Monday, August 27, 2007

Can you spot the real MP?

The Burd Report: Real MPs or the Pretend MP
If you have heard of two-tier medicine, here is an example of two-tier government. Ben points to a really scary trend.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Shelter Valley Folk Festival

Shelter Valley Folk Festival, Grafton, Ontario. August 31 - September 2, 2007
This community event is a must see for anyone interested in this kind of music. But, what makes this particularly special is how it has grown from very humble beginnings into a major musical force, not just around West Northumberland, but across Ontario and Canada.

This is due in a large part to the dedication and hard work of many individuals. Certainly, artistic director Aengus Finnan deserve a huge amount of credit, but also the countless volunteers and the board of directors, who spend all year working toward growing and nurturing this fine musical concert.

It used to be many of the community events were like this. The Waterfront Festival in Cobourg, the AppleFest in Brighton, the Long Lunch in Warkworth, and the fall fairs etc. Many continue to work on this basis, but some commercialization is creeping in. This year's Waterfront Festival was not very good. The booths are no longer filled with artisans. Victoria Park is turned into a flea market. Ribfest is another example. While it was a fabulous fundraiser and people enjoyed the food, it seemed to lack a genuineness. It was commercial, not community oriented.

That is certainly not the case for the festival.

The web site has all the information needed.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Responding to Cobourg Blog on uploading

Cobourg Blog  » Blog Archive  » Uploading - is it good?

John makes some really good points, particularly when it comes to thinking about who ultimately pays. As one politician said, "The money for taxes comes out of either the left pocket or the right one. It really doesn't matter. There is only one taxpayer."

Still, there are reasons for taxpayers to care about which level of government is responsible. Municipalities have very limited options when it comes to raising revenues. Mainly, it is generated by property tax. There are also user fees and service charges. A good example is the tags used in Northumberland County for garbage pick up. There are also development charges, which are meant to be used to cover costs of providing infrastructure, like sewers and roads. And, some of the money can go into reserve funds for parks. The idea is to cover the additional costs rather than have them covered by existing residents. (Sometimes municipalities will wave these fees, leaving current taxpayers on the hook).

There is something to consider, when John talks about uploading. Money is power. If a level of government is paying, then they generally get to call the shots. And, as he points out when discussion school boards, there can be a debate over who should run things, when they are not directly responsible for raising the funds.

The federal and provincial levels of government have far more avenues for generating revenues than municipalities. A one cent hike in gas taxes can generate millions of dollars. So, it is a lot more effective to take this approach rather than leave it to property taxpayers to cough up the dough.

But, as we saw the the frink in the harbour, when grants flow freely, the money can quickly become wasted.

John is right, with the provincial election underway, these are the topics that need to be debated. Let's make it clear who is going to pay for what.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Money for economic development

Northumberland MPP Lou Rinaldi announced $80 million for economic development to the Eastern Ontario municipalites as part of a Liberal promise, if elected.
It is no surprise his opponents cried foul, saying this is merely an election ploy.
If this is the level of discourse Northumberland County residents can expect during the election, then we are in serious trouble. This kind of scripted nonsense is beneath a group of children having a disagreement in the school yard.
Economic development is as mysterious as a blackhole in space and just as good at sucking up money instead of matter. Before one penny of tax dollars are spent, let us see an accounting of the hundreds of thousands of dollars that get thrown at these programs by all three levels of government. Where are the neo-cons when you need them?
A good cost analysis will reveal a lot. Yet, it would be a reasonable suspicion to think there is very little return. Competition between municipalities for industry is bloody. One can only imagine what Belleville council did to secure the new Kellogg's plant. Even our own Diamond Triangle commission could barely co-operate due to the inequities.
Besides, taxpayers should be demanding a dollar for dollar comparison. For every tax dollar spent on economic development, how many dollars sre being returned to the community in taxes, jobs and other contributions. That's what should be the bottom line
Of course any financial announcement is an election ploy. Come on. We are not that stupid. The opposition is going to need to do a lot better. And, so is Rinaldi

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Now for the real analysis

I am not sure what is meant my "real analysis", but I am prepare to offer some insights.

First, it is far too easy to get caught up in the machinations of council and not examine what has been going on with the citizen-side of this debate. It is particularly interesting to watch who has emerged as leaders in this aspect, especially Martin Partridge and a few others around him. It has never been clear why these people suddenly appeared and began advocating so vociferously. It seemed to be well after the decision-making was done. And, their objective was confusing, too. Why were they calling for another public meeting? There were already a number of public venues. Was another one really going to solve anything? Why did they not just come out in opposition and demand the project be stopped until a new, more thorough consultation could take place? While well intentioned, it was a bit shaky on strategy. And, considering the political accumen of those involved, it was strange a more effective plan was not used. However, maybe they were all out of the zone, so to speak. Everybody has a bad day. But considering some of these people advise local politicans regularly and work on political election campaigns, one might expect something a bit more effective. How difficult is it to unhinge Cobourg council?

What I think is far more significant is the creation of a citizens advocacy group, lead by a very elite group of Cobourg residents. This is the same group that is often active in the backroom, only rarely gracing the very public displays we have witnessed recently. It is the same group, almost, who came out to save the west corner of Victoria Park.

However, we now see a very powerful core of mainly Liberal supporters: Partridge, Grew-Ellis, Rowden, Wardman, Sherman and others, leading a core of 300 angry citizens. Nice little power base, if you think about it.

This could be the beginning of a meaningful movement to make council more accountable. The true litmus test will be the policing issue, which comes before council this fall. With the provincial election, council may have a sufficient smoke screen to distract everyone's attention away from the police issue. Or, it could end up being a political noose around the provincial campaigns, if it blows up.

Still, it will be interesting to see if Partridge and his citizens movement are able to mobilize enough support to create a meaningful, transparent debate on the local police issue and save our local force. If not, the frink initiative will have been a waste of time and energy. The ground work is laid. Let's see where the hearts and minds of the leadership and followers truly lies.

Also, if Partridge and others are successful in mobilizing this group and growing it into a substantive political force, what position does this put him and the others in. Could he be winding up to be kingmaker in the next municipal election?

Now, how's that for some analysis?

I await your response...

Now for the real analysis:
The dust has settled and the decision made and now all Cobourgers have to do is wait for the tenders to come in and Council votes on them and we will be the proud owners of a Fountain/Rink facility at the harbourfront.

According to my sources I didn't miss much by not being at the Council meeting on Monday. About 200 people filled the concert hall to listen to delegations give their opinions. One quoted proponent proceeded to insult everybody in the place by saying they are part of history, going to die in ten years and therefore are ignoring the needs of the young. Also proceeding to slam the dissenting councillors as involved in pettiness and harbour ambitions. Wonder what she would have said about the supporting councillors  if they deigned to upset her? The opponents spoke about new information and process but to no avail - the votes were not going to change.

I am wondering after all of this just what would have come out of another public meeting if the votes were so entrenched. Not much as the opponents would have still not been satisfied if votes did not change.

My final opinion about his is simple, why not harness the anger and energy to come up with another project, involving fitness - thereby keeping the fitness money, and start the process of putting another IcePad/Arena together. Let's do something positive with the money and energy and time of the opponents and work with Council to put another arena in Town. 1.3 million is a helluva of a seed! We know the people opposed to the project are healthy, resourceful and willing - give them some work to do. Work with Councillors and make them show us they can do more than say no and sit on their fat arses.

Just my two cents

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Saturday, August 11, 2007

Only doing half the job!

It is great to see Ben writing this. I have already bemoaned the fact that the current Cobourg council is a lame duck. Nobody trusts them and they lack credibility. Without public trust, no government can legitimately hold power. Politicians only hold power because it is granted by the public. There is no constituency left. Forget if a person supports the frink or not, the public consultation process was trashed and there is no transparency.

What is more worrisome is we are about to embark on a debate regarding local policing. The town council has no credibility to carry out a public debate on the decision because nobody can trust them to act in accordance to the public's wishes. Will they turn down another petition, spit on the citizens who come before them with opposing views? Noobody trusts them to build a consensus.

This is a critical situation. If any political leaders come within a mile of the town, they should be asked if they will intervene. Do we put up with this for the next three-and-a-half years?

The solution is simple. Can the current frink plans. Start over. But, first, build a new contract with the public. Hold a series of meetings over the fall and find out what can be done to make council more effective in representing people's wishes. Then, once a community-based protocol is developed, then back to the frink and policing.

Without a new system, nothing will work. Acting alone will not work either. There must be a community-building process and wounds must be healed.

Only doing half the job!:
Now that the Fiberals and the Harpocrits have adopted the abominable American practice of fixed election dates and imposing them on the Municipalities the cry for the other part of the equation is becoming stronger. I refer to the practice of recall or impeachment. This is an essential part of American democracy but somehow got left out when the idea of fixed terms was imported.

Both here in Cobourg, and more often in Toronto: where the Mayor has become rather unpopular very quickly, critics are bemoaning the lack of a recall procedure. This is valid, especially in Municipal politics. Four year terms are horrendous for local democracy as we see in Cobourg where four dead white men, five if you count the Mayor, are obstinately disregarding the appeals of the great unwashed - and not just on the FRINK issue but everything else. I did read that the Mayor was recently booed at a public function - that must have been very unsettling both for public decorum and the imperial ego of PD.  Incidentally when thee year terms were instituted in  the 80s I spoke against it. Local politics is the most responsive level of government and should be  electorally responsible as well. Two year terms should be the norm and any politician who says they need that long to learn the job should be sent to the slow learner class and dismissed.

In real terms a recall operation is very expensive and time consuming and usually fails to unseat the incumbent but McGuinty, or his soon to be successor, must add it to the Act that covers elections. After all it's only fair, but then what fair these days?

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