The democratic legitimacy of municipal decisions does not spring solely from periodic elections

Posted by on Nov 25, 2013 in Commentary, Local Politics |

“Municipal law was changed to require that municipal governments hold meetings that are open to the public, in order to imbue municipal governments with a robust democratic legitimacy.  The democratic legitimacy of municipal decisions does not spring solely from periodic elections, but also from a decision-making process that is transparent, accessible to the public, and mandated by law.  When a municipal government improperly acts with secrecy, this undermines the democratic legitimacy of its decision, and such decisions, even when intra vires, are less worthy of deference.”  Supreme Court of Canada – London (City) v. RSJ Holdings Inc. – 2007

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The tale of two cities, Brighton & Owen Sound

Posted by on Nov 23, 2013 in Commentary, Local Politics | 1 comment

Owen Sound is approx. 330 km from Brighton, but it looks like it’s on a different planet when it comes to respect for taxpayer dollars and accountability to its citizens.

On November 18th, Brighton Municipal Council voted to renew the service agreement with LAS to provide Closed Meeting Investigator services. This was despite a more than 40% increase in the hourly rate from $1250 per day to $1800 per day + expenses + liabilities. Councillor Kerr commented when asked about the large fee increase, “it doesn’t strike me as a tremendously exorbitant increase“. Brighton Council voted 4 of 7 to renew the agreement even though it was understood that the Ontario Ombudsman provides the same service at no cost to the Municipality!

In a recorded vote, Councillors Kerr, Rittwage, Rowley and Vandertoorn voted in favour of paying LAS for this service rather than having the Ontario Ombudsman provide the service at no cost. The Office of the Ontario Ombudsman provides this service at no cost to 188 Municipalities across the Province of Ontario. The Ombudsman is uniquely positioned to deliver these services more effectively than any other investigator based on experience, resources and impartiality.

Closed Municipal Meetings – Frequently Asked Questions

The Ontario Ombudsman also provides effective community outreach via Twitter – @Ont_Ombudsman

A similar opportunity was recently presented to the City of Owen Sound and they voted to revoke the paid services provided by LAS in favour of having the Ontario Ombudsman act as their Closed Meeting Investigator.

It seems that Owen Sound has a much different approach to fiscal responsibility and transparency compared to Brighton. The first thing that is clearly apparent is the difference in what Owen Sound’s Council expects when receiving recommendations from their Municipal Staff.

Owen Sound’s Municipal Staff presented their recommendations to Owen Sound Council in the following document:

Closed Meeting Investigator Appointment

Brighton’s Municipal Staff presented their recommendation to Brighton Council in the following document:

LAS Closed Session Investigator

There are two important points that should be noted:

Firstly:

Owen Sound’s Staff recommended three options to their Council

Option No. 1 – Council agrees to the increase in fees and renews the contract with LAS
Option No. 2 – Council appoints the Ombudsman as the Closed Meeting Investigator
Option No. 3 – Council directs staff to prepare an RFP for a Closed Meeting Investigator

Whereas Brighton Staff recommends only one option:

“That Council approves the LAS service agreement addendum”

Surely Council has an obligation to consider other alternatives rather than award sole source contracts?

Secondly:

This is where the real difference lies. The Owen Sound report starts off by saying:

STRATEGIC INITIATIVE: This issue deals with community building through: investing in skill development to build partnerships and knowledge; focusing on relationships and image with our citizens; and providing effective services and policies.”

So Owen Sound’s Council is not only looking to save money, reduce exposure to unnecessary legal liability and increase transparency; they are “investing in skill development to build partnerships and knowledge; focusing on relationships and image with our citizens; and providing effective services and policies.

The Brighton report has a section called “Strategic Plan Alignment”, but it is blank…

Other methods that Owen Sound utilizes to provide transparency and to communicate with its citizens.

Twitter:  https://twitter.com/CityOwenSound  (Municipality)
Twitter:  https://twitter.com/OSTourism  (Tourism)

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/CityofOwenSound  (Municipality)
Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/owensoundtourismandevents  (Tourism)

YouTube:  http://www.youtube.com/user/CityOwenSound  (Municipality)
YouTube:  http://www.youtube.com/user/OwenSoundTourism  (Tourism)

Owen Sound’s Municipal Council met on Monday November 18th and on Tuesday November 19th the video of the Council meeting was uploaded to their YouTube Channel and they send out a link via Twitter to the Council Meeting Highlights page on their website.

https://www.owensound.ca/council-meeting-highlights

There is something wrong when Brighton’s Municipal Council chooses to pay for a service that the Province of Ontario provides at NO COST to the Municipality.

There is something wrong when Brighton’s Municipal Council chooses to award sole source contracts without looking at alternatives.

There is something wrong when Municipal Councillors evade questions during debate and refuse to answer simple questions from citizens during question period.

It is time for Brighton Council to stop playing games and instead, raise their game!

 

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Why are we afraid of setting precedents?

Posted by on Nov 16, 2013 in Commentary, Local Politics |

Definition: an earlier event or action that is regarded as an example or guide to be considered in subsequent similar circumstances.

Why are we afraid of setting precedents?  We are not bound by precedents, they are there as “a guide to be considered”.

Precedent = Change
Change = Opportunity

Instead of saying no to setting a precedent, we should ask ourselves:

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