Craig Gammie Commentary 4-3 Re: Council Agenda items February 18

Agenda Item 7.1 Roberta Brignall, Community Foundation Grey Bruce

Mayor John Close in October 2010 promised a 17 per cent decrease in taxes, but he failed to deliver, and instead brought us a twenty per cent increase in his four year term.  That brought the increase in property taxes in the last three councils to sixty-two percent.

Many residents saw their water rates go right through the roof, a problem completely attributable to the shenanigans of John Close and Carl Noble while John Close was a councillor from 2002 to 2006.

I understand that there are neighbourhoods where half of the homes are for sale, in good part because the residents cannot afford the combined load of high taxes and high water rates.   And because of the high taxes and high water rates they are finding it very difficult to sell.  They are trapped.

The last thing these residents need, in fact the last thing any residents need, is another well-meaning but ill-informed campaigner coming before council, looking to get her hands on what must sometimes appear to be easy-to-get taxpayers’ money, and asking council to increase taxes and give her the proceeds..

On February 18, 2014 Roberta Brignall will come before council to do just that. She must be told that it is the taxpayers’ money and council has no right to give it away.

There is no doubt that she has a noble and worthy cause.

But taxpayers have a right to make their own decisions regarding which charities they want to donate to, and how much they want to donate.  Giving to charity must be a private decision.   For council to “give” a grant to any charity would be forcing each and every resident in the town of south bruce peninsula to donate to council’s favourite charities.  That would be very wrong.

If council members want to have the warm feeling that one gets by donating to charity, then by all means they should donate.  But they should do it with their own money.

Agenda Item 7.2  John Tennant and Paul Shaw-OPA30

This item is about the proposed development south of Wiarton. I support this development.  But not the way the developer is acting.

John Tennant is a “marketing consultant” with a group called “the community advocate”.  They are the developers proposing the development south of Wiarton.  John Tennant has been before council many times.  His message is always the same.  He always says: “Our proposal is a major benefit to the community.”   Then he implies that the Bruce County planners are dolts.  Then he says that what the county planners are asking is ridiculous.  Then he asks TSBP council to help him detour around the county planners.

John Tennant should be sent packing.

Contrary to Tennant the development will not be a “major benefit to the community”.  It may be a detriment to the community.  The only benefit is to the developers.

Contrary to Tennant, Bruce county planners are doing their job properly.   John Tennant must do a lot of things before approval to proceed is granted.  He has not done those things. He thinks he should be given the green light anyway.  The Bruce County planners should be applauded for not bowing to the pressure being applied by John Tennant.  The Bruce County planners should be congratulated for considering the residents’ welfare ahead of the developer’s.

John Tennant is trying to get as much of the cost of the project as possible on the backs of current residents.   Council should make sure that doesn’t happen.  The developer must pay his own costs including an EA for water and sewer capacity.

John Tennant is looking for short cuts around the process.  He wants to start building without even knowing if there is available water and sewers capacity. (He has been told over and over again there isn’t.)

He has incorrectly labelled council’s stance as a “reversal”.  Council did not reverse on anything.   Council very early said “we support the project”.  Council did not say or mean “you have approval to build”.  Council meant “we encourage you to go through the proper process”.

Tennant is asking council “That  a  first  phase  of  our  development may  still  proceed  subject  to  available  existing  servicing  (capacity)”.

There is no available capacity.  So Tennant should be told that phase one cannot proceed.

 Agenda Item 9.1 CLK12-2014 Items Referred-OPA30

This item is also about the proposed development south of Wiarton.  County planners recommend a deferral of all proposed zoning changes until the servicing issue is addressed.  TSBP staff seem to support the county position.  But the MPW wants to use $100,000 of taxpayers’ money to do the servicing study.   This is wrong.  If the developer wants to develop, the developer must pay for the servicing study.  It doesn’t matter that the $100,000 was “earmarked” for an EA.  We the taxpayers should not be paying for an EA either.  There is no justification for taxpayers to be forced by council decision to pay for something that is of absolutely no benefit to them or to the town.

And if someone suggests that the benefit to the town is all the new taxes that will be paid, they are not looking at the whole picture.  You have to look at not only the extra taxes but also the extra costs.   And I believe that for this project the extra costs will far exceed the very modest extra tax revenues.   We should not be paying for service studies or EA’s.  The developer should pay.

 Agenda item 8.2 CLK11-2014 Procedural By-Law Update

Contrary to the item title, this item is not an “update”.  Several significant changes to the procedural by-law are proposed.  Many are of concern.

 “reconsideration”

The marked up version of the proposal includes the following:

Reconsideration at same meeting at same meeting

 

A22. 7 After any resolution, question or matter has been decided except in those  situations described in (a)  – (h) below, any member who voted thereon

with the prevailing side may move for reconsideration within the same meeting within the same meeting.  The Mayor shall confirm with the member that the member voted with the majority on the issue in question.

Reconsideration at a future meeting is not permitted. Any member wishing revisit a decision must put forward a notice of motion in the manner outlined in this by – law for Council discussion, consideration and action.

The first two (identical) changes make no sense, as they simply remove text and then add back exactly the same text in exactly the same spot.

The second paragraph (which starts with “reconsideration …” ) is confusing, ambiguous, and totally unnecessary.

The whole reconsideration issue was discussed in the January 21st and February 4th meetings.  I will comment further on the “reconsideration saga” in a separate “commentary”.

 “Staff” reports

 The bylaw currently says:

Staff reports shall include reports from staff, Committees of Council, Local Boards, and members of Council.

The proposal is to take out “and members of council.”

This is a proper change.  Council member reports should never have been classified as “staff reports”.  Neither should reports from committees of council or local boards be classified as staff reports.

But I am concerned that the real purpose in removing “councillor reports” from the staff reports category may be improper.  It seems to me that the removal of “councillor reports” may be to stop councillors from submitting reports.  It may be that the purpose is to stop councillors and residents who may disagree with staff from being heard.  If that is the purpose, then it is improper.

Councillors are the representatives of the residents.  In order to properly represent and serve the residents, councillors may from time to time need to submit reports to council, especially when they wish to use the reports to support motions.  They need to be able to submit reports without staff (or the mayor, or other councillors) running interference.   And they should have a lot of latitude in terms of format.  Staff should not be able to stop a councillor’s report for any reason, and certainly not because they feel that some “t” has not been crossed or “i” not dotted. Staff should have no say on the content or the format of a councillor report.  Staff should never dictate what council members can and cannot do.  Staff need to be gently reminded that they are the employees, not the governors.

A provision for councillors to submit reports in support of proposals or motions or for any other proper reason needs to be added to the procedural by-law.

Committee reports

A new duty is proposed for committee chairs:

B.2.5 To prepare and sign staff reports for presentation to Council and whenever necessary, attend Council meetings to discuss the contents of the staff report with Council.

Committee chairs should not be signing “staff reports”.  They should only sign committee reports.

A role of staff is proposed as:

 B8.1.4 Assist the Chair in the preparation of staff reports.

Staff can assist the chair in the preparation of committee reports.  But it should be a chair’s report.  A committee Chair should not be preparing staff reports.

“Defamatory”

Proposed additions are in blue and are underlined:

A1.8           “Defamatory” means attacks of character , attacks of reputation, name calling,  injurious to reputation, slanderous or libelous

A12. 4 Correspondence or any material  containing obscene or  defamatory  language , as determined by staff, will not be directed to the appropriate department for action or response and will not be placed on any Council  agenda nor will the correspondence be read at any public meeting.

Staff are not qualified to determine what is defamatory and what is not.  Nor are they  impartial.  And they have it all wrong.  For something to be legally “defamatory” it must be false.  The proposed definition of defamation, in contrast, would include words that are true but are also injurious to someone’s reputation.  The proposed definition of “defamatory” would make most or all criticism “defamatory”.  This would mean staff could exclude all criticism.

And that appears to be the intent. It appears to me that the proposed changes (and the original text) are a blatant attempt to shut out any resident or councillor who disagrees with or criticises any staff member or certain council members, or who is perceived as a political opponent.

This defamation provision is a direct attack on freedom of expression (which is guaranteed in the Canadian charter of freedoms and rights), and I fear the defamation provision will be used to curtail that freedom.

The defamation provision is just another step away from democracy and towards tyranny, a change that included John Close calling bloggers “criminals”, getting rid of schedule “B”, Rhonda Cook’s tax-funded lawsuit, allowing three readings of by-laws in one meeting, a draconian code of conduct for residents, the indemnification by-law, and much more.

The “defamation” proposal should be soundly rejected.  And the current defamation provisions need to be reconsidered.  Staff should not be deciding what is defamatory.

Agenda item 8.5 PW2-2014 South Bruce Peninsula ATV Club Request for New Trails on Town Land

The parking-at-Sauble issue is this:  Tourists get free parking, and free use of our beach.  We get to pay the cleanup costs. And pay $300,000 extra taxes – annually.

The ATV proposal is similar.  ATV riders get free use of our land.  The residents as a whole pay the costs.  The residents as a whole pay the maintenance and lose use of the land for their own less intrusive and less destructive purposes.   The request should be rejected.  The ATV club should come up with a proposal that includes user fees to cover the cost of repair and the value of the loss of use.

Agenda item 16.5 Delegation- Colin Dobell, Stop  the  Drop-Summer  Campaign  (Unfinished business)

This proposal has staff and Mayor running around tilting at windmills.  On our dime.  It needs to stop.  If the administrator wants to be involved she should do it on her own time.

Everyone wants council members and staff to drop everything town related and take up their pet causes.  Council should learn to say no.  Council is having enough trouble meeting their proper duties to the residents.

Craig

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One Response to Craig Gammie Commentary 4-3 Re: Council Agenda items February 18

  1. Betty says:

    One must wonder why Tenant and his employers refuse to submit a site plan. Tenant has openly supported that the town initiate development charges. Again, why would a developer want to pay development charges?? I have my suspicions.

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