Response to Mayor’s statements in the Wasaga Sun online article dated April 11, 2016
Below is an article that was posted on the Wasaga Sun online site on April 11, 2016. This is the second version, the first version had no comments from the Mayor.
The questions that I was asking were dealing with kiosk leases. As you may know this is the first year for the kiosk project and these were the first leases before council.
In my previous article titled “Silenced Again” I speak to the events of that meeting and the things I was questioning about the kiosks/leases. Things such as; intentionally deleted standard clauses, insufficient deposit amounts, some kiosk operators benefiting more than others (but paying the same) and lease terms that are in opposition to what council approved, were all NEW topics relating to these leases that council members were seeing for the first time.
After approximately five minutes of discussion on this NEW topic I was silenced by Councillor Smith’s motion to call the vote which was supported by Mayor Smith and Councillors Stockwell and Ego. Mr. Mayor your following statements in the Wasaga Sun online article are wrong, in my opinion:
1) Questions belong at the council table prior to council members making decisions. I guess you could ask questions after the fact, but what is the point when the decision has already been made without those answers.
2) To state that those of us who are asking questions is an attempt to prolong the process so long that nothing can happen is not correct. In my opinion, some council members still haven’t learned to follow proper process and procedure. Asking questions and expecting answers from staff is part of our job and part of the process! It helps council members make responsible decisions instead of putting carts before horses and putting the town in debt with no business plan.
3) If 5 minutes of discussion on this topic (and yes that’s all it was) is considered filibustering why was it acceptable to speak to another topic earlier that day for 45 minutes. I won’t say who had the soapbox!
Sharing, inaccurate details may help agendas look better, but they are not beneficial for this town and its residents. I know for a fact that putting all the information on the table, working through the details and being informed makes for responsible decisions that benefit our community. However, it has been my experience that when information is held back and people get defensive when questions are asked, that’s when we need to continue asking more questions!
Wasaga Deputy Mayor ‘stifled and silenced again’
By Ian Adams
Wasaga Beach’s deputy mayor said her concerns about the Main Street Market were stifled as council deliberated awarding the contract to build the temporary kiosks and award leases.
Deputy Mayor Nina Bifolchi was in the midst of several questions to the town’s economic development and tourism director Andrew McNeill when her line of enquiry was shut down by Coun. Bonnie Smith asking the chair of the meeting, Coun. Ron Anderson, to ‘call the question’ on awarding the contract and leases.
After the meeting, Bifolchi said she still doesn’t have answers to her questions.
“I wasn’t (even) able to put forward an amendment to perhaps address some of these concerns due to being stifled and silenced once again,” Bifolchi told Simcoe.com. “Staff made a comment … the town was getting full costs during the first year (which) needed further discussion as at least one lease wasn’t paying the full amount during the first year.”
Mayor Brian Smith said that in his opinion, some councillors “are getting tired of the filibustering.
“There’s no doubt this whole debate, the kiosks and the beachfront purchase in general, have been a bone of contention from the very beginning,” he said. “I believe we can beat a dead horse as long as we want to, but at the end of the day I look at all of these questions as questions that could have been asked – and can still be asked – of staff.
“To say because a question is called or a vote is taken … because that’s done you can’t get answer to your question, that’s an unfair statement.”
The mayor said municipal staff has been tasked to negotiate the leases, not only for the Main Street Market, but all the town-owned commercial space on the beachfront, to get the best deal as possible for the taxpayer.
“Questions are fine, but these aren’t questions that haven’t been asked in one way, shape or form in the past,” he said. “It’s an attempt to prolong the process so long that nothing can happen.
“Do I feel anyone was stifled here, or muzzled here? Absolutely not. It’s not like we haven’t debated these same questions in the past,” he said. “How long are we going to kick this can down the road for the sake of prolonging the issue?”
Under the town’s procedural bylaw, a council member may call for a question to be put to a vote, effectively ending any debate on the matter at the table.
“We can only go on about this so many times,” Coun. Smith said as she asked for a vote during council’s April 7 coordinated committee meeting.
Smith’s motion to put the question to a vote was supported by the mayor, and councillors Ron Ego and Bill Stockwell. The subsequent list of motions approving the contract to build the market kiosks, and award leases to tenants, were also approved.
The motions were ratified at a special council meeting immediately following the committee meeting.
Bifolchi said she had a list of comments and concerns about the kiosk leases, and was in the midst of questioning McNeill why the contracts appeared to be different.
That included the lengths of the leases, with some set for three years with an option for an additional two years, one approved for a year with an option to renew for an additional two two-year periods, and another approved for a two-year term with an option to renew for three years.
Bifolchi said council had passed a resolution for three-year terms. The lease rates – which were to be $6,000 annually – also vary from contract to contract, with one tenant paying $5,000 in the first year, and $7,000 in the second year.
“I’m finding that standard clauses have been deleted,” she told committee right before she was cut off by Smith’s motion to call the question.
Bifolchi also wanted to ask about ‘extras’ the municipality now appeared to be covering, such as sinks.
Coun. Sylvia Bray also had questions about the leases, and wound up voting against any kiosks that included food preparation sinks – which the town would be paying for.
“I didn’t get a clear answer as to why the town was providing additional equipment to some at no additional cost,” Bray said, noting the extras would cost an additional $2,200 for each kiosk on top of the $6,000 construction cost. “I don’t understand why the town would want to set a precedent to support some businesses at a greater rate than others.
“My questions and comments were to help me understand as many constituents have raised these questions to me and I wanted to provide answers.”