Council Record on Unfinished Business is Improving

At each Council meeting, a list of unfinished business is provided but is rarely discussed.  Many topics are way past their due date and in general, the list illustrates the problem highlighted by KPMG in their organization review: that Staff do not have the capacity to keep up with new tasks given to them by Council. The full tracking table for the October 25 Committee of the Whole meeting is available from the Links below but this post will provide a summary – including some additional information not provided on the tracking table. The good news is that the list is getting shorter (11 items – with 2 completed) compared to 6 months ago when there were 14 items with one completed. It is also likely that the CAO’s recommendation on organization due on October 22 will address this issue.

Unfinished Business

How does affordable housing and other community health priorities fit within a municipality’s strategic plan.
Date of request by Council: 28 Jan 2019
Response due: June 2019
Response so far: Staff are working with the County since the Social Housing authority is the Upper-Tier level of Government. Council has also passed the Affordable Housing CIP and approved 2 affordable housing projects.
Status: 50% complete

Long Service Recognition Policy
Date of request by Council: 23 Sept 2019
Response due: Not specified
Response so far: Now before Council
Status: 80% complete [I would say 98%]

Emergency Shelters Downtown Cobourg (County of Northumberland and Cobourg Police)
Date of request by Council: 2 Dec 2019
Response due: 15 Feb 2020
Response so far: Report made but lost – rescheduled for 15 March 2021 but did not happen. Zoning for such shelters is being reviewed with a Public Meeting on Monday October 18 at 5:00 pm
Status: 50% complete

List an inventory of potential municipal-owned surplus lands, buildings and/or facilities
Date of request by Council: 19 Nov 2020
Response due: March 22, 2021
Response so far: Staff reported back to Council on April 19, 2021. An internal ad-hoc working group is being created to review municipally owned properties and was to provide a recommended shortlist and implementation plan to Council by September 13, 2021.   This did not happen.
Status: “On track”

Private Transportation Regulating By-law – that is, regulate Uber and similar companies – also update Taxi regulations and encourage Accessible Taxis.
Date of request by Council: 6 Jan 2020
Response due: Not specified
Response so far: Delayed due to pandemic.
Status: Overdue

Provide alternative to working with Joint Animal Control Municipal Services Board
Date of request by Council: 6 Jan 2020
Response due: Before end of 2021
Response so far: Completed – Cobourg News Blog Report here
Status: Completed

Consider a discount on Parking for Cobourg Taxpayers
Date of request by Council: 6 Jan 2020
Response due:  not specified but then promised for 21 April 2021
Response so far: Deferred unless considered a priority
Status: Overdue

Prepare a Flood Reduction and Mitigation Plan
Date of request by Council: 27 April 2020
Response due: 14 Sept 2020
Response so far: Provided on 4 October 2021 by Emergency Planner
Status: Completed

Install 8 EV Charging stations
Date of request by Council: 21 June 2021
Response due: Fall/Winter 2021
Response so far: Referred to Budget planning for 2022
Status: On Track

Develop an Anti-Idling By-law
Date of request by Council: 14 Sept 2021
Response due: 1 March 2022
Response so far: On Track
Status: On Track

Regulation of Short Term rentals (e.g. AirBnB) and enforcement
Date of request by Council: 28 June 2021
Response due: 15 November 2021
Response so far: Report on CoW Agenda 25 October 2021
Status: On Track

Brent Larmer’s unfinished business list is a good thing – it’s good for accountability and ensuring requested actions are not lost. There are also good details in the reports on the list. And, if you are counting, in May, by my count, there were 11 late projects but now there are 5. I’d guess that this is because CAO Tracey Vaughan is making it happen.

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marya
22 October 2021 10:25 am

I would be extremely grateful if work continued on Private Transportation Regulating By-Law for Taxi,Uber and most important for Accessible Taxi.

cornbread
17 October 2021 10:02 am

Is it Cobourg’s task/responsibility to install electric car charging stations or should private business be responsible for this service. I don’t think taxpayer money should be used for this purpose and subsidize this service.

Jeffy
Reply to  cornbread
17 October 2021 10:38 am

Agreed. There are already chargers downtown and at Petro Canada on Burnham.

Wally Keeler
Reply to  cornbread
17 October 2021 12:39 pm
Ken
Reply to  Wally Keeler
17 October 2021 3:26 pm

Time for Hydrogen!

Ken Strauss
Reply to  Ken
17 October 2021 3:38 pm

Maybe hydrogen but whatever the technology the costs should not be part of Cobourg’s budget.

Sandpiper
Reply to  cornbread
18 October 2021 9:08 am

Why Not the only ELC cars that are plugged in all day
belong to LUCI or Town staff they uses these spots like
they are executive parking none of the public can even get near then
But I thought shopping Malls , Hotels etc where to supply some of these

cornbread
Reply to  Sandpiper
18 October 2021 9:19 am

Why should I subsidize town staff? They already have better benefits and pension than me.

Kevin
Reply to  Sandpiper
21 October 2021 7:51 am

There are some charging stations at the Northumberland Mall near the cannabis store in the new building. I do not know who paid for these.

Kathleen
17 October 2021 7:34 am

“Private Transportation Regulating By-law – that is, regulate Uber and similar companies – also update Taxi regulations and encourage Accessible Taxis.”…..
What’s the deal? Why has this been delayed? Why isn’t there a date for completion?
This should be a Top Priority! How many accidents and impaired driving charges could have been avoided if there was a dependable/reliable Taxi/Uber service? How many accidents will happen because we don’t have a Dependable/Reliable service? And not just an ‘Operation Red Nose’ at Christmas time.

Sandpiper
Reply to  Kathleen
17 October 2021 9:36 am

What Taxi Co ,s I did not think there where any left
especially with newer Clean vehicles

Kathleen
Reply to  Sandpiper
17 October 2021 10:22 am

There is one small Taxi Co. In Cobourg and according to another Cobourg FB Community page, the company has left a lot of people stranded – especially in the evening – when they NEED a drive home.

JimT
Reply to  Kathleen
17 October 2021 1:45 pm

I’ve been taking taxis home a lot more the last few months (I have a reliable driver on speed dial) because when I call to book a bus ride I’m told it will be a 30 to 45 minute wait in some cases.

At times, when I have chosen to walk home, I see a bus go by me on the same route that had “nothing available” a few minutes earlier.

Cobourg taxpayer
17 October 2021 1:40 am

Before Covid at every single council meeting I attended when council could have made a decision, issues were almost always referred back to staff requesting a report. It seemed council was never able to make a decision independently. Based on this record KPMG recommends hiring more staff. Council being elected representatives should be able to make more decisions independent of town staff recommendations possibly even based on citizens’ expertise displayed during presentations to council. Town council is unable to direct staff which seems absurd as council is elected and staff are supposed to be public servants.

Ahewson
Reply to  Cobourg taxpayer
17 October 2021 6:40 am

I feel like “citizen expertise” is usually comes with bias. Quite often when a citizen comes to council they are on one side or the other of whatever is being discussed. Staff on the other hand should be impartial. I also don’t see the issue with getting a report. I would like town decisions to be made with as much information as possible. There is no sense in rushing through things.

I will say though, take the whole sidewalk debacle issue for instance. It came to council, went to staff, a path forward was made clear. In that case I would have liked to have seen council just get on with it rather than repeating the same steps over again.

Ken Strauss
Reply to  Ahewson
17 October 2021 9:06 am

There is nothing wrong with getting a staff report and, yes, residents often have a bias as do staff. However, the staff reports are frequently very superficial and often only include the “preferred” option. They seldom include the multiple possible actions with their attendant pros and cons. Better reports would allow Council to make an informed decision. Even worse, in my years of Council watching, I don’t recall a single report that mentioned the possibility of doing nothing and maintaining the status quo. Why?

Sandpiper
Reply to  Cobourg taxpayer
17 October 2021 9:41 am

I have heard this from many a Councilor from my understanding they had to seek permission to enter
on staff and departments turf or over into the responsible
councilors portfolio area should reports and updates
take to long

GERALD CHILDS
Reply to  Sandpiper
18 October 2021 9:17 am

Who does a counsellor ask for permission to enter a staff area? That sounds a bit far-fetched.

Last edited 1 month ago by Gerald Childs
ben
16 October 2021 3:21 pm

How does affordable housing and other community health priorities fit within a municipality’s strategic plan.”

The better question would be – “How does the problem of affordable housing fit with all of the candidates rash promises in the last election?

If I were an incumbent candidate I would be very leery of even discussing this Council’s track record of finding a solution in the next campaign.

Sorry for me the answer isn’t, “Well you know the County is responsible for that so go ask them!” But it will probably be theirs.

JimT
Reply to  ben
16 October 2021 6:33 pm

What is “affordable” housing anyways?

Is this just a euphemism for “subsidized” housing?

Michael Sprayson
Reply to  JimT
17 October 2021 8:12 am

Your question is so important. What is Cobourg’s definition of “affordable housing”? All housing is affordable to someone. Part of the problem is the messaging. A better word may be ‘obtainable’. Many groups need somewhere to live. These include people without homes due to mental health struggles or drug addiction, single-parent households, newly separated/divorced single people, young people who have aged out of the system, seniors without adequate pensions, people who work hard in the town but don’t earn a wage suitable to living here. These people have very different struggles and it is not helpful to put them all in the same category. As someone who it trying to build obtainable housing for people who work in this county and can’t afford to live here, it has been my experience that the systems the town has put in place are flawed and doomed to fail without change and the programs the county has in place are far more detailed, clear and based on accountability. I once had a very disappointing conversation with Nicole Beatty. I reached out to her looking for assistance and support for building 32 obtainable units on a property I own in Cobourg. Instead of problem-solving, she regurgitated what the planning department had already said to me. I was looking for solutions, and additional problems was all I was given. She talked about favouritism between the town and some developers, and she asked me where I got money for these projects from. For someone who brands themselves as a socialist fundraiser, this was off-putting to me. It was this conversation that encouraged me to start commenting on this very blog, after just being a long-time reader. I was bothered because Nicole wasn’t aware of very basic business practice, which were relevant with this kind of issue.… Read more »

Ken Strauss
Reply to  ben
16 October 2021 8:05 pm

A better question for an incumbent would be: “Why did Council get involved in the irrelevant while ignoring our town’s problems?”

ben
Reply to  Ken Strauss
17 October 2021 6:24 am

Obviously Ken you never get out of the upscale ghetto of New Amhearst where the real world doesn’t exist, except to impinge on your pocketbook. But Downtown has been rife with many cases of homeless people and their problems. One of the answers to that problem is to enable the building of ‘affordable housing’. It comes in many forms and JimT can call it subsidised if he can get his tongue out of his cheek.

If Cobourg is to live up to its much loved (by politicians) reputation of being a ‘feel-good’ Town that means everybody has to feel good not just the self-satisfied. So with a growing problem of needy/homeless people who were causing many social problems in the Downtown it was obvious to most of the candidates in the 2019 election that something had to be done. They all said they would fix it (the problem) and to most of the electors it was not an irrelevant problem. In my opinion not much has been done to fulfill those campaign pledges – hence my criticism.

Ken Strauss
Reply to  ben
17 October 2021 9:12 am

Ben, I’m sure that you know that welfare is the responsibility of upper levels of government rather than Cobourg. Why should a little feel good town that cannot even successfully paint street crossings try to solve problems that are not their responsibility?

ben
Reply to  Ken Strauss
17 October 2021 9:45 am

You know Ken with your constant negativity and criticism, most of which is not constructive I wonder, why you moved here or even if you would be happy wherever you live?

Ken Strauss
Reply to  ben
17 October 2021 10:35 am

Ben, I’m curious. In your opinion how does one “constructively” say: “Cobourg, deal with the problems that are Cobourg’s responsibility rather than ignoring them. Don’t be an ineffective charity and social justice crusader.”?

ben
Reply to  Ken Strauss
17 October 2021 12:33 pm

Ken whether you like it or not Cobourg is dealing with problems every day, just because you don’t like how they are doing it or have a different view of what should be done doesn’t mean they are ignoring them.

Ken Strauss
Reply to  ben
17 October 2021 1:08 pm

Ben, there are numerous problems that are not being dealt with — controlling spending, beach congestion, managing growth, replacing diseased Ash trees, $1M/year loss at the CCC, repairs to harbour infrastructure, paying a reasonable wage to Councillors, enforcement of property standards, fire safety inspections, building code violations, etc, etc. Instead, Council’s priorities appear to be painting crosswalks, naming the CCC walking track, ineffective “affordable” housing initiatives, living wages, EV chargers to compete with private businesses, unnecessary adult playgrounds and finding a reason to hire yet another consultant.

Kathleen
Reply to  Ken Strauss
17 October 2021 3:47 pm

I agree with everything except, “paying a reasonable wage to Councillors”. Unless reasonable means decreasing their pay. Most of them have salary and or pensions from previous or current jobs anyway.
We’ve all said it here…Council defers to Staff. And failing that, Consultants.
From personal experience, if Town “staff” say something cannot be done, don’t bother asking a Councillor to look into it. Crickets.

Bryan
Reply to  Kathleen
17 October 2021 5:29 pm

Kathleen:

The Town is a $60M business. Directors of such companies are well paid for their work. Why should Cobourg’s Council members be paid chump change, which, except for the mayor, is minimum wage or less. So little for 40 hrs a week and piles of abuse.
Why would quality candidates with good financial, business and problem solving skills as well as good common sense take on the job when it’s clear that residents like you don’t value their work?

In May 2018 Paul Pagnuelo suggested to Council that Council salaries should be raised in order to attract quality candidates. “you get what you pay for”

He suggested councilors be paid $38,480, DM $43,290 and the mayor $48,100.

In 2020, councilors were paid about $25,000 plus extra for serving on the CPSB ($6,975), the DM $29,529, and the mayor about $45K plus an additional $10,780 for the CPSB and HOLDCO

I suggest the following:
Mayor: $50,000
DM: $45K
Councilors $40K
Nothing extra for serving on the boards of Town owned corporations and agencies such as HOLDCO and the CPSB.

Consider also that in 2020, the Town paid (sunshine list) its top executives:
CAO $225K
Directors $115- $141K
Police Chief $187K
Fire Chief $137K

Benefits add an additional 30% or so.

So Kathleen, with your employment salary or pension, are you willing to work for people who pay chump change and don’t value your work?

Last edited 1 month ago by Bryan
Leweez
Reply to  Bryan
17 October 2021 5:43 pm

Wouldn’t it be nice to know the wages of our Town owned Lakefront Utilities senior management

Last edited 1 month ago by Leweez
Ken Strauss
Reply to  Leweez
17 October 2021 7:26 pm

Leweez, Lakefront has taken extreme measures to avoid revealing their executive compensation. However the confidential Mearie Group 2020 Management Salary Survey of Local Distribution Companies which is available at https://www.rds.oeb.ca/CMWebDrawer/Record/713648/File/document provides excellent clues. For small local distribution companies such as Lakefront the average CEO salary was $254,612 plus a 20% bonus plus a variety of benefits and perks for a total of $319,803/year.

Leweez
Reply to  Ken Strauss
17 October 2021 7:44 pm

Looking at the credentials of President Dereck Paul on Lakefront’s website, he is waaaay over compensated.
Dont just look at the credentials, google some of them🙄

Concerned
Reply to  Ken Strauss
18 October 2021 5:35 pm

Good thing the town budget doesn’t pay their salaries!

Bryan
Reply to  Concerned
18 October 2021 6:23 pm

Concerned:
No, but your hydro and water rates do.

Concerned
Reply to  Bryan
19 October 2021 9:26 am

You also pay for food, gas etc… does that mean you should get to know those salaries as well.🤦‍♂️

Ken Strauss
Reply to  Concerned
19 October 2021 10:40 am

Assuming that one buys food, gas, etc from a publicly traded company executive salaries are published. Salaries for Cobourg’s senior town and union staff are published.

Bryan
Reply to  Concerned
19 October 2021 4:09 pm

Concerned:
Those are not public sector companies. Also, it is possible to determine the salaries of the grocery and gas company senior executives. You just have to know where to look and do some research. Unlike Holdco, the information is in the public domain.

Ken Strauss
Reply to  Concerned
18 October 2021 6:33 pm

True but everyone in Cobourg who uses electricity pays!

Frenchy
Reply to  Bryan
17 October 2021 6:30 pm

I suggest the following:

Mayor: $50,000

DM: $45K

Councilors $40K

Still chump change. If our Councillors are indeed working 40 hours per week that works out to less than $20.00/hr for all their hard work and piles of abuse suffered.
At least double that I say and let’s get some real talent in there. That idea of “you get what you pay for” seems to be working out at all other levels of government.
😜

Bryan
Reply to  Frenchy
17 October 2021 6:59 pm

Frenchy,
I agree with you , but I’m also trying to be pragmatic. The Town should pay what the work is worth.
Paying council double as you suggest, hasn’t got a remote chance of passing. Cobourgers aren’t ready for that big a step.

My sense is that a lot of Cobourgers are pissed off…angry! They are ready for significant change and some of the angry ones will stand for election and they will be well qualified.

Frenchy
Reply to  Bryan
17 October 2021 8:31 pm

You did catch my post as sarcasm, right Bryan?

Bryan
Reply to  Frenchy
17 October 2021 9:15 pm

Frenchy:

Yes, I’ve read enough of your comments to recognize the acid coating. Some (many?) may not however and take what you wrote as gospel.

Frenchy
Reply to  Bryan
18 October 2021 8:45 am

The Town should pay what the work is worth.

If that were the case, you might be able to find as many citizens who say they are overpaid as you would find saying they are underpaid.
There is a big difference between what the job is worth and what the work is worth.

Bryan
Reply to  Frenchy
18 October 2021 10:54 am

Frenchy:

Interesting distinction, and also correct.
The job is worth somewhat more than what I proposed.
The work value varies by council member. Some should be paid considerably more. Most barely earn their keep and a few are overpaid.

Hopefully the upcoming municipal election will help remedy this.

Frenchy
Reply to  Bryan
18 October 2021 10:14 pm

Bryan…
“Most barely earn their keep”
Most = majority, meaning (at least) 4 out of our 7 council members.
“a few are overpaid”
few = 3, no?
4+3=7
Doesn’t leave a whole lotta room for the “some [who] should be paid considerably more”.
What are the names of the “some”?
Help us form an opinion for next October.

Last edited 1 month ago by Frenchy
Bryan
Reply to  Frenchy
18 October 2021 11:45 pm

Frenchy:
Point taken.
Few = 2+
several = 3+

Perhaps the following suits you better:

  • several are overpaid
  • a few barely earn their keep and
  • a few should be paid considerably more

This is my evaluation and it may change before the election.
I leave it to you to determine your own criteria and ranking

Last edited 1 month ago by Bryan
Kathleen
Reply to  Bryan
17 October 2021 7:44 pm

From what I’ve witnessed from current Council? Yes.

Concerned
Reply to  Bryan
18 October 2021 5:34 pm

Doesn’t matter what you pay in the end municipal politics is a popularity contest…who can get the most friends out to vote, in general most don’t vote in municipal elections. So sure you may get better people running it doesn’t mean better people will get elected.

Informed
Reply to  ben
18 October 2021 12:23 pm

Maybe just a better job prioritizing them?

cornbread
Reply to  ben
17 October 2021 10:12 am

Let’s not be so insulting in our comments. This should be discussion

JimT
Reply to  cornbread
17 October 2021 2:01 pm

Thank you.

Last edited 1 month ago by JimT
JimT
Reply to  ben
17 October 2021 1:59 pm

Ben, if you believe that “One of the answers to that problem is to enable the building of ‘affordable housing’” would you please define what you mean by “affordable“.

No builder is going to build anything for free, so the considerable cost of building and operating housing has to come from somewhere – therefore “subsidized“.

Last edited 1 month ago by JimT
MiriamM
Reply to  JimT
17 October 2021 2:35 pm

https://www.designlinesmagazine.com/leading-by-example-jennifer-keesmaat-on-creating-affordable-housing/#:~:text=JK%3A%20With%20Markee%2C%20we‘,the%20model%20doesn’t%20work.

This link leads to an interview with former head of city planning in Toronto, Jennifer Keesmaat. Her insight is grounded in experience and understanding, I believe. I also watched a TEDTalks she presented.

JimT
Reply to  MiriamM
17 October 2021 3:28 pm

Thanks, MiriamM. I read the article, but other than:

“we’ve created a model that delivers housing affordability through the avoidance and reduction of certain costs – namely land costs – by partnering with landowners that have an interest in building affordable housing. If we don’t have a like-minded partner, the model doesn’t work…” 

I still didn’t discover much about who covers the costs of building this “affordable” housing, other than perhaps a hint that “it helps to have a rich uncle”.

Last edited 1 month ago by JimT
Ken Strauss
Reply to  JimT
17 October 2021 3:36 pm

…by partnering with landowners that have an interest in building affordable housing.

Unless I misunderstand that means finding a landowner who is willing to donate (or perhaps sell for less than market value) their land. In other words you need someone with a philanthropic bent or a tax avoidance scheme that hides the actual cost from the taxpayers.

Bryan
Reply to  JimT
17 October 2021 6:16 pm

JimT

Keep in mind that Toronto is an upper tier municipality, responsible for housing. Cobourg, as noted by others, is a lower tier municipality and specifically NOT responsible for housing.

As to building costs, consider the following:

  • for a project like the 70 unit rental apartment building with some (14??) “affordable” units (for 10 years), the developer/builder likely makes more money this way than if the building had been build without incentives and rented entirely at full market rent
  • Discussions with knowledgeable people (developers/builders) strongly indicates that it is possible to build quality buildings (not gold plated, no granite counters) and rent the units at an “affordable” price.

It does require, as the article notes, “…partnering with landowners that have an interest in building affordable housing,,,”.

Last edited 1 month ago by Bryan