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

Monday, November 29, 2010

Santa Claus has come to town…Made a List and is Checking it Twice!

“Eye on City Hall”

A column of Information, Analysis, Comment, and unfiltered opinion
Bill Longworth, City Hall Reporter
November 29, 2010

You better watch out. You better not cry. Better not pout. I'm telling you why. Santa Claus is coming to town.

And Santa did just that last Saturday night accompanied by hundreds of volunteer citizens in the parade all of whom thrilled the thousands of children and their voter parents who watched the parade.

All was joyous with the bands, the lighted floats, the colourful costumes, and the many excited children and happy faces both participating in the parade and watching it.

While I didn’t see any tears, I did hear some complaints from many quarters that no city politicians outside of Mayor Elect John Henry were in the parade. Henry walked with Colin Carrie and Jerry Ouellette as part of the Local Conservative Entourage.

This is the first time in living memory that the parade has not been swarmed by city politicians. “A very sad and alarming concern for the well-being of Oshawa,” stated one citizen. Had this parade been just before the election, you can bet your booty that we’d have every one of the 70 candidates on the ballot participating in the parade.

According to one citizen, the entire new council should have been walking behind the Official Town Crier who could have announced their presence. As it was, the Town Crier walked alone in the parade with nothing to Cry About, except the disappointing lack of presence of those expected to be in the parade…but he certainly didn’t want to rain any tears on Santa’s joyous arrival in town.

But to be fair to all of our city politicians, every good little boy and girl knows that they have to be asleep for Santa’s arrival with his bag full of goodies, so maybe all of our politicians were asleep dreaming about the good fortune of their close to $1/2M windfall for Regional Councillors over their four year council term.

While Mayor Elect Henry has been silent on the many important issues facing this city, he has made one policy pronouncement.

He wants to run the city like a business and thus has stated that politicians should be on rotating “on call” shifts for the weekends, perhaps the first step in making city politics a 9-5 job.

So perhaps Henry’s pronouncement about weekend political work being scheduled “on-call” was the reason no other city politicians were in the parade. It was a Saturday Night and they weren’t scheduled to work. And besides, maybe Henry only scheduled himself in for this very auspicious Saturday night event.

It is interesting, despite Henry’s pronouncement about scheduled weekend work, that no politician besides Henry showed up at this very visible event so there must have been some planning, discussion or organization to this political truancy.

Anyway, Politicians, with the Mayor’s blessing and encouragement, can now consider themselves part of the city hourly work force. And maybe politicians boycotting the parade were “working to rule” since it didn’t pay “time and a half” for work on a Saturday night.

With all the important policy decisions waiting in the wings for clues as to incoming mayor John Henry’s leadership---his Regional Chair vote, the public health damaging incinerator being built on our doorstep, our high taxes, the expanded 407 highway terminating at Simcoe, the student housing issue, lakefront development challenged by the ethanol plant, the railway spur line and increased industrialization of our harbour area, downtown renewal, getting city debt under control, etc. John Henry’s first policy pronouncement was rotating weekend shifts for city politicians….amazing…but then a guy does have to set his priorities. .

It speaks volumes that the first priority of mayor was introducing reduced workload benefits to politicians rather than policy focuses for better city government and a better Oshawa future---not policy direction for the city but more “time-off” entitlements for politicians…and I thought we’d had enough of this.

Besides, with rotating weekend workloads, politicians can carve out schedules that meet their other commitments like pursuing educational studies (Amy England)…hopefully not at taxpayer expense, running a business (John Henry), driving a Toronto Transit Commission Bus (Mike Nicholson), working on the Hospital Foundation (Tito Dante Marimpietri), or selling Real Estate (Roger Bouma).

England, at $100,000 per year will be making twice as much as those professors instructing her on how to have more success with a degree.

Anyway, Santa’s making a list. He’s checking it twice. He’s gonna find out who's naughty and nice!

And Santa is quite displeased that the newly elected politicians didn’t attend as visible “thanks” for the votes they garnered. As one citizen, a former city employee commented, “Participation in the parade was always seen as a team building exercise---city staff, city residents who participated in the parade, and the politicians and city merchants, businesses and volunteer organizations, etc., the many facets of this city that work together to mount the parade.”

Santa is also disturbed that those politicians on the public dole for many years, who weren’t returned didn’t show up as a vote of thanks to the citizens for the lucrative employment they’ve enjoyed over their terms on council.

Long time councillors, like Brian Nicholson, enjoyed a virtual lifetime career garnering close to $2M in earnings in his 20 years of employment. He might also have been there, along with all of the other defeated and retiring politicians to thank the taxpayer for their windfall severance allowance in all likelihood exceeding $100,000 for many of those not returning.

With Ontario’s largest council turnover reaching a lofty 64% of the past council, the retiring allowances to city politicians may cost city taxpayers in excess of $1M.

I have requested these retiring allowances for all defeated and retiring politicians but have been told by city hall that I will either have to file and pay for a freedom of information disclosure or wait for the figures to be released in February.

Politicians like April Cullen, dealt taxpayers a double whammy. She not only gets her windfall retiring allowance, she retired with her taxpayer funded MBA which qualified her for a job as an instructor at Durham College…quite a step up from the clerical work she did prior to election to city council, probably based on the well-known “Cullen” name in these parts although she is no relation to the well-known family.

Election, of course, even in these days would be a breeze if your name was Winston Churchill, Theodore Roosevelt, or Albert Einstein, even if your intellect bore no resemblance to these historic figures. The name George W. Bush would probably even get you elected to city council. It’s a political asset to have a name that is already “branded”….just like Campbell’s Soup. We all know that some of our less astute voters believe that Barack Obama is our head of government.

Santa Claus is coming to town. He sees you when you're sleeping. He knows when you're awake. He knows if you've been bad or good. So be good for goodness sake!

As one City Voter said, “All I want for Christmas...Is our newly elected mayor and regional councilors to follow through on their election promises.”

Virtually all politicians campaigned for increased city hall transparency, openness, accountability, and getting a grip on escalating taxes, and for voters to have a larger voice in decision making. Mayor Elect Henry, in his campaign literature, phrased it as restoring respect for taxpayers and accountability at City Hall.

Santa will know if politicians are being bad or good in honouring their election pledges. Private meetings to organize block voting for retaining John Anderson as Regional Chair and organizing private meetings to trade off Regional Chair votes in return for support for Committee Chairs will just not cut it with Santa….so be good for goodness sakes. Santa is keeping a list and has noted some serious slipups already.

In a recent news article in the local press, Henry was quoted as stating, "Taking office on Dec. 6 will mark a new era of accountability and transparency in which “the blame stops here.”

We’ll see! We still do not know his positions on any of the important issues facing this city….but we do know that he supports putting his fellow city council members on a businesslike rotating “on call” weekend work schedule.

Santa will be watching and will simply leave a bag of coal four years hence to those elected who do not measure up to the “good” standard Santa expects from all the world’s little boys and girls.

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, November 22, 2010

Mayor Elect Henry Gets Euchred Even Before the Game Begins

“Eye on City Hall”

A column of Information, Analysis, Comment, and unfiltered opinion
Bill Longworth, City Hall Reporter
November 22, 2010

The Municipal Elections are behind us. We have elected a new City Council and a new Mayor to lead us into the next four years, but it appears that Mayor Elect John Henry may have been euchred---a political eunuch, neutered even before the council term begins.

We had a rather dysfunctional city council over the last term and voters elected a team of new faces that would hopefully produce a respectful and productive council that would lead us into the future. But there are early signs this council is already running off the rails.

It had already been speculated that Mayor Elect John Henry was probably not a strong or knowledgeable enough leader to keep the reins on council….this seems now to have been demonstrated.

I learned in over 29 years of management work experience, that assigned leadership is not worth a damn….that leadership is something you earn every minute of your leadership role, and concrete signs now appear that Henry is not up to the task.

It has been speculated that Regional Councillor Elect, Nancy Diamond, would be waiting in the wings to dispose of Henry following the next election to once again resume the mayoralty of this city.

But Diamond is not wasting any time in assuming the reins of power.

The political intrigue and war over control of council has not taken long to surface.

I have learned from a reliable source that, shortly after election results were announced, Nancy Diamond invited all of the newly elected Regional Councillors to her house for a meeting.

Not invited were Mayor Elect John Henry, and the rest of MP Colin Carrie’s Oshawa City Council “Conservative” Caucus, John Neal and Tito Dante Marimpietri. Nor were any local councillors invited. I have not established whether Nester Pidwerbecki was invited.

MP Colin Carrie’s active election support for Henry, Neal, and Marimpietri was a rather risky business. It is unusual for Federal or Provincial Members to take such an active role in local city politics. We do know that PM Harper is a leader that wants tight control of everything and perhaps Carrie was working at developing a formal Conservative Dynasty in this city to create a puppet city government controlled by Ottawa power brokers. Part of the motivation may have been to see that the Federal/City Waterfront Agreement with increasing industrialization on the East Wharf goes ahead without any hitches.

Now Colin Carrie’s “chosen three” seem to be being shut out of key council influence, policy, and committee chairmanships.

In a recent Press report, Diamond stated that getting back on council was like getting back an “Oshawa Team” sweater. She said that council will be strong enough that if someone decides to dance to their own tune, the rest will respect the mayor. “It’s about creating teams that can work together to bring about positive change,” she said.

Despite her assertion, it appears she has many new council members now wearing “Team Diamond”---not “Team Oshawa” or “Team Henry” jerseys.

Diamond’s actions to consolidate power and influence may already have rendered John Henry a “lame duck” mayor prior to his assumption of leadership. The other members of Carrie’s Conservative Club on council may also have been equally rendered “out of the loop.”

Anyway, Carrie’s involvement with his personally supported candidates which have been excluded from the Nancy Diamond meeting, has set up two opposing council facets….the three-vote “Henry Team” and the “Nancy Diamond Team” whose size and power is a question mark at this time, but seems to include herself, John Aker, Amy England and Bob Chapman.

The allegiances of Nester Pidwerbecki, Roger Bouma, Bruce Wood, and Mike Nicholson are unknown at this time but no doubt will become illuminated in the first weeks of the new council as will the solidarity of the “Diamond Team.”

It is obvious, however, that Diamond has already moved to consolidate power and steer the agenda of city council, and this would leave Henry as a toothless leader.

The first signs of the new alliances and who is in control will be when committee chairs are determined shortly after the Dec. 1st inaugural meeting of council. It would be a sign that Diamond is in charge if Neal and Marimpietri are blocked from Council Committee Chairmanships. Conversely, it will be a sign that Henry is retaining control if one or both of Neal and Marimpietri secure committee chairmanships.

There is indication that some decisions were made at the Diamond meeting.

I have heard on good authority that agreement was made apparently for Diamond, Aker, England, and Chapman to block vote for Roger Anderson to be returned as Regional Chair despite the fact that John Mutton has been campaigning hard for the position and certainly has the support of the verbal activists in Oshawa. There was also Region wide support for electing the chair by public vote rather than being appointed by Regional Council members.

It is entirely conceivable that some of the councillors at the meeting were promised both local and/or regional committee chairmanships in return for their support for Anderson. After all, these councillors must serve their own interests as they pretend to serve ours, mustn’t they?

Some Committee Chairmanships were apparently decided at the Diamond meeting. It was agreed that Nancy Diamond would be Deputy Mayor and that Amy England would be Assistant Chair of an as yet unknown Committee.

I am trying to establish more details of committeeships agreed upon.

Undoubtedly, Roger Anderson will swing support behind some Oshawa Regional Councillors for Regional Chairmanships as payoffs for their Anderson votes.

Ontario Municipal Law prohibits such private meetings from conducting public business and all indications point to the Diamond Meeting as illegal at worst or unethical at best. Certainly conducting public business with only a selected number of invitees from all those elected is grossly unethical.

All public business with a few exceptions for economic and personnel matters must be conducted in public.

If Diamond’s meeting was only a social gathering, all members of council, without exception, would have been invited. The exclusions of the “Carrie Team” indicate the development of two factions on council and the conduct of some business in the absence of the excluded members seems to indicate a lack of openness and transparency which all seemed to support leading up to the election.

This secret and private meeting sponsored by Nancy Diamond is dynamite, and shows her early determination to wrest control of the council agenda from Mayor Elect Henry, undermine his success, and her return to the Mayoralty in four years.

Politics is a “blood sport.” You have to be tough to survive in the “cut-throat world” of politics, and often operate with the ethics of Attila the Hun or the Godfather.

Nancy Diamond’s easy smile and engaging manner may disarm you….but make no mistake, she is one smart, tough and strategic cookie and has the vulnerable Mayor Elect puppy in her lethal sites. She is holding all the cards in this game and will Euchre Henry and his three-man Colin Carrie Caucus every time.

As the saying goes, we have a city government elected by the people for the people…oh yeah!

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, November 15, 2010

The Election of the Returning Council Members Can’t be Just a Co-incidence

“Eye on City Hall”

A column of Information, Analysis, Comment, and unfiltered opinion
Bill Longworth, City Hall Reporter
November 15, 2010

In looking over the results of the recent election, I note that only four members of the last inept city council survived while seven members are no longer on council.

All this change is good and a key objective of my mayoral campaign. As the public memory is short, part of my campaign strategy was to incessantly focus public attention on the missteps, mistakes, and misdeeds of the John Gray led city council to foster the public mood for change.

I also had to focus public attention on the misrepresentations of council veteran Louise Parkes whom I saw as a disaster for Oshawa should she get elected. Her campaign platform calling for “Fair Taxation” seemed to grossly misrepresent her personal spending habits while on council, a fact that I exposed at every opportunity.

I ran for the position of mayor as that is the only office where any attention is paid to what the candidates have to say and is the one office which guarantees most face time with the media…a necessity if you have an important message that you want to get out.

Getting my message out resulting in a huge turnover on council was much more important to me than any ambitions I had for the Mayoralty.

Since the election, I have had some opportunity to analyze and reflect on the results and one of my observations has become quite telling because it has distinct and important consequences for the city.

I had always insisted that Mayor Elect John Henry had access to the Colin Carrie Sign list as his signs got erected very quickly once he declared his Mayoral Candidacy.

Securing sign locations is a time consuming activity and was something that could not be done prior to Henry’s declaration as a mayor candidate without the secret getting out of the bag.

Also his sign campaign was far stronger in the east side of the city (Carrie’s riding) rather than on the west side of the city which is in Jim Flaherty’s Federal Riding.

Henry also likely had access to Colin Carrie’s election machine which has developed over three successful elections since 2004. There is no other explanation of his “running away” with the election. He certainly did not perform as a “superstar” councillor, being rather unremarkable at the best of times.

Colin Carrie has been in regular and frequent public disputes with outgoing Mayor John Gray and thus would have sufficient desire to see him replaced.

This would provide Carrie motivation to seek out and “appoint” a candidate to succeed Gray. Thus Carrie is likely at the very beginning to have convinced Henry to seek the Mayoralty offering help from his Federal Campaign Team as the bait.

Running for Mayor without Carrie’s help and intervention would have been unlikely since the general consensus by council observers was that Henry’s run for Mayor was premature. Even one of Henry’s friends indicated this to me at the first Mayoral Debate.

In the CAW retirees Mayor Debate, for example, John Henry, in answer to the question on how he’d attract industry and jobs to the city, stated that we have a deepwater port, a major highway, a main rail line, an airport, a skilled work force---we can built anything and ship it anywhere in the world. He failed to see that we’ve had these attributes for the last 50 years and still experienced a net loss of industrial jobs.

Not recognizing that the city has the highest industrial/commercial tax rates in the GTA making us uncompetitive even with Whitby, Ajax, and Pickering and that downward adjustment of these rates was imperative to attract industrial investment and jobs to this city, you’d think would be basic information and insight necessary to lead this city.

It is unlikely Henry would have sought the Mayor’s chair on his own volition without intervention from Carrie. His $100,000 salary as a Regional Councillor would have made profits from his small office products retailing business seem redundant and been a major loss to him.

A vital question then, is what Carrie might have offered Henry in the way of lucrative Federal Appointments to replace his $100,000 Regional salary had his quest for the Mayor position been unsuccessful.

So now you’re probably beginning to think that my suggestion of Carrie’s meddling in city politics is slightly delusional, schizophrenic or mad.

So how else would you explain that three of the four returnees to city council were also the three city councillors invited by Carrie to Ottawa, in May, 2009, to meet with the Government Leaders over the harbour, and even at the time get an introduction to the Prime Minister. You will recall that Henry, Neal, and Marimpietri were criticized by John Gray as “stooges” at the time.

Funny that all three were elected when we had such a major turnover on council.

Is this just co-coincidence, or is the hand of Carrie, and his election machinery, behind the re-election of all three.

Pidwerbecki, the fourth returning council member is, of course, popular within the NDP community as manager of former MP, Ed Broadbent’s, Oshawa Office.

Interestingly, Henry, Neal, and Marimpietri do not sit on Carrie’s Riding Executive, although Local politicians typically try to conceal their political leanings and associations in any case.

Doug Hawkins, a candidate for Regional and City Councillor, sits on Jim Flaherty’s Riding Executive. He finished well out of the race, placing 15 out of 26 Regional Council Candidates, and didn’t appear to get any significant or “official” help from the Flaherty election machine.

There are consequences to the re-election of Henry, Neal, and Marimpietri.

These are three of the six votes needed to insure that there are no glitches in the Federal/City Waterfront Agreement that support the continuing industrialization of the East Wharf, the construction of the Ethanol Plant, and the building of a rail spur to the waterfront industrialization zone.

Of course, this increasing industrialization makes the waterfront less attractive for condo and commercial development, such as fine dining establishments, as the pollutants, dispersants, dirt and grime and odours will discourage top developers with their financing from coming to Oshawa to develop our prime lakefront resource.

I guess my dream of a world class waterfront will not come to fruition and the marina will not be as impressive as I’d envisioned.

The Shwa will have increased industrialization guaranteed at our waterfront while other places like Toronto, Chicago, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, and even Buffalo, have been busy reducing lakefront industrialization and working at transforming their lakefronts into people places.

Maybe the next thing we’ll see at our waterfront, along with the ethanol plant and the railway spur line, will be giant cranes and a cargo container storage facility leveling some of our treed areas on the east port as the present bulk cargo facilities at our harbour get replaced by cargo container handling facilities in general worldwide use today.

Too bad….but the Oshawa people….and Colin Carrie have spoken.

Late footnote---I've just been informed that Colin Carrie was at Henry's election headquarters the whole night as returns were coming in and even attended Henry's victory celebration party on election night looking over him like a mother hen, I'm told---even accompanied Henry to the private feast at Sopprafino's following. Interesting that Sopprafino's is owned by Tito Dante Marimpietri's wife's family! I wonder whether Marimpietri and Neal also attended this feast---and which other elected politicians attended which may give an indication that Carrie's hand extended far greater than we have so far surmised.

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, November 8, 2010

Oh Henry! Welcome to your first call to the world of leadership

“Eye on City Hall”

A column of Information, Analysis, Comment, and unfiltered opinion
Bill Longworth, City Hall Reporter
November 8, 2010

Despite the fact that you have no “real world” leadership experience, Mr. Mayor Elect, the people picked you off the shelf due to your slick sign campaign based on MP Colin Carrie’s sign list, and we’ve been looking for the clues of your vision for this city to figure out what you stand for.

It’s difficult! We can’t recall any real leadership you gave on the term of council you’re just finishing. Certainly you didn’t stand out as a dominant member of that dysfunctional council.

We do recall a major error, though. You voted for the General Vote that the people have strongly criticized in this recent election and wonder now what you’re going to do about it.

Perhaps you’ll follow my plan to have a giant communication program about the ward vs. general vote question followed by an online poll and a mail in ballot for those who aren’t online to get informed public opinion with the promise of implementing what the people want for the next election.

I know the people will want to return to ward elections, the system every large city in the country uses if they don’t have municipal political parties which municipal law discourages in Ontario.

And Mayor Elect Henry, the people will be watching you on this issue!

Perhaps you didn’t know enough about municipal election systems when you voted for the general vote. You didn’t know the devastating dysfunctional and non-productive effects it had, and that’s why it’s not used in any large city in the country…or perhaps you were bullied into your vote by the council powers of Pidwerbecki, Gray, Nicholson, and Kolodzie.

It’s easy to see that being the “new guy on the block,” you were pretty easy to push around. As our new mayor, hopefully you will not be as easy to push around and hopefully you will insist on knowing a little more about those things that win your vote.

The people are depending on you and will be watching.

We do know that you supported all of the missteps of this past council. The 13% tax rate over the term, the MBA funding which passed your eyes without a whisper, the needless city hall demolition and rebuilding which wasted at least $20M of our money that you didn’t contest, the $46,000 Mayor’s birthday party that didn’t wake you up until it was too late….and now you’ve sold yourself as the savior of responsible spending….good luck!

The people are depending on you and will be watching.

You sold yourself to the public like that popular Oh Henry chocolate bar that you distributed at the mayor forums. Buyers typically don’t bother to look beyond the packaging, to inspect the ingredients to see whether they are healthy. Perhaps, voters have not yet looked any more carefully at the reasons for their votes for you…but that is about to change.

Every one of your utterances and every one of your hesitancies are now being placed under the microscope and the people are watching.

In reading your brochures, and listening to your presentations at the Mayoral Debates, you are still a “pig in a poke” for me, and perhaps for your voters. In listening to your debate presentations or reading your brochures, I haven’t found anything of significance yet that would tell me and your voters of your vision for Oshawa.

Your website, www.votejohnhenry.ca and your brochures never really told me about any specific ideas and plans you had for the city. For those who want to check your votejohnhenry.ca website to review what they’ll be getting for their vote, unfortunately all traces of what you said you stood for has now been erased.

You've ensured that voters won't get a chance to compare what you promised with what you deliver!

I still have one of your brochures which claims a realistic plan to ease Oshawa’s tax burden without describing your plan except for adoption of zero-based budgeting, which is a meaningless term for you as a policy setter.

Any policy plan has to focus on the end result, not the process to get there. The end result is a policy function of council which will in turn have a process impact on the bureaucrats.

The process impact we want is to cut out the city hall fat, waste, and inefficiencies. The “Tea Party Rebellion” has arrived! The means by which we achieve the end results don't matter.

If, as a result of the .9% tax increase this year, a game playing plan is to make up this year’s shortfall with compensating increases in February….Watch out, the public is watching! The public is sick and tired of games!

Council’s role is to approve the budget and not make it up starting from scratch as implied by your description of the zero-based process as having every budget item justified from the ground up.

Are you as mayor, going to get into discussions “from the ground up,” for example, about justifications for postage cost allocations? I think not. This may work in your home and in your little 2 man business operation where purchasers order from catalogues, but doesn’t work for a large organization.

Can you imagine the GM CEO and Board of Directors wanting to cut costs, and implementing your zero-based system and micromanaging the cuts across the system? Would the CEO have the time, the interest, the departmental operational information and details to micromanage or would the CEO and the Board simply set the policy and let those in charge carry it out? This is what the bureaucratic officials and department heads are for.

So Mr. Mayor forget the micro managing crap and your zero-based budgeting crap and get down to business.

Cut the spending allocations by 3% across the board as I suggested in my campaign to provide a 3% city tax cut for all residents and then work on getting the Regional Politicians to do the same thing to bring taxpayers a 3% cut in our Regional taxes. This is real leadership.

And while you're at it, don't forget to reduce our industrial/commercial tax rates to at least make them competitive with Whitby, Ajax, and Pickering. Otherwise, we'll lose all of the spin-off industry from UOIT to our neighboring municipalities.

Forget the smoke and mirrors crap and work on job #1 of cutting taxes. That will be popular across the Region.

As a policy setter, you understand that all the bureaucrats want increased budgets every year, but simply cut the crap. Insist on a 3% spending cut at both the city level and the regional level to cut out the fat, the waste and the efficiencies at both levels.

It’s doable if you focus on the end result and forget about all of the meaningless “smoke and mirrors” words like zero based budgeting which offers no change to our escalating taxes.

This will be your test, Mr. Mayor, and the people will be watching. If you let the people down, Nancy Diamond and I will be watching in the wings.

Forget the crap. As a matter of policy, you and council should simply dictate all department budgets be cut back 3% as I suggested during the campaign to insure tax relief to the people.

Might I also suggest you, and the voters of course, look at my vision permanently available at www.wepromise.ca. This may give you some ideas to start implementing direction in your leadership of this city.

Another critical problem you will have to deal with is the potential transfer of many of the 170,000 airplane landings and takeoffs to the Oshawa airport once Buttonville Airport closes. The Buttonville sale closed last Wednesday to make way for commercial and residential development, and as one of the busiest airports in the country, all its business will have to transfer elsewhere.

City Staff have been working on this issue for a year, Mr. Mayor. Why didn’t you or one of the other incumbents bring this up as an issue? So Mr. Mayor, get busy placating the Glens’ Residents over the increased noisy flights over their neighborhood.

And while you’re appeasing the Glen’s residents, Mr. Mayor, we do have a noise bylaw in town that restricts the takeoff and landings at the airport between 10:30 pm and 6:30 am but which exempts police, medical, and industrial emergencies and Oshawa based returning aircraft from this noise bylaw.

Those surrounding the airport would note that the extremely noisy police helicopter appears to do training circuits over the north end most every night after midnight interrupting the sleep of many north end residents. Part of the city enforcement of this noise bylaw should require the filing of the reason for these very frequent late night police helicopter flights on a public website listing the distinct law enforcement requirement of these late night sleep disturbing flights.

You have your work cut out for you, Mr. Mayor, and the people are watching!

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, November 1, 2010

The Election Post Mortem...without any regrets or tears

“Eye on City Hall”

A column of Information, Analysis, Comment, and unfiltered opinion
Bill Longworth, City Hall Reporter
November 1, 2010

The election is over and the people have spoken. I am happy with many aspects of the results and have concerns about other aspects of it.

I ran as mayor, obviously because I believed there were many shortcomings in council actions and in the direction it was taking this city. Had I been satisfied with council, I wouldn’t have run.

In many ways, I feel my campaign set the agenda and tone for the election and in many ways determined its outcomes. Some candidates adapted some of the ideas I had proposed, and no doubt others will be adopted in the future and I will be communicating some of these ideas directly to those elected.

The Mayor’s race is the only one voters are vitally interested in as they realize it is the Mayor who sets the agenda, tone, and direction for Council. Therefore the Mayor’s Platform is important. The ideas of those running for other positions gets lost in the shuffle. Because the Mayor alone gets elected on his platform, council members have a moral responsibility to support the Mayor’s platform in implementing the will of the people. My race for Mayor therefore, gave my ideas the light of day.

My key reason for running was to try to defeat those members of city council who irresponsibly voted to give the city the unwieldy “General Vote” election system not used in any large city in the country. The resulting 70 name ballot made it impossible to know the candidates. This lets incumbents hide in the weeds and get elected on name recognition only rather than service to the community.

Of the seven council members supporting the implementation of the General Vote, only Pidwerbecki, Marimpietri, and Henry survived this election with John Gray, Louise Parkes, and Maryanne Sholdra being defeated and Joe Kolodzie resigning. I also wanted to defeat April Cullen for getting her MBA at taxpayer expense and Brian Nicholson for his general dishonesty, bullying, lack of integrity, and lying about his academic credentials. So success in this objective was achieved.

A classic example of the General Vote’s shortcoming is Maryanne Sholdra’s near win in the election. She was widely recognized as a wasted council seat missing many meetings, often arriving late and leaving early, and absenting herself regularly during meetings. She didn’t seem to understand the issues and her participation was limited to asking questions and making remarks that had already been raised. Despite this, she just narrowly got defeated and in the process beat out Mark Paton and UOIT Business Professor Will Thurber, both of whom have MBA’s that might have brought a business sense to the council table. Interestingly, voters missed on 2 additional MBA candidates in Kevin Brady and Doug Hawkins who would have brought intelligence and business sense and knowledge to the council table.

In our democratic system, “the public is always right” even though they don’t always “get it right.” Sometimes a candidate’s name is more important than their platform. This is especially true with the General Vote where there are so many candidates. Coming first on the ballot like Aker, for example, or having "politically great" names like England or John Henry is a distinct advantage. The poor guy with the handle Esrick H. Quintyn didn’t have a chance even if he was as good as Jesus Christ.

The General Vote system was highly criticized by voters and hopefully the new city council will implement a midterm information program for citizens and then provide an online voting system, supplemented with a mail-in ballot, to canvas citizen’s desires for a return to Ward Voting for the next (2014) election.

The announcement of such a program, along with the implementation of residential and industrial/commercial tax cuts to make Oshawa competitive with Whitby, Ajax, and Pickering in attracting new investment in this community will be an early test of the responsiveness of John Henry’s administration to the wishes of the people. Without these, he will go the way of the Dodo bird following the next election as Nancy Diamond is now sitting in the wings waiting for the opportunity to resume the Mayorship should Henry flounder.

Some have questioned whether John Henry has the strength of personality and intellect to lead this council. Over his four years on council, he has not shown any real leadership, vision, direction, or insight into Oshawa problems. Indeed in this election, he has not defined any real platform except to put all of the best ideas of council candidates on the table to select a new course for Oshawa. I don’t think real leadership is seeing which way the wind blows. He did have a great sign campaign though and was fortunate in having access to Colin Carrie’s Sign List.

In terms of insight into Oshawa problems, John Henry’s answer to attracting industry at the CAW retirees Mayor Debate was: “We have a deepwater port. We’re on the main rail line across the country. We’re on a major highway. We have an airport. We have a skilled workforce. We can build anything and ship it anywhere in the world!”

What Henry failed to see is that we’ve had all these attributes for the last half century and still have a net outflow of industrial jobs. He failed to know that the city has the highest industrial/commercial tax rate in the GTA that scares away industrial investment like a cornered skunk. We are not competitive with Whitby, Ajax, and Pickering where investors would save from $206,000 to $226,000 annually by locating a $25M plant there. It’s amazing that our incoming mayor did not know these basic facts about this crucial problem.

I do commend John Henry, however, on his apparent honesty, integrity, and sincerity and, for Oshawa’s future, do wish him well and pray that he’s up to the job.

From all reports, if we can believe the election materials of successful candidates, we have a number of fiscal hawks elected in Nancy Diamond, Bruce Wood, Roger Bouma, Bob Chapman, and John Aker so we may very well see tax cuts in our future.

Despite what some voters have told me, I had the strongest and most far-reaching and visionary platform of any candidate for any position, and a city lawyer said my platform was “head and shoulders” above all candidates, some have criticized me for running a negative campaign.

I did expose city council’s missteps, mistakes, and misdeeds and over the campaign became aware of the tremendous liberties Louise Parkes was taking with the truth. Her motto “Fair Taxes” did not seem at all consistent with her practice on council in wallowing in the public trough for her own entitlements---the highest expensing councillor, arguing for a bigger office budget to cover her travel expenses, a 54% salary/expense spending increase in the first 3 years of her present term and exorbitant cell phone bill $23 less than the total of 8 of her fellow council members...and felt a responsibility to expose these inconsistencies to the public. I could not stand by and watch her blatant lies fuelled by her personal ambitions.

Many election observers, me included, have roundly criticized two of the newspapers in town for printing their choices for election. These endorsements were simply personal choices not based on any survey or opinion polls and were no better than your judgement or mine. Readers do expect the comments of the press to be somewhat objective and accurate but no rationale for the decisions were made. That leaves open the charge that the papers were trying to influence the results to protect their city advertising revenues.

Oshawa Express correctly chose John Henry as Mayor, but were wrong on 3 of their 7 Regional Councillor Choices and wrong on 2 of their 3 Local Councillor Positions. Only 6 of their 11 choices were right for a poor 55% accuracy reading.

Oshawa This Week was wrong on their choice of Mayor, wrong on 3 of their 7 Regional Councillor Choices and wrong on 2 of 3 of their Local Councillor Choices. Only 5 of their 11 choices were right for a pathetic 45% accuracy rating in predicting the results.

I believe it was unprofessional for these papers to publish this information when it is not based on any scientific and objective polling. After all, it is the people who elect the council, not the press. Hopefully the accuracy of both papers in their general reporting is higher than this.

Clearly neither newspaper had its hand on the pulse of the people. It is unclear how much these affected the election results but certainly it is irresponsible journalism.

All-in-all, the hard work and $4800 I spend on this election produced a good show in a race with a $100,279.20 spending limit. And with this effort and expenditure, I believe I helped to shape Oshawa’s future.

Despite the election result, I’m calling it a “WIN!” I accomplished much of what I set out to do---a win in anybody’s book!

I’ll call my $4800 election expense an investment of a responsible and concerned citizen in Oshawa’s future.

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