evening 4th June the CoW will be asked to approve a planning application for 20 King St West – read it here.

This building has been massacred over the ages and left to rot by its present owner. In the 60s the building was used by Cobourg’s first woman lawyer – Daisy McCullogh and she ripped out the original store window and fixed it with 60s ‘modernism’ never a good fit and that became obvious as soon as the Heritage Movement came to Town. Then it became a Radio Shack, then a series of restaurants. Now it is unused and vacant.

Enter stage left and a Mr Jorge DeSousa. He has authorised Andrew Smith Design to renovate the front and replace the windows. Congratulations to Mr DeSousa for showing faith in downtown and doing this. A very good investment, as downtown real estate is dirt cheap and the potential to add a fine storefront – we don’t know what is going to go in but we would guess another restaurant (the double bifold doors would be a clue), and dwellings up top is there.

Just goes to show that one of the ways to get people to invest in downtown is to push the fact that downtown property prices are dirt cheap compared to other places.

Now for a bit of history

A friendly agreement or a colossal giveaway?

WCP2 – Normar Rd

In the 80s a series of discussions took place between the Town of Cobourg and the Municipality of Hamilton Township. The subject was amalgamation of the two entities. Needless to say it never happened, for a variety of reasons. One of the results of the failure to agree was the policy from both Cobourg and Hamilton Twp not to extend municipal services across the border. Call it spiteful, mean or just retribution it has stood for over thirty years.

Now, very soon, an agreement will be made between the municipalities to break that policy. In Cobourg sharp eyed observers will have sniffed something about this a couple of months ago when an agenda item, for a closed session, was noticed and also when an application was made by the Pentecostal Camp to extend water services. 

Now in a news story in CobourgNow an online publication; read it here, it was revealed that an agreement has been reached. WHY haven’t we in Cobourg been notified of this. WHY is it that we have overturned longstanding policy in secret. WHY cannot Cobourg citizens be trusted with this discussion in the open. WHEN are we going to be told about this.

Why is this so important to Cobourgers? Another bit of history – the farm field between Workman Road South and the Pentecostal Camp has been for sale for many, many years. Now there is a SOLD sign on it. Was this land purchased using inside information about the water/sewer extension? Because if it was then the cost of extending the water/sewage lines just became more valuable and Cobourg should cash in but will they? In Hamilton Township this is being touted as a no cost item as the developer will pay all the costs. But the cost to Cobourg is more than services. After all just how many houses will be built on this land? And remember the taxes will flow to Hamilton Township.

In 1985, after the election of a new Council the first order of business was to deal with the atrocious situation that residents in the Brook Rd and Coverdale subdivisions were faced with – overloaded septic systems. That cost millions to fix. It is not inconceivable to imagine that with rural building standards the same thing couldn’t happen again in the new planned areas.

But will taxpayers in Cobourg ever get to discuss this giveaway and impediment to further amalgamation, if wanted. Cobourg, unless it charges a premium for the water/sewage, will never gain from this deal – why are we doing it? Why are we using precious sewer capacity to service outsiders. Is Hamilton Township going to pay a fee for this capacity? How will Cobourg profit from this?

The bottom line is that Hamilton Twp is laughing all the way to the Bank and Cobourg, given the lack of public information to date is looking like a benevolent Uncle being taken to the cleaners by Slick Willy.

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!