Highlights from Busy Council Meeting

Councillors were busy at the July 22 combined Committee of the Whole and Regular Council meetings.  As well as the items already reported (Dragon Boat issue, Cornerstone presentation, Housing developments and closure of the Memorial Arena),  Councillors announced a number of items of interest.  Each Councillor (including the Mayor and Deputy Mayor) is assigned a role of “coordinator” of parts of the Town’s activities and at the end of the regular Council meeting, the agenda provides for each Councillor to report on these activities.  In many cases, these reports are about events where Councillors have participated but other reports are about what I would call news items.  Given limited reporting resources, below is a selection of their reports which I think are of most interest.  To see all of them, go to the link below for the full verbal reports.

Emily Chorley Report highlights

  • The Bandshell in Victoria Park has been subject to vandalism and needs to be repaired and repainted.  This work has now been done!
  • Last year two Lifeguard stations were replaced;  two more have been built and are now on the beach.
  • Although the lake levels are slowly going down, power is not yet available at the Marina.  It is expected water levels will be low enough to restore power in mid-August.
  • Because of dredging work (which added sand) and grooming by Town staff, despite continued high water levels, the beach is fully operational.
  • Input from the public on the East Pier proposals will be asked for online in mid August.  The new “Bang the Table” software will be used for that purpose.  There will be a link from the Town’s web site to a new page called “Engage Cobourg” (or similar).  The online survey will be followed by a forum at the CCC in September.

Adam Bureau highlights

Adam Bureau
Adam Bureau

(Photo above-right was from January, 2019)

  • A new DBIA coordinator has been hired – Tracy LaFleche.  For the past three years she was coordinator for the Cobourg Farmers’ Market. [I’ve lost count of how many coordinators the DBIA has had in the last year or so!]
  • The Concert Hall has a new Digital Projector and screen which is expected to greatly enhance all concerts at the Concert Hall.  Go to this new upgraded web page for the program.
  • The draft Cultural plan has been presented to the steering committee and will be made available to the public via the new “Bang the Table” software in August.  This will be followed by a public meeting in September.

Another notable happening at the meeting came from Deputy Mayor Suzanne Séguin. She is concerned that the Council has never explicitly banned the expansion of boat slips at the Cobourg Marina “during this term of council” so she has made a “Notice of Motion” which, if passed, would do just that plus safeguard the natural environment of the West Harbour.  This motion will now come before the Committee of the Whole meeting on August 12.

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Frenchy

Is it just me or does Councillor Bureau look like he’s sporting a mohawk haircut in that picture?

Deborah O'Connor

My dad was one of those forward thinking indivduals who, coming home from WWII, set about opening his business, growing his family, and eventually serving a couple of terms on muncipal Council. He did his time with the Kinsmen Cub, then Rotary. He was one of the people who brought us the Marina and beach boardwalk.

He, and the others who made this town the gem that it is, would only shake their heads in dismay to hear all the armchair critics and grouches moan about every amenity they worked so hard to establish for all our benefit.

He knew talk is cheap and taught me to value the hard part – doing the work. A few of us need to learn that lesson.

manfred s

this short string illustrates the impossible challenges faced by part-time politicians with few resources to navigate through the maze of public opinions. Each commenter has only ‘their own vision’ to support while the politicians have the aggregate of all opinions to ‘support’ to one degree or another.

Walter Luedtke

Truly!
“Of all levels of government, the municipal is usually the most trusted.
Research, conducted by Abacus Data, revealed that 61% of Canadians feel their municipal government best understood the challenges facing their communities, compared to the provincial or federal orders of government. More than half of respondents also said municipal governments were the order of government best placed to improve the quality of life of residents in their community.”
Cobourg seems to be the exception here.

Dubious

What is the evidence of your assertion regarding Cobourg? It is easy to be “most trusted” if there is very little trust of other levels of government.

Wally Keeler

There is certainly little trust in your suggestion to let the marina, even though it is profitable, fall into neglect and disrepair just to satisfy the risky ideology of private enterprise. What evidence is there that a private individual who buys the marina will run it well. What evidence is there that Northumberland Maul is being run well with empty store after empty store. And what if the private owner is incompetent and the marina goes bankrupt and derelict and Cobourg harbour will have to bear that private individual’s failure on Town property, the harbour itself. .

Old Sailor

I think Deputy Mayor Suzanne Seguin’s concern over explicitly banning the expansion of boat slips at the Cobourg Marina “during this term of council” is premature. Although I do not have inside knowledge of the marina operations, it must be suffering from the high water levels in 2017 and this year. Some seasonal boaters have not even launched their boats this year.Transient boaters do not show up when their favourite ports either have no power or have docks under water. Cobourg has the former problem.

The remedy for dock hydro outages during high water years is no doubt expensive but necessary to keep the current roster of seasonal boaters.. As well, council should be aware of other needed capital expenditures at the marina in the next five years. Including possible dock replacements for A to D docks.

My point is that Council should receive carefully thought out five year cash flow projections for the marina, one with and one without these capital expenditures before deciding whether or not a slip expansion is necessary to generate more cash flow. And if it is necessary, and Council decides against expansion, then the resulting cash flow deficiency would become a taxpayer cost.

Dubious

Good points Old Sailor but you ignored at least one possibility: Don’t remedy dock hydro outages. Don’t replace A to D docks. Don’t keep the current roster of seasonal boaters. Considering the minimal profit generated by the marina this would be by far the most cost effective option for Cobourg’s taxpayers.

Old Sailor

Good point Dubious. No doubt Council would like to get the marina off its agenda. Another solution would be to consider engaging a professional marina management company like Crates Marine to run the entire marina operation. Fill all the empty slips with seasonal boaters, double the winter storage yard to accommodate the new demand. And the town could buy a big wheelbarrow to hold the quarterly dividend.

Dubious

Yes Old Sailor, it would be good to have professionals running the marina. Another possibility is to sell the marina and eliminate all town responsibilities for future maintenance and operations.

Old Sailor

Dubious. An outright sale could be the best solution for the town and for boaters. Would result in some interesting transaction discussions.

Wally Keeler

So the idea is to turn the harbor interior over to a private property owner and this will make everything wunnerful.

manfred s

well yeahhh, no more pesky citizens bitching and chewing about every little gripe they can conjure up, eh?

manfred s

that was sarcasm folks, at least an attempt anyway. Seems it missed its mark

Wally Keeler

So if John Lee buys it, we can expect a profitable marina. If not John Lee, then some other private individual. That’s the key to marina wunnerfulness; private ownership. Northumberland Mall is privately owned, and it is pocked with empty store, empty store, empty store. So private ownership will prevent empty docks at the marina, you claim?

Dubious

Not I. The residents are not financially responsible for the Northumberland Mall. They should not be on the hook for the marina’s success either

Wally Keeler

However, your solution is to run it like a privately owned property, just like Northumberland Maul, and we can see that it ain’t run well, empty stores abound. The marina makes a profit, but not enough cash for your liking. Your solution is to let it run into dereliction. Unlike you, I prefer that it continue making a profit to the benefit of Cobourg residents and that the profit be recycled into improvements to the marina.

Wally Keeler

Your sunny ways suggestion to sell it to a private owner assumes that a private owner is competent. What if the private owner goes bankrupt and the marina sits there slowly falling into disrepair, and because it makes only a minimal profit by the Town and none by the owner, what makes you think that would be an attractive business to purchase. In that case the marina will be left to rot in OUR HARBOUR where we have to look at it day after day.

Wally Keeler

So the only complaint you have is that the marina earns a “minimal profit.” It’s just not profitable enough for your liking. For The Greater Greed. And for that shallow reason, you recommend the docks become derelict until the Town sells it to a private individual..

Miriam Mutton

Good choice, the link to Kingston’s Bang the Table public consultation site. Elsewhere on Kingston’s web site I read that the City undertook an 18 month pilot project to determine the best approaches to consulting with their citizens via the Bang the Table programs. Cobourg seems to be expediting the process which is not necessarily a bad thing. Kingston sets out a great example on line on what to expect. In Cobourg, needed is a strong meeting facilitator for the expected lively public sessions as we learn from each other.. When the Town conducted the Tannery District working session with tables of citizens, I found that the tables with people representing varying interests and viewpoints (for example a developer and an environmentalist and area resident sitting side by side) came up with some of the best ideas. We listened to each other and made things work. Also, on line consultation can be difficult to do well without bias.

Bill Prawecki

Great points Miriam. Bang the Table (BTT) works for Kingston but took quite a few months to get it going. Our council thinks that we can launch it soon and get the results by Sept …. best of luck here. How will they handle input from folks with no internet connection? With BTT you register and get accepted from what I recall …. how will the town ensure that feedback is only from Cobourg residents? It would be great to hear if our town and council has spoken to Kingston to get their views on what went well, issues they encountered and how many staff did they need to manage the site. Looking forward to some of these questions from the town and council. Don’t get me wrong I believe that BTT has served Kingston well and just want it to help us in Cobourg.

Durka

While Miriams example sounds ideal, design by committee often fails horribly. Everyone compromises, no one truly gets what they want, in trying to appease everyone you end up appeasing no one. The results can lack any clear vision and you end up with a mish mash jumbled mess.

Use the software sure but there needs to be a strong overriding vision for what the space should be. It’s the only way to get a cohesive result.

Miriam Mutton

My point was less about compromise than encouraging a robust dialogue well facilitated so that good ideas can be articulated and barriers to those ideas identified and solved. This can appear to be a messy process and can take time. As example, while working on a design for a public square it quickly became evident the expectations for the space was fluid and came from many interests. And it became obvious the simpler and more adaptable the place the better. This permitted a wide ranging program which took into account time of day (e.g daytime/evening use and events), days of the week (e.g. business days, weekends, holidays), season of the year, etc. I downloaded an interesting research study last evening on understanding humans in public spaces called, ‘Lizarding to lingering: how humans really behave in public spaces’. Mostly sketches with brief text. Fascinating.

manfred s

the bean counters don’t really get that deep, they’re too distracted by the musical sounds of loose change

Wally Keeler

Concerning crowds, this is the book that caught my fancy at college; Elias Canetti’s Crowds and Power. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crowds_and_Power

Wally Keeler

People lizard on Victoria Park beach in the past, in the present and in the future.

Fact Checker

Durka:
I take it then that you dismiss the “wisdom of the crowd”. Who then is the privileged one that sets the vision if not the people that are affected and may possibly benefit. It seems that you would have a few get their way at the expense of the many. Not a very democratic process.
Keep in mind the business maxim; “The best deal is the one where no one is totally happy with what they got”

Durka

Frankly, someone who knows what they are doing.

Wikipedia explains the flaws of design by committee well…

The term is used to refer to suboptimal traits that such a process may produce as a result of having to compromise between the requirements and viewpoints of the participants, particularly in the presence of poor leadership or poor technical knowledge, such as needless complexity, internal inconsistency, logical flaws, banality, and the lack of a unifying vision.

Dubious

Your Wikipedia reference sounds like a reasonable description of democracy! In the case of the Cultural Master Plan there are no requirements but only the viewpoints of the committee members. Failed or good there will be little impact on the town other than higher taxes.

manfred s

the very essence of politics