Milton Town Council Meeting July 16, 2012

The next meeting of Milton Town Council is on Monday July 16, 2012 starting at 7pm at Milton Town Hall.

The governing body of the Town of Milton is Town Council, consisting of the Mayor and 10 Councillors who represent Milton’s eight wards.  Milton residents elect members of Council for a four-year term of office.  You can find a link to watch the Town Council meetings here.  The meetings are also broadcast on TV Cogeco (Channel 14).

Town Council deals with:

  • Matters requiring policy direction
  • By-laws or by-law amendments
  • Responses or actions to pertinent issues

Council also makes decisions on the recommendations of Milton’s two Standing Committees of Council:

  • Administration & Planning Committee
  • Community Services Committee

The link to the agenda can be found here.

Some of the highlites in the agenda are as follows:

If you have any questions, please feel free to call or email me mike@mikecluett.ca You can also go to the Watch Online link on my page to view from the comfort of your home.  I look forward to seeing you there.

Letters to Champion Regarding Council Pay Increase Approved

As it was recently reported in the Milton Canadian Champion (sorry the online version of the article isn’t up) Milton Town Council approved a salary increase.  You can find out some of the details here so I don’t have to rehash the whole argument. 

It’s essentially like this.  Council approved a citizen’s based committee to review salaries of town councils in surrounding areas, compare them to what we are currently being paid, and make recommendations for adjustments.

That part of the process I am ok with.  It’s good that a citizens group make the decision and not a sole staff report debated by council members.  I am fine with the recommendation of the increase.

What Councillor Rick Malboeuf and I endeavoured to do is to completely take it out of the hands of THIS council, and approve the report and have the new starting salary set for the 2014-2018 council at $32,120 per year (1/3 being tax free to allow for expenses, incidentals etc. seeing how we don’t have an “expense” account) and that way WE, the current 11 members of Milton Town Council do not benefit from that decision.

I’ve said from day one, politicians at all levels should be paid fairly.  This job is a part time job.  There are some days it feels like more with answering emails, emergency situations and high profile items that are happening – the Velodrome for instance.  That goes with the job.

Before running for this position I took the time to speak with a number of current and former councillors in Milton to get an idea of what to expect.  I attended council meetings long before I was elected to get an idea of the reports, which committee does what, how to deal with staff, numbers of meetings etc.  I knew that some days would be busier than most.

I have been opposed to politicians at ALL levels, including federal and provincial, being able to increase their pay in the current term.  I felt and still do that any increases should be effective the date the next council / session / legislature etc. sits.  Seems to me to be common sense and many of you have agreed with me in the past.  SOME of those who agreed with me are now sitting around the council table with me, and yet didn’t support this motion.  Highly disappointing.

Since being elected I haven’t accepted a pay increase.  Against the advice of many people, business associates, residents in town, fellow councillors and friends I have declined a pay increase.  Granted the amounts are small, but I feel it’s more important to stand on principle.  What this means is my council friends will be paid more than me.  Some work a lot, some work less but that’s fine by me.  I didn’t get into this for the money.  If money was the only driving force in my decision to represent the taxpayers of Milton, I would have tried to find a better way to do it.

As reported in the Champion, Councillor Tony Lambert “just hours” after the decision was made to approve the pay increase and the phasing in plan (of which Mr. Lambert voted in FAVOUR of the increase and AGAINST the deferral of the increase) he emailed the town clerk to decline the increase in pay.

Interesting timing of it all as before this process started there was a thread on the Hawthorne Villager and as you will read, a majority of the comments on the topic were against the increase and in favour of the “deferral amendment” by Councillor Rick Malboeuf and me.  Only after reading through a number of negative comments did he “decide” to refuse the pay increase.

My question is very simple.  Why oppose the amendment and support the increase if you were only to then refuse the increase?  He claimed that governments are “asking for austerity” and looking for savings.

Let’s do some math.  $ 5,000 times 10 equals $ 50,000 (I’m not including the Mayors increase of $ 12,000 to keep the numbers simple) If we had deferred that $ 50,000 increase to 2014-18 council, there’s savings.  For example, there is a playground at Storey Drive and McNeil in ward 6 that needs to be upgraded.  The residents in the area call it the “dirty” park because the playground has sand as opposed to wood chips (which are generally much safer for kids to play on)  After discussions with staff, they estimated the cost to improve that park to be roughly $ 25,000.  So we could either save $ 50,000 over the next 3 years or in some cases invest it in much needed projects around town to improve the quality of life.

Now, take into consideration that if council had deferred that increase, there would be roughly $ 50,000 savings.  If someone is looking at “austerity” like Mr. Lambert says he was, wouldn’t it have been more beneficial to taxpayers to vote against the increase, or at the very least vote FOR the deferral of the increase?  The answer is yes. 

As one of my friends said it recently, you can’t have it both ways.  You can’t take credit for not accepting the pay increase while you voted in favour of it and against an amendment that would have saved taxpayers money.

Here is a link to the letter in the Champion by a resident in Milton. 

http://www.insidehalton.com/community/milton/article/1388326

He also posted the FULL unedited letter on the Hawthorne Villager as well, because he felt some key points were missed for brevity at the paper.

http://www.hawthornevillager.com/phpbb/viewtopic.php?f=1&t=48041

Here’s his unedited letter.

Dear Editor.

I was quite taken aback at the Champion article from June 28th regarding Council’s decision to grant themselves a 15% salary increase. No mention was given to the proposed and eventually failed amendment put forward by Councillor Malboeuf and seconded by Councillor Cluett. The amendment allowed the salary increase, but to become effective at the next sitting of Councillors in January 2015. As I said, they lost that 8-2. Councillor Barkley was not in attendance, another issue I have, but that’s a concern for later. And not only did the majority of Council approve the salary increase, they also voted to make the increase retroactive to January 2012. Weren’t some of these Councillors the same that ran on a campaign of ‘No voted salary increases’? Or were they not aware of the salary when they ran for the position? A 15% increase in salary after 18 months on the job is pretty absurd – and without a union backing even. And the much chastised and ridiculed American Government realized the idiocy of this issue and passed the 27th Amendment to the Constitution. Way back in 1992. We’ve still got a long way to go to catch up to 20 years ago it seems.

Councillor Lambert’s remarks that he will not accept the salary increase is nothing more than political pandering. The better political move is to not vote in favour of it in the first place. My favourite quote of the article was Councillor Hamid’s “Politicians have a job to represent the taxpayers, but I’ve never been a fan of the levels of government raising their hand to incrementally increase their salaries.” I completely agree with this statement. The only issue is, Councillor Hamid didn’t say it – Councillor Cluett did. He and Councillor Malboeuf are not receiving the credit they deserve on behalf of the taxpayers.

I believe that both Councillors are donating their newly found wealth to local charities, and I urge the others to do the same. In opposition to Councillor Lambert’s tactics, leaving the money in the Town’s coffers only allows that money to be spent on such things as Steinway pianos and Velodromes 90% of us are opposed to. This should come as no surprise to the good residents of this Town. The same Town that is sending 9 Councillors to the AMO conference in Ottawa this August. Cost to taxpayers? $22,500. Burlington’s entourage at the conference? 1 Councillor. To quote Councillor Malboeuf “the majority of this Council has demonstrated that they have not seen a tax dollar they can’t wait to spend”. I couldn’t agree more.

Robb Derkatz

There was also a letter printed by Councillor Rick Malboeuf as well regarding the salary increases for council.

Dear Editor:

Despite what may have been concluded in last Thursday’s Champion article concerning town council’s decision to grant its members a 15 per cent salary increase, not all councillors supported the recommendation of the Council Compensation Committee.

Councillor Mike Cluett and I voted against increasing the salaries for councillors during this term. In fact I put forward an amendment seconded by Cluett that would have seen the increase become effective January 2015, the next term of council.

Again, only Cluett and I voted in favour of that amendment. The other eight members of council (Sharon Barkley was absent) voted to take the increase retroactive to January 2012, thereby voting themselves a 15 per cent salary increase.

My position is and always has been that councillors shouldn’t be deciding their own salaries. We all knew what the job paid when we agreed to put our names on the ballot. To now vote ourselves a 15 per cent increase 18 months into the job is in my opinion ethically and morally wrong.

As for Councillor Tony Lambert’s decision not to accept the increase after voting to do so, I considered doing the same, as I did in 1998 when the council back then voted itself an 11 per cent increase. In protest not only did I not accept the increase, I also took an additional voluntary one-third pay cut.

This time I have decided I will take the increase and then give it back to the community by donating to charities and groups that I support and feel need assistance.

I’m disappointed by council’s decision but not surprised. This is the same council that increased property taxes at twice the rate of inflation and agreed to commit millions of dollars to build a velodrome.

Councillor Rick Malboeuf, Ward 4

The letter is outlining the fact that both he and I did offer council an alternative that we felt would be better from a transparency point of view, that kept with our beleifs that elected people shouldnt be able to vote themselves an increase no matter who made the recommendation and that it was simply common sense.  Many disagreed with us as it turned out. 

What do you think?

Administration & Planning Standing Committee Meeting June 18 2012

This coming Monday night June 18th will be the Administration & Planning Standing Committee meeting at Town Hall starting at 7pm.

This Committee consists of five Councillors and the Mayor. Committee members review all reports, formulate policy and make recommendations to Council on matters over which Council has authority under the Municipal Act, the Planning Act and other legislation. Recommendations are made in the areas of corporate administration, personnel, legal issues, planning and finance.

The Administration and Planning Committee reviews the operating and capital budgets as well as various financial matters affecting the Town of Milton.

The agenda for the meeting can be found here.

Some of the highlights include:

As always you can watch online on Monday night at 7pm.  If you have any questions or comments for any of these reports, please email me mike@mikecluett.ca

Milton Strawberry Fair June 23rd

Its that time of year again folks. The best combination is summer time and strawberries.

On June 23rd will be the 32nd annual Strawberry Fair at the Milton Fairgrounds in support of the Milton District Hospital Auxiliary.   For more details you can visit this page.  Thousands of people attend every year for some strawberries and ice cream as well as sample from vendors across the region.

Fun for the whole family – bouncy castles, games, prizes, baking, vendors marketplace, rides, entertainment, strawberries, ice-cream, shortcake and daiquiris all day!

Strawberry pancake breakfast by The Optimist Club of Milton

Don’t miss out on this opportunity to experience one of Milton’s great traditions and make sure you attend this years Strawberry Fair in support of the Milton District Hospital.

Another Source Of Cell Tower Information

Last night the Administration & Planning Standing Committee endorsed staff recommendation PD 026-12.  This was to modify the Town of Milton’s Telecommunication policy, while strongly urging telecommunication companies and Industry Canada to come to the table during discussions like the one we’ve had for the last 2 months and also to state opposition or what is called “non-concurrence” to the application from New Life Church & Altus Group (Bell Canada)

There was definitely an interest from the residents in the area surrounding the proposed tower and from all over Milton in attendance in what was a jam packed council chamber.  There were over 10 delegations listed and throughout the night, each one took ten minutes to explain their reasons for either supporting or not supporting the cell tower application. 

Of those delegates, many applauded town staffs report in its detail and thoroughness.  Some explained of their worries on the potential hazzards of living near a cell tower while others described the impact on the quality of life of business owners & those who no longer have landlines and soley use this technology as their only phone.  What was clear from everyone was this.  There was a call for better communication between the municipalities and the proponents is needed, especially as out town grows.

During my comments, I had mentioned that this isnt a short term issue.  As the Town of Milton grows from what was 35,000 to being approximately 100,000 now to its eventual size of nearly 250,000 people, THIS will happen again and again and again unless something is done about it.  The more people move to Milton, the more demand for better and faster data and phone services will increase.

So now that the Town (assuming the decision is ratified by full council on May 28th) has said no to this particular application, where do we go from here?  Good question.  Once this report is ratified, it will be sent back to the individual parties to see if some kind of resolution can be made on a possible compromise or new location entirely.  Thats a tough call. 

Outlined in the report was Altus Group’s attempt at other locations in the prime area with no success.  These towers cant be just arbitrarily placed whever needed.  There has to be a willing host for the tower and Altus Group found that willing party in New Life Church.

Not to burst any bubbles, but the deal isnt dead.  Maybe the two parties can come to an agreement or Altus Group can find another willing host for a tower.  If they cant come to that agreement on consensus, the eventual decision will be made by Industry Canada.  In some cases, municipalities that have opposed towers and Industry Canada has agreed with them, but thats not always the case.

There have been towns and cities who have opposed cell towers, only to have Industry Canada approve them anyway.  We will have to see how this develops over time.  But there is one thing that is quite clear that needs to happen.

Everyone’s got to come to the table from the beginning.  The Boyne Survey is the next “chunk” of residential development that will start soon and will bring what is estimated to be 70,000 more people to the greatest town in the world.  Imagine that.  70,000 MORE Miltonians.  With those people moving to Milton, it will bring more phones, Black Berry’s, iPhones and push the limits of what we currently have in place.

The reality is NO ONE wants towers in their backyard and in residential areas.  It’s been a clear message I and other councillors have heard over the last 2 months.  If not there….then where?  This is why the TC’s (telecommunication companies) need to come to the table with our planning department so as we plan the Boyne Survey and other developments, we can get an idea of where these need to be placed.  Then we can discuss these locations with current landowners and come to some form of an agreement with them so we can plan around the towers in residential areas and avoid any further issues.

I have read roughly 200 different reports, studies and brochures on this technology.  The good and the bad.  Some were quite clear in their conclusions while some left details and arguments to be desired.  During the two months I have spoken with, and will continue to follow up with a number of real estate agents both inside and outside of Milton to gauge what might happen to property values when cell towers are erected. 

One presenter last night, who admittedly isnt an expert in real estate, but in economics, stated over and over that property values would plummet in areas where cell towers are put in place.  To be honest, the real estate agents I spoke with in detail showed me proof that despite the claims of the presenter last night, property values do not decrease.  There has been no evidence in Milton to prove that property values go down in areas surrounding cell towers.  In particular Duncan Lane, which at some points directly fronts a cell tower located on Bronte Street (near a child care institution) there have been homes sold OVER asking price.

I’m sure that debate will continue as these towers continue to be installed to improve the quality of communication, data transfer and fill in the empty areas to ensure no dropped calls by providers.

During this process I have also had the opportunity to speak with many people both in my ward and all throughout the Town of Milton and have learned a lot from them.  As I continually updated my website, many from outside Milton took the time to read my posts and even offer links to studies and other sources of information.

This past Thursday I received an email from Todd White of Canadian Radiocommunications Information & Notification Service (CRINS) who provided me with a link to their organizations website which I thought was valuable.  With his permission, here is his email:

Dear Mike,

First I would like to congratulate you on a job well done – of all the municipal politicians which we have observed in dealing with antenna system issues, your efforts on the part of your constituents to address their concerns are top-of-the-class. Our staff has been watching your website regularly to keep up-to-date on the New Life Church  application, and have reported back that you seem to have done a great job and hopefully your constituents are appreciative of your efforts.

I wanted to offer you an opportunity to maybe off-load some of your educational duties with respect to the public and antenna systems. As you may be aware, CRINS-SINRC is a shared service consisting of participating municipalities who are dealing with the same challenges in antenna siting as the Town of Milton. We’ve spoken to Angela Janzen, and her colleagues about our activities and we are available to them at any time.

However, I wanted to suggest that you  should feel free to send members of the public to our website – http://www.crins-sinrc.ca/  – specifically to the “I Have A Question…” section which lays out quite clearly the jurisdictional and process issues surrounding antenna siting.  This may reduce the amount of time you spend explaining to the public how the process works, and it will hopefully give you some of your day back.

We try to keep our resources up-to-date and communicate any interesting changes to our members and the public – so do avail yourself of those resources if they can help.

I wish you well and once again good job in working for your constituents.

Regards,

Todd

Todd White
Executive Director  CRINS

Please take a few moments to read through his website as it provides a good source of information and clearly answers a number of questions that people might have.

I wanted to end with a thank you to all the people I have spoken with recently.  I have learned a lot about this technology and its potential affects on the public and more importantly, the process that needs to be followed in case….nope, WHEN it happens again.  I hope that when it does come up again, we have everyone to the table beforehand in an open and frank discussion so that people are not surprised when another application is made.

I’ll see you at the doors.