Keeping Port Colborne open for business

In the next 5 weeks I will be blogging about the issues as I see  them  and as I have been able to extrapolate from the last 4 years.  Please feel free to comment and discuss the issues.  I do not have all the answers but feel free to contact me and I am willing to discuss them.

My friends,  this issue is extremely important to our city and The Niagara Region.  We have often been told we need more activity on this file.   Council has been very active on this issue although there has been very little public knowledge of the activity.  Confidentiality  is necessary to be able to gain the trust of all industries that are interested in Port Colborne.  All industries demand this confidentiality or they will not even entertain a visit to the city in question.  There is some great interest in Port Colborne due to our positioning on the canal, the rail lines and the mid-peninsula corridor that has become a priority to the Region and Province.

This council has been very active in inviting and showing off our great city.  We have been very cognizant of the need to drive this file forward.  Any individual that tells you that we have not been active is not aware of the realities of the file.  I must also state that much of the activity is often done in camera which makes much of the information out of reach of the citizen until the industry is prepared to make their decision public.  Council has been as active as we can be.

As a city we have prepared documents that are sent to such industries indicating to them the amenities and the fact that we are on the canal, rail line and highway as well as our proximity to the USA border.  This gives any industry the ability to reach millions of people .  Our closeness to the USA border should give us an advantage that many other communities do not have.  It has attracted some interest and we continue to actively interact with these industries.  Will they all come to Port Colborne?  I hope so.  Many of these industries have received packages from other cities as well.  Once the industry in question has created a short list they visit the individual communities to assess the fit for their company.  That means we may not get all of them but we are working at it.

This council and your ward 2 councillors have been very active at attracting new industry.  The fact is that most of the negotiations are done in camera.  It must stay at that level until the industry is prepared to release their decision publicly.  This cannot change due to the fact that much of it is covered by the Municipal Act.  The information is out of reach of the general public until a deal is struck.

Port Colborne is open for business and we must continue to be open.  We are actively reaching out to industry that is interested in  our city.   Your council continues to have your best interest at heart.  Your council continues to have meeting after meeting to negotiate a deal that will allow us to expand our tax base.

Last but not least is the fact that it is against the law to bonus a company.  The Municipal Act deems this an unlawful action by a council or city.  There are consequences to any city trying to bonus an industry.  All of council can be charged with this illegal action and can lose their position.  Examples of this activity are negotiating a deal with the industry that would allow them to use a building or land rent free for a number of years,  not paying taxes for a number of years, selling land at below market value,  etc.  All of this is illegal.  We often hear individuals request that council approach interested industry with some of these deals.   Not possible.  This type of activity is bonussing and NO city can do this legally in most situations.

Election 2014 is all about the issues that are important to you.  Read more about me and what I will do for you.    If you have any questions, there may be an answer in my frequently asked questions.  Feel free to  contact me with your own comments and questions.  Thank you for your continued support.

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Continued Fiscal Responsibility

In the next 5 weeks I will be blogging about the issues as I see  them  and as I have been able to extrapolate from the last 4 years.  Please feel free to comment and discuss the issues.  I do not have all the answers but feel free to contact me and I am willing to discuss them.

This is an issue that always brings up some nasty comments over the years.  It is important to remember that your city council has meetings, at the end of each year and early in the next year, over a budget that will be used by staff and council to make important decisions over that next year.  This therefore means we met in late 2013 and early 2014 to set such a budget that would take us into this year.  That is done every year.

All documents are public and available to anyone that requests this information.  All you have to do is ask the city clerk or go to the city website for all documents.  During this time, all meetings that are held are open to the public and any citizen can attend the meetings.   If we have to discuss sensitive issues, covered by the Municipal Act, we must go in camera to discuss those issues.  At the end of those discussions we return to the public meeting.  These meetings are rarely taped by Cogeco and are rarely presented on TV.  Most are not recorded.

Citizens in the audience can sometimes  participate and get their opinions about budget issues on record.  It is sad to say that very few citizens attend these meetings. Yes they can be dry and boring at times but they must take place or council would be guilty of mismanagement.  We often have only 0, 1 or 2 citizens at these important meetings.  Another method to affect change can be to speak with your council person about the budget.  You can have your questions answered through that individual.  Example is a young man that approached me during the last sessions and brought up some points for discussion.  I presented these to council at  meetings and these discussions let to changes in the budget that helped us set a better rate for our tax payers.  Ladies and gentlemen, your opinion and ideas are important to us to help develop a plan that will allow everyone to get better service for your dollar.

In the future, it may be necessary to decrease some services to affect a better tax rate .  You need someone that  has the experience to see this coming and to present it to his electorate before the final vote.   The Ward meetings held by the present councillors have helped us with this consultation process.  We are also moving into a time where our infrastructure will need more attention than we thought.  At the presentation, by the consultants, most councillors were surprised at the investments still needed in this area due to the fact of large investments already made by this council.  This may lead to an increase in taxes or a decrease in services to pay for such investments.  It may also help in developing a new method for calculating  the cost or repairs.  Only the future can tell but we now have this report to help in most decisions.  I want to be there for those discussions and to help protect the citizens.

These meetings also include a review of the city’s 5 year capital budget  and  helps with planning all major expenses over the next 5 years.  This budget is reviewed every year to make certain it is accurate.  We must also guarantee that the city has the funds available.  There have been times when council has needed to adjust these expenses  to the next year.  If we don’t do that, the tax increase would be out of the realm of inflation.  We have tried to stay within that increase.  If anyone tells you that we should have no rate increases they are simply delaying the expenses to another year. This city did this in the early 90s and the expenses finally caught up to the citizens with large increases.  That would not be responsible management.  The city, like all citizens, must live with the inflation costs from salaries, supplies, etc.  We are not immune to this and we must deal with these realities every year that must be met or we will not be able to continue to give good service to our citizens.

The bottom line  is that this council has a plan, sets and reviews budgets to help make good decisions and continues to be responsible managers of the public purse to get the best bang for our buck.  Does everyone agree? No.  Are all the decisions public?  Yes.  Can anyone review all these documents and suggest changes through appropriate channels?  Yes.  We welcome the involvement of all citizens  in the process to make reasonable and accountable adjustments  to our expenses and get good service for our citizens.

This process also allows us to review the city debt.   We have limited debt for a city of our size(9% of our worth) and are in good standing with The Region of Niagara.   The Region of Niagara is the government we must use to get our needs met  for a debenture.  We can often get a 10 year, 20 year, etc. and even longer debenture.  This  council has been very responsible in keeping this number as low as possible.  This council often did not take a debenture until one was paid and then we used the monies available to leverage another debenture to do the work necessary on infrastructure(water, sewers) without increasing the bottom line to our citizens and therefore to the tax rate.  Have we added to our debt? Yes but only when we have had to do so.  We often did it with sorrow but it had to be done.  That is good fiscal management of our  situation.  We must manage all our expenses while making certain that repairs to our infrastructure continues to be done.  Anyone that suggests that there is no plan in place, no management of our monies, no thought of  what is  going to happen during the year or even over 5 years has no idea of what has been done, what  is being done and what will be done for our citizens.

Election 2014 is all about the issues that are important to you.  Read more about me and what I will do for you.    If you have any questions, there may be an answer in my frequently asked questions.  Feel free to  contact me with your own comments and questions.  Thank you for your continued support.

 

Continued Transparency and Accountability

In the next 5 weeks I will be blogging about the issues as I see  them  and as I have been able to extrapolate from the last 4 years.  Please feel free to comment and discuss the issues.  I do not have all the answers but feel free to contact me and I am willing to discuss them.

These issues always instill disagreement during any election.   They are catch words that some candidates use when they do not have a viable platform.  They are often used to complain about a situation during the election but rarely result in any constructive solutions.  Although I am using them, it is with the understanding of what they really mean and accurately reflect decisions that this City Council has acted on.

Two of the most important issues are:  Accountability and Transparency.

Accountability

Accountability means that the elected officials are going to work for and with the electorate to offer solutions and solve the issues that are important to them.  It may not be an ideal solution or one that is preferred by the constituent, but it will be one that is fair to everyone concerned.  That might mean  a resolution may only partially solve an  issue.

Example:  A young man called and then messaged me on Facebook.  He wanted something done about his neighbour and felt the situation next door was potentially dangerous to his family.  He did not want anyone to visit him but he did insist on a fast resolution.  I contacted the city bylaw officer and the police over some legal complaints.  As I looked into it,  I agreed that it was a potentially dangerous situation and used the proper channels to resolve the issue in question.  While the solution that the constituent wanted would have stepped on someone else’s rights, the final solution was a team effort of myself and staff with bylaw violations dealt with quickly.

I  also have a friend who disagrees with a neighbour in the way he cares for his home.  I have explained to him that his standards are very high and the city cannot impose them on others.  Although he doesn’t like it, he understands.

Accountability is for everyone.  You can be guaranteed that I will always resolve an issue with everyone’s rights being protected.

Myself and Councilor Desmarais have had Ward 2 meetings twice per year since 2010.  We spoke to all that came and helped them with their issues.  We shared information that helped them understand their situation, etc.  Interestingly enough, the other 2 candidates have not attended any of these gatherings.  Why?  I am not certain but I do know that when I was preparing to serve the citizens of Ward 2, I attended all Council meetings for eighteen months prior to the election so that I could understand and be prepared to serve the citizens.

Elected officials are accountable to ALL of the electorate and not just a small group.  That is responsible accountability.

Transparency

 An interesting concept that is important to the citizens of Port Colborne is transparency.  This describes the action of  someone is looking for information and being told that it is available only to a select group.  Like most municipalities, Port Colborne also has a group of people that make frequent formal requests for information that the city has not yet received or has not yet been presented to council.  When they are told this, they feel that the local government is not transparent to the citizens.  It is important to understand that this release of information by government is legislated in the Ontario Municipal Act, therefore, City Council cannot hide information unless it is spelled out in the Act.  All activity by government staff and elected officials is defined in the act and must be obeyed.  This includes the silence of Council and staff on any business that is discussed in-camera. (ie behind closed doors)

The information shared in in-camera meetings could be about staff, legal information directly related to the city’s activities for the citizens, the sale of city property, etc.  Our city clerk is responsible to manage and archive this information appropriately.  She is very much tuned in to the Act and makes the final decision on who can be given information.  This is done to protect confidential information as well as the rights of all citizens.

The current and past councils have always made Council meeting agendas and minutes available to anyone.  Agendas and minutes are available a few days before each City Council meeting by email.  Printed copies are available by contacting the city clerk at least one week before meetings.  Agendas are also distributed at each Council meeting and and are archived with the minutes at the city library.

Transparency is critical to all citizens of Port Colborne,  City Hall and the elected officials have nothing to hide. I have been open and transparent to everyone unless it has been regulated otherwise under the Municipal Act.  I can state that the seventeen years I have been on Council, there has been very little information that has been deemed protected and confidential.  Any citizen that wants information on the issues can find it if they want to.

Conclusion

During this election, all citizens should ask each candidate for their position on these critical issues of accountability and transparency.  I am prepared to answer on these and other questions as they pertain to this important issue.

Election 2014 is all about the issues that are important to you.  Read more about me and what I will do for you.    If you have any questions, there may be an answer in my frequently asked questions.  Feel free to  contact me with your own comments and questions.  Thank you for your continued support.

Excellence in Government

In the next 6 weeks I will be blogging about the issues as I see  them  and as I have been able to extrapolate from the last 4 years.  Please feel free to comment and discuss the issues.  I do not have all the answers but feel free to contact me and I am willing to discuss them.

The above  issue is a question everyone asks themselves when they start dealing with any form of government.  It is often the most frustrating issue to many that work hard at dealing faithfully  with government officials.  Excellence can be defined as the action of giving the constituents the best service possible within the quickest time interval.  This has been the thrust of our CAO.  He now has a policy that council has adopted that is called “The Five Cs of Service”  This program was developed by him and his staff to address the issues of no response/to bad response by certain branches within our municipal structure.  A perfect example of this was at the council meeting last night when a constituent indicated to us that he had been promised 2 phone calls in the last week and did not receive these.  I asked the CAO to respond to the constituent and he indicated that it was the first he had heard of it but that he would investigate the failure to fallow the policy of a return phone call within 24 hours.  The failure of someone not to do this will begin a search to find out where communications broke down and rectify this deficiency ASAP.  It may not be an individual but a system that failed.

The other part of this is the Ward Councillor’s responsibility to respond to his constituents in a quick and timely fashion.  It also must be true that the council person must be prepared to investigate, connect with or request help to get the answers that all constituents wish.  They might not be what the constituents want to hear but it must be done in a timely fashion so as to allow more discussion and brainstorming to eventually develop a plan that both the constituent and the councillor can agree  upon.  At that point the council person has the responsibility to follow through with the plan developed to hopefully get a positive result.

Another part of the excellence in government is the willingness of the council person to consult with his/her constituents on a regular basis and to be open to the people he/she represents.  Both of the Ward 2 council persons have had ward meetings, often at Tim Horton’s,  every 6 months since we were elected 4 years ago.  Those meetings have resulted in many issues and concerns being addressed at the council level within the next 6 months.  We did not always get the results that the constituent wanted but we continue to keep our list of issues and present them to council for positive results over time.  We are your representatives and we need to make sure that we present the issues that our constituents find important to them.  The ward meetings will continues if I am returned to council for another 4 year term.

I have started a series of polls and surveys on my site that will give me a better understanding of the needs within Ward 2 and the City of Port Colborne.

Election 2014 is all about the issues that are important to you.  Read more about me and what I will do for you.    If you have any questions, there may be an answer in my frequently asked questions.  Feel free to  contact me with your own comments and questions.  Thank you for your continued support.

 

 

 

Busy Time at Camp

Hi friends!

I must apologies to all of you for not blogging during the past few weeks.  Carole and I were quite involved with finalizing the purchase of the trailers that replaced the two that were written off during the freak wind storm on Canada Day.  When you purchase something substantial in Quebec, the paperwork is out of this world.  Both my wife and I sat in the dealer’s office signing documents for more than 45 minutes!  Once we had all that was finished, we arranged the delivery of our new trailers and the pickup of the damaged units.  It all went off without a hitch.  Well, actually, that’s not true.  They included hitches…for towing 🙂

I picked up my son’s trailer on Thursday, August 21 and towed it to the site.  The contents were transferred between trailers and his damaged unit was moved to the field for pickup by the insurance company.

The next day the dealer delivered our new trailer and set it up.  We then spent the rest of the day transferring our contents.  Boy, have we collected many things over the years.  The damaged trailer was also moved to the field.    The insurance company now own both damaged trailers.

With our new trailers finally setup, we discovered all the trouble was worth it.  They our beautiful and we were able to enjoy them for 6 days.  After this, we spent more than one day with the closing and winterizing process.  We also did laundry to save us time when we got home.  Even then, I (Yvon) spent most of Tuesday this week doing laundry at home!  Was it coincidental that Carole was scheduled to work that day? 🙂

The last day in Quebec was very busy.  We had to blow out the water lines, empty the hot water tank, pull the plug, antifreeze the lines and install the winter cover over the trailer.  The cover is stored in our shed and when we retrieved it, we found uninvited visitors – a massive family of bag ants decided to call it home for the summer!  They ate through a few places that we had to patch.  Most of the ants were eliminated.  Oh, well. It’s just another adventure to add to our summer of non-rest 🙂  At least the fish in the lake had a break from me!  Not next year!

We arrived home at 12:30am Sunday morning and I’m still recovering from my summer as a lumberjack, trailer repair tech, carpenter, pest control agent and just about everything other than fisherman 😦

I am now getting ready for Election 2014 on October 27.  Printed material and signs are being finalized and will go to print in the next week.  The first of two mailers should be delivered to Ward 2 mailboxes and I’ll be out and about the ward canvassing beginning about the third week in September.  See my calendar for details.

If you live in Ward 2 and would like to volunteer to help me with my campaign or you would like to put a campaign sign on your front lawn, contact me.

Make sure you come and look around my website (www.yvondoucet.ca) to find out more about me and my campaign.  I will be blogging more often and about the issues.  Please feel free to comment and ask questions on the postings or on my Facebook page.  Yes, you can also contact me by email and telephone.

Thanks again and I look forward to meeting everyone in Ward 2 over the next few weeks, that is, when I’m not dreaming about the big fish stories that never happened this summer 🙂