Where will ward one go

Is the town making the right decision by looking at changing the ward boundries in Milton?

By the sounds of this letter to the Champion last week, they might be jumping the gun. Milton resident Robert Harris states that the Town of Milton should wait until the Region of Halton completes its “Sustainable Halton” plan before making changes to how the town is divided up. Here’s the letter…

Doing review of town’s ward boundaries now is premature

Published on May 20, 2008

Hats off to Councillor Colin Best, who stated the obvious at a recent town council meeting about waiting for the Sustainable Halton plan as the template to follow before realigning ward boundaries in Milton.

He has shown that he can envision town growth and at the same time save taxpayers money — a sum of $40,000.

The optics around this ward boundary review recommended by council don’t look good at this time. Some would look at it as an attempt by some councillors to possibly ensure another term in office by surgically removing urban growth within their wards.

It could be initially viewed as an effect to ensure representation for rural Milton, but the consultant’s report will probably recommend a reduction in councillors in these sparsely-populated wards, favouring representation for urban areas.

Rural Milton stands to come up shorter in representation as a result of this poorly-timed initiative.

Best’s view to wait until the 2014 election to realign ward boundaries is prudent and falls in line with regional council’s decision.

The Region has stated that there’s to be no change in the number of councillors representing Milton until the 2014 election.

I say wait, Milton council, and save the taxpayers some money. This will prevent the possible hassle of a future Ontario Municipal Board hearing over proposed ward boundaries that will require changes again after another four years of growth.

ROBERT HARRIS, GOWLANDS CRESCENT

In case you missed it, the Town of Milton recently commissioned a study to review the ward boundaries for the next municipal election in 2010. Currently, the town has 4 wards with two councillors serving for each ward. For much of the new area south of Derry, we live in whats called ward one.

Before the “big pipe” was built and the throngs of new homes were constructed here, ward one was mainly a rural ward much like ward 3. Seeing ow the majority of the growth has happened here, theres a population spike in our ward and what looks like an unfair balance in the way we are represented on council.

Councillor Brian Penman at the April 28th meeting of council stated that it was difficult to answer the calls and emails from the growing number of residents in ward one. It is this logic which brings us to the changing of the boundaries in Milton.

Yes it does need to be done. Right now ward one has the largest population of all the wards and continues to grow with every new family that takes possession of their new homes. The population will continue to grow over the next couple of years and if I plan on running again in 2010 for town council, it will essentially be double the size of 2006 election. (I need the exercise anyways)

Milton, we have a problem. The Region of Halton has yet to make formal its “Sustainable Halton” initiative which will make clearer what new developments are going to be approved and when. While it might seem that Milton has reached its peak in development and population, there is still lots of land to build homes and businesses in the coming years. The Town of Milton has just entered into talks for the Wilfred Laurier University education park, which would bring thousands of new residents to town to continue their studies.

The land surrounding the hospital is to be developed for commercial and residential use, not to mention HOPEFULLY the province gets off its duff, and makes changes to ensure the expansion of Milton’s hospital (thats another rant) and many more subdivisions to come.

Regional Councillor Colin Best made mention of this very fact at that meeting and urged council to hold off until the Region has finalized its plans.

With all this new development to come, it could change the population of the now Ward one area by upwards of 40,000. Then at that time, changes would have to be made again.

So whats the hurry then? Why doesn’t it make sense to Milton council to hold off on the ward changes and wait for the Region in 2014 and then make the much needed adjustments to the wards? Good questions.

This doesn’t even touch the cost of the program yet. The Town staff has budgeted $40,000 to pay for the study to be done. Dr. Robert Williams, who is a political science professor is also doing a similar study for the city of Kitchener and is expected to make his ideas known soon. I do have a problem with the cost of this study and where the money was to be coming from.

The Town of Milton gets a per centage of the revenues from the Mohawk Racetrack just north in Milton. Its a great deal that was signed awhile back to ensure the racetrack gives back to the town. These revenues are to go to programs like the Milton Community Fund that helps organizations and events in town with raising money to help better our community. Proceeds from the racetrack revenues are NOT to go to operating expenses but towards programs like this and possibly capital programs to help the town grow.

It would be like you turn to your spouse and ask them to go to the corner store to buy a lottery ticket so you can afford to buy milk and bread for your family. Its just wrong.

The money to commission this report was going to come from that fund…which is wrong. Town staff does the odd thing right but this idea, whoever it was, is just plain stupid. Before the motion was passed by council, they made an amendment to have the cost of the study come from the Capital Works reserve fund.

So, given the fact that once the Region finalizes the SH plan, we as a town will have to do this all over again. Lets save $40,000 from our reserve funds and wait. The councillors can tough it out for another few years to give the residents the representation they need and once completed, we can get it right.

It doesnt seem that council is thinking that way. So, $40,000 is tossed away on a study that can wait and those funds can go to something else the town needs. The Town of Milton seems to like spending money.

Don’t get me started on how the Town of Milton is spending its away into financial problems…again, another post for another day. Seeing how time is limited with the new addition to the family, I have to pace myself in my rants to avoid bursts in blood pressure.

The topic was also brought up casually during the discussions of the April 28th meeting that they might want to look at making the Milton town council a full time position instead of what it currently is, a part time job.

While nothing was brought forward formally regarding the change in job description, the seed has now been planted to talk about it.

Does this make sense to you?

Flipping through some on-line news this morning and I came upon a story from CBC News that made my jaw drop. After reading it, tell me if you don’t feel the same way.

The way it looks is like the City of Toronto WANTS their councillors to spend money and then punishes those who take it upon themselves to SAVE money.

This is beyond ridiculous! I’m sure Councillor Ford submits a detailed outline of all that he spends so whats the difference if he uses his own money to do it. And the City of Toronto wonders why they’re in the cash crunch situation they face.

Instead of being applauded for doing something to help out, hes singled out and persecuted for being fiscally sound.

Imagine if the Town of Milton did this? One example locally can be pointed out with former councillor John Challinor who took a reduced amount of pay for years in Ward 4. He didn’t accept any of the pay increases over the years of being on council and was one of the most frugal spenders. Imagine if the town staff said to him, “You’re taking the pay increase and that’s that!” It would be a joke.

Mayor David Miller and the City of Toronto executive are a joke if they condone this type of attack on one of their own. It just goes to show people that politicians only think of themselves and not the people they represent. Isn’t there something ELSE they could be doing, say finding the money they need to fix roads, pay for city services, improve the transit system and making the city safer to live in? They chose this route to show their taxpayers what their priorities really are.

Message to Mayor Miller…Instead of whining and complaining that the “feds” are to blame for the increasing gun violence in the city and the “feds” not giving them their fair share… DO SOMETHING about it instead of pointing fingers.

Here’s the CBC story.

Councillor reprimanded for not spending enough

Toronto city Coun. Rob Ford was formally reprimanded by the city’s executive committee on Monday for not spending enough taxpayers’ money.

Ford is the ultimate penny-pincher on council, spending nothing of his allotted $53,000 office budget this year.

Ford pays his office expenses out of his own pocket. He buys the stamps, the envelopes and pays the cellphone bills himself.

But that goes against the city’s ethics rules that call for transparency in public spending, the underlying principle being that the public should know who is paying so there is no chance individuals or companies could use the money as a lever to ask for favours.

“You don’t spend private money, or developers’ money, or anybody else’s money on things like your newsletters. You spend the public money because there’s an audit trail, it’s accountable,” said Mayor David Miller.

There is no suggestion Ford is doing anything improper, but strictly speaking, he is breaking the rules.

Ford said he’s done nothing wrong. He said he has been blessed with good fortune and he doesn’t want to charge Toronto taxpayers for something he’s happy to pay for.

“I can do what I want with my own money. I choose not to submit receipts because I don’t want to be reimbursed. The only reason these councillors submit receipts is because they want to be reimbursed,” Ford said.

He’s also fighting back by posting all of the office expenses of his fellow councillors on his website, item by item.

He has long argued that office budgets are just slush funds and that some councillors have spent thousands of dollars this year on lunches and dinners, sometimes involving alcohol.

Possible pay suspension

“There’s councillors at 2:30 in the morning taking cab rides. What are they doing at 2:30 in the morning taking cabs from downtown going to Woodbridge? Hundreds of dollars being spent,” said Ford.

Ford’s refusal to submit receipts and get reimbursed could land him a suspension of his pay for three months.

That doesn’t worry Ford, who said, “I’m not going to die without three months’ pay. What are they going to do next, throw me in jail?”

Council will decide on the punishment at its next meeting on Dec. 12.

Yates Drive and March Crossing

mike-cluett-005.jpg

Just the mere mention of that intersection causes many residents in the area to roll their eyes.

Why? We have seen many near misses of vehicles driving down Yates from Thompson Road with cars coming out of March Crossing. This weekend was no different.

Lets go back in time to this past summer around the dinner hour. Local residents were brought out of their homes with the sounds of screeching tires, loud thumps and a big bang. What had happened was a car traveling north on Yates Drive towards Bennett Blvd. at what witnesses describe as “over the speed limit”, narrowly missing a vehicle coming out on March Crossing into the intersection. This car swerved to miss that car, lost control and jumped the curb on the opposite side of the road and smash into a house. Luckily there was no one hurt, the car sustained some damage and the bay window of the home was damaged.

For those of us who live in the area know, kids are walking up and down the sidewalk heading to their friends homes or to the local parks and thank God no one was there was this happened.

Now, we go back to this past Saturday and the almost exact situation happened again. A car traveling up Yates Drive from Thompson Road heading towards Bennett Blvd. driving up the street, narrowly misses a car coming out from March Crossing, loses control and jumps the curb on the opposite side and hits the same house in almost the identical spot.

Enough is enough. Im not one person who favours putting stop signs at every intersection or reducing speed when there is no justification. Something has to change before any other home or God forbid, someone is injured or killed.

The speed limit on Yates Drive is 50km/hr. During last falls election campaign, I spoke with many people about community safety and what we as citizens can do to make our streets safer. Many of you favoured reducing the speed limit on streets. Is that enough?

Would a 40km/hr speed limit saved this home owner from yet another insurance claim and time away from their lives to repair the damage to their home that someone else caused? Maybe.

If the speed limit was reduced it might be cause for the driver to make sure they slow down. Who really knows.

Would a stop sign have done the trick? Again, who knows. If drivers know there is a stop sign approaching at that intersection, would they reduce their speed before they come to March Crossing?

Possibly. Only if people open their eyes and realize our residential and town roads are not speedways.

It’s frustrating to live in an area such as this with such amazing neighbours and people living in the subdivision to have to deal with this. The only thing we have left is to turn to the town of Milton and see what can be done.

For years now, residents have complained about speeding on our streets. To the town’s credit they have done some studies about excess speed on Yates Drive and have concluded it doesnt warrant a stop sign at this particular intersection.

My message, that I plan on delivering with the help of the local residents, is simply this.

Reduce the speed to 40km/h and / or put a 4 way stop at this intersection. By doing nothing, is simply condoning this behaviour and endorsing what has already happened.

The safety of the people in the area, their homes and our children are more important than worrying about if people will be inconvenienced by an additional stop sign.

Whats more important to you?

Is the Green Cart program enough

 

The Region of Halton recently announced that it was going forward with a Green Cart Program to help reduce the amount of waste that heads to our landfill site. In case people are unaware of where that landfill site is, take a trip down 25 (Bronte Road) south of Derry and you will soon see it.

There was quite the discussion during the last municipal election on what should be done with the landfill, which is quickly approaching capacity. With the hundreds and hundreds of new homes being built in the area there will be a further demand on that landfill and its up to us as residents to do our part.

The Region of Halton currently has the Blue Box program in place. You are to put glass, plastics etc in one box and in the other we place the acceptable paper products, boxes, etc. As of April 2008 it was announced that residents will be able to put all products into one box instead of separating it, given the improvement in the separation technology available.

During that campaign a debate raged on about the EFW (Energy From Waste) proposal that was put before Regional Council and the pros and cons involved. In essence, an incinerator would be built at the landfill and the waste would then be burned using clean technology to produce energy that would be used in the region of Halton and beyond. Coupled with this proposal there was the much maligned Pristine Power Plant issue that seemed to dominate the last half of the campaign.

Recently Halton Regional Chair Gary Carr along with council announced that it was putting the EFW option aside permanently and focusing only on the existing programs and the Green Cart.

Does it go far enough?

With our landfill approaching capacity quickly (some analysts have said that within 25 years Halton will be required to have another landfill or another option in place for our garbage) will simply placing household food scraps and other materials in our Green Box do the job? With the landfill approaching capacity by 2023 according to Halton Region analysis, we need to take sufficient action now. The addition of the Green Cart program will add 7 years to the life of the landfill where the EFW facility would solve our problems for close to 50 years from now.

The EFW program, according to the proposal and the experts would have added at least another 100 years to the life of the Halton landfill. Does the Green Cart program go far enough?

At first glance it would seem that unless I’m mistaken and someone can hopefully provide me with more information, that it would have little affect on the amount of garbage at the landfill. The Region of Halton, and residents in general, need to come up with a longer range plan to solve the landfill issue.

Of course costs will be a major factor in making this decision. Who pays for it, how will we pay for it, etc. But the main question remains, what will it cost if nothing gets done? What if we wait until the landfill is near capacity and decisions have to be made then? The cost to taxpayers will pale in comparison and who knows the effect on our environment.

The amount of available land is decreasing with every new resident that we welcome to the area. What other options are there available to increase the life of our landfill?

It seems that the easier political issue would be to scrap the EFW and go with the easier to sell Green Cart Program. Tough decision are going to have to be made NOW and not 25 years from now when our landfill is overflowing and the residents will be screaming for answers.

Lets look at all the options … now, before its too late. Food scraps and other items just wont cut it.

Every Vote DOES Count

As many of you are aware, there was a provincial election recently. The campaign seemed to go on forever since Premier Dalton McQuinty closed down Queens Park early this summer and thus the rubber hit the road.

During that campaign there was a referendum on our voting system that we, as voters, had to figure out and make a decision on. The future of the province was up for grabs. Did we think that the Liberals did a good enough job to carry on for four more years or did they deserve to get the boot?

Despite what side of that arguement you sat on, one thing we should all be able to agree upon is this…the voter turnout was dissappointing.

Just over half of the electorate came out to vote. This statistic has been continually debated after each election and a common theme has emerged. My vote doesn’t count.

Now when I hear that, it makes me shake my head. A perfect example can be given from this past provincial election.

Halton MPP Ted Chudleigh has been representing our riding of Halton for 12 years. He, in my and many peoples opinions, has done a very good job representing us in fights to secure more funding for Milton’s hospital and other services our growing community needs.

To put a long story short, Ted was returned to Queens Park on October 10th with a difference of only 164 votes when everything was counted. Going from having the highest plurality of votes by a winning candidate in the last elections to one of, if not THE closest margin of victory this time. Regardless of what you thought about faith based education funding and what kind of impact that had on Ted’s results, it just goes to show that everyone who did vote here in Halton….those votes counted.

Another example from the previous federal election can be found with our current Minister of Health, Tony Clement. He won his riding by only 28 votes. On election night and before the recount, he had only won by 21 votes. Again, in that riding as well as others, those votes counted.

Want more? Lets go back in time shall we? Almost one year ago in fact.

Last year around this time we were in the midst of our municipal election campaign. I was spending almost each and every waking moment hitting the doors and talking to as many people as possible. My blog was being updated on a daily basis with comments and observations that I got from the voters in my ward.

Every issue that came up, I did my best to put out there exactly what my stand on the issue was and what can be done to fix that problem. From Pristine Power to road safety to green growth and to accountibility of the elected officials…everything was up for discussion.

In Milton, each ward can elect 2 town councillors to represent them. In our current system its the first two candidates with the highest votes that win. In past elections in Ward One, the difference between the first two candidates and the third were hundreds of votes. This time around in 2006, the difference betweeen an elected seat and the third place was only 92 votes.

Less than 100 votes separated myself from current Councilor Brian Penman. Not a large margin…and that’s democracy for you.

So when I hear from people that my vote doesnt count, I bring them to these examples and say, YES your vote DOES count.

Instead of coming up with different ways to count our votes (ie MMP et all) we should be taking a hard look at ourselves and our priorities when it comes to the ballot box.

Why didnt you vote?  Oh I didnt have time.  The last provincial election had several days of advanced polls so that people who would find it hard to go vote on election day, can come out and have their voice heard.  I believe the advanced polls were open 5 days and open for almost 10 hours on election day.  There are laws in place to allow everyone a chance to vote.  Many people dont take advantage of these options and its saddening to say the least.

In the last municipal election less than 30% of people voted.  In the following by election in Ward 2, even less voted … approx 20%.  Again in this situation, advance polls were available, extended voting hours and many opportunities given, but yet people didnt show up.  I dont think that by changing the system from its current incarnation to MMP or another system will help.

The problem is people dont want to vote.  Again, many feel that their vote doesnt count.  Hopefully after reading this, they might change their opinion.  We need to find out why people arent voting and work at it from that angle…not changing the system so that we end up losing local representation in some ridings by having some political party people sitting in a seat and speaking out on our behalf.

Lets have that discussion soon.  A federal election is looming in the next few months quite possibly and given the current state of affairs and the minority government in place, our vote counts even more.