Joey's Council Meeting Notebook for November 23, 2016

By Joey Coleman // @JoeyColeman
Published: Nov 23 2016 (6 months ago) // Last Updated: Nov 24 2016 (6 months ago)

I'll update this post as I can during the meeting.

This is a post of notes, some of which are "behind the scenes" items that are not newsworthy but (hopefully) give you a sense of the room. Others will be newsworthy point form notes. As always, you can watch the meeting live on ThePublicRecord.ca

Before the meeting

Jeff Beattie is present, his employer Winona Gardens is getting a small business award. Beattie is the Stoney Creek/Glanbrook Public School Board Trustee.
His parents, Stu and Georgina Beattie are present as, he describes it, "his fan club".
I had a bit of fun with them before the meeting, Georgina and Stu famously presented two separate viewpoints on ward boundaries.

Also present in the gallery, recently retired Director of Economic Development Neil Everson.

During The Meeting

Neil Everson Way

Council conducted a bunch of ceremonial items - business awards, prayer, etc.

At the start of the meeting, before minutes were approved, Council waived their rules to introduce new business, and went directly to a motion -- renaming Cormorant Road in the Ancaster Industrial Park to Neil Everson Way.

Everson retired last week.

Council is Great, Says Council

Councillors couldn't get enough of praising each other during the meeting. Thankfully, (thus far), we haven't heard the 'we're the greatest Council ever' link these far. Of course, they often save that for member statements at the end.

Cats and Dogs

The puns write themselves. Council is debating cat licensing. The short: staff are recommending a licensing fee of $20 for spayed or neutered cats, and $40 for non-fixed cats. The funds will be used for animal services and stray cat care.

Merulla kicked off the debate, and started off with an elegant speech about society being judged by how it treats its most vulnerable (in this case animals being vulnerable), that he cannot see how cat owners - who are by definition cat lovers - would be opposed to cat licensing to help care for others cats

I began thinking to myself - Merulla's is adopting a diplomatic strategy, how interesting. Then Merulla went into his usual routine of slash and burn, divide, and paint the opposition as evil. If Council doesn't pass cat licensing, then he'll move to end dog licensing and refund dog owners. The usual lines about failing to act, not caring, he can't understand how in 2016 anyone can oppose.

Aidan Johnson followed up with a lawyery speech about why this "is not the right time to launch into a licensing project" and that the right time will be in the coming year, we need more time to "ripen and develop" a plan says Johnson.

He spoke of what other animal interest groups were telling him. Then Merulla suggested Johnson was calling the professionalism of City staff into question.

After a back and forth, it was Farr's turn to speak on cat licensing. For some reason, he took a dig at Whitehead noting that Planning Committee took three hours to debate licensing and thankfully Whitehead isn't on the committee. While there is no disputing Whitehead is a human time-suction, the statement was completely out of place.

After this [pun] fight, Council got back to the topic. After one hour and two minutes of debate, Council was divided 8-8 on cat licensing. As tie votes are not passed, cat licensing did not pass.

In Favour: Mayor Eisenberger, Collins, Conley, Green, Farr, Merulla, Pearson, Whitehead

Opposed: Ferguson, Jackson, A. Johnson, B. Johnson, Pasuta, Partridge, Skelly, Vanderbeek

The Cat Vote Aftermath

Following the vote, a short debate on getting a new staff report on alternatives to cat licensing.

The debate was along expected lines - with the 2017 budget crisis, why would more staff time be spent on the file, and then Councillors with various ideas for solutions, include some Councillors opposed to licensing.

After nearly 40 minutes of debate about doing something else, the decision was made to table the debate.

Then Merulla moved his ill-fated attempt to eliminate dog licensing, arguing it was not equitable. "Why am I paying a fee to deal with the cat problem?" With is trademark hyperbole, Merulla went on a soundbite by soundbite attack.

"I appreciate your time and I call for a standing recorded vote!"

Skelly pushed back directly at Merulla, calling his motion pointless, shameful, and a political sham.

Merulla tried to call a point-of-privilege saying this constituted an attack against his character. Brenda Johnson, who is Deputy Mayor for November, denied the point saying Merulla wasn't mentioned by name. A bunch of heckling later, Ferguson called the question, and only Merulla and Pearson voted to end dog licensing.

This was 50 minutes of time.

Water rates - the Budget Crisis Preview

The City's water rates are increasing 4.85% in 2017. Average water bills will increase to $660.95 from $630.35.

Some councillors took the opportunity to speak at length about protecting taxpayers against rising costs of living, and stated their opposition to increasing rates and taxes.

Mayor Eisenberger, in a unusually clear speech for a career politician fond of creating "citizen's juries" for tough decisions, spoke strongly that the City Council needs to make the difficult choice to increase taxes to save money in the long-term by addressing the municipal infrastructure deficit.

Eisenberger said that in the past when Council cuts staff and corners on projects, consultant fees and other costs skyrocket, he says this will increase costs in the long term.

(I'm clipping Eisenberger's comments as a 6 minute video highlight)

Pearson summed the issue up well: 'This is a matter of pay me now or pay me later', saying the City must address infrastructure and it will cost more to fix infrastructure later.

Eventually, after circular debate, the 2017 Water Rates were approved 13-3. Jackson, Partridge, and Whitehead voted against the rates.

LRT Committee and Reports

After a few weeks of drama, Partridge withdrew her motion to eliminate the LRT committee.

A new motion, that major LRT issues, decisions, and milestones go directly to Council GIC for future debate.

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