Closed Meeting Protocol

I have received a number of questions from constituents about Council’s Closed Session (often referred to as In Camera) meeting rules.

Here is a link to the City of Guelph Closed Meeting protocol.

The City’s protocol conforms to all requirements under the Ontario Municipal Act.  In addition to this policy, there are also rules about what can be discussed publicly outside of Closed Session.  The short answer is: nothing.  Other than the category of the item on the agenda and the names of members present, no other information can be released regarding the debate, motions, vote outcome, etc. unless Council passes a motion to report in Open Session.

Any member of Council who breaks Closed Session privilege is in violation of the City Council Code of Conduct.

These rules exist for a reason — to protect ourselves, our council colleagues, our staff and the Corporation of the the City of Guelph.

For this reason, it is extremely disturbing for me to read an article in Guelph Politico that Closed Session confidence has been breached.  I hope that the responsible party comes forward to take responsibility, as trust is essential to a well-functioning elected council.

Before releasing a statement to Mr. Donaldson, I carefully considered my words to ensure that I was following the Council Code of Conduct.  My full public statement on the matter is copied below:

Council is bound by strict Closed Meeting protocols, as well as a very clear Procedural By-law and CAO By-law about how the business of the Council and the city are to be enacted, how meetings are to be called and conducted, and the limitations of such meetings.  If I believe there is risk to the corporation, council or staff, I have an obligation to raise these matters for a ruling in Closed Session.  In the event that I feel this risk has not been addressed, I believe I have a personal and ethical obligation to excuse myself from the proceedings.  Unfortunately, I felt the need to exercise that provision for the first time in my nine-year council tenure on January 25.  

LP

 

 

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Come out and join the Hanlon Creek Neighbourhood on Family Day!

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Stuck on Stage 2: Anger at Demise of Guelph Mercury Print Edition

guelph-mercury

According to Swiss psychiatrist Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, there are five stages of grief when one is faced with the loss of a loved one:  denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.

When Metroland Media announced the end of the print edition of the Guelph Mercury, I spent an hour or two on stage 1 (denial) and then quickly moved to stage 2 (anger).  I’ve been stuck there ever since.

I’m angry at myself.  I was a past subscriber for many years, but is there more I could have done to promote the paper?  I’m angry at advertisers who, let’s face it, are the bread and butter of financing a print edition.  I’m angry at society.  Is the digital generation really to blame?  I’m not so sure.  Every age demographic enjoys holding a paper and doing a crossword.

I’m angry at the Merc higher-ups.  When you cut reporters, guess what happened?  Local content and award-winning investigative journalism suffered, and sales dropped. It was a self-fulfilling prophecy.  It seems to me that the Mercury was relegated to the back corner while reporting and marketing resources to boost sales went to the K-W Record.

But mostly, I’m angry at centrally-controlled corporate media who bought up successful locally-owned and operated newspapers throughout Canada and transformed them into nothing more than flyer-delivery systems.  Metroland Media promotes itself first and foremost as a marketing distribution company – flyers, coupons, trade shows, etc.  It seems that newspapers, to Metroland, were never about actual news, it was just an outer-wrapping to hold the flyers.

Maybe that’s why I can’t get past the anger stage.  We need a locally-owned and operated daily news outlet that hires real journalists (not bloggers) and uses a local press for printing.

Even though it’s a Metroland paper, I sincerely hope the Guelph Tribune goes daily.  Perhaps then, they can spread out the kilos of flyers stuffed into the Friday edition.  Please Metroland, make that happen.  Please, pretty please.  Hey, am I bargaining now?

Finally, moving to phase 3….

L

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What’s In a Name: Mo, Moe or Mole Hill?

Tradition and names matter in local culture and history.  Urban myths abound in Guelph, whether it be the ghost at the Albion (yes, she exists) or whether John Galt really put his hand on a tree stump when he designed the city (no, he didn’t).

We even have our own Guelph pronunciations – it’s “Del-HI” Street and “AR-kul” Road. Here in Ward 5, there’s a favourite local hill off Municipal Street. You all know it. It`s Mo(e)Hill. Or is it Mole Hill?

I have heard two different versions of Mo(e) Hill and Mole Hill. The conundrum is that both versions come from valid primary sources – residents who were there and participated in the naming – who swear by their version.

Let’s settle it once and for all…

Mo(e) Hill

The hill was created from fill and debris during construction of the nearby neighbourhood, as well as Centennial CVI and arena in the 1960s.  A group of local children living in the Maplewood Drive, Lockyer Street and Oriole Drive adjoining the park often gathered at the hill to play.  They joked about the hill and wondered aloud if it was a mountain or a hill.  “It’s a mountain!”, some proclaimed.  “No, it’s a hill”, said others.  In the spirit of compromise, they decided it’s both – it’s a Mo Hill.  And the name stuck.  The local children called it Mo Hill for many years until gradually the name spread beyond the neighbourhood.

Source:  Sophie Wilson, former resident of Maplewood Drive, and eyewitness/participant in the naming

Mole Hill

Given that the hill was a human-made feature comprised of fill, waste and debris from neighbouring construction, it was home to a high population of moles.  Moles tend to live underground in meadows and pasture, which is what the land in the development area was comprised of prior to being excavated.  In the early years of its existence, local children enjoyed looking for moles and mole tunnels in and around the hill until the ecosystem stabilized.  The local children began calling it Mole Hill.  “Hey, I’m meet you later at Mole Hill”….

Source: Craig Piper and brothers, who recall the plentiful mole supply 

Both versions are plausible and there is likely truth in each one.  I suspect the two names were used concurrently by different groups of local children.  Perhaps the accepted spelling of Moe Hill is actually a hybrid of both names?

Have you heard a different story of the naming?  Which version do you prefer?  Let’s get this name settled once and for all….

LP

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FAQ: How Much Snow Triggers a Residential Street Plough-outs?

With rain in the forecast for this coming week….here’s what you need to know about residential snow clearing.

When snow accumulation reaches 10 cm, a full residential plough-out is triggered.  This could be 8 cm all at once, or 5 cm one day and 5 cm the next day.  Of course, there are always exceptions when public safety or driving conditions require action (ie. slush or ruts). If warranted, the GM, Public Works may call for a full residential plough-out before the 10 cm threshold is reached.

Once a residential plough-out is called, it will take at least 24 hours to clear all of the residential streets in the city.  Arterial roads and transit routes will take priority.  Everything you are itching to know about snow removal can be found HERE on the City of Guelph website.

LP

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UPDATE: Action on Canada Geese in Urban Parks

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Canada Geese need a place to call home, children need safe places to play in our urban parks, and citizens want to enjoy our city green spaces without attack by aggressive geese.  I believe we can have all three.  Funds to enact an effective and humane goose mitigation strategy didn’t make it through the 2016 budget process.  However, our staff heard citizen concerns about the growing number and adverse impact of geese in city parks, and they are moving forward with other initiatives.   Council received the following update today from Martin Neumann, GM, Park Operations and Forestry:

“This note is to bring council up to date on our goose-related activities. It might be assumed by some constituents that the consequence of no funding in the 2016 budget for a goose management strategy would be zero goose-related action, but we are carrying on with the following initiatives.

  1.  Staff have been collaborating since September with a group of five University of Guelph students who have taken on a goose management strategy for Guelph as a class project in a 4th year resource management course. This course spans the fall and spring semesters, and our work with them continues.
  2. As part of that collaboration, staff are meeting tomorrow with the students and some key stakeholders, to allow the stakeholders to share their ideas and concerns. The participants will be representing Animal Alliance, Humane Society, and Nature Guelph.
  3. Subsequent to that input, we plan to engage the broader community, via telephone survey, open house meeting(s), and possibly other avenues, to gauge community acceptance of, or resistance to, various candidate tactics that could be employed to reduce geese/human conflict. The telephone survey is to be undertaken by a specialist consultant, and the open house meeting(s) is/are to be organized by City staff.
  4. Based on what we learn from these initiatives, there may be a possibility of trying a tactic or two on a small scale this year, on a pilot project basis.”

Stay tuned, we will report again in the spring.

LP

 

 

 

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2016: The Year Ahead

Today marks a new beginning.  It is a day to reflect upon the accomplishments of the past year and plan ahead for the 365 days ahead.  Building a great city cannot be planned in 365 day increments, or four year political terms for that matter.  Cities evolve over decades (and centuries) and require much longer-range vision.  Some say five to ten years of planning is plenty…but I’m thinking at least 20 years ahead.  When I close my eyes and imagine Guelph in 20 years, I see very clearly the baby steps that need to happen NOW to get us there.   For New Years Day 2016, come take a journey to the future with me….

  1.  In 2036, one of the most highly-used public spaces in the city will be the Downtown Library.  It will be iconic, well-built and host a wide range of services and programs open to all.  It will be a gathering space, an economic driver and a source of civic pride.  Businesses nearby are thriving because the library serves as a cultural, artistic and social hub.  In 2016, my goal is to move this vision closer to reality by ensuring that the Library project is added into the ten-year capital forecast in the 2017 budget, and a timeline established for groundbreaking.
  2. Inter-regional and integrated local transit is the preferred method of transportation in the city with a modal split of at least 50% by 2036.  Train and bus routes are more frequent, all-day two-way GO service is in high demand, and the cost is affordable to all. Guelph Central Station is bustling and welcoming, green space has been added and the heritage train station is standing proud at the centre of it all.  In 2016, I will strongly advocate for improvements to bus routes, a new “mainline” bus that runs through the spine of the city, and moving forward with the far-too-long delayed train station renovation.
nytrain

Guelph Central Station

3. The co-operative local economy is booming 20 years from today.  Mega-corps have slowly devolved under pressure from the new “sharing economy” that forced a new economic policy landscape.   Guelph responded in 2016 with a review of some of its business licencing policies, such as taxi cab licencing, to respond to local needs (yes, I’m talking about Uber) while protecting the safety and security of citizens.  In 2036, groups like Innovation Guelph, the Chamber of Commerce and the University of Guelph continue to be at the forefront of emerging entrepreneurial local co-operatives in life sciences, agri-food, information technology and bio-medical engineering.  In 2016, I’ll be championing plans to create new physical space to kickstart the local entrepreneurial and social enterprise economy in the downtown, supporting the use of underutilized public and private space through grants and economic incentive policies.

4.  In 2036, the use of fossil fuels is too costly (financially and environmentally) and are on the way out.  Municipalities who re-tooled for local energy generation and district systems are well ahead of the game and are now generating wealth from early innovation and investment.  Guelph’s strategic decisions in 2016 to build new residential developments and replace aging infrastructure with district energy capabilities is paying off in a big way.  Renewable systems (solar, biogas, micro-hydro, geothermal, etc.) are built into the fabric of city municipal services, such as our wastewater treatment plant and the solid waste facility.

5.  The urban forest of 2036 is thriving.  Naturalized parks and river valley lands bear fruit from orchard trees and shrubs planted in 2016, contributing to a local urban food supply for both humans and wildlife. Community gardens have expanded, building upon neighbourhood community initiatives started in 2016.  The Farmer’s Market and its many local neighbourhood satellites ensure that residents in 2036 have access to fresh local food and supports the symbiotic economic relationship with the farmers who steward the lands within the agricultural greenbelt that surrounds the city, protecting the water supply and sustainability of the entire region.

6.  In 2036, Guelph’s heritage character and cultural identity are solidly intact — protected, valued and thriving — as a result of policies and programs initiated in 2016.  The Petrie Building stands as a shining example of how adaptive re-use can bring an iconic building back from the brink of demolition to become a source of community pride.  In 2036, the Downtown Guelph Heritage Conservation District will also be home to many more restored and renewed buildings and public spaces (such as the Royal Hotel, King Edward Hotel, St. George’s Square and more), and a new pedestrian allée running from Market Square to the Baker District (through the old Courtyard and parking lots) is lined with trees, cafes and shops.  In 2016, I will support the initiation of Phase 1 of the Downtown HCD.

7.  In 2036, I will be able to bike or hike from one end of the city to the other along the river valley trails.  Broken links and gaps have been filled in through acquisition of land and a contiguous network has been established.  In 2016, I will work towards advancing plans to fix the broken links along the Guelph-Galt trail (from the founding spot at Wellington/Woolwich/Macdonell to the western city limits).  I envision that, in 2027 (Guelph’s Bicentennial year), the city will officially complete the contiguous John Galt Trail, the route that our city founder walked on April 23, 1827 along the banks of the River Speed from Shade’s Mill (Galt) to John Galt Park.  Nine years later, in 2036, the trees and parkland restoration will be well-established and the trail will be one of the most beloved public spaces in the city.

I’ll stop there.  If, at the end of 2016, I have taken action in all of these key areas — transit, energy, food security, main library, heritage, trails, and economic renewal — I will consider the year 2016 a success.

Your turn.  Imagine Guelph in 2036.  What do you see?

LCP

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