Ward 1 Town Hall
Councillers Brenner and Robinson, an unbeLEAFably comprehensive meeting

Lessons learned at the Ward 1 Town Hall

Town Halls are opportunities for local residents to express views and voice concerns relating to their city councillors’ work and endeavours directly to the councillor(s) in attendance. Attending the recent Ward 1 Town Hall, I learned much more. I learned about myself as a municipal resident and about councillors as adept politicians.

Residents are sincere in asking their questions, and in making their constructive comments, though at times, some might question if it is so. Nevertheless, these town halls are grassroots democracy in practice.

Questions varied:

Train traffic transporting toxic cargo through the city?
The participant expressed concern as the potential risk for Pickering is of greater concern given its nuclear facility, the environmental dump north of the city and the centralized thoroughfare the rail system has. The response was a repetition that rail transport through the city is a federal government responsibility. Councillor Robinson, a tenacious bulldog in seeking answers to questions received a less than satisfactory response from the federal Ministry of the Environment,  “No substantive or concrete response.”

Amazingly long delays in policy enactments for city policies?
One ratepayers’ association executive questioned the reason for such long delays from when the city initiates policy discussion to actual implementation asking what has happened to policies initiated as far back as 2011? “Not our fault,” Councillor Brenner’s response. “Other councils initiated them but never had time to complete that initiation.”

Budget assignment of $15,000 per councilor for computer upgrades?
The premise of the question was that regardless of the computer model, expensing $105,000 budget for councillors’ computers seems excessive. Extrapolating from this, the budget could have an amazing amount of waste in it. Can this be explained? This is where attendees got a lesson on political deflection, the avoidance of a clear and concise response to the question. Councillor Brenner has refined political deflection to an epitome level. The deflection explained, “The councillors need electronic equipment to carry out their responsibilities.” No argument there but do they need ‘Cadillac’ computers? Does “economies of scale” not work for City of Pickering buying power? An obvious criticism. The point was if there is exorbitant expense in this minor area, what are the implications for the other areas of the budget? Councillor Brenner never addressed that. All but two attending participants seemed oblivious to that. One even blurted out, “You’re missing the point,” to which Councillor Brenner did not respond.

Main Agenda: Tree by-law and regulation
Other questions dealt with the topic of the town hall’s main agenda, Tree regulation in the city. Participants expressed worry and anxiety about tree maintenance in the region. The City of Pickering City Development Department staff, Chantelle, Whitaker, Ish Chowdhury and Dean Jacobs were excellent in covering all the asked questions regarding tree maintenance in the city. People in attendance left with a better understanding of tree maintenance, who does the work for the city and how the tree bylaws are enforced.
For more information, phone the city at 905 683 7575

Again, at the risk of being unnecessarily repetitive, acoustics is a continuous problem at these town halls. People need to hear the discussion. Surely, effective electronic equipment for optimum audience reception must be available. Three town halls have had communication problems, always rationalized somehow. Stop with the explanations and rationalizations…get the right equipment! At the very least, repeat the posed question loudly and clearly, so everyone knows what is being discussed.

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