Glenn Swinton Answers Dr. Lloyd Brown-John’s Questions

Dr. C. Lloyd Brown-John’s Questions To The Candidates were posted on September 18, 2014, although no answers would be published until after the Chamber of Commerce candidate event to avoid any possibility of some candidates not doing their independent research.

Although the Chamber of Commerce may not have used them, two councillor candidates answered the questions; Glenn Swinton’s answers are below and Scott Kendell’s are in a separate post.

Question: What is “Transparency” in municipal financial management terms?
Question: What is “Accountability”?
Question: What is a “Budget”?
Question: What is the Municipal Assessment “Mill Rate”? What is Amherstburg’s current residential Mill Rate? Supplemental Question: What is the Name of the Agency Responsible for municipal property assessments?
Question: What is Council’s role in respect to Infrastructure Municipal Debenture funding?

Let me try to provide an answer for the questions raised by Dr. C. Lloyd Brown-John. With respect to your question 1 and 2 directed at us hopeful council candidates, I believe that the terms “Transparency” and “Accountability” are simply convenient trigger words some are set on using in their campaign simply to gain credibility from the voters.

Transparency as it would relate to “Municipal financial management terms” should mean that the strength and weaknesses of financial commitments be portrayed to the investors (or taxpayers if you will), in clear and un obscured reports so as to ensure that everyone is aware of the risks or rewards to be expected. This should not be confused with an assumption that daily financial reports will be presented to the public for review or open voting on financial decisions.

Accountability, well accountability is a pretty clearly defined word. According to Webster’s Dictionary accountability is defined as “required to explain actions or decisions to / required to be responsible for something or someone. For someone running for council to promise “accountability” could potentially be a sign that they have never been involved in politics or never should have been in the first place. No one member of a council can really be accountable for the decisions of said council. One vote of seven couldn’t possibly take all the credit for poor decisions nor should anyone expect that they would. If we are to talk accountability perhaps we should review re-occuring team voting?

Personally, I think the last thing that should be included in anyones campaign is the phrases “Accountability or Transparency”. Neither of these qualities could any one member of a council provide as a comity member providing a vote. I for one would rather see Honesty and Integrity but the reputations of those words have been tainted by politics around the globe.

As for a budget… likely best described as a projection of known/anticipated income and known/anticipated expenses. A budget must be drawn with figures that are as close to realistic as physically possible to ensure that the chances of a healthy balance is achieved. By way of “budgeting” we hope to allocate anticipated funds to necessary expanses in advance to better prepare for the upcoming fiscal year.

The municipal Assessment rate or “mill rate” is essentially a taxpayers tax rate. It* is the annual percentage due as taxes based on an assessment of the value of your property as evaluated by MPAC (Municipal Property Assessment Corp.) The current “residential” mill rate for Amherstburg is 0.01532170 which means that a residential property with a value of say $250,000 will be responsible for or “accountable for” $3830.43 in taxes for 2014. This rate has increase from last years mill rate of 0.01475151. That same $250,000 property last year paid $3687.88. An increase of $142.56 per year or $11.88 per month, $2.97 per week. For the record, although Amherstburg’s mill rate has increased it is still lower than Lasalle or Windsor.

Finally, council has to work together and collectively agree on debentures. According to the act, a municipality can only issue a debenture for long term borrowing to provide financing for capital work.

Glenn Swinton’s Comment On All candidates meeting draws large crowd in Amherstburg

Glenn Swinton’s comment to the Windsor Star article is:
My apologies for anyone looking to connect with me that evening. The chamber was made aware well in advance that I was unable to attend their event. The Windsor Star’s report of me being a “no-show” was false. If there was a place set for me at the event it could have only been with ill intentions. As always, I am available 24/7 on my provided cell phone or via email for anyone who wishes to talk.

Glenn Swinton Answers Question 39: Straightforward Answer Sought Re CAO

NO. If the proper referencing has been completed to verify the past performance and credentials of the new C.A.O. coming in, they should be a qualified enough individual to know what they are walking into. They should be prepared to do the job of a C.A.O. without the need for “on the job training”. If they need to be directed from Mr. Phipps then we obviously have hired the wrong person for the position. I think that hiring a new C.A.O. before the new council is elected is plain stupid. We’ve gone this far and clearly the majority of our current council has no clue what they should be looking for. In the plain english your asking for… another “hurry up lets vote” asinine decision.

All answers to date are posted on the Candidate Answers page.

Glenn Swinton Answers Questions 26 To 29

Glenn Swinton’s answers are:

Question 26  Support Nuisance Program For Fraserville?

I do agree that not only does a high volume of mosquitos detract from ones enjoyment of the outside but further to that, there is indeed a serious potential of health risk.

Yes, I will agree that something needs to be done to address the situation and will be more than willing to review the options to rectify the issue upon being elected.

Question 27  Concerns From Fellow Citizens

While it may very well be that some issues may be better directed to a specific department of the town for further assistance, such issues should be monitored by the council member until reaching a resolution. I think it may be reasonable to assume that any citizen bringing forth an issue to a member of council has done so as the result of a lack of satisfactory response from the staff of the town.

Question 28   Ward System

I don’t make it any secret that I question the high volume of staff, overtime or “company perks” that some seem to enjoy. With some responsible leadership in place it may be time to review the staffing needs of some departments and outline some job descriptions in others.

Given the wide spread areas the Amherstburg covers with what seems to be almost like segregated communities, I think the idea of a ward system would be a viable consideration. Realistically, how much does a councilor that lives in the Amherstburg core and works in Windsor really know about what is going on way over in McGregor or River Canard etc. outside of what they are being told?

Question 29  Commit to no Public Funds On Barriers; Inclusion

This is a fairly loaded and wide spread request. As a contractor that specializes in accessible structures, I understand the importance of accessibility and also some of the limitations that are often near impossible to overcome. To commit to a municipal policy that would potentially limit the possibilities of the entire population of Amherstburg  will require further details of what you hope to accomplish.

As for public transportation. Accessible or not, I do not agree that this is a cost to be born by the Town of Amherstburg at this time but will certainly be willing to work with any provider (I.e. Transit Windsor) that may be interested in servicing the area. Unfortunately, I don’t  believe that public transportation in our area has enough demand to sustain itself which is likely why we haven’t seen a system put in place as of yet.

All questions to date are on the Ask The Candidates page, including the feedback form to submit a question. If or when candidates respond, their answers are posted on the Candidate Answers page.

Glenn Swinton Answers Question 19 Re Infrastructure and Services For All of Amherstburg

Glenn Swinton’s answer is:

Prioritizing infrastructure projects is really quite simple, first “need”, second “should have” and last “really like to have”.

Unfortunately, there is no simple answer on how I would fund these projects since there is often various Federal level contributions available. Without having an accurate account of the towns finances I cannot prepare for what is required until the true figures of our financial history are available to review.

As for the Essex Power share, let me say that at this time I agree with holding the shares. First, as a town yes we hold infrastructure debt. But to start dumping assets let alone income generating assets for the sake of trying to pay down a small portion of this debt is the wrong idea. Understand that the debt we carry is not running us into bankruptcy, those directing our finance department are. If the town were to declare Bankruptcy, the shares would be sold by a Trustee and applied to any debt we had outstanding. Insolvency doesn’t mean that our assets would be forfeited with no value applied to our debt. With that being said, if they are income generating shares why dump them now? Either way they have a value to this town only right now they are an asset that is paid for, generates some income and gives us partial control of an energy we rely on. Your not going to sell your car that gets you to work everyday to pay a little extra on the mortgage of your house are you?

All answers to date from those who have answered are on the candidate answers page.

Glenn Swinton Answers Questions 21 And 25

Glenn Swinton’s answers are:

21.  Affiliated With Political Party In Last 10 Years?
I have never been officially affiliated with any provincial or federal level political parties, nor do I have any campaign staffers with affiliations either.  

25.  Hotel Needed?
I believe the town of Amherstburg has a fine selection of Bed & Breakfast options available for those few looking for an option to spend the night. Perhaps some encouragement to enhance the facilities of the hotels that have faded from the town in the past might have been a more sensible option.

I do not, nor will not consider a hotel to be a viable expense to be funded from the municipality. Although I would certainly support the Chamber of Commerce in their efforts to attract any interested parties, the hotel industry is a venture for the private sector not the taxpayers.

All answers to date from those who have answered are on the candidate answers page.

Glenn Swinton Answers Question 22 Re Fraserville Mosquito Issue

Glenn Swinton’s answer is:

Yes, I am somewhat aware of the Frasierville mosquito dilemma. As I can understand that the approval is a time sensitive issue, you too must understand the it is one that currently rests in the hands of your present day council. I will certainly be more than willing to review all of the facts and concerns of said approval if elected into office so that an informed decision can be presented.

All answers to date from those who have answered are on the candidate answers page.

Glenn Swinton Answers Question 24 – Why Run To Represent Amherstburg?

Glenn Swinton’s answer is:

As a long time resident of Amherstburg, I have grown very fond of this town generations of my family now call home. I decided to run again this election in hopes to make a difference in this great town. To become part of a team that will work together in the advancements and accomplishments yet collectively agree on the issues that are best for our taxpayers.

All questions to date are on the Ask The Candidates page, including the feedback form to submit a question. If or when candidates respond, their answers are posted on the Candidate Answers page.

Glenn Swinton Answers Question 16 – Tourism Or Employment

In response to Question 16 about Tourism or Employment in the previous post and on the Questions page, Glenn Swinton answered:

I don’t believe the two are even comparable. The 500 tourist can easily be persuaded to attend with a single function. One newly created full-time industrial job will require the entire industrial facility to present the position. We have a long list of candidates this election that are entrepreneurs at heart. A group that gets up every day and puts others to work. When you ask 500 tourist or one full-time industrial job I ask you, Retirees or dedicated movers that develop industry your asking to attract? You get to vote, you decide. Why can’t we have both? I think realistically anyone can vote on a festival for a weekend here and there but it takes industrious minds to draw industry interests.

All answers to date are also on the candidate answers page.

Glenn Swinton Answers Question 14 – Flooding

In response to Question 14 about repeated home owners’ flooding posted in the previous post and on the Questions page, Glenn Swinton’s answer follows; all answers to date are also on the candidate answers page.

This question will be difficult for anyone not immersed in the town operations on a day to day basis. There are several factors that could be leading to the flooding of your home. The first important question is, where is it coming from? Does it enter your home from a storm or sanitary sewer connection? Is it ground water accumulating under your home and rising up from the sump pit to a degree that your pump cannot maintain safe levels? Is it infiltrating the foundation or building up so high on the exterior of your house that it is entering through an opening close to the ground level?

You indicated that you have photographs of water rising out of the city rainwater drains in the street. This is usually an indication that the system is being overloaded and the excess water is being forced out of the system by back pressure. You have further indicated that this is the third flood that you have had to address. Is each flood from the same source? Has there ever been a recommendation to install a back flow preventer from any of the contractors that performed the flood damage repairs?
Unfortunately, to answer your question there really isn’t a plan that anyone will be able to honestly give to you without knowing the extensive data that would exist on your existing sewer system. Before a plan can be conveyed, it is important to know what the town has already done to investigate the cause and what the results of that investigation were.
As a councillor with an understanding of construction principals, I would certainly be willing to look further into this issue on your behalf and work with you and the others effected in your neighbourhood in finding a sensible resolution.

 

Glenn Swinton Answers Seven Questions

In response to questions 1 through 13, summarized below and posted on the Questions page, Glenn Swinton’s answers follow; all answers to date are also on the candidate answers page.

1.  Toxic Culture At Town Hall
The Town of Amherstburg has been caught in a media frenzy of blame over the past 4 years. It’s no wonder those who come with hopes of shining in the spotlight quickly turn and retreat. Our town is in need of fresh leadership with strong support. A team that will be dedicated to resolution before advancement to ensure we begin to see a balance between debt load and progression. Although “micro-managing” may not necessarily be required, it’s clear that a CAO with direction needs to be encouraged to take the helm and work diligently with a new Mayor and council to rectify the issues at hand. Leadership with a strong understanding of what exactly is expected of a CAO would certainly benefit the hurdles of outlining the chain of command.

3:  Support Full Independent Audit
There is a huge misconception within the members of this town that the O.P.P. had conducted a forensic audit and found “no fowl play”. The O.P.P. had conducted an audit based on allegations of foul play and evidence that might support the allegations was the only thing they were looking for in their investigation. They DID NOT conduct a full audit on the Town of Amherstburg in search of anything out of place.

I believe that there is years of transactions that must be reviewed given the current state of the town. With that being said, it’s time that requests from some councillors for information be responded to on time and in full and yes there is a need to outline exactly how and when money has been spent and/or transferred. When the answer to our debt is simply “I don’t know, I’m not an accountant…” there is clearly a need for a better look. This isn’t a few hundred dollars, it’s lots of millions.

4Increase Time To Study Agenda
I don’t believe that any conscious decision could be made on an issue where by a person is not 100% informed and understands the issue being presented. I for one would always decline making an uninformed decisions and would strongly encourage a sensible amount of time for review of the facts. Issues that are to be brought before a council cannot be of rash decisions. Amherstburg as it is today is a fine example of “I thought I had the right idea”. Further to that, I do not believe that every proposed project that is discussed needs to be researched at a cost of tens of thousands of dollars before it is put before the taxpayer for consideration.

6:  Obtain OPP Costing, Remove Contract Clause
I believe that there are many factors that need to be considered with a proposal to convert our policing services over to the O.P.P.. Moreover, the long term commitments need to be compared to our own controllable costs incurred. Rate increases in the future will not easily be disputed once we have liquidated our own forces. Some other municipalities that have migrated to O.P.P. policing services have expressed issues of dislike and we must remember that once such a conversion is made it will be nearly impossible to reverse. I think more importantly we should be asking ourselves if the current council should be negotiating any longterm contracts as they head for the door. Especially one that will last throughout the next 4 year term of any new council. With the Term of Office commencing on December 1, 2014, a contract that expires on December 31, 2014 should not be renewed before then.

8:  Curtail Spending; Pay Debt; Reduce Budget
As a citizen in this town, it infuriates me that our finances our budgeted by staff members that are directed by a council that either doesn’t ask the important s and those that do are not properly responded to by the staff members responsible for providing the information. It will be impossible to stop any spending altogether. This town will incur some level of spending in order to maintain operations however, ALL departmental budgets need to be reviewed thoroughly. All to often department leaders follow the mentality that funds not consumed from the previous budget will be eliminated in the next year. ABSOLUTELY. Budgets are created to cover the expenses of the year to come. Somehow this becomes more of an allowance that needs to be spent so they can ask for more. There isn’t any more. We need to cut back now and when times are better we can revisit the need for more. Those spending to reach there budget should have to explain the expenses and as a member of council I will be watching for such behaviours and expect a full account for every dollar requested. As for job eliminations, I am not a strong proponent of any “make work programs”. Legitimate positions that need to be filled will be filled.

10:  Establish Regional Transit
Public transit is a service to be negotiated with a secondary provider. Encouraging these providers to service the area would certainly be an added benefit to the citizens of Amherstburg. I will actively support the efforts of any company willing to service the area i.e. Transit Windsor however, any coverage of expenses for these services cannot be passed to the Town of Amherstburg at this time.

12:  Selection Of New CAO For New Council
I am strongly apposed to this current council making any decisions with long term effects before they are potentially replaced. The C.A.O. is put in place to give direction to all the towns department heads. His direction is to come from the Mayor and his council. If this current Mayor and Council are not unanimous on the needs of the town how can they possibly hire a C.A.O.? If they are to hire a C.A.O. before leaving office, this new hire should be placed under contract with a strong understanding that he/she is under a probationary period until well after the new Mayor and council take office. This would prevent any potential “buyout” of any contract that may be entered into.