Last night’s meeting…sigh. Where do I even begin? I guess I will begin with the fact that the Budget portion of the meeting began at 5pm…how much more inconvenient does it get than that? It made it impossible for people like me, who have jobs and/or commute to get to the meeting. I wasn’t too concerned about missing the first hour of the meeting because I always have it PVR’ing anyways – so I figured I would arrive late and catch up on what I missed later on Rogers. Unfortunately, Rogers experienced some technical issues, and last nights meetings did not broadcast. So I will preface my post with an apology that I will not have any information from the first hour of the meeting, nor will I have any direct quotes…but I will do my best to get as much information to you of the happenings at Council as I can – Hope I don’t miss anything.
I arrived at Council chambers just shortly after 6pm and they were right in the middle of budget talks…tempers were already flaring – I guess it was foreshadowing for what was to come through the rest of the meeting. I didn’t miss much in the way of progress in the first hour – the budget amount was the same as the previous meeting. In fact, the only item that changed last night is that the $42,000 for the flag was removed from the budget (thanks to Paul Korsten for taking the lead on a fundraising committee for the flag), but they did add in $60,000 for handrails at Tony Rose which increased the proposed budget to 3.03%.
Councillor Garisto, chair of the meeting, was adamant that the budget be sent to Council for approval last night – even though a number of Councillors had expressed that they were not happy with the budget as it was. Deputy Mayor Maycock expressed that budget deliberations should continue in the finance committee rather than carrying it on in Council and asked for the floor to ask some deeper questions to the Treasurer about a few specific line items in the hopes to find some savings. Councillor Garisto continuously (and quite rudely) interrupted his questions and even went as far as accusing the Deputy Mayor of “stalling”, to which he took great offence.
The Deputy Mayor went on to explain how the tax increase would work, using last years numbers as an example of what an actual taxpayer would see as an increase (combining Orangeville portion, Education as well as County numbers) and again, Councillor Garisto had to jump in – he made accusations that the Deputy Mayor was using “his own numbers” to confuse the situation – Deputy Mayor explained that they weren’t “his” numbers, they were numbers provided to him by the Treasurer for this exercise and he was just explaining this because the media typically will only report the Orangeville portion during budget deliberations. Councillor Garisto again hot-headedly (making up my own words…lol) had to interrupt, raise his voice and act in a very unprofessional manner in retaliation asking “Are you saying the media is lying?” – Deputy Mayor explained that no, they weren’t lying at all, however this wasn’t a full representation of the tax impact. This exchange went back and forth and the Deputy Mayor used my favourite line of the night – “Perhaps the media should just be reporting what a Gong Show this is!!!” Well Deputy Mayor, I couldn’t agree more! Mayor Williams jumped in at this point stating that it was NOT a Gong Show…Not sure which meeting he was at…
In keeping with the true insanity of it all, Councillor Garisto had to make his attempt to reduce the budget by stealing from the reserve contributions – not surprisingly, this attempt didn’t fly. I don’t understand how this is even still a viable option in his mind – Councillor Garisto, if you are actually working towards a ‘zero percent’ as you claim, FIND A LEGITIMATE WAY TO MAKE THIS HAPPEN!! You are not Robin Hood, you can’t steal from one to pay another…that is NOT progress!!!!
Although little was accomplished to actually change the budget numbers, the Finance Committee still decided to send the budget to Council for approval as it was rather than continuing deliberations in committee – so you know what this means, now the same people will be arguing the same issues, in the same room but using Council Meeting times to do it. (Council did vote AGAINST the budget as it is later in the night – so you can look forward to more budget talks soon)
OPP Costing & the Drama that follows…
This is a really interesting one. As we all know, the Town of Orangeville requested a costing from the OPP for providing policing services…this request was put in before the election in 2014. There was a moratorium put on the OPP Costings by the Province of Ontario which resulted in a delay. Recently, the Province removed the moratorium and allowed for OPP costing to proceed and Orangeville was required to send notice to them that they wished to proceed…which they did.
Members of Council were shocked yesterday when they received a letter from the OPP stating that they must withdraw their proposal to provide policing services to Amaranth in order to proceed with the OPP Costing. The shock came because members of Council had absolutely no idea that the Orangeville Police Service and the Police Service Board were in talks with Amaranth in the first place. There is clearly a disconnect in communication…so much for transparency.
This opened up an entire can of worms at Council as most Councillors felt very blind-sided by this. They were compelled to immediately make a decision whether to proceed with a proposal for Amaranth, or have an OPP costing because the Police Services Act does not allow both.
Not surprisingly, Mayor Williams, chair of the Police Service Board, wants to cancel the OPP costing…although his campaign that got him elected was quite the opposite. Councillor Wilson spoke quite passionately about the need for the costing to continue. I was very surprised, however, that Councillor Garisto (who prides himself on being all about the mighty dollar for residents), was very vocally AGAINST the OPP costing stating that he has concerns about the level of service they would provide – Insert really long story about a time that the OPP let him down here (I will kindly spare you the story). Well, how do you know exactly what service they will provide if you haven’t even had a conversation with them?!?!?
In the end, after lengthy discussions, the decision was made to proceed with the OPP Costing with Mayor Williams, Councillor Campbell and Councillor Garisto voting against.
My humble opinion? Well, as you all may know, I am a HUGE advocate for Chief Kalinski and all of the work that he and the PSB have done to make some great positive changes in the OPS in the last year or so. HOWEVER, the right thing to do for the taxpayer is to have ALL of the available information and an OPP costing would provide that. Only then can Council really make the BEST decision for our Town. It is irresponsible, in my opinion, to make such big decisions (and this is HUGE $$$) without having all of the information.
One More Thing
During the Council Meeting, reference was made to the Remuneration Committee (the committee that was established around 2010 give or take a year that was to decide salary increases for members of Council). Councillor Garisto stated that this Committee was full of ‘political insiders’ and was not a fair committee – to put words in his mouth, he was hinting to the fact that the committee was ‘stacked’ to benefit the members of Council.
During question period, a member from the gallery, Todd Taylor stepped up to the podium to challenge what Councillor Garisto said – as he was the chair of the committee – and most definitely not a political insider. This exchange became quite heated as well as Councillor Garisto continued to make false accusations…during the exchange, the Mayor had to call for a break for everyone to cool off – it was a HOT MESS. During break, Councillor Garisto approached Todd Taylor in the gallery to attempt to continue the argument. I wouldn’t have believed it unless I saw it with my own eyes. Another resident, Mark Whitcombe, who also was a part of the Remuneration Committee, also came over to attempt to talk to Councillor Garisto and give him the facts, but he would have none of it.
How unbelievably inappropriate. To disrespect 2 residents of Orangeville in that way…shame on you. Not to mention the other residents who sat on that committee who weren’t in the gallery last night. The Town of Orangeville Council asks members of the public to VOLUNTEER their time on these committees to help give input into making Orangeville a better place and this is how they are treated?? A public apology from Councillor Garisto is in order, in my humble opinion.
Time for YOUR humble opinions!
I apologize for how lengthy this post is – I hope I didn’t miss any of the big stuff. A 5 hour meeting has ALOT of content – especially when THAT much drama happens. It is a real shame that Rogers was unable to broadcast this meeting – the residents of Orangeville NEED to see the #GongShow that is happening inside Council Chambers. I would love to hear any humble opinions you have – leave me some comments!