Town council

Veteran politician announces retirement from elected service

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

After almost three decades of elected service, Joan Courtney is leaving politics.

The long-time political figure announced her retirement from politics via a letter to the River Town Times Friday afternoon. Courtney was elected as a town councillor in 2014 after 23 years as a Catholic school board trustee.

Joan Courtney has decided not to seek re-election. She has spent the last four years as an Amherstburg town councillor after spending 23 years as a Catholic school board trustee.

Courtney’s letter states:
“To the residents of Amherstburg,

After 27 consecutive years in politics, I have decided that it is time to retire. Having spent 23 years as an English school board trustee, I have been fortunate to represent the ratepayers of Amherstburg, LaSalle, Harrow and Kingsville. What a journey it has been!

“I was first elected in 1991, serving as a trustee with the Essex County Roman Catholic Separate School Board. After amalgamation, my territory became Amherstburg and LaSalle where I served on the Windsor-Essex Catholic District School Board. My years as a trustee were a true joy. I met so many people during that time and made friendships with fellow trustees, members of administration, teachers and taxpayers. I was treated with honour and respect and truly appreciate the loyalty I received. My fellow colleagues and I formed a bond each term and again I made lasting friendships.

“In 2014, I decided to venture into the world of municipal government. What a change! I’ve learned so much as a councillor and came to realize how much work it takes to make a town run smoothly. Many departments must work together and councillors have the obligation to meet the needs of their constituents.

“Once again, I have met many fine people and couldn’t have asked for a better group of councillors and administration as well as department personnel to work with. When I began my term in 2015, Amherstburg was in a bad place. Now, in 2018, I am so proud of what we have accomplished to turn our town around. We are looking to the future and have instituted many new ideas to move the town forward. I and  my fellow councillors as well as our administration have worked diligently to create a town of beauty and exciting new projects. I believe we have found our way back again and are back on the right track.

“Amherstburg is a town of history and has a bright and shining future. I want to take the opportunity to thank you, the residents of Amherstburg, for the trust and support you have shown me all these years. It has been an honour and a privilege to serve you as a trustee and a councillor. You have made this an experience I will never forget!

“Sincerely, Councillor Joan Courtney.”

Courtney becomes the second member of town council to officially declare they are not running in the Oct. 22 municipal election. Deputy Mayor Bart DiPasquale declared in May that he would not seek re-election.

Discretionary spending, finding efficiencies among key issues for Moore

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

The vote to contract out policing in Amherstburg to the Windsor Police Service was the big factor for Gregory Moore and his decision to run for town council.

Moore is seeking the position of councillor and said the Feb. 26 policing vote made by the current council is what caused him to decide to run. Moore said he is in opposition to the switch.

“That was the last thing that pushed me over the edge was the farming out of Amherstburg police,” said Moore. “I think the police are a big part of our community. The police and our community go hand-in-hand.”

Moore said that he has watched the decisions council has made the last few years and decided he wants to try and get on council himself.

“I guess I can’t complain if I’m not willing to do something,” he said.

The town’s debt is still large, said Moore, and that a closer look has to be had on the town’s discretionary spending.

“I think that’s a real issue that needs to be looked at,” said Moore.

Gregory Moore is running for the
position of councillor in the Oct. 22 municipal election.

Moore suggested the possibility of the town retaining ownership of the Libro Centre but having a private company manage it in order to reduce the financial liability that operating an arena carries. He said that Duffy’s is synonymous with Amherstburg but wonders if the town was right in purchasing Belle Vue and the former St. Bernard School site when they did.

“If you look at the situation, we can’t afford Belle Vue,” he believed. “We can’t afford St. Bernard School. We really can’t afford these as a town right now.”

If it were not for the debt, Moore stated, “It might be a totally different story.”

Moore stated: “I think spending needs to be frozen for council, the mayor and the CAO until further notice.”

Moore believed the town needs to be “creative” in its operations so that no additional pressures are placed on taxpayers. That includes a look at every town department.

“Everything needs to be looked at. Efficiencies need to be created,” said Moore.

Moore feels the town is on the same footing it was four years ago.

“I think it’s a wash,” he said. “I don’t see it being any better or any worse.”

There are certain expenditures that have to be made, with Moore citing rural roads as an example.

“The roads are worse out there,” he said. “These roads need to be fixed. These are needs, not wants.”

“Rising water and sewage rates need to be reined in,” he stated. “These costs really impact middle income families as well as looking for alternative measures to avoid continual property tax increases.

Moore said he would like to see more activities for both youth and seniors, including programming by the town for seniors that could be merged with existing groups.

More room for fishing from the shoreline is needed in town, stated Moore.

“I believe I can bring something completely different to the table,” he said.

Moore works at Chrysler and has lived in Amherstburg for 20 years after growing up in Harrow. He serves on his church’s board in Colchester. He also fought the province’s sexual education curriculum serval years ago.

“My family has a very long history here in Amherstburg,” he added. “We are direct descendants of the Underground Railroad. My great grandfather Albert Wilson was in fact born here on the shores of Amherstburg after his mom made an escape swimming across the Detroit River.”

 

Wightman believes her experience will benefit council

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

Lori Wightman believes she is at a good time in her life to try and obtain a position as a town councillor and hopes voters feel the same way.

Wightman was the first candidate to file her nomination papers and seek a position as a councillor. She said she has been thinking about running for council for the last few years and the Oct. 22 municipal election is the right time to do it.

“I’ve always been interested in local politics and I believe I can be good for the town,” said Wightman. “I have a lot of experience working with a variety of opinions and a variety of visions. I know the value of compromise and negotiation.”

Believing there is a lot of promise for Amherstburg, Wightman said she is hoping to help the municipality realize that promise.

“I love this town,” she said. “I think there is so much potential here.”

Wightman believes that Amherstburg “is on the right track” and believes it is important to not only plan for the four-year council term ahead, but for the next number of years as well. She cited the parks master plan process as one of the ways that the town is planning ahead.

“It’s important not only to look at what you are doing right now, but to look ahead five, ten and 15 years,” said Wightman. “Everything is not in a capsule. You have to have that forward vision.”

Wightman works for the Essex County Library system and represented workers during the 230-day strike in 2016-17 as unit chair of CUPE 2974.0. She believes that may help her during the election campaign, noting that “name recognition is always a good thing.”

“I like to think I put forth a good image during the strike,” she said.

Lori Wightman is running for the
position of councillor in the Oct. 22 municipal election.

Wightman said she wants to see people come to Amherstburg and “stay for a while” and that she knows there is talk of bringing a hotel to Amherstburg.

“I hope that happens,” she said.

Building the commercial and industrial base are other goals Wightman would like to see accomplished.

“I’d like to put Amherstburg on the map and get industries to come here,” she said. “I’d like to grow what is here for the people that are here.”

Noting the town’s finances and debt were the big issue in the 2014 campaign, she believes that four years later, things have improved. She added her belief that things will be even better four years from now.

The big issue of the current term has been the matter of policing and Wightman believes there is a lot of “misinformation” that is being discussed by residents.

“Social media is a great tool but it also has a flipside,” said Wightman. “If you read the reports, council was tasked with saving money and delivering the same service. I understand people are leery but I think (switching to the Windsor Police Service) saves a lot of money and that’s what people want. I think you are going to have to see proof in the pudding for some people.”

Wightman added that she is confident she can do a good job if elected as a councillor.

“I honestly believe I can do a good job for the town,” she said.

Councillors have to be informed, read their documents and look into the issues.

“You need people who will do the work,” she said. “You need to know what you are talking about. You need to know the details and make an informed decision.”

Ombudsman finds violation in how JPAC, council handled meetings

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

The Ombudsman of Ontario has found violations in how the Joint Police Advisory Committee (JPAC) and town council handled in-camera meetings.

According to a report from Ombudsman Paul Dube, there were complaints that alleged that several meetings were improperly closed because they did not fit within any of the exemptions set out in the Municipal Act. Three complaints were received in November and December 2017.

Those meetings included a closed session of council July 10, 2017 about a draft Request for Proposals (RFP) for policing services, four closed session meetings of the JPAC to discuss the draft RFP held June 1, June 22, July 6 and December 7, 2017 and a closed session of council Jan. 22, 2018 to discuss the composition of the JPAC.

Dube said the town was advised Jan. 12 and Jan. 24 of his office’s intent to investigate the complaints.

While acknowledging that council and the JPAC “operated in good faith in closing these meetings to the public and understand their concerns about public discussion of sensitive policing information,” there were violations found. Dube’s report stated the JPAC violated the town’s local boards/committees terms of reference when it discussed the police costing RFP in closed session June 1, June 22, July 6 and Dec. 7, 2017.

“Failing to comply with these terms of reference was wrong under s. 21 (1)(d) of the Ombudsman Act,” Dube wrote. “The discussion about the request for proposals did not fit within the ‘security of the property’ exception or any of the exceptions provided in the local boards/committees – terms of reference.”

Dube also found that town council contravened the Municipal Act when it discussed the police costing in closed session July 10, 2017. In his opinion, Dube stated the “discussion about the request for proposals did not fit within the exceptions to the open meetings requirement of the Act.”

The news wasn’t all bad for the town, as the Ombudsman found that council did not contravene the Municipal Act when it discussed the JPAC composition in an in-camera meeting Jan. 22, 2018. Dube’s report stated that “the discussion on that date fit within the Act’s ‘personal matters about an identifiable individual’ exception.”

Mayor Aldo DiCarlo speaks to the media after the Feb. 26 vote that saw council vote 3-2 to contract policing services to Windsor. The Ombudsman of Ontario has found that council and the Joint Police Advisory Committee (JPAC) had several contraventions as it dealt with in-camera meetings.

There were four recommendations in Dube’s report “to assist the Town of Amherstburg in fulfilling its obligations under the Act and ensuring the transparency of its meetings.” The first recommendation was that “all members of council for the Town of Amherstburg should be vigilant in adhering to their individual and collective obligation to ensure that council complies with its responsibilities under the Municipal Act, 2001 and its own procedural bylaw.”

The second recommendation was that “committee members for the Town of Amherstburg should be vigilant in complying with the local boards/committees – terms of reference” while the third recommendation was that the “Town of Amherstburg should ensure that no subject is discussed in closed session unless it clearly comes with one of the statutory exceptions to the open meeting requirements.”

The fourth recommendation was that “the Town of Amherstburg should clearly set out the rules for committees around holding closed meetings. The procedure bylaw should be consistent with the committee’s terms of reference in setting out open meeting rules.”

Mayor Aldo DiCarlo said in the three-and-a-half years this council has been in office, it is only the second time that an Ombudsman’s report has found contraventions.

“Our initial response was a bit of surprise,” said DiCarlo, of the recent report.

The previous contravention was early in the term when clerk Paula Parker was away and there was uncertainty while she was gone about the reason to go in-camera. There have been investigations since, said DiCarlo, but this is the first time since early in the term that anything was found.

DiCarlo said they have made gains from where the previous council was, stating there were 10-13 violations in one year at one point last term. The mayor said at least one of the current contraventions would not even be one today due to legislative changes. He also pointed out the statement by the Ombudsman that the town was trying to act in good faith.

Many of the issues will not arise again, he added, due to the fact there will be no more meetings by this council on the policing issue.

“It was a one-off process,” he said. “It’s an anomaly. Council is never going to discuss this again unless the OCPC doesn’t approve our application (to switch to Windsor police) and a future council wants to do it over again.”

Some of the meetings involved operational matters and some confidentiality issues, he added, so while the Ombudsman found some issues, the mayor wonders if they will become issues the Amherstburg Police Services Board may have to look at.

DiCarlo added that regular council meetings have yielded nothing in the way of issues for the Ombudsman’s office.

The findings of the Ombudsman will be used to improve how the town does business, the mayor stated.

“They give us information to clarify what is and isn’t appropriate,” he said. “We will apply the recommendations to all our future meetings of council.”

DiPasquale announces he will not seek re-election

 

By Ron Giofu

The town will be electing a new deputy mayor Oct. 22, as the current deputy mayor has decided to step out of the political arena.

Deputy Mayor Bart DiPasquale made it official Monday night that he will not seek re-election. His political career lasted eight years, as he was elected as a councillor in 2010 and won the deputy mayor’s job in the 2014 municipal election.

In a statement read during the “new business” portion of Monday’s town council meeting, DiPasquale said that “after careful consideration and discussion with my loving wife and family, I would like to announce that I will not be seeking re-election this fall and (will) be spending more time with my friends and grandchildren. I will also be looking forward to casting my ballot in this year’s election.”

DiPasquale said he enjoyed serving the town as deputy mayor and as a member of Essex County council.

“I have also been truly blessed in serving this community as a municipal employee and also a police officer,” he said.

DiPasquale had a 35-year career with the Amherstburg Police Service, retiring as deputy chief in 2009. His community involvement has also seen him serve with local service clubs and non-profit organizations and has resulted in numerous awards and honours over the years. He recalled starting to work for the town at age 16, grooming baseball diamonds under the direction of former administrator Tom Kilgallin.

Deputy Mayor Bart DiPasquale announced May 14 that he will not seek re-election.

“During my years of employment with the Town of Amherstburg and as an elected official, I have learned that this community is truly special and resilient. We have persevered through much of our debt load adversity and began updating our aging infrastructure,” he said. “We also began rebuilding our management structure and I am grateful for being part of this and serving together with all the other council members.”

DiPasquale also thanked CAO John Miceli, the management team and employees “that kept this great municipality solvent, the neighbourhoods and roads safe, the water flowing and clean and our parks active. It has been a truly superb performance and thank you.”

Wishing the next deputy mayor and council members well, DiPasquale said he wishes they will have “the same wonderful experiences and lifetime of memories I have acquired” by serving the community.

Following his statement, DiPasquale was met with a standing ovation from all in attendance at Monday night’s meeting, including his fellow council members. Several members of DiPasquale’s family, including his wife Carmen, daughters Luisa and Sandra, their grandchildren as well as other loved ones were in attendance.