Taxpayers Pay For Private Firms To Obtain Public Input

Last fall, the Wynne Government announced a controversial decision to hire the Deloitte firm for $415,000. to consult the public on the Government’s problem-ridden idea of a private accessibility certification process being established. The AODA Alliance reports that the Government is not having its own Accessibility Directorate conduct this consultation.

Amherstburg has hired MDB Insight to create a community based strategic plan for just over $36,000. According to MDB Insight’s website, ‘We have grown into Canada’s largest specialist economic development consultancy and continue to evolve to meet the needs of our clients.’

In its January 31, 2016 article, the River Town Times reported that ‘Miceli said the matter has not yet gone to the town’s economic development committee, and told town council it is in the preliminary stages. The next step will be how to engage stakeholders such as the economic development committee and the community as a whole.’

Maybe council should put the unused money budgeted for the strategic plan consultant toward hiring an expert accessible web designer to ensure, finally, that the town of Amherstburg website is accessible.

Commentary by Linda Saxon

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Amherstburg Website Added To Barriers In The Burg

The Town of Amherstburg website has been added to the new barriers in the burg page, created in conjunction with the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Action Kit “Picture Our Barriers” Action Kit.

Below is a screen shot of the town website taken today:

screen shot of the town of amherstburg websiteDespite my officially requesting an accessible website for the Town of Amherstburg since September 2002, changes are still needed today, March 4, 2016. There were promises to change but a real commitment has not materialized in all these years and for some strange reason, some people believe it will require funding.

I believe the well paid IT staff should be competent enough to address all the accessibility issues.

And, I wish someone would explain how a town the size of Amherstburg can afford body cameras for its police officers when larger municipalities can’t.

Considering all the financial requests council considers, money doesn’t always seem to be an issue; is it a question of priorities?

Commentary by Linda Saxon

#AODAfail

Amherstburg should opt for cheaper OPP policing

Commentary by Linda Saxon

Published on: December 15, 2015 Windsor Star

Re: Amherstburg asks Windsor to make an offer on regional policing, by Trevor Wilhelm, Dec. 7.

Mayor Drew Dilkens believes Windsor can outdo the OPP in effectiveness and save Amherstburg money. But will it save the approximate $1 million that the OPP model would save the taxpayers?

I doubt it, especially given that regional police services have considered and/or obtained OPP costings and the majority of police services in the province do have OPP provide policing services.

According to OPP estimates, municipalities with and without contracts save on average anywhere from 35 per cent to 60 per cent by using the OPP instead of having their own police forces — figures reported by the auditor general of Ontario.

For many years, the OPP communications system was in effect countywide. Rather than take advantage of their system, Amherstburg paid for LaSalle’s, then Leamington’s and then back to LaSalle’s dispatching when Leamington switched to OPP policing.

If Windsor and Amherstburg police combined services, it would be an amalgamation of two services, not a regional policing model.

Regardless, Amherstburg would have to incur the expense, once again, for another new communications system since, at this point, Windsor and Amherstburg’s communication systems are incompatible.

The Records Management System of the two policing services is also incompatible. Windsor does not use the NICHE system that OPP, Amherstburg and most other police services use.

Amherstburg taxpayers have long supported a police department hierarchy unparalleled by similar-sized OPP detachments and regardless of whether a community decides on an amalgamated service or a regional policing model that extra financial burden will continue.

Amherstburg need only look to the experience and savings its neighbouring communities enjoy by opting for the OPP policing option.

Budget officially passed, tax rate increases 2.3 per cent

Ron Giofu, River Town Times reported that the 2016 budget has now been passed and taxes are on the rise 2.3 per cent.

Town council made it official Monday night after approving the budget at that level seven days earlier. The budget passed on a 3-2 vote, with Mayor Aldo DiCarlo and councillors Jason Lavigne and Leo Meloche voting in favor. Councillors Rick Fryer and Diane Pouget were opposed.

Deputy Mayor Bart DiPasquale and Councillor Joan Courtney were absent from Monday night’s meeting.

Accessibility Concerns Misunderstood

Commentary by Linda Saxon

In a letter to the editor, River Town Times, April 8, I expressed my concerns regarding town council’s pre-approval of grants to four community organizations: the Park House Museum, North American Black Historical Museum, Amherstburg Community Services and the House of Shalom Youth Centre.

It would appear, in a letter the RTT published this week from Kathy DiBartolomeo, Amherstburg Community Services, that my concerns were misunderstood.

To reiterate, council is using taxpayer dollars to grant these requests, despite a well-publicized 46 million dollar debt and promises of fiscal responsibility to control and/or reduce it.

Ms. DiBartolomeo believes that my “concern over the town’s website and accessibility to information and the importance of all of the agencies and organizations that receive community grants are two different issues.”

I disagree. Council has not found money over the past twelve years to ensure the town’s website and its documents are universally accessible, but community organizations have received approximately $360,000.00 in grant funding in that time frame.

Policy F10-Grants to Community Groups, enacted May 25, 2005 and amended September 22, 2008 is another outdated municipal policy that needs to be updated.

Council should include accessibility criteria as a requirement when evaluating grant requests from organizations. Additionally, council needs to enact a municipal policy that no public funds will ever be used to create or perpetuate barriers against persons with disabilities.

Because of a lack of an accessibility requirement, shamefully, council has committed taxpayers’ dollars to four organizations that maintain websites with accessibility issues.

Amherstburg chief wants all front-line police to wear body cameras

If Chief Timothy Berthiaume has “always been committed to openness and transparency” why are the costs of data storage and court transcription not disclosed?
The pilot program began in April 2013, not January 1, 2014.
Given the $46 million debt Amherstburg is dealing with, (about half of Windsors’s debt) how can wish list items like these cameras be justified?
Windsor Police Chief Al Frederick says the costs are prohibitive and other police services feel the same way.

Town council approves $27,500 in community grants

Ron Giofu reported in the River Town Times that “Elected officials voted unanimously Monday night to pre-approve the grants as part of the 2015 budget, noting the value the agencies and organizations that requested the money give to the community.”

Councillor Jason Lavigne was quoted as saying, “I’m going to fund these groups no matter what.”

Firstly, it’s the taxpayers that are funding these groups, thanks to council’s decision, which I disagree with. I’d rather personally decide what, if any, organizations receive my donations. Accordingly, the organizations could extend their fundraising activities to seek more donations from those supporting individuals and/or corporations instead of requesting taxpayer funding.

Secondly, given Amherstburg’s much publicized debt crisis, council knew it would be faced with tough decisions during last fall’s municipal election campaign when we heard numerous promises of fiscal responsibility.

Councillor Leo Meloche was also in favour of keeping the groups funded, suggesting that town vehicles that need replacing be stretched out for another year.

Has accessibility also taken a back seat yet again? Council has not found money over the past twelve years to ensure the town’s website and its documents are universally accessible, nor has it demonstrated a strong commitment to a more inclusive community.

Council concluded these agencies and organizations are of value to the community, but council should include accessibility criteria in its evaluation of monetary requests.

Last fall I asked the candidates if they would commit to a municipal policy that no public funds will ever be used to create or perpetuate barriers against persons with disabilities. A range of opinions was expressed by those who chose to answer, but the most impressive response was candidate Joshua Rene’s, who said, “I am frankly surprised that this question still has to be asked.”

I still strongly believe a policy is needed so council can consider the impact of its decisions on everyone, including persons with disabilities.

Commentary by Linda Saxon

Fraserville Mosquito Problem Included In Budget

Ron Giofu, River Town Times, reported that “town council has agreed to commit $49,972 in the 2015 budget on a nuisance control program to help combat the ongoing mosquito problem in the Fraserville neighbourhood. The nuisance program is over and above the larviciding program offered in conjunction with the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit.

Brenda Kokko, a Fraserville resident, told town council it is a quality of life issue for residents there and that residents are “held hostage” by the insects.”

This was a question for the candidates to the burg watch during the 2014 election campaign; of those elected, Mayor Aldo DiCarlo, Deputy Mayor DiPasquale and Councillor Pouget responded that they supported the program.

Revised Budget Meeting Dates For Public Input

Revised dates, as posted on the town’s website, which is still difficult to navigate and still has accessibility issues, are set out below.

• Saturday, March 7, 2015, 10:00am – 12:00pm
St. Peter’s ACHS College School – 6101 County Road # 20, Harrow (former St. Theresa’s Elementary School)

• Thursday, March 12, 2015, 6:00pm – 8:00pm
Libro Credit Union Complex, 3295 Meloche Road, Amherstburg

 Tuesday, March 24, 2015, 6:00pm-8:00pm
Verdi Club, 689 Texas Road

• Saturday, March 28, 2015, 10:00am – 12:00pm
Knights of Columbus, 9560 Walker Road, McGregor

The 2015 Budget deliberation will be held

At a Special Council Meeting on Tuesday, March 31, 2015 

At Town Hall, Council Chambers from 6:00pm – 8:00 pm

Passionate About Policing

Commentary by Linda Saxon

The idea of regional policing, amalgamated services and/or OPP policing has surfaced many times, but official costings were not always obtained so that a true comparison of ‘apples to apples’ could have been made.

In the meantime, for decades, Amherstburg taxpayers have paid a hefty price for a top heavy ‘local police service’ while elected officials disregarded the opportunity to reduce debt, provide increased accessibility or amenities with an estimated annual savings of a million dollars with an OPP option.

Historically, there has been an emphasis on the ‘local‘ officers by politicians and Chief Tim Berthiaume, who boasted that over 50 per cent of the officers are native to Amherstburg, including himself – a fact that has very little, if anything, to do with qualifications or efficient and effective policing.

Are the less than 50 per cent not native to Amherstburg less valued?

The River Town Times reports that A petition is being circulated to keep the police force local: “Meloche said her encounters with local police officers have been “very friendly” and “whenever you call them, they are there.” She said she didn’t want to see a situation where out-of-town officers are rotated into Amherstburg and not have an understanding of the community.”

Out of towners would be expected to provide professional policing services; wouldn’t suggesting otherwise be just as illogical as touting local employees as the best and only option despite the high cost?

In another RTT article, Mayor Aldo DiCarlo mentioned that Chief Tim Berthiaume as well as the Amherstburg Police Association could be utilized to gather input and analysis of the bids. Would anyone be surprised if either the Chief or the Association found fault with any proposal but the local option?

I disagree with DiCarlo, who said the police budget is “cut and dry” and that the current force is a “lean” one. Compare any OPP detachment to the local department and the difference in cost is due to the hierarchical structure and costing method.

The community needs to decide if it’s worth paying the cost to keep it local for tradition sake or if it’s time to admit that tax savings are needed, not tax increases.

Some would argue the safest community in all of canada designation is due to the Amherstburg Police efforts. I disagree; firstly, the statement is not factual and secondly, the caveat is that the statistics are only as good as those that were submitted; for example, if crime/incidents were not investigated, and therefore not submitted, they would not be included in the statistics.

Regardless, community input is needed and an objective decision has to be made. I, for one, can not support a local option that, in my opinion, handcuffs ratepayers and influences any decision because of unrealistic severance packages.

I have been a vocal critic of the Amherstburg Police for a long time; some of the reasons can be found at bullying in policing.

See also Discriminatory Language in Amherstburg Police Service Contract.