Transparency is a mindset, not a campaign slogan!

Posted by on Jun 26, 2014 in Commentary, Local Politics, Politics |

I sent the following letter to the editors of the Brighton Independent and the Community Press. The letter was published this week in both papers.

Dear Editor,

 

Recently, there have been several opportunities for Brighton councillors to demonstrate their commitment to increased transparency to the taxpayers that elected them. Yet, repeatedly some councillors turn their backs to these opportunities.

 

The latest example is related to the replacement of Brighton’s streetlights. I totally agree with the concept of replacing the old inefficient lights with new more efficient LED lights, as a way to save money and help reduce our environmental impact. However, I cannot agree with the process that has been employed in this case. This project was not budgeted and the calculations of the projected savings have been withheld from the public.

 

The recommendation to Brighton Council from the Director of Public Works & Development was to spend $501,315 for new LED streetlights which would be borrowed at an annual interest rate of 2.99%. The three page report did not contain any technical specifications, or show how the estimated cost savings were calculated.

 

Councillor Tadman asked Mr. Drzewiecki if this project was budgeted and he replied “No, it was not”. Some argued that the project provided a cost savings and the fact that it was not mentioned during the budget process should be of no concern. Regardless of whether there is a net savings or an expense, there is still a budgetary impact and it should have been discussed during budget deliberations. This is a $500,000 project with contractual obligations; we are not talking about buying office supplies from petty cash.

 

At the start of the June 16, 2014 Council meeting, Councillor Martinello asked for the cost savings calculations to be made public so that taxpayers could understand the basis for the Councillors’ decision making process. The request was denied as Councillors Kerr, Rittwage, Rowley and Deputy Mayor Vandertoorn voted against making the information public.

 

The motion recommended by Mr. Drzewiecki was passed by the same four Councillors, even though the other council members still had questions regarding the process and lacked sufficient information to make an informed decision.

 

On Tuesday, June 17, after hearing of the vote on the radio, a local importer of LED lights contacted several members of Council suggesting that the cost of approximately $500,000 was excessive and there could be savings of as much as $150,000. He was also concerned that he did not see an advertised public tender. This begs the question, are the taxpayers of Brighton getting the best solution at the best price?

 

Yes, we elected our Councillors to make decisions on our behalf, but no, we did NOT elect them to keep the basis of their decisions secret!

 

Sincerely,

 

Adrian Ellis

I made the following comment at the end of an earlier post.

“I think that it is extremely important for the sake of transparency and accountability that Brighton Council takes every opportunity to have all matters disclosed and discussed at the public meetings of Council unless there is a clearly defined detriment to the citizens of Brighton.”

It seems that this concept is either not palatable, or not understood by certain members of Brighton Council.

So my question is, are the four Councillors that voted against making the information public, because it was “proprietary”, working on behalf of the company bidding on the project, or the taxpayers of Brighton?

It was mentioned at the Council meeting that although three quotes were received, it was only one of the companies that had provided “proprietary” information. So why was the information from the other two companies not released? Also, I think that it is worth noting that these two companies calculated the cost savings (approx. $33,000 and $35,000) to be almost half of what the selected company proposed at approx. $62,000. It’s impossible to know how there could be such a large discrepancy without access to the figures, but I would contend that it would be easier to overestimate cost savings when you know that the calculations don’t have to face public scrutiny.

In future, to ensure that Council is representing the best interests of Brighton taxpayers, companies quoting on projects should be clearly informed that all calculations provided to council, will also be provided to the taxpayers. If the particular company doesn’t want to operate at this level of transparency and accountability with the people footing the bill, then they should be respectfully asked not to participate in the bidding process.

Some candidates are using the term “transparency and accountability” as part of their campaign platform and yet they demonstrate no understanding of what it means in real terms. Repeating this phrase does not change the reality that, transparency is a mindset, not a campaign slogan!

 

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Removing barriers to recording Brighton Council meetings

Posted by on Jun 23, 2014 in Commentary, Local Politics, Politics |

In an attempt to remove barriers, or at least address some of the arguments against recording Brighton Council meetings as discussed in my earlier post “Recording meetings at Brighton Council, no-brainer right? Apparently not!“, I sent the following email to Brighton Council.

Attn: Ms. Kimmett – Please add this correspondence to the agenda of the next Council meeting.

 

Dear Mayor and Councillors,

 

In case the cost of purchasing a digital audio recorder for the Municipality to use for recording Council meetings is cost prohibitive since it is a non-budgeted item, I am willing to purchase a recorder up to the value of $100 and donate it to the Municipality of Brighton for use in recording Council meetings. If Council accepts my offer I will purchase the recorder and deliver it to the Municipal office. Furthermore, I will volunteer my time to train the designated Municipal employee(s) in the use of the recorder and on uploading the audio file to the Municipal website.

 

Please advise and I will proceed accordingly.

 

Sincerely,

 

Adrian Ellis

 

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Citizens of Brighton, send us your questions and we will do our best to ignore them

Posted by on Jun 19, 2014 in Commentary, Local Politics, Politics |

During the discussion at the April 22, 2014 meeting of Brighton Council, it was discussed whether members of the public could ask questions of a delegation and it was stated that the procedural by-law did not allow for delegations to take questions from the public. Councillor Rittwage did however state, “I would suggest if there are folks that want us to ask specific questions that they ensure that they send us emails” and later in the discussion re-iterated his point saying, “we have a way of doing business that we need to stick to and we need folks, who we represent their views, if they want us to ask specific questions, to contact us and we will ask those questions“.

So when I heard that Mr. Nigel Bellchamber from Amberley Gavel, Brighton’s Integrity Commissioner, was to appear as a delegation to Council, I emailed the following questions under the assumption that having followed the procedure outlined by Councillor Rittwage, that my questions would be asked of the delegate.

Dear Mayor and Councillors,

 

Since the format of Council meetings does not allow citizens to ask questions to a delegation, Councillor Rittwage suggested that residents could forward any questions to councillors and they could ask the questions on behalf of the residents. As such, please can you ask the following questions when the Integrity Commissioner appears at this evening’s Council meeting. These questions are referring to the Code of Conduct investigations and reports resulting from breaches of the code.

 

1. The Integrity Commissioner (IC) filed a report dated “February 2014” called the “The Powers of a Municipality Shall be exercised by its Council” in which Mr. Bellchamber quoted the Municipal Act “The powers of a municipality shall be exercised by its council”. One of the complaints in that report came from a resolution of Council which was relayed to the IC “with a request that the investigation not begin until a formal employment contract had been negotiated between the Council and CAO, Ms. Frost”. In an email from the Integrity Commissioner to Councillor Tadman dated December 21, 2013, the IC confirms that the request to delay came from the Deputy Mayor (Councillor Kerr at that time). Was this a request of Council by means of a passed motion, or did Councillor Kerr request this personally without direction from Council?

 

2. Why are the names of the complainants and the actual complaints not included in the reports from the Integrity Commissioner?

 

3. If a complaint has been investigated and the Integrity Commissioner reports back to the Municipality, will the report be made public? Therefore, are ALL reports from IC made public? In the case of Brighton, have there been any reports received from the Integrity Commissioner that have not been made public?

 

4. If legal action was taken against the Integrity Commissioner as a result of a report supplied to the Municipality of Brighton, would the Integrity Commissioner be liable for the legal expenses incurred in defending such an action, or would the liability of the fees reside with the taxpayers of Brighton?

 

Thank you,

 

Adrian Ellis

My assumption was wrong and my questions were not asked of the delegate. Once again citizen’s questions go unanswered, even after following the specific directions of certain Councillors.

So how do the taxpayers of Brighton have their questions answered by Council? Perhaps they could send letters to Council and have them added to the meeting agenda allowing for discussion amongst Council and Staff and then have the answers relayed back to the taxpayer?

Well I have been trying that avenue as well, without success. At the last meeting of Brighton Council on June 16, 2014 I sent correspondence asking that “Councillor Kerr immediately and without reservation recant his statement that I called him a liar. I know that Council can’t force Councillor Kerr to do this, but I ask that Council support this correspondence and not just receive it, so that he may have the opportunity to remedy this situation“. Councillors Kerr, Rowley and Deputy Mayor Vandertoorn only wanted to “receive it information” and not support the correspondence. Councillors Martinello, Tadman and Mayor Walas wanted to support the motion so the motion to receive was defeated. This means that not only did Council not support the correspondence, they did not officially acknowledge the correspondence. So much for accountability to the public when Councillors falsely call citizens liars! During the discussion to receive or support the correspondence, Councillor Kerr did not use the opportunity to recant his statement or address my correspondence in any way.

However, during the question period I asked Councillor Kerr if he would like to address it and although he did not recant, he did say that if he spoke in error he would apologize. His statement did not address the concerns raised in my correspondence and was factually incorrect. Even the Integrity Commissioner sitting in the gallery was rolling his eyes during Councillor Kerr’s statement, but I accepted his apology anyway.

I also sent another email to Council which was also added to the April 22, 2014 meeting agenda asking three questions regarding LAS appearing as a delegation to Council. The three questions were not answered by Council, as only Councillors Martinello, Tadman and Mayor Walas wanted them to be answered.

We have an election coming up and some candidates have indicated that they want to make change and improve transparency and communication, but they keep failing to make any changes to the way they “do business”, even when the opportunity is presented to them. If they are unwilling to make change leading up to the election, can we really expect change after the election?

Come Election Day on October 27th 2014, it is very important to remember that although you can select up to six Councillors, make sure that you only vote for those that you know can represent your interests with professionalism and integrity. So, if there are only two candidates that you feel can appropriately represent you, do not vote for six, only vote for the two. If you vote for six, then you are actually casting votes against the two that you want to be elected!

 

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Local Authority Services (LAS) unable to confirm when they will attend a meeting of Brighton Council

Posted by on Jun 14, 2014 in Commentary, Local Politics, Politics |

Attachment:  Attendance of LAS and Integrity Commissioner

At the April 7, 2014 meeting of Brighton Council the following resolution was passed:

Resolution No. 2014-161: “That Council directs Mr. Bellchamber of Amberley Gavel to appear before this Council in order that members of Council, and the public, can better understand the application of the Municipal Code of Conduct, and that he appear at no cost to the taxpayers of Brighton

At the April 22, 2014 meeting of Brighton Council the following resolution was passed:

Resolution No. 2014-202: “That Council invites Ontario Ombudsman Andre Marin to speak to Council as a delegation about the services offered to Municipalities by his office, and explaining the implications of Bill 179

Resolution No. 2014-209: “That Council invite a representative from LAS to provide Council with information regarding their services of Closed Session Investigations

The Ontario Ombudsman communicated publicly that he would be attending the July 21, 2014 meeting of Brighton Council, but there was no information from the Municipality regarding the other two invitations, so I sent the attached email to CAO Frost. CAO Frost replied stating that there was still no confirmation on the attendance date for the LAS representative, so I emailed the following to Brighton Council and the correspondence has been added to the Council meeting agenda for Monday June 16, 2014.

Attn: Ms. Kimmett – Please add this correspondence to the agenda of the next Council meeting.

 

Dear Mayor and Councillors,

 

On April 28, 2014 an invitation was sent at the request of Council to the Ontario Ombudsman inviting Mr. Marin personally to attend a meeting of Council. Mr. Marin replied a few days later on May 8, 2014 confirming that he would be able to attend the July 21, 2014 meeting of Brighton Council.

 

An invitation was also sent at the request of Council to Local Authority Services (LAS) to attend a meeting of Council. From the reply from CAO Frost below, it is evident that although approximately 6 weeks have passed, LAS have not been able to confirm that they will be able to attend a meeting. They have not even been able to confirm that they will be able a meeting another 10 weeks from now on August 18, 2014, which would be approximately 4 months from the date of the original invitation.

 

1. Does Council feel that is an appropriate service level from this provider?
2. Since LAS has not been able to commit a single staff member to appear in person, would Council consider having a representative from LAS appear via Skype or similar teleconference service at the next meeting of Council on July 21, 2014?
3. Will LAS be attending (virtually or in person) at no cost to the Municipality?

 

Thank you,

 

Adrian Ellis

I find it quite amazing that a company that we pay a retainer to every year whether we use their services or not, is not able to confirm a date of attendance weeks and months after receiving an invitation from Council.

However, perhaps even more puzzling is why Councillor Rowley even put forward the motion to invite LAS in the first place. Last year I wrote a post called “Brighton Council prefers to pay for services they can get for free. Why?” and it explains that Councillor Rowley together with Councillors Kerr, Rittwage and Vandertoorn voted to renew the LAS contract for another two years. They chose to do this even though there were significant fee increases from the previous contract and the services could be provided by the Ontario Ombudsman at NO COST to the Municipality.

Does that mean that Councillor Rowley did not actually understand the services provided by LAS when she voted to renew the contract? Perhaps the LAS invite was just a delay tactic to avoid having to make a decision on whether LAS should be revoked? If LAS was revoked, the Ontario Ombudsman could assume the role of Brighton’s closed meeting investigator at NO COST to the Municipality?

Wouldn’t it be nice if these Councillors could just pick up the phone, or send an email to find out information from the respective service providers instead of waiting to be spoon fed by a delegation to Council! Perhaps they could even ask staff to provide a report detailing a comparison of closed meeting investigation service providers like they do when selecting or renewing many other municipal service providers.

I guess the problem with that approach would be that not only would it appear to be transparent and accountable, it would actually be transparent and accountable. 

 

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“We were not aware that the current traffic lights mode causes concerns”

Posted by on Jun 13, 2014 in Commentary, Local Politics, Politics |

This post stems from an email exchange between myself and the Brighton Director of Public Works, Mr. Andrzej (Andrew) Drzewiecki. I am writing this post to share my concerns and hope that the Municipality will consider further action to what has been suggested by Mr. Drzewiecki. In my opinion, what has been suggested by Mr. Drzewiecki is a good start and should have been implemented weeks ago, but it is only a start and not an adequate solution.

Attachment: email and replies from the Director of Public Works, Andrzej (Andrew) Drzewiecki

Tuesday evening I sent an email to CAO Frost asking for an update with regard to the construction on Terry Fox Drive and to express concerns regarding the lack of a crosswalk function at the Elizabeth St. intersection.

Hi Gayle,

 

Would it be possible to have the Director of Public Works to provide an update on the progress and expected completion of the work on Terry Fox Drive at the next Council meeting? The work crews have not been on site for a while, so I am not sure what is causing the delay? One immediate safety concern is the “flashing amber” on the traffic lights at Terry Fox Drive and Elizabeth St. The lights have been in the flashing mode for quite a while and when in this mode, the crosswalk function is disabled, which does not permit the many students crossing at that intersection to cross safely.

 

Thanks,  Adrian

I received a prompt reply from CAO Frost a little later Tuesday evening saying “Thanks for your request and observations. I will discuss this with Andrew first thing in the morning“. However, I only received a reply from Mr. Drzewiecki on Thursday afternoon, where he stated:

Good Afternoon,

 

CAO Gayle Frost forwarded your e-mail to me for response.

 

The main underground work has been completed last month. According to the approved schedule, the contractor will resume the outstanding work (concrete, asphalt, grading, sodding, etc.) after the end of the school year not to interfere with the operation of schools and school bus schedules. The project is expected to be complete by the end of August 2014. The induction loops at the intersection of Terry Fox Dr. and Elizabeth St. had to be cut to allow for installation of sewer pipe under the intersection. During restoration of pavement the loops will be reinstated and the traffic lights operation will go back to the pre-construction mode. We were not aware that the current traffic lights mode causes concerns about students crossing the street and thank you for this information. We will check with the crossing guards.

 

Regards,

 

Andrzej (Andrew) Drzewiecki, P. Eng.

I was very disappointed by this reply and replied with the following.

Hi Andrew,

 

Thank you for your email. If I understand correctly, the operation of the crosswalk feature will not be reinstated until sometime near the end of August? This is a busy pedestrian intersection year round. To suggest that you could not have anticipated a safety issue with the lights in the current mode is short sighted. Without the ability to stop traffic flow, how would you expect students to cross safely? Also, the crossing guards do not service that intersection, so students and other pedestrians have no choice to cross between uninterrupted traffic.

 

I am sure that there are reasons why the project timeline was approved as it was, but from a parent’s perspective, the safety of our children would have been better served by having the project completed without significant delays between phases.

 

This current issue, together with the lack snow plowing for pedestrians during the winter months and the fact that the school buses at times were forced to block an entire lane of Dundas with no traffic control, seems to indicate a lack of safety consideration during the planning and execution of this project. I am not an engineer, so these are just observations from a parent’s perspective.

 

Adrian Ellis

Mr Drzewiecki didn’t answer my questions, but he did reply on Friday afternoon with the following.

Good Afternoon,

 

Next week a crossing guard will be assigned to this crossing until the end of school year. This should improve the situation.

 

Regards,

 

Andrzej (Andrew) Drzewiecki, P. Eng.

I see this as a “better late than never” stop gap measure and it indicates that Mr. Drzewiecki does not fully understand the seriousness of this issue. What happens when pedestrians are trying to cross the road to access the park, tennis courts, soccer fields, ball diamonds or community centre outside of crossing guard hours? Do we really expect seniors from the Applefest Lodge to run between traffic to cross the road?

After receiving Mr. Drzewiecki last reply I took the following video of the Terry Fox Dr. & Elizabeth St. intersection at approximately 2:40 pm this afternoon, June 13, 2014.

 

As can be seen in the video, there is a large volume of traffic with students having to walk quickly or run to avoid traffic. Students are cutting between stopped vehicles and to my shock,  within the first 60 seconds of recording the video, a student was a few feet away from being struck. You can count numerous “close calls” in the following minutes. This video represents 6 minutes out of one day and this issue has been present for how many days/weeks?

This is a truly scary situation and thankfully there hasn’t already been a serious accident. However this situation needs to be remedied immediately and the project as a whole needs to be completed as soon as possible and not delayed until the end of August! In addition, I would suggest that the Municipality perform a safety audit on this project to determine what procedures and policies can be implemented to better identify and mitigate safety concerns on future construction projects.

 

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“Mayor, the man just called me a liar”

Posted by on Jun 11, 2014 in Commentary, Local Politics, Politics |

An email I sent to Brighton Council June 10, 2014.

Attachments:

Audio of first question to Councillor Kerr and his response June 2, 2014
Audio of follow-up question to Councillor Kerr and his response June 2, 2014
Original email chain between Councillor Craig Kerr and myself, November 7, 2013
Original email sent to Brighton Council that was discussed on the June 2, 2014
Audio of discussion to receive my correspondence and decide upon my question

Attn: Ms. Kimmett – Please add this correspondence to the agenda of the next Council meeting. Please include the full email chain below that took place on November 7th, 2013 between Councillor Kerr and myself.

 

Dear Mayor and Councillors,

 

In advance of the last council meeting on June 2, 2014 I emailed correspondence indicating my support for the motion to record Council meetings. I also asked a specific question as to why the item of recording of Council meetings was removed from the budget discussion. I asked this question because Councillor Kerr had confirmed to me the item was included in the draft budget, but it turned out that it was not in the draft budget for consideration as he had stated.

 

The motion put forward to “receive” my email as correspondence would have meant that my question would not have been answered. The motion did not pass, or as Deputy Mayor Vandertoorn put it, “we kicked it out the door is what we did”. Ultimately my question went unanswered, so during the question period I asked Councillor Kerr through the Mayor, if he would like to answer the question in my correspondence, “who made the decision on behalf of Council to remove it and why?”.

 

Councillor Kerr’s reply started in a condescending tone implying that the quotations in my correspondence to Council were not accurate. As can be seen from the email chain below (highlighted in red) I was directly quoting Councillor Kerr’s reply to me. This means that Councillor Kerr’s answer to my question during question period was “factually incorrect.

 

He went on to say that he had told me that “in all probability the item would be in the budget”, but as can be seen from the email chain below (highlighted in red) Councillor Kerr stated “I have confirmed that the item will be in the draft budget coming forward”. This means that Councillor Kerr’s answer to my question during question period was “factually incorrect.

 

He then went on to claim that I have an “agenda with certain members of this Council, myself in particular”. I want to be very clear, I have no “agenda” with any member of Council. This means that Councillor Kerr’s answer to my question during question period was “factually incorrect.

 

The format of the citizen question period does not officially permit a citizen to correct statements made by councillors. However, with errors in fact such as these, I did not feel they should be entered into the public record as being factual. As such, I made the comment “that statement is factually incorrect. At that point Councillor Kerr said “Mayor, the man just called me a liar”. That statement is “factually incorrect”. I did not call Councillor Kerr a liar. I simply said that his statement was “factually incorrect”. It appears that Councillor Kerr does not understand the difference between the terms “factually incorrect” and “liar”. However, he still tried to have me ejected from the Council meeting based on his “factually incorrect” statements. Councillor Kerr’s continuing pattern of aggression towards citizens, simply because they have a question or request an apology, is unbecoming of a Brighton councillor and must stop.

 

Considering the preceding information, I request that Councillor Kerr immediately and without reservation recant his statement that I called him a liar. I know that Council can’t force Councillor Kerr to do this, but I ask that Council support this correspondence and not just receive it, so that he may have the opportunity to remedy this situation.

 

I would like Councillor Kerr to know that his repeated accusations of “agendas” and “campaigns to discredit” are unwarranted, untrue and unfounded. These accusations must stop.

 

I want to point out one final “factual error”. In my follow-up question to Councillor Kerr, I asked him if “the cost prohibitive nature, that was for livestreaming and also it was cost prohibitive for audio recordings as well?”. Councillor Kerr’s reply was “at the time we were talking about video recording uploading to the website. That was all, there was never a discussion to my knowledge never did I participate in discussions around only audio recordings, it was always about video recordings”. As you can see in the email chain below (highlighted in green) I wrote “perhaps an interim option would be to have an audio recording of the meeting and then have that posted to the Municipal website” and Councillor Kerr replied “good suggestion”. This means that Councillor Kerr’s answer to my follow-up question during question period was “factually incorrect.

 

I have attached the audio recordings of my questions and Councillors Kerr’s responses for your convenience. I have also attached the correspondence that was on the agenda of the June 2, 2014 meeting for reference. Please make them available to the public as part of the public record.

 

Thank you,

 

Adrian Ellis

It should be noted, the discussion to receive my correspondence and decide that my question would not be answered took almost 8 minutes. During that time, Councillor Kerr did not offer to simply answer the question.

If you have any questions or comments, please do not hesitate to contact me!

 

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Recording meetings at Brighton Council, no-brainer right? Apparently not!

Posted by on Jun 10, 2014 in Commentary, Local Politics, Politics |

The following motion was moved by Councillor Martinallo and seconded by Councillor Tadman. The motion was debated at the June 2, 2014 Brighton Council meeting.

Recording Council meetings to provide transparency, accountability, increase accessibility and improve communication seems like a no-brainer. 

 

Notice_of_Motion_Martinello_Tadman_Recording

I had hoped that this motion would have been supported by all members of Brighton Council, as many of them had indicated that they would support such a motion. Well, I was wrong. In a recorded vote Deputy Mayor Vandertoorn and Councillors Kerr and Rowley voted against the motion, causing it to be defeated.

Click here to listen to the audio recording of the discussion

Councillor Emily Rowley said when announcing that she would be seeking re-election, “I will endeavour to continue to understand and fairly represent the interests of all members of Brighton and will encourage an environment of accountability and open communication“, yet Councillor Rowley voted against this motion to provide transparency and made NO attempt to provide “open communication” as she did not make ANY comments during the discussion of the motion.

The really disappointing parts of the discussion were the asinine excuses given by Deputy Mayor Vandertoorn and Councillor Kerr to not support the motion.

Deputy Mayor Vandertoorn saidare we going to have a policy that’s going to be created around this? I think that maybe important, um, you know, we talked about getting it up on the website within 24 hours, then we have to have that documented. As well, is there going to be any editing required, you never know what comes out of someone’s mouth and it may come out at the most inopportune time  and there maybe something that needs to be edited that will not be suitable for the World Wide Web under the Municipality of Brighton’s name, so I think that we have to think about this long and hard

With regard to documenting the “getting it up on the website within 24 hours” – it’s already documented – as it is written into the motion. With regard to editing the public record, under no circumstance should the public record be sanitized by editing out portions that a particular councillor doesn’t like. A record of a public meeting must always be a complete and unadulterated record of the meeting in its entirety. To suggest otherwise is absurd and shows a total lack of respect for the process and the citizens of Brighton.

Councillor Kerr said “I certainly support the notion of recording whether it’s audio or visual. In fact there were considerations of having that in the last budget, but the information that was available to staff at that point was that it was prohibitively expensive to do it on our own website at that time. However, I understand and following up with staff over recent weeks, that in fact there has been some new suggestions and new opportunities come forward to them that might allow us to do an even better job of providing audio and visual recordings on the website and it would also potentially save a lot of the difficulties involved.

 

One of the concerns that we have to have of course if we simply make an audio recording upload it to our website is the strain that it puts on our website in terms of keeping all those files on with the amount of space that’s available on the website.

 

As everyone knows that I record each and every one of these council meetings and there’s a whole lot of dead air that goes on in these meetings when we are deliberating what our next steps are. or whatever transitions for delegations coming forward or whatever it may be and somebody is going to have to spend time to bring those audio files down to some kind of a reasonable format for posting on such a website.

 

So, I think that there is a whole lot more to this proposal than simply buying a $100 recorder and then sticking it up on a website. It is considerably more complex than that”.

I have a number of issues with the Councillor Kerr’s preceding statement:

1. I can only assume that Councillor Kerr did not consider the $100 option when discussing this item with staff, as it would be ridiculous to suggest that $100 would be “prohibitively expensive“.
2. If Councillor Kerr had discussions with staff before, during and in the recent weeks following the budget process and staff have identified “some new suggestions and new opportunities“, why didn’t Councillor Kerr share those with Council as part of the discussion?
3. If Councillor Kerr is seriously concerned about server disk space, then perhaps he could have investigated any number of the free online storage solutions?
4. Councillor Kerr confirms that he records “each and every one of these council meetings” and yet he does not want to share these with the residents of Brighton by uploading them to the web himself and he voted against this motion to have staff perform this task and make them available to the public.
5. As mentioned previously, the public record should not be edited under any circumstance.
6.  Councillor Kerr stated “I think that there is a whole lot more to this proposal than simply buying a $100 recorder and then sticking it up on a website. It is considerably more complex than that“. Well here’s my take on that. At the start of the Council meeting you press the Record button and at the end of the meeting you press the Stop button. Then plug the USB cable from the recorder into your computer, select the file and click to upload. You don’t need to be an IT professional to do this. If staff can upload Council meeting minutes to the web, they should have no problem uploading an audio file.

Although Councillor Rittwage was absent from the meeting I have asked him twice via Twitter and again via email the following question, “If you were at the Council meeting on Monday night, would you have voted in favour of recording the Brighton Council meetings?“. Councillor Rittwage for whatever reason has not replied to me and as such I am not sure of his current position on this question. I find it disappointing that a person sitting as a councillor and a person that is seeking re-election as a councillor, seems unprepared to answer simple constituent questions.

If Council wants to consider spending more for a different solution than suggested in this motion, then Council should add it to the draft 2015 budget for consideration. In the meantime if Council had passed this motion, an extremely low cost solution allowing for the recording of meetings could have been immediately implemented. Once again, pragmatism takes a detour at the Welcome to Brighton sign.

It seems like all of Council is in favour of recording Council meetings until they actually have to vote to make it happen. Only Councillors Martinello, Tadman and Mayor Walas supported this motion and it ultimately failed as the others did not demonstrate the will to make it happen.

 

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If you think the Bay is unsafe, then just don’t go swimming there

Posted by on Jun 7, 2014 in Commentary, Local Politics, Politics |

The title of this post comes from a comment made by Councillor Emily Rowley during the discussion of the following motion at the May 20, 2014 meeting of Brighton Council.

Click here to listen to the audio recording of the discussion

Motion by Councillor Martinello, Seconded by Councillor Tadman

 

Whereas in 2013, 2 of the 5 Presqu’Ile Bay water samples taken by the Ontario Ministry of Environment’s Lake Partner Program contained total phosphorous at concentrations greater than 20 micrograms/litre;

 

Whereas, by the Ministry of Environment’s own standards , concentrations of total phosphorous greater than 20 micrograms/litre indicate eutrophication of a water body;

 

Whereas eutrophication is recognized as a water pollution problem;

 

Whereas the Municipality of Brighton spends hundreds of thousands of Brighton taxpayers dollars every year to ensure public health & safety; and

 

Whereas a beachfront water quality monitoring program would not only serve to protect persons using Presqu’Ile Bay but would also have the collateral benefit of identifying water pollution problems,

 

it is recommended that Council direct staff to implement the most cost-effective beachfront water quality monitoring program for Presqu’Ile Bay and that this program be identical in scope, scale, timing & frequency to the beachfront water quality monitoring program at Presqu’Ile Provincial Park. It is further recommended that this program be operational for the start of the 2014 swimming season and that it be funded using Brighton taxpayers dollars located in the Public Safety Reserves.

During the debate on this motion, the following comment was made by Councillor Rittwage.

“The reason why I will oppose this and I will be very clear about this is, if we are going to take responsibility for people who swim in that lake, you’re in for a penny, you’re in for a pound. Then we are going to go and talk to everybody about their docks that are sitting on town property, that have been sitting there for years and years and years, which are a liability if you want to look at it that way, on Municipal property where they have docks where they are not paying to have them there and I am not about to be part of opening up that can of worms. Things have been just fine in Gosport for a long, long time.

 

What are you raising your eyebrows for John, how long have lived around here?

 

So I won’t be part of us deciding that we’re going to take a whole hearted approach to the shoreline down there, especially on Bay St. when I know there are individuals who have been doing just fine down there for as long as I can remember without the intervention of the government, the local government getting in the way of how they do business.

 

Now, I quite agree with Emily, we are not the bubble wrap generation, it is my responsibility to decide where my children swim and to be very aware of where they’re doing and what they are doing, so I would suggest that we educate people about where you can and can’t swim. We have a lot of other shoreline in this municipality that we don’t test water, so why are we targeting the Bay? I believe and this is my opinion and it goes back to the discussion that we had at the last council meeting. This is all about a sewer treatment plant. Somebody wants us to test water because they think that we are contaminating the lake on purpose. We’ve heard from our staff exactly what it is we are doing for the ministry of the environment and they believe it will be fine when we go to court and this is nothing but a scare tactic to suggest we’re dumping stuff into the lake, which we are not doing, so I will be opposing this for the sheer fact that it is just folly and we will just do fine by continuing doing what we are doing”. – Thomas Rittwage, May 20, 2014

Far from making it “very clear”, the only reasons given by Councillor Rittwage why he opposes the testing of the water is that, he is not going to agree to testing the water unless Council agrees to looking at the docks on Municipal property, but he doesn’t want to open that “can of worms” anyway. If Councillor Rittwage believes there is another liability issue, then he should look into it and not use it as a reason to not look into other potential liabilities. The only other reason Councillor Rittwage stated in the comment is that, it is “just folly”. Councillor Rittwage’s reasoning is hardly substantive and his snide remark to Councillor Martinello didn’t go unnoticed either.

Councillor Vandertoorn is concerned we would “invite” liability if the water was tested. He said “I don’t believe that we have any liability now as it is not a formalized beach in my opinion”. Councillor Martinello asked Deputy Mayor Vandertoorn from where he received the legal advice as to why he thinks there is no liability and Vandertoorn’s answer was “I am not going to answer that”. In my opinion if a liability exists and you just ignore it, you are not saved harmless from the liability. Instead, not only does the liability remain, you could also be found negligent for not attempting to mitigate the liability.

You can probably guess who will foot the bill if Council is found to be negligent. That’s correct, the taxpayers of Brighton. In the same way as, we the taxpayers are paying to defend the five charges from Ministry of the Environment, with four being for non-compliance and the fifth for failure to report non-compliance. I think that it’s a better use of my money to spend it protecting the environment, rather than using it to defend court actions as a result damaging the environment.

Councillor Rittwage later suggested that “perhaps we should put up swim at your own risk sign”. To me it doesn’t make sense to put up a warning sign if you don’t know if there is even any danger. Why pay staff to evaluate the costs and implications of putting up signage when you haven’t even tested to see if there is actually an issue with the water? First you need to test to find out if there is an issue. If you find that water is pristine, then fantastic let’s promote that on our tourism brochures. If not, then at least we know we need to start rectifying the issue and protect citizens in the interim.

Presqu’ile Bay is an environmental and economic resource that is important to the future of Brighton and we have an obligation to protect it.

Councillor Kerr did not contribute to the discussion to explain his position, but in a recorded vote, he voted against testing the waters of Presqu’ile Bay together with Councillors Rittwage, Rowley and Vandertoorn.

 

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