CTA Blasts Council for Process Failures

At Monday’s Council meeting, Cobourg Taxpayers Association President Lydia Smith strongly criticized Council’s failure to follow its own Public Engagement policy.  She used as an example the recent decision to approve a Waterfront Playground although she said it also applied to the decisions on the New Amherst School and re-zoning of 394 College Street.  Her key evidence was a slide showing the timeline for the Waterfront Playground.  Her slide showed that this project came out of the Waterfront study which had its first workshop in April 2017 then multiple workshops and public meetings from then till October.  During that time “there was no public mention of the proposed water playground or solicitation for input”.   “In fact, the water playground is the opposite of what the public said it wanted”.

The only public involvement was when John Henderson asked for public comments on April 7 on the Town’s web site.

Lydia Smith - File Photo
Lydia Smith – File Photo

Then when the waterpark came to Council for a vote on April 9, the issue of public involvement was raised and Lydia quoted Mayor Brocanier as saying:  “I don’t expect that every time that they come back with an implementation phase that we should have to go through the same process again.”  (Gil subsequently said “Thank you for getting my quote right”).

Lydia also criticized the documentation of proceedings in the Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee.   Basically that a presentation to them on this subject was verbal and “the public has no record – no record whatsoever – of what staff told the committee”.

All through her presentation, Lydia referred to the Town’s Public Engagement policy which requires that the public is involved in municipal issues “sharing information, consultation to test ideas, and collaboration to build solutions and active participation in decision making”. Download a copy of the policy here

Lydia’s concluding summary said:

There appears to have been a clear failure of the CAO, Municipal Clerk and staff to follow the Town’s approved Public Engagement Policy and Council also appears to have failed to ensure that staff followed the policy as intended.

After the presentation, the only question or comment made by any councillor was Brian Darling’s question: “How many people do you have that represent the public?”  Lydia responded that the CTA does not “represent the public” but that as a group, they get listened to more.  Brian repeated his question and Lydia said that CTA has 180 subscribers.

Paul Pagnuelo

Lydia’s presentation was followed by a presentation by CTA Director Paul Pagnuelo who thanked Councillor Burchat for bringing forward a motion for a review of public engagement procedures in the Planning Department.  He then went on to ask for some changes:

  1. Put a time frame on the review – aim for October 31 for an initial report then the new Council could include recommendations in their Strategic Planning Session in February 2019.
  2. Give the public an active role in the review – Aaron Burchat thought that the existing Planning and Advisory could fill that role
  3. Separate the review from the Planning Department – it should be more independent.

When Aaron’s motion came up for a vote, none of Paul’s recommendations were included.

Emily Chorley

Emily is not affiliated with the CTA but is concerned about the planning process – most recently the way the New Amherst school re-zoning has been handled.  She said that the body replacing the OMB (LPAT) cannot overturn Council decisions although Planning Director Glenn McGlashon later said that although a first decision cannot now be over-ridden, his understanding is that LPAT can rule when the issue is raised a second time.  Based on Emily’s understanding, it was not appropriate for Councillors to vote to avoid being in a costly legal battle that they would surely lose.

She also said that:

  • Alternatives were not properly considered
  • The Official plan has not yet been made available to the public yet it is more important in these issues.  Glen McGlashon responded that it is still being “tweaked” and that it is available to anyone asking for it although he conceded that it is not yet online.
  • A Public Information session on the new process should be provided.  Glenn said that it is not yet clear even to solicitors in the business as to what exactly are the changes.  He said it could take years to sort out.

Council took no action on Emily’s requests and later in the Council session, Aaron’s motion was passed unchanged. His motion directed “planning staff to review the Town of Cobourg’s public notification, meeting and engagement procedures pertaining to applications submitted under the Planning Act, R.S.O. 1990, c.P. 13, as amended, and submit a report to Council for consideration.”

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Walter L. Luedtke

On the question of CTA membership:
Ontario’s Not-for-Profit Corporations Act (ONCA) talks about organizations like the CTA in terms of members and directors.
Does the CTA have members?
At her last presentation Ms. Smith did not use the word ‘member’. Instead she used the term ‘subscriber’.
The “Join Us” page on the CTA website is similarly cagey. It uses the term ‘supporter’.
Could it be that the CTA does not have any ‘members’, except for the Board of Directors?
But the CTA only has three ‘directors’ and it has an ‘advisory committee’.
Those seven ‘members’ determine its budget, strategic plan and communications
Corporations who have the usual directors and members have annual meetings.
Has the CTA had annual general meetings?
Could it be CTA does not hold an open annual general meeting, policy conferences, or any other membership gatherings that one might expect from a group that’s constantly demanding transparency from others?
It would seem to me that the CTA has 7 members or maybe only 3; the rest are something lesser.

Wally Keeler

The CTA website claims that they are about 1. Fiscal responsibility, 2. Clearing the roadblocks and red tape that stand in the way of economic growth and being able to operate a successful business in Town, 3. Getting the best bang for our buck, 4. About building prosperity.

The CTA betrayed all of these principles and the win-win-win-win that came with it, when they rejected the waterpark playground. Talk about a process failure.

Wally Keeler

Furthermore: The CTA asserts that “In direct opposition to the wishes of Cobourg citizens, municipal staff appear to be motivated by two things: 1. To generate revenue for the town, 2. To support our struggling King Street

Supporters of the CTA believe that Cobourg citizens do not want to generate income for the Town and do not support King Street downtown. Wait until small, medium and big business get a load of this kind of policy making.

Frenchy

You two guys crack me up. You’ve let the CTA get under your skin and you are obsessed with them. You stretch a few things, make a few up in hopes of bringing them down.

Wally Keeler

And you, of course, are about nothin’.

gerinator

Frenchy, point proved.

Wally Keeler

It was the CTA that stretched things. The ludicrous assertion that municipal staff are motivated to generate revenue for the town and to support our struggling King Street. Oh the horror, the horror. CTA’s words, not mine. I quote them — not stretch them. They further assert that this is directly opposed to the wishes of Cobourg citizens. What a ludicrous stretch of spin.

It’s not the CTA that gets under my skin. It’s the stupidity of this particular anti-waterpark stand. I have kept my comments to actual quotes of the CTA letter. They need to publish coherent letters, not mishmash assertions about Cobourg citizens and assertions of what the majority of citizens think. They produced no evidence to support their assertions. It was political dreck and droll, and quite revealing of their incompetence to communicate clearly and concisely.

I have no interest to bring them down. I have an interest in not letting them up.

Frenchy

Okey Dokey

gerinator

Yep – Good ole fashioned detective work at play here!! Again focused on CTA when many of these same questions (and claims – see Wally) should be asked of say the CAO, the Director of Parks and Recreation, the Parks and Recreation Committee and its subordinate committee the Steering Committee.

tim

I’m not a member of the CTA but I agree with their position on most topics and wholeheartedly applaud the work they do on behalf of the people of this town. I’m tired of seeing them portrayed as a small, elite group of newcomers to Cobourg instead of what they are – a much-needed watchdog organization shedding light on the grotesque bulldozing tactics of our present Town Council. We have a council consisting of arrogant, unimaginative, thoughtless people who vote like lackeys for every rezoning request and every building permit that benefits business over residents and they are geniuses at wasting public money. They hold council in the magnificent Victoria Hall and yet, if the saving of Victoria Hall had been left up to the likes of them, they’d be sitting in the middle of a parking lot now. Perhaps they’re the worst council of all because they’ve learned nothing from history. I am grateful for the hard work and vigilance of Lydia Smith and others on the CTA and to John Draper who does his job as an excellent reporter by impartially keeping us all informed of their work and, before anyone else on this blog gloats over the… Read more »

Walter L. Luedtke

Are all those folks out there “exactly like me” also in the habit of talking about our “idiot Council and their idiot plans”?
Hope not!

Tim

If the shoe fits …

Deborah OConnor

Here we go again. I’m becoming a bit uncomfortable with the love fest that this blog’s writer seems to be having with the CTA. This group gets a great deal of ink from Mr. Draper, who never fails to highlight, at length, every appearance the CTA makes at Town Council and every issue they single out for criticism. Why is that?

Cobourg has many fine community organizations that actually work for residents’ well being. None of them get the attention the CTA receives here for doing nothing more than showcasing their sense of entitlement and whining about our community’s efforts to make life better for everyone. Let’s hear more about them and less about the CTA, unless of course Mr. Draper wants to announce his affiliation with them formally. Are you in fact a CTA member, sir? Your many readers deserve to know.

Rick

It should also be noted that for the past few days, there has been a link to the CTA website on the sidebar in this page. Is it because John Draper is a CTA member, or because the CTA is paying him for advertising now? Are all the articles about them also part of an advertising package?

Bill Prawecki

Agree with Deborah OConnor. Hey John how about referrring in your post that folks take a look at the 2018 Cobourg Brochure. Great piece and am proud of Cobourg reading through this piece. Maybe a list of the great groups within town ….. Cobourg Garden Club, Northumberland Camera Club …. etc. Many great events throughout the year. That to me is also Cobourg News. BTW Deborah appreciate seeing your name vs an anonymous one ….

http://experiencecobourg.ca/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/ExperienceCobourg18.pdf

Walter L. Luedtke

Smiles!
The CTA’s Lydia Smith loves the words “the public” and uses them often.
“The public does not want this or the public wants that.”
But when challenged directly by Councillor Darling on this, Pres. Smith beat a hasty retreat.
The CTA “does not represent the public”.
Exactly!
The CTA is a special interest group – one among oodles in Cobourg.
But the CTA is the only one who claims that “replacing our politicians and town staff who ignore Cobourg citizens who pay their salaries would be a huge step in the right direction”.
So bring it on!
A word of advice for the fall election – the CTA website features a countdown clock: 5 months and 19 days – stop futzing around with the chicken-feed minutiae of Council procedure and get going on how the CTA will lower taxes.
And don’t start by questioning the cost of the hanging flower baskets downtown.

Wally Keeler

The CTA President said, “I believe that town staff are selling out our most beautiful natural asset – our Cobourg Beach – for less than $30,000.” Victoria Park Beach is NOT Cobourg’s “most beautiful natural asset“. That title belongs to the west beach, about a five minute walk away. So there is certainly no sell out of Cobourg’s most beautiful natural asset. It’s curious that the CTA believes that this non-existent sell-out is perped by “town staff”; that they have gone rogue. I find it difficult to believe that they oppose small business making a profit on our beach. The Town did exemplary research on safety issues, etc. Passed. The Town stands to gain 10% of gross profit. Est. $27,000. That income could go towards construction of a washroom at the east end of the Victoria Park, or it could go towards hiring a few more local students to keep the park clean, and those students would have $$$ to go towards their tuition. The small business will hire local students, providing them with income for tuition. Those students will be outside all summer, and building strong healthy bodies. What a win win win. Oh, lots of children, teens, whole… Read more »

Dubious

The Cobourg Taxpayers Association opposed this small business setting up in Cobourg.

ATL hopes to have sales in Cobourg alone of $270,000 this summer. Looking at their website (http://www.atldistributing.ca) they have several dozen dealers across Canada. Is that what you consider to be a “small” business, Wally?

Wally Keeler

Petty and puerile point.

Dubious

Petty and puerile point.

Indeed! So why did you raise it?

Wally Keeler

another petty and puerile point.

Bryan

From your comments, it seems that you did not attend the recent council meeting, or if you did your attention was focused elsewhere. The “public” that Ms. Smith referred to is exactly the same “public” that P&R Director Hustwick referenced….the “public” who attended the Waterfront public meetings and the 2000+ who completed the Waterfront survey. Ms. Smith also displayed some graphics… do you remember seeing those Walter?….showing the likes and dis-likes of the “public”. These cloud diagrams were taken directly from the Waterfront presentations.

Stop with the “shoot the messenger” bit.
It seriously detracts from the good analysis and comments that you have demonstrated you are capable of. Your comments on the topic..pro or con..will contribute to the discussion far more than irrelevant sniping at the messenger.

gerinator

I might also add that this is the same ‘public’ that the Mayor labelled as agitators when made aware of the ‘publics’ response to the Waterfront Master Plan presentation & contents. The public (and its purse) needs to be defended. There are many official, sanctioned organizations e.g. Ombudsman positioned to do just that. There are also a growing number of local, grass roots organizations that absolutely need to be successful to ensure the Town Leaders (and supporting staff) are accountable for what they say and do. What I see here in the above comments (in some cases attacks) is a level of complacency (i.e. trust them they’ll take care of us) and churlishness. Get your collective heads unplugged and as Brian says “stop with the shoot the messenger bit”.

Walter L. Luedtke

Chuckles.
Perhaps some of you CTA folks remember what President Truman said about heat and the kitchen.
Do it!

Kath

The CTA doesn’t speak for me, and frankly I’m tired of them assuming the role of protector Cobourg’s best interest. They have killed or attempted to kill many important initiatives just because they prefer to take the contrary stance on everything. They are extremely condescending to our elected Council who serve at the will of the people. Lydia refers to her time before forming the CTA as her time as a “private citizen”. Newsflash, you are still a private citizen. You’ve been elected to exactly nothing and certainly do not speak for the people of Cobourg. I hope all candidates running for Council this term will be forced to disclose their affiliation to the CTA so that I can be sure I’m not voting for any of them.

Dubious

The members of Council get all of the respect that they deserve. Some members are excellent and others are not.

Bill Prawecki

Suggest CTA run a candidate and present their platform to the public. What would they cut back on and eliminate …… how would they attract new industry to Cobourg ….. hopefully they will attend the Venture 13 kick off. I too am from the GTA but am now in Cobourg and respect the folks that have been here for many years and have a vested interest in the Town and have done wonders over the years to clear the beach, restored Victoria hall for folks from the big smoke to enjoy a better life style. I don’t recall any Mayor in the GTA who would allow questions at their council meeting … but I may be wrong. CTA always jumping at anything that they can get a hold of but where are their suggestions. I guess if you are retired like I am you have a lot of time on your hands ……

Bill Thompson

Have you considered joining the CTA and adding a new perspective, thoughts and suggestions ? Being retired with a lot of time on your hands you could perhaps be a valuable asset to them as well as Cobourg.

Bryan

It’s not about the CTA’s platform, it’s about council living up to their platform and their obligation to the residents of Cobourg to provide effective, efficient, transparent, accountable municipal government.
How can they do that if they can’t even follow the policies and procedures that they put in place?
As for suggestions, I suggest that you acquaint yourself with the information available on the CTA’s website

dubious

Why do we need to attract new industry? Many residents are very happy with a Cobourg the size that it is currently. I don’t know what you mean about having a “vested interest in the town”. Surely everyone who lives here do so because they like it and want the best value for their tax dollars.

Insofar as I know the CTA doesn’t have a “platform” regarding what to eliminate other than eliminating waste and the current Council’s disregard for their own rules to the detriment of the taxpayers. The suggestion in Lydia’s presentation was that Council ensure that their own policies are followed. Does that seem extreme to you?

Bill Prawecki

I don’t know how long that you have lived in Cobourg but since we moved here KRAFT closed down with hundreds of folks losing gheir jobs as well as a call Centre. This is what I meant. We need folks with jobs in town who can afford to buy and live here. Minimum wage won’t help them. By vested interest I meant to shop locally whether in Cobourg or Port Hope. Still know GTO folks that have moved here and won’t shop locally.

Dubious

I’ve probably been here about as long as you and love the town as it is. Your comment is a tautology since only people who can afford to buy and live here buy and live here.

I would love to shop local except that local stores don’t offer what I want to purchase. Do you think that I should do without in order to only shop local?

Walter L. Luedtke

Well well!
After all these years!
The secret is OUT!
180 “subscribers” – folks who have registered on the CTA website.
Are these all Cobourgers or are out-of-towners included?
So how many ‘active’ members does that make?
Will we ever know the real size of this noisy, tiny minority who is aiming to replace the entire Council and Town Staff in the coming election?

cornbread

Walter…how many people do you represent? Your opinions are the opinion of one, and a sour one at that…most of the time. You are sarcasm personified…in most cases.

Bryan

So how does the number of CTA members affect this?
Why not offer some constructive comment on the issue: staff and council are NOT following the Town’s procedural by-laws and policies.
Do you have any constructive comment on the issue that would help move the discussion forward.
This would be far more useful than your totally irrelevant “shoot the messenger” comment.

Bazzy

Wow Walter! You sound like a lonely, grumpy old man! At least the CTA is getting out and doing something other than writing sarcastic comments on a news blog! Why don’t you find out what they’re all about before you slag them off! You never know, you may just have a lot in common!

Ben

Yep you are all old and grumpy that’s the common thread!