Aurora Citizen

News & Views from the Citizens of Aurora Ontario

Why Take Our Word For It – Seeing is Believing

Posted by auroracitizen on May 26, 2010

Council Watch #9 – by Richard Johnson

It has been a while since I last posted a formal Council Watch comment, but that is not been as a result of lack of material!

Did anyone catch this week’s Council meeting on Rogers TV?

I’m aware that no one appeared to be sitting in the audience at the Town Chambers but I do have to wonder how many people know what is really going on at 1 Municipal Way these days! I would not blame anyone for claiming to have better things to do with their time, but sometimes I can’t help but tune in to see the latest developments at Council. For those people who may want to watch council in action, you may want to note the procedure provided below.

This week’s meeting was as good as any to give one an idea of what has been going on for some time now, at Council.

  1. Select: www.rogerstv.com
  2. Choose your region – Aurora – from the pull down menu, then choose your language (You probably only have to do this on your first visit)
  3. Click on Video on Demand link located near the top right corner of the home page.
  4. Select City Council from the Shows/Events option.
  5. Select City Council – Aurora from the Sections option.
  6. Select All from the Category option.

You should see all of the council meetings there and you can choose by date for the one you wish to view.

I can’t possibly cover all of the shenanigans I witnessed, but I can assure that all is not what it appears to be at the Town Hall when one puts what is being said into some necessary perspective. It really is something to behold.

Here are some highlights as far as I am concerned.

The town is still debating the costs surrounding the diesel generator it plans to install at the Town Hall. This issue strikes me as more than a bit ironic given the town’s clear and apparent lack of understanding with regards to the power supply issues and corresponding environmental impacts that the region has been facing for years, but at least one thing became very clear last night. Despite asking developers to “consider” (Council’s words not mine) incorporating more green initiatives into their developments while passing the cost on to consumers, the town itself does not appear to be prepared to incur any extra costs associated with buying a more environmentally friendly alternative to the proposed diesel generator or to even to install solar power generation on the new recreation center (not to mention any number of other similar eco-opportunities). Council also seemed to not grasp the difference between supplying back-up power to a telecom local area network (LAN) versus providing back-up power to the whole building. Council could not grasp why a substantial change in the stated specifications contained in the request for proposal resulted in an increased cost estimate. I kid you not. Staff tried in vain to explain the basics, but to no avail, so you guessed it, another staff report is on the way.

Given Council’s track record on power supply issues it is doubtful that they have explored the Ontario Power Authority’s Feed in Tariff (FIT) program or the fact that a properly designed and more environmentally friendly bio-diesel generator could in fact allow the town to recoup most, if not all, of the associated cost for the back-up source of power. To go a step further, a gas powered generator, a gas fired combined heat and power plant, or a district energy plant could be even cleaner still, but clearly local generation is not something the council is prepared to even discuss given our experience with power supply issues over the past few years, even if local generation does make technical, economic as well as environmental sense on any number of levels.

The simple truth is that Council wants to ensure that the lights stay on at the Town Hall with diesel power no less, even if the power may go out for the rest of us. Working towards finding viable long term and comprehensive power solutions clearly is not seen as being Council’s responsibility or priority for that matter. The most difficult thing for me to accept is that the facts surrounding the viable alternatives and the resulting impacts of various power supply solutions never do seem to matter. If you ask me, the Mayor and Councillor MacEachern get what they want on the big picture issues and who cares about what the impact is on others, including other municipalities, as a direct result of their actions and inactions?

This week the Mayor even stated her intention to do what I (and others) suggested should have been done over five years ago with regards to revisiting our planning codes and objectives in order to address corresponding environmental impacts more proactively, but then again it is an election year so why not claim to be on the cutting edge ? One can always bait and switch after the fact, regardless of what the speech writers may say so effectively during any given election.

The Mayor can’t even apparently understand the development approval process as was demonstrated by her handling of the condo development proposed for Yonge and Wellington. Remember the site that the Mayor demanded should get cleaned up ASAP and the same development that she repeatedly claims has not been delayed by council for years? In a rambling statement the Mayor said that the delays caused in 2008 were not under her term in office (go figure), but in that case she must have misspoken by accident. The Mayor and council could not for the life of them figure out the approval process and they asked for yet another staff report that could delay the development approval for a further three or four months. At this rate there is a good chance that there will be no shovels in the ground for at least another twelve months in the best case scenario. It was stated that Council does not want to make any decision until the Yonge Street improvement plan (aka the Ken Whitehurst & Co Report)  is presented in September after taking over a year to prepare, so I guess we’ll all just have to wait until the election to see what the grand plans are, not to mention who gets elected as Mayor on October 25th, 2010. The grand redevelopment plan pending will no doubt be incorporated with great fanfare into the Mayor’s re-election campaign given that Ken Whitehurst will very likely once again play a significant role in crafting Phyllis’s every utterance, along with the Mayor’s newly hired speech writer. You can see where this is all going.

The other inescapable highlight of this week’s meeting was the electioneering that is clearly well under way. Don’t get me wrong, I think that I still detected the bitter undertone and some less than subtle grumbling, but thanks to a great set up by Councillor Wilson the Mayor could boast what a GREAT job staff and council have done in reducing the back-log of issues. A job well done, way to go everyone and thanks especially who paid with their jobs! Amazingly the Mayor also even lost a couple of recorded votes which seems to buck the trend and may even suggest that either “the block” is not what it once was, or someone may have wanted to make the point that at least at times the block is controlled by others. Of course some would insist that there is no block or that all of this is completely normal and to be expected from a well oiled and professional team.

Oh the web we weave in Aurora!

I suggest that you should take the time necessary to watch the Rogers video of the meeting and decide for yourself if this is good government and smart growth development in action.

RJ

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14 Responses to “Why Take Our Word For It – Seeing is Believing”

  1. fed up said

    I know this is way off topic–but what is going on in this town with drivers driving while talking on their cell phones–I have seen dozens and dozens of this is the past couple of days–is the heat frying some brains out there? People do not realize what will happen to their insurance rates, if they even can get insured, if convicted of this. Comments welcome

  2. someone who loves this town more than politics said

    Just to follow up on Richard’s excellent post.

    I’m hoping that reason for poor attendance at council meetings is in part due to several people watching council from the comfort of their own homes either on Cable or online.
    I would expect more opting for the latter given how obsolete Cable TV is becoming.

    It is my preference to watch council online. Viewing is on my terms, I can pause the 4 hour debacle, rewind even record segments for later viewing, all with a distributed attention.

    Oh and then there’s added bonus of not having to sit in the uncomfortable council chamber, being subject to the menacing stares and cold chill that the Gang-of-six emanate.

    That being said the Robbers TV online experience leaves a lot to be desired, and could easily turn off many potential viewers.

    The format Robbers has chosen for streaming is the antiquated Windows Media format.
    Some viewers here have already claimed playback issues which are no doubt tied to the unfortunately poor format choice.

    A bit of technical advise would be to:

    a) check that your system has an up to date version of Windows Media Player:
    http://www.microsoft.com/windows/windowsmedia/default.mspx

    b) check that your video card driver is up to date, and that hardware acceleration settings are set to “none”

    c) check the DirectX drivers are current.

    d) check that your browser settings for video and rich media playback have not been restricted due to security preferences

    e) check that your browser preferences for displaying video

    The interface which lets users select from a myriad of programs is tricky to navigate, and is increadibly difficult for those wanting to return and view a specific show.

    If anyone wants to collapse all 6 steps listed above into one please feel free to use the following link:
    http://www.rogerstv.com/option.asp?lid=237&rid=70&mid=52#38_120_3103

    Then pick the meeting of choice.

    You think that an outfit like Robbers, with the obscene profits they make, would be savvy enough to shift their video uploads to YouTube channels where there is increased search, accessibility, scalability, performance and easier playback and scrubbing controls.

    Then there’s the added inconvenience that our town does NOTHING to link to these videos through the town website, which could easily be done in the section regarding the minutes.

    It’s not like the town doesn’t have both a communications person and a web master on staff.

    Even if the collective intelligence of these two can’t power an LED we are told through EDAC that we are “one of Canada’s most significant interactive media hubs and the dynamic centre of multi-media activity in Canada” :
    http://businessaurora.ca/interactivemediac18.php

    So what’s the failing here?

    So much for “transparency” and “accountability”.

    Perhaps the Aurora Citizen could step forward and add a tab, or carve up a section of their bland WordPress template to situate and host a video window with links for relevant videos, perhaps even go as far as creating a YouTube channel.

    Even if our town can’t Roger Clowater can, I’m sure the Aurora Citizen can too.

  3. Anonymous for a Reason said

    Chris Watts has a good piece on his blog about the latest council meeting.

    • fed up said

      how do I find his blog

    • Richard Johnson said

      Here is the LINK to Chris’s site.

      LINK: http://christopherwatts.posterous.com/

      Quote:

      What is such a mystery?

      A property owner wants to develop a property to replace the existing one that lays vacant.

      The property is an eyesore and has low property assessment.

      It is not contributing to the tax base and above all else would contribute to the ECONOMIC redevelopment of the downtown core.

      We don’t need a consultancy study, we have an opportunity to actually approve a building.

      Why is there any hesitation on this?

    • Also an easy link just to your right in the Blogroll – Temporary Sanity. 🙂

  4. Richard Johnson said

    POINT OF CLARIFICATION:

    Since submitting my Council Watch comment this evening I have just confirmed from the OPA that back up generators do not qualify for the FIT program because the generation is so infrequent.

    Combined Heat and Power (CHP) plants and district energy plants run for longer periods of time and are clearly much more expensive despite being more efficient. The proposed gas fired peaking plant that is currently in the process of being approved and adeveloped in King is in fact designed to address the entire region’s power reliability concerns but of course Council clearly did not want that solution either.

    Gas power would still likely be cleaner than bio-diesel and bio-diesel is certainly cleaner than diesel, but at the end of the day the generator will not run for very long in any event.

    The point remains that Council should be finding ways to walk the talk and they should lead by example. If they claim to be progressive and environmentally friendly then there is a price to be paid for that and clearly it is one thing to ask developers to pass on the costs associated with being more friendly to the environment and quite another for the town to develop a more progressive plan. The town has long way to go before they can claim to truly walk the talk.

    Sorry for any confusion caused on my part.

    • Robert the Bruce said

      I am an IT professional and have spent much time working with Disaster Recovery and Business Continuity Services under which backup generator systems come under. In the beginning the ideal was an UPS (Uninterruptable Power Supply) which is a fancy term for batteries. The reality was, in the case of a power failure, the UPS gave enough power to IT folks to gracfully shut down systems. As we have become more reliant on computer systems, the 15 to 90 minute supply of UPS power is not enough. Backup generator systems are becoming quite common. The reason that they are diesel based is because the reliance on outside services cannot be counted on. If there is some sort of local disaster, it may impact natural gas lines and cut that supply too. A diesel based system has it’s own independant fuel tank that is not reliant on anything else other than making sure it has something in it. If you can’t get a fuel truck to the tank, you have bigger problems.

      I know Richard is looking for fault here, but a business case for a diesel-based backup generator is sound.

      Fuimus

    • Richard Johnson said

      To Robert the Bruce, May 27, 2010 at 8:12 pm

      I agree with you. there is a case for a UPS system, just as there is a technical and environmental case for a source of peaking power in the power grid. I thought that there was an alternative that could allow for the town to have the UPS system pay for itself and there may well have been if a different technology was adopted, but the VP of Systems Planning at the OPA confirmed shortly after my posting that UPS systems do not qualify for the FIT program. I tried explore alternatives that I doubted were ever even considered, but I should have waited before posting my comments. My mistake.

      My point was that there are various technical alternatives that have various environmental impacts that all need to be considered. I agree that a UPS system may not justify extra expense for a more considerate alternative from an environmental alternative given the expected operating time, but I was trying to point out that council has not seen fit to install solar panels on the Rec Center or to opt for a bio-diesel or gas UPS system, while at the same time they ask developers to consider incorporating green alternatives and while they ignore the advice of the OPA and other experts with regards to how best to meet York Region’s power supply needs.

      I also tried to note that Council supports the concept of a diesel powered UPS system for the town but it did not support a back up supply of power for the region via a viable and comparatively clean local generation solution, which also strikes me as being somewhat inconsistent and ironic.

      Council has taken steps to address environmental issues but there is far more they could and should be doing on the power supply front, not to mention the building code and development planning front. I am not at all sure that Aurora serves as the best example of could be considered as open and progressive thinking let alone professionalism.

      Given that you are aware of what a LAN is I trust you at least appreciated the point I made about how Council went around in circles on the UPS budget issue. It was nothing short of embarrassing.

    • Robert the Bruce said

      I saw some interesting billboards on a recent drive through Pennsylvania…..

      Winds die… It gets dark…

      It was a billboard for the Pa. coal mining industry

      Fuimus

    • Richard Johnson said

      I hear ya, Robert the Bruce… “Winds die… It gets dark…”, but just try explaining what that means to EAC and the Mayor ! I tried, but clearly failed, as did the OPA, Northland, APPrO, The Hydro Task Force, Glenn Hubbers of the Green Party and a power industry engineer, and others.

      There are many power supply alternatives with various corresponding environmental impacts and our power supply grid requires a mixture of technologies but unfortunately “the powers that be” in Aurora (for lack of a better term) seem to get easily lost in the details and all too often the facts don’t seem to matter when their mind has already been made up.

      Gas is cleaner than coal, the province has an “off coal” strategy and the Region is in danger of black-outs if we don’t install some form of dispatchable and redundant source of back-up power. It’s that simple. The economic case that supports peaking power is also clear cut, but the procurement process is also wrought with problems; the biggest one being that the likes of Aurora Council, CCKT and MegaWHAT apparently don’t have a clue how to participate constructively from a well informed position. But of course you know that because none of this is news. I’ve said it all before so please forgive me for repeating myself.

  5. Guy Poppe said

    Agutinius- I have the same problem

    Which means I have to shave and shower to prepare for my grand entrance at council.

    Next time, let’s go together.

    We’ll let council decide who smells better

  6. Augustinius said

    Dear RJ:

    I followed the above access instructions and just get a still picture of the council chamber.

    How do you get the video to play?

    Thanks.

    • It is probably a setting on your computer that doesn’t allow streaming video. Just tried it on a couple computers and it works fine.

      Sorry we can’t be more helpful on the technical side.

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