Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Aurora Cultural Centre, the Tail That Wags the Dog?

By Matt Maddocks. The last council meeting before “summer break” was interesting, to say the least. Is it just me, or does anyone else think that there must be something that happens when certain councilors, roused by the TV cameras and perhaps possessing an over-inflated sense of self-importance, shift from behaving in a respectful mature manner into one of juvenile infighting, the kind of which is usually seen on grade school playgrounds?

What on earth would suggest to these councilors that behaving this way somehow serves the best interests of our town? Imagine while campaigning, a candidate were to come to your door and say, “Oh yes, and while I’ll try and do my best to serve the concerns of Aurora and its citizens, occasionally I’ll lapse into agenda-driven selfish posturing, disruptive behaviour, and good ‘ol general grandstanding, all while I couch it under the guise of protecting the taxpayer. Soooo, do I have your vote?”

While I won’t hold my breath believing this would ever be a part of any candidate’s front-porch proposal, it would certainly be a shining example of “truth in advertising”.

Speaking of the truth, let’s talk about council representation on the Aurora Cultural Centre board. Ahh, it would be lovely to have wouldn’t it? Like winning the lottery or seeing the Leafs win the cup, I’m beginning to think that having our council pay heed to the proper and ethical disbursement of ½ million dollars of our tax money is fast becoming a far-reaching dream.

I was asked once, if I would have preferred to wait out the potential 12 month period in which the current Aurora Cultural Centre agreement could still be in effect once the termination clause was invoked, vs the possibility of reaching quicker resolution by not terminating and entering into ad-hoc negotiations.

“Would this now be the time to invoke the termination clause? Would council have the stomach for it?”

I responded yes. Termination. Absolutely.

Despite the inevitability of having to live through all the hand-wringing and poster-waving, being called “culture-killer”, and shunned by the self proclaimed artistic elite, I would have been absolutely confident in the fact that in just 12 months, it would all be over. In just one year, we’d have in effect a new agreement that would provide the proper accountability. An agreement that would mandate the board present an annual budget to council, just like any other group funded through the public purse. An agreement that would place our council, our elected representatives, in direct contact with the fiscal operation of the Aurora Cultural Centre.

All in just 12 months.

However, by choosing not to terminate, a move which would have immediately paved the way for a proper Aurora Cultural Centre agreement to be drafted, council instead chose the path of least perceived resistance. A choice which has now brought us to a dangerous, careless place. Under the current terms of this broken agreement, council have been legally advised that seeking full membership on the Aurora Cultural Centre board would likely place them in a conflict-of-interest position. And in doing so, the vultures would most certainly begin to circle.

As such, staff presented council with 3 options;

a) Appoint (2) councilors to sit as full voting members on a taxpayer-funded board despite the threat of being in a possible conflict situation.

b) Appoint (2) non-elected citizens to sit on the board.

c) Appoint (2) councilors to sit as non-voting members on the board.

To their credit, a few councilors voiced opinions in favour of option a), the only option which most certainly serves the best interests of the town and its taxpayers (there’s that darn oath thing again). As for option b), frankly I don’t see any benefit (or point actually) to adding (2) more non-elected folks to an existing board comprised of (12) non-elected folks. Finally, there’s option c), the “Paris Hilton” option; while it may look pretty, serves no appreciable or discernible purpose.

As is their right, council instead have chosen their own path, option d); do nothing with the board, but proceed to seek a ruling from the Ontario Superior Court as to whether or not clear status could be granted for full council membership on the board without creating a conflict scenario. They have been advised this process could take from 6 to 9 months. Anyone who’s ever dealt with the court system knows full well that when you’re told 6 to 9 months, it’s never 6.

To recap; on February 28, council decided they’d forgo termination in favour of negotiations designed to resolve the issue in a timely manner. On June 19, the 2nd interim report from the ad-hoc negotiating committee was presented, informing us of the following critical updates about Aurora Cultural Centre agreement:

1) They’ve been having meetings.
2) They’re making progress.

Finally, at the recent council meeting of June 26, a vote was passed to ask the Provincial courts to decide if our town council can have a say in the use of our town-owned building and ½ million of our tax dollars.

The courts will likely have their answer sometime around March 2013. So… if the answer is no, where does that leave us? Well, right back where we started. We face the distinct possibility that 13 or more months after council said they’d fix the problem, there could still be no elected oversight of the Aurora Cultural Centre operation, and as for the budget approval process, who knows. Would this now be the time to invoke the termination clause? Would council have the stomach for it? I guess we’ll all just have to wait and see. Looks like our long hot summer just got a little longer and hotter.

Matt Maddocks, Point of Privilege
Aurora, ON 

[1] Council Meeting June 26, 2012, Town of Aurora, re: Aurora Cultural Centre.
[2] Aurora Cultural Centre, Fall 2011, Photography by Anna Lozyk Romeo.


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