Thoughts and Opinions On Today's Important Issues

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Council Last Night

I almost feel as if I am now playing the role of a colour commentator on a sports event on television when I comment on City Council meetings.

If you want to know the factual, "what happened," then you look to our traditional media: radio, television, newspaper. If you want to know why things were done or what some inside stories are, then it is necessary for you to take a look at the BLOGS in town. There really is no other place for citizens to go anymore in the City for this kind of analysis.

Perhaps what I should do is go out and buy a different kind of sports coat and shirt so that I could look more like Don Cherry when I do these types of BLOGS. Speaking of jackets and fashion, someone from Cogeco needs to tell Councillor Valentinis that the jacket he wore last night is just too "busy" for television and that he needs to change it to something more TV-friendly. If only the Councillors could look as good as Councillor Lewenza who seemed so healthy and tanned from his vacation trip. That was probably better than sitting in Devonshire Mall giving out Greenlink brochures.

Just dealing with some of matters at Council, are you as tired listening about the Library System as I am? I still have not figured out why there is this absolute fixation on the Library. Now Councillor Marra wants public hearings into why a library branch should be closed. Will this soap opera ever end? Probably not, until we find out the real reason why the City wants to take over the Library.

I liked listening to Councillor Brister try to justify himself so that it wasn't his fault that the Library Branch was going to close. His approach as reported in the press was to slash ther reserves to make up the deficiency. Interestingly, at the same time, the Mayor at the same Council meeting made a big deal about trying to increase the City's reserves. Nothing like the City talking out of both sides of its mouth.

Remember when Councillor Valentinis stated at one of the Council meetings that one of his law profs told him that you cannot suck and blow at the same time. Well this Council can.

They can allow Mr. Slopen's client to tear a house down on Howard provided that the owner of the land agrees to landscaping but the Bridge Company cannot do so in Sandwich. Administration wanted to deny that request since the building was structurally sound and could be repaired. They at least said that if it was to be torn down, it should be landscaped.

It was interesting to me that Mr. Slopen's argument for demolishing the home was that it was derelict, could be a fire hazard and, notwithstanding what Administration said, was very damaged. He also said that the neighbour wanted it torn down and that there was nothing his client could to secure the premises from vagrants. I was also surprised that Mr. Slopen mentioned that there were no plans to redevelop the site either. Gee, doesn't that sound like the Bridge Company arguments?

Council agreed to the demolition with landscaping. That was the sucking part; I will talk about the blowing part later.

Regretfully, I may have to file another Meetings Investigation Complaint depending on what I receive today from the Clerk's office at City Hall. From reviewing the videotape of the meeting last night, I saw that initially my request to defer the Tunnel matter on Agenda Item #4 was granted. For some reason, the Mayor had to have a subsequent cleanup Motion dealing with all deferred items. I've never seen that one before. A new procedural stunt is conceived all the time it seems.

With that Mayoral prompting, fortunately, Councillor Hatfield woke up from his slumber to the fact that this matter had been deferred already. Councillors Brister and Valentinis who moved and seconded the deferrals of my matter and others also woke up from their hypnotic state and stated that they had never intended to defer my matter.

Accordingly, after Motions to waive the Procedural Bylaw and to Reconsider, a request for deferral was rejected. It's not sour grapes on my side that I lost. But it is more than sour grapes that I lost because apparently, according to Councillor Hatfield, the City's lawyer, Mr. Sutts, sent to the City a communication saying that there was no reason to defer.

I did not get a copy of that communication. It was not on the City's website that I could find. I don't know if it was attached as part of the Agenda because I could not attend that meeting. I was not advised of the communication so that I could respond to it. It appears to me, unless the Clerk's office provides me with information otherwise, that this matter was dealt with by the Councillors based on the Sutts' communication before the Council Meeting ever started. The public would never have known about the communication but for the remark by Council Hatfield.

That appears to me to be a decision made in camera and accordingly done in violation of the rules. Accordingly I will file another complaint unless the Clerk's office provides me with information why I should not do so.

I wanted to talk about Councillor Jones being away from the Council meeting. I understand that there was a family emergency and he could not attend. Nothing as far as I'm concerned is more important than family, even a Council meeting, especially meetings of this Council. I wish the family member of Council Jones my best wishes.

However, it appears that Council Jones no longer has any interest in Sandwich. Perhaps after reading all of my BLOGS, he has finally understood the errors of his way and is supportive of the Bridge Company's position. There is no other conclusion that I can reach but this after what happened at Council.

If you had watched the proceedings you would have seen two of his colleagues ask for deferrals of specific items because he wanted to appear to speak about them. One dealt with an application for a Waste Transfer Station and the other dealt with the downtown. Specifically though, Councillor Jones did not ask for a deferral of the Sandwich matter. That absolutely shocked me.

That Councillor Jones has to be a pretty shrewd fellow. I am sure that he saw the Bridge Company letter telling the City that their bylaw does not apply to them constitutionally. He must have figured out that if he was not there at the Meeting and did not vote on the Administration recommendation, it might mean that, if the Mayor and Councillors were sued personally, his damages would be reduced by his absence. If he did not vote, he could not be accused of dealing in bad faith at that meeting.

Don't tell me that the Councillor doesn't understand about Black Letter Law after his question about that concept at Council previously. He learned about legal concepts very quickly I am sure.

The only blow to the Councillor's ego I'm afraid was when the resident respecting Agenda Item #6 had no idea who he was.

Fortunately the downtown item was deferred as well. Do you see how Fate intervenes? Councillor Gignac at the Strategic Planning Session the week before had expected to talk about the downtown but they did not. She wanted to have a session to deal with this matter before it was discussed at Council. There did not seem to be enough time to do so within one week but fortunately it could now be deferred without the embarrassment of any Councillor having to justify waiting for more time. It all worked out in the end.

I was interested to see that the Greenlink banner was still up in violation of the City's Procedural Bylaw. I wonder if the cost for that banner was paid for out of the Budget Stabilization Fund like some of the consultant fees on the border.

I'm so glad that Eddie played the role of the schoolmaster again. I saw him demonstrating to Councillor Halberstadt how he should hold up his hand. Follow Eddie's instructions. Hold your hand up high Councillor just like you were taught in kindergarten when you had to go to the bathroom. I am not sure if I have ever seen such contempt for a Council colleague as that shown by the Mayor.

Now the blowing part of the sucking and blowing:

In dealing with the Sandwich matter, the Mayor scolded the Councillors for not wording their resolutions properly. That was because a number of the Councillors thought that they were dealing with criteria for exemptions and demolitions and not just a process which had been discussed previously before. The Mayor made it clear that the wording in the Resolution was "process." Funnily enough, when he introduced this matter, he specifically said that the Report from Administration was speaking of "criteria." My goodness, if an intelligent man like the Mayor was confused no wonder the Councillors were confused too. Fortunately, Administration is not confused and they took the easy way out.

Everyone was so thrilled when it was said that Norm Wilson's matter was going to come before Council in two weeks. I'm not sure why. He can't get what he wants anyway since his property has to be rezoned at a cost of several thousand dollars. I think they just want to bring him in front of Council so that they can end the political embarrassment with people talking about residents of Sandwich not being able to tear down their garage. Norm has become the symbol of the absurdity of what Council has done in destroying part of this City.

Councillor Halberstadt called the report exactly what it was, nothing but a stall. He effectively told Sandwich residents that nothing can happen until next January. He told them that they are being stonewalled.

As an example, if the Ambassador Bridge ever came forward with an application to demolish their homes, it would not be allowed. The Community Improvement Plan would be used as the block because it will take about another eight months for it to be developed.

However, the Mayor is a pretty smart guy. He knows that there will be another eight months of hell for the residents. How does he know this... he actually went to the area on the weekend to look around to see the deplorable conditions. Interestingly, the Mayor told us that the City and citizens were put into that unfortunate circumstance. What he wanted everyone to believe was that it was the Bridge Company's fault and not that of the the City who passed the bylaw in the first place. I guess he learned from his Super Bowl adventure that sometimes the best defence is a strong offence. Blame it on somebody else because he is after all our Teflon Mayor.

The absurdity of his position was when he suggested that the homes were purchased for a specific reason to cause a specific reaction. I guess he meant that the Bridge Company purchased the homes to destroy the neighbourhood to embarrass the City by having the neighbours force the City to allow them to demolish the homes. Now I know that Matty Moroun is a very smart man but not even he would have anticipated when he purchased the homes years before that the City would introduce an Interim Control and Demolition bylaws. As Dan Stamper said, if they had ever suspected that, they would have torn the homes down right away rather than allowing the former owners to live in them rent-free for quite a period of time!

I think that the Mayor is learning from Councillor Jones how to try and build a defence before a lawsuit is started. I don't think he succeeded very well.

And finally, more Greenlink talk. Amazingly, the City has already received about 3000 responses in favor of Greenlink, remarkably similar to the number received before. We are all going to receive a brochure in the mail, all of 70 to 80,000 households, asking for support for Greenlink. We are to return the form of support to the City by prepaid mail. I wonder how much all this will cost the City in postage.

I expect that DRIC will challenge every signature and force the City to prove the validity of each card. That should take forever and costs multi-thousands! I know that Councillor Jones at a Council meeting demonstrated that technique. It was when he said a petition had signatures that were remarkably similar and questioned its validity.

Did you know that according to the Mayor that DRIC must listen to the City and must meet with Council. The City and its citizens are stakeholders don't you know. So far, neither the DRIC people nor our local Ministers want to meet with Council. It's those nasty DRIC people who are delaying things too by not responding immediately to the multi-pages of materials that the City sent to them. Of course the Mayor did not tell us how long it took for the City and its consultants to prepare those materials in the first but never mind.

Anyway, this was nothing more than Eddie building up his position so that when DRIC makes its announcement, he can have Mr. Estrin use the same kind of tactics and take the same type of action that he started elsewhere. I wonder if the Estrin fees will be the same as he charged elsewhere too and whether that will be on top of the millions we've spent to date with no success.

That's it for now... I just could not stomach dealing with the City Budget in this session... back to your regularly scheduled Websurfing.