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

Monday, March 1, 2010

Get those paws out of our cookie jar

“Eye on City Hall”

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

In close to 40 years of living in Oshawa, I cannot recall anything that has enraged the people as much as Mayor John Gray using our hard earned tax dollars for gifting MBA tuitions in the amount of $46,000 to Councillor April Cullen and his executive assistant, James Anderson.

No other wasteful or unjustified spending has created near the heat for the Mayor and his council---not the ludicrous ¼ million+ spent on the Cullen Gardens Miniatures, not the silly $40,000+ John Gray spent on his personal birthday party dubbed the Stephen Colbert Day, not the exorbitant 3 million dollar annual losses on the GM Centre, not the million+ lost on the Regent Theatre, not the ridiculous 20 million+ lost on the irresponsible and unneeded demolition and rebuilding of council chambers and city hall “A” wing and the complete refurbishment of Rundle Tower, not the planned and studied demolition of 80% of our indoor hockey arenas and their rebuilding in the newer and more expensive North End thus depriving less mobile children of hockey opportunity, not the disturbing demolition of historic Rundle House which was featured on a city brochure “Walking Tours of Oshawa”, not even the $40,000+ spent by the Mayor on his bright yellow 426 HP “boy toy” gas guzzling muscle car bought for him on the taxpayer’s dime.

The only issue coming close to the MBA issue is council giving us the highest taxes of all 25 municipalities in the GTA …and this high level of taxation is needed, of course, to fund these and all of the other unnecessary, irresponsible, wasteful and frivolous expenditures and political freebees at city hall.

Council’s actions demonstrate a supreme disrespect for citizen’s hard earned cash, and in many cases, a supreme feeling of entitlement city politicians feel with our cash.

At Council last Monday, both Councillors Brian Nicholson and Louise Parkes moved motions in respect of this despicable MBA funding.

Brian Nicholson, who recently argued on his facebook page that the rage arising from the MBA funding was “much ado about nothing,” proposed a motion (defeated) suggesting what’s done is done and cannot be undone (no tuition payback from Cullen and Anderson), making councilors ineligible to apply for funding under the City Hall Educational Reimbursement Policy (which sounds good, doesn’t it?), and suggesting all politicians to pay for publicly funded tuitions from their approximate $50,000 office budgets. This last suggestion from Nicholson would effectively hide future tuition payments from public scrutiny.

He wants to be able to fund education, perhaps his own, from the public purse, but wants to insure the public never finds out about it.

If Nicholson believes his office budgets could fund these tuitions, then his office budgets are too large and should be reduced!

But Nicholson's motion certainly illustrates that he doesn’t believe in an open, transparent, and accountable city council!

Louise Parkes, who didn’t utter a peep when she knew about the tuitions when they were first approved by Mayor John Gray, and didn’t utter a peep about the issue at a recent Finance and Administration Committee which she attended and which was the appropriate forum to discuss the matter after public controversy had arisen, saw a giant political opportunity had arisen, and rather than discuss the issue in committee with her political peers, saw great opportunity in exposing the issue to the Toronto Press and in presenting a multi-pronged motion to city council last Monday.

Parkes’ motion included a call for reimbursement from the tuition recipients (defeated) and a censure of Mayor John Gray for exceeding his authority in approving the tuitions (carried).

This is the same Councillor Louise Parkes who moved the motion to extend the eligibility of city politicians into the city’s Educational Reimbursement Policy in an Audit, Budget and Corporate Services Committee in the fall of 2006 and who had repeatedly voted to support it in 2007, 2008, 2009, and 2010 city budgets.

What credibility does this councillor have to oppose it now that she sees political opportunity in the move?

If Councillor Parkes did not support the policy, why did she move the motion and vote for it on two occasions?

If Councillor Parkes thought the Mayor went beyond policy, why did she not raise that in 2008 and 2009?

If Councillor Parkes didn't think the money was well spent, why did she vote to support the expenditure in the first place?

If she didn’t like policy, why has she never sought to change it since first passing it in 2006? Such hypocrisy!

Even Councillor John Henry, who continues to brand himself a fiscal conservative, was at this meeting as a voting member and, he too, failed to bring up the issue for discussion.

You’d expect councillors to portray the same positions in committee as they portray for the general public in the much more public city council meetings.

All of the rhetoric, political ramblings, and political maneuvering aside---all address the wrong issues.

There are a number of legitimate questions having to do with this issue.

Why are we hearing all this fuss only when council has been caught with their paws in the cookie jar? It’s too late to give excuses and make accusations of wrongdoing only after being caught.

We expect our elected councilors and mayor to be steadfast in carrying out the public trust the citizens have placed in them. Citizens are sometimes asleep at the switch because they’ve elected councillors to keep awake.

Unfortunately we’ve been wrong.

It’s too late to catch things only after being caught by the public and every member of council has been derelict in their duties and have lost our trust. W

e need a city council that has the integrity, the honesty, and the smarts to do the job. We can’t have council members sneaking cookies from the jar every time they think we’re not looking.

All of the discussion at last Monday’s Council Meeting missed the mark.

It’s NOT about: 1) Who and how many people signed off on the approving the MBA funding, 2) Whether the money has to be repaid or not, 3) Whether the policy is right or wrong, 4) Whether the same conditions that apply to staff should apply to politicians, 5) Whether Mayor John Gray broke the policy, 6) Whether Mayor John Gray exceeded his authority in personally approving the MBA expenditures, 7) Whether Mayor John Gray is able as Oshawa CEO to do whatever he damn well pleases with our money, 8) or any other question that has popped up to defend or criticize the MBA funding for Councillor April Cullen and the Mayor’s Executive Assistant, James Anderson.

City politicians have this all wrong!

It all comes down to judgement and public trust.

Because Council or the Mayor can twist the rules to do something does not make it right!

The CORE ISSUES are: 1) The Mayor’s lack of good judgement in approving the MBA funding, 2) The audacity of April Cullen’s and James Anderson’s sense of entitlement in applying to have their expensive MBA degrees paid for by Oshawa taxpayers, and, 3) The lack of oversight by the rest of council in not protecting the public purse by protesting this expenditure from the very beginning long before it became public knowledge.

And to make things worse, City Officials, probably at the direction of the Mayor, have clammed up on this matter refusing to provide public information which has been requested by Freedom of Information Requests.

Public figures have learned time and time again that full disclosure reduces public comment while not releasing information fuels public speculation and controversy...but not in Oshawa where misrepresentation and deception and political entitlements seem to be the order of the day.

We’ve had enough of this gang! All city politicians have lost our public trust and must be removed!

We need lots of new blood at city hall!

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

No comments:

Post a Comment