Aurora Citizen

News & Views from the Citizens of Aurora Ontario

Has Anything Changed For The Better?

Posted by auroracitizen on January 9, 2010

This article was originally published in the Era Banner in May 2008 shortly after Councillor Grace Marsh resigned because of the toxic environment that the mayor had allowed to flourish in her first year as Mayor. We thought it interesting to revisit some of the media comments back then to see if anything had changed for the better as Mayor Morris gained some real experience managing people. The emphasis is ours.

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Time to get tough: Mayor

Aurora May 01, 2008
by Teresa Latchford

Phyllis Morris vows to get tough at council, enact strict code of conduct

Aurora Mayor Phyllis Morris will bring in a strict code of conduct next week to get things back on track at council, she told The Era-Banner yesterday.

Last Thursday’s sudden resignation of councillor Grace Marsh only reinforces something needs to change — and fast.

Ms Marsh quit the job, citing council’s dysfunction as a situation she could no longer tolerate.

While the mayor admits she needs to improve her leadership skills and take back control of proceedings, it’s difficult when some councillors refuse to follow rules.

“I’m still determined to bring decorum back to the table,” Mrs. Morris said. “I’m fighting back: I’m not going to be polite anymore.”

Meetings — plagued with angry outbursts, accusations of wrongdoing, threats and a complete disregard for the mayor’s rulings, have forced her hand, she said. “Grace is a loss, she is very intelligent and could balance the issues,”

Mrs. Morris said. “It’s an unusual situation, someone leaving council, but it’s not the end of the world.”

This is not the way Mrs. Morris envisioned her tenure at the helm of the community’s political scene.

During her election campaign, Mrs. Morris pledged to end the “dysfunction” at the council table — a situation for which she openly criticized former mayor Tim Jones.

However, this council, which began in 2006 — just 18 months into its four-year term — is bogged down by personality conflicts that are worse than ever, leaving little room to serve constituents.

A code of conduct, however, should help things run smoother, the mayor said.

“If there are consequences attached, some may think twice about their actions.

It is hard to enforce procedure when, at the end of every meeting, a grenade is thrown in that requires legal action.”

There are times when she feels she doesn’t have the respect of councillors who continue personal debates after a ruling has been made.

As leader, however, residents and fellow councillors could look at the dysfunctional meetings and question her leadership abilities. “The fact is I’m staying and when people challenge me, I’m going to fight back,” she said. “I have taken more abuse than anyone.

Some want to see this current council succeed, but others are determined to see it fail.”

Councillor Wendy Gaertner agrees the mayor is not respected and admits some councillors could behave more appropriately.

Mrs. Morris has improved control of meetings by enforcing procedure, but not every councillor wants to play by the same rules, Mrs. Gaertner said.

“It’s not the head of council, it’s the council members,” she said last week in response to Mrs. Marsh’s resignation.

This council does get things done, despite the fact the budget, which was to be completed by December 2007, was not finalized until April 2008, CAO John Rogers said.

It is staff’s duty to make recommendations to council and it is their prerogative to accept or reject the courses of action, Mr. Rogers said.

He doesn’t feel there is a lack of direction to staff. In fact, there is a running priority list that includes seven years worth of issues, created by council to let senior staff know what projects and issues should be dealt with first.

There are always points of discussion that we need to allow,” he said. “Sometimes, it takes longer than expected.”

One of the most important accomplishments on which council has come to agree this term is putting up significant funds for the Heritage Centre renovations (old Church Street School), Mr. Rogers said. It has been in discussion for several years and this council made the decision.

“There are many things council has accomplished that aren’t readily seen,” he said. “Infrastructure is one, like improving roads and watermains in the area.”

Since its term began two years ago, council has also endorsed the urban wildlife park, headed the downtown core revitalization project, launched the heritage district study for the southeast quadrant and abolished a bylaw that provided a loophole for council to meet without including the public or media.

Council also created three new citizen advisory committees focusing on arts and culture, trails development and graffiti abatement, Mrs. Morris said.

“This is not a slow-go council. The majority of council members don’t go out and negatively attack each other.”

A special council meeting earlier this week saw politicians declare Mrs. Marsh’s seat vacant.

A motion to fill the seat via a byelection was defeated after a 4-4 vote. Another motion that suggested an appointment to the position was deferred to the next council meeting.  

“We want people to hear and know about the resignation and allow council to reflect on the choices they have,” Mrs. Morris said.

“We didn’t want to be rushed or pushed into a decision, which is what it felt like.”

In two weeks, council will be presented with more detailed information about the procedural choices to complete the appointment.

One choice involves welcoming John Gallo, first runner-up in the 2006 municipal election, to join. The next meeting to discuss the vacant seat is May 13.

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4 Responses to “Has Anything Changed For The Better?”

  1. Walt said

    A certain Red Cadillac was parked today (Tuesday) at noon in the mayor’s parking spot.

    It’s entire rear window was still covered in snow.

    If that is the mayor’s car, and if she drove it today, she has worse judgement than we all feared. Not only is driving with the window obscured like that illegal, it’s also dangerous, and stupid.

  2. Anonymous for a reason said

    Granger doing Morris’ bidding?

    http://www.yorkregion.com/article/101538

    • Martin Ellingham said

      It wouldn’t surprise me. It was her typical denial – down is up, black is white. Nevermind that everyone else can plainly see the truth through the spin.

      BTW What was surprising was the absence of the word “component” in his blatherings.

  3. Brickbat Returns said

    ” Has anything changed for the better ? ”

    NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NOP NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO and NO .

    Oh and when it comes to The Ruler of The Bullies , our Mayor

    NO

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