Aurora Citizen

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Aurora Town Hall Address Up For Debate

Posted by auroracitizen on January 25, 2011

Two terms ago, championed by Councillors Nigel Kean and Phyllis Morris, the long time honour bestowed on former Councillor John West was stripped.

These 2 Councillors led the charge that saw 5 Councillors (Kean, Morris, Gaertner, Wallace, Vrancic) create a street out of a parking lot so that the address for the Town Hall and seniors Centre would no longer be John West Way — and instead be Municipal Drive. Voting against were Mayor Jones, Councillors Hogg, Buck and West.

It was seen by many a petty politics at its worst.

Well, Councillor Buck is trying to right that wrong — and has tabled a motion  to change the address of Aurora’s administrative headquarters from 1 Municipal Dr. back to 100 John West Way.

The Era Banner reports;

The building opened in 1991 with the John West Way address, but was changed during the 2003-2006 term of council. Municipal Drive is little more than a parking lot and its existence is confusing for residents and visitors, Ms Buck said, adding it isn’t found in several well-known map books or by some global positioning system devices.
“I never agreed with (the change) in the first place,” she said. “It didn’t make sense then and it doesn’t make sense now.”

What was possibly the worst part of the debate was the lack of debate. Most members voting for the change — in spite of 2 separate occasions  — chose not to voice their reasons for supporting the change. Hence the public and other members of Council had no real opportunity for debate. In the absence of any stated rational, the public filled the vacuum.

Previous comments by some Councillors concerned the fact that having his name on the town hall — and all associated correspondence — afforded then-councillor and former mayor John West free advertising during an election.

Many citizens saw the name change a malicious act to strip an honour bestowed on Councillor West by a previous Council to recognize his many years of dedicated effort on behalf of the town of Aurora.

When commenting about her reasons for wanting to change the name back, Councillor Buck was quoted in the Banner.

“I considered it a dishonour (and) I wanted to correct that,” Ms Buck said, adding the cost of making the change is negligible.

Posted in Leadership, Town Council | 45 Comments »

Reader Suggests Councillor Gaertner Resign Based on Behaviour

Posted by auroracitizen on December 21, 2010

An Open Letter to Councillor Wendy Gaertner.

Councillor Gaertner,

After witnessing first hand your display at the Aurora Council meeting on Tuesday Dec 14 2010, I had to write. You have demonstrated to me a lack of respect to Aurorans, to Aurora Council, and to the oath you swore. You’re alone in this behaviour, and you present yourself in a less than professional manner.

At this meeting I saw that you handed a letter, prepared in advance, to a representative of The Auroran.  I can only conclude from this action that it was your pre-meditated intent to be disruptive and drive a wedge. This type of behaviour serves no good to the town, nor to the people you swore to professionally and respectfully represent. In my opinion, you weren’t being truthful to Aurorans when you campaigned on the promise of serving the people of the community.

Our new council is going to make some process and procedural mistakes as they find their way. Growing pains are understandable and are bound to occur with a new council, however these will quickly fade as council develops their political acumen and we all move forward. I’m certain every reasonable person in town can accept this. What I believe is important to most Aurorans, is that our new council is making every effort to restore good, civil, accountable government to Aurora. Why you remain stuck in the past and focused on the negative, frankly escapes me.

You are opposed to, and showed no interest in taking part in the off-site meeting. What could possibly be your objection to taking part in learning sessions and a key team-building exercise? Teamwork was something sorrowfully lacking on Aurora Council for the last 4 years. Surely you cannot believe that;

  1. You already know all there is to know about municipal politics?
  2. Teamwork adds no value to a functioning council?
  3. You have nothing to learn about your new teammates?

An off-site meeting gives all those who attend the chance to get to know each other better, share ideas, share best practices, grow a deeper understanding and appreciation of your co-councillors, and to learn what issues are important to them. Like a sports team on a road trip, getting away as a group creates a bond that just doesn’t occur when everyone stays in town, and heads for the door as soon as the structured meeting ends. It was encouraging to see that most of the other councillors saw the obvious benefit in attending.

The recent election results showed that the majority of Aurorans want true change. We’re tired of the infighting. We don’t want a fractured council anymore. Why aren’t you listening? Have you no interest in being part of something better?

In my opinion, I believe you may be getting bad advice.

Who stands to benefit by having you act this way? I can tell you that it’s not the taxpayers of Aurora, so who then, are you truly representing? I can’t imagine that anyone could maintain this level of bitterness and vindictiveness without having it create a lasting negative affect on their outlook, their judgment, or their health, for that matter.

Councillor Gaertner, I believe you have no intention of honouring your oath or commitment to the taxpayers of Aurora. And as such, I respectfully ask you to resign your post as councillor. It appears to me that you no longer have the attitude, energy, direction, and focus required to carry out your sworn duties in a positive, fair, and respectful manner.

Matt Maddocks

Aurora

Posted in Code of Ethics, Community Input, Guest Post, Integrity, Leadership, Town Council | 34 Comments »

Councellor Gaertner Admits She Didn’t Write Notes

Posted by auroracitizen on December 20, 2010

Could it get any weirder?

After attacking Mayor Dawe at last Council meeting because he provided Council with a written Notice of Motion rather than a verbal Notice of Motion, Councillor Gaertner read from prepared printed notes that most would assume she prepared in advance of the meeting.

Throughout, members of the audience saw her continuously refer to these notes as she railed on that the written notice was not consistent with the procedural bylaw — even after the clerk assured her that written was even better than verbal, which was the minimum  as stated in the by-law.

She then proceeded to move a motion that the written Notice should not be accepted — instead, Mayor Dawe should make the Notice verbal.

“I would like to make a motion that items 15 and 16 be removed from the agenda tonight as they contravene the procedural bylaw and the mayor can give notice of motion verbally under new business as is our custom in Aurora Council.”

This motion was seconded by — wait for it — Councillor Ballard. Thankfully Council saw the absurdity of this “keystone kops” motion and voted it down 7 – 2 (guess who the 2 were :))

After her comments, she provided a copy of the notes that she read from to Brock Weir of The Auroran for his reference.

Here’s where it gets good.

It has been a common belief by many Council watchers that Councillor Gaertner gets notes provided in advance by others and then reads from them as if they are her own — but never before has she provided them for the press so that this belief could be proven. However, here’s what she said when asked to comment on the notes provided to The Auroran.

When asked who printed it off and handed it to her, she said “I guess I shouldn’t answer because this might get them in trouble.” “I don’t know whose comments these are. I have no idea. Do you think that I would hand that to you knowing that there was something like that on the back? I never wrote that, but that is somebody’s opinion. That is not my opinion.”

Thanks for clearing up the confusion.

The interesting comment she makes was “Do you think that I would hand that to you knowing that there was something like that on the back?”

Well of course, any intelligent person wouldn’t hand them over — but would any intelligent person be reading from someone else’s notes to begin with?

Some questions that immediately come to mind.

  1. Who is this mystery person or persons providing Councillor Gaertner her comments?
  2. And who did people actually elect when they put their “X” beside Councillor Gaertner’s name?

Points to ponder in the coming months and when trying to evaluate the contribution of Councillor Gaertner to this Council.

Posted in Integrity, Leadership, Town Council | 18 Comments »

Councillor Gaertner Enlists Lawyer to Quiet Critics

Posted by auroracitizen on December 20, 2010

A few days ago, someone whispered in our email inbox that another Aurora politician — Councillor Gaertner — had engaged legal counsel in her desire to quiet critics. We were told that registered letters had been sent to Aurora residents regarding letters published in The Auroran. However, without corroborating information, we did not publish this information.

However, The Auroran confirms that Ron Wallace was on the receiving end of one of these letters as was the original letter writer S Smallwood. He refers to it in his column on page 4.

It would seem that Councillor Gaertner has chosen not to learn from the experience of her mentor Phyllis Morris and has instead chosen to try a silence those who don’t agree with her through legal action.

At least she has decided to undertake this step without asking the taxpayers of Aurora to fund this battle — but given the current climate of residents towards the last lawsuit, if nothing else, this action seems to be ill-advised and lacks any long term thought.

Posted in Code of Ethics, Community Input, Legal, Town Council | 25 Comments »

Special Meeting Planned to Deal With Lawsuit Funding

Posted by auroracitizen on December 19, 2010

Aurora Council has called a special meeting for Tuesday December 21 to deal with the Town of Aurora funding Phyllis Morris for her lawsuit against 3 private citizens and this blog as well as unnamed bloggers.

The purpose will be to re-consider the original motion that allowed the then Mayor to take “any and all” action — which resulted in Phyllis launching a $6 million lawsuit funded with your tax dollars.

The meeting is at 7:00 pm if you are interested in attending.

Posted in Integrity, Leadership, Legal, Town Council | 3 Comments »

12/14 Council Meeting Highlights

Posted by auroracitizen on December 15, 2010

So what did we learn about our new Council last night.

First, we thought Mayor Dawe did a good job on his first night. He was not completely comfortable with everything he had to do, but got better as the night progressed. He will need to remember that a motion must always be on the floor (duly moved and seconded) before any debate is allowed, Plus, debate/comments must be entertained before calling the question — and both for and against must be called before calling the vote carried. We expect that it will soon be second nature.

Highlights & Lowlights

  1. First, he needed to remind Councillor Geartner that when she addressed him, that it should be to the title of Mayor versus Mr Dawe. This is not ego, but it is protocol for all members of Council. Also, all questions/comments are to be addressed to the “Chair” versus individual members as a matter of course. The intent is to avoid personalities from entering the debate and maintaining a civil, respectful attitude. Possibly Councillor Gaertner simply forget this important protocol after the layoff for the election and no intentional insult was intended.
  2. Both a member of the public and Councillor Ballard were cautioned because their comments towards staff could be viewed in a negative manner. This was often seen last term and it was nice to see Mayor Dawe stepping in. Staff has no ability to defend themselves or their reputation, so it is totally inappropriate for anyone, Council or public, to make assertions about their competence or behaviour in a public forum. If there is a need for that type of discussion it should be handled in private. Hopefully, he will be called upon less to address this disrespectful attitude as Council progresses. Council refused to deal with Councillor Ballards motion as worded and would only support it once he agreed (with his seconder Councillor Gaertner) to remove the comments thought to be offensive.
  3. Councillors Ballard and Gaertner did not support the motion for an off-site. It will be interesting to see whether they follow the agreed direction of Council or boycott. Councillor Humfryes hit the nail on the head when she commented that a big part of the objective was to team build — something lacking last term that is trying to be remedied this term.
  4. Councillor Gaertner tried to derail the discussion about 2 critical issues that were presented as Notice of Motions by Mayor Dawe; the removal of the information about Councillor Buck from the town website and Termination of the contract for the Integrity Commissioner. Her argument was that a Notice of Motion is not to be provided in writing, but should be presented verbally — according to her interpretation of the procedural bylaw. However, the Clerk explained the procedural bylaw outlined the minimum standard and that presenting them in written format would seem to surpass this test and was therefore acceptable although not covered specifically in the bylaw. The balance of Council agreed and Councillor Gaertner was over-ruled on the point of order. She then clucked and squawked that this Council was not following the procedural bylaw. Of interest, there was no corresponding comment whatsoever about Councillor Ballards motion (point 2 above) which had no notice and was supported by 3 delegations.
  5. Of a more humorous nature, a couple of staff referred to Mayor Dawe as Madame Mayor.
  6. Another funny moment was when Mayor Dawe on one occasion asked Councillor Buck to focus her comments on the question for debate. Councillor Buck, with a twinkle in her eye, asked if he was asking her to stop talking. When he replied to the affirmative, she laughed and agreed — which brought a laugh from most of the folks in the Council chamber. It also suggested that the banter back and forth will be more positive and of better humour this term that last.
  7. A motion to reconsider the motion that led to 3 private citizens and this blog being sued by former Mayor Phyllis Morris was approved after almost a 2 hour in camera session. Hopefully there will be a public debate on this issue soon.

Not sure if we caught everything, but hope that you get a sense of what the meeting was like. Full Minutes will be on the town website — but without the commentary. Also, Rogers should start taping the meetings in the new year so you will be able to tune in yourself.

If you share some of our concerns or are pleased by some of the changes — please take the time to show your support or displeasure by writing a letter to the editor. As a community, we get the politicians we deserve — so let’s continue to let them know what we expect – every day, not just once every 4 years.

Posted in Community Input, Leadership, Town Council | 21 Comments »

Responsibility of Councillors with a Consent Agenda

Posted by auroracitizen on December 15, 2010

Last night was the first “working” meeting of the new Council. It was an interesting litmus test for what we can expect in the future.

For the background of readers who may be unfamiliar with the consent agenda format, allow me to explain (if you already know, please feel free to skip this paragraph). The intent of a consent agenda is for Councillors to ask question of clarification in advance so that if they support a motion, it can be approved without debate — hence saving time to focus on the more difficult issues and not wasting time or taxpayers dollars with needless politicking. Items should only be pulled that require debate because someone either; 1) disagrees or 2) would like to change the motion. In both cases, the Councillor would want to have the opportunity to engage fellow members of Council to see their point of view — the very essence of democracy. Items should never be pulled simply to ask questions that should have been asked in advance.

However, last term it became common practice for members of Council to pull items seemingly only to grill staff with endless questions and then approve the item as originally presented. Nothing is accomplished other than demonstrating to each other (and their supporters) how powerful they are. Oh yeah, plus taxpayers are on the hook for the cost of staff being there until all hours of the night (through lieu time), plus the poor morale we heard about during the election (which leads to people leaving and qualified candidates declining to apply for  the open position).

In keeping with the 7 years, Councillor Gaertner  arrived ill-prepared and asked more questions of staff than the entire balance of Council. On one item alone, 2010 Surplus/Deficit Control, she asked 11 question “for understanding”, while the balance of Council had no questions. Every question she asked was prefaced with something like, “could you explain” or I don’t understand”. The motion was subsequently approved unanimously without change.

After 7 years on Council, citizens might rightly ask why is she still struggling so hard to understand, and/or why doesn’t she ask these questions of staff in advance.  When Councillor Gaertner doesn’t do her research, then it wastes the time of the other 8 members of Council who did spend the time in advance to get their questions asked and answered. Each hour staff spends at a Council meeting responding to these questions is costing us lost productivity in others areas of their job.

So what is the solution?

  1. Councillor Gaertner needs to follow the lead of other Councillors and call staff on Monday/Tuesday, after having reviewed her agenda over the weekend and get the required answers from staff. Staff has always made themselves available to answer question in advance.
  2. If after having a clear understanding of the issue, she has a point of disagreement with the recommendation, she should certainly pull the item and share her thoughts with Council based on facts. If she is able to convince the others to her position the motion should be changed and then Council will vote accordingly.
  3. Mayor Dawe, supported by Council,  needs to insist that Councillors not waste the time of Council because they haven’t done their own homework. If  Councillors arrive unprepared, they have no right to waste the time of fellow Councillors and the public while they catch up so they are prepared to do the job we elected them and are paying them to do. Duties each Councillor swore an oath to execute.
  4. Lastly, members of the public need to write letters to the editor insisting that Councillors come to meetings prepared to do their job.

Just our thoughts.

Posted in Leadership, Town Council | 24 Comments »

Council Inauguration

Posted by auroracitizen on December 10, 2010

I had the opportunity to attend both the Aurora Council and Regional Council Inauguration meetings.

Some observations;

I particularly enjoyed the length of the Aurora meeting — 1 hour. The Region could learn from this. We were over 2 hours — although in fairness they did have more members who had to speak. To his credit — Mayor Dawe was one of the shortest speeches 🙂

The Aurora Inauguration was the first meeting where we had a range of faiths offer prayer for guidance and encourage to Council. I thought this was a great step. I believe that religion has no place in politics — but religion has an important place in community. By honouring and recognizing a diversity of religious beliefs in Aurora, it showed no favouritism, but took a more inclusive approach — regardless of your religious beliefs. I enjoyed the diversity.

Phyllis Morris didn’t attend either event. I feel this showed a lack of respect for the office. As outgoing Mayor, what did you expect? For comparison, defeated incumbent Vaughan Mayor Linda Jackson attended the Regional Inauguration — and as we know from last term, Vaughan is known for bitter election campaigns. Did Vaughan set a higher standard than Aurora?

A few Councillors were quite emotional.

  • Our youngest Councillor, Paul Pirri, was so positive and gracious. I am looking for very good things from this young man. He represents the future of Aurora politics and I am hopeful other young people see him as a role model and get involved.
  • Our eldest Councillor, Evelyn Buck, after almost 50 years (did I get that right Ev?) still gets emotional by the trust the residents place in her with their votes. It was nice to see her warmly received.
  • Councillor John Gallo acknowledged the conditions he was appointed under last term and was very gracious in communicating his gratitude for his “election”. He was clearly appreciative and it was a touching moment when he paid tribute to his wife.

Was anyone else puzzled why Wendy Gaertner walked out with only 10 minutes remaining at end of the Aurora meeting? Although she indicated that someone was sick in her family — out of respect to Councillors Ballard and Pirri who followed her comments and to the Queens York Rangers — I wondered if another few minutes delay would have changed anything?

Generally Councillors were positive about the future and were looking forward to working as a team and getting started on the work ahead.

However, why would Councillor Ballard, in the very first meeting end his speech with “let the games begin”? As someone who claims to be a communications expert, what was his intention in making this statement. Games have no place at the Council table. Was he putting Council and residents on notice that he is not prepared to work together as a team, but is clarifying the battle lines already. He states that he should be judged on his actions — not his past affiliation with Phyllis Morris. What are we to judge based on this action? In my opinion, his comment had no place at an Inauguration and showed lack of respect to fellow Councillors and residents.

Overall I have positive feelings about this term and I am hopeful that some of the ghosts of the past term will quickly be replaced by positive collaborative energy. Let’s hope Councillors that may harbour resentment are prepared to put aside their personal feelings and get the focus back to what is best for the community and away from the “if you aren’t for us, you are against us” philosophy we too often saw last term.

Respect was too often missing last term. A couple of current Councillors need to learn from the mistakes of the past.

Agree? Disagree? Any other observations?

Bill Hogg

Posted in Guest Post, Leadership, Town Council | 58 Comments »

Defeated Councillors Are Again Private Citizens

Posted by auroracitizen on November 26, 2010

Just a gentle reminder that we have a new Council  — which means that defeated outgoing Council members are no longer in public service. They are now private citizens.

Which means, as private citizens, they are no longer an appropriate subject for discussion — the same rules that apply to other private citizens. So when framing your comments — please keep this in mind  🙂

And let’s not dwell on the past actions of the defeated; let’s leave them behind, together with the defeated — where the voters of this community decided they belonged.

Let’s focus on future and leave the past where it belongs — with yesterday newspaper.

Posted in Election 2010, Town Council | 5 Comments »

Phyllis Morris Still Learning How To “Call The Vote”

Posted by auroracitizen on October 1, 2010

Well folks, as the days of this Council’s term mercifully dwindle down it seems that Morris and company are still having problems with even basic council procedure. So much for Phyllis’ much trumpeted experience when she still doesn’t know basic procedural bylaw.

What are they struggling with now, you might ask? How about HOW TO VOTE!  Heaven forbid she needs to explain the difference between a referral and deferral.

For the sake of those council members that read the blog (and we now know that most of you do!) – here’s how you vote:

As per section 5.4 (d) (Procedural by-law) “ …all members present …shall vote”

The process;

  1. Chair – Calls the question
  2. Chair asks: All those in favour?
  3. Chair asks: all those opposed?
  4. Votes are then tallied up
  5. Chair declares “Motion i) carried ii) carried unanimously iii) defeated”  (section 5.4 (e) Town of Aurora procedural by-law)

Mayoralty Candidate Geoff Dawe was in attendance at the September 14th Council meeting and was there to witness the farce that occurred.  He commented on his blog about what happened at the meeting – in particular the fact that the votes on the amendment and then the balance of the minutes were not called.

Well – that did not sit well with the MorMac team. Goodness gracious! We can’t look stupid yet again.  We MUST do something about this.

Hmmmm, there weren’t any cameras there.  No one will know the difference.  Let’s put our own version of reality out there.

So, in an extraordinary move, MacEachern took it upon herself to comment on the public statements of a CANDIDATE’s BLOG – at a COUNCIL MEETING!!

These comments are reflected in the GC minutes of September 21st, where MacEachern states:

“Councillor MacEachern advised that Geoff Dawe had published a commentary stating an amendment and a vote had not been called and carried. She advised that she had confirmed with staff who had reviewed the DVD of the meeting and that three sets of minutes were each called separately: two set with amendments.  Councillor MacEachern said that staff confirmed that when the Mayor called the question, there was a show of hands, and the motion carried to adopt those minutes with an amendment regarding and the abstention from the vote. Councillor MacEachern said that immediately after the show of hands, there was discussion regarding this issue, but that it had already been carried.”

Aside from the fact that it is highly inappropriate and frankly out-of-order  to comment on a CANDIDATE’s comments –  MacEachern was/is WRONG!  AGAIN!

We have the DVD of the meeting and have reviewed it a few times to make sure we have it straight.  It is a chaotic scene so we can understand why some may have a hard time following along. The relevant portion of the tape to watch is 46:00 – 51:45. The relevant  video is below.

Here’s a brief synopsis of what happened during the time in question:

Morris said that she wanted the minutes changed to reflect why  MacEachern voted against the two Integrity Commissioner reports – reports based on the two complaints the very same Councillor lodged herself.  Councillor Collins-Mrakas pointed out – and the Town Clerk confirmed – that the procedural by-law does not allow for such a special notation, the municipal act requires that all abstentions are counted as a negative vote AND that the municipal act requires that minutes be taken, “…without note or comment”.  Thus, as ACM continued, this requires “a special motion to make a special statement” for the benefit of MacEachern.

Yes, it was confirmed by the Clerk.  Council was informed that it would require a motion to amend the minutes to include the special language.

So the motion was moved by MacEachern (not Morris as noted in the minutes – she’s still the Chair, and everyone knows the Chair can’t move a motion!)

Morris then says “all in favour”.  The GOS begin to feebly lift their hands.  At the same time, Councillor Buck interjects to ask just what the heck it is they voting are on.

At this point the vote – on the amendment – has been halted.

 Morris asks Buck if she wants the “minutes to stand down” and “do you want a recorded vote”

A 3 minute back and forth ensues.  Morris, Gaertner and Buck all add to the “debate”.

Of course Phyllis can’t help herself from talking to members of Council like they are a complete group of morons.

At 49:46, Morris says, “I am calling the question”

At 51:00, ACM interjects with a “point of information” to which Morris responds with a ridiculous out of context babble about the “seriousness of conflict of interest”

Then at around 51:30 Morris says, “the matter has been dealt with, let’s move on”

Well, with all due respect to our procedurally challenged outgoing mayor, oh no it wasn’t

The vote never happened. 

It’s right there on the tape for all to see.

Were all members of the table given the opportunity to vote?  NO

Were those opposed asked to vote? NO

Were ALL votes counted? NO

Was the vote declared to be carried, carried unanimously or defeated? NO

Was the main motion, to approve the minutes, moved? NO; seconded? NO; question called? NO or voted upon? NO

So, to put in very simple terms – the vote did not happen.

Once again, we have a situation where the minutes do not accurately reflect the proceedings of Council.  Councillor MacEachern is, to be polite, providing wrong information to the community.  The public is left to stand, mouth agape, in horror at what has transpired.

Don’t take our word for it, watch the tape yourselves.

Ask yourself:  Did Morris halt the vote? Did she ask for anyone opposed? Did she declare the vote to have carried? Did she call the minutes or just the amendment?

And then we encourage you to send emails to Ms. MacEachern  (emaceachern@e-aurora.ca) demanding she retract her clearly wrong statements.  And, for good measure, apologize to Mr. Dawe.

Possibly they can amend the minutes at their next meeting 🙂

A person of class and integrity can admit when they are wrong.

Let’s see what happens…

Posted in Leadership, Town Council | 7 Comments »