Political Analyst and Observer, Bill Longworth's, Weekly "Eye on City Hall" Columns, as published in Oshawa, Ontario, Canada's Oshawa Central Newspaper

Monday, June 28, 2010

The screwing of the Oshawa taxpayer---the secret city hall doesn’t want you to know!

“Eye on City Hall”

A column of Information, Analysis, Comment, and unfiltered opinion
Bill Longworth, City Hall Reporter
June 28, 2010

UOIT/Durham College is going to flood the downtown with students and this is going to cost all Oshawa taxpayers dearly.

It’s going to have enormous impact on every homeowner’s tax bill.

The university is critical to the city’s future but its expansion should not come on the backs of the Oshawa taxpayer.

This is a “scoop” not reported by city officials, city politicians, or any news media.

We’re exposing it here first in the Oshawa Central Newspaper…but undoubtedly the story will be picked up for future wider distribution and be of vital interest to all city taxpayers.

In an earlier column, I indicated that moving large masses of UOIT students downtown and creating a second UOIT campus there was a huge mistake.

Even though Mayor John Gray claimed movement of UOIT facilities downtown was part of a planned “domino effect” towards city center renewal, I argued lack of city and political vision discouraged foot traffic from the downtown thus making it difficult to run viable downtown businesses.

This resulted in huge inventories of vacant space and empty storefronts that could be had at distress prices.

This city council, most of whom have been on council for too long, had failed over their decades on council to develop a viable vision for a vibrant downtown. The city centre was dead---and nothing was being done for renewal.

Flooding the downtown with students will exacerbate the problem in a number of ways.

In all likelihood, the well-publicized problems surrounding the main UOIT campus will now be duplicated downtown further discouraging the consuming adult population from shopping or dining there.

The higher class restaurants and stores will disappear, to be displaced by burger joints, beer halls, and dance halls, which will be a magnet for rowdy teens and twenty-somethings from far and wide, hell-bent on joining the party. Policing costs will be increased!

But all this is just part of the story.

By the year 2015, UOIT/Durham College expects to service 5000 students in its downtown campus, and this is going to cost Oshawa taxpayers giant tax dollars.

To service the growing student population, the university expects, in future, to purchase or lease as much suitable downtown real estate as becomes available. They presently have their eye on the McLaughlin Square Condominium Building which would be converted to student use.

They already have the former Scotiabank building at 11 Simcoe Street North as the home for its Faculty of Education, the 30,000 sq ft. Former Bell Telephone building at the SW corner of Bond and Mary as the new home of its Social Science and Humanities Faculty, the Regent Theatre plus a new five story building to be constructed in the parking lot behind the theatre, and the large Alger Press Factory Building kitty corner to the Oshawa Clinic at 61 Charles, and lab space in the basement of the Genosha Hotel.

Therein lies the problem.

All of these properties produced significant tax revenues for the city but educational facilities, purchased or leased, are property tax exempt. All of this tax revenue will be lost to the city. Even the city reports supporting the UOIT downtown expansion fail to mention this lost tax revenue and the politicians were not swift enough to question this lost revenue.

At the commercial rate, even when vacant, these properties would have produced millions of dollars of tax revenue to help fund Oshawa’s operating costs.

And now that these revenues are lost, you, Mr. and Mrs. Oshawa taxpayer, will have to make up the shortfall.

While I do not, at present, know the tax amounts collected from these University acquired buildings, I shall file a freedom of information request, if necessary, to establish these lost amounts if they are not voluntarily forthcoming.

I do know, that in 2008, a 4.44% tax increase raised $4,126,938, so that approximately $1M is raised for every 1% tax increase.

At that rate, homeowners will be tabbed for an additional 1% tax increase for every million of taxation lost from the downtown commercial properties occupied by the university. This is a cost in perpetuity to the Oshawa taxpayer.

Beyond this, the Oshawa City Council has recently granted the university $7.5 million of our tax funds to help with UOIT’s downtown expansion. This is more than the $4.5M the university itself will invest in the downtown.

Fortunately, as with every other large city expenditure, such as the $25M City Hall redevelopment, the $45M GM Centre, and the $25M Legends Centre, we are given the "toss-out-line" that these expenses will not impact city taxes. So rest assured that taxes will not be collected to cover this amount...oh yeah!

In lieu of lost property taxes, Ontario Legislation dictates that the city does collect a “heads and beds” levy of $75 per student from the university.

For the loss of millions of dollars of commercial tax revenue lost from the university use of the downtown buildings, the city will get $375,000 for the "heads and beds" levy for the 5000 students expected downtown in 2015 in consideration of the lost tax revenue.

This is a costly trade-off for city taxpayers.

In addition to all these costs and tax losses, the city, according to Chris Brown, Director of Finance Services, has provided year 1 tax incentives of 90% of property taxes accruing from the privately developed student housing beyond the land-only assessments on the west side of Simcoe just south of the University and this tax incentive continues for the next 9 years decreasing 10% a year.

This taxpayer burden is being borne by city taxpayers despite the fact that the university is operating at a surplus position.

Why is the university not funding its own development costs?

Mayor John Gray and his city council are raping city taxpayers at every turn.

I guess Oshawa and it’s downtown will not shed the nickname, “The Shwa” anytime soon.

And oh yes, Mr. and Mrs. Oshawa Taxpayer. Thanks for subsidizing our university in Oshawa. You’ll pay every day of your life….and pay handsomely once again when your child attends OUR university.

Be sure to follow Bill’s radio broadcasts, “Eye on City Hall”,
every Monday, 6-9 pm EST, on http://www.ocentral.com/thewave/

Monday, June 21, 2010

A Clean Slate in Oshawa Politics

“Eye on City Hall”

A column of Information, Analysis, Comment, and unfiltered opinion
Bill Longworth, City Hall Reporter
June 21, 2010

A new facebook page, “An outreach to everyone. An opportunity to heal and move forward. It's time,” has been started by Bill Steele, one of the candidates for Oshawa City Council.

Mr. Steele writes, “I am reaching out to all politicians to work together for a ‘Better Oshawa.’ New Candidates and Current Council members can all start fresh as of today. New respect and the betterment of Oshawa is priority number one.”

Of course, I am sure that Mr. Steele is a candidate for public office because he feels that the present Oshawa City Council has messed up at every turn, and that he can do better.

I guess, though, Mr. Steele is not going to, in future, mention all of the mess-ups that have motivated him to run for election.

This is unusual as Mr. Steele seems to be an excellent candidate for city council whose campaign has so far flourished by exposing and campaigning on many of the “negatives” of this city council---a council that concentrates on entitlements and self-serving bylaws that take up far too much council time.

Perhaps Mr. Steele is an early victim of the caution extended by the mayor, and outspoken incumbents like Brian Nicholson, who have called exposure of council mess-ups destructive of the city.

Destructive of the city my eye! What is really destructive of the city is failing to remind voters of the specifics of all the council mess-ups, thus insuring the re-election of the incumbents and their destructive, tax wasting, inept and sometimes unethical actions and behavior in the leadership they provide for this city.

If Mr. Steele were in the news business, he’d have a “good news” paper, and go belly up following his first edition. The public expects things to be okay, and in most cases they are, and so the public wants to know of any anomaly from the expected. This is news!

And there’s plenty of that negative National Press coming out of Oshawa---$46,000 MBA funding, $45,000 spent on Mayor’s birthday party, $250,000 spent on Cullen Miniatures which are now rotting in a city warehouse, city handling of the student housing issue, council’s unethical handling of Ontario Ombudsman’s Report criticizing City Council for its illegal in-camera meetings, etc., etc., etc.

This negative news all resulted from city council actions, despite the fact that Mayor John Gray and Councillor Brian Nicholson say negative news is destructive of the city. I’d say, “Then clean up your act, boys!”

And, of course, regular council observers know that Oshawa City Council itself is a fighting forum akin to currently popular cage fighting, where every councilor is trying to viciously subdue every other councilor into a tapout.

This is a function of the general vote where every politician is a competitor with every other council member, fighting to the death for the same votes, with their handsome $100,000 salaries and perks as a reward.

Hell, murders have been committed for a lot less!

Part of the problem with city hall is that councilors generally circle the wagons to hide the negatives, even the indiscretions of their fellow politicians, lest anyone focus on the skeletons within their own closets.

In many cities, investigative reporting by the local press exposes weaknesses in the political system, and often moulds public opinion as a force for political change.

Note the federal politician’s of all parties’ recent conversion to the idea that their political expenses will now be audited by Sheila Fraser, Canada’s Auditor General. Federal politicians were powerless to resist public opinion stirred up by the “Critical” National Press.

In this case, Federal Politicians of all parties stood united against the audit. We had lost the “opposition” role of the non-government members, which is one of the protections of the common good in our system of government. The “opposition” role had to be played by the independent press.

It is the opposition that plays the important role of attempting to keep government actions above board, righteous, honorable, and honest. Without this role, governments can degenerate into personal fiefdoms of privilege and power. The opposition role is an integral and important part of “responsible” government.

Of course, Canada’s Supreme Court says information is a public right…and that democracy itself cannot exist without an informed public.

So an opposition to question and criticize government authority is at the very heart of our democratic institutions.

This is quite contrary to the argument that Mr. Steele proposes which plays into the hands of the incumbents in hiding, as best they can, all of the shortcomings of the current council.

An opposition voice is not divisive…it is responsible…and a necessary part of governing at every level in a free and democratic nation.

How can the public be in charge of their political destiny in the absence of the free flow of all kinds of information which informs the public and allows them to make informed ballot choices?

Our whole government system at the senior levels is set up with an opposition that criticizes and offers alternatives...a role that is required by candidates for public office at all levels

Every candidate has two roles in a political campaign…to criticize what they see as wrongs, mismanagement, and wasteful and unnecessary tax expenditures, and to state their plans to fix the system.

And despite council incumbent’s attempts at silencing their opponents by loosing some of their lapdogs on those who criticize, even at senior levels of government, this column and my candidacy for mayor will continue to speak out to try to insure a fully informed public.

If this is not done, we will get the same gang re-elected with the same and continuing devastating consequences by an unknowing, unwary, and happy public.

The result would be four more years of mismanagement, growing political entitlements, and a too frequent unethical behavior by some politicians who have been on council too long, and have grown comfortable with stretching the rules of their conduct and behavior.

I'm in this race because I'm damn concerned about Oshawa, and how the present bunch are destroying virtually everything they touch---and I'm in the race to spend the next four years starting to turn things around to get things on track again.

I want a progressive, ethical, open, and accountable city council to serve the people of Oshawa. The growth of our personal investments in this city depends on it.

This column will continue to expose the rotting and smelly deadwood on Oshawa City Council. This has been the vital role of Canada’s free press since Confederation.

This is also a message I will bring to the Mayor All-Candidate Forums, and in my campaign generally, in my efforts to inform on the need for voters to “usher out the old” and “bring in the new!”

The clean slate the city really needs is fresh bottoms sitting on all of the council chairs.

And now for my giant vision and positive proposals for Oshawa….see www.wepromise.ca

Be sure to follow Bill’s radio broadcasts, “Eye on City Hall”,
every Monday, 6-9 pm EST, on http://www.ocentral.com/thewave/

Monday, June 14, 2010

City Council erects another monument to its impressive escalation of debt

“Eye on City Hall”

A column of Information, Analysis, Comment, and unfiltered opinion
Bill Longworth, City Hall Reporter
June 14, 2010

Well give yourself a giant pat on the back, Oshawa taxpayers, you’ve erected and paid for another monument to our city council politicians. The new council chambers and new wing of city hall opened for business last Monday.

Oh! Sorry! Not paid for yet. But you’ve accumulated more city debt.

The payback money over the next number of years is coming from our Oshawa Public Utilities Dividends and from city interfund loans such as the city’s various replacement reserve funds, which of course will be topped up again over the next number of years with ongoing tax collections. The OPUC dividends used to fund the project will not be available for use by the city to fund some of its operating costs to reduce the highest taxation mill rates in the GTA.

Although the most recently reported cost of the project is $15.4M, we really don’t know how much it cost because so many numbers have been bandied about by the politicians. The reported cost figures have bounced around more than a Harlem Globetrotter’s basketball---from $10.8M to $13.3M to $17.07M to $14.8M to $15.4M.

And now for city hall opening announcements, they have been dribbled downward once again. It’s also hard to determine, however, just what is covered in the costs being quoted, and what costs have been excluded to be hidden elsewhere.

And in press releases, we’ve been told that we’ve had cost reductions from tendered costs to result in cost savings from that $17.07M cost---oh yeah! Let me sell you a scenic cottage lot in the Hudson’s Bay swamplands.

I believe the total cost of the project is closer to $25M, and maybe more, when all renovations, furnishings, decorating, landscaping, rental of leased space and moving of equipment during the renovations, and preparation of temporary quarters during the construction, and hiring of the many project management and other architectural and interior design specialists and demolition experts are included.

Alas, we’ll never know. Politicians specialize in half-truths to pull numbers and arguments out of the air that they think you’ll believe. Like the energy savings paying for this whole project---bu-lsh-t!

In 2008, a 4.44% tax increase raised $4,126,938 so $1M is raised for approximately every 1% tax increase. Discounting variables such as city assessment growth, debt charges paid on borrowed capital, interest charges lost on city hall reserve funds capital, and the opportunity costs of what we might otherwise have done with this capital, we might estimate a 1% tax increase for the next 15 years to pay for the City Hall project, or a 2% tax increase over the next 7 ½ years, or a 3% tax increase over the next 5 years, or a 15% tax increase in one year to pay for this needless $15.4M demolition and rebuilding of city hall “A” wing and Council Chambers and refurbishment of Rundle Tower. However we pay for the project, it is a hefty penalty to pay for something we didn’t need.

We do know that the costs were higher than need be, though, since the old chamber and “A” wing were demolished before we had plans and signed contracts for the new project. I sure as hell wouldn’t want to tear down my house before I had plans, prices, and contracts for a replacement. But city hall is not nearly as concerned as we are with my bucks or yours!

Council Chambers re-building itself has been quoted as rising to $9M, a sizeable portion of the $15.4M being quoted for the entire project. At $1M to demolish the old structure, only $5M is left for the reconstruction of “A” wing and the total refurbishment of Rundle Tower. This hardly sounds creditable to me.

It’d take a forensic accountant to get to the real costs as the city accounting system spreads costs of any one project over so many accounts and over so many departments that no one ever knows the true costs. And these accounting entries often have insufficient descriptors so as to defy identification.

It’s amazing that city hall does not keep ledger sheets tracking the costs of individual projects. Only the costs of big contracts are identifiable. But don’t you know, children, that is done purposely so that construction costs can be juggled to keep the “truth hounds” at bay. Like those bouncing balls mentioned previously, the costs estimates and expenditures are all over the place. These city accountants are magicians at the behest of city council.

Fortunate for you taxpayers, though, we’ve been told that the costs will have no impact on Oshawa’s stratospheric taxation levels.

We hear this as a “toss out line” about the costs of all major City Council projects. If this is so, city hall must have its own printing press to churn out money. They just have to have a source of funds that is not taxpayer based.

With this extra debt, it’s amazing that city council can come in with a .9% tax increase this election year when they absolutely needed 4% increases over the last two years with the mayor vigorously arguing for a 9% increase immediately after the last election. I wonder what he’ll be calling for at the beginning of the next term if he wins. If I win, I’ll be calling for annual 3% decreases until Oshawa’s tax loads reach the average in the GTA.

If the city hall construction cost was the cost to erect a “good riddance” tombstone to the end of this shipwreck city council, perhaps most Oshawa ratepayers would consider it a bargain. As it turns out, there will be a brass plate erected prominently in city hall in perpetuity listing all those politicians responsible for this wastage. This should provide future councils a reminder about the penalties of wasting taxpayer money.

Now when the press toured the new council chamber last Monday, there was no mention of the upgrades that made this new building necessary---the leaking roof, inaccessibility to the handicapped, and energy efficiency.

You’d think that the rationale for demolishing the old and building the new would have figured prominently in the press presentation. Instead, mention was only made that seating capacity had been increased by about 50 to 196, that there was an up-to-date sound system, and a new video screening feature. All of these improvements plus all of the argued shortcomings that necessitated the huge expenditure could have been accomplished in a fraction of the cost of replacing the demolished building. These improvements could have probably been done for the same cost as demolishing the previous structures.

We should have suspected all of the sense behind this whole project when staff rolled out a report on June 28, 2007 that indicated city council had 3 options--- (a) do nothing, or (b) renovate “A” wing and Council Chambers for $15.2M, or (c) demolish and rebuild Council Chambers and “A” wing and renovate Rundle Tower all for $10.8M. A sensible council would have fired the authors of this document so that they could start new careers as stand up comics. This June report might better have been delivered as a huge joke on April Fool’s Day.

As Citizen, Rick Foster, wrote in a letter to the editor on March 3, 2009, “The way this project is going, the new larger council chambers are still going to be too small when the taxpayers converge with their pitch forks and melting tar feathers.”

Or as citizen, Ron Horner, wrote in a letter to the editor on February 23, 2009, “Oshawa taxpayers must really enjoy getting tax increases every year. They must, or why else would they allow this sort of waste to go on?”

And yet, Mayor John Gray in his February, 2009, “State of the City” address to city business leaders, politicians, and community stakeholder, cited this city hall renewal fiasco as one of city hall’s prime accomplishments.

Hell, I’d hate to think of their failures.

Oh yeah! MBA’s, Cullen Miniatures, overbuilding new ice arenas to put Oshawa in a surplus position as excuse to demolish arenas in older parts of Oshawa, highest taxes in GTA, cozy arrangement between mayor and some of his councillors and developers, handling of the UOIT student housing issue, GM Centre tax sinkhole, Regent Theatre fiasco, new downtown hotel letdown, Rundle House demolition, new Downtown Courthouse approved with insufficient parking and now all surrounding downtown streets reduced from 4 traffic lanes to 2 or from 2 traffic lanes to one, etc., etc., etc.

Now all that does put the city hall waste in perspective doesn’t it?

City Hall’s next major achievement to be announced? Dropping a Hiroshima type bomb on the Oshawa downtown!

Be sure to follow Bill’s radio broadcasts, “Eye on City Hall”,
every Monday, 6-9 pm EST, on http://www.ocentral.com/thewave/

Monday, June 7, 2010

One for You and Two for Me!... Are some city politicians on the take?

“Eye on City Hall”

A column of Information, Analysis, Comment, and unfiltered opinion
Bill Longworth, City Hall Reporter
June 7, 2010

While we undoubtedly have one or two city council members who are there to perform some ethical and valuable public service, we have others who are there to line their pockets with higher salaries than they’ve ever earned or could earn in the private sector, who play every ethical question so close to the line so as to seemingly erase the boundaries between right and wrong, and skim off every dollar in every way they can for their personal entitlements.

With the release of the recent Oliphant Inquiry commenting on the brown bags of cash former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney received from Airbus lobbyist Karl Heinz Shreiber, questions arise as to the honesty of elected officials everywhere and at every level. Mulroney, of course, stuffed the cash in a New York safety deposit box “forgetting” to declare it as income to Canada’s Income Tax authorities until it became public information.

Recently, Canada’s Federal Parliamentarians rebuffed Sheila Fraser, Canada’s Auditor General, from auditing the half billion dollars of expense money Canada’s 308 MP’s and 105 Senators burn through annually.

And recently, Oshawa City Council voted against public disclosure of their own expense records. What do they all want to hide? Is ethical public service less important to our elected officials than drowning their chops in the public trough? And isn't this secrecy contrary to the city's transparency policy?

To assure citizens that city politicians were acting in the city’s interest, City Council passed a by-law on October 14, 2008, putting in place a Council Charter as a guideline for the conduct of members of Council. It provides a single public statement of Council values, responsibilities and desired behaviour.

It stated, “Public service is a public trust, and as such, Council members hold positions of privilege. Every elected municipal official should be committed to the highest standards of ethical behavior and discharge their duties in a manner that recognizes, and is committed to, the well-being of the community."

The Charter Along with the transparency and accountability policy, we were told, will help ensure that the public interest is protected and Oshawa residents may have trust in the integrity and impartiality of their local government.” Good luck on this!

Council actions show that these are simply PR Documents which misrepresent the day-to-day values and actions of many of our politicians. These documents make it clear that the principles and values declared are operating guidelines only without any censure processes. Good thing for some of the politicians because some continue to operate in ways that most citizens would declare unethical, unfair, dishonest, and unprincipled.

Even though they were passed as bylaws…and you and I know that all bylaws have enforcement penalties---but not these bylaws, that have to do with council actions and behaviours.

In any case, we thought we’d look at some of their principles and just see how they’re working for the citizens of our city.

The charter says the key role of council is to “Act as the guardian of the public interest.” So we’d ask Mayor John Gray who trotted out this Council Charter with great fanfare how spending $46,000 of taxpayer money for the MBA’s was acting as a guardian of the public interest; how secretly spending $45,000 of taxpayer money on the Stephen Colbert Day (the Mayor’s $45,000 birthday party) was acting in the public interest; and we’d ask council how demolishing city arenas in older Oshawa and rebuilding north of Taunton was acting in the interest of the less mobile children in these older sections of Oshawa; and we’d ask council how needlessly demolishing our council chamber and “A’ wing of city hall and rebuilding at a cost exceeding $20 million is acting in the public interest. We’d ask the same question about the $40 Million GM Centre in downtown that loses $3 million annually was acting as a guardian of the public interest and about the $250,000 Cullen Gardens Miniatures purchase. We could go on asking this question about most of the city politician’s actions since this same gang has been on council.

The Charter’s first paragraph preamble says, “Municipal Council members hold positions of privilege. As leaders of the community, they are held to a higher standard of behavior and must discharge their duties in a manner that recognizes a fundamental commitment to the well-being of the community, and maintains and enhances public confidence and trust in the Corporation.

So Councillor Brian Nicholson attends Oshawa’s Committee of Adjustment, presided over by his spouse, Mrs. Kyle Nicholson, on behalf of one of his political donors in order to get development approvals through the Committee. What? Assisting his and his wife’s and his brother’s political donor to get development approvals!!! And this was for the selling a portion of Chopin Park initially assessed at over $180,000 for only $15000, with the city picking up all the standard developer costs of over $10,000 to allow the developer to build 24 apartment units? We haven’t established whether there was going to be a “sweetheart deal” with all of the lot levy developer charges but fortunately with the widespread media attention to this sell-off of our parkland, the deal did not get council approval.

It’s interesting that Nicholson went to bat for his political donor friend even though city planning officials had always recommended against approval. We don’t know what discount was proposed over the $408,000 the developer would have been expected to pay in development charges for the 24 units he was proposing. As former long time City and Regional Councillor, Bruce McArthur wrote, this guy was certainly one "lucky" developer to have a friend like Councillor Brian Nicholson.

So much for that “higher standard of behavior and discharging of duties in a manner that recognizes a fundamental commitment to the well-being of the community.

Nicholson's action raises serious concerns. Are politicians expediting development and selling their votes for political donations? This is an extremely serious question and an important reason to make corporate donations illegal and publicly fund election campaigns.

And what do you think about the ethics of a city politician representing a donor in front of his wife to get some development favour? Such favours are all at the expense of Oshawa taxpayers, of course.

The question of city political appointments for the spouses of politicians is very questionable and smells of nepotism, corruption, and profiteering. Nepotism and Cronyism are both defined as political corruption by wikopedia. All city hall actions should be squeaky clean and at arms lengths. Nicholson, no doubt, lobbied and voted for his wife to get that chairmanship of Oshawa’s Committee of Adjustment…but representing one of his political donors in front of his wife is reprehensible in all ways and stinks of rot. Former City and Regional Councillor and now Mayor Candidate, Cathy Clarke, lobbied and voted for her spouse Michael to get the City Harbour Commission Appointment.

All these connections sounds like Chicago politics in the day of iron fisted Mayor Richard J Daley.

The requirement of the City Charter in, “Ensuring the accountability and transparency of all decisions and operations of the municipality,” does not exist for this City Council. The city still precedes virtually every meeting of council with an in-camera session. And the Mayor personally dictated the $46,000 funding for his birthday party, the Stephen Colbert Day, and even city councillors could not get the cost for this until one filed a freedom of information request at a cost of $110. But the truly telling example of negating this principle was the Ward/General Vote Plebiscite and for which the Mayor said the city had no responsibility to inform the public of the question, its meaning, the difference it would make, etc. saying all this communication responsibility was that of concerned citizens themselves.

In respect of the Charter Principle, “Act as the guardian of the public interest," one need look no further than Councillor April Cullen having the gall to apply to use city tax money to fund her MBA degree tuitions, and when she is on her last courses, announces that she will not be running again, and takes an instructional job with Durham College, a job that she would be unqualified for without her taxpayer funded MBA. Her $100,000 political salary, I guess, was not enough for her to pay her own tuitions, despite the fact that many parents and their children go deep in debt to pay for their own education. Cullen justified the taxpayer cost as “only 48¢ per citizen over her four year term…as if she places costs above principles. Shame!

Usually when one has an employer funded tuition, one is required to work for a declared number of years to insure employer return on the investment. Pay back of the tuitions is now necessary as taxpayers are receiving no benefit from this expenditure. City council must vote to withhold Cullen’s tuition costs from the healthy retiring allowances she will receive. Of course, an ethical politician would direct that the tuitions would be withheld. We’ll keep an interested eye on how this develops.

And, of course, if city council was really interested in acting as a guardian of the public interest, they would have stopped approvals of these tuitions at the beginning. But politicians wouldn’t want to step on other politicians sense of entitlements, would they, for fear their own entitlements would be withheld.

We’d ask how the extension of health benefits to retiring and defeated politicians recently approved at the final hours of this council prior to the upcoming election is acting in the public interest, or is it, as is so much of council business, acting in the politician’s interest.

The Charter Principle, “Treat each other, City staff and members of the public with courtesy, understanding, trust and respect, at all times,” is a real laugher. To hear the bickering and the accusations and to witness the widespread council tension, conflict, and infighting is shameful although this is to be expected when all politicians are competitors for the same votes in the upcoming "General Vote" municipal elections. Council behavior seems to be more like a school yard brawl than adults working cohesively for the benefits of this city. And council members sometime extend this lack of respect and aggressiveness to citizens making presentations to council and its committees. With this negative and bullying behavior extended to each other and to private citizens, we have a dysfunctional and non-productive council…and Oshawa is the loser.

A key element of the City Charter is that politicians “Not use the influence of his or her public office for any purpose other than for the exercise of his or her official duties.” This Charter principle is obviously not important to Councillor Brian Nicholson. He has not only represented his political donors in front of the city’s Committee of Adjustment, he has used his political office to represent individuals, presumably at a fee, at other hearings. Apparently Nicholson presented his Regional and City Councillor business card at a Landlord and Tenant Board hearing in Toronto as his credential.

The city subsequently received a letter from Bryan Hackett, Hackett Simpson Tripodi LLP, Barristers & Solicitors, on behalf of Adel Kirloss, Landlord, inquiring as to whether Councillor Nicholson’s appearance before the Landlord and Tenant Board as an agent for the Tenant concerning a Landlord & Tenant matter (TST-01070-IN) with respect to 196 Spadina Road, Toronto was authorized by City Council.

It would be interesting to check to see whether city or regional council or committee meetings were scheduled on the day(s) of this hearing to establish whether Nicholson was putting his own financial interests ahead of his responsibility to voters.

Perhaps, the law office involved should have filed a complaint against Nicholson with the law society for acting as a "non-qualified" agent for a defendant in a pseudo-legal hearing.

Such complaints in the past have resulted in severe penalties for politicians which ultimately resulted in huge legal costs and the loss of their council seat.

Space limitations here prohibit me from further exploding the myth that the City Council Charter has on assuring positive values, ethics and behavior of city council members.

The Charter was only a PR Document designed to fool the gullible public about the true actions, attitudes, and motivations of many of our city council members.

While only some members of city council have been named in this article, more are guilty of serious transgressions. For example, all those who voted for the General Vote---Councillors Pidwerbecki, Kolodzie, Parkes, Sholdra, Marimpietri, Henry, and Mayor Gray were all voting out of their own self-interest and do not deserve your support in the upcoming Oct. 25, 2010 municipal elections. They put their own interests in getting re-elected until their death or retirement in front of the city's interest in having a representative, accountable, functional, and productive city government.

They designed a convoluted and difficult to understand plebiscite question and followed a strategy to limit public information and discussion in order to catch voters "cold" in the voting booth with a question they didn't understand, had not heard or considered, and worded in a convoluted way such that the "Yes" vote most voters would give, if they didn't understand the question, resulted in the change the politicians wanted.

This is vote fixing, a manipulation of the public, and an underhanded assault on this country's democratic principles.

City voters must throw out the incompetent and self-serving bums at the earliest opportunity if we are to get this city on track again.

City voters must elect a local government that works!

Be sure to follow Bill’s radio broadcasts, “Eye on City Hall”,
every Monday, 6-9 pm EST, on http://www.ocentral.com/thewave/