CORNWALL Ontario – Politician’s, or at least some of them; alright far too many of them love spin.
Spin is the act of caging a situation in the light they wish it to be seen in.
Recently the City of Cornwall agreed to shell out nearly $200,000 – that’s right, nearly $200,000 to a…..CONSULTANT to talk about Cornwall and allegedly consult with the public.
I sent a query letter that eventually was answered asking about the costs of the evening at the Civic complex because frankly only 67 out of 45,000+ residents showed up.
Either the Habs or Leafs were playing that night, or people just don’t buy the BS from the Kilger group any longer and believe that this expensive stunt, a 9 month expensive stunt costing tax payers nearly $200,000 is an election ploy, or the consultants at the behest of their clients weren’t really interested in public feedback and took great care to let as few people as possible know.
So let’s look at what Mr. Bedford on behalf of the city states:
Good Morning Mr. Gilgic:
Thank you for your enquiry with respect to the cost of the January 29th ‘Cornwall is my Place’ event at the Civic Complex, to commence the public process of the City’s Official Plan Review/ Urban Settlement Boundary Study initiative.
In October, 2013 the City retained the Professional Planning and Economists services of Dillon (Planning) Consulting Ltd. and Watson and Associates Economists at a contract cost of $160,675.00 plus HST representing a below budget level. The Team, with the overseeing of the City’s Official Plan Review Steering Committee, will over the course of the next several months and leading into early Fall conduct a Planning Act mandated (section 26) comprehensive analysis and review of the 2002 Official Plan and the establishment of an Urban Settlement Boundary definition and delineation for the community.
The work of Dillon will encompass many public input opportunities in this important Land Use Planning work, in order to ensure all have a chance for input and consideration. The ‘Cornwall is my Place’ event, attended by some 80 or more participants, represented the first of these many planned public engagements and is included in the overall consulting contract for the Official Plan Review, as opposed to a set dollar amount. The consulting team designs, organizes, facilitates and interprets results for the review.
More specific costs related to the event are as follows:
Advertising for the event in the Standard-Freeholder, Le Journal and radio ads were between $600- $700;
Catering for attendees was $462.50;
Staff who participated in assisting facilitation at the tables did so as part of their regular work duties.
So let’s look at this. You spend $160, 675.00 and this limp event was what we taxpayers received so far? The process and set up were the round tables with one leader reporting. This is a method used to filter comments rather than simply allowing the public to get up to a microphone and share. You have less control when this happens though and of course the crowd can react which is generally the way to go.
Does a government in the last year of a term really have a mandate to spend this kind of money? Do we elect people to lead or to hire consultants? Do we not have city staff? Do we not have Heart of the City with Councilor Denis Carr sucking back an actual salary? Is Heart of the City a separate agency or controlled by City Hall? When we recently asked to our our fund raising event put on the City Facebook page and were refused, Kevin Lajoie stated:
We certainly support the efforts of the Port Theatre. In fact, the City has provided considerable financial support to the Port Theatre through the Heart of the City Community Improvement Plan. While we commend you on your efforts with this event, the City of Cornwall Facebook group page is primarily used to post information about municipal programs, services and events. There are a number of great causes and events in the community, however we tend to limit the content to ones that are municipally-related.
So clearly HOC isn’t a stand alone organization, no?
Should anything be accepted from the results of an evening that drew 67 souls most of whom worked for the city or one of their organizations? I should hope not as it clearly is not a public consultation at that point. In business for example if you don’t meet quorum generally any decisions taken are not applicable.
So why did so few people show up? If the goal was to get the public to show up surely steps would be taken to achieve that. Mr. Bedford outlines that a max of $700 was spent to advertise the event. Why then would you most likely skip the two largest media outlets if your goal was to achieve a full room? The Seaway News offers better value than the Freeholder. I live on Amelia, right in the centre of town and Le Journal has never delivered here and many people think it went out of business years ago. As for radio they don’t specify which station; was it CHOD? CFN btw, has the largest viewership in Cornwall and probably has more actual viewers than all other media combined. We also offer the best value; why not advertise the event with us?
It clearly doesn’t look like the city wanted a full room. Even the set up that night showed chairs for about the amount of people that showed up.
And the cost? While the $160K was for the term of the project we see about $1,000 for advertising and munchies. The claim about staff time; well sorry but if staff were at this event then they took time off from their real work; that is if they weren’t given overtime.
And no mention of the cost of the Civic Complex which isn’t cheap to rent.
So while Council went through the budget process and ended up wanting to jack up taxes by nearly 1% with commercial taxes going up over 3% they blew through $160K on this floaty poofy study that really only shows the back door vision of a certain group.
This is why more accountability and transparency are critical for City Hall if we ever hope to reign in the runaway taxes being inflicted on the rate payers of Cornwall. A proper public consultation shouldn’t cost taxpayers this much money and frankly the good people of Cornwall deserve better.
What do you think Cornwall? You can post your comments below.