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Given that I applied to participate on the council remuneration committee, citing 28 years on council — 16 as a councillor and 12 as mayor, participation in several council remuneration exercises, as well as having participated on the governance committee, which, after its transformation identified the ward system in Aurora — but was not considered to participate, I feel it necessary to share my thoughts on the council remuneration committee outcome at this time.
When I look at politics today compared to when I was on council in Aurora (1978 to 2006), I am astonished at how, whether it is at the federal, provincial or municipal level, the focus seems to have shifted from the country, province or municipality that one serves, to the self-preservation of those who serve. It is very disappointing.
I was proud to be one of the founders of Character Community, and one of the founders of Neighbourhood Network with former Newmarket mayor Tom Taylor and former Aurora councillor Steve Hinder, who both are still giving back selflessly to the community voluntarily through their numerous involvements in their communities. These organizations were two great examples for promoting community services with respect, transparency and the rewards of community service for the love of community service at no remuneration. Those who serve on council should also be serving with that love for community in a balance with duties they deserve to be paid for.
Now, for many politicians in office, it seems the focus is to develop their self-importance in the community and simply on 'what’s in it for me.' Don’t get me wrong; council members should be compensated for their legitimate efforts, the meetings and time spent facilitating an issue, but let’s remember, other than the mayor, whose duties mandate the position as full time, members of council are still part time.
Going to barbecues, photo ops and other social events is both community involvement and soft campaigning and not a priority. Everyone else goes to these events to be part of their community, as should councillors. Aurora, with six councillors and a mayor, is comparable to the size of one ward in Toronto. It is not the duty of a councillor to cram their social calendar to try to justify their job as full time, but rather to deal with policy and citizen concerns and facilitate them through staff, who are full time and trained to handle resident issues.
The recent Aurora council report that is recommending a whopping 42 per cent increase for councillors is a prime example of that. Up until this report, any increase in council member remuneration was always reviewed at the end of a term, not the beginning, and would take effect for the incoming council. I am in full agreement with Mayor Tom Mrakas on this one.
In that way, a member of council would have to run on their performance, including the decision they made to increase their salary and benefits and be elected, or not, on that basis. From what I see from the last council meeting, many members of council not only support implementing this increase now, but want it to be retroactive. Sorry, but that is repulsive, and unbelievably very self-serving.
When everyone ran for office in the last election, they knew what they were running for at that time, they accepted the salary level of the day and knew the risk of being in wards for the first time. If change is needed and the recommendations are what they feel the change warrants, pass it for the next incoming council and let the residents vote on it. Used to be that councillors did this for the love of their community, not retroactive gobs of cash.
Former Aurora mayor, regional councillor and member of council, 1978 to 2006