For those that regularly follow the Town of Aurora Council meetings the February 12th, 2013 meeting was anticipated to be an interesting one. Just a few days prior to the Aurora Council meeting there was a development involving Cllr Gallo, Cllr Ballard and Cllr Gaertner writing a Letter to the Editor to make public certain information that they felt was critical to the meeting. Needless to say, the letter sparked some controversy that was evident during the meeting.
Before the Aurora Council meeting began Cllr Gallo requested to submit a written communication document that he prepared for information only. However, his request was denied because it was not part of the agenda. Cllr Thompson stated that procedurally this method of bringing documents forward (even for information only) should not be allowed because it allows for an opportunity to initiate further conversations and can cause more issues during the meeting.
Now on a happier note, once the Aurora Council meeting officially began GEEP representatives presented Town of Aurora with $2,668 cheque – a revenue share from collecting over 23,000 lbs of electronic waste on January 19th, 2013. Mayor Dawe advised that the money would be going to the Infrastructure & Environmental Services group but Cllr Buck suggested that the money would provide a direct benefit to Aurora Food Pantry if it could be considered for that.
During public announcements Cllr Buck congratulated her grandson’s team (Canada East) for winning a Silver Medal in South Korea representing Canada in Special Olympics Floor Hockey. Cllr Humfryes announced that the Mardi Gras for Southlake event was a huge success. Cllr Gaertner announced Pathways of York Region will be holding a fundraiser to support homeless youth (www.raisingtheroof.org). Cllr Pirri announced the Queen’s York Rangers appreciation fundraiser. Mayor Dawe thanked Cllr Abel, Cll Humfryes, Cllr Pirri, Cllr Thompson, and past Mayors and past Councillors for attending the Mayor’s Levee on February 3rd, 2013. He also thanked the Sesquicentennial Ad Hoc Committee for their hard work. Mayor Dawe invited Aurora families to the Artic Adventure on Family Day February 18, 2013 and invited residents to attend the Winter Blues Fest on March 2nd, 2013 (www.awbf.ca). Councillor Abel noted that on February 23rd, 2013 One Act at a Time at the Newmarket Community Church will be holding a Talent Search for local musicians with all proceeds going towards the Enbridge Ride to Conquer Cancer.
During the Aurora Council meeting public forum there were two parties expressing their concerns. First, a concerned resident spoke about the Soccer Dome whereby a private entity has been exempt from paying certain taxes as was agreed in a contract with the Town. She outlined historical events that have taken place including the fact that the Aurora community has been paying the taxes on the Soccer Dome since 2007.
Second, the team from Lucid Community Development Group presented again at the Aurora Council meeting to help clear-up any misunderstandings related to the information circulated in our community including a Letter to the Editor written by three concerned Councillors and published by the Auroran. A question and answer period was held to provide clarification about the festival. Briefly here is summary of what transpired.
“In our opinion, every first event in a city, town or community is an experiment, as every community is unique and will act and respond differently.”
Lucid Community Development Group emphasized he and the team in fact have the experience required to organize a successful Aurora Live festival in our community. Although there hasn’t been a festival done exactly like Aurora Live, they are confident that their experience organizing many music festivals in Canada and USA, and putting about 400 bands on stage is directly relevant. Lucid Group is big on community involvement, partnerships and business collaboration. As mentioned previously, the proposal is based on community engagement, partnerships and business collaboration and it was clearly stated that there will be no charge to the Town, there will be some fencing required due to liability issues, and there will be a $10 admission fee with a potential $5 off with the purchase a Coupon Book. It was also confirmed that Aurora Idol and Aurora’s Got Talent events will only be enhanced and elevated by the Lucid Community Development Group and these events will continue to be Town of Aurora owned events.
Cllr Gallo explained why he felt there was some confusion about the Town Report released to Council and whether it was based on Lucid’s January 28th Proposal, as opposed to that of January 22nd, 2013. He noted that there were significant differences between the two. Cllr Ballard expressed his concerns that Aurora Live would be used an experiment rather than a proven model. In our opinion, every first event in a city, town or community is an experiment, as every community is unique and will act and respond differently.
In the end it was confirmed that Councillors should be focused on the released Town Report that was agreed to by the Lucid Community Development Group, and not necessarily what proposal the Town Report was based on. It was also noted that with projects of this scale, negotiations can be on-going and reports can be issued based on work in progress and approved in principle. If Councillors are concerned they should always consult with Town Staff first to obtain further explanation.
In conclusion, the Mayor and along with the other five Councillors during the Aurora Council meeting made a point to express their disappointment with the letter that the three aforementioned Councillors put out to the public. As Cllr Abel reminded everyone, this should be taken as ‘an opportunity for us to embrace’. Go figure, after all the discussion and deliberation, Council unanimously approved in principle the submission for the provision of Aurora Live Music Festival at Machell Park on July 27-28, 2013. Remember, in principle, and for the record the discussion dragged on for more than one hour.
The topic and concern of the Soccer Dome was raised during the February 12th, 2013 Aurora Council meeting. Councillors asked if there is still a possibility to recoup any of the $300K+ in taxes that have been paid over the years. Cllr Buck suggested the Town review the current contract with respect to tax exemption possibilities and proceed from there.
The Council’s Procedural By-law will be amended with regards to tie votes (negative votes) resulting from the absence of a Council Member. Although any tie vote is still considered a defeat, the By-law will allow for the vote to be reconsidered in the next Aurora Council meeting without a two-thirds majority requirement being invoked.
Another interesting topic tabled at the Aurora Council meeting was a ballot question for next year’s Municipal Elections. Cllr Pirri put a motion forward to include a referendum question polling the public on whether Aurora would be better represented with a ward system rather than the current at-large system. Additionally, Cllr Pirri was suggesting to reduce the number of Councillors from eight to six. His motion is to include these two questions on the voting ballot. Every Councillor expressed their views regarding this motion and there didn’t seem to be much support for various reasons.
With regards to the Sesquicentennial celebrations, the Director of Parks and Recreation Services advised that Aurora’s Sesquicentennial will now be officially referred to as the Aurora 150 celebrations. Unfortunately there was no news or updates regarding any of the related grant applications.
Well if it wasn’t for the extra controversy and discussions before the Aurora Council Meeting began, the meeting would probably have ended sooner. We were not able to cover every detail but no worries, for those that are interested coverage from other media sources is available or you can read the Minutes from the Town of Aurora Council Meeting on the Town website.
Anna Lozyk Romeo
REFERENCES & CREDITS
 Town of Aurora Council Meeting, Council Character Illustrations by Jessica Georgiou, Aurora, Ontario, October, 2012.