Peter Courtney

New town council sworn in at inaugural meeting

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

The new town council is officially on the job.

The Town of Amherstburg held its inaugural meeting for the new council with all seven members taking their oaths. Mayor Aldo DiCarlo was sworn in for his second term with Deputy Mayor Leo Meloche also being sworn in again, only this time in a new role as he was a councillor from 2014-18.

The five new councillors also were sworn into office with Peter Courtney, Donald McArthur, Michael Prue, Marc Renaud and Patricia Simone now officially elected officials in Amherstburg.

DiCarlo said “it’s a bit of a relief,” as “there’s a weird limbo from the day you find out you won to the day you are sworn in. Tonight is the night that makes it real for everyone.”

Calling it a “far cry from where we were four years ago,” DiCarlo said he likes who he will be working with.

“I’m very happy with the new council,” he said. “I’m very excited to be working with them. I think we’ve got a great new council. With the new council comes new ideas and perspectives. I think it’s going to work out really well for the town.”

The inaugural meeting for the 2018-22 town council was held Monday night at the Libro Centre. Front row (from left): Deputy Mayor Leo Meloche and Mayor Aldo DiCarlo. Back row (from left): Councillor Donald McArthur, Councillor Michael Prue, Councillor Patricia Simone, Councillor Peter Courtney and Councillor Marc Renaud.

There will still be tough decisions to make, DiCarlo pointed out, but “we’ll work through it.” Immediate goals will be to get some of the recently announced projects moving such as the hotels and the condominiums, something the mayor said is “very big news for Amherstburg.” He added that a business owner told him of the hotels that “you can’t build that thing fast enough.”

“I think we need to get some of the good news projects under our belt,” said DiCarlo.

There are also bylaws and procedures that still have to be updated with 2019 budget deliberations also looming in the new year.

Long term goals include upgrading roads and infrastructure, he said.

“Roads and infrastructure are going to continue to be a challenge for us,” DiCarlo stated. “I always hate passing the buck and I’m not going to in any respect, but I want residents to know that we are not alone with regards to infrastructure.”

DiCarlo said that many municipalities across the province are facing similar challenges and that with the current Progressive Conservative government, money may not be flowing as much as it once did to municipalities.

“We’re not sure how much government money is coming our way,” he stated.

Meloche said “it feels great” to be sworn in as the town’s new deputy mayor, noting that he likely wouldn’t have thought he would be in that spot four years ago.

“Hard work has got me here,” said Meloche. “I’m looking forward to working with the new council.”

Mayor Aldo DiCarlo (left) is presented his gavel by clerk Paula Parker as CAO John Miceli observes. The 2018-22 town council was sworn in Monday night.

The 2014-18 council “paved the way” for the 2018-22 council, he believed, and made a lot of progress in Amherstburg.

“I think the new council will continue the momentum, continue the progress and continue to show that Amherstburg is a good place to live, work, raise a family and visit,” he said.

Meloche is a new member to Essex County council and he said he has been through an orientation meeting there and has also had one-on-one meetings with the two candidates vying to be the next warden – Kingsville Mayor Nelson Santos and Tecumseh Mayor Gary McNamara. He also met with county administration.

“There’s an education process with regards to roads and the direction the county is going the next four years,” said Meloche. “It’s an exciting time for me.”

Deputy Mayor Leo Meloche is sworn in Monday night by clerk Paula Parker. Meloche will also join Mayor Aldo DiCarlo on Essex County council.

Meloche also thanked his supporters.

“Thank you to all of the people who put their trust in me Oct. 22,” he said.

CAO John Miceli addressed the crowd at Monday night’s inaugural meeting at the Libro Centre, noting that the new council has taken on “a very, very large responsibility, a responsibility that can’t be taken lightly.”

Amherstburg is rich in history, culture and tradition, said Miceli, and it is not an easy task to be an elected official. He said administration will support the new council and called for the community to support them as well. Miceli noted that the council members are also members of families and that they all want to make the town a better place.

“You cannot make progress without making decisions,” he said.

Councillor Peter Courtney puts his arm around his mother Joan following Monday night’s inaugural meeting of town council. Peter was sworn in as a councillor just days after his mother’s term as a councillor ended. Joan was a member of town council from 2014-18.

Clerk Paula Parker, who officially swore in the new council members, said there will be difficult times and there will be criticism levied by members of the public, but she pointed out public service is also gratifying. She said some decision of council will not be popular, but there will be successes that will be rewarding.

“Leadership is not about the next election,” said Parker. “It is about the next generation.”

Five new town councillors looking forward to the challenge

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

The 2018-22 town council won’t be sworn in until Dec. 3, but the five new incoming councillors are looking forward to the challenge.

There will be a new slate of councillors as three vacated those positions to run for deputy mayor (Leo Meloche, Diane Pouget and Rick Fryer), Councillor Jason Lavigne wasn’t re-elected, and Councillor Joan Courtney decided not to seek the job again.

Donald McArthur finished in the top spot among the councillor candidates with 3,508 votes, a position he admitted that he wasn’t expecting.

“There were so many good candidates,” said McArthur. “I’m honoured. I would have been very happy to make the top five.”

McArthur added he is also grateful and humbled, as he doesn’t want to let the residents down.

“I’m excited and a little bit overwhelmed by the support,” said McArthur.

Noting he is a runner, McArthur said he headed out about 7:55 p.m. on election night, something he thinks may have given him some good luck.

“I made sure that at 8 p.m., I was running,” he said.

After he got home, McArthur said he settled in to watch the results with his family. He believed he had “a good shot” after the first set of results came in and “it just got better.”

“I held my breath,” he added. “You never know what might happen but I’m grateful with the result.”

Now that he is a councillor-elect, McArthur said he won’t stop listening to residents.

Donald McArthur

“I told folks – I want to listen, learn and lead,” he said. “I’m still listening but I want to double down on learning.”

McArthur plans on reading everything from the Municipal Act to the Strategic Plan and everything in between.

“I’m really going to cram in as much learning as I can,” he said, but “I’m not done listening.” He said people can still contact him with their needs or concerns.

The new council will have to “hit the ground running,” he said, as there will soon be 2019 budget deliberations and other matters in which to deal with. The new council also has “a great mix of experience and experiences,” McArthur added.

“I think all of us heard loud and clear from the people that they want us to work together, put aside petty differences and work towards the good of the town,” he said.

Michael Prue, who finished second with 3,011 votes, said his election night was “kind of quiet” and waited for the results from the advance polls. He said he learned a long time ago that advance polls usually are a good indication of how the overall result will be.

“I knocked on almost every door in Amherstburg,” said Prue.

Prue estimated he knocked on 9,000 doors in Amherstburg over a seven-week period.

“I met a lot of great people and found houses where I didn’t know there were houses,” he said. “The people at the door were kinder than what I was used to in the past. They had some good questions.”

Michael Prue

After the incoming council is sworn in, Prue believes the next step will be to see where goals mesh.

“Obviously, economic development is key for many people, including me,” he said.

Prue indicated he would like to see the procedural bylaw changed to allow more input from citizens, for council to hire an economic development officer and “have a good look at the books.”

“We need to find more money for roads,” he said. “When walking the roads, you can see why people complain.”

Prue also hopes for council unity.

“I’m hoping this council gets along well together. There’s no reason we shouldn’t,” he said. “We need to understand different points of view and accept them.”

Patricia Simone came in third place, earning 2,966 votes.

“I am so humbled by this experience. Thank you to the Amherstburg voters for their support and confidence in me,” said Simone. “The whole experience has been very surreal. The victory is not just my own but belongs to my whole team. Thank you to my family and friends for their encouragement throughout the process. Thank you to all the volunteers that helped me knock on doors, put up signs and work hard to get me elected. I couldn’t have done this without you! Thank you to the candidates that ran in the election. It has been great meeting each and every one of you. Thank you for taking an interest in our community.”

Patricia Simone

Simone added that she will take advantage of all the training the town will provide to councillors “to ensure that I have all the tools necessary to be the best councillor I can be.” She said she looks forward to working with the members of council and administration” to continue to make Amherstburg a great place to live, work, and invest.”

Getting results and being accessible will be important for Simone, she noted.

“During the campaign, while canvassing and speaking with residents, I compiled a list of questions and concerns that the residents discussed with me. I will work hard to get the answers for the residents. I will ensure to always be available for the residents of Amherstburg,” said Simone.

Peter Courtney finished with 2,402 votes, good for a fourth place finish. He said he “was fairly calm for the most part as I did everything I could possible to hopefully get elected, and felt if it was meant to be, it would be.”

Courtney said when the final polls came in, he was “kind of in disbelief” and “everybody was jumping around and cheering.”

“A few minutes later and after I looked multiple times on the computer, it finally clicked in,” he said. “I was extremely excited, honoured and proud as my fellow residents trust me to represent them on council for the next four years. It was a great experience to have my mom (Joan) alongside me as her political journey is about to end, but mine was just beginning!  I am truly humbled by this election journey.”

Peter Courtney

Courtney said he wants to start planning on an interactive forum between council and the residents through the RTT, whether that be a Q& A segment or council meeting briefs “to keep everyone engaged and up to speed with the happenings of our town and their council.”  Courtney said he also planned to reach out to his elected colleagues “and I’m going to try and set up a get together so we can begin that ‘team’ aspect that I believe is a must moving our town confidently forward.”

During the first few months on council, Courtney said he “will be all ears as I learn the technical procedures and processes of a councillor. I’m eager to learn, and want to possess all the tools it takes to be a great member of council.”

Marc Renaud grabbed the fifth and final spot with 2,274 votes.

“I’m pretty happy,” said Renaud. “I put a lot of effort and commitments into learning about municipal politics and community needs. I look forward to the challenge.”

The next step, said Renaud, in terms of realizing his platform issues are to raise them with council and “build on common ideas.”

Renaud is optimistic heading into the new term.

“I think we have a good group on council,” said Renaud. “I think everyone should be able to work together. It seems to be a good group of people. We’ll get some different perspectives from people. They should be able to bring a lot to the table on the issues they are facing in the community.”

Marc Renaud

Renaud attended many town council meetings over the last four years to try and learn the issues. He spent three months campaigning to try and turn that knowledge into a seat on council.

“I like being busy and I’m looking forward to it,” he said.

Renaud thanked the community and said he is committed to working hard for the residents every day.

Other results from the councillor’s race saw Lori Wightman come in sixth spot with 2,241 votes, while Lavigne finished in seventh with 2,237 votes. Gregory Moore finished in eighth spot with 2,217 votes while Ron Sutherland came in ninth with 1,964 votes. In tenth position was Frank Cleminson with 1,889 votes while Lena Lazanja followed with 1,871 votes. John Menna finished twelfth with 1,483 while Pauline Gemmell and Libby Keenan finished with 1,288 and 1,125 votes respectively.

There was no race for Greater Essex County District School Board trustee in Amherstburg and LaSalle as incumbent Ron LeClair was acclaimed. Results from the Windsor-Essex Catholic District School Board race came in after last week’s RTT went to press, but those results now show that incumbent Frank DiTomasso won re-election with 2,329 votes. Kim Rathbone finished second with 1,482 votes and Francis Ducharme ended up with 1,281 votes.

 

 

 

DiCarlo re-elected mayor, Meloche narrowly wins deputy mayor

 

By Ron Giofu

Aldo DiCarlo is returning as the Mayor of Amherstburg.

DiCarlo was re-elected Monday night, as the incumbent finished with 4,576 votes. He was challenged by Glenn Swinton, who finished with 2,726 votes.

The race of the night was for the deputy mayor’s position. Leo Meloche topped his council colleague Diane Pouget by a mere four votes – 2,579 to 2,575 – with Amherstburg Police Services Board chair Bob Rozankovic finishing with 1,142 votes. Rick Fryer, a current town councillor like Pouget and Meloche, finished with 948 votes.

There will be five new councillors with former journalist Donald McArthur topping the vote-getters with 3,508 votes. Michael Prue finished second with 3,011 votes. In third spot was Patricia Simone with 2,966 votes while Peter Courtney came in fourth with 2,402 votes. Marc Renaud grabbed the fifth spot with 2,274 votes.

Lori Wightman finished just out of the running with 2,241 votes while Jason Lavigne, the only incumbent councillor seeking re-election to that position, finished seventh with 2,237 votes.

All results were unofficial as of press time. Voter turnout was roughly 42 per cent, but clerk Paula Parker told the River Town Times that figure was not exact as of late Monday night.

Aldo DiCarlo celebrates his re-election as mayor with wife Laura Monday night at Wolfhead Distillery.

DiCarlo, who will enter his second term, said he felt good with the result.

“I wouldn’t have signed up for it if I didn’t want the job so it’s good,” said DiCarlo at his victory party at Wolfhead Distillery.

Noting he felt “lots of relief,” he ignored people who were telling him beforehand that he was going to win.

“I am not one to take anything for granted,” said DiCarlo. “It’s never over until it’s over. Now it’s over and the results are in.”

DiCarlo said he hasn’t stopped working even though there was an election and stated, although people questioned the timing of last week’s hotel announcements, those were a “culmination of four years of working with developers.” He stated that the new council will have to deal with these issues right away but that, plus the forcemain, two condominium projects and finishing the fiber internet project, are “good news” issues they have to finish.

“There’s a lot of good things ready to go,” said DiCarlo.

However, the new council will soon have to go into budget sessions and that is a different process than many might be used to, DiCarlo acknowledged. Training will be big for the new councillors but said this council faces a better situation than the outgoing council, which had no money in cash reserves and other issues to tend to in 2014.

Councillor and Deputy Mayor-elect Leo Meloche (left) chats with Mayor Aldo DiCarlo at Wolfhead Distillery Monday night.

Retaining his seat as mayor also means DiCarlo is retaining his spot on Essex County council. With Warden Tom Bain not seeking that position again and Deputy Warden Ken Antaya not seeking re-election as LaSalle mayor, those spots are now available but DiCarlo is uncertain whether or not to seek them.

“My personality is to focus on what you can focus on,” he said. He noted with his day job as physics lab co-ordinator at the University of Windsor, his role as mayor and the fact he still had to campaign left him little time to consider anything else.

“I figured I’d have to get past this election first,” he said. “I haven’t made that decision (on seeking a further role on county council) yet.”

Meloche trailed Pouget much of the night, but surged ahead at the end to narrowly win the deputy mayor position.

“I feel elated right now,” he said, just after results came in at the Libro Centre. “I guess my hard work paid off.”

Meloche congratulated all who participated in the election and was confident DiCarlo would retain the mayor’s chair. He said he knew Pouget had a strong following but “I guess I have a strong following as well.”

“At the end of the day, I’m at a loss for words,” said Meloche. “I’m looking forward to the next four years.”

From a personal standpoint, Meloche said he wants to take a little break as he had to campaign, continue in his role as a town councillor not to mention having to recover after the loss of his wife earlier this year. He said he spent a year-and-a-half caring for her plus tending to his other responsibilities.

“I just want some me time to recharge my batteries,” he said.

From a political standpoint, Meloche said the town has to keep growing and they have to work with the developers to get shovels in the ground as it relates to the two hotel announcements.

“We have good things going,” he said. “The town has to expand and grow to relieve pressure on the tax base.”

Unofficial vote totals, courtesy of the Town of Amherstburg’s website.

Pouget wasn’t sure as of Monday night whether she would ask for a recount.

“The people voted. That’s what they wanted,” she said. “I did my best for 14 years. It’s obvious they wanted change. I wish them all the best.”

Pouget said she knew it would be a tough race.

“I accept what the people have voted,” she said, adding that if people knew that council didn’t know ahead of time of the two hotel announcements, the result could have been different.

“I think that would have made a big difference,” said Pouget.

In the other mayoral races around the region, Leamington Deputy Mayor Hilda MacDonald unseated incumbent mayor John Paterson, while Larry Snively won the mayor’s job in Essex. Marc Bondy will succeed Antaya in LaSalle while Drew Dilkens retained his job in Windsor. Bain was acclaimed in Lakeshore as was Tecumseh Mayor Gary McNamara and Kingsville Mayor Nelson Santos.

Ron LeClair was acclaimed as Greater Essex County District School Board while results of the local Windsor-Essex Catholic District School Board were unavailable as of press time.

CANDIDATE Q&A – Peter Courtney

 

The town is going through a re-branding process. How would you define what Amherstburg is and how it should be promoted?

 I love this question, and I love the process for re-branding that has begun with Cinnamon Toast’s involvement! I am passionate more than most I believe because I am born and raised in Amherstburg and so much of what defines this town is also what defines me. We are a close knit group of citizens that believe in local, support local enjoy our tourism and feel safe in raising our families here. However, to continue to enjoy what I have here for some many years requires our town to ensure we keep current, modernize our processes, extend our reach and marketing efforts and ways of doing business. 

Peter Courtney is running for the position of councillor in the Oct. 22 municipal election.

 

 

Taxes and spending will always be election issues. What is the best way to spend money on roads and infrastructure while, at the same time, keeping taxes at a reasonable level?

This is perhaps the biggest concern of residents and is a tough one to answer. We want the best for our town and that comes at a cost.  Keeping taxes at a reasonable rate will occur when there is a proper plan in place for capital spending.  That plan should consist of prioritizing the needs, allocating the funds accordingly and possibly phasing things in, so as to not overburden the budget and placing it on the taxpayers.  I believe that we the residents just want peace of mind knowing that the town is running as efficiently as possible, and that we are getting the biggest bang for our dollar. 

 

 

 

“Transparency” and “accountability” are words often heard during election campaigns. What specific measures would you undertake to ensure town council lives up to those words?

I feel strongly that our town council can only do its job if it’s given the proper tools to do so. Accountability and transparency (which I believe if it is not, should be identified in a policy document that is applicable to all levels of decision makers) is a result of proper planning, communication and integrity. The measure I would take would be to ensure council is supported, educated and trusted.  As well if elected, I’d like to implement a “Council Corner” blog or Q and A in the RTT so we can stay connected with a broader resident audience.

 

 

 

How would you encourage economic development for the Town of Amherstburg over the next four years (and beyond)?

The strategic pillars that our town has identified in the 2016-2021 Community Based Strategic Plan has outlined some very promising commitments towards the economic development for the Town of Amherstburg. I support the actions the plan identifies, and if elected to council I would want to ensure we had a clearly defined action plan with associated targets & deadlines to ensure administration and council jointly are accountable to the commitments that have made in this published plan.

 

 

 

The policing issue is still top-of-mind for some of the electorate. Is providing services on a regional level a good way to save money, a detriment to the town and its identity or would you view it on a case-by-case basis?

I personally believe in local policing over a regional strategy. Even though there may (I stress may) eventually be some realized cost savings, by going regional I do feel we compromise our identity and that our local police force is part of the small town culture we strive to preserve. As a business, I do believe there will be some tough decisions that our Town has to make that will need to be taken case by case, but my view on this particular top of mind issue is as I have stated above.

 

 

 

Courtney promotes teamwork, unity and respect among campaign pillars

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

Peter Courtney ran for town council eight years ago and feels the time is right to try again.

Courtney said still has a vested interest in municipal politics since he last ran in 2010 and “I feel I’m in a good point in my life with my children being older.” He is one of 14 candidates seeking a councillor position in the Oct. 22 municipal election.

Noting he has a history of being involved with youth through coaching minor hockey and baseball, Courtney said he also has met a lot of parents and grandparents during that time as well. He said he wants to bring what he has learned about teamwork to the council table.

“Council chambers seems to be divided over the last couple of terms,” he said. “I’m looking to bridge that gap.”

Courtney said he wants opinions put to the side and have council unite in order to stop the “divide” on council.

Continuing to bring down Amherstburg’s debt is another priority, Courtney indicated.

Relating to the Duffy’s property, Courtney said he favours the boat ramp and revitalized marina downtown, noting the sale of Ranta Marina was a major issue the last time he ran for council. He added he is not opposed to seeing an amphitheatre erected at the site.

That said, Courtney believes more consultation has to be done with the public.

Peter Courtney is running for the position of councillor in the Oct. 22 municipal election.

“Public meetings are the way to go,” he said.

The future of Centennial Park and the amenities that are being lost due to the new public high school construction that will be happening there. Courtney said he is happy to see a new high school come to Amherstburg but there is concern over what is going to happen to the amenities being lost, including the ball diamonds and swimming pool. He believes user groups need to be consulted with better and fears losing enrolment in minor sports to surrounding municipalities.

“There’s a lot of concern (over the loss of the ball diamonds) in terms of what we’re going to do,” said Courtney, adding clear guidance is needed on that subject.

The remaining 12 acres of Centennial Park that wasn’t sold should remain “user friendly” for the area.

Belle Vue was obtained for a “good price,” he added, but using it to create revenue for the town is a big question.

“I wouldn’t want it to be seen as the big white elephant,” said Courtney.

Courtney believes the current council has done “a pretty good job” with transparency regarding meetings but he doesn’t think there is enough accountability after the meeting. He says decisions have been made which don’t seem to match what the people have been asking for.

“Tough decisions going against what people want doesn’t sit right with me,” said Courtney.

Citing the decision to go from a five-year contract with the Windsor Police Service to the “last minute curveball” of going to a 20-year contract “doesn’t make me confident as a taxpayer.”

Courtney said it is a “fine line” between being over-aggressive when it comes to trying to reduce debt and being balanced.
“I want to make sure we meet the needs on both sides,” he said.

Courtney is also interested in creating a blog or another type of interactive feature to get residents involved and build a better relationship with them.

“This is our town,” he said, and it has to be inclusive for everyone. To move the town forward, he believes good, logical decisions need to be made based on the facts. Social media can “sometimes be skewed and sometimes may include personal bias or side agendas,” he added. Many questions can be answered by simply contacting a council member or the town.

“Use the resources available to you, focus on the facts and be positive,” he said.