Saturday, April 28, 2007

Debris from rail car causes Cobourg derailment

An unidentified piece from a service engine on a freight train struck the fuel tank, then flew under one of the wheels causing a massive derailment in the west end of Cobourg Saturday.
A Hamilton Township firefighter who attended the wreck said a CN investigator told me an unknown object ruptured the fuel tank sparking a fire, then flew under one of the wheels. This caused  the service engine to jump off the tracks near Burnham Street.
"Once one comes off, the rest follow," he said.
Twenty-three cars came off the track. Cobourg and Baltimore firefighters responded.  The Harwood fire hall was also called into action to backfill for the others as part of the mutual aid plan.
By 11:00 p.m., there was only one derailed freight car left on the track. The others had been removed and piled up in a small community park off Sinclair Street. CN work crews were busy unloading prefabricated sections of track, which arrived from yard in Montreal and Toronto. Huge portable stadium lights were brought in as crews planned to work through the night to restore service.
Cobourg police and Northumberland OPP were busy securing the area, as curious onlookers strained to watch the action.
One driver of a Red GMC truck was arrested and handcuffed around 10:30 p.m., when he tried to drive through to the work area. Police taped off Burnham Street from all traffic. Curious onlookers gathered in Sinclair Park to watch as crews moved cars and works furiously to install the prefabricated track.
The train went off the tracks around 11:00 a.m. Saturday. A nearby strip mall on Westwood Drive was evacuated immediately as a precaution. Once it was determined the cars were empty and nothing was toxic, people were allowed to return.
VIA rail is reporting it will restore service by Sunday.

Frost heats up police procedures

Cobourg Blog  » Blog Archive  » CREATIVE ACCOUNTING?
Really nice blog by A.W. Cockerill about the police budget and the lack of accountability. Councillor Stan Frost is raising hell about the lack of fiscal information to the police services board. Amen. There is never an excuse for a month budget report. As Cockerill points out, it is only Frost and fellow neophyte councillor Miriam Mutton who dare question the town. The four old men (as Ben Burd likes to call them) who sit silently by as the town goes into disarray.

Cockerill is proving the importance of blogging in a hyper-local context. Another voice in the community as a watchdog. Good job.

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Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Northumberland Services for Women expanding

It is great to hear Northumberland Services for Women is launching a campaign to raise $955,000 to expand its facility in Cobourg yesterday.

It is good because there is a huge demand for the 14-bed home on Swayne Street. More than 500 women were served last year as they fled abusive situations. Of those, 80 women and children were able to have a safe place to stay at the home. Another 80 were turned away.

This expansion will serve several needs in the community. Besides beds for emergencies, there will also be some second-stage housing, meaning a temporary type of housing that allows women to re-integrate back into the community, while having stable housing. This is something many people don't realize is the difficulty for women to find affordable housing, particularly those who have been abused. It also allows them to receive ongoing counselling and support.

Sadly, this also points out the demand for such services. It is a sad commentary about our community that such a place is even needed. That is not a slight against Northumberland Services for Women. No, it is a comment about our community. When abuse is tolerated and women live in fear, then we are failing them.

With the new cairn in Victoria Park, we are always reminded of violence against women. It is good to see this bold initiative to expand. Let's hope the community gets behind it.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Waterfront accessibility back to haunt council

This was one issue Mayor Peter Delanty and others running for election this past fall wanted to keep out of any public debate because they knew it would get them creamed.
It is a hornet's nest. Homeowners along the shoreline want to maintain control of their property to the water's edge, while many townspeople believe they should have the right to use the beach.
It is nasty business, especially after the town built a walkway along the west beach. One homeowner built a fence to stop the walkway, while others post no trespassing signs.
If you want to see how crazy people get, just go down and try to talk to the waterfront homeowners. They are calling police regularly to have people thrown off the beach.
A bill is before the provincial government that would make a portion of the shoreline public.
Good luck to Pat Stanley and her crusade to get council to support the legislation.

Brocanier's bogus indignation

Deputy Mayor Gil Brocanier is reported to have taken umbrage to questioning from Councillor Mariam Mutton Monday night as the town budget was passed.
With $17.1 million in operating costs and $5 million in capital, the deputy mayor was looking for the usual unquestioning support from his fellow councillors. With a 2.25 increase in taxes, one of the lowest in the county, he figured it was a shoo-in.
But, Mutton wisely got Brocanier to confirm the town's lack of a policy regarding the use of reserves for a $34,000 cost for signals at the George Street railway crossing. The town uses money from its utility operation HOLDCO for capital projects. We pay through the teeth for our electricity and water, while the town banks away millions, which it uses to keep the tax rates down.
Brocanier was not happy. He scolded her for not asking him via email and waiting for the council session. Mutton, a first-time councillor elected on a platform of a more open council, wouldn't back down, snapping back, "I fell it (important) to respond to that jab".
It is a long time since Cobourg residents had a councillor so proactive. The old boys need to smarten up. Mutton is going to make sure. Not since the days of Ben Burd, Ray Bowen and Don Kirkup. Lloyd Williams also knew how to get under the skin of issues.
Hooray for Mutton! It is nice to see her keeping council accountable.
As for Brocanier, his reputation as a decent councillor is  in serious jeopardy. During his first stint on council in the early 90's, Gil was a man of the people and worked hard to do some pretty amazing things. This second round, is a disaster. He is undemocratic and this kind of petty politics is pathetic. If he wants to avoid this kind of embarrassment in the future, then be more transparent.
Besides, we are paying the whole freight anyways, whether it is through our taxes or utility bill.

Police study a case of smoke and mirror

Cobourg Mayor Peter Delanty did some fancy foot work Monday night as he danced around reports the town was holding on to an OPP policing study.
A local radio station, using anonymous sources, reported the mayor and town's CEO were in possession of a controversial policing study done for the county. Meanwhile, the newspapers were full of unhappy Port Hope councillors bemoaning the delays by OPP in producing a report. One article last week claimed the study would not be done until September.
However, the radio story source only got part of the story correct. It turns out Cobourg only has its own portion of the study and it was presented on April 2. A full briefing was supposed to have taken place last week.
Instead, the mayor told council town staff is reviewing the results to ensure accuracy. In the process, he lambasted the radio station for mistaken reports and a failure to call to confirm the information.
An editorial on the radio corrected the mayor, saying a phone call was made, but went unreturned.
The issue around the quality or veracity of the journalism is a straw man meant to divert the public's attention away from the more serious issue: why is an OPP report on the future of the town's policing being kept secret? Proper procedure would be to accept the report in open council and instruct staff to do a full review. Instead, Cobourg residents see another example of the star chamber effect where there is no transparency and the taxpayers are treated like children, getting information spoon-fed to them whenever it suits those in power.
The recent decision by council not to allow a Q&A session after meeting and the holding back of this report only go to show the distain the old boys on council have for the public.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Campaign contributions in Cobourg

While nobody broke any election laws, it is discouraging to see how Cobourg politicians fluff off concerns about taking campaign donations from developers.
Councillor Dean McCaughey is naive to think it doesn't damage his credibility in the public's eye.
"If a developer wants to give me money great..but it doesn't give them any more leverage than anyone else," he said.
It is possible McCaughey will act independently. But we cannot see inside his mind. The moment any of his contributor's developments come up for review, we will never know for sure. His only recourse is to abstain to maintain the integrity of council and for himself.
Sadly, only Councillor Stan Frost did not take money from developers. Even Planning and Development co-ordinator Miriam Mutton took some contributions.
The mayor took several donations from developers including Al LeBlanc, who is doing an development in Cobourg's west end, the Macklins, who own a mall on Elgin Street, Tony Pulla, a local real estate salesman and Max LeMarchant, who is behind New Amerst in Cobourg's west end.
This is not dishonest, but it is a failure of conscience. In a quiet way, these councillors and the mayor have slapped the public in the face and demonstrate their contempt.

A list:
McCaughey: $750 from Al LeBlanc and $500 from A.R. Pulla, $350 from Ted Smith, $300 from Joe Gerr, $250 from Enzo Paolozza and $200 from Gord Kelly, Tom Harr, Hector Van Reet, Jim McLaren, Dom Depalma and Max LeMarchant
Brocanier: $750 from Al LeBlanc and $200 from John Logan, Ron Kerr and Max LeMarchant
Delanty: $750 from Al LeBlanc and U.A.W local 463, $500 from Dom DePama, Hugh and Harold Macklin, Tony Pulla, $300 from Bette Norcott, $250 from John Logan Hector Van Reet and Max LeMarchant and $150 from Del Dillon, Karen Parker and Rod Baker.
Mutton received $750 from Al LeBlanc, $250 from John Macke and $200 from Gail Raymont and Br. R. Syons and $150 from D.C Panko.
MacDonald got$750 from a numbered company, $ 200 from Canada Pallet, Homelike Inn (Gord Kelly) and Max LeMarchant.
Spooner got $750 fro Al LeBlanc and $300 from CAstlehead Homes, $250 from Linmac and $200 from Bruck and Ricks service  station, Thomas Mtoors, Ralph Moulton (Canadian Tire) and Max LeMarchant.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Police chief defends salary

The fall out from last week's headlines regarding the police chief's salary created an incredible stir.
In a letter to the editor and an exclusive interview with the local radio station, the chief quickly tried to quell the obvious outrage. The newspaper printed a story saying the police chief made more than the premier. The explanation: holiday pay and back pay. The police services board paid out time owing and some other sundry items which drove up his regular salary.
This was followed by a lengthy letter from former police service board member Lloyd Williams, who was also a longtime councillor. He gave plenty of details, obviously trying to justify what took place. Since this all happened on his watch, no surprise he was lashing out.
The debate of the journalistic value of the story or the accuracy is mute. What this really points to is the lack of transparency. If this was announced when it took place, then the sting would be reduced. And, as citizens, we would receive all the information rather than having it trickle out like this.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Retail versus manufacturing jobs

Cobourg Mayor Peter Delanty was busy praising Bayfield Realty Advisors, owners of Northumberland Mall, following the announcement of detailed expansion plans to take place later this year.
The company hopes to build additions to the A&P, open a Sports Chek, and upgrade several current retailers. Luc Corneli, president of High Peak Leashold, gave a detailed presentation Tuesday, promising 150 new full- and part-time jobs.
This is quite amazing. considering the mall has never enjoyed full occupancy since it opened in 1989, it will be interesting to watch if it fills up now. Maybe the secret is having fewer, but larger stores.
As expected, the mayor was on radio and in the newspaper crowing about how great this is for the town. He is suppose to say this, otherwise he would be strung up by the business community.
And, it IS good news on one level. Having vacant stores in a regional mall looks bad for the town. It is similar to empty stores in the downtown. It looks bad. And appearances are everything for small towns and villages.
There are other factors to consider. Retail jobs are good, but often involve less pay (minimum wage), few benefits and go nowhere. Of the 150 jobs, you can bet the majority will be part-time. It is cheaper and more cost efficient. Yet, it does not create prosperity. Most people cannot make a decent living working several part-time jobs.
Manufacturing jobs are the ticket. And, these are the hardest to come by. It has been years since Cobourg got a major new plant. Unlike Belleville, who just announced Kellogg is setting up a new facility, Cobourg continues to lose these kinds of high-paying employment.
And that is where the mayor need to be held accountable. Yes, thanks for the jobs. However, let's not be fooled. A solid economic development plan involves bringing the type of employment that gives people are salary to live on and the means to build a decent life.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Goodrum write up

For a full write up on the presentation, I posted to the Canadian Journalism blog.

However, I will continue to post further musing on the subject here and on Consider This.


Goodrum gave a great presentation. For those blogging, the results re-inforce our experience.

While these were preliminary results, the study showed blogs remain on the periphery of mainstream journalism. Most bloggers are working off the side of their desk with little if any recognition from employers.

Also, the dream of using this form as a means of connecting with our audience remains elusive.

Still, for the dedicated, we will march on in good faith.

More later.

The Mediasphere and the Blogosphere in Canada

Prof. Abby Goodrum, of  Ryerson is presenting preliminary results of her study on blogging and journalism in Canada at a special presentation today.

I will try to blog the results for commentary.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Watching what we wish for...

The news about Cobourg police chief Garry Clement receiving a whopping $175, 286.91 a year, while Ontario's Premier Dalton McGuinty gets a meagre $158,309.46, is inflammatory in both a good and bad way.
Yes, it is good to see a comparison of this nature. And, it provides a stark contrast. Certainly, there will be lots of citizens absolutely outraged about it, with good reason.
However, this may blow up in everyone's face. This is the kind of fodder politicians like Mayor Peter Delanty, Deputy Mayor Gil Brocanier, Councillors Bob Spooner, Dean McCaughey and Bill MacDonald will jump on to get rid of the town's police force. Wait until the first chance they get (maybe this Monday or the budget deliberations) to watch them bay at the moon over this incredible injustice.
You can bet your bottom dollar the solution will not be to get rid of the chief (something this blog has argued for since the police board standoff). If there is no other reason, he is just too expensive for what we get in return. If he is worried about this, he can defend it publicly. But that will never happen.
Yes, we should be angry. But the solution is not a new OPP force for Cobourg. It is time for council to clean up a mess that needed should have been dealt with more than a year ago.
Where's the bucket and mop?

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