Category Archives: Council

Congratulations

Congratulations to Keith Irving and Garry Balcom, for their results in the Wolfville Election.

Who governs?

Here is a submission from David Daniels on the important question of who makes the decisions. It was published in the latest issue of the Mud Creek News and we copy it here as received.

WHO GOVERNS: COUNCIL OR A CABAL?

At the July 5th Committee of Council meeting, a Transportation Plan 2008, Amended 2010: Terms of Reference was introduced. The document states that “the CAO established a new working group comprised of Councillor Zimmerman as Chair, staff members Kevin Kerr and Gregg Morrison and Shannon Reed. . . The Mayor and CAO will serve as ex-officio.” When it came time to draft the Town’s recently adopted public participation (PP) policy, the CAO formed a working group. It was chaired by the CAO, and members included two non-elected, non-staff citizens, the Mayor and Councilor Mangle, staff and the two outside consultants. The meetings of these two working groups were not announced on the Town’s Calendar to my knowledge. It appears that the CAO chose who should be on these working groups, although it is unknown whether he sought advice from the Mayor or other Councilors. I attended a few of the PP working group meetings, having learned of their meeting times. I was not asked to leave. I sat and listened. I believe that at one meeting Deputy Mayor Simpson showed up and spoke. A municipality is governed by council. Municipal Government Act (MGA) s. 10. Section 14(1) of the MGA provides “The powers of a municipality are exercised by the council.” The Council has the power to establish committees (MGA s. 24) and the meetings of council and its committees are open to the public except in very limited circumstances, for example, when labour or personnel issues are to be discussed. The MGA at s. 31 sets out the responsibilities of the CAO. The section begins with: “The chief administrative officer shall . . .” And there then follows a list of things the CAO must do. Subsection 2 lists the things the CAO “may” do. There is nothing in the list of things the CAO must or may do which explicitly permits him to form “working groups”. Under subsection 1 the CAO must “carry out such additional duties and exercise such additional responsibilities as the council may, from time to time, direct.” Has Council has authorized the CAO to form working groups? The town does have a CAO Bylaw, but there is nothing there which permits the CAO to form working groups. Of interest is section 9 of the bylaw which provides the CAO does not have power to move into legislative authority. It may be that the CAO may have the authority to form working groups when such a groups are needed to assist the CAO in carrying out his administrative duties. But in the case of public participation working group, the working group produced a draft policy. The draft was discussed by the Council and public input sought prior to its adoption. However, in the end, the policy adopted by Council was very similar to the one drafted by the working group. The terms of reference proposed by the transportation working group has laid out how the public will be able to participate in writing the transportation plan. In effect, the working group has set out a policy which the Council will likely adopt. The fifth core principle of governance in the Town is: Transparency and Participatory Government. If the CAO’s “working groups” included just staff and outside experts, dealing with administrative or technical issues, then it would make sense to allow them. But in Wolfville, by either design or accident, working groups, with elected officials as members, address policy/legislative issues. These matters should be controlled by the Council and the public should know what’s going on. No study needs to be carried out to see the practices of other municipalities in regards to working groups. Other municipalities may not have transparency and participation as a principle of governance, and all municipalities need to follow the MGA.

David Daniels.

Our thoughts [ ours not Mr. Daniels]: We repeat Thomas Sowell’s comment from the last post, i.e. that the most important decision is who makes the decisions. It is a timely issue as we see public servants in other jurisdictions removed for not following the directions of their elected governors. This is the basis for responsible government. If you don’t like the decisions you can and should vote them out. Voters have no control over bureaucrats. If bureaucrats follow their own preferences rather than those of the government we have no idea who is responsible as these decisions are hidden behind staff doors. This is no less true in the municipal setting , otherwise Council is just a rubber stamp. It seems to us that these working groups are a way to get around  open decisions in Council.

We recall that there was an in camera meeting some time ago (on an early survey’s low response rate as we recall) that was questioned and the advice was (from the town solicitor?) that the Town  could call it a working group to get around the complaint.

Let’s communicate

This is a submission from one of our readers. We are posting it as received.

Let’s communicate

On June 7/10, I attended a town council meeting in which the consultant presented the final version of the public participation and engagement plan… (Let’s finally admit we have a communication problem in Wolfville… among other things.. we can call it INDIFFERENCE)  … as a resident of Wolfville I will be supporting this effort by “OUR” municipality to communicate… with the understanding that this document Is Not “ABSOLUTE” – like others have stated during this meeting concerning this document… it is a “continuing work in process”. I am all for communication which = Dialogue in this context.
However, there are a few things I would like to mention concerning this particular meeting…

1st. Social media in the form of face-book, twitter & you tube were mentioned as possible forums of communication the town could explore… this is ALL well & good if it is IN ADDITION to other forms of communication. No tunnel-vision by focusing on computers alone… u limit the output of your information by communicating with ONLY those few who can afford to be connected to the internet. Again, the town may not want to hear this “BUT” do not forget that in “reality”… the real world that is… we have a class system in Wolfville… I know this maybe an easy reality for some to forget. But, we do want to reach as many community members as possible… right??

2nd. I put forward on a number of occasions including the last workshop the idea of utilizing Community Broadcast Television – LOCAL TV. By installing camera(s) in chambers, the citizens of Wolfville who can not for whatever reason get to our town council meetings would be able to watch the proceedings on their television “Channel 5”. Other municipalities have used this means of communication successfully to reach their community members. Mr. Zimmerman was quick to jump on this idea when the consultant mentioned it in her summary via comments from the workshop. Mr. Zimmerman focused on the negative aspect of this venue as a means for GRAND STANDING. Let me ask whom Mr. Zimmerman was referring to??? I was under the impression by his comments that he was talking about his fellow councillors using television to Grand Stand… excluding HIMSELF I am sure… Forget about the fact that this is a means of communication that would help reach the people of Wolfville with the agenda and council discussions. What’s more important? And we must be such simple minded people that we could not possibly recognize Grand Standing for what it is if we saw it on television for ourselves. Right….. Because Mr. Zimmerman was quick to tear down Community Broadcasting for his own reason, I am willing to compromise …. (as a Wolfville resident who believes in communication and reaching the PEOPLE with pertinent information from Town Council, information that affects us all whether home-renter or home-owner in one way or another) and suggest an alternative if not television then at least consider “Community Radio”… perhaps a less intrusive mode of communication to start with.
At this time I will also take this opportunity to comment on something else I witnessed at this council meeting… I do not understand why it was that every time one of the new councillors asked a question… or wanted an explanation or clarification on something (like they did at this meeting as well as others I’ve attended)… Mr. Zimmerman was so quick to jump in or rather jump on them… (I recognize the professor role that continuously takes over, but this is not Mr. Zimmerman’s classroom) Mr. Zimmerman’s explanation was condescending. His lecture and gestures was as if his fellow councillors should not ask the question or that they were projected as stupid for wanting clarification… or wanting more time for discussion to better understand something… I do not understand Mr. Zimmerman’s attitude.
And furthermore… why Mr. Zimmerman would try to engage and or verbally attack a member of the audience as he did during this meeting… …was it a form of reprimand because he knew the audience and or this particular person was not allowed to speak or to partake in his venting… Why the Chair or someone did not step in and say ENOUGH….??? (and as an Elected Official frustration is no excuse) … although I must say his outburst was a good example of municipal monologue… he targeted one person in the audience and on another occasions two people have been signaled out in the audience… these are Wolfville citizens by the way… those whom Mr. Zimmerman considers obnoxious… (Mr. Zimmerman once gave as an analogy by example that if they-the obnoxious were in his class they would have been physically removed… if that’s how one/some of his students were treated in his class I ask… where is the learning in that???? )…. And regardless of what some municipal representatives may THINK… there are OTHER community members along with these two who want answers or rather shared information about various concerns from this municipality. Lest they forget this is “OUR” municipality…. some may not think so, but this municipality does answer to the people of Wolfville… ALL Wolfville residents. I know Mr. Zimmerman has done good things for his community and continues to… but in chambers during this and other council meetings his methods of sharing his wisdom leave a lot to be desired.
3rd. The question period or call it a community discussion if you wish… Regardless if it takes place at the middle or the end of the council meeting the question is… Will it be part of the recorded minutes??? If after the fact (after adjournment), again…  Will it be recorded as an attachment to the minutes?? During this time… Will the councillors be required to stay or allow to scurry off?? These are questions I hope the town considers before their final decision in this matter.
Lastly, citizens SELECTED to contribute information was also mentioned during this meeting… whether these are committees or working projects… maybe as a municipality your SELECTION should be RANDOM… like a lottery… where the municipality and staff has no stake or influence in whose chosen or who gets those coveted invitations that were mentioned.
Thank u for allowing me to express my opinion on these matters. As a Wolfville resident I appreciate your consideration. judoth aro.

No smirk zone

Here is the latest in activist wear in Wolfville, just the thing to suit the Town’s no nuclear,  no question and no smirk zone, designed and modeled by politico Lutz Becker. Love it Lutz!

Isn’t he a wild and crazy guy?

We know Mayor and Council have a sense of humour as they often enjoy having the raging grannies at meetings, so we are sure this was received with a smirk smile.

With thanks to a reader for the submission.

Comments? UPDATED!

Our occasional contributor Mr. Daniels is concerned about missing comments on the Town website as another instance of observed lack of openness in Town governance. Here is a copy of a letter sent to the Town Council with his questions and observations :

September 12, 2009

Dear Mayor and Councilors:

At the July 21st Special Council meeting at which the Draft Strategic Plan (“DSP”) was discussed, the Mayor, I recall, stated that the Town had received 12 written comments and that they would be placed on the Town’s website.

At the time of the July 27th Fiscal Sustainability Task Force meeting, none of the comments had yet been placed on the website.  I asked Town Administrative officials about the delay and was told that they would appear very soon.  (My own comment had appeared and then disappeared.)

A few days later, five comments appeared.  Why weren’t the other seven comments placed on the website?  And of equal importance, who made the decision to exclude them?

All public comments which may influence Council decisions should be made public, unless there are good reasons why they should not.  The presumption should be that public comments be made “public”.  The 5th Guiding Principle of Council is: “Open and Transparent Communication: The communication process will be open, effective, efficient and accountable to the citizens of Wolfville.”

Why is it important for the public to know what their fellow residents are writing to our Council members?  Here are two reasons.

What would happen if a public comment read by Council contains facts or arguments which other members of the public dispute or disagree with.  Without a public airing, the the public has no opportunity to correct the facts or provide a counter-argument.

Second, comments by some of the residents keep other members of the public informed, not only about his or her opinions and differing viewpoints, but about aspects or facts of life in Wolfville which not all residents may be aware of.

Are there privacy issues if the comments are posted on the website?  I was told by a Town administration official that one reason for the delay in posting the public comments was that the Town was in the process of contacting the writers of comments and ask if they had any objections to the posting.

One solution seems straightforward.  The writer’s name and any information which might identify the writer can be removed.

But is there such a right to privacy for those who write letters to the Council?  The answer to this question may be found by answering another question: whether the comments would be accessible to public scrutiny in accordance with the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy or Part XX of the Municipal Government Act (“MGA”).  In other words, if I were to come to Town Hall and request copies of all public comments submitted concerning the Draft Strategic Plan, could the Town turn down my request?  It does not appear that such public comments are exempted from disclosure by the Acts.

——————-

Of equal importance is the question: who made the decision to keep certain public comments off the website?

There is no Policy listed on the website which appears to deal with the issue of what comments should or should not be placed on the Town’s website.

The Town is governed by the Council (MGA Section 10) and the powers of the Town are exercised by Council (MGA Section 14).  One benefit of Council making decisions are that they are required to be made in public, and hopefully after public input is permitted.

In light of the Council’s 5th Guiding Principle, and the statements in both the MPS and DSP, it is clear that Council considers an engaged public and transparent government essential.  I hope that important decisions concerning the ways the Town residents become informed and engaged are not left to others to make.

Respectfully,

David A. Daniels

LATER: After we posted this submission as requested we looked at the Town Website and the only comments we saw INDICATED  were for the 4 way stop , on the Transportation initiative and a very old one on the New Years Levee fiasco.  Couldn’t find any on the strategic plan . The comments box reads zero. Here’s a screen shot:

Town - zero comments

BUT if you click on the “Add comments ”  you can read the comments: There are about 9 posted:  from Lutz Becker, David Daniels, Michaele Kustudic, Judith  Aro, Ann Anderson and others. But who would think to look at them since the comments box reads zero? crop zero comments

We hesitate to suggest that this glitch -convenient from some points of view-  is purposeful. It certainly could add to Mr. Daniels frustration.

So – our advice- if you see there are no comments- look anyway. 🙂

There  are actually very few places where residents can enter comments on the almost overwhelming  multiplicity of documents on the site. It seems there are only options for comments on the main pages.

We are terribly disappointed in how this (joomla platform)  website has been developed. If anything it is even more dense from the resident point of view than before.  Hard to believe frankly.

An open letter to Council

This is a letter to Mayor and Council from one of their constituents which he has sent also to us. Brian calls at least some of them gentlemen.

Dear Gentlemen,

It seems that Council is on the verge of supporting the Hospice Foundation to the tune of $114,533.

(1) I thought Heath Care was a Federal and Provincial responsibility?
(2) Does Wolfille Council (ie Our Lord Mayor) have an ambition to start meddling in Health Care legislation?
(3) This is a time when the citizens are calling for budgetary restraint. Is fiscal responsibility now off the agenda?
(3) The plans for this Hospice have never been seen by any of us. Where will it be built? How will its operation be funded (lets see the legal documentation)?  Can Council clearly demonstrate that they the vaguest idea of what they are FORCING the taxpayer to fund?

This Hospice business looks even more shady that the infamous Town Centre  Project… in that case we saw:
(1) The Mayor grandstanding in a CH article
(2) NO PLANS to flesh out what the Mayor was on about
(3) NO RESPONSE to taxpayer requests for a plans… including correspondence from this taxpayer.
The project had been funded, announced, and the heavy machinery was on the verge of moving in BEFORE anyone had the vaguest notion of what was going to be done!
(4) Some months later, the Mayor announces that he will meet with a bunch of business leaders to figure out a plan…. and that plan would include INCREASED PARKING.
(5) In the Mayors Newsletter, we are lead to believe that the GOOD citizens of Wolfville are right behind the CRAZY schemes of Our Lord Mayor. Well I am PROUD to be a BAD citizen!
(6) Next thing we see… concrete fish tanks all over a commercially important parking lot.

Oh, and by the way, that guff in the Mayors Newsletter — about how Council was being so consultative by allowing the public to listen in on their meetings — was outrageous.  The public can listen but not speak. Inconvenient correspondence is ignored. Mayor, in Australia they would call you a deceptive lying b_____d…. I can’t think of the correct Canadian words.

Best Regards to any Councilor who will represent the Taxpayer,
Brian

Brian’s letter went in one ear and out the other with some on Council it  appears as reports of the meeting last night come in. Although not in the budget for this year, taxpayers are on the hook (it seems) to help fund health care for the next 3 at least.


Municipal government takes on Health care

A slippery slope? Some might think so. Where will it end we would like to know? It’s enough for us to think renting would be cheaper.

Here is the latest from David Daniels on his view of the Hospice matter and the legalities of what the Town calls commitments.

During the budgeting process, Council agreed to fund the hospital and hospice beginning next fiscal year and for the next six or seven years after that.  Councilor Zimmerman raised the issue that the Council this year had no authority to commit money for next fiscal year’s budget.  This same concern obviously would hold true for years two through seven.  The Council at the time did not explain how it had the legal authority to make such a commitment.

We now have the Council’s solution by way of a proposed resolution for the special budget meeting set for June 22nd.

“TOWN OF WOLFVILLE VALLEY HEALTH HOSPITAL AND HOSPICE COMMITMENT RESOLUTION 2009-10

RESOLVED  that Council support the request for the Valley Health Hospital and Hospice Foundation to a total sum of $114,533

FURTHER RESOLVED that Council will attempt to fund this commitment during the current Council mandate.”

Read carefully, this resolution does not quite address the problem.  It’s fine to “support” the request, but the Hospice Foundation may be looking for more.  What are the “commitment” and “current Council mandate” referring to in the second resolved paragraph?

Here is an alternate resolution the Council may wish to consider:

WHEREAS,  the Hospice Foundation seeks funding from the Town of Wolfville in the amount of $114,533 over three to five years to [describe project]; and

WHEREAS, Council recognizes the benefits the Project will have, both direct and indirect, for the citizens of Wolfville; and

WHEREAS, Council acknowledges that it cannot legally commit to fund the Project beyond the current fiscal year;

NOW, THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED THAT Council should make every effort to fund the Project in future fiscal years in the amount requested, although the time frame for payment may be extended.

David Daniels
June 21, 2009

This Council seems determined to  force us – and the future mayor and Council whoever they may be – to give money to this charity and to set a precedent for property tax to be used for Health care funding. And Wolfville is such a trend setter – watch for this to be tried on every Council around.