|Posted on December 5, 2013 at 9:10 AM|
The following are questions I emailed to Mayor Tony Van Bynen's administration regarding his decision to bail out the Newmarket Soccer Club by providing $2.8 million of town reserves. This discussion was held behind closed doors.
In an ad to the Era, Mayor Tony Van Bynen boasted about the numerous reports available to council to back up his decision. He assured the public there was ample information to justify spending $2.8 million of our taxes to support this cost.
As a result of the Mayor's ad, a member of the public filed a FOI requesting copies of the alleged reports - and was refused by the Clerk's office.
Here is a list of questions I provided to Mayor Van Bynen's administration.
I have yet to receive an answer - or even an acknowledgement - on the following questions:
1. What were the agreed terms of the loan, such as interest rate, term, is a mortgage registered, and so on.
2. Which staff member sits on the NSC board? How often will this person be reporting to Council?
3. How many unique 2013 members (meaning not double counting someone because the player plays winter and summer soccer, for example) does the NSC have? How many are rep players?
4. What is the latest on the Woodbine land sale? When is the deadline for the NSC to sell this property before the Town steps in?
5. How much money did the NSC receive from the Magna Hoedown this fall? What proportion of those monies was used to pay down the sum
owed to the Town of Newmarket?
6. Do we have a draft budget for the NSC's 2014 season?
7. Do we know by how much the NSC will be raising its registration fees for 2014?
8. On the 12 member NSC board, 25% of the positions are vacant. What is the club doing to fill these positions?
|Posted on November 26, 2013 at 6:25 PM|
Last evening council voted unanimously to adopt councillor Chris Emanuel's motion to essentially reject the Marianneville application for the Glenway development and instead head to the OMB to fight in defense of the principle of development.
This was against staff's recommendation, who felt a better option for residents would be to reject the application and continue to work with the developer, especially in light of new negotiations. They also made clear the legal arguments to defend a fight for the principle of development at the OMB were very slim.
I voted in favour of Councillor Emanuel's motion. In my three years as a council member, it was one of the hardest decisions I ever had to make. Over the years - even before I was elected to council, the Glenway development has been a pressing issue for the ward 7 councillor. Faced with the threat of development of what was once privately owned golf lands, residents were understandably upset that these lands would be turned into homes. Over the years in Newmarket, as developers continue to build, many homeowners - in smaller numbers - have faced the same challenges. Last night, as Councillors Emanuel, Twinney, Regional Councillor John Taylor and Mayor Van Bynen read from carefully prepared scripts, they were greeted with cheers as though they were saviours to the residents of Glenway. Not one of them asked the consultant they hired with your tax dollars - insisting it was a great strategy two years ago - a single question. Prior to that meeting, we held an in-camera meeting, and although I'm obliged to keep it private, I can say with absolute certainty that these individuals are no heroes to homeowners in Glenway. This was - and has always been - about politics. But don't take my word for it. Let's take a closer look at council's record on the Glenway file: 2010, Election Year: Councillor Emanuel, Regional Councillor John Taylor and Mayor Van Bynen make it clear to over 400 residents in a packed theatre they will do whatever it takes to fight on behalf of Glenway residents. They're greeted with cheers and applause. 2011: More of the same at another public meeting. This time, new councillors Jane Twinney and Tom Hempen make sure they are formally on record for supporting an OMB fight. Councillors Vegh, Sponga, Kerwin (to the best of my knowledge) and myself do not make any statement on record. September, 2011: I am approached by residents in Glenway who ask me if they can be part of the application process. As I table the idea in a formal motion to council, all eight members vote against it. Councillor Emanuel states, "it (was) too soon for this type of action", although adding it was “crucial to help let the community guide the process.” http://maddiedimuccio.webs.com/apps/blog/show/8999505-my-resolution-for-transparency-on-the-newmarket-glenway-issue-lost and http://www.yorkregion.com/news-story/1456426-no-glenway-task-force-yet/ October, 2011: Staff and council decide to hire a consultant to assist with the Glenway application, insisting it would help the residents. I felt it was risky. My comments: "If the Town’s consultant recommends approval of the Kirbel development application, there can be no conceivable way that we can take this matter in front of the OMB. Our case would be undermined by our own “expert witness. By hiring this independent consultant, without oversight, we may be engineering our defeat with the Glenway development." http://maddiedimuccio.webs.com/apps/blog/show/9620484-why-i-voted-against-a-glenway-consultant- Fast forward two years later, and this is precisely what happened. May, 2013: Marianneville launches an OMB hearing. Councillor Emanuel suddenly has second thoughts on residents' oversight with the application - something he opposed and voted against two years prior. He states in council that "resident(s) (needed) access to discussions on the application." http://maddiedimuccio.webs.com/apps/blog/show/26499079-glenway-residents-get-politics-over-transparency October, 2013: Council holds a statutory meeting on the Glenway application in front of a packed church. I ask the consultant about "re-drafting" the town's Official Plan as a viable argument against the developer, something that the Glenway Preservation Authority's (GPA) own hired consultant recommended. Our consultant explains this tactic might have been useful two years ago, but once the OMB hearing was launched by the developer, it becomes too late. At the same meeting, a board member from the GPA expressed her disappointment that they were not included in talks with staff and developer over the application - something that could have happened had council voted in favour of the motion I put forward two years prior. Here's the thing: I could go on and on about how this file has been handled by certain members of council since the beginning. But what I will say is that Councillor Emanuel - nor any other member of council who took a firm stance despite understanding the complexities of the legislation - were interested in hearing any ideas on how this "battle" could have been avoided until it was too late. Over the years I have sat down with individual members of Glenway residents, including the GPA, and have given them my word I would do what I could to ensure my support via honest dialogue and transparency. I believe I made it clear to them that I felt going in the direction of an OMB battle may likely not result in success. In fact some Glenway residents approached me expressing that perhaps working with the developer might be a better route. I agreed with that. I still fundamentally do. Last night, faced with a large group of homeowners (some of them not even from Glenway) who clearly expressed their passion for preserving their neighborhoods, I wanted to make clear that they understood the risks of Councillor Emanuel's motion. The consultants that our council insisted on hiring clearly stated that we simply didn't have enough to go on to defend the principle of development because of the way our Official Plan was drafted for the Glenway lands. It's difficult for the layman to understand the technicalities of this argument - including myself. But over the years, I've educated myself on development legislation. But my job is to sort politics over truth. In the end I kept my word to the Glenway homeowners. They made it clear to council the battle they asked for us to support was one of principle. My vote is a symbolic gesture on their behalf - to defend the right we have as homeowners in order to defend our neighborhoods. I adamantly believe principle is not only a worthy cause to fight for - it defines us as leaders. But the way we fight those battles however, is what will also define us.
Based on what I was told by professionals, I believe our chances of winning this battle are slim.
That weighs heavily on me.
Last night, I asked lots of questions to staff and to our hired consultants - even amongst some "boos" from residents.
I voted in favour of Councillor Emanuel's motion.
In my three years as a council member, it was one of the hardest decisions I ever had to make.
Over the years - even before I was elected to council, the Glenway development has been a pressing issue for the ward 7 councillor. Faced with the threat of development of what was once privately owned golf lands, residents were understandably upset that these lands would be turned into homes.
Over the years in Newmarket, as developers continue to build, many homeowners - in smaller numbers - have faced the same challenges.
Last night, as Councillors Emanuel, Twinney, Regional Councillor John Taylor and Mayor Van Bynen read from carefully prepared scripts, they were greeted with cheers as though they were saviours to the residents of Glenway.
Not one of them asked the consultant they hired with your tax dollars - insisting it was a great strategy two years ago - a single question.
Prior to that meeting, we held an in-camera meeting, and although I'm obliged to keep it private, I can say with absolute certainty that these individuals are no heroes to homeowners in Glenway.
This was - and has always been - about politics. But don't take my word for it.
Let's take a closer look at council's record on the Glenway file:
2010, Election Year: Councillor Emanuel, Regional Councillor John Taylor and Mayor Van Bynen make it clear to over 400 residents in a packed theatre they will do whatever it takes to fight on behalf of Glenway residents. They're greeted with cheers and applause.
2011: More of the same at another public meeting. This time, new councillors Jane Twinney and Tom Hempen make sure they are formally on record for supporting an OMB fight. Councillors Vegh, Sponga, Kerwin (to the best of my knowledge) and myself do not make any statement on record.
September, 2011: I am approached by residents in Glenway who ask me if they can be part of the application process. As I table the idea in a formal motion to council, all eight members vote against it. Councillor Emanuel states, "it (was) too soon for this type of action", although adding it was “crucial to help let the community guide the process.” http://maddiedimuccio.webs.com/apps/blog/show/8999505-my-resolution-for-transparency-on-the-newmarket-glenway-issue-lost and http://www.yorkregion.com/news-story/1456426-no-glenway-task-force-yet/
October, 2011: Staff and council decide to hire a consultant to assist with the Glenway application, insisting it would help the residents. I felt it was risky. My comments: "If the Town’s consultant recommends approval of the Kirbel development application, there can be no conceivable way that we can take this matter in front of the OMB. Our case would be undermined by our own “expert witness. By hiring this independent consultant, without oversight, we may be engineering our defeat with the Glenway development." http://maddiedimuccio.webs.com/apps/blog/show/9620484-why-i-voted-against-a-glenway-consultant-
Fast forward two years later, and this is precisely what happened.
May, 2013: Marianneville launches an OMB hearing. Councillor Emanuel suddenly has second thoughts on residents' oversight with the application - something he opposed and voted against two years prior. He states in council that "resident(s) (needed) access to discussions on the application." http://maddiedimuccio.webs.com/apps/blog/show/26499079-glenway-residents-get-politics-over-transparency
October, 2013: Council holds a statutory meeting on the Glenway application in front of a packed church. I ask the consultant about "re-drafting" the town's Official Plan as a viable argument against the developer, something that the Glenway Preservation Authority's (GPA) own hired consultant recommended. Our consultant explains this tactic might have been useful two years ago, but once the OMB hearing was launched by the developer, it becomes too late.
At the same meeting, a board member from the GPA expressed her disappointment that they were not included in talks with staff and developer over the application - something that could have happened had council voted in favour of the motion I put forward two years prior.
Here's the thing: I could go on and on about how this file has been handled by certain members of council since the beginning.
But what I will say is that Councillor Emanuel - nor any other member of council who took a firm stance despite understanding the complexities of the legislation - were interested in hearing any ideas on how this "battle" could have been avoided until it was too late.
Over the years I have sat down with individual members of Glenway residents, including the GPA, and have given them my word I would do what I could to ensure my support via honest dialogue and transparency.
I believe I made it clear to them that I felt going in the direction of an OMB battle may likely not result in success.
In fact some Glenway residents approached me expressing that perhaps working with the developer might be a better route.
I agreed with that.
I still fundamentally do.
Last night, faced with a large group of homeowners (some of them not even from Glenway) who clearly expressed their passion for preserving their neighborhoods, I wanted to make clear that they understood the risks of Councillor Emanuel's motion.
The consultants that our council insisted on hiring clearly stated that we simply didn't have enough to go on to defend the principle of development because of the way our Official Plan was drafted for the Glenway lands.
It's difficult for the layman to understand the technicalities of this argument - including myself. But over the years, I've educated myself on development legislation.
But my job is to sort politics over truth.
In the end I kept my word to the Glenway homeowners. They made it clear to council the battle they asked for us to support was one of principle.
My vote is a symbolic gesture on their behalf - to defend the right we have as homeowners in order to defend our neighborhoods.
I adamantly believe principle is not only a worthy cause to fight for - it defines us as leaders.
But the way we fight those battles however, is what will also define us.
|Posted on October 30, 2013 at 5:40 PM|
After three years of being on Newmarket Council, I have been pleased with the number of changes I’ve championed that will have long term benefits for the community.
Yet I don’t feel comfortable resting on my laurels.
Being elected to serve the community is a tremendous honour. Too often politicians lose their way when they come to believe that they are entitled to their position. We never “own” a seat. We are given the privilege to occupy it for a brief period of time. It is what one does with that precious time that makes the difference.
And I intend to make a difference in the quality of life for future generations of Newmarket residents.
I’m putting forward an ambitious plan via a notice of motion at the next council meeting. This notice of motion is to give staff the direction to phase out recreational user fees for Newmarket minor sports organizations over the next 10 years.
To make this happen will require some time to wean the town off the money it collects from minor sports organizations, such as the Newmarket Minor Hockey, Newmarket Soccer Club, Newmarket Baseball Association and others, in order to make recreation more affordable for families.
In effect, my motion will be directing the Town of Newmarket Finance Department to shave off approximately $100,000 per year over the next 10 years to make this happen. With a budget of over $100 million, I think there are opportunities for savings, such as cancelling the $30,000 we spend annually on coffee for example.
Last year we easily shaved off $100,000 from the operating budget after I presented my motions to cut taxes (though we didn’t go far enough) – and so I believe this plan is do-able.
This is ambitious but it can be accomplished.
And how will Newmarket residents benefit?
1) Affordable standard of living for residents. Some local families spend thousands enrolling kids in minor sports to keep their kids healthy and active. It only makes sense that reduced user fees will equal reduced registration fees for families.
2) Community character. The benefit of an active lifestyle for children is well documented. Happy kids grow up to become productive and fulfilled adults.
3) Improved community health and wellbeing. I believe that the municipality has a role to play to promoting health and wellness of its citizens. This is a concrete measure we can take to show that Newmarket cares.
4) Inclusivity. Children learn tremendous social skills, such as fair play and team work, by being involved in minor sports.
5) Lower crime rate. Already one of Ontario’s highest density communities, intensification will mean more people in our limited space. One of the statistical realities is that when density increases, so too does the crime rate. But we can turn back the effects of greater density by making sports leagues more accessible to kids. A kid who is playing sports is statistically less likely to be involved in petty crimes.
6) Combatting childhood obesity. There is a significant cost to taxpayers in terms of health care cost associated with this modern day phenomenon. Shouldn’t we be encouraging physical activity to combat rising instances of heart disease and diabetes?
I believe that the overall benefits of eliminating user fees for Newmarket minor sports organizations greatly outweighs the short term “pain” of trimming our overall budget by approximately one tenth of a percentage point.
It’s the type of leadership Newmarket deserves and so I hope that my colleagues on council will see the overall advantages of this ambitious plan and will agree to support it for the benefit of our children.
|Posted on October 17, 2013 at 4:20 PM|
Earlier this week Newmarket council held a portion of our meeting at a larger location in order to accommodate the 100+ residents who showed up to ask questions about staff’s recommendation to reject the Glenway application development from Mariannville in its current form. This was due to technical issues that need to be addressed.
The third clause in this recommendation is to essentially go back to the drawing board and work with the developer to address these issues.
The Glenway Preservation Association, who hired their own planner at their own cost, reported that the Town of Newmarket should begin the process of the drafting of a full Official Plan in order to make our case stronger at the OMB.
Unfortunately, the town’s consultant advised this was not possible as the case is already in front of the OMB. It would have been a terrific option two years ago – but this council didn’t take that opportunity.
The Glenway Preservation Group, a group of committed, passionate residents dedicated to preserving green space in Newmarket, also mentioned that they were not a part of the discussions between the Town staff and Mariannville developers.
I was truly saddened to hear this but I am not in the least surprised.
That’s because the motion I presented and advocated for in September of 2011 – which was to create a resident task force for Glenway in which they could oversee and participate in these discussions, was denied by all members of council and Mayor. My motion included a formal group “consisting of two council members and five members of the public to oversee the actions of the consultant, review the final report, and advise council on the recommendations of the final report.” See here: http://www.yorkregion.com/news-story/1456426-no-glenway-task-force-yet/
Councillor Emanuel voted against this agenda item, insisting it was “too soon” for this proposal, suggesting that “strategies can put at jeopardy our position at the OMB, should we end up there.”
But we are there.
The very irony of this – as we heard from the Glenway Preservation Group’s planner on a viable option – is that it was an opportunity missed, as we now see this application in front of the OMB.
That means we have a limited arsenal at our disposal to fight this. But it doesn’t mean we should simply give up.
I spoke to many residents from Glenway after the meeting and shared some thoughts. Many feel we have to focus on what we can do going forward, but I reminded them the decisions and strategies we make today as a council defending our remaining green space will set the course of our future.
Case in point: as council moves closer to the date identifying the remaining open green spaces we want to preserve through the adoption of our Secondary Draft Plan, we need to be on the same page ensuring the mistakes from Glenway are not repeated down the line.
Regional Councillor John Taylor has made it strongly clear in workshops we’ve had on the Secondary Draft Plan that Ward 6’s Mulock Farms – a beautiful heritage property on the north-east corner of Mulock and Yonge Street, should not be deemed fully as open green space – despite what the town planners and consultant recommend.
It should be public cause for concern that a member of this council who is on record for advocating preserving open green space in Newmarket is also advocating to re-classify them for development.
Our records in the past have everything to do with moving forward.
|Posted on September 26, 2013 at 8:00 PM|
There could have been a multitude of titles for this blog. "The Old Boys Club in Newmarket"; "How Mayor Tony Van Bynen pulls the Puppet Strings", "The Real Tony Van Bynen", or "Amateur Hour in Municipal Government."
The point is that in light of several accusations on my leaving a council meeting earlier this week after the Mayor and his voting bloc's most recent attempt in restricting my voice, I felt it was time to release certain communication that came my way via some good folks who care about the transparency in government (see below).
Mayor Tony Van Bynen wants the public to believe that he is an inclusive, kindly old man who is getting attacked by a crazed female lunatic on council who simply (God forbid) can't be reined in.
The Era news is reporting that His Lordship Van Bynen feels he's owed an apology for having been called a "misogynist" by yours truly. In council chambers earlier this week, His Worship used his new found powers of procedural authority in an attempt to remove me from chambers after he demanded a retraction on a statement of fact regarding what an earlier report said, even though he couldn't produce said report. But my apologizing would have meant I was lying.
I wasn't about to do that.
Mayor Van Bynen and the rest of council didn't like my motions put forth on relieving the tax burden for Newmarket residents in the 2014 budget. In order to put an end to that, he and Regional Councillor John Taylor came up with a strategy including the typical "points of order", interruptions, and general other disruptive tactics designed to intimidate and censure members from speaking. It was Kindergarten all over again. The Mayor told the Era: "“Her behaviour was an exceptional challenge and I think the response was appropriate given what was said.”
I don't blame him. After seven steady years of tax hikes with him steering the ship, this man doesn't like any suggestion of reining in the spending.
The Mayor referred to my "behaviour" on council (ie: opposition) a "disruption"; opposition and challenge are behaviours that confuse him after years of keeping other members of council in line. Perhaps he's uncomfortable with women having a different opinion than his own. Usually, men in positions of authority who refer to successful, strong women as "disruptive" are either living in a pre-historic age or are called misogynists.
Mayor Van Bynen insists that “Anyone who knows (him) and knows what (he's) done in the community knows that (my) statements are absolutely untrue.”
I think perhaps someone needs to remind the Mayor that anyone who knows me knows what I've done on the national level for women in politics; which is to speak at prestigous events such as The Manning Institute conference on women in politics and how to overcome the barriers such as the ones Mayor Van Bynen contribute to.
Councillor Jane Twinney, daughter-in-law of former mayor Ray Twinney and the only other female member on council, explained to the Era that Mayor Van Bynen "has always treated her in a respectful manner." The publically demure, timid, and agreeable councillor who claims to support woman in politics advocacy group "Equal Voice", further opined that "At times, Councillor Di Muccio made her feel uncomfortable, if not bullied,."
Poor thing. She really should be completely ashamed of herself. In the following except below, Councillor Twinney illustrates the height of hypocrisy and is an example of why we need strong women in politics.
Councillor Twinney, who professes to support women's voices in politics, feels that if I want to seek "fame and higher office, I should go "somewhere else to get it."" She also suggests that I'm on some sort of cataclysmic path hellbent on destroying volunteers in the community and members of council and that I seemingly have no idea how to do my job - or that I'm even doing it.
At best, most of this nonsense is inside baseball. But at worst, it gives a glimpse of a disturbingly deep rooted cronyism, stagnation, and a lack of professional representation and qualifications for elected office. It illustrates the tight grip that Old Newmarket has on impeding a thriving, new, inclusive community that puts residents' interest first.
The truth is that Mayor Tony Van Bynen has been working behind the scenes in an attempt to undermine my work, my progress, and how I contribute to the betterment of this town by viciously employing his team in attack-style backroom politics while displaying his "official" and smooth side in public.
By the way your Lordship Van Bynen, since we're on the subject of apologies, I await yours with bated breath on the following.
In March 2011, after only three months into my term on Council, Jackie Playter, a core campaign strategist for Mayor Van Bynen's past and 2014 Mayor campaign bid, sent out the following email that was passed on to hundreds of Newmarket residents. The email was eventually forwarded to me. It contains libelous comments and untruths. Some of the recipients included are members of town staff, Newmarket Council, and businesses who have benefitted from municipal tax funded grants. Ms. Playter sits on the committee that hands out those grants. She is also recipient of the Queen's Jubilee Medal and Volunteer of the Year courtesy of Mayor Van Bynen. Jackie Playter has done many wonderful things for our community - but the email she sent out completely undermines the "inclusive" Newmarket that I was led to believe she supported.
The Facebook Page that Ms. Playter is asking people to join (since removed due to resident complaints) in the above email was a site that was dedicated soley to making disparging remarks about my character and my reputation; speading rumours, falsehoods and attacks on my name. Mayor Tony Van Bynen was fully aware of it's existence, yet made no attempts in asking his supporters to remove it. Like a gang of thugs, those who joined spent time creating posts focused on pushing the message that I was a blight on "their" community, insinuating my fiscally conservative agenda was "adversarial politics." Councillor Twinney's husband in particular was a big proponent of the group, encouraging others to join. When I confronted the councillor about it, she defended her husband.
Here's a message sent from Jackie Playter explaining to someone how Mayor Tony Van Bynen's people are working behind the scenes to ensure his power continues into 2014:
Ms. Playtor's comments above allude to her knowledge of having information on Regional Councillor John Taylor regarding conflicts of interest. If she is suggesting this, then I'm guessing Mayor Tony Van Bynen would be aware of it too. And if the mayor is aware of any potential conflicts that are not in the best interest of residents and that may be of a legal matter, he is obligated to be upfront about it.
So there you have (some) of it folks. At this point, it's suffice to say that this council has pretty much lost their authority and credibility to speak on any matters where I'm concerned.
While the Mayor smugly complains in the local paper that he's a victim of the tarnishing of one's reputation, he certainly has a lot to answer for regarding the above communication sent on his behalf.
In the meantime since it's quite evident that this group of eyerolling, smirking boors on council have made it clear they are confused about who they get to work with and will thus continue to reject my contribution to this wonderful town - as well as impede the ability to do my job - I will continue to hold them to account.
Newmarket deserves it. And that's the very least I can do, apparently.
|Posted on September 23, 2013 at 10:05 PM|
Here are some recent examples of how the Mayor’s administration and his Friends on Council run the Town of Newmarket:
1) FREEDOM OF INFORMATION and SPYING ON COUNCIL MEMBERS:
The Municipal Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act requires that all towns and cities operate in an open and accessible manner.
But each municipality is fully within their authority to deem the procedure in which they comply with these requests. In Newmarket, members of the public are not allowed to access FOI’s on individual council and mayor emails. If you request an FOI on staff’s emails, the individual member of staff is apparently told beforehand. It’s up to them to hand “everything” over.
The Clerk reminded me that staff should comply with transparency.
The Ontario Privacy Commissioner reminded me of the provincial gas plant email scandals.
So I’ll leave that with you.
Through my own Freedom of Information (FOI) requests, I have been surprised to discover that I was being spied upon by senior people at Newmarket’s municipal offices or that certain staff have been instructed not to respond to my inquiries.
The role of the Council member is not unlike a board member at a private sector business. Our job is to oversee the activity of the municipality and ensure that services are being delivered and tax funds are being used appropriately. When we have information denied to us, it makes it next to impossible to do our jobs.
As a Council member, I can not sit silent while the public’s right to information as the act requires is denied by an FOI process that falls below the standards of common sense.
Like any municipality, the money we have in reserves is not kept idling in a bank account somewhere waiting for a rainy day. To maximize the amount of reserves, we invest reserve funds most commonly in interest bearing bonds.
The Town of Newmarket made such an “investment” recently when it decided to take a portion of our reserves and put it in the high-risk bail out of the Newmarket Soccer Club.
On today’s agenda, Council was made aware that the Town has a couple of energy related items under consideration that it would like pursue. The first is to put up solar panels and participate in the provincial Feed-in-Tarriff (FIT) program. The second is to retrofit certain facilities and save on energy usage. Both of these capital projects had been approved by Council previously.
But here is where things get inexplicable. In order to pay for the capital investment in both programs, the Town would like to take out a loan – internally – pay themselves an interest rate of prime, and call this an “investment”.
Imagine if you were to place a loonie coin in your right hand and 3 pennies in your left hand. If someone were to ask you how much money you had, you would rightly say “$1.03”.
Now imagine if you were to “lend” your left hand the dollar and then ask it to repay your right hand that amount plus 3% interest. When the loan is repaid, you would find $1.03 in your right hand.
But, even though coins are travelling between your left and right hand, you haven’t made any money.
You still only have a $1.03.
In Mayor Van Bynen’s administration, this is a wonderful ”investment.”
(By the way, when asked if any other municipalities finance projects this way, staff couldn’t think of any).
When I pressed the treasurer on whether this was an “investment” (ie: making money is an investment; saving money isn’t) he admitted that the Municipal Act does not recognize this project as an investment.
But the Town of Newmarket does. So that’s okay.
And judging by the mayor’s skewed sense of reporting property taxes as a “head tax”: http://maddiedimuccio.webs.com/apps/blog/show/32066169-correcting-the-mayor-s-misleading-fact-the-truth-about-newmarket-tax-rates we know how creative accounting has a place in his list of “achievements.”
Many members of the public were upset to read my most recent Sunday Sun column where I explained how Mayor Van Bynen arranged greater powers to expel a Council member from chambers: http://www.torontosun.com/2013/09/13/where-is-the-municipal-oversight
Despite it yet having been ratified, today was the day he decided to abuse his new authority.
In this afternoon’s council meeting I put forward a series of motions to reduce certain expenditures in order to balance our municipal budget. I want to break Mayor Van Bynen’s streak of successive multi-year tax hikes.
You would have thought council would have been appreciative of the help.
Some of what I am proposing may be worrisome to certain members of council – particularly those targeted grants to specific business owners that leave residents with the perception that campaign donors are getting benefits at the expense of taxpayers. Check out 2010 campaign donations here: http://www.town.newmarket.on.ca/en/townhall/Vote2010.asp?_mid_=1194 . I can certainly understand why the Mayor likes the status quo. There has to be some benefit to being a member of the Old Boys Club, after all.
Despite having received dozens and dozens of e-mails (some of whom cc’d the Mayor and other Council members) in support of the 8 items I proposed, the mayor and his friends on council decided to ignore the public feedback and instead used the new procedural rules to pick the meat from the bones of the 8 proposed measures.
In fact Regional Councillor John Taylor suggested that my measures to cut taxes were a waste of staff’s time, since I put forth some of the same items in last years budget (which were rejected by council).
I guess Taylor’s own redundant and identical motion from last year at capping the budget to no more than a 2% increase, which he proposed yet again today a year later, wasn’t a waste of staff’s time.
By the way, his motion from last year passed but wasn’t achieved, even though he sent out flyers to residents stating it had been. Maybe John Taylor thinks he can wave a magic wand and make it happen for 2014.
One of the items in my motions included cutting the budget for staff coffee (last year you spent over $30,000 to buy coffee for us at the town).
But Councillor Hempen wanted to discuss the cup of coffee I was having at the moment instead. He wondered if it was appropriate for me to make such a motion while as I drank town purchased java (note: Councillor Hempen isn’t shy of helping himself to the frequent lunches on your tab – I prefer to buy my own lunch).
While I provided an answer during which I asked the mayor to address Councillor Hempen’s inappropriate smirks, guffaws and other general immaturities as I spoke, he instead chose to ignore the councillor’s boorish behaviour and deny it’s existence. (Note: the Mayor sits beside Councillor Hempen).
It’s not the first time certain male members of council act like dinosaurs. The mayor is well aware of my repeated appeals at addressing this Neanderthal behaviour - all to deaf ears.
Men like that are called misogynists. In fact that's what I reminded the Mayor of what he was before he had his opportunity to throw me out.
Minutes later of enduring that humiliation, the mayor tested out his new authority and threatened to remove me from chambers if I didn’t retract a comment I made on a staff report that he and his friend Regional Councillor Taylor deemed to be “infactual.”
It’s not infactual of course, since there’s proof of it’s existence. Read the email below I sent council members and Era reporter Julia Le hours after today's meeting:
Mayor and Council:
Mr. Mayor, today in chambers you attempted to force me to retract a comment I made on a specific item pertaining to an existing report. Both you and Regional Councillor Taylor stated my comments were infactual. If I failed to apologize and retract my comment of fact, you informed me (as per procedural bylaw), that I would have to leave the council meeting.
I refer you to the August 28, 2013 Community Services – Recreation and Culture, Closed Session Report #2016-36 (page 6 of 7, item x). This item will verify what I stated in council chambers today concerning the amount of staff time spent on meetings, research and reports with regards to the Newmarket Soccer Club loan.
1) Julia Le – I am cc'ing you on this email because it's important that as a reporter, you are not led to believe that a fact I made in council was incorrect and ultimately forced me to be removed from chambers inappropriately by the mayor. I am not able to quote the staff report verbatim because it was written in camera and therefore I would be betraying the confidentiality of the closed session. It is therefore my recommendation that you request an FOI on the above report so that you may see this for yourself lest you be led to believe that I was incorrect.
2) Mr. Mayor: you removed me from Chambers due to a lack of either a) not comprehending this specific report; or perhaps the more plausible explanation that b) not having read this report. You overstepped your authority as Chair of our Committee. You cannot expel a member by forcing them to retract a factual statement that was written and reported by staff. When you do so, you are denying members of the public fair representation.
Mr. Mayor, it's not the first time you have allowed certain men on this council - who sit within inches of you - to smirk, laugh or snort while I speak. To continue to ignore my appeals of this boorish behaviour and deny it's existence (today being the latest) - and then minutes later threaten my removal from chambers simply because your memory fails you on a report, is bullying of the highest order.
While I expect a full and public apology for the embarrassment you caused me in this public venue by my expulsion from Chambers, I highly expect I won't receive it. Your own boorish, consistent and growing behaviour targeted towards a female member of council is completely unacceptable.
Maddie Di Muccio
Councillor for Ward 6, Newmarket, Ontario
This is a sign of how I expect to be treated over the next 12-months at Council. I want Newmarket residents to know that I won’t back down and I will continue to fight for you - even if I have to carry on that fight from the hallway at 395 Mulock Ave.
RECORDING OF MEETINGS
In early 2011, in one of the first motions I ever presented in Council, I requested that Committee of the Whole meetings be recorded. The recording equipment was purchased months ago – and yet there’s a reluctance to put it to use.
I don’t have an explanation for the public when something like a $2.8 million soccer loan is passed in a rush and a simple device to record our meetings takes over 3 years to implement, but I can say that it’s the Mayor who directs the agenda.
August: we were told the recording equipment was ready to go (we even have a consultant in charge who’s been with us since the summer); and that the recording equipment would be tested at the end of that month.
September: another inexplicable delay. It won’t be implemented until October or November.
If today’s meeting was recorded - if other past meetings were recorded - the public could judge for themselves if this administration truly has the best interests of the residents in the decisions being made.
The public could decide if the mayor shows a lack of fair and mature leadership and targets a specific individual on council.
But until that day happens, I pledge to do my best to keep you up to date with regular postings on my blog, and I encourage you to attend our committee meetings.
|Posted on September 5, 2013 at 3:45 PM|
(The above is the only information made available to the public. As you can see under item 8, the "terms and conditions" have yet to be determined; leaving council with no information on them until staff determines what they are).
Over the past few days, I've been inundated with phone calls and emails from Newmarket residents - many of them Newmarket Soccer Club members - expressing outrage at council's decision to use tax dollars to buy them out of their troubles.
It doesn't surprise me. Against my advice, this council decided to have the negotiations and facts of this deal behind closed doors in an in-camera (secret) meeting and with out any public consultation whatsoever.
In what can only be described as one of the most bizarre and unprecedented decisions Newmarket Council has come up with this term, Mayor Tony Van Bynen, Regional Councillor John Taylor, and Councillors Emanuel, Twinney and Hempen decided that it would be a brilliant investment to pay off a 2.8 million dollar loan to save a floundering Newmarket Soccer Club that nobody else – including banks – saw fit to invest in.
Myself, Councillors Sponga and Kerwin voted against the deal; and Councillor Vegh was absent.
A club that’s been the recipient of federal, provincial, regional and municipal loans and grants, along with a recipient of prior and 2013 charitable Magna Hoe Down. A club that recently ousted their past president under an aggressive “Team4Change” campaign and suddenly found themselves with huge outstanding payments to everyone from their uniform supplier to the York Regional government and facing a rapidly shrinking membership.
What to do?
Rather than approach their members, they came to us. Your Newmarket Council, five of whose members, in their infinite wisdom, decided to dip into the business of handing out loans, courtesy of tax dollars, to select private organizations.
And by dipping into that business, they’re also, once again, dipping into your reserve funds. (Note that this past May the same members voted for an extra tax to “top off” these reserves).
Most municipalities understand that reserves are meant to ensure our town can set money aside for items that will benefit all taxpayers such as parks, playgrounds, and important facilities like those for seniors.
But over the past five months I’ve seen a very disturbing trend under Mayor Tony Van Bynen’s watch in using these reserves for questionable purposes.
For example, last May, council adopted a tax levy to build up a depleting Asset Replacement Fund only to squander a chunk of it to appease angry residents who didn’t want a sidewalk built in front of their home. So council voted to widen their driveways a few weeks later using the same reserve they slapped you with a levy on: http/maddiedimuccio.webs.com/apps/blog/show/26825537-your-tax-dollars-meant-for-road-rehabilitation-are-going-to-subsidize-homeowners-inconvenienced-by-sidewalks
Three months later it was discovered that the old Town Hall renovation came upon an expensive problem, with an additional tab of 1.4 million. The majority of council felt that helping themselves to the reserve fund would take care of that, too: http/maddiedimuccio.webs.com/apps/blog/show/31557030-when-spending-gets-out-of-control
And just when things couldn’t get any more reckless, this week five members of council thought it prudent to hand out a 2.8 million dollar loan to a private club whose future is on shaky ground and with a board who have yet to prove themselves capable of handling millions of your tax dollars.
You see the difference between a sports league and an institution of government is that the former is accountable to their private membership and the latter is accountable to the general public. The private club doesn’t need to present their finances to the public; the government does.
Newmarket taxpayers who are not part of the soccer membership won’t be able to see the club’s finances, but will still be forced to bail them out.
Is that fair?
In an in camera (secret) council meeting that I felt was completely out of order (the town solicitor needed ten minutes to find a reason to keep it from the public for a large portion of it after I challenged the town), council debated whether the Newmarket Soccer Club deserved to be saved.
And here we are, several days later, where I’ve received new information that apparently was withheld to me from staff.
I’m still waiting for their reply. I promise to keep you updated.
Now, in all fairness, I have yet to confirm whether the club has accepted the deal.
My guess is they will. It’s a sweetheart one.
Council members such as Mayor Van Bynen, Chris Emanuel, Jane Twinney, and Regional Councillor John Taylor (who whipped up this deal in the space of less than half an hour) have publically stated it’s a winner. They want you to believe it’s a brilliant investment. They’ve somehow come up with legendary numbers – with absolutely zero data to back it up – that the soccer club is magically going to prosper under the board’s new administration.
These members of council insist they care about sports in Newmarket. So much so that they would grant a $2.8 million dollar loan to help out to the soccer club.
But here are the facts. Ever heard of the term robbing Peter to pay Paul?
If Council truly wanted to help sports in Newmarket, they would have used the $2.8 million in reserves they handed over to soccer to build that artificial turf field they promised you instead; something that our community desperately needs and that would benefit all sports leagues. In fact staff spent over $10,000 to “study” the need for a turf field earlier this term. But Council felt you needed to save a soccer facility that’s owned and run by a private organization accountable only to their members and who are clearly facing scrutiny already - judging by the calls and emails I’ve been swamped with.
The Mayor and others want you to believe the loan is “highly secured,” especially because the NSC will be selling off a parcel of land in Whitchurch-Stouffville that was last appraised three years ago and has yet to find a buyer. 80% of that money will be used to pay a portion of the loan. Here are the facts: council didn’t receive a current appraisal on that property, which allegedly has no road access and is touching the greenbelt.
The likelihood of finding an interested buyer is shaky at best.
The second security is the soccer facility itself on Newpark Blvd, which is valued at approximately $3.9 million.
And here’s what I just learned recently: it’s come to my attention that in 2006, under the prior board, the NSC approached the town to ask for a loan and partnership for the dome. The club wanted the town to donate or lease land at a low rate. The council of the day (and this included Mayor Van Bynen) turned them down.
Once again, in 2009, the club’s prior board came back to council, seeking support as a guarantor for the soccer dome loan. And once again, the council turned them down.
My guess is somehow those same members who thought it was a high risk back then when the clubs’ books might have been in order thought it wouldn’t be a high risk today as they’re on the verge on bankruptcy.
It’s confusing – but it’s also clear these same members of council are desperately looking for any spin that will make them look like heroes after they realized they seriously messed up. In fact, some members of council have seemingly started a collective spin communication that there is " public misinformation" on this deal - despite the fact that they rejected my challenge to keep the discussion and information open and instead chose to go behind closed doors.
There's a reason for that.
Essentially, council members in favour handed over a $2.8 million dollar cheque to a private club under an untested administration with no drawn out, written plan – and the club gets to keep the facility to boot. Communicating this information to the public is reckless, irresponsible, and downright outrageous.
And after doing that, they made up ludicrous figures and numbers about the future of this club and their plan with absolutely no data or statistics to back it up.
The money used to bail out this club is coming from the town's reserve that was supposed to be utilized for other priorities.
Essentially, council members in favour handed over a $2.8 million dollar cheque to a private club under an untested administration with no drawn out, written plan – and the club gets to keep the facility to boot.
Communicating this information to the public is reckless, irresponsible, and downright outrageous.
Here’s what I think: a sports league is a private organization accountable to their members. The members buy into the league via registration. Those costs build and sustain the league. When they find themselves in the red (just like government) they go to their stakeholders to fix the problem.
Newmarket taxpayers are not NSC stakeholders.
NSC members are.
If the Newmarket Soccer Club facility had to be saved, it should have been saved by the members, because they own it. And further – the members should have had an opportunity to decide that collectively.
I care about sports. My husband is the President of the Newmarket Lacrosse Club and a board member of the Newmarket Saints. He coaches and mentors kids. We both volunteer. He and the rest of the board ensure the finances are kept in order so the kids can keep playing.
That’s how a sports league works.
|Posted on August 16, 2013 at 3:40 PM|
|Posted on August 14, 2013 at 5:15 PM|
In their annual reports, York Region Police identifies speeding as one of the top five issues most important to residents in York Region.
Many of us aren’t surprised by this. It’s certainly a primary issue in my own ward, where concerned residents contact me often about street safety.
I’ve discussed this many times over the years with an emphasis that there aren’t any easy answers forthcoming.
What I’m asking residents to do today however is to think about your driving and that of others and consider the following:
-If you’re speeding on a residential road, it takes a split second to hit a child walking in between parked cars;
-Talk to your driving teens at home. Speeding isn’t cool. Being mindful of pedestrians is.
-Think about your speed. I promise you – you won’t get there faster.
-We all have someone we love. Imagine if that person was the victim of a serious or fatal hit.
York Regional Police works with the community at large on identifying and working towards eliminating speeding. If you see a car speeding, fill out this report: https://onlinereporting.yrp.ca/RoadWatch.html
You can also contact me at email@example.com. I’ll let our police know and they will tag the area by watching it closely using their own radar speed board and patrol cars.
Changing our habits and behaviours is the first step in dealing with a growing issue. Help me spread the word.
|Posted on August 2, 2013 at 4:25 PM|
Summers at the municipal town offices in Newmarket are usually an opportunity for staff to catch up with the directions set by council and for council to focus on constituent management.
This summer however, has forced members to re-visit some pivotal issues involving the use of tax dollars and just as of yesterday, brought us back in chambers to make some difficult decisions.
It started like this.
In a prior term (which I didn’t serve as a member) the town applied for a $3 million+ federal grant. The plan was to restore the Old Town Hall, a dilapidated old building that had been ignored for years and was eventually deemed unusable.
In 2009 those members of Council supported using these funds – while throwing in a few million of our own – to restore what some call “The Grand Old Lady of Newmarket.”
The project was revisited several times on my own watch (see here): http://maddiedimuccio.webs.com/apps/blog/show/11914301-newmarket-s-old-town-hall-project and http://maddiedimuccio.webs.com/apps/blog/show/12599522-more-on-the-old-town-hall-project
Every time it came to council, the costs crept up.
In 2009, for example, prior to my term, it started off with the price tag of $5,100,000.
In 2012, it changed to $7,513,290.
A year later, $9,127,129.
And yesterday, after it was determined that the 130+ year old building had apparently missed pivotal testing on the foundation structure, it spiralled to a whopping $10.6 million.
One would think that a $1.4 million item would have allowed for a simple memo to council (we get mundane memos daily, dealing with issues ranging over a preference of muffins vs. sandwiches to whether we’d like to buy event tickets); and so I thought that at least this new business might be included.
I read about in the local newspaper after another councillor emailed questions to the commissioner.
(By the way, the answer from staff on this when I asked yesterday was a simple “sorry”
To the outsider, it’s clear that this project, which has been dragging out for four years as the building continues to sit forlorn with minimal work, has been an experience in disaster.
In fact, even the pro-heritage folks approached me yesterday enraged at what they see as a continued lack of transparency.
The question of transparency in fact, is why I voted against moving ahead with the project yesterday when council was presented with two options:
-Scrap the project entirely. Total cost to taxpayers: $1.7 million.
-Move ahead and replace the entire foundation for an additional $1.4 million. Total cost to taxpayers: $10.6 million, with no promise costs wouldn’t increase yet again.
(By the way, you’d think a crumbling, ancient building might prove to be with a shaky foundation during initial testing).
In council chambers, members of the public were demanding answers.
The decision we were forced to make at the 11th hour was a difficult one, and Regional Councillor Taylor’s attempts in getting specific answers, alas, couldn’t be met that day, staff said.
In fact staff and project manner, along with Mayor Van Bynen, emphasized that it was a “time is money issue” and that a decision was imperative now, as in that day. (By the way, most of us educated in construction contracts understand this concept, but after 4 years one would think it would have been brought up before).
There was some discussion precipitated by the Mayor (and eventually passed) that allocating a portion of the funding (specifically $900 thousand) might be realized through “reduced scope, contingencies and voluntary contributions.”
This means somehow he’s going to convince taxpayers that on top of your imposed tax hikes, you’re expected to happily donate to the construction costs of this building.
In addition, “contingencies” include money slated for other community projects that now end up taking a back seat.
And a “reduced scope” means the full extent of the project will be even less.
Of course, these minor details will be worked out somewhere along the line.
I’m not attempting to be negative on this issue; especially because it a difficult decision for each council member, but we need to seriously consider the reality of this situation and put our sentiments aside.
And here’s what that reality is.
Just last year council discussed “revenue sources”- an exercise proposed by staff to bring in new funding for the town.
We haven’t achieved that goal.
And now in addition we’re going to create “revenue sources” for the Old Town Hall construction?
Here’s another reality: this council just imposed a tax levy onto you because some of them felt uncomfortable with the cash available in the Asset Replacement Fund (a budget used to “repair assets” – such as, apparently, the Old Town Hall).
Although I voted against that levy, I’m starting to feel uncomfortable with the depletion of that funding too, because it’s now paying more for this project.
Yesterday’s discussion culminated in a 4-3 recorded vote with myself, Councillor Twinney and Regional Councillor John Taylor voting against moving ahead; and Mayor Van Bynen, Councillors Kerwin, Vegh, and Emanuel voting in favour.
Hempen abstained due to a conflict of interest and Sponga was absent due to a medical appointment.
I think however, the biggest eye opener for me were the unanswered questions regarding accountability, costs, and transparency.
How could I possibly make a spending decision based on that?