Aldo DiCarlo’s answers to questions 1 to 19 are below:
Edited: a PDF is also available here, published with his permission.
I am providing my answers with the hope that they be used as a guide to understanding me as a candidate for the position of Mayor of Amherstburg, and I hope that before anyone read anything out of context, that they please contact me first to allow me the opportunity to explain my ideas further. Thank you for the opportunity to answer these questions.
Question 1: Toxic Culture At Town Hall
In order to answer this question, I will assume that Town Hall does indeed have a toxic work environment. The first thing I would do is confirm this to be true. It has been my experience that toxic work environments originate from the top, at least more often than not. A good leader, regardless of their title or position, should always be aware it exists. Assuming competence and awareness of the environment, it has to be then that the toxic work environment is being allowed to fester. The alternative is that those who lead, that should know, don’t actually know the environment exists, and that becomes a question of competence. Therein lies the answer. Were/are the senior administrators aware of the issue and what are they doing about it? It is my position that the Council, like a board of directors, is an oversight body that governs and holds accountable those whose job it is to address such issues. If the issue is actually originating at the ‘top’, then the ‘top’ must be held accountable, whatever that means for the circumstances at the time. Hiring and/or retaining is the best way to stop the revolving door of staff, regardless of their position. With the recent hire of the latest CAO, hopefully the toxic environment will be dealt with. Unearthing the root causes of the toxic culture is the job of the CAO, that’s what they get paid for. As mayor and a member of council, I’d hold the CAO accountable for doing their job. If it turns out yet another CAO has been hired that can’t address this issue properly, sadly I don’t know that there would be any other alternative but to embark on the search for another. If this worst case happens, as mayor, I’d make sure the next hire isn’t hired the way the rest have been.
Question 2: Work With Admin to Fix Toxic Culture
This question seems to stem from question 1. To start, I believe there is likely a toxic work culture at Town Hall. If there isn’t, there’s definitely something wrong that needs to be addressed. As I stated in my answer to the first question, I believe the environment stems from the top. As mayor, I would definitely bring a new perspective and foster an environment of openness and congeniality that will hopefully trickle down. I believe in leading by example. Only by allowing people to share ideas, without fear of repercussions, can there be any movement to a positive and productive work environment. I can’t see dealing with this issue without a detailed review of the Town Hall staff structure.
Question 3: Support Full Independent Audit
This is a difficult question to answer with the understanding that the cost would not be cheap. On one hand, I agree wholeheartedly that a full audit should have been approved and done by the past council, since they were the elected representatives at the time, and they should be held accountable for whatever may have come from a full audit. Some reports and investigations have been done that elude to the lack of understanding of the past councillors when it comes to finances and budgets. It is not fair to say all councillors, but some, and I’m sure everyone has some in mind. What seems to be coming to light is that there really is no smoking gun, to coin a phrase. The trouble the town is in can only be explained by what appears to be a complete lack of understanding of what was going on, who was doing what, what they were supposed to be doing and what they were supposed to know. Outside of my bid for the mayor’s seat, as a tax paying citizen, I can’t believe that we had paid, and unpaid, people in town hall with so little understanding of what was going on. I believe this can begin to be rectified with a new council. If new councillors are elected who actually understand finances, budgeting and oversight, I’m not sure that we need to spend any more money on the past. The town still has plenty of issues to address, issues that will require money to fix, and that money would be better served going towards those issues. With no disrespect to all of the previous councillors, I don’t understand why it is being proposed that no one could have known what to ask or do. There were those who did, yet they were silenced. If a mayor and councillors are elected that were part of those who voted in favour of issues without the proper understanding, or at least accepting that they weren’t educated with the issue enough to proceed without more information, then I’d be demanding a full audit so they can see what went wrong more clearly. If a new council is elected with a proper balance of backgrounds, backgrounds related to the Town’s issues, I believe they can move us forward without having to spend money, as they would already understand most of what went wrong in the past.
Question 4: Increase Time To Study Agenda
This is a pretty easy question to answer, as it was also an issue with the members of the University Of Windsor Board Of Governors when I was a member. Everyone digests and understands at different rates and levels. I don’t believe that there is any concrete timeframe that applies to everyone. The next council should discuss and agree on what a ‘reasonable’ amount of time is. Then, they should stick to it. If information is not available within the prescribed time, post pone the meeting. I know there are those who might argue the inconvenience to those who have planned for the date posted, but then I ask, “Would you rather have a meeting with councillors who aren’t prepared to properly address issues now, or would you rather they deal with the issues when they fully understand the agenda, and have had time for proper consultation with any citizens necessary?” As a final thought, a mayor and council who are abreast of issues, and stay informed with ongoing issues, won’t likely be presented with much they don’t already understand. This is not to say that I, nor anyone else, can know everything or anything all of the time, but part of the job of council is know their municipality’s issues, citizens, concerns and needs. No one person can know the whole town, but if everyone on council knows something, collectively they can know quite a lot. This would include what they don’t know, and need to find out. I’m not someone who is afraid, or opposed, to admit when they need more information.
Question 5: Bring Heritage District To Amherstburg
I have always felt that Amherstburg’s heritage has been understated. I would look forward to working with the Administration and Heritage Committee. My research has shown me that most of the problems with heritage buildings are related to excessive repair costs due to neglect and lack of planning. The first thing that I think should be done is to designate which buildings are heritage, their current conditions and expected costs of maintenance and/or repair. Something like a 10 year plan should be established to address the known issues. For areas that require extensive repair, hard decisions will have to be made. Ideally, repairing buildings and then setting out a long term maintenance schedule should keep the Heritage District a viable option for the Town. All of this, of course, is just my ideas and I would definitely need ideas and input from those who understand the Heritage District better than I. Solutions that work are generally developed from multiple ideas, not just one. The current approach seems to be ineffective, otherwise, I don’t believe this question would be here.
Question 6: Obtain OPP Costing, Remove Contract Clause
With my labour background, and expertise in contract negotiations, this question is not difficult. For the record, I have negotiated 4 major contracts and facilitate workshops, related to bargaining preparation and successfully negotiating contracts. That said, I spoke with the major stakeholders related to this issue. The information I received was both confusing and frustrating. The current board has had 4 years, at least related to this contract, to request and obtain a costing to switch to OPP services. To my knowledge, no such costing has been requested to this date. Further, such costing has been free of charge to the municipality, but may actually require costs in the future. As a tax paying citizen, this particular point downright infuriates me. Why would the board not acquire something free that could help the Town decide what’s in their best interests. They might tell you that doing so could cause morale problems. However, I now know that they never bothered to even ask the Police Association, so this is just a speculative position. Now the final logic. For those who look at the current demographics of our current Police Force, they’ll notice that the average age is on the young side. Since there is a grandfather date in the contract, this clause wouldn’t apply to most of them. If you see where I’m going, now is the time to successfully remove the takeover clause. I’m sure there would be a minimal cost compared to the cost of implementing the clause, but that’s why it’s called negotiations. There has to be give and take. I can’t honestly say which I’d prefer, municipal or provincial policing. What I can say, what I know, is that the current board didn’t do their due diligence in acquiring the information for us to make an educated decision on what would be best for the town…information that would have been ‘free’. I would definitely acquire this information, if given the chance, and then work with the appropriate parties to achieve what’s best for the Town, or more importantly, what the Town feels is best for them.
Question 7: Tourism Role; 1 Million Dollar Budget
I believe Tourism is essential and benefits all taxpayers. I can’t say much to answer this question, except to say I would definitely look into it. Perhaps some of this money was related to the 1812 funding from the government? I am interested to see what the actual ‘regular’ budget is for Tourism. If it is $1M, I definitely want to know what it’s being used for and what we’re getting for our money. When I say part of my platform is accountability, I don’t say it as an election buzzword. If you know me, you know I follow through with accountability. If you don’t know me, ask someone who does. Budgets are budgets. If we need $1M to properly support Tourism in Amherstburg, I wouldn’t want to change the amount. Services cost money, I would just want to make sure we’re getting something for the money we pay in taxes.
Question 8: Curtail Spending; Pay Debt; Reduce Budget
This is a difficult question to answer as an ‘outsider’. There is no doubt that the Town Hall structure and spending needs to be analyzed. What I can say is that I would not be opposed to any difficult decisions that need to be made to move the Town in a positive financial direction. That said, some debt is necessary or beneficial. An example is the Libro Centre. There is often talk about the operating deficit. There should always be investigation to see if there is a way to operate with a balanced budget or a surplus. Some debt needs to be ‘owned’ however. I believe the Libro Centre provides numerous services and facilities for everyone, young and old, and if taxes are required to maintain such a positive service for the Town, we should pay that. Any time I was at the Libro Centre, it was always bustling with people using the facilities. If you compare costs, I believe we are currently paying for the Libro Centre what we were paying to keep up the old arena. When you compare the two, how can you argue it isn’t money well spent? An overall review needs to be done to determine efficiencies and deficiencies, and fees required.
Question 9: Walkable Neighbourhoods, Amenities in All Areas
I believe, as I’m sure most do, that safety is something that has to be addressed, even it has a cost. Similar to the answer to question 8, some debts have to be owned. Sidewalks, for example, aren’t just cosmetically pleasing, they’re necessary for safety. Not every neighbourhood needs a park, although we may want them to, but every neighbourhood needs a safe way for people to walk, run and bike. There are less expensive ways to achieve safety while acquiring funds to do it the way we would prefer. The walk/bike lane on Simcoe/Pike, for example, was a cost effective way to provide a path to the Libro Centre at a reduced cost to concrete sidewalks. I believe this is the bridging answer for Texas Road. The Texas Road discussion started because the need for a sidewalk became a safety issue once Kingsbridge joined Texas Road. Many residents now walk either the short path thru Kingsbridge or all the way around using Concession 2. That entire walkway can be done with a paved lane and a rumble strip on one side of the street. I honestly couldn’t tell you where the grandiose dream of curbs, concrete sidewalks, decorative light posts, etc. came from. Having a lot of family and friends in that area, they’ve expressed their distaste with the plans as it would add a ‘bump’ in to their driveway, where now it is a smooth transition. Regardless, for those that ‘need’ a sidewalk now, it can be done inexpensively while repaving the road, which could hardly be disagreed is overdue. This is just one example of finding ways to give communities what they want, and pay for, without huge debt. Consultation with all the affected residents is obviously where to start. It doesn’t matter so much what council thinks, it’s what the citizens need.
Question 10: Establish Regional Transit
I will continue to work with the other municipalities to try and achieve this goal. This is a large project that cannot be achieved without the support, both financial and otherwise, from the rest of Essex County. The cost of doing this without government subsidies is unlikely due to population gaps throughout the County. Nonetheless, I would work towards a common goal that could help the entire region. Amherstburg does, however, have various alternative transportation methods for individuals without means like the Amherstburg Care A Van. While we work to find a way to establish regional transit, we can look at expanding what we already do well. Even if there were a nominal ‘ride’ fee for people who required transportation (ie; post secondary school students et al.) we may be able to achieve a temporary solution. The town could also look into busing for major events in other parts of Essex County, much like we do for the SOE Wine Festival. Public consultation is key.
Question 11: Societal and Environmental Issues
This answer may sound like I’m passing the buck, but as much as Amherstburg has to deal with these issues as a municipality, these issues are so big that they need provincial and federal support. In this respect, I would advocate for Amherstburg at a provincial and federal level for support.
Question 12: Selection Of New CAO For New Council
As much as I’d like to select my own CAO, or more properly the new council select the new CAO, it doesn’t seem like a viable option for the best interests of the Town. Having been on the VP Administration & Finance hiring committee for the University, I learned quickly the complexities of hiring at such a high level. It is not a short process by any means. My best assumption would be at least a 6 month process to hire the right individual. It might be done in a shorter time, depending on the candidates available, but I believe in planning conservatively. With Mr. Phipps making his intentions to leave by December clear, there wasn’t much of a choice in hiring now. The Town could have looked at hiring yet another interim CAO, but I can’t honestly see how that would have been better. It is my understanding that the new CAO, Mr. Miceli, has a contract that would have to be paid out if he was dismissed. Not working with the new CAO would be detrimental to the staff and costly. I spoke with employees of the City of Windsor to inquire about Mr. Miceli’s abilities. It seemed to be the consensus that Mr. Miceli is capable of working in a collaborative manner, something Town Hall desperately needs. I confirmed that he was directing large projects, in the millions of dollars, and he did so effectively. If I were elected mayor, I would work with Mr. Miceli to get the Town back on track. I don’t believe doing otherwise will benefit the town. We should hold him accountable to do the job he was hired to do before paying him to go away.
Question 13: Police Contract Buyout Clause
Here’s what I know: The buyout clause was inserted sometime in the 1990’s during amalgamation of Essex County. At the time, pensions were not transferable from municipal policing to provincial policing plans. The clause was meant to compensate, or rather not penalize, officers who might be forced to switch. Since that time, municipal pension plans can be transferred to provincial for the officers who choose to go to the OPP. There would be a shortfall for the officers, as their current pension plans aren’t quite equal to the provincial plans. This could likely be negotiated at minimal cost compared to the cost of implementing the clause as is. Approximately half of the current officers would be affected by the pre‐hire date of October 2001, that is, the officers hired prior to this date would receive the maximum 3 months’ pay for every year of service. The others would receive 3 weeks’ pay, I believe. I can’t tell you the exact figure for the cost if enforced today, but I’ve been told it is in the millions? Please see my answer to question 6 for more. As a matter of clarification for those that might think the Police Association has some control over the costing from OPP, they do not. The costing for OPP services must be done by the Board. Please look up who is currently on the Board and ask them why they have never bothered to cost out the OPP services or ask the Association for their position?…at least not to my knowledge.
Question 14: Flooding Damage
I believe Glenn Swinton does a very good job, with his response to this question, in trying to narrow down the problem. I’m not ashamed to refer to another candidate’s comments. I would use this to reiterate a point I tried to make earlier, in that, no one can know everything alone, but collectively we can find solutions. Once the cause is determined a solution must be designed and executed. Much like I spoke about the need to spend money on safety, spending money addressing flooding issues is also necessary. These are issues we pay taxes for, the bare essentials. If we can’t say we have safe neighbourhoods, proper drainage and sewage lines, etc., what are we paying taxes for? This is not to say we shouldn’t look for government funding, grants, etc., to help, but it has to be addressed. I am astounded that the Town told you they weren’t taking complaints for flooding. Since I’ve never had to call for a complaint like flooding, I always assumed that a complaint was a complaint. If the Town can now ignore complaints by category, we may be in worse trouble than believed.
Question 15: Why are we 67 million in debt?
To keep the answer from taking up pages, I’ll just say the bulk of the debt is believed to be based on the waste water treatment plant and the Libro Centre. The debt got to this level because much of what we needed had to be built. We were obligated to build a new waste water treatment plant by the government. The cost seems to be reasonable in comparison to similar municipalities. The plant should last for years if properly designed and built, with minimal maintenance costs. Again, I don’t think anyone should deny the reality that we had to spend the money. I explained my thoughts on the cost of the Libro Centre in my answer to question 8. Considering we were spending millions trying to keep the old arena usable, with all the problems of scheduling and other issues, the money we are spending on a first class facility is money well spent. At least that’s my position, and of many people I spoke with. All communities should have a facility as great as ours. How the money was allocated, however, is a whole other problem. Single bank accounts for multiple endeavors and obligations leaves me speechless…that’s not common for me. The new CAO will be held accountable for reorganizing the Town’s financial situation and the council must oversee the administration with a level of understanding to ensure it is done properly.
Question 16: Tourism Or Employment
This is an interesting question but I’m not sure it has enough detail to answer. Why are the 500 tourists in town and how much money was put into Amherstburg’s economy from them? What does the industrial job pay? I don’t like not answering a question. If someone took the time to ask it, I’ll answer it the best that I can. Assuming the stabilization of economy, I’d have to lean to the industrial job. Jobs contribute to the tax base in numerous ways. I don’t think I need to go into the details of what I mean, the research is all on the internet. Ideally, I don’t see why we would have to choose, but that’s my answer on a grand assumption. With more detail I would answer the question again.
Question 17: Infrastructure and Services For All of Amherstburg
When planning municipal infrastructure and services, there has to be included the cost of providing these things to ALL citizens, yes ALL. To me at least, I don’t see how one can determine that one citizen should receive something that another doesn’t based on geographic location. Certainly there must be long term plans and funding put in place to achieve these services for all, but to discriminate against a group of citizens based on the location doesn’t seem right. I’ll bet if you ask, they’ll both say they should have those services. They all pay taxes for services, there must be a way to provide some form of services to all. An example I could give would be like the Texas Road issue I offered at question 9. Addressing Chad Barrette’s answer to this question, as the concession roads are repaved, extended paving and rumble strips on one side would help get cyclists off the main roadway. I don’t mean to say this is the answer to everything, different problems require different solutions with input from the relevant stakeholders. In this case, the stakeholders would include the citizens of the town…frankly, it should always include input from citizens, to some degree anyway.
Question 18: Eliminate Police Contract Poison Pill Clause
Please see my answers to questions 6 and 13. No offence to the author of the question, but I would not refer to the clause as the ‘Poison Pill’. It is a clause that had legitimate compensation when it was first introduced. It may not be in the best interests of the Town today, but I believe it can be addressed appropriately.
Question 19: Prioritize/Fund Infrastructure
I’m not completely sure why bankruptcy is even considered at this time. From the information I’ve received, even with our current debt, we’re not nearing bankruptcy. I do not believe in selling the Essex Power Corp shares. The shares are providing income for the Town. As long as it continues to do so, I don’t think it should even be considered. Prioritizing infrastructure projects for Amherstburg is for the citizens to decide, in general terms. Although council will have to make the final decision on the projects, input from the citizens is paramount in determining priorities. On the other hand, safety and disaster prevention would be a priority for me. I can’t say enough that issues like safe walking/cycling/running and flood prevention, as examples, are paramount for a community. Once we have the basic needs of the Town met, we can look into long term funding for other infrastructure projects. In today’s economic times, debt is an unfortunate reality. Debt in itself is not necessarily bad, provided the debt is responsible and transparently articulated and approved by the citizens. In other words, if we couldn’t find funding thru other means like government grants, that doesn’t mean we couldn’t raise taxes a modest amount to fund new initiatives that are important to the town, and that may produce a profit in the long run. Before I get lambasted, I’m not suggesting that my goal is to raise taxes, I just believe that all avenues of funding need to be explored if the Town truly needs or wants something. As an aside, I like Chad Barrette’s answer to this question. I have no current association with Chad but I will also be voting on election day.
All answers to date are on the Candidate Answers page.