When the chips are down…

…Regional Councillor Tony Lambert left Milton high and dry.

The following video is from yesterday’s Halton Regional Council meeting.  After a marathon 4 hour plus meeting an in camera report came up for a vote.  This report is a result of 3 years of discussion regarding ROPA 38, which is the Regional Official Plan Amendment that affects many areas in Halton, including Milton.

Our council representatives Mayor Gord Krantz, Councillor Best and Lambert received this detailed report less than 24 hours before the meeting before having to be asked to vote on it.  I wasnt part of the in camera discussions obviously, but what came out of it was a motion by Mayor Krantz to defer the report until such time that Town of Milton staff and legal teams could look into it in more detail.  This comes on top of an announcement from the provincial government regarding a change to the Places To Grow Act that will now, once complete, bring a total of 1,000,000 people to the Halton region, and MANY of those to Milton.

When its all said and done, the province of Ontario has deemed Milton to grow to over 350,000 people by 2041.

You can see that due to this development and the fact that Milton will be the location of the majority of that growth, our councillors representing the best interests of Milton would want to take a look at it some more.

If you watch the video, you will see that some of the discussion on Mayor Krantz’s deferral motion.  The results of the vote were 11-3 with our 3 regional representatives voting for the deferral, so it lost.

Then the vote on the main motion came up and this is where the head scratching begins.  When Milton needed to stand united on an issue that will affect this town for 20-30 years down the road, Tony Lambert first opposed the report by voting FOR the deferral, and then after that motion was lost, voted FOR the original report.

Regional council voted against the deferral and in turn lone Councillor Tony Lambert chose to support it in the end leaving Mayor Krantz and Colin Best standing alone. When the chips were down and Milton needed to stand united, for whatever reason he might come up with, Lambert chose to flip flop and change his mind to in essence desert Milton’s long term needs.

As regular readers of my blog will know, THIS is why there has to be change in representation for Milton at the Region and why I intend to run for the regional councillor position for wards 1,6,7 & 8 in 2014.

3 years of on the job training has not worked. Sadly as it is, this isnt the only example of erratic voting behaviour.

With all of these changes and important issues facing Milton in the coming years, we need someone who will stand up for Milton when the chips are down.

Are you confused too?

As many regular readers of my blog and Twitter account will know, I have been doing a lot of talking about The Big Move and its plans, or lack thereof, for Halton.  Plans are currently underway for the province of Ontario to receive Metrolinx’s report in June that will recommend many different “revenue generating tools”, most commonly referred to as  taxes, to pay for the over $50 Billion in transit growth in the GTHA.

I’ve clearly stated during this conversation that I feel the province needs to come to the table with some of its own funding ideas that don’t include tax increases, levies, or massive user fees.  They’ve ignored those suggestions continually which has forced Halton Region and other levels of government to make their own decisions regarding the Big Move.

This past Wednesday, Halton Regional council unanimously endorsed a recommendation to the province of Ontario that if Halton’s needs for transit expansion (all day GO train service for Milton and Halton Hills) are not addressed in the current 15 year plan for the Big Move that council will consider putting the brakes on growth in the region.

Bold statement for sure.  It’s a demand from the region that if the province won’t look after our needs and concerns for growth, and considering we are in the Places To Grow area that will see Milton end up with a population of over 300,000 or more in future years, then we have to make changes to OUR growth plan.

Is this a bit of posturing? Yes. Is it possible? Not really.  Will it end up costing lots of money? You bet it will.

That’s a story for another day.  The reason I bring all of this up is that during this meeting some comments were made by current Regional Councillor Tony Lambert that I found to be confusing to say the least.

If you’ve been following along with this debate on the Hawthorne Villager forum, you will know that Tony has been stating for a long time that he is opposing growth in Milton until the province meets “his” demands and those include the all-day GO train service for Milton and a new GO Station at Trafalgar and the 401.

He’s made statements that he when first elected to Milton council, was to “try to shut development down!” He was a bit confused as he did vote against 2 reports at our first meeting which was to receive information reports on Derry Green business park and the Boyne Survey and no decisions or plans were included.

And other comments like this:

“Like me or not, I am whom I am. I will take your money, but if you come against the people my face will be against you (no apologies). I will STILL win, on $0 of donations. Just watch.

If I cared less, I would be asleep. Brian, corporations do not determine who represents the voters of wards 1 6 7 and 8 in Milton, the PEOPLE do!”

He then made other comments about Derry Green Business park, which when completed with bring hundreds of jobs and businesses to Milton so that as a community, we wouldn’t have to rely on 401 and other major roads to get to work.  In fact it might help increase transit ridership locally if we do.  But he said he would try to stop it.

“Yes, Derry Green means local jobs but also more motorists and trucks. I will see if we look at shutting that down also.”

“So the delay I will be fighting for on future development unless the province changes their stance on Milton (and I hope their reading this), kicks in. Less new people/development = less local transit expansion/costs. So therefore, Mr./Mrs. Taxpayer is protected if I win and show the Government of Ontario to think twice. To not try to force 150,000 people in my 4 wards on top of the 100,000 people here, and not keep up transportation infrastructure (trains as an option). NO – NOT HAPPENING! “

So by these comments you can ascertain that Tony is against business growth in Milton that will mean jobs and more importantly revenue for the Town of Milton and the Region of Halton in the form of development charges and property taxes.   He also supported the Milton transit expansion at the 2013 budget discussions and recently at Milton council meetings, but says he’s “protecting” tax payers.

All of this brings me to his comments at the Halton regional council meeting yesterday.

Here’s the partial transcript of his statement before the vote.

…if we don’t, perhaps build up our local areas more such as Milton Burlington and Halton and Georgetown and Oakville, we may have to look at more investments in improving infrastructure 20 years from now but we will be looking at future dollars and future billions of dollars so perhaps the province as they see the message we are giving them this morning, can perhaps look at instead of spending 10s of billions of dollars in widening the 401 which they probably will have to do but also look at building up businesses in local communities.”

So now he’s made mention of building up local areas for business in order to help alleviate the congestion on our roads and highways. More local jobs can lead to less cars on the road, more usage of transit and overall a better quality of life in Milton.  And he is apparently against that.  Or is he?

My question is this?  Where does he stand on this?  One day he mentions doing everything possible to stop all business growth in Milton and then another day states that growth of businesses locally is a good idea.

Confused?  You’re not alone.

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?

Community Services Committee Meeting June 13 2011

The next meeting of the Community Services Standing Committee is this coming Monday June 13, 2011 at Milton Town Hall beginning 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. These matters are related to Community Services, Fire, Library, Transit and other operational programs. If you wish to be a delegation at the Community Services Committee, you must register in writing with the Clerk’s Office by 10:00 a.m. on Monday, the day of the meeting.

The following Council Members sit on the Community Services Committee:

  • Gordon Krantz, Mayor
  • Councillor Tony Lambert, Wards 1, 6, 7 & 8
  • Councillor Greg Nelson, Ward 2
  • Councillor Rick Malboeuf, Ward 4
  • Councillor Arnold Huffman, Ward 5
  • Councillor R. Di Lorenzo, Wards 7

Here is a copy of the agenda for you to review.  Some of the items to be discussed include:

If you cant make it to the meeting, as always you can watch online.  Just click on my links to the right and enjoy!

Even More Feedback on Milton Budget & Tax Levy

Continuing with some of the feedback I posted earlier last week, here is another letter to the editor of the Milton Canadian Champion in todays paper.

A re-do needed on Town budget

Dear Editor:

Milton council appears to be out of touch with the reality of today’s economy.

The country is in a recession, thousands of Canadians are unemployed, and citizens are still reeling from the introduction of the HST and hydro cost increases. And still Milton council feels increasing our property taxes at twice the rate of inflation represents good government. It doesn’t.

The Bank of Canada is projecting a 2 per cent inflation rate for 2011, which should represent the absolute limit for property tax increases this year. Town council needs to get back to work and have Town staff provide them with spending reductions that will keep the tax increases within the 2 per cent target.

These reductions should include, at a minimum, a freeze on the hiring of new employees, unfilled positions being left vacant and capital projects being reduced, as they eventually create ongoing operations and maintenance expenses. The Town should also be looking to contract out any services that it performs that can be more cost-effectively provided by the private sector.

The 1 per cent hospital tax levy should be rescinded. Ontario residents are already burdened with high Provincial taxes to support health care. The Town shouldn’t be creating a ‘stealth’ health-care tax  through our property taxes.

One of the more pleasant surprises I experienced when I moved to Milton over a decade ago was reasonable property taxes. To keep these taxes reasonable, council needs to recognize that prudent management of our tax dollars is expected of our elected members of council.

The budget for 2011 needs to be re-opened and spending reductions introduced to lower the Town portion of property taxes to a maximum 2 per cent increase.

Sean McCafferty, Milton