The Capitol Saga Continues
Can you imagine...Councillor Lewenza had the nerve to try and put the matter respecting the Capitol Theatre on the Consent Agenda which meant approval to enter into a settlement with the Trustee. Was he serious? Was it his idea to do that on such a complicated matter? Fortunately, his colleagues did not agree.
In the end Council opposed entering into a proposed deal with the Trustee in Bankruptcy. I think Councillor Lewenza also opposed it (It's hard to tell on Cogeco how Councillors vote all of the time). If he did, then it shows what open debate can do. Something Councillors forgot when Councillors Halberstadt and Valentinis were away the other week.
Now that this memo has been filed publicly, I have demanded to see the entire file since the City has waived its solicitor-client privilege. I wonder what other goodies we can find buried there.
If you compare the memo with the covering Administrative Report, the differences are fascinating, like night and day. I wonder if this is how the City's backrooms work. What we are told in public may bear little relationship to what goes on behind the scenes. The Administrative Report does not give us the flavour of the advice given in the lawyer's memo.
Is it like this on other subjects that go before Council? While eating their lambchops, are the Mayor and Council given inside info by their staff that we mortals are not allowed to see and of which we know nothing? If so, then how can we possibly understand why a decision is made if we do not know the background? Is it all decided at dinner before the Council meeting and everything that goes on in public is a sham, a mere charade to meet the legal requirements of the Municipal Act on meetings?
It could be much worse too. As an example, it seems that if you dare disagree with anything that the Mayor and Council want to do, then it is fair game for you to be demonized. You can be called the "enemy" or it can be said that you have "political agendas contrary to the City's interests." You are evil in other words and anything goes to defeat you. I am disgusted by that and so should you, dear reader.
The first article was a Supreme Court of Canada decision involving an Interim Control By-law in the City of London which the Court quashed. Here are several noteworthy comments by the Court about the role of Municipal Government:
- It is particularly noteworthy that one recurring problem mentioned in the 1984 Ontario Report of the Provincial/Municipal Working Committee on Open Meetings and Access to Information was that “some municipal councils employ lengthy, in-camera special and committee meetings to discuss matters under debate and then ratify their decision in full council in a few minutes, with minimal discussion” (p. 2). See also, the report of the Ontario Commission on Freedom of Information and Individual Privacy (“Williams Commission”), Public Government for Private People (1980). In the hope of thereby fostering democratic values, and responding to the public’s demand for more accountable municipal government, these reports recommended compulsory open meetings of municipal councils and committees, subject to narrow exceptions...
- The open meeting requirement was intended to increase public confidence in the integrity of local government, by ensuring the open and transparent exercise of municipal power...
- 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...
- The City’s conduct in closing the two meetings in question was neither inadvertent nor trivial. In fact its council meeting of January 19, 2004 was conducted in a manner that is rather reminiscent of the problems reported more than 20 years ago that led to the passing of the statutory open meeting requirement. It is worth repeating the words of the Working Committee quoted earlier: “some municipal councils employ lengthy, in-camera special and committee meetings to discuss matters under debate and then ratify their decision in full council in a few minutes, with minimal discussion”. In my view, the eight-minute public session during the course of which the interim by-law was passed without debate or discussion along with 31 other by-laws did nothing to cure the defect."
The second article was a speech by New York Mayor Bloomberg at the "Ceasefire! Bridging The Political Divide" Conference. His speech was about LEADERSHIP. The five elements of leadership that he identified are:
- Independence...For progress, ideas have to be evaluated on their merits, not their origins. Conventional wisdom must be challenged, no matter whose it is, and we must be willing to call ‘em like we see ‘em – no matter what party discipline demands. In other words – independence from politics, ideology, and petty selfishness
- Nonpartisan leadership also requires good, old fashioned honesty and common sense...
voters respect and reward those who rely on common sense to make their decisions and who refuse to let politics get in the way of doing the right thing for the right reasons. Taking this approach builds trust, and trust bridges divides.
Honesty means having the courage tell the public the unvarnished truth – the downsides as well as the upsides, the costs as well as the benefits, and it means making decisions on the merits – and only on the merits.
- Innovation is another value central to nonpartisan leadership. Innovation means discarding the tired old solutions that haven’t worked, digging down to the roots of a problem and finding creative new ways to attack its source. There are a lot of great ideas out there – and goodness knows I don’t have them all. But I’ve made my career encouraging others to develop them – and being willing to try them, even when no one else will
- Teamwork. Teamwork means reaching across the aisle – or down Pennsylvania Avenue – so that you can build the coalitions needed to get things done. But it also means having the best team at home. In both business and government, the organization is only as good as the people who work there.
- Accountability. I built my company on the idea of getting and delivering better data and listening to what the data told me, even when the message wasn’t pleasant. By using data to manage, you can hold yourself and others accountable for results.
After you read the comments by the Supreme Court, is Windsor the kind of City where one can hold one's head up high and say "It's not like that in my City. We have open and transparent City Government here." You should remember that
- "City council conducted almost 50 per cent of the city's business behind closed doors during the first three months of the year, more than double the ratio during the last quarter of 2006. There have been 10 in-camera meetings spanning 20 hours this year and 10 public meetings spanning 24 hours. The three months prior saw council meet privately for eight hours and publicly for nearly 26."
When you read what Mayor Bloomberg has said about Leadership, can we say that our Mayor and Council have those traits. You tell me.
The Capitol Theatre Memo puts it all in a perspective for me, no matter what the outcome at Council was:
- Was the public ever supposed to see the lawyer's memo or was it for Council's eyes only? It is extremely damaging if it was never to see the light of day as to the way this City carries on business.
- Nothing is ever as it seems in this City. Was this deal presented expecting it to fail---Councillor Dilkens got a nice headline calling the deal a sham---so that nothing happens with the Capitol for 2 years? By that time, who would want it so that if the Trusdtee happened to win, it would be purchased for relatively nothing anyway.
- The poor Councillors really have no expertise in handling matters this complicated. It is not meant as a criticism; it is just not their professional background. No wonder we have big problems that do not get resolved here or take forever to do and for which we pay out large sums for lawyers and consultants. They decided not to do the deal but have no knowledge about how to bring this matter to a satisfactory end without litigation. Where is Administration and the hired gun offering a solution, not litigation, to help them out?
- The CAO, when pressed at Council, did not recommend the deal. Why didn't theReport say this rather than leave it to Council for "direction."
- If there is an easy way to do something or a complicated way, the complicated way wins out every time
- This whole matter could have been dealt with easily if what had been agreed to between the Capitol Theatre Board and the City had been carried through. It has mishandled
- Even after the bankruptcy, this matter could have been resolved with a few phone calls
- What happened to the City's argument that "I do believe the city has a strong case and needs to continue taking legal steps," said lawyer William Wills, who is representing the city." If the City's position is so strong, why would the City's lawyer bring forward the offer and not recommend rejection? Why would the City even consider offering to pay out $1.1M when it claims it has a $1.83M mortgage that would allow it to take over the lands and buildings. Clearly there are real concerns
- How would the other arts groups in the city have suffered if the $1.1M was paid out to "buy" the assets
- Oh I understand that this is all a big circle with the money supposedly coming back via rent so the City was not really paying out anything but what if it did not...more lost taxpayer money
- Would a Court agree that this was a "fair market value" deal with a supposed payment of $1.1M to the Estate.
- Would Eddie have been the CEO of yet another company, the non-profit theatre group
- How much did the Capitol need to stay out of bankruptcy? Do you think the fee of $100K that the City would have paid to the Trustee and its lawyer as well as the City's legal expenses could have been used to save the Capitol instead.
- Who are the parties with a political agenda?
The memo tells me a lot. It would appear that the City may not have a strong legal position and was bluffing to try to scoop the assets with their legal threats. The Administrative Report is misleading without the memo. If the lawyer's memo was not there, it made it look like the City was paying out $1.1M for the assets but did not say that the money could come back via a 5 year lease payment. If you wanted to bid against the City for the assets in the bankruptcy the ante would seem very high with this Report. It would scare most people off. No wonder the offer was meant to be kept confidential.
Most of all this whole discussion explains to me why this City cannot solve the border problem or why the arena deal was such a fiasco or why the Tunnel deal seems to be changing all of the time or why the airport was bleeding red ink etc etc etc. It is why everything is so secret here.
Of course the Report was posted late Friday afternoon even though the Report was prepared on the 21st....why should anyone know about it until the last minute. Who needs to hear delegations? I also find it interesting that only the CAO signed the Report but then again, he really runs this City.
Oh and just to reveal my bias...I am one of those people who might have challenged all of this since I apparently have "political agendas contrary to the City's interests." And the Trustee knows all about me too since I asked what the procedure would be for dealing with the assets! I have an interesting idea about what could be done with the Capitol but it must be done immediately before it is too late.
You may remember that I said in a BLOG that I could help solve this matter for the City but no one has called me to take me up on my offer. Seeing the size of the Trustee and legal fees, I may have offered my services at too low a fee!