What should we expect of a mayor? Most Kingstonians think this is a position of great power. The ‘ strong’ mayor system which most assume- the ability to veto and to determine the budget is not available to Kingston. We have a mayor who is merely one vote out of 13. Any power the mayor has is one of influence which can be great. Over the past few mayoralties we have seen this influence grow. Staffs have grown, and our population has grown. Most cities now have a CAO. The mayor is the connection to the staff- a powerful position indeed. And one that is given by the Municipal Act to the Council .As such he can influence, in broad terms, the direction of the city. His relationship with the CAO is probably better than that of his predecessor who let Council get out of control. The early emphasis on the procedural by law was probably a determination not to let Council get out of control. Gerretsen is correct ” if you don’t like it, change it”. Nobody tried. The City of Toronto was granted new taxing powers.in 2006, (land transfer, vehicle registration, and ‘sin’ taxes) but no changes to the mayor’s position were made. In fact Gerretsen chaired reasonably well in spite of his need to speak on nearly every subject.
Our mayor Gerretsen has put the Strategic Plan and Sustainability front and centre. Both have gone far to increase the influence of the mayor as he is the interpreter of both. Pundits think that the incoming Council will stress the cultural, social and environmental pillars of Sustainability rather than the economic pillar. It remains to be seen if the Strategic Plan has as much influence with the next Council. A Strategic Plan does give new Councillors something to hang on to and it gives returning Councillors more influence as they know how the system works and can include their priorities. The Strategic Plan was initiated by the CAO and outlines how Council will spend the city’s money over the next year. Remember that the CAO was the budget guru prior to becoming CAO so everything has to be costed. If the money isn’t there then services must be cut, or priorities changed
The current mayor(Gerretsen) has brought young people into the political world by his use of Facebook and Twitter , which makes his vote on excluding students more puzzling AND he has been a great Public Relations person and public relations cannot be overlooked as most people assume that this is the main job of the mayor- is it? If it is, Gerretsen does a great job! One has only to view the presentations of merit at Council to see how important people feel about this.
His errors mainly the vote on students. He is supposed to be mayor of ALL the people. In Kingston, that includes students. This has been a major problem for this Council as it was overturned by the OMB. One can forgive his vote on the Casino as he is the guardian of the tax base, although the majority of voters were against a Casino, anywhere. Is the fact of 7/6 votes in Council a negative for the Mayor in that he did not draw it together? No, every Mayor must deal with powerful personalities that often do not agree with him. This is particularly true of Councillor Glover who probably did not run again because of his conflict with Gerretsen. This Council was no different from others in the past and the one in the future. Councillors will and must disagree.
Is he lazy? Is he arrogant? Is he’ entitled? Many think so. Certainly he needs to improve his reading skills .He fumbles names early in Council meetings. He reads items for the benefit of viewers, poorly. He has not served us well by being in the chair for only four years. But, all in all, I would give him a passing grade B.
Council meeting November 18, 2014
Not out with a bang but a whimper
Jason here. The last Council meeting of the old Council with Mayor Gerretsen in the chair, was short and vaguely festive and appropriately ended with a challenge to the chair by Councillor Glover,(it lost) over the most recent election results. The mayor ruled the motion to have an independent review of the lateness of the results out of order on the advice of the legal department that such a review would cost more than $50,000- the ‘lame duck’ council is limited to under $50,000. Councillor Glover pointed out that the motion never mentioned money and that the new Council could come to grips with the money if necessary. It still lost.
Still no Councillor Scott but Reitzel was in his chair. Hector was missing – away on FCM business perhaps. The most controversial or perhaps argumentative part of the meeting surrounded a report from the Heritage committee, on which both Schell and Glover as councillors sit. The result was that both St Helen’s and Stone Gables’ achieved heritage designation with some interior aspects included. Generally the Heritage Committee has stayed away from designating interior aspects of buildings, although the legislation allows them to do so. In this case the wording that was adopted was that of the federal designation. In spite of a motion by Councillor Berg, that was designed to adopt the wording of the staff recommendation. Worry is present on the upkeep of these vacant buildings – a worry that is necessary in light of the still vacant nature of the former Prison for Women and the rumoured debate over who should have kept the heat on. Hopefully someone will keep the heat on in St. Helen’s and Stone Gables and attend to other necessary repairs. The staff report was designed to make the property saleable. Councillor Glover claims that it is now with the designation, in fact more so- he says heritage designation makes properties worth more. The designation does not apply to the federal government, but the by-law would be exercised when the properties reach Canada Lands, which are not considered a federal department. The Correctional Service has stated that they will object to the designation- probably on the grounds that the designation makes it less likely to find a buyer.
In addition to the above, Council also heard in a report from planning committee of a request for an amendment to the zoning on 188 Churchill Crescent. This resulted in a typical division between those (most, including staff) who see intensification as a good thing and neighbours who are appalled. It also got another remark by Glover on residential uses in cellars. This will go one until or if intensification reaches the west end.
The old council thus ended not out with a bang but a whimper (apologies to T.S. Eliot)
Council Meeting November 4, 2014
Jason here. It was a short meeting, more important for who was there . For candidates who lost it must have taken an effort of will to be present. (The present Council has another meeting before the new Council takes over in December.) Hector. Downes, Berg and Glover were there. Reitzel and Scott were not. Of the group who were absent Reitzel did not run nor did Glover. I guess Scott could not find it in his heart to confront other losers. The Mayor appeared at 8.20 – he had more important things to do! So Neill as deputy Mayor took the beginning of the meeting.
Of importance was the direction to staff to find agreement with the Memorial Centre Farmers’ Market to provide them with winter accommodation, and moving the communications tower on Highway 38 to the far side of the property away from the house of the objector. It is interesting that the objector- the next door neighbour, says he had an agreement with a former fire chief that, in severing the property for the fire station, a communication tower would not be built. This agreement was apparently informal as it never was put on the severance, and now can never be acted upon. Notice to anyone who has business with the City—get it in writing! This is not that the city would not observe informal agreements, but that time passes and the agreements are forgotten.
Other information included the resignation of two members of the Belle Park Working Group. Clearly this group is falling apart. The staff may yet get its way and close this site as a golf course. Too bad for inner City. I wonder what could replace it?
The morning Whig included an editorial suggesting that the city could/should find out why the results of the election were so late. Someone knows why. Why has no explanation been given to the voters?
Jason plans an assessment of the current mayor before the next Council meeting. The assessment will be on the Kingston Elector’s site.