I sent the following letter to Brighton Council and it has been added to the agenda of the next Council meeting on July 21, 2014 at 6:30 p.m. at the King Edward Park Community Centre.
Attn: Ms. Kimmett – Please add this correspondence to the agenda of the next Council meeting.
Dear Mayor and Councillors,
I recently wrote to Council concerning safety issues for students created by the ongoing repairs on Terry Fox Drive. There are additional safety issues around the schools that I would like to draw your attention to and ask Council to consider taking steps to address these safety issues.
The most important of these would be to consider a speed reduction from the current 50 km/h on Elizabeth St. to 40 km/h. The lower speed limit should apply to the full extent of the school zones from Alice St. Eastwards to approximately where the tennis courts are located. This would be consistent with other school zones and also consistent with the current speed limit on Dundas St. to the North of the school properties. which is already 40 km/h.
In addition to the reduced speed limit I would like to request a review to determine what “school zone” signage and road markings could be implemented to better ensure student safety. Currently the only signage on Elizabeth St. is indicating the crossing guard location in front of Brighton Public School. As a minimum I would have expected the entry points of the school zones to be demarcated.
Also, there are no school zones marked on to the North of the school properties on Dundas St. and the crossing guard location at Terry Fox Dr. and Dundas St. is not indicated, although the crossing guard location at the Municipal office does have signage.
I would hope that this review could take place as soon as possible to allow for the safety issues be addressed prior to the return of the students in September.
Also, I know that there was talk some time ago of installing a sidewalk on the North side of Elizabeth St. in front of Brighton Public School. Please can you confirm if this was included in this year’s budget? If not, would you please add it next year’s budget draft for consideration and let me know accordingly.
I sent the following letter to the editor of the Brighton Independent and the letter was published in this week’s paper.
The House of Commons Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities recently released a report titled Interim Report on Rail Safety Review (June 2014). This report contained information that should cause Brighton taxpayers grave concern.
This report stated that the number of crude oil shipments, by rail, will increase from 160,000 carloads in 2013 to 510,000 carloads in 2016. This report also states, “Of the fleet of 80,000 to 100,000 DOT-111 tank cars currently circulating on the North American integrated rail system network only 14,000 were built to the most recent design standards. The human, property and environmental losses caused by the accident in Lac-Mégantic have precipitated a thorough re-examination by government and industry of safety in the North American rail transportation system.”
On February 3, 2014 Brighton Council debated the following motion moved by Councillor Martinello and seconded by Councillor Tadman.
“This Notice of Motion recommends that council direct staff to use its own expertise & experience to develop fully referenced proposals & cost estimates for the installation of a telephone emergency notification system similar to the PRISM system that currently serves the residents of Quinte West. This Notice of Motion further recommends that staff be directed to complete these proposals & cost estimates immediately and in time for inclusion in the 2014 budget discussions.”
This motion referenced the disaster in Lac-Mégantic and two other explosions of rail cars carrying crude oil. With three mainline tracks running right through it and the increase in dangerous goods being moved by rail, the urban area of Brighton could easily became another Lac-Mégantic. Perhaps not many residents are aware, but on March 21, 2009 there was a train derailment at mile 247.20 on the mainline track just West of Brighton. The train consisted of three engines and 137 cars, of which, three derailed. The derailed dangerous goods tank cars were loaded with molten naphthalene, one of which landed on its side. Fortunately, no product was released and there were no injuries. This clearly indicates that serious train accidents can and do happen in our community.
Considering the aforementioned, one would have assumed unanimous support for the motion, but it was not supported by Deputy Mayor Vadndertoorn and Councillors Kerr, Rittwage and Rowley and instead the motion was shunted off to the Emergency Planning Committee. However, they did so without any request for a timely report with recommendations.
Over five months later and on the one year anniversary of the Lac-Mégantic disaster, it seems there has been no progress on this important initiative. This is not criticism of the Emergency Planning Committee. This is criticism of the four Councillors that repeatedly fail to show clear direction and leadership to staff and the community. Once again, petty politics seem to be getting in the way of the health, welfare and safety of Brighton taxpayers.
This term of Council is not finished, but there is plenty of unfinished business. If these four Councillors can’t show that they have the capacity to work in the best interests of the taxpayers of Brighton, then they should withdraw their names from the October election ballot. We need Councillors that are prepared to make the right decisions for the right reasons!
Last week I wrote a post called “If your strategy is “build it and they will come”, you had better get it built” and I posed the following questions,
“When the Municipality is spending hundreds of thousands, or even millions of taxpayer dollars, is it unreasonable to expect to receive a clear project plan with progress deadlines before work commences? Would it also be unreasonable to expect to receive regular progress updates as the project advances? I think that in any professional organization this would not only be expected, it would be demanded.”
and I made the following statement.
“Brighton is facing huge infrastructure challenges and we need a new approach to address these challenges that is both, transparent AND accountable to the taxpayers of Brighton. The current status quo is not acceptable and must change!”
Subsequent to that post, I was reviewing the minutes from the October 21, 2013 and November 04, 2013 Brighton Council meetings and found the following Notice of Motion and recorded vote from the respective meetings.
If the preceding resolution, moved by Councillor John Martinello and seconded by Councillor Mary Tadman had not been defeated by Councillors Kerr, Rittwage, Rowley and Vandertoorn it would have helped address some of the questions posed in my earlier post.
The resolution was simply asking for progress updates on two infrastructure projects that will account for millions in taxpayer dollars by the time they are complete. However, since the resolution was defeated these project updates were never provided to Council. Another opportunity for transparency and accountability missed. It is not clear whether these four councillors are more concerned about the transparency, or the accountability, that would result from the transparency.
In the interim, the Municipality has been taken to court by the Ontario Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change for infractions relating to the Sewage Treatment Plant and the expansion of the Industrial Park has encountered significant delays.
It seems clear that the lack of transparency and subsequent lack of accountability is having a clear and negative financial impact on the taxpayers of Brighton.
As I have said before, “Brighton is facing huge infrastructure challenges and we need a new approach to address these challenges that is both, transparent AND accountable to the taxpayers of Brighton. The current status quo is not acceptable and must change!”
Life according to Kerr – “A campaign of misinformation is being waged in local media and through social media”
Councillor Kerr sent a letter this week to the editor of the Brighton Independent titled “Municipal staff saves taxpayers money” seemingly in response to my letter to the editor and post last week titled “Transparency is a mindset, not a campaign slogan!“.
Councillor Kerr starts off in the same vein that he has on several occasions previously where he claims that “A campaign of misinformation is being waged in local media and through social media”.
The following quote is from an email that I sent Brighton Council on June 2, 2014 “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.” Clearly Councillor Kerr took no heed of my correspondence and continues his pattern of baseless claims against me.
Councillor Kerr goes on to say “This partisan campaign appears to be focussed on discrediting municipal staff and the decisions of Brighton Council“. It seems that Councillor Kerr is of the misguided opinion that there are political parties in Municipal politics, otherwise how can anything be construed as being “partisan“?
Still referencing the first paragraph, Councillor Kerr’s makes a third factually incorrect claim when he states, the alleged “campaign” is “focussed on discrediting municipal staff” and yet my letter is clearly only critical of Councillors Kerr, Rittwage, Rowley and Deputy Mayor Vandertoorn that voted against making information public. Staff were not asked to disclose the calculations, it was Council that was asked to do that and these four Councillors chose to keep the information secret. Two sentences and three factually incorrect claims, perhaps this is new record for Councillor Kerr?
Moving on to paragraph two of Councillor Kerr’s letter, he states “based on an expected net return” and the word “expected” is what this issue revolves around. It was confirmed that the LED lighting provider would not guarantee the cost savings that were being proposed and it was also confirmed by a vote of Council that the justification for the “expected” savings would not be made public. The “expected” savings do sound impressive, but without a guarantee that they would materialize, they are just hypothetical, based on a supposedly “proprietary” method of calculation.
Councillor Kerr states “Such a request is unprecedented in my opinion as if the information is made public it exposes the proprietary information of the contractor and places them at a disadvantage in future bidding situations“. Why is the request for Council “to be given the calculations used in the successful contract bid” considered to be “unprecedented ” in his opinion? If he has never requested the fiscal justification for spending hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars, then he is not representing my best interests. Let’s also remember folks, this project was never part of the budget discussion!
Councillor Kerr’s comments in his letter reiterate that he is more concerned about protecting the interests of the bidding company, because he does not want to place “them at a disadvantage in future bidding situations“, instead of protecting the taxpayer’s interests in the current situation.
As an aside, I would like to point out two additional personal attacks that Councillor Kerr has made recently. The first of these was at the June 16, 2014 Council Meeting where Councillor Kerr details his participation in the walk a mile in her shoes fundraiser. The fundraiser was for the Cornerstone Family Violence Prevention Centre, a cause that Councillor Kerr only became aware of after his “have you stopped beating your wife” comment, yet he refers to to it as “his cause“. Why does he think that it is appropriate to chastise citizens for not contributing towards “his” goal? How does he know how much the citizens of Brighton have contributed to that cause, or to any number of other worthy local community groups? I find that mentality and commentary to be ignorant and offensive!
In this commentary, Councillor Kerr states, “not one of the citizens who created that furor at the time were apparently prepared to step up and support my challenge or accept my challenge or support my cause“. This is a factually incorrect statement. It was, in fact, Councillor Kerr that created the furor when he made his offensive “wife beating” comment and did not apologize for it.
The second recent attack was via Councillor Kerr’s Facebook account, where he makes the following condescending remark.
“Most people agree with laws aimed at preventing or reducing litter in our communities. Maybe it’s time to take the same approach to littering on the “social media” highways and byways. There are days when we could use some intellectual beautification efforts…..”
Ironically he uses social media to attack the use of social media and the supposed lack of intellectual capacity of people using it.
Incidentally, Councillor Kerr announced today that he will be running for a third term on Brighton Council.
Councillor Kerr states “well its time that uh, the municipality moved on with some of the plans that have been in place for a considerable length of time“. So unable to move plans forward during his first two terms of Council, he wants a third term to do what exactly?
Continuity on Council can be a good thing, but only if you want to continue with four more years of the same!
Brighton Council is in the process of spending millions of dollars on an expansion of the Brighton Industrial Park, utilizing what appears to be a “build it and they will come” strategy towards economic development. One of the problems with that strategy is that you need to actually build something before “they” will come, so expeditious completion is essential.
Although the availability of “fully serviced” land has been promoted for almost a year, the last update to Brighton Council was that there have been no formal enquiries by companies looking to purchase land in the new section of the industrial park. This illustrates another big problem with the “build it and they will come” strategy. Unless there has been a clearly identified demand due to under supply of similar land locally, or there are clear differentiating factors with other locally available land, then “you can build it, but they may never come“. Unfortunately, I don’t see a shortage of similar land locally and I don’t see any major differentiating factors, which probably accounts for the lack of interest so far.
In October 2012, Millier Dickinson Blais prepared a report called “Business Plan for the Brighton Business Park” and in it the consultants mentioned, “most of that regional demand is most likely to come from the local market. In fact, local businesses are normally a primary source of land sales in any community. As such, existing local business owners and entrepreneurs are primary targets for expansion into the business park“.
Considering this, one would expect that the Municipality of Brighton has been making a concerted effort to to engage with and strengthen its relationship with the local business community.
However, the report went on to say “When asked about the support received from the Municipality for their particular business, the response was a split between positive and negative. Some businesses stated that the Municipality purchases their products and advertises with them during Municipal events, but other businesses stated that no contact from the Municipality occurs, leaving them to find out about programs and services available to them. In addition, those with experience in dealing with other municipalities claim that Brighton is not as proactive in identifying challenges facing businesses“.
Fast forward to 2014 and not much seems to have changed, because when the Municipality decided to replace its street lights with more efficient LED lights, they chose to award the $500,000 contract to an out of town company without advertising the opportunity locally. Call me an idiot, but that doesn’t make any sense to me.
The Municipality needs to adopt a “Think Local, Shop Local” strategy and start publicly advertising ALL projects, so that local companies can have the opportunity to bid on municipal projects. As the consultants indicated, economic develop starts at home. What is Brighton Council doing to support businesses that are already established in the existing industrial park?
The business plan for the industrial park expansion was delivered in 2012, the construction for the park expansion commenced in 2013 and the project was supposed to be completed by the Spring of 2014. As of Wednesday, July 2, 2014 it looks like an abandoned project with no machinery on site. There is no asphalt on the roads, the lots are not graded and I am not sure if all of the utilities are in, but there are no street lights or other indicators of hydro service.
In a press release titled, Brighton Industrial Park receives fibre connectivity through Eastern Ontario Regional Network, Deputy Mayor Vandertoorn seems to imply that the Industrial Park expansion will be serviced with fibre optic cable to provide high speed internet access. However, at the April 7, 2014 Brighton Council meeting, Cogeco confirmed that only the existing Industrial Park will be serviced with fibre cable and not the new park expansion.
At the June 16, 2014 meeting of Brighton Council the Director of Public Works suggested that the delay in completing Terry Fox Dr. was in part because “the contractor right now mobilized on our industrial park, has some grading to do” and yet more than two weeks later the grading is not complete and there has been no further work on Terry Fox Dr. either.
Why is Brighton Council not concerned with the lack of progress on these two big ticket infrastructure projects? Where is the accountability?
When the Municipality is spending hundreds of thousands, or even millions of taxpayer dollars, is it unreasonable to expect to receive a clear project plan with progress deadlines before work commences? Would it also be unreasonable to expect to receive regular progress updates as the project advances? I think that in any professional organization this would not only be expected, it would be demanded. Yet, certain members of Brighton Council don’t agree with this and when progress reports are requested, these same Councillors make accusations of micro-management. This is not about micro-management, this is about accountability.
Brighton is facing huge infrastructure challenges and we need a new approach to address these challenges that is both, transparent AND accountable to the taxpayers of Brighton. The current status quo is not acceptable and must change!