Lack Of Commitment

Commentary by Linda Saxon

As I mentioned in an earlier post, there have been approximately two dozen correspondence items regarding an accessibility policy question to council and the accessibility advisory committee, but my question remains unanswered.

From January to March, I corresponded with council/councillors/staff; in January Deputy Mayor Sutherland forwarded my concern to the Accessibility Committee for their input. At the February 18 council meeting, my correspondence was received.

In March I requested the item be placed on the council agenda, but I never received confirmation that it was.

From April to June, I corresponded with Councillor Bart DiPasquale, who is the council representative on the Amherstburg Accessibility Advisory Committee (AAAC). note: all grammatical errors are his.

Below are DiPasquale’s responses regarding the AAAC meetings:

April 23 – the next AAAC meeting is April 24 2024 (his typo) at 5pm Town Hall. Brenda Percy I found had responded to you March 4 2014 advising you your email had been referred to another person. It appears at this time no one acted on it.

April 24 – tonight’s AAAC meeting has been cancelled and rescheduled for May 8 2014 Town Hall 5pm.

April 26 – the meeting date has been rescheduled for May 15 2014 5pm town hall.

May 15 – In keeping you informed ,todays meeting has been rescheduled to next Thursday 5pm.Your information will be delivered at that time to the AAAC committee by me.

May 15 – Please be abvised that the meeting scheduled for today has been rescheduled toMay 22 2014 5pm Town Hall. Your matter should be discussed on that date.

May 16 – Please be advised that last night’s meeting was rescheduled to May 22 2014 5pm Town Hall.

May 25 – Please be advised that the meeting scheduled for May 22 2014 will be held on June 26 th 2014 5pm Town Hall  FYI.

There was no June meeting listed in the River Town Times calendar or on the town’s website.

June 30 – I emailed to request an update following the meeting; I learned that DiPasquale was out of the country. Although he has since returned, I have not received a response.

On June 30, I subsequently emailed council that I would still like an answer.

There were a couple of additional emails, including one on July 1 wherein Councillor Carolyn Davies emailed Nicole Rubli, Could you please look into this licensing question attached below from constituent Linda Sexton.

Also on July 1, Deputy Mayor Ron Sutherland emailed CAO Phipps, Mike, will you respond to Mrs. Saxon or direct her concern to the proper person. Phipps replied, Thanks for the note Ron. I will attempt tomorrow to determine the issue and when Nicole returns from vacation next week, we’ll look into the matter. Perhaps you could or Ms. Saxon could send me her earlier emails. Thanks

July 2, Councillor Diane Pouget emailed, Mrs. Linda Saxon is requesting that her question pertaining to “What policies and procedures are in place regarding accessibility for any and all business license approvals in the Town of Amherstburg,” be placed on the agenda.  It is a very straightforward request and I believe it should be dealt with in public session as requested, since Linda’s request for information appeared to be ignored in the past.

July 2, Phipps replied, Deputy Mayor Sutherland has raised this matter as a result of the Saxon email. I understand there has been a response to her, but administration will have all the details for Council next week when Nicole returns from vacation.

July 19, Phipps emailed a summary, prepared by staff, of contact with me, for the record; he ended it by stating that Administration will take no further action on this matter unless it is once again raised at a Council meeting.

I have requested corrections be made, pursuant to the Freedom of Information legislation, as the record contained factual errors and omissions.

After all the attitudinal barriers I’ve encountered, I shouldn’t be surprised that accessibility is not a priority.

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Public Meeting A Lynching?

As reported in an August 12 River Town Times article by jcharron:

Council agreed to work with Deloitte and town administration to deal with the implementation of the 41 recommendations. Council will also sit down with Deloitte to discuss the recommendations, one that Brindle suggested should be done in public session. Council members sparred over a second public meeting to discuss the issue with residents with Pouget originally suggesting two weeks, then a month. However, that motion was withdrawn until council has their meeting with Deloitte first.

“I don’t think it’s a bad idea to take it to the people of this town,” said Councillor Bart DiPasquale.

Sutton said his motion to implement the 41 recommendations stood as is with Councillor Carolyn Davies fearing the meeting could devolve into a “pissing match” like the “lynching” at the Essex Power public meeting. Davies said the meeting had to be “thoughtful” with council having to get a better grasp of the report.

Pillon agreed that more time was needed to meet with Deloitte and get a handle on the recommendations.

“You might as well have a meeting that makes sense, not a lynching,” he said.

Hurst Will Not Run Again

Hurst announced his plans tonight at the Verdi Club. According to Julie Kotsis’ article on The Windsor Star blog, Hurst threw a few punches at what he called a misinformed few (who are) misleading people to think the town is corrupt.

He wouldn’t be the first mayor in Amherstburg to criticize those who voice concerns about civic matters.

Council Flip Flops – Ministry of Municipal Affairs to Audit Aburg’s Finances

according to the November 20, 2013 Windsor Star, Julie Kotsis reported Amherstburg Town Council was split over the need for further financial auditing. Councillor DiPasquale’s motion to request an independent audit of the town’s financials was defeated as follows-

AGAINST: Councillors John Sutton, Carolyn Davies and Bob Pillon

FOR: Deputy Mayor Ron Sutherland, Councillors DiPasquale and Pouget

Hurst cast the deciding vote to oppose and called it the beginning of the “silly season” noting that an election was coming up next year.

At its January 20, 2014 town council meeting, a unanimous motion was carried to ask the ministry for an audit. Sutton is quoted in The Windsor Star, “I agree wholeheartedly that a more thorough investigation should be done … I totally agree that has to be 100 per cent public. “There can’t be anything hidden.”

Tall Ships Not Accessible To Everyone

The historic Town of Amherstburg continues celebrating the bicentennial of the war of 1812 with the “Coastal Trails Sails To See Tall Ships Festival” in late August.

Promotional information is included on the town’s website, along with another site devoted to the war of 1812 events; there was no mention of accessibility so I submitted an online inquiry to ask if the tall ships were barrier free and accessible to people with disabilities.

Shortly afterward, I received an email response and was advised, “Due to the historic nature and design of Tall Ships, wheelchairs cannot be brought on board the ships. Any guest with disabilities may board a ship, as long as they can stand and walk on their own or with the assistance of a companion. For wheelchairs, the ships are available for viewing from dockside, not on-deck. In addition, there are multiple exhibits and activities that are being organized dockside, including Parks’ Canada’s 1812 On Tour and storytelling/theatrical experiences.”

Pursuant to section 5(2) of Ontario Regulation 191/11, I subsequently emailed members of town council and inquired if there was a determination that “it is not practicable to incorporate accessibility criteria and features when procuring or acquiring goods, services or facilities” in relation to the tall ships and I requested an explanation if there was.

I received an email from someone who did not state his position, but I assumed he was a town employee as throughout his email he referred to a collective we and our; his response was, “Tall Ships are not, traditionally or technically, universally accessible by design. To my knowledge there is one, or possibly two, ships in the world that are specifically crafted to offer some level of accessibility. I’ve been able to find information on one:http://www.jst.org.uk/lord-nelson.aspx and read an article that indicated there was a second ship in existence but I cannot find its name. The Lord Nelson is currently sailing in the waters of Australia and New Zealand.

The Tall Ships that we have procured are part of a tour called the “Tall Ships Challenge – Great Lakes 2013” which is operated by a company known as Tall Ships America. Our opportunity to procure the Tall Ships that will be visiting us came as a result of this Tour that stretches geographically from Brockville, Ontario to Duluth, Minnesota and includes 14 ports-of-call. In essence, our opportunity to host this event was tied to the ships that are involved in this Tour as opposed to being selected based on their individual merits – whether that be universal accessibility, size, design, port-of-origin or other criteria.

Despite being unable to guarantee equivalent access to the decks of the Tall Ships visiting our ports for all potential patrons of the event, we felt that we would be able to provide opportunities for accessible viewing from shore. Our plans include a volunteer-staffed and clearly stanchioned area that will be reserved on shore in very close proximity to the ships to ensure the best possible viewing for patrons who are in need of this opportunity. Ancillary events that are part of the festival have been located to provide as much opportunity for universal accessibility as King’s Navy Yard Park allows.

As a result of this inquiry it has come to our attention that these plans and opportunities have not been included on our website describing the event – this has been, or will be, rectified immediately.

My hope is that this email offers a satisfactory explanation of not only why it was not practicable to incorporate accessibility criteria and features into the deck viewing portion of our visiting Tall Ships, but also our rationale for proceeding despite this lack and the steps we have taken to supplement event logistics to the best of our ability.”

I emailed back and mentioned there was only a reference to ‘accessible viewing’ from shore and asked what contingencies are in place for people with visual and hearing disabilities. I further relayed that information on the 1812 website relative to ‘wheelchair access’ is relegated to the last day of the event only; same for the town’s site, and there is still no alt text for jpegs on the town’s site. I mentioned that I also couldn’t find a reference anywhere to accommodating the needs of people with disabilities either visiting the town’s festivities or accessing information on the web.

Although I did not receive a response to my last email, information pertaining to wheelchair accessibility is now listed under a separate heading titled ‘additional information’ at the bottom of the site’s event page; there are still insufficient descriptors or none at all for the images, despite my numerous requests for an accessible town website over the past decade.

I do not support my taxes being used toward events that are not accessible to everyone.

Councillor Davies On Her Performance

at the end of each year to date of this council’s term (2010 – 2014), all councillors were asked, “if any of you would care to provide a comment regarding how you think you have performed.”

at the end of year two Councillor Carolyn Davies emailed the following: (note: any spelling errors originated in Councillor Davies’ email)

“Thank you for your email  Dec 5/12.   As for your question on how do I think I have performed during the second year of my term is really not for me to answer but for the constituents to do so.  I understand that in a democracy everyone has a different view point, will interpret activities that come closest to their own understanding and needs.   As always, I am working consistently with my commitment to the consituents of Amherstburg. I want for other that which I would want for myself, fairness, justice and provide a voice to issues, if at all possible. I always look forward to what can be,   to what compromises can be made vs an either or and how we can move our community forward toward an improved quality of life and remain optimistic that a positive appoach will always provide more successful results. Regards, Carolyn Davies”

Councillor Pouget Accused Of Harassment

anne jarvis, the windsor star, reports that in 2011, McTague Law Firm investigated and reported its findings to Hurst, cited as the person who had witnessed the harassment. Citing allegations that Pouget is demanding and critical of top town staff and testy emails by her, the report concluded that Pouget had been harassing staff.

The article continued that the report also included, “These same councillors also indicated that they found it ironic that I was appointed to investigate an allegation of workplace harassment against Councillor Pouget when they feel it is you (Hurst) that is engaging in workplace harassment by the manner in which you communicate in council meetings.”

According to Jarvis, the investigation was never approved by council and it cost more than $16,000, according to public accounts.

Amherstburg cop resigns, settles case for $110K

Police service board chairman John Sutton said “an offer was made” and the board “debated its merits. “We’re always open to anything.”

Sutton said the offer came from the defence during a meeting two weeks ago between the lawyers where an “overture” was made that was presented to the board.

Sutton said the board’s decision to accept the offer was “a business decision.”

He estimated it would have cost in excess of $240,000 to litigate the case.

A financial settlement of $110,000, which works out to one year’s pay, plus $1,300 owed in stat time that Sutton said the service is legally obligated to pay, was agreed to.

“This allows both parties to move on,” Sutton said.
Read the full story about Colleen Sterling, at the windsor star – Amherstburg cop resigns, settles case for $110K.

Ombudsman Review Of Closed Meeting

Voting during a closed session, including informal votes such as “straw polls” or “show of hands”, is not permitted. Council therefore contravened the Municipal Act by voting during the February 10, 2011 closed session. Read the letter to Ms. Brenda Percy, Clerk, who was requested to make copies of it available to the public.

Councillors Refuse To Rate Themselves

sticky post: we’ll be inundated with how they think they performed and/or will perform if re-elected; however at the end of each year of this term (2010-2014), everyone was asked, “if you would provide a comment regarding how you think you have performed.”

year 1:  no one responded.
year 2:  no one responded. Edit: Read Davies’ response
year 3:  no one responded.