Stephen Orser (Ward 4), who had been referenced in the Free Press article, interjected that after talking to most of the councillors, he had concluded that “there are eight on Fontana’s side”.
Fontana then indicated that he had distributed a list of suggestions to aid the council in its deliberations. When Nancy Branscombe (Ward 6) characterized the list of suggestions as “presumptuous at best and manipulative at worst”, Fontana retorted that by choosing to eliminate the Board of Control the previous council had opted for a “strong mayor” system and he was simply exercising his prerogative.
The list was not distributed at the meeting but its contents became clear as the meeting progressed.
Built and Natural Environment Committee (BNEC)
The “Fontana 8” revealed itself early on in the selection of the Built and Natural Environment Committee and its chair. Baechler, always quick off the mark, proposed Polhill, Swan, Matt Brown, and White with herself as chair. Instead, following some fancy footwork by Matt Brown, the committee lost Matt Brown and gained Armstrong, then, at the behest of the Mayor, Armstrong was replaced over his objections by Denise Brown and Bud Polhill became the chair.
Bud Polhill objected to what he perceived as the implication that he would not be impartial. Having worked with both of them on Planning Committee, I would say that he is bang on: he would not be impartial. Polhill’s chief qualification for Planning is that he never saw an application or a development proposal that he didn’t like. And no wonder. Although he has not yet released a list of his campaign donations for the 2010 election, a review of his past contributors shows that the vast majority are from those in the development industry.
Most applications that come before the committee are not controversial; 97% are supported with few objections or questions. But a small number are very controversial, especially where important environmental, aesthetic, or community concerns are at stake. This is where it becomes important to appreciate the importance of the professional staff’s recommendations and to remember whom you have been elected to represent.
The outcome of the vote revealed the identity of the Fontana 8: Bud Polhill, Steve Orser, Matt Brown, Dale Henderson, Paul VanMeerbergen, Denise Brown, Sandy White, and, of course, Joe Fontana himself.
More about the standing committees tomorrow.