Saturday, March 31, 2007

Video...Stand up and be counted, Oshawa!

Oshawa has a serious problem with the city politician’s moves to bring us the general vote…the system that we turfed out in 1985 in favor of ward voting, the system used virtually everywhere in Canada.



The only place where the general vote is used in a city of Oshawa’s size is in Vancouver where they have a system of municipal political parties and people vote for representatives of the party and its platform. The party is important…not the individual candidate…sort of like provincial and federal elections where the candidate takes a minor role to the party.

The only way that the general vote could work in Oshawa is if we adopted a similar system to Vancouver and introduced political parties into our municipal political system. Political parties make sense with the general vote because without them there are too many candidates for people to get to know in order to make informed choices.

Political parties in a general vote system reduce the difficulty for voters in making wise choices. People simply vote for the representatives of the party whose platform they support.

Political parties are okay for efficient management of the city but they distance the local government from the people and remove your local council representative who can hear your local problem and work toward its solution in an informal way within the bureaucracy of city hall. All of this is lost with the general vote.

Even in Vancouver where the general vote and political parties are used, most of the politicians come from a few of the more affluent areas of the city leaving many of the areas without a local resident representing them on council

If you think political parties should be introduced into Oshawa and don’t care about personal contact with your local politician who is likely resident in your section of the city, by all means…support city council’s moves toward the general vote.

But If you think a local government should be close to the people, representative of the city population, inclusive of all neighborhoods and socio-economic levels, and have a local resident that you likely see in your neighborhood represent the interests of your community on city council, you need the ward system and should oppose city wide elections for all members of council.

So where do you stand Oshawa? We need you to stand up and express your view!

If you want to retain ward voting, it is important that you send an email to the mayor and council at clerks@oshawa.ca demanding the retention of ward voting.

The very future of Oshawa is at stake with the decision of council and your efforts to work toward the system that you think is best for Oshawa.

Friday, March 30, 2007

Oshawa Report Lowballs "Real Cost" of Oshawa Politicians

An article headlining the March 28 issue of Oshawa This Week states that the total taxpayer cost of city politicians is $543,303.

What bunk! This is so far from the truth that the deception, gross misrepresentation, slight of hand, and less than honest and forthright accounting and reporting would even impress Harry Houdini, the master of deception, who was able to expose most of the mystics, charlatans, sorcerers and fraud artists of his day.



This report is so deceiving that if politicians used it in their income tax reporting they’d be jailed for tax evasion.

Don’t be fooled, Oshawa, by City Politicians hiding and misrepresenting their real costs to the taxpayer. They have only published what they want you to know. It’s deceptive information supported by creative accounting.

To Oshawa City Hall, accounting is an art, not a science! I wish I could buy a car with the sales guy lowballing the figures this way!

Didn't Enron, Nortel, Worldcom, etc. use these same deceptive methods? Their CEO's are now behind bars.

We have written in our posts on this site that the total costs to the taxpayer of each politician over the 4 year term approaches ½ million dollars…and we stand behind that figure.

We believe the minimum total annual cost to Oshawa taxpayers for Oshawa City Politicians is almost three times as high as reported or a minimum of $1.375 million.

But City Staff at the direction of politicians have designed a reporting system that makes it hard to determine their total salaries because total renumeration is made up of monies coming from a number of sources not listed in the public record.

Some expenses and honoraria are determined not to be salary…that’s great for income tax reporting, isn’t it?

A big payoff for politicians is from Durham regional council. This pay is about the same as their pay for sitting on Oshawa council. And this is a cost to the Oshawa taxpayer isn’t it? Why is it not mentioned as a cost of our politicians? Certainly Oshawa taxpayers pay handsomely about half their property taxes to fund Durham Region and our politicians there.

I note that the article did say that defeated councillor Mike Nicholson got a windfall in his loss with giant severance and retirement allowances. The much larger windfall for defeated Cathy Clarke from both the city and region were not reported. Why not? Where in the city accounting are these accumulating taxpayer costs indicated? It’s not! Why? After all this is a taxpayer cost for our politicians isn’t it?

Total postage costs for politicians were reported as $762….yeah, right! Some costs like politician's "self-promotion" mass mailings are not counted in politician costs. They are hidden in more general accounts so they cannot be traced to politicians. But this is a political cost to taxpayers isn’t it? Many “additional political” costs are hidden within other budgets to hide the real costs from taxpayers--and that is the way council wants it.

How about political honoraria costs to have politicians anointed as chair or vice chair of city or region committees ($46,704.90--about $5000 more annually). Where is that mentioned? That is a cost of our politicians isn’t it?

How about politician costs of having some anointed for sitting on non-city boards and agencies like CLOCA, Downtown Action Committee, Heritage Oshawa, Oshawa Public Library Board, or Senior Citizen’s Centres board of Directors, Parkwood Board of Directors, or Art Gallery Board of trustees. A complete listing of these is available…unfortunately the honoraria (tax free pay) attached to each is not. Politicians don’t accept these jobs for nothing. All of these are indirect costs to the taxpayers that comes from City Council funding of these organizations. City Hall puts the money in the organizational pocket where it is withdrawn by the politicians...It's called indirect pay I guess! And this is only a start of all of the “extra and hidden pay opportunities" since an equal number exist at the Regional Level.

In some jurisdictions with public reporting agencies, giant payoffs are available and these do give a clue to some of the giant payoffs available to politicians…which again are a cost of our polititicans aren’t they?

How about benefits costs such as pensions, health care, mileage allowance, retirement (defeat) allowance. They’re not mentioned . Why not? Or how about the cost of providing blackerry’s for all of council? Where is that political cost of the blackberry’s alone at approximately $1000 per councillor per year factored in?

And hey...I haven't even mentioned city charge cards, car allowances, food allowance, travel and conference costs, etc., etc., etc.

Now I wonder how many city politicians will be going as Oshawa representatives to the 2008 Olympics in Beijing or to the Vancouver Olympics in 2010? After all, Oshawa does need to be represented at these events doesn’t it? I think our representatives should have the best seats in the house for all the events of their choosing, the best hotel accommodation, travel throughout China and British Columbia while they are there, and to top it off…first class air travel. After all, our politicians are here to serve the interests of Oshawa…and we must provide them the first class opportunity to do that, musn't we?

This article demonstrates a great manipulation of the press by the politicians and Oshawa City Hall. I think it's time for a little in-depth investigative reporting about the "real" salaries of Oshawa politicians. It is hard to believe that the press could be so naïve as to fall for City Hall's political ruse.

You can’t take what Oshawa City Hall tells you at face value. We are learning that it has to be proven before it can be taken as truth!

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Video...Oshawa Council takes voters as fools

Oshawa City Council "out of the blue" put a plebiscite question on the election ballot asking voters if they wanted a change to the general vote for the election of city council.

This was a surprising question to ask since there had not been one whimper of public disatisfaction expressed with Oshawa's use of a voting system used virtually everywhere in the country...and Council has yet to provide any rationale for asking the question or explaining how the change would benefit Oshawa.

The concept of a general vote was not one that people were familiar with or understood and the term was not defined anywhere. Council gerrymandered the question in such a way that voters had to vote "NO" to preserve the system that had served the community well as one of the fastest growing regions in Canada and with the country's highest average income. We are a people that cannot be taken as fools.

Council refused to provide any public information about the issue to minimize any public debate or discussion.

The result...with the trick question and the absence of information, voters were confronted in the voting booth for the first time seeing and considering the complex and convoluted question heavily weighted in a way to give an answer the politicians wanted to hear.

It is obvious Oshawa politicians believe in Democracy...Saddam Hussein style!

As believers in "Canadian Style" Democracy, the VOTES group will contest the next election. We will use every ounce of our efforts in the campaign to focus, activate, and arouse citizen anger, resentment, and rebellion against those who take the voters as fools.

We predict that council's action is going to result in a "revolution of ill-will" toward this council...public sentiment is going to explode at the anti-democratic and self-serving move in pushing for the general vote simply to insure politicians their lifetime seats on council.

The people's revolutionary broom will sweep all of the council who are not members of our team out of office.

We believe in a system that serves the people, not the politicians!

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Video...Bill Longworth explains politician's strategy to avoid an OMB appeal re Oshawa's change to the general vote

Oshawa City Council has adapted a motion to change to the general vote for the election of city council members but to keep the existing wards simply as a way to try to avoid an OMB appeal to have the OMB take a sober second look at whether the general vote is advisable and beneficial for Oshawa.

If council thought they had a winnable case for the OMB, they would not resist an appeal to support their decision for the people of Oshawa particularly in light of the controversy and debate sparked by the change.

They know, however, that a change to the general vote is indefensible.

By taking this tact solely to avoid an OMB appeal, they raise serious questions among the voters about the change to the general vote...and why the politicians want it.

If they thought they were doing the right thing for Oshawa, wouldn't they savour a look by the independent snd objective OMB to confirm for the people that they are doing what is best for Oshawa? You bet they would!

It's hard, however, for the politicians to take this to the OMB when they are the only beneficiaries of the change.

The political system should serve the people, not the politicians!

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Old Abe's Observations...video

Oshawa City Council gerrymandered a ward/general vote plebiscite question that went through a number of revisions until they came up with one heavily weighted in a way likely to produce the result council wanted.

Council then kept the question secret to avoid any public debate or discussion of the issue so they could catch voters "cold" in the voting booth considering the complex and convoluted question for the first time...a question where voters had to vote "NO" to retain their present ward system of voting.

Two doctors I spoke with did not understand the concept of the general vote. While experts in the medical field, they understood little about the details of politics...and I suspect many citizens expert in their fields are equally uninformed about political terms.

Wording the question in terms of a "general vote" is a concept that most people would not understand since it was not defined anywhere and is not part of people's daily experience. While its meaning is as elementary to politicians as "galactosylceramide lipoidosis" or "zalcitabine" or "palmar fibromatosisis" is to medical doctors...the meaning is not easily understood unless you are in the field.

How would you feel if your family doctor said you needed a Cholecystectomy and then offered you a choice of laparoscopic or open...and refused to define the terms and give you the advantages/disadvantages of each? Wouldn't you get rid of him? Even worse, what if he didn't even tell you about the surgery and just wheeled you in and did it?

This is similar to what the politicians did with the plebescite question. They refused to give you information and just wheeled you into the voting booth for your "X" on a weighted question...irresponsible, undemocratic, and unprincipled. They deserve the same fate as a doctor who would refuse you required information.

Oshawa Council does not understand that democracy requires an informed public and it was very undemocratic for council to refuse to provide information to all households about the issue, despite my written request for them to do so.

It is not democratic to gerrymander a plebiscite question likely to produce a result council wanted and then keep the question a secret from the public to stifle any public debate and discussion. Nor is it democratic for those councillors who are voting to support the plebiscite result insisting they must uphold the will of the people.

To Oshawa City Council, democracy is only a word...it is not a practise.

The will of the people has not yet been expressed but will speak loudly come the next municipal election

Monday, March 26, 2007

Councillor Piddleweepuddle Video

This is, of course...of course...of course...a fictional dramatization of the yesterday's post that tries to explain how and why the idea of returning to the general vote arose in Oshawa.

While the rationale quoted seems to be from outer space, they were the actual arguments used to raise the issue and the rationale given for carrying it forward.



All of the facts and ideas spouted by the chief architect and proponent of the idea were dead wrong and believable or factually correct reasons for the introduction have yet to be given. Nor has any rationale for how Oshawa might benefit from the general vote been offered. This, of course, is because a return to the general vote is completely indefensible by any sensible person and cannot be justified in any way.

The general vote makes a mockery of representative democracy. General Vote Politicians come to represent only a miniscule segment of the population (the rich and influential) who are resident of a few "upper scale" neighbourhoods in the city.

In addition, name recognition becomes the only criteria for political success...not service to the community.

Because politicians are virtually guaranteed their council seat until their death or resignation, they become less accountable to the people.

Because General Vote politicians are all competitors for the same city-wide vote, the council becomes unproductive as politicians jocky for press by name calling, backbiting, bitching, and grandstanding. They refuse to support even brilliant ideas arising from their fellow councillors who are all competing for the same city wide vote lest their competitors reap some good press.

The General Vote becomes a disaster for a progressive city.

We are left then to ponder the hidden agenda of council members who supported and are supporting the change.

We are particularly alarmed by those politicians who have publicly stated that they are going to vote contrary to what they know to be best for Oshawa simply to uphold the plebiscite result that resulted from a "secret" and "trick" question that council gerrymandered to achieve the result they wanted.

Since the general vote cannot be supported by any rational arguments, is it possible that it is desired by the politicians simply because it virtually guarantees them a lifetime council seat? The answer...a definite "YES".

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Group blames Pidwerbecki for change in the system

Written by Bill Longworth and
Reprinted from Oshawa Express, Feb. 7, 2007

Oshawa citizens are becoming more aware of Oshawa City Council’s desire to return to the general vote and some anger has arisen at their self-serving actions. Council failed to provide voters information about the issue prior to the referendum vote and political action groups like VOTES (vote to eliminate self-serving politicians) have sprung up to fight the change.

Citizens are finally being provided information about the issue by sites such as www.oshawaspeaks.ca which is the VOTES website.

Some angry residents have asked who was responsible for the referendum question and who supported it.

The sole architect of putting this asinine referendum question was Nestor Pidwerbecki. This was despite the fact that there had been not been a whimper of public discontent for the ward system. It’s unfortunate that he was able to solicit council support to get the question on the ballot.

Voting for the ballot question were Councillors Nestor Pidwerbecki, Brian Nicholson, Mike Nicholson, Cathy Clarke, John Neal, Joe Kolodzie, and April Cullen. Voting against were Mayor Gray, Councillors Robert Lucyk, Tito-Dante Marimpietri, and Louise Parkes.

According to press reports Pidwerbecki’s rationale for introducing the issue was: 1) Oshawa was growing too large for a ward system, 2) that a ward system council was too divisive and, 3) councillors should have a city-wide mentality. Pidwerbecki is dead wrong on all counts and hopefully he brings less faulty thinking to his council votes. I suspect, though, that Pidwerbecki is smarter than this and that he is “stretching” to justify the unjustifiable.

Let’s analyze Pidwerbecki’s argument.

Oshawa is growing too large for a ward system---This is completely opposite from the truth. In reality, a general vote is only valid where the municipality is quite small and everyone knows each other. Using Pidwerbecki’s argument, Toronto’s council of 44 members representing 2.48 million people because of its vast size should be an obvious candidate for the general vote because he would argue it is too large for a ward system….ridiculous and absurd!

A Ward System Council is too divisive---How so? General vote politicians compete with each other at every meeting for press necessary to foster high name recognition.

Therefore, they hog the floor and backbite, bitch, and bicker to steal the press. Ward politicians are not election competitors and have to be far more co-operative with their peers in order to gain support for the needs of their ward

A general vote promotes a city-wide mentality---Not so! A general vote politician gets elected through high name recognition and thus promoting themselves at the expense of real productivity becomes job one for general vote politicians.

A ward vote politician gets elected through service to his/her constituents and so service to people becomes job one for a ward politicians.

Ward politicians have to develop positive relations with their fellow politicians to get support for any of their ward initiatives.

The very nature of co-operation leads to politicians working together to set priorities for the betterment of the city.

The general vote cannot be justified on any grounds for a municipality the size of Oshawa, It is obvious Pidwerbecki is stretching for straws trying to justify the unjustifiable…Don’t let him pull the wool over your eyes.

When we got the ward system in 1985, Pidwerbecki was quoted in the press as saying, “They are going to have to break up the country club and it is going to be the best thing that ever happened to Oshawa. How can I describe our feelings,” he continued, “we’re elated.” He said up to now Council had been composed of people who have had enough money to afford the high price tag of a general election campaign. “Now people who are relatively unknown may figure they have a chance where there was none before,” he said. “Instead of spending a lot of money to cover the whole city, they can now concentrate on one area and reduce the cost factor.” Describing the then “General Vote” Council as an “elite group”, Pidwerbecki said he expects some new faces on council after the next municipal election in November.

Pidwerbecki knows the value of ward elections but has changed his tune now that he is a member of council.

His bringing up a return to the general vote can be no less than self serving in insuring his re-election.

Self serving politicians deserve neither our respect nor support. Councillor Pidwerbecki will undoubtedly be #1 on our hit list for politicians to be defeated in the next election.

We will organize his ward to ensure this. We are keeping our options open on other council members to see how they vote on the Bylaw that has to be introduced before a change.

We shall appeal this bylaw to the OMB and have every expectation of a “slam dunk” win.

Updated Comment by VOTES Chair…Council has moved to adapt the general vote but to keep the wards solely to avoid an appeal to the OMB. Their case there would be indefensible. While they are keeping the wards, they will not be used for voting or for any other "real" purpose. The votes group still plans to appeal to the OMB arguing that wards are associated with voting by practice and tradition and therefore insist that the 7 election wards are being folded into one ward for voting purposes…this is a change in wards that is appealable to the OMB. Two additional grounds of appeal, however, have been developed but cannot be released until the city bylaw is passed and we are ready to appeal to the OMB. If we release the information early, the politicians in their greedy and self-serving efforts to move to the general vote will simply try to word a bylaw to thwart our efforts. We think this is impossible but still do not want to disclose our case and our arguments prematurely.

Be sure to watch tomorrow’s post….We will present a humorous Video dramatization of the above that will both inform and entertain you.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Durham College Students---Exercise Your Student Power!

Hey Durham College Students...You live here for most of the year and have a city vote in municipal elections. Did you know that if Oshawa gets the general vote, it will provide you with a wonderful opportunity to take over control of Oshawa City Council?

By organizing a slate of candidates, and organizing your student body to vote for them, you can pass any bylaw you want to enhance your student life. You can provide permits for street parties in the student housing areas, or anywhere for that matter. Your leaders could even increase councillor salaries beyond the present exorbitant levels counting all of the perks, honoraria, expenses and allowances to make them richer than they've ever been. This would more than pay off their tuitions. As student politicians, they could even get into the student housing business with all the extra scratch?

With the general vote, councillors cannot be defeated so student politicians could do anything they want without fear of voter sanctions. Why not close the downtown for street parties every weekend? You could have a real bash! With 8 votes at the Region, you can be influential in getting taxpayer subsidized yearly student public transit passes. By "block voting" you can be the most influential "player" in Oshawa and Durham Region.

Just canvas your student body to see what they want and make that your election platform. I'm sure that a platform promising perks popular to the students at the taxpayer expense will gain you city council control. But, hey, don't take my word for it. Listen to Jack Layton's advice to college students in the video below about how he used student power to get both himself and his wife elected to Toronto City Council.

Even better, because many of you live out of town...you won't even have to cope as taxpayers with the havoc you're able to reap on the City of Oshawa. You'll just move on and move out...and the city taxpayers will pick up the bills. The general vote has tremendous opportunity for you.

Your fantastic gains through the general vote would be at the loss of Oshawa taxpayers. But don't worry about that. Oshawa should "PREPARE TO BE AMAZED" with the possibility of a student run Oshawa City Council. It could even function as your school "student council". Yeah for STUDENT POWER!

So students...how do you get student workers and voters to support your campaign? The answer is the universal student motivation...promise to throw a giant beer fest for workers and voters...if you win. That should be encouragement enough to get students to help and vote for you. With a little creativity, you could throw in some other motivating "entertainments" for students to multiply their efforts. Creativity is only limited to your imagination. The secret though...the party is only on if you win! This way you will be insured of a healthy and handsome city renumeration to pay off your supporters. If they don't get you elected...there is no cost! Sort of like buying votes...but it is no different from post election "victory parties" held at the federal and provincial levels and also by many municipal candidates.

One caution though. There has to be some overall student organization to insure that so many candidates do not run that you divide the student vote among excess candidates. If you run one candidate as mayor, for example, you will get all student votes and have a good chance of winning. If you run more than one candidate as mayor, you divide the vote and are less likely to win. Similarly you will only want to run 8 regional candidates and 3 local candidates so that you don't divide the student votes for these offices.

Students...You should thank our forward thinking and strategic Mayor Gray, and Councillors Pidwerbecki, Kolodzie, Henry, Parkes, Sholdra, and Mariempietri all of whom are supporting a move to the general vote to give you this wonderful opportunity.

Click on Jack Layton's video below to find out all about organizing and exercising your student power.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Video---This is the Mayor Talkin!

Oshawa's Mayor Gray has indicated that he supports the ward system and feels it is best for Oshawa. He has, however, been voting to throw out the ward system in favour of the plebescite result where the "secret" and "convoluted" question produced a "yes" vote which meant that the people apparently supported the general vote. Voters did not realize they had to vote "No" to retain the ward system that was working well for Oshawa and there was not one whimper of discontent with the system. The idea for the plebescite question arose entirely from the politicians who are guaranteed a lifetime seat on council with the general vote. The VOTES group feels that the electoral system should serve the people...not the politicians. Mayor Gray knows that the last council met a number of times continually revising and gerrymandering the question until they got the question they thought would produce the result they wanted. They further minimized any public information about the issue to minimize any public debate, discussion, or understanding about the issue so that people were caught "cold" in the voting booth never before confronting, considering, or thinking about the question. Now Mayor Gray is supporting the plebescite result with the "trick" question and the "secret" strategy. Here is VOTES "take" on Mayor Gray's decision to vote contrary to his best judgement about what is "right" and "best" for Oshawa. VOTES feels that politicians who vote contrary to what they know to be best for Oshawa deserve neither the respect nor support of voters!

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

The General Vote in Practise...Election of a Durham Board Trustee


As you all know, we have an upcoming election for a trustee position since a winning candidate was not qualified to run. This costly venture was an error on the part of the city clerk who certifies candidates as eligible. This is a problem that has been covered up by the Oshawa politicians who have placed the blame on the ineligible candidate whose only “crime” was to fill out nomination papers ignorant of the barring legislation, something the Oshawa city clerk should have caught.

Anyway, we do have an election and so some people may be interested in my choice and the rationale for that choice.

My choice is obvious from the candidate’s sign pictured here that is on my lawn.

So why am I supporting Scott Templeton.

Easy I guess…There are too many candidates and I have not seen one flyer in this city wide vote. Since I have seen no candidate propaganda, I have to make a choice based on lack of information…something voters will face for all offices if Oshawa gets the general vote for city council elections. This is similar to the lack of information Oshawa voters faced on the plebiscite question. Just grin and bear it and stick your "X" somewhere! Democracy elsewhere depends upon an informed public...but this is Oshawa's version of democracy!

I do know that two candidates live outside Oshawa and Scott is one of those. However, Oshawa city council by adapting moves toward the general vote have communicated to all voters that where you live is not important in representing the interests of voters. So the residence of an Durham Board Trustee is irrelevant according to Oshawa City Council.

I also know that two sitting Oshawa Trustees who were defeated in the last election must have been defeated for a purpose. Therefore neither of them will get my vote.

In voting for Scott Templeton, I am hopeful that the Trustees of the Durham District School Board will see the wisdom of holding general or at large elections as Oshawa City Council has done and the result might be an eventual windfall for Oshawa.

If the Board adopts a policy of having trustees elected by general vote, it is probable in the future, since Oshawa is the largest population center in the jurisdiction of the Board, that all of the trustees will come from Oshawa. The history of the general vote is that political power comes to reside in the richer high voter turnout areas. This is similar to what will happen in Oshawa with the general vote that council wants.

If Oshawa got all of the political power on the Durham Board, we could have the best schools, the best administrators, the best teachers, the best of everything at the expense of other areas under the Boards' jurisdiction, because we would expect that Oshawa politicians would look after Oshawa first wouldn’t we? Great benefits would also accrue to North Oshawa if the city got the general vote. If all of the politicians came to reside here, wouldn’t North Oshawa benefit from all of the city amenities at the expense of other areas of the city? After all it is human nature to look after the interests closest to you first, isn’t it?

So my choice…Scott Templeton. I don’t know much about him but am looking forward to complete adoption of the general vote by the Durham Board because this would eventually result in great benefits to Oshawa at the expense of other regions under the Board’s jurisdiction.

Besides, what is good for Oshawa City Council is also good for the Durham Board. Our politicians have told us it doesn’t matter where you live…so take their advice. Vote Scott Templeton! After all, what is good for the goose, is also good for the gander...right?

There is an election forum tonight, March 21, 7:00-9:00 pm, at O’Neill CI. Enter from the Mary Street Parking Lot and walk up to the 2nd floor (main level) to the auditorium. Be sure to attend! Because of the number of candidates, all will be given 2 or 3 minutes to explain what they know about education. Under the general vote, this is similar to election forums that would be held for candidates for election to Oshawa City Council!

I will be there and ask all of the trustee candidates to explain the merits/demerits of the general vote. Maybe they will help Oshawa voters understand the merits or lack thereof of the general vote that Oshawa City Council wants to adapt for city council elections.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Mayor John Gray Faces Biggest Test of His Career!

Just how smart is Oshawa’s mayor?

We’ll soon find out as Mayor John competes against 35 other Canadian Mayors on the CBC “Test the Nation” TV show on March 18.

We do know part of the answer. Mayor Gray has repeatedly stated that he knows the Ward System is best for electing members of Oshawa’s City Council but he has also repeatedly voted to replace it with the General Vote. So we do know that he is not smart enough to vote for what he knows to be best for the city.

To help Mayor Gray with the challenges of the televised IQ test, we thought we would provide the mayor with some questions he might consider in preparation for the test. (We have provided all answers at the end of this post so that Mayor Gray can study up and remember the answers in case any of the questions come up!)

Questions

1) Name one benefit to Oshawa from a change to the general vote.

2) How many council members lost their seat in the first election for council when Oshawa got ward voting in 1985?--- 0, 2, 4, 6, 8

3) How many council members residing south of King Street were elected for any of the 109 available seats in the 7 consecutive General Vote Councils prior to 1985?---0, 4, 8, 12

4) A polling subdivision has about 100 houses. The council before 1985 had 15 members. What was the greatest number of general vote politicians residing in a single polling subdivision in the last general vote council?---1, 2, 3

5) Of the 15 member council, prior to 1985, how many members resided in the old ward 6?---0, 2, 4, 6, 8

6) When the old Oshawa Arena burned down in 1953 disbanding the Oshawa Generals for 11 years, how much did the Oshawa General Vote City Council contribute to the building of the new Civic Auditorium which opened in 1964?---$0, $250,000, $500,000, $1,000,000?

7) When the old Oshawa Public Library burned down, how much did the general vote city politicians contribute to the construction of a new main library opened in 1954?---$0, $250,000, $500,000, $1,000,000

8) How can you avoid general vote politicians, all of whom reside in a few of the richer areas of Oshawa, from concentrating their attention only on their own neighborhoods at the same time as neglecting the rest of Oshawa?

9) If a general election costs in the neighborhood of $35,000-$40,000, how is it possible for people of limited means to run and get elected to represent the ordinary neighborhoods of Oshawa?

10) Incumbents will be able to raise significant funds from the development industry. Don’t those developers expect friendly votes on items of interest to them? How do you level the playing field for non-incumbents who cannot raise similar monies because they don’t have a hope in hell of winning?

Answers

1. This one has everyone stumped so sorry to start with the hardest question you’re likely to face Mayor Gray. Neither you nor any council member nor any other Canadian Mayor nor any expert on Municipal Government has a satisfactory answer for this question in a city of soon to be 180,000 or so by the next election in four years. So don’t worry about answering this as no one else will be able to answer it either so no one will have a “leg-up” on you over this question. There are no benefits…only disadvantages! But we won’t worry about that. The people have spoken on the plebiscite question that we kept secret from them before they entered the voting booth. We tricked the people! We don’t need to think about the long term consequences for Oshawa. Council got the result it wanted. That's the only thing thats important!

2. Eight members lost their seats---half of council forming a “lame-duck” council. These people had been protected for years under the general vote but couldn’t win when they had to meet head-to-head in ward battles with politicians that got out and met the people at their doorsteps and in their neighborhoods...when service to the community became more important than simply name recognition.

3. Zero…Zilch…Not one member of the 109 elected members over the seven general vote councils prior to 1985 lived south of King Street…but that doesn’t matter. We think it’s best that they weren’t represented on council because the wiser, smarter, and richer people of the North End will provide far better leadership for Oshawa.

4. Three members came from one polling subdivision at the end of Regent Drive in Ward Three. The people in this community were really lucky to have one fifth of council living in their little enclave…don’t you think? With that many council members living there, you’d think that there was nothing that those people couldn’t get. Every community should be so lucky!

5. Eight…More than half of the 15 Council Members lived in the old ward six. If these councillors voted as a block, their majority would carry the day on council on every question. They could easily protect their neighborhood from unwanted development. They could get their streets plowed and cleaned first. They could get improvements to their neighborhood parks. They could get virtually anything they wanted. Isn’t that great?

6. The city contributed $zero!---it was up to a number of community minded individuals to raise money through private donations with a campaign, “We’ll build it by ourselves for ourselves.” Well you gotta do what you gotta do if your “do-nothing” general vote council won’t contribute a cent. It didn’t matter that the Oshawa Generals that bring a lot of recognition to Oshawa had to fold for 10-12 years even playing out of Bowmanville and Whitby for a couple of years.

7. The city didn’t contribute to the arena. Why should they contribute to a library? Colonel Sam was disconcerted about this and called Mayor Christine Thomas up to Parkwood where he admonished the Mayor for the actions of the general vote council and offered to fund the replacement library if a giant window could be placed on the east end of the reading room such that library users could look out the window and see the steeple of his Church…St. Andrews on the east side of Simcoe Street south of the four corners. Christine Thomas told me this story herself so I pass it on to help you out Mayor Gray.

8. You can’t—It’s only human nature that the places that you walk, talk, shop, and play get most of your attention. Tough bananas for the unrepresented areas but this should be a lesson to these louts to get off their butts, run a candidate and elect him/her. I don’t know where the funding is going to come from but that is the neighbourhood's problem...not mine!

9. Maybe candidates from these areas could mortgage their house to fund a campaign. After all, we need council members with initiative to solve problems like this! If they can’t raise the funds, they don’t deserve to be on council. After all, we all know that brain power is directly related to the thickness of the wallet, don't we?

10. It’s true that donors will not fund non-incumbents…but hey…that’s life…that’s the way the cookie crumbles. I’m sure that some politicians have voted in a “friendly way” to developers…but I’ve never heard of it happening!

Mayor John…If you answered all of these questions right, you are the genius we thought you’d be and certainly head and shoulders above any other mayor in Canada. After all, who else could lead a council to reject the common sense representative democracy provided by ward voting for the idiocy of the general vote?

Sunday, March 18, 2007

You Can Fool All of the People!!

Old Abe Lincoln pronounced, “You can fool all of the people some of the time, and you can fool some of the people all of the time…but you can’t fool all of the people all of the time.

This is an axiom that the Oshawa City Council should think about.



They may have fooled the majority of the voters who, many mistakenly, voted to return to the general vote. This is quite understandable as few people had heard of the question or considered its significant before entering the voting booth. Council in its strategy to fool the people refused to provide information about the issue to the public. Two doctors I talked to did not understand the concept of the general vote and if they didn’t understand it, I presume there were many others also who did not understand it.

I doubt that the 16,000 Oshawa voters who ended up voting for the general vote would want to lose their ward representation or would want all of the council members to reside in a few of the richer areas of Oshawa leaving most of Oshawa without representation on Council. I doubt that they would support a system that makes politicians less accountable to the people. I doubt they would want a system that guarantees incumbent’s re-election until death or retirement no matter the value of their leadership to Oshawa. I doubt that they would want a system that will produce a stale and aging council devoid of new ideas. I doubt that people would want council members unresponsive to neighbourhood concerns that might arise. I doubt that they want politicians elected based on name recognition only rather than their service to Oshawa voters. As old Abe would have observed, “You can fool some of the people some of the time,” and council did fool a significant number of the 16000 voters who voted for the change but they did not fool the 9000 who voted to retain ward voting.

Old Abe would have surmised that some of the 16000 voting to adopt the general vote would have voted that way no matter what the effects to Oshawa would have been because he said, “Some of the people can be fooled all of the time.” We have seen some of these people’s letters to the editor who insist that the plebiscite result be implemented come hell or high water no matter how the vote was achieved, no matter how much council gerrymandered the question to get the result they did, and no matter the level of devastation the general vote would cause to Oshawa’s long term health. One would have to be a fool to want Oshawa of perhaps 180,000-200,000 population when the next vote is held in 4 years to move to a system used only in the smallest municipalities of 10,000 or so.

Interestingly, these letter writers supporting a change to the general vote only spout the necessity of upholding the plebiscite result. None have given any rationale beyond that in their letters and none have presented any benefits to be achieved to Oshawa from the change. That is understandable, of course, since there are no benefits to be achieved. If there were, wouldn’t other municipalities use the general vote? The

If we do get the general vote with its impossible ballot of upwards of 70 names, I predict that Abe’s pronouncement, “You can’t fool all of the people all of the time,” will prove to be true.

Abe knew that you could not take the voters as fools…something the Oshawa Council has yet to discover. You can trick voters once but not twice. The unmanageable general vote ballot itself will easily focus voter attention on the folly being mitigated on the Oshawa people. It will be easy for the VOTES group to focus this anger on turfing out the self serving members of council.

We shall run the VOTES leader against the Mayor as this will be the only race to get any media attention and exposure. All of the VOTES Mayoralty efforts in the campaign will be focused on harnessing the public resentment toward the change and the politicians responsible. We will constantly and incessantly name names and encourage the people to hold the politicians accountable for their vote. All VOTES advertising and brochures will name “self-serving” incumbents also holding them accountable for their votes. We are confident of bringing the VOTES party to power in Oshawa with a city council dedicated to returning ward voting to Oshawa as its first order of business.

We do not need city council members who mistake the people as fools to be toyed with and want to use the electoral system for their own benefit. We will harness public sentiment to turf these self-serving politicians from office.

The election system must serve the people, not the politicians.

Our election planning and election strategy is already under way. Prepare to be amazed Oshawa!

Saturday, March 17, 2007

The People Need Information!!!

To the Mayor and Council
c/o Oshawa City Clerk

Request for Funding and to Address Oshawa City Council

Council has approved a “Corporate Communications and Marketing Strategy (CM-07-07) with a number of stated goals. Goal “C” of this document has to do with “Establishing effective communication in response to key issues”.

The change to the general vote is a key issue and yet council has failed to provide effective communication either before the plebiscite question or after and continues to deny the public adequate information leading up to the public meeting to be called for public input on the bylaw to be drafted on this question. At its February 5, 2007 meeting, Council turned down motions to provide background information about this issue beyond simply providing the date and time of the "public input" meeting. At the very least the public should be informed that the council intends to implement the general vote but maintain the wards simply to prevent a second "sober look" by the OMB to judge in fact whether the change is in Oshawa's interest.

Holding such a meeting without the circulation of appropriate background information and what this change will mean for Oshawa is undemocratic and irresponsible as democracy requires an informed public. The “flyer” approved by council listing time, date, purpose, and location of the meeting is inadequate in informing the public with the necessary background information and thus will not attract enough attention.

You will recall that the limited information distributed in regards to the public meeting having to do with placing the plebiscite on the ballot in the first place only attracted 2 people...hardly enough to gauge the public attitude about the issue.

Oshawa has recently seen fit to approve expenditures for a professionally prepared “Inside Oshawa—Annual Report to Citizens” 8 page “high quality” 11 X 16 brochure with photos, graphics, and information to be distributed by Canada Post to every household in Oshawa at an estimated cost of $16,000 (CM-07-06). As well, they have voted to distribute information to every household re the discontinuance of collecting returnable containers as part of its residential waste program (CS-07-47). I believe at least equally informative communications need to be distributed to all Oshawa households in regards to any change to the system of electing council which has a far greater long term impact than either of the above.

Oshawa does have a practice of funding community initiatives like Autofest 2007 ($30,000), Block Parent Association ($28,300 request—PBCS-07-39), Downtown Banners and Floral Program ($29,200—CS-07-33), Partnership Grant Request for $5000 from Driftwood Theatre Group, etc.

In light of the fact that the City of Oshawa has not seen fit to provide adequate information to the people of Oshawa, in respect of the change to the general vote, I would request funding of $20,000 to prepare, print, and distribute a brochure to all Oshawa households and request to address council in respect of this request.

Sincerely,
Bill Longworth,
VOTES Chair
www.oshawaspeaks.ca

Feb. 26, 2007

Cc: Hon. J. Garretson, Ontario Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing
Letters to Editor, Oshawa This Week & Oshawa Express

Friday, March 16, 2007

My Pledge to the People of Oshawa

City politicians will not be able to hide anonymously behind their votes in regards to a change to the general vote.

This site will publish the names of those voting for the general vote bylaw as a staple every day until the next election so that voters will become very familiar with the self-serving Councillors undeserving of voter support, and the site will "marshall" and “excite” voter opinion to insure the defeat of those who feel that serving their own interest is more important than serving the city’s interest.

Without a daily newspaper, politicians may have thought they were going to keep their votes secret from the public. They were successful in keeping the plebiscite to return to the general vote secret even from those, like myself, who follow City Council actions quite closely. Unfortunately, I also relied on the local press to keep me informed. I missed the extremely minimal coverage of the proposed change that was immersed in the overloads of advertising flyers accompanying the paper.

Council’s strategy in refusing to inform the public by a professionally prepared brochure sent to all houses in Oshawa, as I suggested to Council before the vote, demonstrated the fact that Council did not want to arouse any public interest or debate about the issue prior to the vote and thus were able to catch the public “cold” in the voting booth never before considering the question. An informed public is the most basic requirement of democracy…yet Council kept us uninformed! Why?

Further voters were confronted with a question that Council “gerrymandered” several times until they refined the question that they thought would “trick” the public with a question where they had to vote “NO” to retain the ward system. Beyond the convoluted difficulty of the question, they knew that the majority of people naturally vote “YES” rather than “NO” on ballot questions, and a ”YES” response would result in an “apparent” but “not real” support for turning to the general vote. Why did Council want to confuse the public with a convoluted question that they had kept secret from the public? Why?

The General Vote in the past had devastating results in Oshawa. It protected incumbent’s council seats from the threat of real competition. It resulted in an aging council with no new ideas where all change took place through death or resignation. It produced an unproductive and very fractious city council where all politicians had to fight for name recognition with their peers which they did by backbiting, bitching, bickering, and grandstanding at the expense of real leadership for the city and its people. General Vote politicians were even reluctant to support “brilliant” ideas arising from their peers out of fear that their politician competitor would grab the press with the good idea. It resulted in a council where all of the politicians came from a few of the wealthier areas of Oshawa leaving many areas unrepresented at council over the entire history of the general vote councils. How could this be a system that is best for Oshawa? If the General Vote was a better system, wouldn’t it be used by municipalities everywhere? Well, wouldn’t it?

So which of your council members want the general vote? Councillors Pidwerbecki, Kolodzie, Parkes, and Henry, the "Gang of Four," are unwavering in their support for the change. They have voted to support the change in every way from limiting information to the public, to voting against hearing presentations from the VOTES Chairman, to voting to limit public meetings to get citizen input re the change to the general vote, to voting to retain present wards while moving to the general vote simply to avoid any appeal to the Ontario Municipal Board which would take an independent and impartial second look at the change to insure it was in Oshawa’s interests---This “Gang of Four” have their minds made up and have to go with the next election if they are successful in bringing in the general vote.

Mayor Gray and Councillors Sholdra and Marimpietri have voted to uphold the plebiscite result even though they have stated they don’t believe it to be best for Oshawa. I believe Oshawa voters want politicians who vote for what they know to be best for Oshawa. Don’t you?

Councillors Nicholson, Neal, Cullen, and Lutczk have been steadfastly against the change to the general vote and have voted this way in all motions related to the question.

Councillors will not be able to hide behind any anonymous votes due to the lack of a daily press in Oshawa. Once the vote is held on the general vote permitting bylaw, this vote will be highlighted on this site daily for the duration of the council term leading all the way to the next municipal elections.

Our Pledge to You---We will insure that the public is fully aware of politician’s voting records and that self-serving politicians will pay the price at the next election.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Our Vote Is Being Devalued

We are used to our money losing 2%-3% per year due to inflation and prices and salaries going up by an equal amount. The result is of course that as everything rises 2%-3% annually, everything seems to take the same relative chunk out of our paychecks and we may be no better or worse off.

Things like houses of course, we hope go up in value. Their value depends upon the desirability of the location. Real estate experts say the prime determinant of house prices is location, location, location.

So what if the desirability of your city as a place to live goes down. Oshawa still has the lowest priced housing in the GTA and that is a measure of desirability. Our housing prices are still depressed because of the poor reputation Oshawa developed under our General Vote days prior to 1985 when little happened here and we have a hard time living that down. And don't put our reputation down to the auto industry here...just witness Oakville!

As a result of Oshawa's reputation, builders were reluctant to develop here because there were bigger profit margins to be made elsewhere where housing was more expensive. Thus Oshawa went through a period when the only housing we could attract was lower end housing…town house complexes, co-ops, subsidized housing, etc. That has changed over the last 10 years as Oshawa started to attract significant inventories of high end housing. This affects all of our property values in Oshawa by pushing prices up. Our property values thus increase.

This is due in large part because Oshawa has been able to develop its infrastructure like libraries and recreation complexes throughout the city. The desirability of the community has also been able to attract "high-end" jobs as new organizations like UOIT, medical clinics, hospital expansions, etc. as population growth pushes the need.

With a return to the General Vote, we may return to the sleepy-eyed bad rep place Oshawa was and is just now trying to live down.

However, a very serious kind of depreciation is going to occur immediately with the general vote. Candidates in ward voting are requiring 3000-3500 votes to win and so the “power” or “value” of your vote is 1/3000 of a politician. You may argue they are not worth that much and with some of the decisions they are making, I wholeheartedly agree. However the “value” of your vote will decrease significantly with the general vote. Under the general vote, successful candidates will require perhaps 25000 votes…so your vote gets devalued in one fell swoop from 1/3000 to 1/25000 in determining our political leadership in Oshawa. For those who argue they’d like a chance to vote for all, the general vote gives them a voting instrument having insignificant value in determining politicians.

This is extreme devaluation of the value of your vote and so you as an individual will have insignificantly minute influence in determining election outcomes.

If the same devaluation of your $250,000 house took place, it would have a value of $31,250. Could you stand this loss? Why then should you tolerate just as significant a loss to your democratic right to determine who governs this city?

If we do get the general vote, your property values will go down over time just as they did in the past. Don’t let it happen Oshawa.

Write the Mayor and Council and tell them you won’t stand for a change to the general vote because it will be devastating for the community.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

PLANS FOR THIS "TWO-HOLER" FOUND IN "GANG OF FOUR'S" BRIEFING NOTES


No doubt, the "two-holer" pictured here is an integral part of Oshawa City Council's plan to accompany its move to implement the general vote which will take away all local neighbourhood representation, reduce council's accountability level to voters, remove any need for local politicians to devote time to looking after voter's concerns with neighbourhood problems, allow councillors to semi-retire at the same time as continuing to collect their handsome remunerations, perks, expense allowances, city charge cards, blackberries, honorariums, and travel re-imbursements that can in any way be vaguely associated with representing Oshawa and insuring this in perpetuity until their death or resignation. Here Oshawa voters, take your seat while Oshawa City Politicians take theirs and go about their business!

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Hey Oshawa…Take those blinders off!

City Council has blindly pulled the wool over your eyes to satisfy their own blind self-interest. They have robbed you blind. In the process their greed has blinded them to the basic principles of democracy. They have put their own blind interests above the interests of the City of Oshawa and its people.

So how do you feel when council blindsides you in the voter’s booth with a very important change to the system of electing them…a system they so blindly want to guarantee their lifetime seats on council? To make sure you had not previously considered or discussed the question, they virtually kept it a secret from the public. They kept you blind to the facts.

The general vote is a very real possibility. It is up to the Ontario Municipal Board to judge the merits of the change, but council has blocked the main course of appeal under recently revised legislation by keeping the ward boundaries intact but not using them for voting and political purposes, the only purpose for their existence.

Thankfully we have two additional arguments for appeal but these cannot be revealed until the permitting bylaw is passed by council.

Council has called a public meeting on the issue but for all intents and purposes this meeting will be another sham perpetrated by council on the public. Council has made up its mind on the issue and the "Gang of Four", Councillors Pidwerbecki, Kolodzie, Parkes and Henry have publicly stated as much. Even the city solicitor has called it a done deal. We call it a dumb deal. With minds so strongly made up about this already, how can the public meeting be other than a sham meeting.

Yank those blinders off Oshawa. Open your eyes, and protest the self-serving lunacy council is perpetrating on the people The time for letter writing to the mayor and council can’t wait. We need it now and the email address is on the right sidebar or you can simply "click" the highlighted words "mayor and council" just above.

Why did the general vote question arise out of the blue from the politicians? Why did council not provide information about the change to every household? Why did council not make this an important issue for public debate before the vote? What are the benefits to Oshawa of the change? What is the rationale for the change? Why did some council members press so hard for the change?...How will the change help Oshawa? Why? Why? Why? Too many questions….and not one answer!

And council is still being silent on the issue. Why?

We’re not blind, and we’re not fools. And don’t let the council take you for fools, Oshawa. Fight back!! The politicians have to hear from you!

I for one want politicians serving the city and the people…not themselves.

I’m mad as hell! I won’t stand to be taken a fool by the politicians. And I’m doing something about it…how about you?

Monday, March 12, 2007

Ward Voting Assures Most-Informed Choices

Reprinted from Letters to the Editor, Oshawa This Week
by Bill Longworth, VOTES CHAIR

The most common reason general vote supporters give in supporting that system is that they want a vote in determining all members of council. They say if there is dead wood somewhere, they want a vote to eliminate the dead wood. They also say they want a "say" in determining every city politician. This is faulty thinking.

When voting across the city for all candidates, they have a one in 30,000 "say" in promoting their choice so their chances of influencing the outcome are slight. Even though they know the politician is a poor choice, voter outcome is going to be determined by the vast majority of voters who do not know the individual personally but have only heard his/her name.

Job performance, job suitability, beliefs, platforms, ideas, service to the people, ethics, etc., all become irrelevant as there are too many candidates to make an informed choice. Voters make a choice based on "name recognition" only and the individual "general voter" has next to no influence in the result.

Democracy, where everyone has a choice, depends upon trusting the wisdom of society to make the right choices. If you know a candidate that is/is not deserving of your vote for some reason, chances are ward electors will get to know this and they will cast their vote the same way as you would have.

The more informed voters are, the better choices they make. Ward voters will be more informed about the candidates than could ever happen under a general vote. In addition, if 300 or 400 ward voters come to know the individual as you know him, this could make the crucial difference in leading to the victory or defeat of a candidate.

These 300 or 400 votes are a big proportion of the 3,000 votes cast for a winner in ward voting and so the strength of individual votes is amplified significantly.

Democracy relies on trust in your fellow citizens to make wise choices. As everyone has a vote, you want it to be an informed choice where the voter has a chance to get to know the candidate. An informed choice is the best choice and this is more likely with ward voting. Ward voting will produce the best leadership for the people. Ward voting compels the politicians to work for you.

Trust your neighbour to make good choices. This is the essence of democracy.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

A New Milestone For This Site

Last Thursday was our best day yet for the site. Readership is growing exponentially but Thursday was the first day that we broke the 200 daily visitor milestone with over 300 page reads. Fantastic! Amazing since our site is barely a month old and we intend to continue to promote it as the prime news source for Oshawa City Council information. Thank you readers. We have new posts every day so be sure to check us frequently. Please go through your email address book and pass on our site to all of your friends, neighbours, hangers-on, and even your enemies so that all can be informed, humoured, and entertained! These are not paradoxical terms are they?

Want a Greater Disconnect With Your Politicians?

Every authority on Municipal Government would state that a basic and prime characteristic of Local Government is that it is the system that is closest to the people.

This level of government should be representative of the demographics of municipality in every way…ethnic, socio-economic, etc., and should be inclusive of each of these communities and reflective of the community in every sense. Ward voting provides this naturally.

The ward is small enough that the representative becomes widely known in the community, knows many of the people by name, interacts informally with them in his daily life, and is expert on the finest details of the community. He learns about the community by being in it every day. He is close to his constituents. He knows first hand the needs and aspirations of those he represents. He has first hand knowledge of the community he/she represents. He's a regular guy in the neighbourhood. He's the guy you may see walking his dog past your house every morning.

Its where he shops, walks, plays, and parties. He knows the community and its people.

Because ward residents vote for him/her as their representative, he is accountable to them. If he fails to satisfy them, he loses office. Because he is a common fixture in the community, residents have an intimate knowledge of his worth as their representative.

No one would feel that the Provincial or Federal Member of Parliament is as close as this. He spends most of his time outside of the community only dealing with it in the abstract, if he deals with it at all!

This is the what will happen to Oshawa Politicians under the general vote. They will have a constituency almost twice the size of the Federal or Provincial members and will become as remote. It wouldn't be long before we would be hearing salary demands matching the Provincial or Federal Members with arguments of constituency size. With the salary demands will also be staffing and office demands to cope with the large constituency workload. Because of the size of the constituency, he is a representative you may never see.

The Political Party System makes sense of voting in Provincial and Federal Elections because voters vote for a party platform and leader with the local candidate being of lesser importance...so unimportant I'm told, that they are responsible for only 4% of the local party vote. The candidates knowledge of the community is irrelevant to getting elected. That's why candidates can often "parachute" into the riding from afar. People vote along party lines and the candidate can be faceless.

So a big price Oshawa people will pay if we do get the general vote is a growing disconnect with our local politicians.

Under the general vote, your local council member is not likely the guy who lives around the corner but one of the many who live in a few sections of the city...expert in the needs of their local neighbourhood and not knowing yours exists.

What service will your community get if no one lives among you. What service will your community get if they all live around you. Human nature provides the answer to this!

Let's not widen the divide between city residents and the members of our local council.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Our Council of Hypocrites

Oshawa City Council has been pushing for a general vote because they feel it doesn't matter whether individual communities within Oshawa have local council representation through the ward system.

To this end, of course, they gerrymandered a question guaranteed to produce "apparent" community support for the general vote and then refused to provide information prior to the vote so that voters could discuss the merits of the ward vs. general vote sytems of electing members of the Oshawa City Council so that they might make an informed choice on the question.

So hypocritically, on the same night they were adapting motions to move further to the general vote, they were also passing motions to ask the Provincial Government to protect Oshawa's ward system representation on the Durham District Board of Education who had opened up a vacant Trustee Seat to all residents within the jurisdiction of the Board.

The result of this was that candidates residing outside of Oshawa entered the trustee race for the seat vacated by a person elected by Oshawa residents. While Oshawa politicians felt it important to protect Oshawa's representation on the Durham District Board of Education, they didn't at all feel that it was necessary to protect the representation of residents from all sections of the city on City Council.

Such hypocrisy. On the one hand, for city council they say it doesn't matter where one lives to represent the interests of voters, and on the other, for the Durham Board of Education, they say it does. And all in the same meeting.

They gotta let us know! Is their general vote system better or is it not?

I do wish that city hall politicians could make up their minds on the issue. They surely can't be saying that ward voting is best for the Board of Education but is not best for City Council...or could they?

Maybe they can! It's not a matter of what council is thinking about...it's a matter of whether they are thinking at all!

Oh! Now I got it! The general vote is best when it's "self serving" for city politicians in insuring them lifetime seats on council...otherwise, it's not so good!

I guess the motivation provided by a salary plus perks of close to a half million dollars over a 4 year term can blind incumbents to the real job of councillors, that is making decisions for the good of the city and its citizens...not for making "self-serving" decisions bad for the city but best for themselves!

Wake up Oshawa! Don't let the politicians pull this one on us!

Friday, March 9, 2007

Oshawa's Totalitarian Junta

The vote in the western world is synonymous with our freedoms. It dictates that ordinary people can choose their political leaders. It dictates that voters can remove politicians who no longer have the confidence of the people. It dictates that the people have control over their destiny. It dictates that politicians are the "servants of the people". It dictates that politicians not serving the public will can be removed from office by ordinary people.

In Oshawa we will lose these basic principles of freedom if the city politicians are successful in replacing ward voting with the general or "at large" vote.

Our "Right" to cast a "meaningful" vote goes to the very heart of our way of life. Revolutions have been and are currently being fought in many sections of the world to allow ordinary people to get this right that we are about to lose. A vote without the power to change the political landscape is not a vote at all...it is simply an exercise in futility.

Many dictatorial regimes, and you can name many of these as well as I, offer the people a vote...but the voting exercise is just a sham that has not one iota of influence in changing the governments or its players. There is either only one name or party on the ballot or the count is "fixed" so that the "same old" to no one's surprise always emerges victorious.

This will be the result in Oshawa if we get the general vote. The "same old" will continue to be elected until they die or retire...and further we will have a council where all of the members eventually will come from a few of the richer areas of Oshawa leaving large sections of the city disenfranchised and unrepresented.

Under the seven general vote elections leading up to Oshawa winning ward elections in 1985, 109 total council positions were contested. Not one of those 109 seats was won by any citizen residing south of King Street. Eight of Fifteen Council Members came from one ward and an additional three members came from one polling subdivision of about 100 houses at the end of Regent Drive in the then Ward Three. This was a council that was not all all representative of the people of Oshawa.

Those general vote councils did little to provide any leadership for Oshawa. No member was interested in solving neighbourhood problems worth 10 or 12 votes because this was insignificant when a total of 20,000 to 25,000 votes were required for election. Therefore there was no one you could call to work on your community problem. Promoting their name was the only thing important to politicians so that they would argue, backbite, bitch, bicker and grandstand fighting for press. They were reluctant to support good ideas of fellow council members because they were all competitors for city-wide votes and so no politician wanted to give another member any press. The result, stagnation in Oshawa. Because council members were well-known, they were always victorious and so only one member lost lost his seat at the polls when the perpetually top polling local councillor, Cy Elsey, ran Regionally and defeated perpetually lowest polling regional councillor, John McLaughlin. All other change took place through death or resignation of members.

Experience is that the general vote produces a "permanent ruling class" where the public vote doesn't count...sounds almost like a absolute totalitarian junta of despots in some third world country, doesn't it?

We are about to lose what many in the world give their life to preserve.

Don't let it happen here, Oshawa!

Thursday, March 8, 2007

It's Hard To Keep Up While Marching Backwards

Too bad we don’t have forward thinkers among our political leaders to implement ways to encourage participation rather than discourage it.

Oshawa politicians by their policies and practices prove they believe Oshawa citizens are unworthy of engaging or of providing input. Council discourages citizen input by requiring citizens who want to speak on an issue at council to send requests to speak before committee and council agendas are made public. If you don't know what is coming up at Council, that certainly is a blockage to public input and turning to the general vote also isolates city politicians further from the people

Some organizations like Smart Growth BC see citizens as an asset and actively try to engage them. You can read the full policy here of an organization that sees people as a basic asset to community development and thus encourages citizen involvement and input into decision making…quite the reverse from Oshawa.

Even a huge administration like Montreal city council which has a system of party politics and a council comprised of 78 ward representatives has community councils and by policy provides for a public question period at every city council meeting.

Many large cities actively provide for public input. You might read descriptions of some models of community input by clicking on the highlighted text.

Smart Growth BC sees people as Assets and believe:

1) Citizens are the best experts about the places they live and how those places might best grow and progress--Oshawa wants to take away local representation with the general vote!

2) Informed citizen participation improves development processes and the communities in which we work, learn, and live--Oshawa Council refuses to provide background information on the general/ward vote systems and any rationale or benefits from the change thus continuing to keep the public in the dark and uninformed!

3) A true smart growth vision must include meaningful engagement of the people who will feel the long-term social, environmental, and economic impacts--Oshawa has proven it doesn't want public input by an informed public. Without an informed public, democracy is dead!

4) Smart Growth BC created a policy on Early and Ongoing Community Engagement to outline the many benefits of high quality community participation and a series of actions that can be taken by government, developers, and citizens to make these benefits a reality--Smart Growth BC believes citizen input is integral to healthy decision making. Oshawa believes in one way communication outward from city hall on selected items that promote the politicians and the city...but no communication on the change of election systems which is by far the most important issue council will face in affecting the long term health of Oshawa.

According to Smart Growth BC, Citizens deserve a role in advocating for smart growth. They believe that Effective community involvement requires:

1) Education: Local governments and developers must provide accurate, transparent, and timely information. Citizens must commit to accessing this information and making educated judgements.---Oshawa politicians keep information close to their chest...witness the lack of info provided regarding the very important change to the general vote. Information would have promoted public debate and thought about the issue before the plebiscite vote. Democracy requires an "informed public." The general vote will make it impossible for voters to become informed about the huge number of candidates they will see on the ballot. Oshawa politicians therefore do not really believe in democracy because they do not believe in ward voting where voters are able to make more "informed choices" of candidates they select to represent the interests of their local neighbourhood.

2) Broad Viewpoints: Smart growth decisions affect the environment, property taxes, commuting, housing options, and many other issues. Diverse people must participate to represent all these issues...Oshawa's change to the general vote will result in a council comprised only of richer individuals able to afford the $30,000-$40,000 general vote election campaigns. The general vote will result in a council that is not at all diverse or representative of the makeup of this city or of its neighbourhoods. All council members will come to reside in a few areas of Oshawa leaving most of Oshawa unrepresented at the decision making table. Oshawa will come to be governed by an "elite group" of residents.

3) Looking Outward: A smart growth approach must look beyond the needs of an individual or group. One town may need to defer to broader regional interests. The challenge is to achieve community or regional interests while respecting local and individual needs...Oshawa reverting to the general vote centralizes all decision making to the "rich" people who reside in a few "high income" areas of Oshawa, hardly representative of the diverse populations we have in Oshawa.

All in all, Oshawa seems to be taking a route opposite to the enlightened leadership found in most areas in the rest of the country. It's hard to keep up when you're marching backwards!

Smart Growth BC even provides toolkits to encourage citizen involvement in municipal decision making.

The advice from Smart Growth BC to the people is:
1) Follow your local council activity on development and planning issues
2) Talk to your neighbours and friends about smart growth
3) Write a letter to the local newspaper or call a local radio talk show
4) Question your politicians and candidates at election time
5) Get involved with community groups that are concerned with community or sustainability issues – or, form a new one

If our Oshawa political leaders followed ideas on the Smart Growth BC website, they may be able to harnish citizen ingenuity, creativity, intelligence, experience, etc. to develop plans to improve our pathetic downtown.

Instead our politicians are too busy looking inward to their own self interest and too busy figuring out how to preserve their council seats that in the end will only result in stale and stagnated leadership for Oshawa. They're too busy manufacturing issues like a change in election systems that don't exist in the real world.

Everywhere down the line, the thinking and action of Oshawa City Council is contrary to the best practices common throughout the country. This is Oshawa. "Prepare to be amazed," Canada.

Why not share Oshawa’s “smart growth” with your BC cousins. You might start by writing about how Oshawa City Council is reducing political accountability and removing ward representation to serve the self-interest of the politicians. This would make Oshawa famous as the laughing stock of progressive communities everywhere.

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

29 Reasons Why The Ward System Is Better

In Niagara Falls, Ontario, during a 2000 ballot pebiscite, the majority of citizens voted in favour of retaining the ward system. But because less than 50% of eligible voters turned out at the polls, the city council was legally able to ignore the results of the plebiscite. They ignored the plebiscite because they favored the general vote. Here in Oshawa, politicians are supporting the plebescite because they favour a change to the general vote. In the 1985, Oshawa City Council ignored a plebiscite favoring ward voting because they wanted to retain the general vote. How politicians handle non-binding plebiscites has nothing to do with democratically upholding the public will but rather what action supports Council's desired outcome.

A citizen group in Niagara Falls developed and published a document listing 99 reasons to keep the ward system. Excerpted here are 29 solid reasons that pertain to Guelph.

You may also be interested to read the rationale for suggesting the general vote for London by its prime mover, Councillor Rocco Furfaro. You'll see that they are about as significant as Oshawa Councillor Nester Pidwerbecki's rationale for suggesting the plebiscite question for Oshawa.

REASONS WHY A WARD SYSTEM IS BETTER FOR GUELPH (AND OBVIOUSLY FOR OSHAWA)

1. Every area of the city deserves equal representation.
2. The ward system encourages councillors to become fully knowledgeable about the area they represent.
3. Running in a ward makes councillors more accountable to neighbourhood voters.
4. The at-large system gives an unfair advantage to wealthy candidates.
5. There is not, nor has there ever been, any public desire to abolish the current ward system.
6. The ward system works. City council has never offered any substantial evidence to the contrary.
7. Your vote carries more weight in ward elections.
8. Without a ward system, local politics will become more remote than ever before.
9. The ward system prevents the undesirable possibility of having all councillors come from the same area of town.
10. A council elected at-large is more susceptible to being influenced by non-territorially based special interest groups.
11. The city is growing and becoming more diverse. A ward system can best accommodate these changes.
12. The ward system gives us a diversity of opinion on council.
13. Election debates are unworkable in an at-large system.
14. There is absolutely no evidence to suggest that “the cream rises to the top” in an at-large system.
15. Citizens who need help know exactly who to contact and can hold them directly accountable at election time.
16. Printing election materials and lawn signs for over 60,000 voters would be cost prohibitive.
17. Guelph is too large for councillors to have intimate knowledge of every neighbourhood in the city.
18. Ward elections allow candidates to personally visit each home in the ward, to speak personally with a member of each household they seek to represent.
19. An at-large election system means more candidates and longer ballots. This makes it extremely difficult for voters to thoroughly consider the issues or ask questions of each and every candidate.
20. In a democracy, it is important to make informed decisions. Ward elections, by facilitating face-to-face interaction between voters and candidates, help voters become better-informed.
21. In the at-large system, every councillor will be competing against every other councillor. That makes it more difficult for incumbent councillors to build mutual trust and camaraderie.
22. Federal, provincial, and regional elections are all based on the ward system.
23. In a city of roughly 110,000 people, it simply makes sense to have city politicians take responsibility for neighbourhood problems through a ward system.
24. The trend in Ontario, in Canada, and across North America is towards adopting ward systems.
25. Your councillor likely lives, drives, walks, and shops in your neighborhood. This gives councillors a better understanding of neighbourhood issues and allows them to be proactive in dealing with neighbourhood problems.
26. At-large systems only tend to exist very small homogeneous communities. Guelph does not fit this criteria.
27. Under the at-large system, there is a greater possibility of having a homogeneous group of people representing a heterogeneous city.
28. Newmarket is one of only three medium sized municipalities in Ontario that has an at-large system. The City is currently in the process of adopting a ward system after citizens voted to dump the at-large system in a 2000 referendum.
29. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

There you go Oshawa...you don't have to take my word for it that ward voting is best in serving the people. The initiative for change to the general vote comes from politicians who know that it secures and guarantees their political futures. Their private rationale is for a "self-serving" election system but their publicly stated rationale always falls far short of a full load. Why? Because a return to the general vote cannot be justified on any grounds by any thinking person. There simply is no public benefit of the general vote...but there are a number of deficits which have been cited in various posts on this site.

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

General vs. Ward Vote Meeting, April 19, 2007, 7:00 pm, Sikorski Hall

I have been forwarded the following email which gave advance notice today to city politicians and senior city hall officials of the date of the “PUBLIC MEETING” to receive citizen input in regards to the city bylaw to revert to the general vote for the election of members of city council.

“From: Sandra Kranc
Sent: Monday, March 05, 2007 3:28 PM
To: Bob Duignan; Rick Stockman; Tom Hodgins; Stan Bertoia; April Cullen; Brian Nicholson; Joe Kolodzie; John Gray; John Henry; John Neal; Louise Parkes; Maryanne Sholdra; Nester Pidwerbecki; Robert Lutczyk; Tito-Dante Marimpietri
Cc: Kim Bressan; Jennifer Allan; Percy Luther; Lon Knox; Mary Medeiros
Subject: Public Meeting - General Vote
This email is to provide advance notice that the public meeting on the general vote method of election will take place on Thursday, April 19, 2007 at 7:00 p.m. at the General W. Sikorski Polish Veterans’ Hall. You will receive official advance notice later this week with your regular courier/mail delivery, but thought you may like to know at this time in case you receive any enquiries.
Sandra.

Please put the date, April 19, 2007 at 7:00 p.m. at Sikorski Hall on your calendar as it is important that the hall be full if we are to avoid the undemocratic general vote.

This change cannot be justified in any way by any student of municipal politics. It will give a constituency to each city politician about twice the size of that of our federal and provincial members thus taking the government designed to be closest to the people further away than either our provincial MPP or our federal MP. It will take away ward representation thus depriving you of a politician especially elected by residents of your ward to look after ward concerns and represent your ward interests on council. It will produce an unwieldy ballot of 50-60 candidates which will make it impossible to make informed choices. It will take all local campaigning away from your local community so that ward issues are not debated in your local church basements and school auditoriums. It will isolate Oshawa voters away from members of council. All candidates will campaign city wide and any election forums will be reduced to huge meetings where huge numbers of candidates will be given about 2 minutes each to express their platforms to voters. It will result in a council over time all residing in a few of the richer areas of Oshawa leaving most of the city unrepresented and disenfranchised. The only benefit—it guarantees re-election of incumbents. All of the above was Oshawa’s devastating history with the general vote prior to 1985.

Don’t let it happen again! Don’t let Oshawa politicians revert to a system of municipal elections virtually unused in Canada. If the general vote was better, wouldn't you think it would be used virtually everywhere?

Mark April 19th on your calendar and plan to attend this meeting. It’s all the better if you also express your opinion orally at the meeting.

Oshawa’s future is in your hands.

Monday, March 5, 2007

God's Creation--Oshawa City Politicians

We needed a lot of help with this one…so we asked a group of others with much more familiarity with the source than your humble author!

Why did God make Oshawa politicians??

1. He needed something to make wind for the world.
2. He needed some way to spend all of Oshawa’s extra tax dollars.
3. He needed to have politicians to listen to all of the other politicians otherwise no one would listen to them.
4. He needed to add more humour to this part of the world.
5. He needed to hold up a sample of greedy “self-serving" to the public as an example of what “good people” should avoid.
6. He wanted to provide some humour for Oshawa people.


What ingredients did God make Oshawa politicians out of?

1. He found a pile of stinky raw material stuff behind the barn.
2. He found some used spaghetti that got installed as brains.
3. Bagpipes that got blown up and turned into people windbags.
4. God thought that, in the interests of democracy, everyone should have a hand in this and so he left one ingredient to each voter's imagination.


Why did God give Oshawa its politicians?

1. He realized Oshawa people had to suffer for the original sin.
2. He figured that Oshawa politicians attempts to bring in the general vote would wake up Oshawa people to the injustices being perpetrated on them.
3. As Canada’s auto center, Oshawa is a unique place and he figured a self-serving council would be a way to characterize this uniqueness.
4. Because of it’s wealth as the highest income place in Canada, he figured Oshawa shouldn’t have the best of everything in the country.


What did God give Oshawa politicians that he didn’t give other politicians?

1. The wisdom to adapt an election system seldom used in the country.
2. The guile to design a scheme to "trick" the people of Oshawa to vote for a general vote council to give incumbents a lifetime seat.
3. The uncommon characteristic of being self-serving rather than holding a strong sense in public service for the public good found in most jurisdictions in the country.


What kind of children were our Oshawa politicians?

1. One was a bully always scheming to get his way---and perpetrating fierce verbal attacks on those that didn’t measure up.
2. Three others were “perfect” children always doing what the dominant person around them wanted them to do…these along with the bully ended up as Oshawa’s “Gang of Four”--Councillors Pidwerbecki, Kolodzie, Parkes, and Henry.
3. Four of them fought for justice for all and tried to make the world around them a better place representing everybody’s interests. These children grew up to be Councillors Nicholson, Neal, Lutczyk, and Cullen. As adults they showed their childhood traits by defending the democratic ward voting for the people of Oshawa.
4. Some just blew in the wind. You couldn’t predict ahead of time what they were going to do. These are the ones that may change their vote to abandon a return to the general vote. However, they will first have to realize the political consequences of continuing to support a change to the general vote. They need your letters! Send them to Mayor Gray and Councillors Sholdra and Mariempietri. You can click on the names to send them emails.


What did Oshawa voters need to know about our politicians before electing them?

1. Whether they believed in serving the people first or themselves first…The "Gang of Four" who are solidly behind a return to the general vote obviously are self-serving.
2. Whether they were true to voting for what they truly believed to be best for Oshawa. Some say they know ward voting is best but they are voting to reject it. This doesn’t make sense. You must vote for what you know and believe to be right and best for Oshawa.
3. Whether they really wanted to serve the people necessary under the ward vote or whether they wanted to “retire” with the general vote and just continue to collect their salaries, perks, allowances, expense accounts, and honoraria.


Why did Oshawa voters elect our politicians?

1. They were uninformed about the values of some politicians who kept their beliefs and agendas private from the people.
2. Some were elected because of their good service to the residents of their ward.
3. Others were newly elected because of the promise they held for ward voters. Hopefully their votes will not disappoint their supporters…if that is the case, they will become non-supporters leading to the defeat of these politicians.


Who is the boss on city council?

1. There is one guy who bullies members to support him lest he turn on them with his personal attacks…thus he is a leader of three others.
2. There is the “Chair” who votes but seldom offers his own comment as that is difficult from the chair position which is supposed to be neutral.
3. There is a guy who often comes up with the most sensible motions which unfortunately seldom “carry” among the rest.
4. There are the aligned followers whose votes are predictable with a group no matter the issue and the unaligned independents who bring their personal and wisest judgment to all issues.


What’s the difference between politicians and ordinary people?

1. Most politicians like to listen to themselves while ordinary people often listen to others.
2. Most politicians think they are expert on everything while ordinary people recognize there are a few things they don’t know.
3. The money they make in relation to the energy they exert.


What would it take to make our Oshawa politicians perfect?

1. More common sense.
2. A real sense of the meaning of democracy.
3. A real sense of the high calling of politics in providing service to the people.
4. Listening to the people.
5. Communicating about important issues rather than trying to pull “a fast one” on the public by keeping issues such as the plebescite question” a virtual secret which confronted people “cold” in the voting booth never before thinking about or discussing the issue and then voting on a convoluted question where voters had to vote “NO” to preserve the system that they were satisfied with.