Citizens Want More Engagement

As evidenced by the extensive consultation planned, Mayor John Henderson and other councillors seem determined to engage with citizens on where they should go in the next 4 years. The Strategic plan will define what they hope to accomplish and up until the weekend, there were already 35 written submissions from citizens.  By the time of tonight’s Public meeting, there were two more and there were seven verbal presentations at the meeting – but only about 20 in the gallery.  Although Council is engaging a lot more than previous councils, it seems to not be enough – as well as the usual criticisms of specific plans, the process was also under fire. Ted Williams, Dennis Nabieszko and Keith Oliver (and arguably Lydia Smith) all said that instead of the process starting with Staff and Council, input from citizens should happen first and then a plan should be developed based on that.

Cobourg Council
Cobourg Council

However, the other comments were mostly about specific priorities listed in the Strategic Plan.  During the meeting, John Henderson made it clear that further comments would be accepted – just email them to Brent Larmer. The next meeting will be a Committee of the Whole with delegations on the plan accepted.  That will also be the first chance for citizen suggestions to be implemented – there was no discussion tonight.

Additional written submissions

Summaries – for the other 35, see previous post here.

  • Ken Strauss – there is no mention of the Urban Forest Plan and little mention of the Waterfront Master Plan except to add slips in the west harbour which is probably its most contentious recommendation. Why waste tax monies on plans that are then ignored?
  • Miriam Mutton
    • a detailed critique of wording is given;  
    • the focus of the pillars appears to be social services and cultural experiences – where would essential infrastructure and services like delivery of potable water fit in?
    • Financial performance of departments needs to be reviewed in context of deliverables, like foundation of essential services.

Verbal submissions

Summaries listed in order of presentation – as above, click on the name of the presenter to access a full copy of their speaking notes – where available.  Note that all speakers were representing themselves and not any organization.

Ken Strauss

  • In 2016 the average Canadian family earned $83,105 and paid $35,283 in total taxes
  • In the years from 2010 to 2017 Cobourg’s spending increased by almost 30% while the average hourly wage for Canadians increased by less than 17%. This is not sustainable!
  • The Town should provide an annual report detailing current borrowing and the balances of all reserve funds together with changes in these amounts and asks that the Town of Cobourg find ways to maintain essential and core services at their current levels while approving no increases in annual operating expenditures during the remainder of this term of Council.

Dennis Nabieszko

  • I am encouraged with this new Council focusing on public engagement and I am still concerned that even with extensive public engagement, citizens still feel that they are not being listened to and feel a distrust with public engagement.
  • The Strategic Plan has been brought to the public only after Council has put their stamp on it. It is now extremely difficult for us, the public, to add any feedback without appearing to criticize the hard work that Council has put into it.
  • The waterfront plan was another example where citizens did not feel they were properly heard. After the final Waterfront report was issued and came before Council, there were still twelve delegations criticizing the report and asking for a delay because they felt the public had not been heard.
  • It is time for Council to move beyond “public engagement” to “collaborating with citizens” and to do so at the beginning of the process and not near the end.

Lydia Smith

  • Thanked Council for inviting the public to participate in the Strategic Plan.  It shows our new Council is listening to the people and actively encouraging a culture of participation and collaboration.
  • Trust and confidence in Town processes can be achieved by making Back to Basics a priority.
  • Example #1 –  Cobourg Community Centre.  I love the CCC but I wasn’t told it was going to cost over $1 Million per year to run it.  It was originally a glowing vision – “a gift to the people of Cobourg”.  The reality is quite different – the Council of the day rushed into this project.  They didn’t keep their promise to seniors either.  Because they didn’t listen to their seniors – Cobourg ended up with 170 seniors who refuse to use the CCC and – in fact – actively compete with it by successfully running their own Encore Club at St. Peter’s. A Back to Basics attitude might have resulted in:
    • a more thorough business case up front
    • an analysis at the end of lessons learned
    • an incorporation of lessons learned into town methodology that would result in a culture of continuous improvement 
  • Example #2 the East Pier.  I miss so much being able to drive out there with my Timmy’s and just sit there and relax. I always had the company of other cars – so I know others share my love of the pier.  At the June 6, 2011 Council meeting, our current Mayor John Henderson raised safety and liability issues about the East Pier. And yet, instead of getting Back to Basics and maintaining what we already have, we are spending time and money on more consultants, more plans, a marina expansion and a proposed travelift for the boaters.  Why are we so busy chasing new and shiny dreams while our old ones remain in disarray and decay?

Ted Williams
Ted asked that:

  • Council first solicit public opinion, listen to what the public has said and only then, make decisions that come out of the listening.

Richard Pope
No surprises:

  • Richard said he liked the Strategic plan and could not have done better himself with one exception
  • The expansion of the Marina and safeguarding Cobourg’s natural environment are incompatible.
  • Adding boat slips to the westside of the central pier is not a high priority in the Waterfront User Needs Assessment and Detailed Design. It is included in Project #7 as part of Marina Enhancement Phase 1 (p. 102), which is to begin in Year 6 (design) and Year 7 (construction). (p.116).
  • The preceding Council thought they had put the issue to rest with the following motion: June 29, 2015: “Now therefore be it resolved that Council directs that any plans regarding the expansion of boat slips at the Cobourg Marina west of the Centre Pier cease effective immediately.”

Gail Rayment

  • Performance arts both benefit residents and attract visitors
  • Theatres bring patrons to attend shows, and also to dine and shop.
  • They also attract out of town visitors who often stay for a night or two.
  • It is well worth doing what it takes to help create a vibrant downtown.

Keith Oliver

  • We need to make visitors aware of our rich heritage and history
  • Governance is now top down but should be bottom up
  • There is no universal agreement on what is meant by sustainable – we need  public meeting to resolve this
  • The current “listening” lacks and an opportunity for rebuttal

Although all presenters were available for questions, no councillors asked any of them any questions.

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Keith Oliver
10 April 2019 10:42 pm

Reading through the posts that follow it’s very discouraging and an insult to the great service that John Draper’s is providing to have to waste time reading the petty squabbling that pollutes what could be a rational and informative discussion. If you disagree with what someone says say why and stay respectful. It’so curious to me how this form of communication seems to bring out the worst in people. We all pretty much know each other, care about the same things, care about this community. What’s the problem?

Wally Keeler
10 April 2019 1:41 pm

The east pier is an invitation to imaginate. A year or so ago, Mique Michelle painted a colourful mural of wild salmon migration on the west Ganaraska River wall at Cavan Street. Community Development Program Manager, Julia Snoek, wrote in a report to Port Hope Town Council that “the mural had a very positive reception from the community and aligns with the Port Hope cultural plan.” (1) The art work created a sense of community pride and identity, (2) Demonstrated the Municipality’s responsibility to provide cultural opportunities for its citizens and presents a positive image to visitors and potential investors, (3) Identifies and reveals community legacies through the deliberate choice of public art sites. It was easy to walkout to the Cobourg lighthouse in the 1960s. The cement was smooth. That needs repair. Then it needs cultural enhancement as an element of Heritage Harbour. It needs an appropoetic mural which would be naturally highlighted during sunset. Cobourg harbour consists of an abundance of grey debris. It could use some imaginative vibrancy from our abundant retirees. The east pier is also a massive platform, for what? A weekend kite fest in late spring or early fall. A massive chalk-in of art by Cobourg students. Ideas folks, ideas. Be imaginative. Port Hope is vibrant with cultural manifestations. Aside from the mural, Critical Mass is an art collective that organizes wonderful public art events in Port Hope in recent years. The Capitol Theatre is expanding. Now that is a young vibrant community! In Cobourg, will we get trash cans in our park system that look like trash cans anywhere else in North America? Nothing distinctive, original, creative? Same old, same old? The trash cans will soon be coming out for public display in 2019. Will they be put out looking trashy? Will they,… Read more »

Jim Thomas
Reply to  Wally Keeler
11 April 2019 2:40 pm

If there’s a kite fest this year, it’s a well-kept secret. Yet we have the perfect place for one here, with stiff on-shore breezes on sunny days and no overhead wires or such.
Seems a waste of a wonderful opportunity.

Wally Keeler
Reply to  Jim Thomas
11 April 2019 4:07 pm

It’s an off-season event. Can be done in spring or fall. Lots of space for viewers. Lots of display of creativity in kite design. Occasion to buy kite kits for the kids. Kite-making workshops.

Cobourg could also use the east pier for outdoor drone games. Bring in a load of young people who know how to fly various drones. Make them fly through hoops or flags placed on the lake. No overhead wires, but also no drones falling on anything other than water — lethal for the fallen drone, but safe for humans. Aside from a drone competition, also a show of led drones at dusk. Perhaps they could include a small led drone show for Canada Day dusk.

Wally Keeler
Reply to  Wally Keeler
11 April 2019 4:25 pm

Not surprisingly, a Critical Mass creative won a Port Hope culture award.

Walter L. Luedtke
9 April 2019 2:53 pm

Ken Strauss, Ted Williams, Dennis Nabieszko and Lydia Smith are directors of the Cobourg Taxpayers Association.
They didn’t run for Council when they had the chance.
Now they want to tell the Councillors, who were elected by the ‘public’, what the ‘public’ wants.
Democracy in action!

Wally Keeler
Reply to  Walter L. Luedtke
9 April 2019 3:31 pm

I dinna run for elation when I had the chance and neither did you. According to your reasoning, neither I nor you are entitled to tell the Councillors anything.

Walter L. Luedtke
Reply to  Wally Keeler
10 April 2019 12:50 pm

Perhaps you may recall – or maybe you can’t – that my opinions in this blog got me labelled as part of the ‘old boys network’ and a cheerleader with ‘pompoms’ for the old Council.
It was Mr. Strauss who called for the replacement of Council and Staff before the last election.
Look it up!

Wally Keeler
Reply to  Walter L. Luedtke
10 April 2019 1:34 pm

Oh yes, I do recall. So, you are still nourishing a grudge? I have a pseudonym that continues to nurture a grudge against me. That speaks of the grudger’s character more than the target of such grudges. Be better than that, Walter.

Reply to  Walter L. Luedtke
9 April 2019 7:38 pm

Walter, did you miss the part in John’s post (in bold type no less) about “Note that all speakers were representing themselves and not any organization.”?

Walter L. Luedtke
Reply to  Frenchy
10 April 2019 12:52 am

How nice of them!
Their ‘presentations’ are all good ole CTA talking points.

Reply to  Walter L. Luedtke
10 April 2019 8:02 am

How do you feel about some of the other 35 or so whose presentations mentioned the same points?

Reply to  Walter L. Luedtke
10 April 2019 8:01 am

What about the other 35 or so who submitted written presentations but didn’t run for council? You failed to name them.

manfred s
Reply to  Frenchy
10 April 2019 1:44 pm

it’s irrelevant how many others fall into the same category, the point is, that what is being said of those specifically named is true. Any similar argument is not made invalid by omitting other examples of the point under discussion. Few arguments are all-inclusive in that regard. Your own arguments in past posts are equally not all-inclusive when trying to make a point so I don’t think your lofty perch here is either warranted or deserved, Frenchy.

Wally Keeler
Reply to  Frenchy
10 April 2019 2:12 pm

“You failed to name them.”

Your accusation against Walter fails. Walter did not fail to name them. He simply omitted to name them.

There is an appreciable difference between failure and omit.

Reply to  Wally Keeler
10 April 2019 2:25 pm

I didn’t accuse Walter of anything. I stated that he failed to name them.

Not much of a difference at all, much less an “appreciable” one.
To omit is to leave something out or to fail to do something.
An example of to omit is to tell your spouse about your trip but you fail to mention that you lost your wallet.

Wally Keeler
Reply to  Frenchy
10 April 2019 10:36 pm

You failed to name them.”

Claiming it to be a “statement” is weak. It was preceded with a question, then followed by an assertion of failure on the part of Walter. I just wanted to remove the smear from Walter. I don’t believe he failed at anything in his comment. I believe the more benign view would regard it as an act of incidental omission. But then again, perhaps you experienced it differently. Diabolical. Walter’s perceived malevolence towards the CTA. He gives them the razz from time to time, flick-o-the-finger sorta thing. You were correct to ask the question. It had merit. Especially when it was first posted, then it was duplicated sans the additional “You failed to name them.” It was a superfluous dig at Walter. It demeritted the merit point you had made with your question of Walter. An accusatory sentence very often begins with “You.“. The game is pettigotcha. But ya know what, Frenchy? You won. You pettigotcha Walter and you pettigotcha me. 241, good job.

9 April 2019 11:01 am

You should all come to the water front This morning to Experience the Tree Chipping
activities and get a Defining Sense Community living at the water front its almost as good as the Post hole drilling competitions in the Fall , or the Lumber Jack Chain saw competitions .
The ultimate in Decibel living .

Wally Keeler
Reply to  perplexed
9 April 2019 5:58 pm

What an entitled crybaby! That sort of noise goes on all over town from time to time. If you want peace and quiet 24/7/365, I can recommend a cemetery in the countryside that you could live next door to.

9 April 2019 9:08 am

I just wish that some of these so called interactions actually took place with the residence and the neighbourhoods where these so called improvements & Changes are to take place . Before decisions are made
Consultants will naturally create work for them selves
There are a lot of good ideas and info that could come out of the impacted areas it may be save on all these consultants
that know very little about our town .
I live in the water front area and have for a very long time yet I have never been canvased on any of the expansion plans in the last 10 yrs. My neighbours will all same the same thing .
Are we not Stake Holders ??? that the consultants and Council regularly refer to .

9 April 2019 7:29 am

Keith Oliver said: “The current “listening” lacks and an opportunity for rebuttal”

Council’s answer – silence and no questions – enough said!!

Miriam Mutton
Reply to  ben
9 April 2019 9:13 am

Right on, Ben. John Draper’s last sentence above reveals a missing component to a public meeting even though Council is making a big effort to hold such meetings. After all, Council members are citizens too and peers of the citizens making presentations. And, a big thank you to John D. for his note taking on what the delegates said because for the first 15 minutes or so of the public meeting there was no sound to the live-stream or meeting video on line.

Reply to  ben
9 April 2019 1:04 pm

to the thumbs down people did you not like the commenter or do you support Council’s position of silence?

Reply to  ben
10 April 2019 8:04 am

Listening, acknowledging, nodding, absorbing, being interested, silence but with a thank you at the end — nowhere in this world does it say that people are obliged to ask questions or make comments to anyone during public forums — it does not mean that the points are being ignored. It would be much different if people seemed disinterested, pre-occupied (with their laptop or phone), or conversing with their neighbour, in which case their behaviour would be inappropriate at a public forum

Fact Checker
Reply to  ben
9 April 2019 11:51 pm

Both Ben and Keith make a valid point. Council listens (we believe) but doesn’t answer. Consider how questions asked during the Q&A sessions are handled. The answer part of Q&A is glaringly absent.
This is not to suggest that Council has or is expected to have all of the answers. Can the questions not be redirected to the assembled staff? Surely they could provide some of the answers. If not, provide a timeline for delivering an answer.

It may also be that the process of answering, if the answer is not readily available, hasn’t been worked out. The questions are asked in public, so it seems appropriate that the answer should also be provided in the same public context rather than sent by email to the questioner.

This council has moved forward considerably in it’s commitment to public engagement. Putting the words into practice may not be happening as fast as some would like. Notwithstanding my comments above, I have confidence that this Council is trying very hard to walk the talk.

Reply to  Fact Checker
12 April 2019 8:42 am

If I asked a question to anyone let alone Council, cold and without any advanced notice, I would anticipate that it may not be possible to have an immediate response, off the top of someone’s head. Rather, I would expect and appreciate that someone would need to get back to me in a reasonable time, with a thoughtful and possibly well-researched answer, as opposed to them trying to respond by shoveling dirt just for for the sake of it. And for providing the response back in public, for me, I wouldn’t really care as long as I got an answer (whereas others may want the publicity).