Reality To Counter Accolades – Open Air

I would like to counter all the accolades with a dose of reality.

Shame on Anne Rota for recommending a report for adoption that omits compliance with provincial legislation.

Rota’s Report referenced under-utilized parking for employees but plans to continue offering those spots. However, the alleged under-utilized accessible parking in the King’s Navy Yard Park lot will be reduced. The rationale for this differentiation was unclear, until the council meeting when Ms. Rota stated this reduction would allow for a turn around to be created instead. Further, the plan is to add three accessible parking spaces in three locations at the outside perimeter.

Shame on council for approving a plan that fails to meet its obligation to consult with the public.

Mayor DiCarlo advised, in April 2021, the Amherstburg Accessibility Advisory Committee was not consulted with respect to Open Air Weekends and only one person with a disability was consulted in the design of the footprint.

It is mandatory, pursuant to O. Reg. 191/11: Integrated Accessibility Standards for the town to consult on the need, location and design of accessible on-street parking spaces and shall do so with the public and persons with disabilities as well as its Accessibility Advisory Committee.

My submission to members of council, prior to the council meeting, wherein I asked if the town would discriminate against persons with disabilities, quoted the provincial legislation regarding public consultation, and objected to the arbitrary placement of accessible parking spaces, especially in a distant perimeter, and accessible spaces that cannot be accessed due to road closures, was ignored.

Given council’s duty to represent the public and to consider the well-being and interests of the municipality, I must question the $90,000. taxpayer funded expenditure that creates barriers to persons with disabilities.

Commentary by Linda Saxon as published in the River Town Times December 1, 2021

Decorum, Please!

The Town of Amherstburg Code of Conduct states, in part:

Every Member shall conduct themselves with decorum and respect at council, committee, local board and other meetings, and in accordance with the provisions of the Procedural By-law, this policy, and other applicable laws.

My personal observations of a meeting of council and the Amherstburg Accessibility Advisory Committee follow.

Members:

do not always go through the Chair.

talk over each other.

grandstand.

belabour the point.

go off-topic.

share irrelevant personal anecdotes.

use acronyms.

do not appear prepared.

Staff:

monopolize the discussion.

interject their opinions to lead the discussion.

belabour the point

General:

The committee’s agenda was posted the day before the meeting.

There was no link to the live feed of the committee meeting.

Off camera speakers do not identify themselves for home viewers.

Minutes do not accurately reflect content of meetings. (read the Mayor’s Youth Advisory Committee post.)

TEMPORARY SKATE PARK REMOVED IN AMHERSTBURG DUE TO ‘DESTRUCTIVE CONDUCT’

am800 reports on the temporary skateboard park removal.

Aldo DiCarlo, Mayor of Amherstburg, says it’s being shut down despite having police and security there.

“We just can’t seem to get a handle on it,” he says. “We’re working on it but in the short term, unfortunately we’ve had so many complaints that we had to address it now.”

DiCarlo says everyone has been working on this since the problems started not long after the ramps were opened.

Thrive Amherstburg Wants Open Air To Continue And More Money Spent On It

Thrive! Amherstburg will present its white paper on Open Air to council at its Tuesday, October 12 meeting.

The group recommends:

  1.  Continue with Open Air in 2022
  2.  Invest at least an additional $20,500 in new programming in 2022

Some municipalities closed their downtown to support retail operations and specifically did not include entertainment or additional costs to the taxpayers.

Amherstburg Fire Chief Montone Discloses Open Air Assessment

Following an online request, Amherstburg Fire Chief Bruce Montone did not think 5 business days was an unreasonable amount of time and disclosed:

open air assessment;

Events – afd a document that is provided on occasion to event organizers should they require additional guidance.

There are no specific dates for the original 2020 or the 2021 review.

Paula Parker Spent Her Career Focused On Increasing Accountability and Transparency

On Friday, October 1, 2021, The Town of Kingsville was happy to announce that Paula Parker will join the Town’s administrative team as its new Clerk.

Along with acknowledging her experience and education, the news included, “Paula has spent her career focused on increasing accountability and transparency and ensuring corporate compliance with many pieces of legislation.”

Amherst – What’s In A Name?

CBC reported in 2017 on the dark history of Jeffrey Amherst, including text from one of Amherst’s letter;

“You will do well to try to inoculate the Indians by means of blankets, as well as to try every other method that can serve to extirpate this execrable race. I should be very glad your scheme for hunting them down by dogs could take effect, but England is at too great a distance to think of that at present,” wrote Amherst in a 1763 letter.

The September 29, 2021 River Town Times reports, Councillor calls for no reference to Jeffrey Amherst in new school name.

“McArthur said he preferred if the new school would have a new name, free of any Jeffrey Amherst references, stating Jeffrey Amherst advocated genocide against the Indigenous population in the 1700s. The councillor did say he opposed changing the name of the town, noting residents have made it a beautiful and inclusive community.“I don’t think we should change the name of the town,” he said, adding people “have made it their own” despite the man for whom it was named.”

Is it not hypocritical to promote ‘a step towards reconciliation’ for the new high school, when council has no jurisdiction to do so, yet dismiss the idea of a name change for the town?

Mayor DiCarlo Questions Media Request, Again

On Friday, August 13, theburgwatch emailed Mayor Aldo DiCarlo, as a member of the media, and requested:
1. the press release you issued regarding staff being escorted out of town hall
2. that this email address be added to media lists for the issuing of notices to the media
3. a copy of the notice of cancellation of the August 9, 2021 council meeting.

Mayor DiCarlo questioned theburgwatch’s credentials, to which the reply confirmed that we already had this discussion in October 2020.

On today’s date, Mayor DiCarlo provided the media release as a public document, not as a media request.

A link to the cancelled council meeting was provided: https://calendar.amherstburg.ca/council/Detail/2021-08-09-1800-Regular-Council-Meeting-Public-Participation-via-L

As for being included in the media, the Mayor’s understanding appears to pertain to ‘media outlet,’ a traditional, or old media, definition.  My understanding of ‘member of the media,’ includes new media.

If press releases were posted on the town’s website, one might conclude there is a willingness to embrace open government.

NOTE: In February 2020, I requested council establish a protocol to respond to inquiries from taxpayers and the media.

related:

Refrain From Contacting Members Of Council For Information?

I’m researching obtaining information from the Town of Amherstburg.

Has anyone been asked to refrain from contacting members of council for information and rely on the MFIPPA process?

Open government is of interest to me and has been since the 1990s when Amherstburg Police FOI Coordinator Bart DiPasquale routinely denied my requests for information.

Municipal Information Request Response Tested by Windsor Star Reporter

Julie Kotsis, Windsor Star reports the results of requests for information to municipalities.

Emails were sent to every municipal chief administrative officer in Windsor and Essex County, requesting basic information that should be readily available to the public.

Taxes, development fees, number of staff employees, operating budgets and Integrity Commissioners were subjects of inquiries. Kotsis reports that response times varied widely, from one day to several.

What about Amherstburg?

More to follow.

Committees, Consultation and COVID: Council Agenda item

Members of council were asked two simple questions two weeks ago re accessibility concerns of Open Air weekends:

  1. why was accessibility not considered during the decision making process?
  2. why was the accessibility advisory committee not consulted for input?

This post addresses the second question and the answer that followed, in part, by Mayor DiCarlo, the only member of council to respond:

“The AAAC was not consulted with respect to Open Air Weekends because the AAAC and many other committees were and still are not functioning due to COVID.”

Paula Parker, in a memo on council’s April 26 Agenda states, “Council continues to be advised on matters of accessibility, equality and inclusivity by the Amherstburg Accessibility Advisory Committee.”

Now a new committee is being recommended: a special purpose Ad-hoc Committee, the Inclusive Community Program (ICP) Advisory Steering Committee to “help Amherstburg to become an age-friendly community by ensuring that the needs of the residents of all ages and abilities are considered in every stage of community planning and development.”

There are plans to hire a consultant: “approval is requested for an over-expenditure in the CAO’s Office budget centre professional fees expense account for up to $60,000 including net HST to fund consulting services for development of the Needs Assessment and Action Plan; this cost would be funded by the ICGP.” 

The report’s RISK ANALYSIS section includes, “Administration is of the opinion that all advisory meetings should resume through the Town’s zoom meeting platform” and “Should Council wish not move forward with this engagement solution for advisory committees, it may result in political criticism.” (report’s typo)

Should administration include consideration of political risk when it provides advice or recommendations to council?

A request for the grant application was submitted.

More to follow.

Councillor Prue Supports Routine Disclosure Policy

As mentioned in the April 11 post, Amherstburg Clerk And Mayor Respond to Routine Disclosure Policy Request, any action undertaken by council about the April 12 consent correspondence item would be posted.

Councillor Prue is the only one who supported and spoke about the request for the policy. He reminded members of council that during the last election, they all said we need more openness and citizen involvement.

Prue mentioned it has been a recommendation of the province since 1998 and the request was made here more than a year ago.

Prue’s question was, when might we expect this policy improvement so that people no longer have to go through the arduous, time consuming and costly efforts of freedom of information requests which they almost always get after a year or two?

Paula Parker, town clerk, stated she agreed, however, indicated the town does already provide active dissemination of its records through its records repository which is publicly available on the town’s website and it reaches back to about 1950s. She advised the Clerk’s division is focused on remediating that content before continuing to expand its offerings.

Regardless, a policy will be presented to council in the near future.

Amherstburg Clerk And Mayor Respond to Routine Disclosure Policy Request

Is COVID a convenient excuse, again?

Amherstburg town clerk Paula Parker responded to the request for the policy to be placed on the April 12 agenda and stated, in part, “Unfortunately, COVID-19 has impacted our services somewhat and this policy, as well as others, have been set aside for the time being until we get back to some sort of normal operations.”

It was in February 2020 that the CAO advised the town was in the process of creating one, prior to any COVID impacts. While I realize COVID has been credited as the cause of some delay for some items, it would be fairly simple for council to enact a policy such as this.

Members of council were then asked to confirm whether or not council has directed administration to create this policy.

Mayor DiCarlo was the only one to respond, “This policy is being created as part of ongoing policy review of all of the town’s policies, not from a specific council direction.  There are policies being reviewed, edited and created to address long outstanding backlogs, a direct result of resource issues.”

The request for the policy has been placed under the consent correspondence agenda section.

Any action undertaken by council will be updated.