Well my request for media privileges was denied. I have already posted on this, no need to discuss it further. Here’s a link to my earlier post, or just scroll down this page past this article to find it. Oh, just as I was getting a link for the item below I see that the North Star has put together their overview of the matter. Here’s the link although I expect it’s in the Beacon Star today (their free Friday publication).
The North Star has done a very nice article on the senior staff reorganization in town hall I mentioned in my council meeting preview. I won’t discuss it further and just point you to their online article. (I recommend a subscription to the North Star, there’s something nice about reading things in print. And it ensures we continue to get local news coverage like this.)
Councillors and Mayor Reports:
Seguin Township will provide $10,000 in support of the Stockey Centre for 2013. That’s great, but it doesn’t go very far in covering the centre’s 2013 budgeted shortfall of $275,000.
There was a mention that many Ontario municipalities are facing major investments in aging infrastructure, with little hope for provincial support. Belleville is preparing to take on $80 million dollars of bonds and loans to meet its infrastructure expanses. That’s for a town with a population about eight times that of Parry Sound. Previous councils in Parry Sound were able to take advantage of matching provincial grants to replace and update our infrastructure, so we are a bit better off than other municipalities, albeit with some debt on the books.
Correspondence and Deputations:
Of the three letters received one, concerning an animal shelter, was put on the meeting agenda as item 9.1.1 and received extensive discussion.
There were four deputations, two of them primarily of an update nature from Georgian Bay Country Tourism, and the West Parry Sound Health Centre and Lakeland Long Term Care. The other two were my request for media privileges (agenda item 9.2.2), and another requesting a by-law to permit the limited use of all-terrain vehicles in town.
9.1.1 – a resolution to advise the community that Parry Sound cannot support an animal shelter was postponed pending further research and inquiry with neighbouring communities regarding their interest and support for such an initiative. Apparently there is an offer of $50,000 in private support for a local animal shelter. A second resolution regarding a $3,5000 budget item for the spaying and neutering of feral cats was also postponed.
9.1.2, 9.1.3 – resolutions related to fines and new parking meters were approved although there were two dissenting votes. The objections were largely related to the fact that the approval for a new parking machine should not be accepted in the absence of an approved budget.
Question to staff and council – why isn’t the 2013 budget ready for January 1st? Isn’t that when the budget year starts? I am aware of some collective bargaining issues and funding issues impacting the budget that will only be available later, but 80% of the budget could be reviewed, agreed, and ‘in the can’ by year end. Much of this silly ‘we can’t agree to this now’ language could then be eliminated. It sounds very bureaucratic. “I’m sorry M’am the hospital staff couldn’t attend to your son’s injuries because his accident isn’t in the current budget and we haven’t finalized the new one.” Come on council, roll with it, or get that 80% of the budget done by Christmas so you have the ability to make decisions. Council, you will still need to make the tough decisions, which it seems are more determined by personal philosophy than the budget. But the ‘crush’ of a final budget discussion can provide cover for unpopular decisions. “There was so much to review I guess it just was missed. Sorry about that.”
9.2.1 – the 2012 Annual Report of the Integrity Commissioner was approved without discussion. Yes, I will request a copy and let you know if anything of interest is included.
9.2.2 –a direction to deny my request for media privileges was carried. My blog was scurrilously impugned as an ‘information and opinion website’. I’d like to think of it as an ‘information and analysis website’. But you can only provide ‘analysis’ if you are provided the requested public domain information. I’ll keep asking for it. I’m sure the response of council would be the same, regardless of any label of opinion or analysis. At the same time council approved a resolution to extend media privileges solely to journalists employed by media outlets. I don’t believe they defined a media outlet.
9.2.3 – a direction to advise the public of amendments to the Fees and Services By-laws was approved.
9.2.4 –a resolution to approve the 2013 Key Performance Objectives Departmental Summary was carried. I’ll review it and provide details.
9.4.1 – a resolution to accept two offers for the purchase of property in town was carried.
9.4.2 – a direction to offer an additional two lots for sales by tender on MacFarlane Street was approved.
9.4.3 – revisions to the draft Official Plan were postponed until the next meeting of council.
9.6.1 – a resolution for council to endorse pre-budget approval of $5,000 to sponsor the Festival of the Sound’s opening weekend this summer was defeated even though this was a time sensitive issue. Because there isn’t an approved budget a decision to discuss the merits of the request could not even be entered into. I’m starting to think the role of this blog is less analysis than performing the role of the Greek chorus. For the lack of a budget a council was paralyzed. This whole budget process seems more a topic for a play by Aristophanes than Sophocles or Euripides, that is comedy rather than tragedy.
10.4.1 – an agreement with MasterCard to sponsor the Bobby Orr Hall of Fame and the associated golf tournament was approved. For 2013 MasterCard will pay $35,000 for this privilege.
10.4.2 – a by-law to update fees and charges for planning services was carried.
A couple of late agenda items were added. These included the granting of a 6-month temporary taxi license, and the addition of another individual to the Citizen’s Finance Committee. A closed meeting reorganization included a change in the status of a Stockey Centre employee from permanent full-time to permanent part-time. This will save $25,000 per year and help close the Stockey Centre’s 2013 funding gap.
The next meeting of council is February 19th. See you there.
Note: this is the last of the ‘official’ images painted on the fitness trail bridge and brings an end to the photos that have been included in posts related to official town business. To the students, parents and teachers of Parry Sound, especially Victory School, I offer congratulations and thanks for sharing your art and your vision.
Bridge Art – So long and thanks for the images.