Council Follow-up, week of January 24
Updated: Feb 21, 2022
Circulation List: https://barrie.legistar.com/MeetingDetail.aspx?ID=913884&GUID=12176C48-7E21-43BA-BC78-1A723B1483A7&Options=info|&Search=
General Committee (Part 1 – In Camera)
Video: not available
Engage's Summary: https://www.engagebarrie.org/post/general-committee-part-1-monday-jan-24-5pm-in-camera
Still no video provided of the public vote, so it is unclear whether these were all unanimous or contested, but...
Some exciting news, that it looks like Barrie may be getting a new Indigenous Health Centre! Also, we're one step closer to getting a downtown YMCA, and potentially a permanent warming centre as well!
General Committee (Part 2)
Engage's Summary: https://www.engagebarrie.org/post/general-committee-part-2-monday-jan-24-7pm
We were pleased to see that Deputy Mayor Ward's item of discussion, to ask the province for Community Reintegration Officers for the Central North Correctional Centre pass on consent. These are specially trained probation and parole officers who help improve individuals' transitions from custody to neighbouring communities, facilitate linkages to support services, and reduce pressure on the Barrie area shelter and outreach system. Thank you, Council!
The "main event" of this meeting was, of course, the report from the Performing Arts Centre Task Force. Task Force members Julie Underhill and Chuck Ruttan gave the presentation, with input from the Chair, Councillor Jim Harris. This was a great presentation, and kudos to Ms. Underhill and Mr. Ruttan for holding strong through the question period, especially with the way they were spoken to by certain councillors. The motion to support the recommendations passed unanimously, although Councillor Harvey seemed to be balking at the prospect during discussions, and Councillor McCann seemed determined to insist on an alternate location (this had elements of the resistance to the 2019 Supervised Consumption Site, where Councillors would not vote against, but instead held out the "other location" roadblock – fortunately, nobody else on Council joined the resistance this time). Also of note, Councillor Thomson's passionate defence of the Task Force and its recommendations – he said he wasn't usually a theatre-goer, but had learned quite a bit from the Task Force, and was in full support. Thank you for listening to the arts community, Councillor Thomson! Provided this strong support continues at City Council next week, the end result is that the city will engage a professional firm with expertise in municipal theatres development, design and management to review the Task Force's recommendations and report back to General Committee on project timelines, resource requests and project design scope. Followed by the procurement of an architectural firm to complete a concept plan and cost estimate for a Performing Arts Centre, and creation of a proposed concept plan. As of writing this follow-up, the YouTube video had over 600 views – there are obviously many people who care about supporting the performing arts in Barrie, and are happy to see this project moving forward! After last year's crushing news that both the Fisher Auditorium and Georgian Theatre were being shut down by Council with no alternative, this Task Force has given the performing arts community a sense of hope for the future. Thank you, Council!
Finance and Corporate Services Committee
Engage's Summary: https://www.engagebarrie.org/post/finance-and-corporate-services-committee-tuesday-jan-25-6pm
Councillor Harvey stepped in to the Chair, after being "thrown to the wolves" (his words) by Councillor Morales earlier that day. Both Morales and J.Harris were absent, as the BIA meeting at 5pm lasted until 8:49pm (and this one was over by 7:30). Harvey did an admirable job, with the help of Wendy Cooke, as acknowledged, in running the meeting efficiently and effectively.
The presentation on the Stormwater Climate Action Fund was informative, as was the discussion afterwards. The end result, pending Council approval, is that the SWCAF will be implemented in 2023, and two new staff positions will be created, one to coordinate the program and one as a financial billing analyst. This program should result in a decrease in charges to most residential customers, while businesses with large properties (i.e., big parking lots and other impermeable surfaces) will see an increase – which they can reduce through a number of measures to bring down the amount of runoff from their properties.
The second presentation on "Barrie's Transit Vision" also brought in a good discussion, and the proposed new Transit Service Guidelines approved unanimously. These new guidelines will help to improve current service and look towards the future, including Transit-On-Demand.
And finally, the 2021 Internal Audit and Fraud and Wrongdoing Program was reviewed, and the plan for the 2022 Internal Audit Work Plan was approved, unanimously.
Not terribly "flashy" issues, but all important to a healthy city – thank you to staff for some great work on these three portfolios!
Downtown Barrie BIA
Minutes: not available yet
Video: not provided
Engage's Summary: https://www.engagebarrie.org/post/downtown-barrie-bia-tuesday-at-5pm
First off, kudos to the BIA for making the Agenda available to members ahead of time – thank you for listening to your members' concerns! It would still be appreciated if links were also provided to items on the Agenda – for this meeting specifically, the Minutes from the "Special" December 7 meeting, as well as the Draft Budget being voted upon. Recordings of the meetings being made available for members who were unable to attend has still not resumed, either – but we do recognize the steps forward, and appreciate them.
Unfortunately, the rest of the reporting is not as positive.
Not having the draft budget available for viewing, we can only go by what was said during the meeting – however it seems from the conversation that the $3000 requested by Councillor Mike McCann for his "I Heart Barrie" ice sculpture idea was already in the draft budget, even before he gave his "deputation". That on it's own, but especially when contrasting the ease and efficiency with which he was awarded funding for his personal pet project, against the resistance to Sarah Jensen's proposal of beautifying the hoarding at the Five Points intersection causes significant concern, specifically around Section 12 "Election Campaign Work", and Section 14 "Improper Use of Influence", as well as the Municipal Elections Act.
As noted in Alyssa Wright's deputation to Council about McCann's "I Heart Barrie" sign – a deputation that BIA Chair Morales interrupted several times, his apparent allyship with McCann making this funding even more suspect – the Municipal Elections Act states that candidates are not allowed to use City facilities or equipment in their campaigns (i.e., the public land where this ice sculpture will be installed), nor are they allowed to fundraise outside of the campaign period. Similarly, Section 12 of the City's Code of Conduct states that "No member shall use the facilities, equipment, supplies, services or other resources of the City... for any election campaign or campaign-related activities. Councillor McCann's campaign slogan and "branding" is and has always been "I Love Barrie" – and the Downtown Barrie BIA just pledged $3000 of its members' tax levy to an ice sculpture in downtown Barrie with a sitting Councillor's personal brand and campaign slogan. As this funding was, as mentioned above, seemingly already a line item in the Draft Budget, and there was hardly any discussion over the matter during the meeting, it seems safe to assume that this funding was already a "done deal" before McCann's presentation to the Board. Which is where Section 14 of the Code of Conduct comes in. "14.1 No Member shall use the influence of her or his office for any purpose other than for the exercise of her or his official duties." And "14.2 Examples of prohibited conduct are the use of one's status as a Member to improperly influence the decision of another person to the private advantage of oneself". Keep in mind that this funding request was for a personal, private project, yet the Agenda specifically lists the "deputation" as being from COUNCILLOR Mike McCann.
Questions have also been raised about Section 8 of the Code of Conduct, "Gifts and Benefits" – since this is funding for a personal project, and well over the $250 gift limit. Also Sections 5.3, 5.7, 5.10 and 5.11 – for which Councillors Morales and J.Harris would also be implicated in, especially, along with the other Directors.
This all flies in the face of Engage Barrie Organization's values of Accountability, Equity, and Transparency.
Also of note was Chair Morales's chastising of a female Board member's "sass" when she answers his question, after he ignored her raised hand. As well as bullying treatment of the staff in general, throughout the meeting. [Creating Safe Spaces, Inclusivity]
Seniors Advisory Committee
Engage's Summary: https://www.engagebarrie.org/post/seniors-advisory-committee-monday-jan-24-10am
Town and Gown Committee
Engage's Summary: https://www.engagebarrie.org/post/town-and-gown-committee-wednesday-jan-26-10am
Communities In Bloom Committee
CANCELLED – no quorum