Aurora Citizen

News & Views from the Citizens of Aurora Ontario

Archive for the ‘Budget’ Category

Jazz Festival Back In The News Again

Posted by auroracitizen on April 13, 2012

It seem Councillors Ballard, Gallo and Gaertner never miss an opportunity to create controversy. They have tried to create a controversy where none should exist.

Council recently declined to wave the user fees for the Town Park — in keeping with the policies that apply to other user groups who use the park.

Seems pretty clear. In fact, it should never have come to Council in the first place. Remember, Council sets policy and then expect staff to execute accordingly. Why wasn’t staff simply allowed to do their job without the controversy?

More on point, why did the jazz festival come before Council in the first place. It’s simple — they expect to be treated differently. Which make sense — since the previous Council provided them with privileges no other group received. And clearly they have vocal support this term who feel they should get special treatment again.

However, not so fast. This Council rightly decided to treat everyone equally. Good for them. That’s leadership, transparency and integrity. What we voted them in to deliver.

But then Ballard and crew started their whining because their friends didn’t get to continue on the gravy train and get access to our tax dollars. And instead of dealing with the policy issues — then have tried to hide behind their cries of the balance of Council being “anti-culture”.

Well boo hoo. You didn’t get what you wanted — so again you start twisting the facts and trying to change the discussion.

First it the Aurora Cultural Centre being an attack on culture versus what it really was — a demand for accountability for our dollars. Now it’s the jazz festival.

This is a privately run organization that claimed to generate $100,000 in revenue. Yet they feel they are entitled to have you and I dip into our pockets and pay part of their expenses even if we would prefer to have that money used for something else. If the event is that successful — fantastic. Run it responsibly and pay your way like every other user group in town. But keep your hands out of our pockets.

And to Councillors who voted to give them the funds — start looking after our money — and stop giving it away to special interest that you deem as worthy. It’s not your money. It’s our money and we want to have a say on how you spend it.

Wonder when Councillor Ballard, Gallo and Gaertner will figure out that there was a reason their mentors were voted out. Auroran’s want transparency around how and where our tax dollars are being spent and no more special privileges for friends. The jazz festival situation has again brought out the underside of Aurora politics.

Posted in Budget, Community Corner, Leadership, Recreation | 17 Comments »

Difficult Choices

Posted by auroracitizen on April 14, 2011

An article appeared in the Auroran about our 2011 tax bill. Certainly we will be spending more of our hard-earned dollars to support the Town budget. However, another article may have also caught your eye — “Council Reduces Library request for more money — which indicated that Council had reduced their budget requisition by $30,500.

We are not offering an opinion on whether this cut was justified. We are asking your opinion on this and the larger issue. When looking at the budget, and the cuts – what items did you feel should have been cut and which do you think should have been saved. And of course, where do you think additional funds should have been allocated.

Balancing a budget is a delicate “balancing” act. But the one constant is dealing with “special interest” groups. These could be very small numbering 10’s of people or very large numbering 100’s (like sporting associations or the library users) — but they are all special interest groups since they don’t service the entire community like roads and sewers (yes we know some people may not drive — but you get the point).

The question is, how much “town” money do we spend on special interest groups and how much pressure do we put on them to be self-sustaining.

Food for thought? Grist for the Mill?

Posted in Budget | 10 Comments »

Time For A Clear, Consistent Policy for Sponsorship

Posted by auroracitizen on March 28, 2011

Hi everyone,

See below for a letter that I have sent to Mayor Dawe and Councillors.   Anyone wishing to contact the Mayor or the Council members about this matter is encouraged to do so.  (Feel free to copy some of the text, but be sure to express your own views as well!)

Geoff Dawe can be reached at

The rest of Council can be reached at


Elizabeth Bishenden

From: Elizabeth Bishenden
Sent: Sunday, March 27, 2011 7:37 PM
Subject: Council policy with respect to charities and not-for-profits

Dear Mayor Dawe and Aurora Town Councillors,

Since taking office as the elected Mayor and Council of Aurora, you have been approached by not-for-profit agencies and charities asking for sponsorship or the use Town of Aurora facilities.  You have at times agreed to sponsor these groups.

Other groups who have user agreements for town-owned facilities often use these facilities for fundraisers for third-party charities.  There does not appear to be a way of ensuring that these groups follow any particular guidelines.

I think it is important for our Town Council to have a good working relationship with not-for-profits and charities.  These organizations contribute to the betterment of life in our community in substantial and tangible ways.  They give us a focus for making the Aurora a strong community for everyone.

However, your Council is not treating all the charities and not-for-profits that exist in Aurora on an equal footing.  Because you don’t have a policy for your evaluation and acceptance of these applications from charities and not-for profit groups, and because groups with whom you have an agreement for one kind of use of town-owned facilities are also using those facilities for fundraising, you are dispensing support arbitrarily.

The only way you, as Council, can begin to choose which not-for-profit and charity groups to support in a fair manner is to set a policy that you then abide by.  This policy, developed with input from all the stakeholders involved, would be the framework on which you could base your decisions.

I encourage you to work in concert with these groups in Aurora as well as with other stakeholders (Leisure Services Department, the Aurora Seniors’ Association, Sport Aurora and its contingent membership, York Region District School Board and its School Councils to name just a few) to develop a framework that treats all organizations the same:  they all have the opportunity to use the facilities of the Town of Aurora for the good of the entire community.

We are really fortunate to have a great community that values many contributors:  those elected and those who see a need and rise to the challenge.  It’s time for your group to take the lead and forge strong partnerships with clear goals and expectations.

Posted in Budget, Charitable Programs, Discussion Topic | 25 Comments »

The Elephant in the Budget

Posted by auroracitizen on March 8, 2011

Recently on several blogs in the Town of Aurora, there have been controversial posts about the recent history of the Church Street School, which currently houses the Aurora Cultural Centre.  The ACC is now governed by a board that operates at arm’s length from the Town, but receives Town funding through an agreement that ends next year.

The Church Street School used to be the home of a museum operated by the Aurora Historical Society.  When the building was renovated, it appeared that there would be a Town of Aurora commitment to include a new museum.  Now there is lots of storage of artifacts, but no real museum.

Lots of folks love the Aurora Cultural Centre and want it to continue to be funded.  Lots of other folks want to fund a museum dedicated to Aurora’s history.  Some folks want both.  A few want neither.

Would you prefer to have this new cultural centre supported by your taxes, or would you prefer to respect the heritage of the past?

Would you prefer to have an unelected committee tell you what’s worth watching and doing, or have the funding oversight remain with Council?

Would you like to spend your hard-earned tax dollars housing bits and pieces of antiquity or focus on the future cultural opportunities within our community.

Or are you somewhere in between?  If you are, what does that mean for the Town budget?

Have your say here on this blog.  What should happen in the future?

Posted in Budget, Community, Community Input | 60 Comments »

Campaign Finances Coming

Posted by auroracitizen on February 16, 2011

The campaign financing deadline for disclosing political contributions is March 25.

Citizens will be able to evaluate what they think is appropriate and what is not?

They will also be able to see what type of financial support each candidate received and in many cases where that financial support came from. Always an interesting review.

Early in the campaign there was discussion about donations from developers and the potential role or influence they might play. At that time it was noted that both Morris and Kean had previously accepted donations, but were not planning to this term. Clowater saw no issue with accepting them and Dawe indicated he did not plan to to accept them.

In fact, Dawe went one step further, and indicated that if someone on his team did inadvertently accept a donation, he would return it and donate a matching amount personally to the Aurora Food Pantry. You can his original pledge and the comments here.

The list of reports filed thus far are available on the Town website and can be seen by clicking here.

Posted in Budget, Election 2010, Freedom of Information | 18 Comments »

$#*! My Mayor Says

Posted by auroracitizen on October 1, 2010

 Taken from the recent email published by the Morris campaign.

In fact, one attendee who had been at the campaign launches for some other prominent Greater Toronto Area politicians said it may have been the best-attended in the whole of the GTA this year. 

We guess if you preface a distortion or untruth with the claim that someone else said it, it somehow makes it okay. Really, now Phyllis believes she had more people than either Smitherman, Ford or any of the GTA events. Delusional? You decide.

At the Rogers TV debate  the Mayor talked about how the Town has turned the tables on rising taxes. In 2001, tax increases raced ahead at 9 percent. This year the Council whittled the increase down to 2.8 percent.

Why did she conveniently leave out the tax increases from her last term of Council (2003 – 2006) or that since she became Mayor we have seen taxes rise a combined 13.81%? One would almost think she intentionally meant to mislead you.

Mayor and Town Council have taken strong steps to ease the burden on residential taxpayers and make growth pay for growth. How? Town Council completed the first major reorganization of the Town administration since the 1980s. 

This re-organization resulted in a 20% increase in staff during a worldwide economic downturn — ahead of both tax base growth and population growth. Including a new, full-time personal assistant for the Mayor. How does that ensure growth pays for growth?

She served as one of only two Mayors on a special stakeholder advisory committee concerned with the Watershed, by appointment of the Minister of the Environment.

What she failed to mention was that her role on the committee was to “…provide input and advice to the government on protecting Lake Simcoe…and provide a linkage with the broader community…”.  So aside from attending a meeting or two, just what advice and input from the community did she provide?  Where was the consultation with the community on whose behalf she was appointed?

And a deal that will earn taxpayers more than $130,000 a year in rental income from the former Aurora Hydro building. Worth waiting for.

However, what she failed to mention was that this deal took 3 years and bumped the planned use by our own Parks department because the Works and Parks department have long outgrown the facility they are sharing on Scanlon Court. What is her plan to address that need? And at what cost against this $130,000 windfall?

We are now renting out a town facility that was supposed to be used for town staff. And since when did the municipality become a landlord?  Shouldn’t town buildings be used for Town purposes ahead of rental opportunities?  Surplus buildings and land are supposed to be sold and the revenue used for municipal purposes.  Shouldn’t she know that given all of her “experience”.

Christopher Watts had his own take on this same email you might find interesting. As always, Christopher brings his own special sense of humour to the online word via his personal blog, Temporary Insanity.

Posted in Budget, Election 2010, Growth, Leadership | 2 Comments »

Aurora Workers on Verge of Strike

Posted by auroracitizen on May 20, 2010

Lying in bed this morning, listening to 680 News for the weather, was stunned to hear an ad indicating that Aurora outside workers were on the verge of striking. As they say “when you hear it — it’s news”. Well this was news.

Came across an old Press Release from CUPE on this issue from May 2004. They summarized their position as follows;

The key issue is wages. “We found out at the bargaining table that the town has a discriminatory policy against outside workers,” says Charlie Goodwin, a municipal worker and chairperson of the Aurora Unit of CUPE Local 905. “It really offends us that Aurora seems to have no problem giving hefty increases to city managers and inside workers and councilors, but seems determined to pay unfair wages for hard physical labour. Aurora is practicing clear discrimination with this policy.”

It appears the issues haven’t changed. We understand that during this last bargaining process there was a commitment made to work towards wage equity with similar work in other municipalities. The current contention by CUPE is that Aurora has not lived up to these commitments.

Clearly, we are not privy to all the facts, and equally importantly are not taking sides on this labour issue.

But what is obviously true is that Aurora is on the verge of a strike AGAIN and the community will be caught completely unaware. That we do have an issue with.

These are the outside workers that maintain the parks, pools, and arenas, repair infrastructure such as roads, water mains and sewers. Kind of a critical service at this time of year.

Where has our much-lauded new Communication team been hiding this little gem. We are looking down the barrel of strike action here in Aurora and no one knew. Nothing in the Banner, nothing in The Auroran. No communication from our Council in the paid advertising. Just an ad on 680 News by CUPE 905.

For our faithful readers at Town office — please fill in the details.

And  Councillor MacEachern — you have indicated you read these blogs and criticized our unbalanced reporting — so in the interest of providing a balanced report, we invite you (again) to provide the “other side”.

How about it? Post in your name and provide some information? We’d all love to hear your position.

Posted in Budget, Leadership, Recreation, Town Council | 11 Comments »

Northern 6 Municipalities Expanding Co-Operative Efforts.

Posted by auroracitizen on March 24, 2010

CAO’s from the northern 6 municipalities are expanding their efforts to find cost efficiencies in services.

First started through the green bin program, this year the initiative is being expanded. Customer service and human resource training and professional development are the next frontier.

By working together, common standards are achieved and expertise and costs are shared. Rather than 1 consultant for each municipality, the cost for 1 is shared across 6 communities.

Volume discounts also become more significant as does negotiation leverage.

The key issue will be the ability for local Councils to work together and be willing to “give” on some issues to “get” on others — and their ability to sell the solutions to their constituents.

It will also be interesting to see whether staff will be allowed to deal with these issues and whether Council’s will keep their noses out of where they don’t belong.

Of course, the inevitable questions will start to be asked about whether we actually need 6 council’s and all those Councillors looking after these issues or whether a smaller group could look after these type of service initiatives. Possibly Regional Council should take over these services.

Interesting thought. What do you think?

Posted in Budget, Growth, Leadership | 7 Comments »

Is Another Petch House Debate Brewing?

Posted by auroracitizen on February 20, 2010

Council is faced with a decision about what to do with the seats in the aging Aurora Community Centre arena. The catalyst for this decision appears to be the funding available from Recreational Infrasructure Canada (RinC) — to the tune of $80,000. The Town portion would be $40,000 based on staff reports.

So what’s the issue? Well it seems some Councillors are concerned about the historic significance of the seating. Really!

Is this setting up to become another Petch House debacle?

Surely this Council isn’t planning to dithering around for a number of years until 1) the seats die a natural death, 2) they spend money on studies, and 3) the grant dollars are no longer available, before we are required to replace the seat for the full $120,000 — or more!

What’s the deal about wooden seats. Who decided everything older than 40 years was historically significant and should be saved? Is that why the smell in the hockey change rooms is so potent — they don’t want to get rid of the smell for historical significance.

Council should demonstrate some of the same care and concern for an elder Councillor they seem to have for old rotting homes and wooden seats. 🙂

Posted in Budget, Community Corner, Recreation | 17 Comments »

Role of New Aurora Spokesperson Unclear

Posted by evelynb on January 16, 2010

It’s odd for a sitting Councillor to learn of dramatic new initiatives in town communications from the media.

This week the Chief Administrative Officer, acting as spokesperson for the town (the Mayor) announced the town’s intention to add a spokesperson to the administration to improve communications. Speech-writing and perhaps engaging with Facebook will be part of the job.

Council last met on December 8th. The budget will not be ratified before January 26th.

Already we are off and running. So fast off the mark, no time has been allowed for discussion at the Council table.

Everyone who reads this blog knows, because I say so, I do not present as competent in computers.

But Facebook, for God’s Sake. Facebook !!!! Can anybody at the town hall possibly not understand what Facebook is about.

We are to pay for someone. with a Masters Degree in Communication , at a cost of $100Ks annually, to engage Facebook !!!!!

Oh My God!!!

Facebook is the domain of the Rampant and Reckless, Totally Irreverent and Sacrilegious Youth.

I keep tabs on my grandchildren on Facebook.

The Town has a Corporate Communication Division. The Mayor monopolised it from the start as her personal public relations flack. Along with Notice Board in the Aurabanana which costs probably $75Ks a year. And various and extravagant resources expended in the ongoing effort to vanquish dissent and destroy her enemies.

Despite all that, there’s still an apparent lack of confidence that the community fully appreciates the myriad of marvelous Mormac accomplishments of the administration.

So now we are to have a Masters Degree in Communication on hand to polish that which may be tarnished, in time for the next election.

Speeches will be professionally prepared for the Gala opening of Church Street School Heritage and Cultural Centre, the pitch of the first ball at the new diamond in the summer and all other possible occasions.

We may even have articulate speeches from the Throne at the opening of every council meeting.

If Buckingham Palace has a Spokesperson, why not Mayor Morris’ Town Hall in Aurora? May we not aspire?

The Press Secretary/Spokesperson may possibly hold press conferences with the Town Hall Press Gallery There may occasionally be scripted appearances by her Worship.

All on the taxpayers’ dime.

Remember the admonitions of righteous Professor Robert McDiarmid of York University, an invited guest of Her Worship to read scripture to Council on the evils of incumbent advantage over challengers and how corporate contributions need to be rigorously controlled in election campaigns.

Little did the naive but well-meaning Professor know how many municipal corporate contributions can be used for a campaign without a single red cent showing up in the candidate’s mandated Statement of Expenses.

Posted in Budget, Code of Ethics, Conflict of Interest, Election 2010, Integrity, Leadership, Legal | 20 Comments »