On October 23, 2012 during council meeting at the Town Hall, the draft new agreement for the provision of cultural services at the Aurora Cultural Centre was discussed. Councillor Evelyn Buck spoke in opposition of the draft new agreement seeing it to be no different from the original. Her disapproving comments were written to ensure that she delivered all her thoughts and her hope was that the rest of the Councillors would vote against the draft new agreement as well.
Councillor Buck was concerned that while delivering her comments she may be interrupted since she was making reference to the former Mayor’s lawsuit. ‘I hope I will be allowed to complete my comments without interruptions‘, she asked. Buck assured that there would be relevance to the agreement. Mayor Dawe was compelled to interrupt as Buck anticipated, however, Buck able to finish. She asked for a recorded vote but only herself, Ballard and Gaertner opposed the draft new agreement.
We thought that the comments were rather intriguing and we asked Councillor Buck to provide us with a copy which you can read below. Councillor Buck writes regularly on her blog called Our Town and Its Business.
Councillor Evelyn Buck [Aurora Council Meeting, October 23rd, 2012]
As introduction to my comments on the question of renewing the contract with the Culture Centre Board I refer to yesterday’s decision by Master Hawkins of the Supreme Court of Ontario. It is the elephant in the room. The Master found the action against residents by the former Mayor to have been a SLAPP suit – Strategic Litigation Against Public Participation.
I believe the same person who abused public resources and the authority of her office to process that action, is the person who wrote the original agreement for a purchase of arts and culture services. Now this Council is being asked to approve a draft revision of the same contract.
I see the purpose the revision, the same as the original, Mr. Mayor, perceived political advantage.
On Page 88 of the staff report, the only alternative offered is for Council to direct changes to the draft agreement. I have another alternative, Mr. Mayor. That the town manage the facility with municipal staff. It is a facility like any other owned by the town. It provides space for activities.
It was decided thirty-six years ago, it would primarily be the symbol of our heritage. It would house a museum. Compatible uses would be accommodated. And they were until 2003. Compatibly.
Millions of dollars were spent over the years, to keep weather out and the building from sinking into the ground. In 2006, an additional $2.3 million was allocated from the Hydro Reserve Fund to complete planned renovations of the building. Specialty designs costing $250,000, commissioned at their expense, by the Historical Society were adopted by Council.
[quote style=’line’ align=’right’]”There was no public demand for that service. There was only a sense of sadness and betrayal.”[/quote]Approval of an agreement for the purchase of arts and culture services, with a non-accountable board of management, saw the original plans abandoned and designs unfulfilled. The building was handed over rent-free, maintenance provided, with substantial financial resources for a purpose that could not then and cannot now be identified as a response to public demand.
There was no public demand for that service. There was only a sense of sadness and betrayal. There is only one argument in favour of a board management arrangement. A charitable foundation, which the board is, has authority to issue tax receipts to donors who might contribute sufficient funds to generate operational self-sufficiency. Except for a single donation of $50,000 made within weeks of signing, no donation of equal value has been recorded. Despite the town’s generous offer to match donations, dollar for dollar.
Financial resources provided by the town offers no encouragement for donations to be made or sought by the board. The proposed draft contract does not change that, Mr. Mayor.
Council representation on a board with arm’s length authority will not make the board accountable. Proposed space for heritage display and storage does not fulfill the vision of a modern, hands-on heritage experience. Oversight by the Director of Parks and Recreation does not justify making arts and culture services a burden on property owners. A library board model for financing arts and culture has never been sought nor endorsed by the community. Having it imposed by Council is unacceptable. I cannot foresee a time when it will become acceptable.
Mr. Mayor, the last election is still fresh in my mind. The result signified serious dis-satisfaction with numerous decisions made by the previous Council. Failure to follow through with the commitment to heritage was one of those decisions. Funding arts and culture with public dollars was another.
I urge Council not to repeat the same mistake. I propose the draft agreement be rejected in favour of in-house management of the facility by town resources. Costs of operation, recovered by user fees in accordance with town policy, provides equity among users of public facilities.
No municipality can justify preferred status by one group over another.”
Anna Lozyk Romeo
REFERENCES & CREDITS
 Comment from Council Meeting October 23rd, 2012, Evelyn Buck, Town Hall, Ontario.