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"Ever wonder if City Council is as contentious and chaotic as it is sometimes portrayed? Here you can get a progressive perspective on some of the issues from someone who spent four years in the trenches. Totally unbiased, though! Feel free to comment but keep it respectful, just like they do at council."

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Tied vote

I was eager to find out how the issue of the appointment to the Guy Lombardo Tempo VII would turn out once it went before Council for a final decision. Unfortunately, it was almost the last item on the agenda and I can't say the decision was worth waiting for.

Following dinner break last night, Council returned to council chambers to complete the agenda. The first part of the meeting had gone reasonably amicably and, given that all had dined on what my experience tells me must have been a pretty darned good meal with lots of dessert, I anticipated relatively goodwill all around.

Alas, it was not to be. It began with a tussle between Councillors Polhill and Armstrong over the naming of a dead end street consisting of a dozen houses whose identity was lost when the Hale-Trafalgar overpass was built. Personally, I think they should have called it Hagar and saved a lot of anguish and embarrassment. I’ll reserve that story for another day.

Despite ultimately achieving consensus on the budget targets at the Committee of the Whole a few weeks earlier, some councillors appeared to be ready to go through the whole debate again at Council to ensure that some way, somehow, the zero per cent increase got into the resolution, if only as a goal.

It was Paul VanMeerbergen’s 50th birthday. Joe Swan suggested that he only deigned to have it because it had a zero in it. Perhaps that was why VanMeerbergen wanted to include the zero per cent goal in a motion that had already identified 2.4 per cent as the target. Councillor Joni Baechler suggested that such a qualifier would be contrary to the motion and asked the mayor to rule it out of order. Failing that, she would like to have an amendment to the amendment to ensure that council was committed to no service cuts.

Councillor Nancy Branscombe pointed out that “We had a full debate,” and suggested that opening up this line of amendments to the motion would “Open up a can of worms.”

“Is that a threat?” the mayor wanted to know. Nevertheless, he did not choose to test it and ruled the amendment out of order. There ended the first item on the Committee of the Whole report.

The next item was non-controversial but interest was regenerated with the following two items, appointments to the committees discussed in yesterday’s blog.

A third person had applied for the Steering Committee for the Old South Neighbourhood Improvement Plan, Dean Sheppard. It turned out that, contrary to my understanding, that subcommittee was open to three appointees and, having already selected two, the third was added with little comment.

The same cannot be said about the appointments to the Guy Lombardo Tempo VII Hydroplane Sub-Committee. Noting the appalling violation of procedure that had taken place at the Committee of the Whole meeting in dealing with the appointment to the sub-committee, Councillor Baechler, with the support of Councillor Swan, moved that Barry Wells be added as one of the appointments. Then it began.

Councillor Usher pointed out that he knew nothing about the recommended candidate, Derrick McBurney. Where was the application? It turns out the Usher had also missed that part of the meeting, something that I had not realized from my vantage point in the public gallery close to the only electrical outlet. How could he make a decision about someone for whom there was no information?

He was advised that the appointee had not made an application (despite the fact that he had several weeks to get one in after his rather unorthodox way onto the list for consideration). That reservation was shared by Councillor Branscombe.

Then it was Councillor Steve Orser’s turn. Orser, you will recall, was the one who had picked McBurney out of the public gallery, for a spur of the moment appointment.

Orser pointed out that McBurney had “spent 15 years in the Canadian Navy” so he should be “sea-worthy”. He noted that Barry Wells is a member of the media, just like Pat Maloney or Phil McLeod. Fortunately, neither of those esteemed gentlemen was in the room at the time. I think they would have some difficulty with that statement. Orser recalled how there had been controversy about the appointment of Nathan Smith, news director at 980 radio, to the London Transit Commission. He was not mollified when it was pointed out to him that Smith had been appointed but thought better of it and declined.

Councillor Sandy White took up the cause, calling Baechler a hypocrite, but it was unclear whether she was referring to the appointments issue or her feeling that she had been sabotaged in her attempt to get council to endorse a Multi-Cultural Economic Council earlier in the evening.

Orser then went on a rant about Wells, claiming the Wells “lacks integrity”. He denied that his actions were based on Wells’ “attacks on me” but decried “the things he said about me”. He ventured that “certain members want to get even with me”.

His frustration was palpable. “I give up on Wells,” he said. “Do whatever you want.”

All in all, it was quite a performance, with little consideration for protocol or public sentiment. There was little attempt to keep the meeting in order, with speakers being interrupted and heckled with no consequences to the hecklers.

A recorded vote showed that, in the absence of Councillor Bryant who is on a mission to New Zealand,  the vote to add Wells was tied 7-7. A tied vote always loses.


Betty Draken said...

It's good to know (am confident Judy would have done the decent thing) that the minor majority of Councilors saw the original decision for what it was...which was shabby to say the least.

How did the councilors vote and did anybody flip flop?

I wonder if Dr.Oetker is aware of the type of city representatives we have?

Modern Germans are known for being quite progressive, efficient yet open minded sorts!

Gina Barber said...

There was no change in votes. Supporting the addition of Barry Wells were Bill Armstrong, Joe Swan, Joni Baechler, Nancy Branscombe, Matt Brown, Paul Hubert and Harold Usher. Opposed: Bud Polhill, Steve Orser, Paul VanMeerbergen, Dale Henderson, Denise Brown, Sandy White and Mayor Joe Fontana.

Barry Wells said...

The following e-mail was just sent to me by George Goodlet, the current chair of the London Advisory on Heritage (LACH).

He indicated that he sent it to each and every member of London City Council on Sunday, just prior to the council meeting:

"Re: Guy Lombardo Hydroplane

Some time ago the Advisory Committee on Heritage (LACH) recommended that Council set up a committee to investigate locations where the Lombardo boat might be displayed. The committee members were to include members of the public. As a result a notice appeared in Living in The City. Among the procedures to be followed was the submission of an application.

I am aware that only two people applied, Barry Wells and Doug Flood. Both have been active in trying to preserve this boat and both took the trouble to attend the public meeting on this matter organized by LACH. The idea of the committee came from a suggestion by Barry Wells.

I was not aware until today that Committee of the Whole is recommending rejection of both applications and the appointment of a person whose level of interest in the project is shown by the fact that he did not trouble to submit an application. Moreover, I do not understand how, in the absence of an application, members of council can possible know that this person is preferable to those whose did submit an application.

While it is clearly the prerogative of Council to select members of committees, it appears that, in this instance, the Committee of the Whole has acted in an arbitrary and capricious manner.

I do not know why Barry Wells was considered unsuitable for the appointment. I do know that his dedication to heritage in this city brought him a nomination for the Mayor’s New Years Honours List and that this was approved by Council.

It will soon be necessary for Council to seek applications for positions on Advisory Committees. If the action of the Committee of the Whole is approved in this case, I would suggest that the notice requesting such applications should contain the following statement. “While this notice states clearly that interested members of the public must submit an application, Council may, in fact, reject all applicants and appoint others who have not taken the time and trouble to complete an application”.

George R Goodlet
Chair, London Advisory Committee on Heritage


Dean Sheppard said...

The complete disrespect being shown by the Mayor and some councillors toward the public and the concept of due process and fair play is infathomable not to mention incredibly embarrassing. Perhaps the most astonishing part is that these offenders are not embarrassed in the least!

My own councillor is among the offenders and I pledge to call her on it. All Londoners need to do the same if their councillor behaves this way.

Anonymous said...

On the other hand, deprived of a seat on the ad hoc Tempo VII committee, Wells is not subject to protocol about expressing his views. Normally the Chair speaks on the part of the whole, and loose cannons undermine the group.
So Wells can say what he wants and in the internet/blog age he has lots of space to publish them - and a higher profile in the community on the topic.

Barry Wells said...

CITIZEN [DIS]ENGAGEMENT PART IV: Greg Thompson resigns from LACH in disgust

THIS JUST IN: AltLondon has learned that respected community activist and past Ward 4 candidate Greg Thompson (pictured left) has resigned from the London Advisory Committee on Heritage (Wednesday night during its regularly scheduled meeting at city hall) over the recent fiasco involving the citizen appointment (two were solicited, one, who never applied, was appointed) to the Guy Lombardo Tempo VII Sub-Committee. Developing ...

On a related note, for a sitting council member ~ in this case Ward 4 Councillor Steve Orser ~ to insult and verbally attack a private citizen (me) from the council floor, a citizen who’d applied to sit on a volunteer sub-committee, violates Council’s Code of Conduct By-law and in this instance, is also considered actionable in a court of law pursuant to the Libel and Slander Act.

Someone needs to inform Mr. Orser that defaming a citizen from the council floor, a citizen willing to serve the City of London as a volunteer, is not an intelligent nor responsible thing to do.

Someone also needs to remind Mayor Fontana that as the chairperson of city council meetings, he needs to put a timely end to such unseemly conduct. That's why the mayor has a gavel during council meetings.


'City Council was very pleased and appreciative of the response received from interested Londoners'

About a week ago, I received the following letter in the mail from city clerk Cathy Saunders, after my proposed appointment to the Guy Lombardo Tempo VII Hydroplane Sub-Committee failed due to a 7-7 tie vote on May 30th during the city council meeting.
As you read the following letter ~ and I'm not criticizing London's city clerk who's simply doing her job in a polite and respectful manner (something certain members of council could learn from) ~ remember that during the discussion of my proposed appointment, I was verbally assailed and defamed by Ward 4 Councillor Steve Orser from the council floor with the Rogers TV-London cameras rolling.

Six other members of city council also opposed my appointment, including the mayor, after Orser's inappropriate tirade (Sandy White, Bud Polhill, Dale Henderson, Denise Brown, Paul Van Meerbergen, Joe Fontana).

Also worth noting is that of the two applicants for the sub-committee (two citizen representatives were sought by the City), neither one was selected. Instead, an individual that hadn't bothered to apply was appointed to the group.

May 31, 2011

B.A. Wells
408-190 Cherryhill Circle
London ON N6H 2M3

I have been asked by City Council to express their thanks to you for submitting your name for consideration with respect to our recent process of appointing citizens to the Guy Lombardo Tempo VII Hydroplane Sub-Committee.

City Council was very pleased and appreciative of the response from interested Londoners.

While it is Council's hope that your interest in civic affairs will continue, the Council has asked me to express its regrets to you that it was unable [to] appoint you to the Guy Lombardo Tempo VII Hydroplane Sub-Committee.

Thanks again for your interest in being of service to your community.

Cathy Saunders
City Clerk

Anonymous said...

I'm calling for stephen orser to resign...if he can't keep his personal life out of his business life, then he has no place on city council. this isn't the first time he's pulled a stunt like this...