This is a summary of the ceremonial Aurora Inaugural Council meeting (2018-2022 Term of Council) which took place on December 4th, 2018 at Council Chambers – video highlights only. You can watch the whole meeting or enjoy sections of the meeting linked to the specific times in the video. Note this meeting features members of Council speaking about their goals for the 2018-2022 Term of Council. It is going to be interesting to review the Mayor’s and Council’s goals and ambitions sometime in 2020 or 2022.
Video Link: https://youtu.be/2gAO16aMUoc (total time of 56 min 09 sec)
2018-2022 Term of Council
Mayor Tom Mrakas in the Chair; Councillor Wendy Gaertner, Councillor John Gallo, Councillor Rachel Gilliland, Councillor Sandra Humfryes, Councillor Harold Kim, and Councillor Michael Thompson
Other Attendees: Lori A. Thompson, LL.B, Doug Nadorozny, Chief Administrative Officer, Robin McDougall, Director of Community Services, Jason Gaertner, Acting Director of Financial Services, Allan Downey, Director of Operational Services, Marco Ramunno, Director of Planning and Development Services, Stephanie Mackenzie-Smith, Manager of Corporate Communications, Patricia De Sario, Town Solicitor, Michael de Rond, Town Clerk, Linda Bottos, Council/ Committee Coordinator, Ishita Soneji, Council/Committee Coordinator; and I was there as well.
1. Processional (watch at 00:00:00 https://youtu.be/2gAO16aMUoc)
Town Crier John Webster announced the commencement of the new Aurora Council session of the 2018-2022 Term of Council.
The Mayor and Members of Council were escorted into the Council Chambers by Piper Colin Johnstone and The Royal Canadian Legion Branch 385 Colour Guard led by Ontario Command Parade Commander Ken White.
2. O Canada (watch at 00:03:46 https://youtu.be/2gAO16aMUoc?t=226)
Singer/songwriter Louisa Barbosa sang the National Anthem.
3. Call to Order (watch full address at 00:05:30 https://youtu.be/2gAO16aMUoc?t=330)
Town Clerk Michael de Rond called Council meeting to order and welcomed everyone present.
“Tonight is a significant night in the history of Aurora by swearing in the people seated to my right and left we affirm the very basis of our democracy and we turn votes into leadership, also importantly as we gather to mark the beginning of the Council term we must remember there continued to be millions of people around the world who are not afforded the opportunity to experience the democratic occasions that we sometimes take for granted.”
4. Administration of the Oath of Office to the Mayor and Presentation of Mayor’s Chain of Office (watch at 00:07:01 https://youtu.be/2gAO16aMUoc?t=421)
Lori A. Thompson LL.B administered the Declaration of Office to Mayor Tom Mrakas. The Town Clerk then presented the Chain of Office to Mayor Mrakas.
5. Administration of the Oath of Office to the Councillors (watch at 00:12:11 https://youtu.be/2gAO16aMUoc?t=731)
Lori A. Thompson LL.B administered the Declaration of Office collectively to the Members of Council.
6. Introduction of the New Members of Council (watch at 00:17:16 https://youtu.be/2gAO16aMUoc?t=1036)
Mayor Mrakas assumed the Chair and congratulated the new and returning Members of Council.
7. Introduction of Dignitaries and Executive Leadership Team (watch introduction at 00:17:17 https://youtu.be/2gAO16aMUoc?t=1037)
Mayor Mrakas also recognized that there were a few dignitaries in the audience – former Councillors and as well former Mayors; with former Mayor Tim Jones acknowledged by name. In the audience also present were – Ian Lang (Fire Chief), Dawn Gallagher Murphy (representing MPP Christine Elliot), and Sarah Pierce (representing MP Kyle Peterson). Furthermore, in attendance was the new Aurora Public Library CEO Bruce Gorman.
Note: Not sure if Sarah Pierce mentioned by Mayor Mrakas is actually Sarah Campbell as recorded in the Town’s meeting minutes representing Newmarket-Aurora MP Kyle Peterson.
8. Inaugural Address by the Mayor (watch full Mayor’s address at 00:18:19 https://youtu.be/2gAO16aMUoc?t=1099)
Mayor Mrakas gave his inaugural address in which he outlined the vision, challenges, and priorities for the 2018-2022 Term of Council.
“… at the end of the day I believe we all want the same thing a more vibrant, more livable community and that includes protecting our green spaces by using the tools and resources we have to protect them. It also means that we respect our past while looking to the future. Heritage buildings are very important to our community and our residents and businesses expect us to do what we can to protect our history. Smart and appropriate growth development that is in keeping with the vision we have for our community is the key to a thriving and sustainable community. I will work with Council to ensure the planning decisions we make are focused on providing big city amenities and services while maintaining Aurora’s small-town charm and green spaces for our future generations.”
“There are many other important pieces to the puzzle to get us where we want to go, a better community for everyone, improving the livability of our community is a key part of community building, our neighbourhoods are where we call home and it’s very important to all of us, but our stable neighbourhoods are under increasing pressure due to the demand of development. There is a wide spread concern about inappropriate infill development that does not fit in or keep with the character of our community and a blanket statement of no monster homes isn’t a plan. More needs to be done and that’s why one of the first issues that this council will address is a strategy to address that issue of stable neighbourhoods. Work is already underway and a consultants report is due in January (2019) and I commit to ensuring that we respect our past in our decision-making, hand in hand with protecting our stable neighbourhoods and heritage buildings is addressing the issue of affordability and accessibility of housing in our community. Seniors want to stay in the community that they have built their lives in and new young people want to raise families and build their lives here. Aurora needs a diversity of housing options, bungalows, smaller unit dwellings and purpose-built rental housing. We have the tools to improve the accessibility of housing in Aurora and we will use them.”
“Our downtown core has been envisioned for the past 20 years. This term I am committed to getting something done. During the 2014 term of Council we took the first steps towards our shared vision of a revitalized downtown core that preserves and promotes its unique heritage attributes. This Council will build on that work to complete the redevelopment of the Library Square into a true Civic Square and repurposing our heritage building The Armoury as the new home to Niagara College who specifically located in Aurora because of the exciting work that we are doing in our core. The completion of these two innovative initiatives will move us significantly forward to realize a vibrant downtown core.”
“With all the changes with growth it’s no secret that traffic has gotten worse in Aurora. The congestion is having a significant impact on our ability to get where we need to go as well as increasing concerns about parking, particularly surrounding the GO station. This Council needs to work with all levels of government to develop long-term solutions to the traffic issues in our community. We need to work with Metrolinx to address the ongoing issues of parking at the GO and telling residents that they need to take the bus is just not the answer. The interconnectivity between YRT and Viva and the GO is simply not there and our residents deserve better. I will make a priority to work with the Region, our transit partners, to explore better transportation options for our residents.”
“A truly livable community is based on a foundation of sound financial planning and management and the financial health of Aurora is good. This Council will prioritize fiscal accountability in all its decisions through the hard work of our Financial Advisory Committee. We have implemented a policy of setting the tax rate at inflation plus 1% which goes into a reserve now. The benefit of this is that year to year residents know what the tax rate will be so they won’t get caught off guard with a massive tax hike. But there is still a lot of work to be done. We need to continue to grow our reserves while at the same time looking at ways to provide the best services in the most cost-effective way without raising taxes.”
“Now this term of Council we will also continue working towards making Aurora a premier destination for sports. We are blessed to have incredible talent rooted right here in Aurora from former NHL players to Olympic athletes to coaches and a growing crop of high-end talent currently at the top of the rankings in all their sports. Together with the new hotels under construction we need to leverage this talent to create a strong diverse sports community that will bring in tourism.”
“We need to be creative and how we go about upgrading our facilities by working with all our sports partners to create a true center of excellence appropriately located to ensure maximum usage. And while it is true that a government can’t create jobs at this level we can make our community attractive for business to locate and to grow in Aurora. Revitalization of our downtown core through the redevelopment of Library Square will be a key economic driver for our community and act as a catalyst for other businesses to locate in our core. We have already seen that success with Niagara College and Aurora is in a great position for a better economic future, but we need to leverage the tools that are available to us to retain the business we have and to attract new business. Our newly formed Economic Development Board is working on developing strategies to do just that. Now the Mayor is the best business ambassador for our Town always promoting what’s best for Aurora to encourage and entice business to locate in our community and I will make that my priority.”
“Now during the campaign I heard from residents about how our community is governed. Why are we at-large? Why don’t’ we have wards like other municipalities? This option was discussed a number of times over the past few terms of Council. We even had it on the ballot a few terms ago as a question but there was never a consensus on when the best time was to move forward. Well that time is now. One of the first things this Council will do is address a ward system. Residents have made it clear that they feel that they are better represented by a Ward Councillor and it’s time to act.”
Note: Referendum questions were on the ballot in 2014, perhaps he meant to say few years ago and not “a few terms ago.”
“Aurora will always be in good company but we need to be more. We need to grow as leaders in York Region and the GTA; and that starts right here at this Council table, how we as a Council work together on your behalf. As I have said before hard work and great ideas aren’t enough to get things done. To get from vision to reality you need to build support from your ideas and you get support by giving support, and that requires two critical elements – collaboration and communication. Now, collaboration isn’t an empty buzzword, it’s an effective tool to get things done. That doesn’t mean that we’re always going to agree that isn’t possible nor is it desirable. If we all thought the same way all the time how would we ever innovate. Respectful, considered, informed debate is what residents can expect from this Council. As your Mayor I will provide the collaborative leadership and community focused common-sense solutions that you expect. We were all elected to work in the best interest of Aurora – that is the core principle that our residents expect will guide our every decision and if we collectively and individually consider every issue within that context we act in that capacity. Residents may not always agree with our decisions, but will respect the integrity of our decision making process and that to me will be a success.”
“That is why I believe it is so important to keep our residents informed to have accessible information about the issues that matter. I believe that an informed community is an engaged community and it’s certainly a belief that I live every day. I’ve worked hard to keep residents informed and engaged throughout my previous term of office and I will continue to make it my priority as your Mayor. I will work to ensure that residents and businesses know what’s happening in our town, what decisions have been made by your representatives and most important where I stand on the issues that matter most to you.”
“Now, residents have also made it clear that they want a strong voice at the Region and rest assured I will not be a bystander at Regional Council meetings. I will be a strong advocate for our community and will work with Regional Council colleagues to protect and promote the interest of Aurora. As your Mayor my commitment is to provide leadership that cares, that’s engaged and that delivers. To be a working Mayor I won’t be sitting behind the desk, I’ll be out in the community meeting with you, your neighbours, with businesses and community groups to hear first-hand about your concerns, your issues and your ideas, and together we will take action to find solutions to address the challenges and move forward with innovative possibilities to realize our opportunities. Tonight, Ladies and Gentlemen, we take our first step towards a shared positive future; so I say to you and my fellow Council members, let’s get to work.”
9. Greetings from Councillors
Members of Council (6) thanked their families, friends and supporters and expressed gratitude to the residents of Aurora for the opportunity, honour, and privilege of serving the community as members of Council.
Cllr Harold Kim’s address (watch full address at 00:32:32 https://youtu.be/2gAO16aMUoc?t=1952) “… One of my areas of focus similar to last term will be to try to get more residents to be involved in our community. To my fellow Council members it is my hope that we will work well together for the betterment of our community. Even if one’s idea is not being moved forward it is my hope that whichever and whomever’s ideas being forward we work as a team to get the project through to completion. In the end each of us are proxies to the people. It is recognized that a part of politics is the existence of the official opposition, in other words, parties that are not in power expected to criticize those that are; however, the municipal arena is not partisan and for good reason because a municipality is a community of people who live together in tight quarters. … Last term the majority of Council chose to revamp the Library Square. Although it’s been talked about for a quarter century our Council made a commitment to get this project off the ground. We voted and signed an agreement with the Niagara Culinary Institute to have them start a campus in our Town at the Armoury. This is really exciting stuff. This certainly has some risk but we are confident that this will succeed and residents will be the recipients of the success. This will be another focus for me and Council to ensure that these projects are completed successfully. There are those in Town who say that we should not take any risk with Town resources. I’ll tell you what – the magnitude of the reward is commensurate with the risk you take. You know the saying: you can’t get a hit unless you take the bat off your shoulders. Taking no risk means we don’t advance the well-being of the Town. Essentially it is status quo because we are hamstrung by fear.”
“Lastly, although municipalities focus mainly on things like snow plowing, housing development, parking issues, making sure the garbage is picked up etc., and these are all important, and the higher levels of government look after the issues of conscience and morals. We need to expand the mandate of municipal government because municipalities are the best first responders to real social issues that affect our neighbourhoods and communities. I would like Aurora to be a conduit for igniting dialogue about the issues of social conscience with the other levels of government. In October approximately 500 people packed the Royal Venetian banquet hall at the annual Aurora prayer breakfast to listen to former Manitoba MP Joyce Smith talk about Canada’s growing problem of youth human trafficking. There’s a huge problem in York Region as well as 95% of these victims are local youth right here from York Region. Mrs. Smith gave municipal leaders a list of ways we can assist in this fight.”
“There are also environmental items that we can take the lead in as well. Municipal government is the most accessible of all levels of government, we have our ears to the ground so it stands to reason that the dialogue begins with us. We may not have the budget on the municipal level but we can certainly initiate the dialogue with the province to get the ball rolling. To close we need the spirit of volunteerism to be alive and well in Aurora. This is what makes us different from other municipalities. Let’s make it all our goals to make this happen.”
Cllr Wendy Geartner’s (watch full address at 00:39:02 https://youtu.be/2gAO16aMUoc?t=2372) “I see my job as helping residents and local businesses solve problems, taking care of our community. I am grateful that my work has been appreciated by the voters. […] Moving forward now is the time to put protections in place for our Stable Neighbourhoods. We are long overdue. Planning the Library Square is finally underway. Some cautions though, adequate accessible parking is required – where this community hub will not be inclusive for those with mobility challenges including our seniors. To know if the approved cost and design of the Square is viable; engineering studies on underground water and the foundation of the Church Street School must be done now. And it is crucial to have business operations and use plans in place before Council makes any final decisions on the Square. Taxpayers deserve to know how much this complex will cost them to run. I believe this Council has the responsibility to do everything possible to mitigate causes and effects of climate change and severe weather. All our decisions including designs for new buildings should have high regard for this reality. In closing, I hope this Council will welcome community input and govern with caring and common-sense.”
Cllr Sandra Humfryes (watch full address at 00:42:56 https://youtu.be/2gAO16aMUoc?t=2579) “Wow, I am honoured, beyond honoured, beyond privileged to have gained trust and confidence for me to represent you here at Council for another four years. I had eight amazing years previous, another four they’re going to be incredibly exciting. The groundwork is laid, you heard from my peers that you know Library Square, the Armoury, we are going have an incredible amazing downtown that you are going to love. My friends and family that live, you know, far away are going to come here, not just to see me and our family but to enjoy our amazing Town.”
Cllr Michael Thompson (watch full address at 00:47:45 https://youtu.be/2gAO16aMUoc?t=2865) “I look forward to working with each and every one of you for the next four years to get things done. It is an honour and a privilege to have been re-elected once again to serve and represent the residents of Aurora; although this will be my third term, I still find it just as humbling an experience as the first time I was elected and I’m grateful for the trust and respect the community has given me. As I have done for the past eight years, as a member of Council I will continue to use my business expertise and experience to help provide leadership, strong financial management of our tax dollars, and a practical and common-sense approach to the issues as we begin our new term of Council. I believe our residents have spoken very clearly about their expectations. They wanted an experienced Council that will continue to work together to get things done and there is much to be done this term. But in particular I’m looking forward to working with my colleagues on the completion of Library Square, The Armoury and our community efforts to revitalize our downtown core. … I’d also like thank those who gave their time and efforts to help me in my campaign to get re-elected and especially to Chris, Alison and Bill for your ongoing friendship and support for the past eight years and many more.”
Cllr Rachel Gilliland (watch full address at 00:50:00 https://youtu.be/2gAO16aMUoc?t=3000) “Somebody asked me what was the one thing that you feel helped you win the election and I thought that’s a good question because it was an answer I just could not pinpoint, and the more thought I gave to that question the more I realized there was no one thing, rather it was a multitude of things. Now there is no doubt in my mind that pounding on pavement and knocking on doors and connecting with the community was extremely important and rewarding; however, it was also the help I received from so many other people. Whether you helped me with my table displays, photographs, handing out fliers, were part of my sign team, hosted a meet-and-greet or simply just connected me to more people; it was all a huge role in my success. I realized truly it does take a village but most importantly takes will, and for that I am so grateful to my family, my friends and to all the people who believed in me and voted. … I am humbled, honoured and I’m proudly ready to serve the community.”
Cllr John Gallo (watch full address at 00:51:54 https://youtu.be/2gAO16aMUoc?t=3114) “… While the election is over and the expression of promises is thought to be over I wanted to give you the public a promise to work hard, to represent you to the best of my ability, and to make decisions that reflect your best interests. Four years is a long time; a lot can be accomplished. I look forward to be working with this new team. I can feel that there is a sincere desire to move this town forward in a positive direction and I am very glad to be a part of that. I also want to acknowledge the hard work and efforts of all the other candidates that ran in the election. It is not an easy thing to do to put your name out there for public scrutiny and sometimes praise. Their commitment to the town has not gone unnoticed and I look forward to seeing their contributions in varying capacities. …”
The inaugural meeting finished up with the rest of the meeting process formalities.
Lastly, I went back to December 2nd, 2014 Inaugural Council meeting and noticed a small difference. The following part was removed from the 2018-2022 Term of Council meeting ceremony – Prayer of Dedication. Prayers of dedication on that day were offered by: Reverend Andy Comar, Minister, Aurora United Church; Terry Weller, Interfaith Leader, Trinity Anglican Church; Debby Wojtka, Member of the Aurora Bahá’í Community; and Rabbi Michal Shekel, Or Hadash Synagogue.
Anna Lozyk Romeo