New information

There are a few phrases from the past that bring a smile to our face. One of our all time favourites from our first term on council was the phrase “new information".

Of course, the phrase was used mostly by ratepayers as a way of beating the procedural bylaw and allowing decisions to come into question again. A sympathetic councillor or two would always be willing to listen to new information. They would wait for the new details with the same nirvanic reverence Newton must have felt when that apple first fell on his head and he understood the workings of gravity. Sometimes the information was legitimate and other times it was merely a way to waste time and keep council away from the tasks at hand. It was always a guessing game.

While the phrase “new information” did not pop up at the last county council meeting, we can visualize the facial expressions as councillor Lou Maieron rose time and again to present new concepts – only to be shot down by his colleagues. Maieron has never been a follower, but the pickle in which he finds himself has been a work in progress for some time. The bull-headed, single minded approach that has made many a businessman prosperous does not work in a municipal government setting, and closing in on year four of public office, we do not understand why the obvious remains illusive for the county councillor from ward 9.

For many many months, the county has worked towards establishing a permanent home for its Green Legacy Tree Program. The Little Tract in Puslinch township offers land and amenities for such a program, so it was no great surprise that it was chosen. A significant investment was requested and the plans were proceeding. At what can be best described as the eleventh hour, Maieron asked council to consider a site in his ward instead.

How does that work? Past warden Brad Whitcombe poured his heart and soul into the Green Legacy program and faced many obstacles with a sense of conviction, and those obstacles included Maieron at that time.

We recall Maieron’s initial disagreement with the program and what appeared to be sound arguments and concerns about the plan’s cost. The hiring of staff, possible duplication of service, and the final sore point he had then was the competition with local foresters and private nurseries. But what has changed on that front to suddenly make it more palatable to him? Perhaps the realization that the public seems to like the program?

The next barnburner issue we noticed this week was the re-introduction of Ospringe as a preferred site for a transfer station. Maieron has fought two elections on the issue of a transfer station at Ospringe. In trying to keep those supporters on board, he offered Hillsburgh as the panacea to the site location problem, coupled with rural collection. In trying to foil efforts at Ospringe, including his time as chairman of the solid waste services committee, Maieron has jumped through hoops to discredit the Ospringe concept and contributed to excessive expenditures for studies and wasted time – and now it would appear the committee is back to where it was in 2003, regardless of all that effort. Wow.

Reflecting on the last three years, we wonder if the search for new information on this front has been worth it. Was the goal to get a smooth working system or simply to derail a concept for selfish political reasons? It is looking like the latter. The rural garbage and recycling pick-up pilot project, showing a participation rate of around 20%, will now be aided through another Maieron proposal, to give everyone in the rural areas a blue box. The cost is $10,000 plus delivery.

If those two issues were not enough, the push for an auditor-general post at the county was like the icing on the cake this week. We can well remember a goof-up by one of our reporters covering the Erin debates in 2003, where Lou was quoted as saying he would be “brutal” with taxes when what he actually said was frugal. At the time, we felt sorry for the mistake, but in reading about the last meeting, “brutal” might have been more accurate.

The costs associated with implementing an auditor general would not be cheap. Piecing together the budgets and accounts would surely be worth $250,000 in the budget each year. That represents half a medium sized bridge or a large truck with all the sanding equipment. In a blink of an eye, the frugal councillor would have leapt at the hiring.

The simple truth is if councillors are earning their pay, they need to be prepared to ask pointed questions themselves, which is what council itself ending up concluding.

With honest dialogue, the job is quite easy. Certainly it is less frustrating than playing the “new information” game.