Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Recent Springwater Township Council Actions

A number of things have transpired at Township Council that suggests that some are jockeying for position for the Fall 2014 Municipal Elections.

It was interesting to see the council pass “lame duck” authority to the CAO in December of 2013. To simplify, “lame duck” council means that if it is known there are a number of councilors not running in the next election, the council is not permitted to make major decisions that may not be supported by a new council for two periods. The one period is from the close of nominations which is September 12 until election day and the second period is from election day until the end of the current council’s term. You only have “lame duck” if 25% of the existing council is not running in the next election. Since two councilors have not declared they are not running, we do not know if there will be a “lame duck” council or not. Being a conspiracy guy I can only see a couple of reasons to pass this motion at this time. We all know there are big development plans for Midhurst, the approval of the new Firehall in Midhurst and the approval of the Multi Use Recreation Facility in Midhurst that are contentious issues for a few on council. Under this designation of authority, the CAO could possibly approve them without further council debate in the “lame duck” period. The key point is that the “lame duck” motion could have been passed at the council meeting in August or had a special council meeting the week before nominations close after we know who is running or not. Yes, there are a few on council that think we are all idiots and don’t notice this kind of charade!

On a more positive note I must give credit to the council, even though they dragged their feet for a while at the beginning of the term, for question period at Council and Planning meetings as it has been productive. The clerk published a document reporting the questions asked and answered. Contrary to the concerns of being a public nuisance, which was the position of Collins, Webster, McLean and Clement at the beginning of the term, it turned out to be informative and yes a few times challenging for the councilors, but it kept them on their toes. It has also attracted more residents to these meetings as they feel they can contribute. I understand a former member of council who is considering running again has stated to a few people that he will eliminate question period if he gets elected. Guess who that is?

I was pleased to see the CAO confirm at the last council meeting something I have said for over a year about agreements between the township and the Midhurst Landowners and Developers. The only agreement that has been signed is for the costs of the Environmental Assessment Studies for the Midhurst Mega Developments which are in the neighborhood of about $500,000. However there are no agreements in place for the actual $100 million plus infrastructure costs associated with the development of 5,000 homes. There is a proposal letter from the landowner’s agent/trustee outlining the phasing of the development but this is not a letter of intent as it has not been signed by the actual parties. I hope someone thinks it is a good idea to get some agreement to cover the $100 million infrastructure costs or guess who will be on the hook?

As you will recall, Councillor McConkey got ejected from council last year because Deputy Mayor McLean was offended by a comment she made about being “unethical” and asked for her ejection. I will not comment on that as local lawyer Gary French did an excellent article on that some time ago. I was not at the meeting in December but Councillor Ritchie, out of frustration about the “lame duck” motion, made some comment about “collusion”. Guess what? At Monday’s meeting, he withdrew the use of the word collusion. I wonder if the same person that caused the ejection of McConkey went down the road and prompted Ritchie to withdraw the use of the word. At least that someone who may have talked to Ritchie didn’t have him ejected from council. McConkey did have a good question after Ritchie withdrew the use of the word collusion. She asked if there was going to be a motion to accept Ritchie’s withdrawal as was the case when she withdrew the use of the word “unethical” that offended the Deputy Mayor. Mayor Collins said “no” as it was a different matter. Interesting answer. At least the Mayor and Deputy Mayor have realized that depriving the elected member from participating in council meetings is not well taken by the electorate. Even Rob Ford who’s behavior is unforgiveable was not ejected from Council proceedings, as it is his right in the municipal act to represent the people that elected him.

It is great to see the number of people from all areas of Springwater at the Council, Planning and Budget meetings in recent weeks. People are waking up and realizing that we need to be informed and let our elected councillors know how we feel. I believe most on council are well intentioned and want to do what is right. If we don’t let them know where we stand, how can they do a good job? We elected them to represent our vision for the future of Springwater. It is important that we continually remind them of where we sit on matters.

If you do not engage, pay attention and speak up, you will get what you deserve. The next council for this municipality will be saddled with the most expensive projects and highest debt levels Springwater has ever encountered and you must decide in the Fall election who will take care of your best interests.