A longtime rural resident, I use my 60 plus years of life learning to opinionate here and elsewhere on the “interweb” on everything from politics to environmental issues. A believer in reasonable discourse rather than unhelpful attacks I try to give positive input to the blogesphere, so feel free to comment upon rural issues or anything else posted here. But don’t be surprised if you comments get zapped if you are not polite in your replys.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Public Meeting” about Public Meetings!

Next week Chatswoth Council is scheduled to “discuss” a by-law that lays out when and how the public should be notified about upcoming “public meetings”. Below is my letter to council on this matter. The full proposed document may be viewed here (thanks to Mr Falks ongoing efforts to make information more accessible) or in the 5Mb July 6th agenda package on the Township web site.

I see that the Public Meeting to discuss By-law 2016-32, Being a By-law to Establish a
Provision of Notice Policy, has been rescheduled to the July 20, 2016 regular meeting
of Council.

And that “Questions or comments can be provided in advance of the meeting by contacting
Grace Nayler, Deputy Clerk at gnayler@chatsworth.ca 519-794-3232 ext. 125.

This then is my comments upon this bylaw as included in the 159 page July 6th “Agenda package”.

I realize that in most cases the criteria for public meetings may be set by the municipal act and that this document sets minimum standards for notification of those “public” meeting not covered by such rules. In my opinion said standards as now written are far too low a standard to be put in a formal policy document. The following three clauses are particularly troubling.

Whilst I am sure it is not the intention of this council to keep the public in the dark this document as written gives them and future councils the leeway to do so, they may waive the requirements of this policy and thus not even follow the very low standards set (for meetings not covered by the municipal act) and thus hold a “Public Meeting” without notifying the public at all. This is obviously unacceptable in a democracy. Please consider increasing the minimum standards for notification and deleting the “escape” clause #7 entirely, clause #12 already gives you the ability to skip the requirements “in an emergency”. Additionally clause 1f permits notifications on the website to be hidden in a sub folder and NOT directly published or mentioned on the front page this should be updated to at least ensure a mention on the front page.

It is unclear exactly what the difference is between a council meeting (which already is a public meeting) and a “Public Meeting” designated as such, whether held separately or at the same time as a council meeting. Perhaps this needs to be clarified, are the rules for presenting before council different than those to present at a “public meeting”. I would assume that during a “Public Meeting” members of the public may speak to the issue without prior notice and that anyone wanting to ask questions or add to the discussion would be encouraged to do so. I assume that regular council meeting may have different rules.

Such criteria need to be clearly spelt out for both types of meetings (and readily available on the website) so that the pubic knows the routine should they wish to speak to any issue before council. Perhaps the definition of what constitutes a “Public Meeting” and the criteria for public participation need to be defined in the document?

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

“Public” Meeting in Chatsworth?

I don’t often attend local council meetings but recently having been given a heads up by a taxpayer who is much more up on what is going on than myself I decided to do so to address some failures in a topic to be discussed in which I had an interest, The Notice of Public meeting, once I had found it tucked away on the website said that the official policy re the Township Website was to be discussed at the “Public Meeting” to be held as part of the regular council meeting and gave a contact email for further comments or information. I then did my research and sought out the document in question, a very difficult job given that said document was buried deep in a 139 page PDF agenda document. Fortunately the same fellow who had alerted me to the meeting also regularly does the enormous task of splitting said document into its component parts and posting links to them on his private website. The policy document then can be found here.

Having notified the township via the email provided that I wished to speak to this issue I then prepared a brief two page outline of the points I wished to raise. Primarily ways in which the website could be more “user friendly”, be more accessible and make documents much easier to access.

The “Public Meeting” portion of the meeting was scheduled for 11am and allowed for just 1/2 hr to cover this item and the “Notice of Public Meeting” Policy (now scheduled for July 20th), hardy enough to do much more than just touch upon the problems but enough to get a few point across I thought. There were two citizens who had contacted council on this matter, myself being one of them and both our names were on the agenda under the heading of 'website policy'. I arrived about 10.30 only to find that the council meeting, which presumably started at the scheduled time of 10am, was “running an hour behind”. Sure enough the website policy issue did not come up until after 12 noon (this after council has taken a coffee break leaving citizens sitting waiting for proceedings to continue, no coffee was offered to us!)

The first citizen was then called up (no mention of this being the “public” portion of the meeting) and told in no uncertain terms to keep his presentation short, (I note here that previous 'delegations were not given this instruction but were eventually persuaded that council had understood their concerns). The presentation was indeed kept short being less than 5 minutes and not covering half the items on the printed sheet circulated covering his concerns. The Chair then said we will take a break and then move on to (an item further down the agenda, I don’t recall what), having now sat waiting for an hour & a half to say my piece I then asked “do you want to finish up with the web policy issue before moving on?” as was told “I though we had”. SAY WHAT?

I had thought that this was a PUBLIC MEETING portion of council, least that what it said in the “Public Notice” and for that matter in the agenda. To not hear from someone who’s name was on the agenda let alone not ask for “public input” from those others present at a public meeting is very strange IMHO. Anyway I was having non of that and insisted on speaking, whilst reluctantly being allowed to do so was pressured into speaking for less than a minute, possibly two and interrupted at least once during that period and told to hurry up. No discussion took place, I had the distinct impression that council simply did not want to know. They then went for their second coffee break despite the supposed urgency of moving on the other business! I left in disgust!

A final note on this, as I walked out I was approached by the (Interim) CAO who was sitting in on the meeting and was pleasantly surprised that HE at least was appreciative of the points raised and offered to TRY and set up a meeting with those involved with the web site to discuss such issues. I must thank him for his “intervention” without which I would have left considerably more upset with councils handling of this “public meeting”. I hope that collectively we can soon drag the Chatsworth Website and Council into the information age.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Baby Birdies

This week has been a productive time for our bird population around the house as their youngsters are all emerging from their nests and the parents are busy encouraging then to do so.
Naturally the Robins have built their usual over abundance of nests and we can confirm they have actually used at least one of then and raised a bunch of little ones. It seems that mother Robins are most particular as to where they lay their eggs and Mr Robin is forced to build a number of the foe inspection, unusually this year he did NOT build exactly where I had planned to do some work ..... perhaps because I planned none!

But this week its been the less obvious nest builder that we are seeing with their younsters, the Hairy Woodpecker was hard to miss as he sat inthe window feeder morning after morning calling to his youngster in a nearby tree “Look here, food, food, come and get it”. Eventually after several days of this the fledgling did overcome his shyness and came to the feeder ..... when that Red Bellied Woodpecker featured in a previous post was not hogging the seed. He (RB) is most vocal in giving me hell if the feeder is out of seed in the morning!

We have seen a pair of Phobes on the hydro lines that pass by the kitchen window for some time and they appeared to be flying towards the house on a regular basis but we could not figure out to where. The other day I looked up to see a long tail sticking out from above the brace for our satellite dish and upon further investigation saw this:-

Dad was perched close by.......

Then today whilst sitting out at our BBQ and seeing lots of fluttering in a nearby spruce spotted a family of White Breasted Nuthatches with at least two youngsters. Mom and dad are regulars at our feeders but the little ones have not been there yet that we have seen but a little Rose Breasted Grosbeak was in there yesterday...... guess I had better fill them before Mr RB gets pissed off again!

PS, I dont get a whole lot of visitors here at The Rural Canadian, lets face it , its as much for my pleasure in writing as your pleasure in reading, but if you do visit and enjoy my scribblings feel free to drop a note in the comments section to let me know. Its nice to know somebody’s reading my ramblings!

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Chatsworth Council News

It appears that long standing CAO Will Moore is no longer with Chatsworth Council, although as far as I can tell no “official” announcement has been made there are a number of changes in staffing shown on the 'Contacts' page.
The administration staff is now given as:-
Acting CAO/Clerk - Norm Gamble
Deputy Clerk - Grace Nayler
Treasurer - Valerie Manning
Admin Assistant Finance - Teresa Buys
Admin Assistant Clerk & Finance - Heather Stirling

In other news it seems that after a couple of citizens expressed concern regarding a change in document retention on the website policies (see June 5th item) council is now reviewing its entire method of document filing, retention and access. Reading between the lines of the new Deputy Clerk's report its long overdue


(click to enlarge)
Staff then recommend that

“Council approve the purchase of TOMRMS (The Ontario Municipal Records Management System) for Record Retention and Management and that a new Records Management and Retention By-law be enacted as soon as it can be prepared.”

It is not specified anywhere (that I have found) what the policy regarding the website is, except that it should follow the general retention policy.

Whilst I have no major beefs with Chatsworth Council I do believe that they can do a better job of keeping the public informed both through the use of local media (radio & print) and online on their website and elsewhere. The change in staffing in the top administrative hierarchy one would think would merit such a announcement.

It has also been suggested to council that there are methods to make it much easier to keep up with items that are (often belatedly) posted to the website. Both RSS feeds and Subscribe to posts should be available so that interested citizens do not have to visit and troll the site to lean of new activities, reports or other content. I remain optimistic the the new CAO and his assistant will recommend and institute such modest but important changes soon.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Todays Birds

Our migratory birds continue to arrive and this morning we heard the Baltimore Oriole singing away for the first time this year and eventually spotted him perched high on the very tip of one of our pine trees.

Other recent arrivals include the Great Crested Flycatcher and the Phoebe, we have yet to see any of the usual sparrows and warblers that pass through on their way north. I think I heard the Oven Bird and the Red Eyed Virio as well as the Yellow Bellied Sapsucker who does a number on our some of our trees each spring the other day, there is lots of sap in the pine trees but he seem tp prefer our decorative garden Mountain ash!

Its really starting to look like summer despite the 3C low temperature last night, enjoy yours.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

May Flowers in June

No, no, not climate change, at least this time! As our spring forest flowers see the tree canopy fill in and shade them from the sunlight and gradually fade from view it was nice to come across this carpet of Canada Mayflowers just off one of our trails.

Whilst the Trilliums, Trout Lilly, Bellwort and other early arrivals all seemed to show their faces at the usual time of late April / early May the did not seem to last long, perhaps because of the unusually warm and dry May here in the Klondike Hills. The Canada violets as well as the Blue Spurred and Dog Toothed violets which normally show a little later were rather sparse this year, a good rain may yet bring a few more out.

We just planted some of the Oak saplings purchased from our local conservation authority last spring and potted on to give them a better chance of survival and I can tell you that in the pine clearings the soil is dry down to the depth of the shovel and the ground cover of pine needles and cone is crisp underfoot. A little rain is promised tomorrow and I hope it shows up as the next chance seems to be next week where the is “a chance of rain” for much of the week. Such promised do not always show up, weather forecasting is far from an exact science eh!

Thursday, May 19, 2016

More Spring Arrivals

Recent arrivals include Rose Crested Grosbeak, Phoebe, White Crowned Sparrow, Song Sparrow, House Wren and Humming Bird. It looks like spring is here to stay now and the hard frosts seen this past week will not be repeated.

Spring arrivals at my daughters place a little further south include this little one who needed a little TLC and seems to have made itself right at home!