Civic Affairs

Municipal politics

Arbitration Nation

It wouldn't be a public sector salary disclosure story without the odd nasty comment about the amount police officers and firefighters earn. And as my colleague Alanah Duffy reports in her piece on the most recent Brockville Sunshine List, there are, yet again, plenty of police officers and firefighters on this year's list.

And the quote of the day goes to...

I will never tire of Councillor Jeff Earle's predilection for colourful metaphors.

During Tuesday night's debate on the railway tunnel motion, Earle, who cast the lone "No" vote, conveyed his frustration at what he considers a lack of information this way:

“Essentially, I'm buying a pig in a blanket. I just don't want it to turn out to be a porcupine."

Say what you want about the councillor or his position, this is one prickly turn of phrase. One assumes he was referring to the proverbial pig in a poke, a metaphor for getting swindled, as opposed to a pig in a blanket, one of those mouthwatering sausage-in-a-pastry things I now desperately yearn to ingest, with mustard, as a bedtime snack.

Instead of allowing a flawed metaphor to fall flat, Earle took the pig in a blanket (something desirable, unless you're a health food nut) and conveyed his true meaning by morhphing the pig into a porcupine. As far as he's concerned, the railway tunnel, like the sausage, is a good thing, but he's worried that, having bought it, the sausage will turn into a porcupine.

A binding benefit

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A motion to continue giving city councilliors a tax break on a third of their pay is on the consent agenda for tonight's regular meeting, meaning it's likely to pass without discussion.

The Municipal Act lets councillors get a third of their base pay tax-free by declaring it as compensation for "expenses incident to the discharge" of council duties. It's been a longstanding city policy to have the tax break, since that same remuneration policy bars councillors from claiming a host of incidental expenses, not least of which is in-town travel.

It sounds like a sweet deal for anyone to get a third of one's salary tax-free, but, to be honest, I'm of two minds about this one. Given the way gas prices go up and down, and all the expenses a councillor could theoretically claim as incidental if he or she were allowed, I'm not convinced taxpayers aren't getting a better deal this way.

Population growth of 5.21 per cent? Seriously?...



[img_assist|nid=13|title=Water tower|desc=|link=node|align=left|width=301|height=204]If anyone is looking for reasons to question the latest MoneySense ranking of "Canada's Best Places to Live," and Brockville's place in it (we're 111th), the best one may come from one of the good-news numbers.

MoneySense senior editor David Hodges said the most significant number driving the Brockville area's increase is an improvement in population growth, where the area has jumped from minus-1.6 per cent to plus-5.21.

This sounds like good news of the too-good-to-be-true variety.

Population growth of 5.21 per cent? Seriously? Considering Mayor David Henderson and others regularly bemoan the fact our population growth barely makes a blip in the economic EKG? Someone must have got out the demographic defibrillator.

Dave Paul is right to raise his eyebrows at that growth figure, although he, like other city officials, will take the good news when it comes.

That other train has left the station

There's a wealth of material I couldn't include in today's story about the railway tunnel project, for reasons of economy, including an interesting quote from Councillor Jeff Earle.

And the comment of the day goes to...

...a reader calling himself, or herself, Pineapple48, under my story about Mayor David Henderson's business travel: "That's the great thing about Brockville. If you think you might have missed a gripe, wait 2 seconds and the next one will be right along!"

Glad to see some self-deprecating Snarlingtown humour thrown in there. Looks like we could use those 47 other pineapples.

Bon Voyage and Do Svidaniya: Globalizing municipal business travel

Finance, administration and operations meets today to consider the 2012 remuneration and expenses report. You may remember last year's edition of this annual reporting obligation for the furore it caused over Mayor David Henderson's 13-per-cent pay raise. (It was, to be fair, the result of a routine adjustment the city has put in place, whereby it measures its elected officials' salaries against those of other municipalities on a comparator list.)

'Champions' needed for twin-pad arena to be built

The following is my city column, published last Friday:

'Champions' needed for twin-pad arena to be built

He's been refining his pitch for the better part of his political career, so it's no surprise Councillor Jason Baker makes a convincing case for the urgency of a new twin-pad arena in Brockville.

Civic space

The debate over whether Brockville needs a new twin-pad arena continues. Plenty of ideas flying around, and I'll have more to say about this in the pages of The Recorder and Times later this week.  For now, Councillor Jason Baker's suggestion that we at least form a committee to bring these different people together sounds reasonable. 

Who knows? They may figure out how to find us some money...

Civic space


"All knowledge is local," writes Ursula K. LeGuin,  one of my favourite authors. I believe positive change, similarly, begins at the local level, with the knowledge we have about the space we share in common, and the ideas we bring forward for improving it.

This is civic space: the place where these ideas come together, are discussed and debated, and democracy works to move (one hopes) the best of these ideas toward realization.


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