Aurora Citizen

News & Views from the Citizens of Aurora Ontario

Guest Post: Reader Asks Council to Focus on the Bigger Issues

Posted by auroracitizen on June 27, 2010

Fifteen years ago, when I moved to Aurora, I had such optimistic hopes of my future life in a small town. Over the years, I have become more and more disillusioned and saddened to find that I inadvertently moved to such a dysfunctional suburban settlement at this.

The town has many problems — as do many communities — what with parking, traffic, vandalism and such, but those have only been addressed on the surface. The downtown Yonge Street core has been a problem since I came here and despite several promising efforts — committees formed, proposals set forth — little has changed in the last fifteen years.

Traffic on through-streets has become a growing problem, but the quick-fix of unsightly, expensive chicanes only provide aggravation to residents and ridicule from visitors. There’s been a loud hoo-haw-haw about the Farmer’s Market, but in the end, residents merely want fresh, local produce and few people really care whether the mayor’s friends are butting in and becoming celebrities in their own minds or whether campaigning politicians are taking credit for the zucchini and parsley on hand.

Now, the issue of the train whistle has reared its ugly head once again. Back in 2008, the Aurora Citizen stated: “’Mayor Morris is quoted in The Banner stating, “Residents have dealt with this problem long enough.’ That will be cold comfort if someone is harmed because the whistles are stopped.” (Aurora Citizen, “To Blow or Not to Blow”, October 31, 2008).

Here we are, a year and a half later, and for once, I see that Mayor Morris was correct — residents HAVE dealt with this problem long enough. As William Hastings pointed out in his recent letter to local newspapers, they’ve dealt with it for 157 years, because that’s how long the trains have been running through town with whistles blowing.

It’s not like this issue suddenly appeared last year to torment folks who bought homes near the tracks. That’s like buying a home on the edge of a river and then complaining when a fish lands on your front lawn.

When I came here, I bought a home near a school. My children are grown and graduated, so if I now band together with my also-retired neighbours, can we get Mayor Morris to do something about all the rogue children wandering the area around 3:00pm every day? Maybe we could re-direct them elsewhere with concrete chicanes. Or perhaps we could send these wandering children to the Farmer’s Market, where they could hand out political brochures.

Does our Town council feel compelled to take seriously the complaints of every whining resident while slapping Band-Aids on real problems? Are we destined to become a village of idiots? It certainly looks that way.

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21 Responses to “Guest Post: Reader Asks Council to Focus on the Bigger Issues”

  1. Hello said

    Aurora’s Downtown Core is what it is. I have shopped at the Paint shop very nice people. Customer service excellent. I have been into Caruso’s and bought flowers from them on line. Again another excellent shop with great customer service. I have seen some beautiful windows on Yonge St. and as of yet have not had the opportunity to stop. There is plenty of parking on both sides of the street and in behind the shops on Temperence and Victoria. People will do what people will do. They will go to the mall, the strip plazas, the big box stores and the ones on Yonge St. Parking I do not believe to be the issue here nor will taking the parking off of Yonge St. The issue is there is nothing of any significance to bring people to the Downtown Core. Newmarket has Ferry lake, Port Perry is a nice place to visit on Saturday afternoon specially in the Fall. There is a Romance about it. Stratford has the theatre to bring in the people as does Niagara on the Lake. What does Aurora have to offer to bring people in? That is the problem. The Farmers market was set-up on the pretext that it would bring people to the downtown but if you look around the communities surrounding our town, there are farmers markets everywhere. Newmarket has one and it is very busy. Sharon advertises one. So tell me what is so special about our Farmers Market that will bring people to our downtown and then make people think OH we should go and walk on Yonge St? Maybe it Liquidation World or Truevalue or maybe it’s the Renovated sleep over spa on Wellington street? Nothing here that will have me bring my special guest to? Aurora is a drive through much like MacDonalds!

  2. Tiffany said

    Christopher Watts said:
    “The problem with True Value may be less is that nobody stops to shop there because of a complete failure on behalf of the town to encourage and promote traffic to this part of town.”

    I hadn’t realised it until I read this comment, but it is entirely due to the traffic issues at Yonge and Wellington that I rarely go into that area of town. Ironically, the traffic bottle-necks there because of the vehicles parked near the Yonge-Wellington intersection — so the very parking that is meant to invite local shoppers to the area is what keeps me from visiting the area. I take all sorts of side-streets to avoid the intersection and ultimately, I hardly go to that section of town anymore.

  3. Anonymous said

    “downtown that has eroded to the point where fleeing small business is being replaced with big box stores that now completely reshape the east side of town.”

    Only in this Bizarro world would the town be blamed for this.

    Commercial development is going to happen — you can’t say, ‘Well, we don’t like big box stores so we’re not going to allow them.’ The OMB would throw that argument out in a minute. Have you been to any communities similar, or even smaller, in size to Aurora? There are big box stores everywhere.

    There are plenty of downtowns that are successful, even with the advent of box stores — Port Perry, Stratford, Cobourg and Elora are just a few examples. One of the reasons their downtowns are succeeding is because the business owners are offering items and services you can’t get at box stores.

    As for businesses closing — how about putting the lion’s share of the blame where it belongs — on the business and property owners themselves. Last time I checked, we lived in a free market system. Instead of whining about the lack of support at council, why not offer shoppers a reason to do business in your store? Businesses need good plans and adaptability to grow. Continuing to use the same business model you did 20 years ago is a recipe for disaster.

    Mr. Evans’ store is a good case in point. Why on earth would anyone shop there when Rona offers a better shopping experience with a cleaner, better organized, better stocked store? Well, because he’s local, some may argue. So what? To suggest we should spend our money in dumpy stores just because they’re ‘local’ is ridiculous.

    In the end, it’s the customers who are voting with their feet and their wallets.

    • Christopher Watts said

      Anonymous July 1, 2010 at 12:03 pm

      As the person who chose to post this lacked the courage to post their identity I guess it is safe to speculate that this was written by none other than Evilia.

      In response to your assertion:

      “you can’t say, ‘Well, we don’t like big box stores so we’re not going to allow them.’

      Thanks for trying to put words in my mouth.

      I never said anything about “not allowing” big box stores or commercial development.

      Big box stores have their place but given the proximity to Newmarket I question the need for the high concentration of such stores we are seeing here in Aurora without considering economic impact on local businesses, especially those in the historic downtown core.

      How many Shoppers Drug Marts does one town need?

      Mr. Evans asked if an economic impact study was done with regards to RONA coming to Aurora, the answer was no.

      It impacted his business, like no doubt other big box stores have for other businesses in the core.

      But hey, who cares right? It’s a free market right?

      As for very simplistically stating “There are big box stores everywhere.”

      What exactly is your point?

      I have indeed been to any communities similar, even smaller, in size to Aurora, each of which have their own strategies for balancing both big and small businesses.

      Port Perry, Stratford, Cobourg and Elora do not enjoy the same concentration of big box stores that we do.
      Their smaller businesses seem to do very well, and there is more of a balance.

      The current council in Aurora is not interested, or capable of maintaining such a balance.

      “One of the reasons their downtown’s are succeeding is because the business owners are offering items and services you can’t get at box stores.”

      I’m sorry to hear that you don’t believe that to be the case here in town.

      The fact that you found RONA providing a better shopping experience to True Value is absurd, and that you chose to call the business “dumpy” suggests that either you have some bone to pick with Mr. Evans or that you value expediency and cost over service.

      I don’t believe your “Free-market system” argument holds water in regards to the failings we are seeing in the core.

      Vics is a great example of a local business that uses the same business model they did 20 years ago, it has built and continues to attract and maintain a loyal customer base because it does offer what you can’t get at a big box store.

      TCs and Gabriels are both great family restaurants that serves up a better lunch than any of the chain restaurants around.

      Caruso’s and Casa Luna are hardly “dumpy”, and one can spend hours perusing their goods.

      The reason businesses like these are dying is because of lack of exposure, lack of traffic due to non existent parking and a total cop-out by our town on attracting tourists.

      These are failings that are attributed to council and only in your bizzaro world could they not be held accountable for their inaction.

    • Tim the Enchanter said

      Amen to that Brother (or Sister)!

      Folks would go “downtown” if there was a reason to but Mr. Evans and Friends thought they’d be clever and force folks downtown by getting vote-pandering councillors to keep Big Box retailers out of Aurora.
      This scheme has been packaged and sold locally for years under the euphemistic title “Revitalization of the Downtown Core”
      I suppose that idea might have worked except for a few sticky points:
      1. The Town gets nice fat development fees and taxes from Big Box stores.
      2. Downtown Aurora has nothing much to offer the Great Unwashed. (as pointed out above by our learned Brother – or Sister)
      3. If Aurora kept the Big Boxes out, more than a few informed Aurorans, you know – folks that have a radio or one them new-fangled TV sets, might shop downtown or they might be so bold as to toss the wife and kids in the old Studebaker and venture all the way to, oh – I don’t know, Newmarket to shop at Big Boxes there.

      Oh, and let’s not forget the Wells St. School brainwave that went something like: “We’ll get the YRDSB to spend their entire annual works budget for the Region to save the pile, er, I mean, the historic Wells St. School. Then we’ll use the school to lure families into Old Aurora – voila! instant revitalization!”
      Luckily the YRDSB didn’t bite although full marks to them for humouring the hopeful with a few public meetings.

      Meanwhile, at least two simple initiatives that would help the downtown merchants, you know – the ones that are crying, have repeatedly been slapped down:
      1. Elimination of Yonge St. parking to help traffic flow.
      2. Co-ordination and clean-up of the patchwork quilt of off-street parking areas to improve access.

      Nope, too simple and cheap.
      Hence, the “Aurora Promenade” consultant study which is much more expensive and infinitely more sexy than putting up some ‘No Parking’ signs.
      No matter that once the Aurora Time Capsule Club realizes that implementing the recommendations will actually mean making – wait for it – changes, which will cost – egads!- money, the Promenade study will be gathering more dust than Nigel’s acceptance speech.

      At least silliness is in good supply in our funny little town.

    • Tim the Enchanter said

      Mr. Watt

      “The fact that you found RONA providing a better shopping experience to True Value is absurd”

      WTF?

      The shopping experience is like beauty – it’s in the eye of the beholder. Our dear Brother (or Sister) has simply stated they prefer RONA to True Value – nothing absurd about that.
      You seem to prefer True Value’s level of service over what RONA offers – nothing wrong with that either.

      Apparently the problem for True Value is that not enough people agree with your assessment which is hardly the fault of RONA or the folks that shop there.

    • The problem with True Value may be less is that nobody stops to shop there because of a complete failure on behalf of the town to encourage and promote traffic to this part of town.

      You can park at RONA, but not so much at True Value.

      I only needed one hour at RONA to know that I would not return
      http://christopherwatts.posterous.com/a-bunch-of-tools

      So unless you expand the shopping experience to include “air conditioning” I continue to find it absurd that someone would chose to shop in a cold, impersonal big box stores (HomeDespot & RONA) that sell you what they want, when there are outfits like HomeHardware and TrueValue that actually listen , accommodate and sell you what you came for.

    • Elizabeth Bishenden said

      I dunno. I’ve bought some stuff at RONA (admittedly I had a coupon that gave some benefit to Yellow Brick House and that got me in the door… but fair play to RONA for signing on) and at Home Depot (their customer service is excellent) lately.

      We recently renovated our kitchen in an old house. We loved the consultant at Home Depot. She had a great handle on design and was very respectful about our need to keep the quality up and the price down. Other people who worked there really helped us out as well, especially the guys in the appliance dept. We also used a local contractor to complete the work, and that company employed many tradespeople from the community. We did some of it ourselves and everyone else involved understood that we were looking after our own interests, both money-wise and style-wise. Everyone we dealt with was great, whether they were from Home Depot or the medium-sized local company.

      I shop at Home Hardware fairly often but they’re not getting rich on what I spend. (Yes, we did actually try them out for our kitchen, but the Home Depot option worked better for us. Maybe not for you, but for sure for us.)

      Do I shop at stores like The True Value? Maybe not so much.

      There is a big difference between stores that offer a lot of services (interior design services, appliances, great credit offerings) and stores that have some stuff you might be able to dust off and use.

      It’s not just about parking. It’s about service, selection, fire safety, and then maybe it is about parking. Parking is like a distant 1% of the equation in the hardware business.

      As for some of the rest of Old Yonge, I tried to visit the new gallery on Yonge St. about a month ago. I couldn’t figure out which door to open (no, really, try it for yourself without signs) and the folks in the decorating shop across the hall stared at me as I floundered. Thanks… ever… so…. much…. for the community experience.

      Customer service is both about the service and about the customer. If you have restricted services, you have to help the customer understand why you’re offering what you have and why he wants your special offerings. If you have lots of services, you have to help the customer figure out which one she wants.

      Is this problem that hard?

  4. Robert the Bruce said

    The train whistle issue is an annoyance to me. The trains were here a lot earlier than the residents that are complaining. The whistle has a purpose and it’s a safety issue. I have a good mind to go down to the tracks and erect a sign asking the locomotive engineers to blow their whistle anyways as I fear for the safety of the residents.

    Now, to be fair Anna, what has this council done to make traffic worse for you? The major streets (Bathurst, Yonge, Bayview, Leslie running north-south and Bloomington, Wellington running east-west) are York Region roads. I cannot fault this council for congestion there – in fact there has been efforts to reduce it (road widening). Where exactly are you finding congestion? I hear people complain about stuff like this, and I ask them what their solution would be. Sometimes there is no easy solution to these problems.

    Fuimus

    • Wellington and Young Street area seems a real mess, but then may be it is the parking on the road. Few times we ended up sitting in the middle of the road on the red light, not that we tried to sneak through the red light, we just waited the green light hoping something will move. Well, it wasn’t like that before, or I was lucky before.

      On the side note, you mention the road widening. I think the St. John’ side road did lots of relief for congestion. But, have you ever tried to walk on the board walk, the road noise is just unbelievable, deceives the purpose of having a nice board walk.

      Anna

      PS The train noise never bother me, I rather have the noise than have more casualties. This is the total waste of time issue.

    • Fred said

      RTB, I’ll meet you at the tracks and help erect the sign.
      I agree, this issue is one of the biggest niggles for me. It is classic Morris, though. To hell with what’s best for the community as a whole, and grab a few votes for some whiners.
      I see pedestrians and cyclists running across the tracks WITH the whistles blowing. And headsets on…
      I want the whistle and I live VERY close to the tracks and am a light sleeper.
      I can’t even begin to describe how stupid I think this “issue” is.
      God forbid they’re will be another accident.

    • Grace Marsh said

      I live very close to the tracks as well and every time this issue comes up I’m reminded of what my very wise late father said about the whistle the first time he stayed over and heard it.

      Being a vetern of WWII, he noted how lucky we were to be able to hear the train whistle because it was such a comforting sound to hear. When I asked why he felt that way he said when he was overseas the sound of the train whistle meant things like fresh troops arriving, tired troops going home, food and supplies on the move.

      For the 30 years I have lived in that neighbourhood, the sound of the whistle has comforted me and reminds me of a great man that I miss everyday. Thanks dad for your great insight!

  5. someone who loves this town more than politics said

    Everyone like to bring up “small town charm” when referencing Aurora but even 15 years ago Aurora wasn’t by any stretch of imagination a small town.

    Any charm that may have been an attractor has been rapidly eroded over the last two terms of council.

    Over my time living here I have felt very let down with the disconnect between “Aurora: the reality” and “Aurora: the brochure”, the latter being where all the tax dollars are spent.

    The dysfunction and corruption of the previous council was a well known fact before I decided to move here, I never thought it could get worse but this last council has shown exactly the full effect of what micro managing can do.

    Micro managing of town, municipal, provincial (and on the environmental front even international affairs if you count the Mayor’s Al Gore photo-op with her right-to-dry campaign)
    Micromanaging of councilors, town staff all the way down to Farmers Market vendors and volunteers.

    As if that wasn’t enough to control this council has decided to go out and make it their business items which are none of their business.

    Parking lot lights, train whistles, traffic calming, clothes lines are all just smoke and mirrors that serve to distract from the big issue items such as:

    – the unnecessary and costly staff restructuring that has seen the loss of the majority of town staff

    – a tax rate that is out of line with the current economy and inflation and seems to be increasing unnecessarily

    – a downtown that has eroded to the point where fleeing small business is being replaced with big box stores that now completely reshape the east side of town.

    – inadequate infrastructure (parking, water, jobs, office space…) to accommodate the imminent “intensification”

    – the loss of “Auora Hydro” and “Aurora Cable” which have been replaced by increased service costs from PowerStream and Robbers Communications.

    – the flushing of the town’s reserve funds to pay for a “Cultural Center” that lacks a museum component and offers lackluster exhibitions and almost non-existent programming.

    Band-aids are all council can afford to spend after pissing away countless opportunities, collective intelligence and experience in favor of “consultants” and “friends”.

    That is why Aurora is the laughing stock of the region, and why our neighbors hope we do the right thing and vote a swift and sweeping regime change come October.

    • Anonymous said

      EVERYWHERE I go across this Region, Morris and her cronies are the brunt of all jokes. Our Town has become a laughing stock. People plead with me to help get rid of her. She is an embarassment and as a 35 year resident of this community, it disgusts me. I don’t know much about Geoff Dawe but I do know and respect many who are touting him. I’m prepared to give him a listen and I think we all owe that to our Town (those of us that still care).

    • ‘Robbers Communications’ – I hope that wasn’t a type mistake, lol, because that is perfect name for Rogers, lol. Anna.

    • Knowledgeable in Aurora said

      And don’t forget:

      -the town assets (buildings) sitting empty, or extremely under utilized.

      -water and sewer rate increases well beyond the cost of living. (Thank you tax buster Wilson!)

      -the rock bottom staff morale

      -the lost opportunity of YR police headquarters

      and on and on the list could go!

    • Robert the Bruce said

      ” the loss of “Auora Hydro” and “Aurora Cable” which have been replaced by increased service costs from PowerStream and Robbers Communications.”

      I must take issue with this statement.

      Aurora Hydro…. We currently complain about the nuts running the asylum at Town Hall. Who do you think was running Aurora Hydro? I fully endorse the Town getting out of the business of delivering electricity. Merging the service with other municipal services saves money for everyone as it reduces duplication. I think the increased costs of electricity are more to be blamed on the McGinty government.

      Aurora Cable…. Come on! Let me take off my tin-foil hat here for a minute. This council forced Aurora Cable to sell to Rogers? Aurora cable had been a target of takeover by Rogers – and Classicomm before that – for years. The family held out as long as they could to get the right price. The windmill/battery/storage definition fisaco was not the tipping point. Dollars was. We all know how you feel about Rogers – look you call them Robbers so you have a negative point of view – but this is as red a herring as I have ever seen.

      Let’s get real about Aurora council. It is the job of the council of this Town and any other councils, to provide local services to their residents. Stuff like…. snow removal, parks, recereation facilities, garbage collection, town streets, provide development rules and regulations. Let’s not inflate their heads any more than what they are.

      Fuimus

  6. jargong said

    I have lived in Aurora for 30 years and have lived in the same house near the train tracks all that time. I cannot understand what the complaint is about. The trains run and yes they sometimes do blow their whistles. I cannot understand why the complaints.

    The chicanes, however, make me see red every day. I have to use Walton to get to Wellington and I curse the idiot who dreamt them up every time I go by. The faces of the idiot I curse is the mayor’s or those of the lackeys in council who do her bidding.

    Despite council’s crowing about how they have improved Yonge Street, the street remains a disaster and nobody has the guts to do anything about it. Parking should be eliminated on the street and adequate parking provided in lots on the back streets. Those lots are used very little and the businesses on Yonge should promote them.

    • Marie said

      Yes, Jargong — my thoughts EXACTLY. The train whistle is a safety feature. Period. There should be NO parking on Yonge Street, nor on Wellington near Yonge Street. No question. It’s ludicrous to erect those ugly and hazardous blocks of concrete to on Walton. I agree with you 100%.

      Marie

  7. Yes myself I been living in Aurora for over 12 years now. The traffic is a real issue. I remember those days when I was able to zoom through some of the Aurora parts with no time (no speeding of course, lol), and now the congestions are very annoying. You made lot of good points here. Since I got involved, lol, not really, but started to listen to politics more, some of the issues are really waste of time. Anna.

    • Positive 2010 said

      Residents do care if budget money was allocated to the Farmers Market but then switch-a-roo,given to a commitee chaired by a friend of the gang.

      If you are going to set money aside for a group make sure its the group that benefits.

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