Aurora Citizen

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Archive for the ‘Council Watch-Richard Johnson’ Category

Is Mayor Phyllis Morris Preparing For Next Election?

Posted by auroracitizen on March 28, 2010

Council Watch #8 – by Richard Johnson

It looks like a past reporter for Metroland Press’ Alliston Herald  has been hired as Aurora’s new communications contact. Apparently a press release has been issued by the town announcing that Jason Ballantyne has replaced the lady that appears to have been effectively squeezed out of her job despite getting glowing job reviews (when they did them) over the past eight years. As a point of note, job reviews could not be done for those years when so many senior staff had been fired or left the town in such a short period of time.

The current communications officer being cast aside to play a new role at the town as a result of the job requirements being changed from under her, is the same lady who came back from holidays to find her office belongings moved to one of the councillors work stations (which was incidently renovated a few years ago and has rarely ever been used). One could argue that this could potentially be an effective dismissal case here.

The Mayor now has strengthened her ties to Metroland Press (the publisher of The Banner) thorough the hiring of her new speech writer, not to mention her potential strengthening of her relationship with the Conservatives thorough the hiring of our new Integrity Commissioner. The mayor also apparently has the benefit of two executive assistants when there was once one, so it now looks like all her ducks are in a row just before the next election.


Posted in Community Input, Council Watch-Richard Johnson, Integrity, Leadership, Staff Turnover, Town Council | 45 Comments »

Will Richmond Hill Learn From Aurora’s Experience

Posted by auroracitizen on March 17, 2010

Council Watch #7 – by Richard Johnson

Letter to the Editor RE: Richmond Hill votes for code of conduct, integrity commissioner, by  Adam Mc Lean, March 16, 2010

 Why does Richmond Hill not share the cost of Aurora’s Integrity Commissioner if we both have to have one ? I have to ask if they be too busy to handle two Councils work load ?

“The commissioner [of Richmond Hill] will act as a part-time employee in the town clerk’s office and $25,000 from the town’s council contingency fund has been set aside for the new post.” I find it interesting that Aurora set aside $60,000 annually for the IC, plus legal costs, so what does that say about Aurora’s Council ?

Aurora has wasted tens of thousands of dollars and ignored the opinion of David Nitkin, a well qualified international expert on corporate governance and ethics. It looks very much like Mr. Nitkin was fired the day after releasing his frist decision because he did not render the decision the Mayor of Aurora wanted.  In order to justify her actions, Mayor Morris went to great lengths to discredit Mr. Nitkin at AMO, at Council and in the media.

Adam Mc Lean (the reporter of the above noted story) completely overlooked the political fiasco that has unfolded in Aurora surrounding our new code of conduct and the huge sums of money that have been wasted while we still have a complete mess of a council to contend with.

Aurora seems to be living proof that you can’t legislate integrity or common sense ! Only the power of the vote can really fix our respective councils.

Richard Johnson

Posted in Code of Ethics, Council Watch-Richard Johnson, Integrity, Leadership | 1 Comment »

Stupid Is As Stupid Does

Posted by auroracitizen on February 23, 2010

Council Watch #6 – by Richard Johnson

You have to love the following quote from the news story below: “They never really understood the proposal, even though we tried to explain it to them,” Mr. Cherniak said.

Does that quote sound familiar to anyone that has followed the power supply issue closely? It really does take your breath away when you realize the lack of critical thinking that Aurora council continually demonstrates.

Even Councillor Buck’s response regarding the town spending money on legal battles is consistent with her stance in the power supply issues we have faced.

That said, I disagree that the town should not work to protect residents from inconsiderate or poorly planned public infrastructure and corresponding environmental impacts stemming from municipal development approvals. But also remember, this is the same council that approves poorly planned urban sprawl all of the time while trumpeting their efforts to allow cloths lines to be installed in postage stamp sized back yards as some form of environmental panacea. We are hardly talking about smart growth planning in Aurora.

This latest case serves as yet another example of why we need some new blood at the helm.

How can the town expect to win their latest legal battle when they can’t even understand the core issues or the viable alternatives ?

Knowing what we know, is it any wonder that the town has wasted $135,000 in legal fees in this case alone and are likely to waste far more ?

How many examples do we need to drive home the point that we would all benefit from more professional representatives on council ?



Town loses appeal on golf course

But another appeal filed by town, residents to protect water.

BY SEAN PEARCE – February 19, 2010 05:41 PM

Aurora has been handed another setback in its fight to stop a golf course and housing development on the environmentally sensitive Oak Ridges Moraine.

Earlier this month, a divisional court dismissed an appeal by the town and local residents arguing a joint board hearing involving representatives of the Ontario Municipal Board and the Environmental Review Tribunal would be necessary to gauge the suitability of the Westhill Development, eyed for an area near Leslie Street and Bloomington Road.

Lebovic Homes plans to build an 18-hole golf course and 75 luxury homes on the site, but the application was denied by council in 2008.

Since then, the matter has bounced back and forth between the OMB and the divisional court with the former body denying a joint board hearing and the latter supporting its lack of jurisdiction to even order one.

As such, the divisional court has repeatedly said the OMB is the appropriate venue to address the myriad of concerns raised by the town and residents.

Undaunted by the recent divisional court ruling, Mayor Phyllis Morris said she and her colleagues have since ordered their counsel to launch another appeal. Read Full Article.

Posted in Community Corner, Community Input, Council Watch-Richard Johnson, Leadership, Town Council | 13 Comments »

Does Council Support Racial Based Housing — Or Just Mayor Phyllis Morris?

Posted by auroracitizen on February 22, 2010

Council Watch #5 – by Richard Johnson

Wow. I guess this latest development in York Region should come as no surprise. I understand that Aurora’s Mayor Morris supported this latest brainstorm from the Region with barely a mention of it to the Aurora Council.

I have to wonder what she would say if a developer came to Aurora and asked to build a development for WASPs only ?

If Phyllis feels the Region can support racially based housing with my tax dollars then I trust that she would support self funded segregation of all sorts.

I find it very hard to fathom that my tax dollars are supporting discriminatory policies based on race and religion that have the end effect of limiting where someone in need can actually afford to live. This is a high risk social housing policy if there ever was one, especially for those on the outside looking in. If any given community wants to raise funds and support its own, then fine. Go for it, but don’t use my money to shut people out.

These are my tax dollars at work and I don’t appreciate others spending my hard earned money in such a discriminatory and biased fashion.



Housing subsidy blasted

York Region policy of helping lower-income tenants in 4 ethnic residences is discriminatory, critics say

Fri Feb 19 2010 – Gail Swainson Urban Affairs Reporter

Critics say a York Region policy of using tax dollars to subsidize housing restricted to members of certain ethnic and religious groups is discriminatory and condones a form of segregation.

The policy, endorsed recently by regional council, allows four buildings that limit residence to members of their own faith and ethnic communities – one Italian, one Jewish and two Muslim – to receive regional rent-geared-to-income housing subsidies.

“These kinds of special exemptions can get tricky and set a dangerous precedent,” said Newmarket Regional Councillor John Taylor. “These segregated services are not conducive to the kind of communities we want to build. This is also a significant public policy direction that should be debated, but has gone ahead almost unnoticed.”

Although it is illegal under Ontario’s Human Rights Code to restrict housing based on race, ancestry, colour, ethnicity, citizenship, creed, sex, sexual orientation, age, marital status, family status or disability, some affirmative-action housing providers enjoy exemptions.

Only Toronto, with four such facilities, and now York Region, have chosen to award exemptions. Read Full Article.

Posted in Community Input, Council Watch-Richard Johnson, Growth, Integrity, Leadership | 3 Comments »

Leadership By The Numbers

Posted by auroracitizen on February 4, 2010

Council Watch #4 – by Richard Johnson

Mayor Morris is paid $50,000 (plus) to attend Regional Council so let’s take a look at her attendance record:

  • Regional Council:  attended 7 out of 11 meetings (64%)
  • Finance and planning:  attended 3 out of 4 meetings (75 %)
  • Planning and Economic development:  5 meetings out of 9 (55%)  keeping in mind that 2009 was the year of Economic Development !

Out a possible 24 meetings, Phyllis attended only 15 or 62%…

In the case of the Hydro Task Force that met on a weekly to bi-weekly basis for approximately 18 months I would venture a guess that Phyllis attended under 10% of the meetings and even the special meeting that was called largely to benefit her understanding of the issues as well as to better understand her take on the situation, she showed up an hour late to an hour and a half meeting and proceeded to demonstrate an extremely poor grasp of not only the history of the issue but the identified need as well as the viable alternatives.

Then we note that in the past three years only a single motion was put forward by the Mayor at Aurora Council while Councillor MacEachern put forward 50 motions and got but one of them passed with the support of her voting block.

Numbers do have a way of painting a picture.

Posted in Council Watch-Richard Johnson, Guest Post, Leadership, Special Meetings | 20 Comments »

Recorded Votes Prove Voting Blocks

Posted by auroracitizen on January 27, 2010

Council Watch #3 – by Richard Johnson

Letter to the editor of the Banner regarding: Councillors receive vote report, Sean Pearce, January 26, 2010:

Numbers often do tell a tale. In an effort to see if there was in fact a pattern that indicated a block voting mentality on Aurora Council I decided to take a sampling of the recorded votes provided in the 84 page staff report (CLS10-002- Recorded votes) requested by Councillor MacEachern.

I found that it took 40 votes before the pattern was broken.

32 times the Mayor’s block voted faithfully together.

Seven times Councillor Wilson dissented from the block and only once did the Mayor and Councillor Gaertner vote outside of the block.

I will leave it to others to count the other 80 votes, but I’ve seen enough to make up my mind as to what is really going on at council.

It appears that in all too many cases the facts don’t seem to matter at the town hall — but in the big picture the facts do matter.

We can only wonder now if the new Integrity Commissioner will join the block.

Posted in Community Corner, Council Watch-Richard Johnson, Town Council | 20 Comments »

Is Food Bank Simply Photo Op For Council?

Posted by auroracitizen on January 13, 2010

Council Watch – issue #2, by Richard Johnson

What does it say about our collective priorities when Aurora Council donates not a single penny or a single square foot of vacant space to the Aurora Food Pantry?

The Town of Aurora spent tens of thousands of dollars on renovations at the town hall for offices that are not even used, they have increased funding for the arboretum despite the fact that less than half of last year’s budget was used, the town has incurred hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal charges that include some costs that the recently fired integrity commissioner suggested could be “politically motivated’ and groundless, the town has tens of thousands of dollars for a new cultural center, it has millions upon millions of dollars for new sports and recreation facilities and even money for a dog walking park. With the incredible resources at our disposal the best our town council can do to assist the most needy people in our community is to have the Mayor and a few of her friends dress up in Halloween costumes and ask the good people of Aurora to donate generously to the Food Pantry.

When Richmond Hill sold its power company they bought a fifteen year lease for their Food Bank in a Salvation Army building. Newmarket donated space in the old Town Hall to their Food Bank and when the Food Bank relocated recently the Council offered a contribution towards the next two year’s rent.

When Aurora sold our power company at a profit of over $34 million we set nothing aside for the food Pantry and when the Pantry explored the potential use of town space sitting vacant they were told that the town can offer nothing more than a one year guarantee given that the town does not seem to have any clear plan for the large inventory of vacant municipal space. Of course that logic did not stop the Cultural Centre from getting its new facility at great expense or the Environmental Advisory Committee (EAC) from getting its new offices.  One has to wonder where our priorities are. The baseball field is being built, the soccer dome is being supported to the tune of $100,000 per annum, our trails are getting an overhaul and yet at the same time the town does not have a single dime for the food pantry that feeds sixty families all year long.

One can only hope that in the upcoming municipal election at least some people will see fit to ask those seeking office where they stand with regards to the town making more than just a token gesture of support through a photo op and news story asking the good people of Aurora to step to the plate. If we are lucky, maybe the next council will lead by example. I have to believe that if there is a will there is a way for the town to do more, but at the same time that is precisely what worries me.

Richard Johnson

Posted in Council Watch-Richard Johnson, Leadership | 22 Comments »

Has Transparency Been Re-defined This Term?

Posted by auroracitizen on December 16, 2009

This is the first of a continuing series of articles by Richard Johnson.

Council Watch — issue #1, by Richard Johnson

I have decided to take up the offer to contribute to Aurora Citizen on a more formal basis. The list of issues and concerns that spring to mind concerning our municipal government seem to offer no end of possible topics that deserve to be raised for consideration and discussion. From my perspective our democracy requires both a detailed examination of the facts as well as debate in order to achieve the best possible results. While most issues may not be clearly black and white in nature, a thorough debate can clarify, refine and sometimes even evolve our respective positions to our collective benefit (at least that is my hope).

Provided enough time, effort and clarity is brought to any given discussion one can expect to see an underlying truth emerge or at the very least the full range of perspectives, regardless of the fact that some details may be debated or the simple fact that we may all view any given issue from a slightly different perspective. With this in mind, I am grateful for the opportunity that the Aurora Citizen has provided everyone in Aurora to express their views and concerns. While we may not all agree all of the time, I can only hope that we can agree to respect and appreciate everyone that cares about the issues facing our town, regardless of their perspective.

Without further adieu, I would like to now get down to business.

For my first topic I would like to raise the issue of transparency and accountability.

While we were all promised a new and higher standard of civility, responsiveness and transparency during the Mayor’s 2006 inaugural speech it strikes me that in reality we have been subject to something quite different. Local reporter Sean Pearce has been forced more than once to file Freedom of Information requests in order to obtain what appears to be simple answers to basic questions, as has been my regrettable experience. In fact the 2009 file number (#39) that was assigned to my two recent Freedom of Information requests may suggest that over 40 questions have been submitted to the town through this last resort method of inquiry in order to hold the government accountable, but that is another question for another time.

After receiving no response following multiple weeks and multiple e-mails to the Town Clerk in which I was merely trying to understand a simple Council Procedure that appeared to have been potentially politically manipulated in order to serve the Mayor’s self interest, I felt compelled to file a Freedom of Information request on November 11th. You will note in the Freedom of Information response from the Town of Aurora, that there are no written procedures for editing the town’s website, therefore my initial reasons for concern in this instance appear to have been well founded.

The FOI response states that when material is posted on the town’s website at the direction of Council the “staff  generally requires direction from Council regarding the removal of the posting” and “The posting regarding the Code of Conduct complaint will be removed from the town’s website upon direction of Council.” 

Here-in lies the conundrum: how can Council ever contemplate the removal of the unsubstantiated and potentially politically motivated accusations posted on the town’s website attacking Councilor Evelyn Buck if, according to the Mayor, raising a motion to remove the material is considered to be “reconsideration” of an earlier motion posted the material in the first place ?  The Mayor’s handling of this issue at council strikes me as being not only indefensible but absurd.

It should not have required a response to an FOI request to come to this rather obvious conclusion given that the Mayor’s apparently broken logic was raised for discussion by Councillor McRoberts and Collins-Mrakas at the same time that numerous councillors stated for the record that they wanted to “move on” from the whole code of conduct issue, however true to form their comments were apparently ignored by the Mayor and her block of supporters.

I’m open to hearing all perspective related to this story, however based on the facts as I know them today this situation looks to me to be rather transparent and clear cut from my perspective.

Posted in Code of Ethics, Council Watch-Richard Johnson, Freedom of Information, Integrity, Leadership | 12 Comments »