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 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/

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