The reason I filed FOI - should I appeal? — choked on bagel

Here is why I filed the Freedom of Information.  I had heard a rumour and I normally don’t post rumours but it’s my money I have been paying so I will state the rumour and you my occasional readers tell me if I should continue.  

The Federal Government announced a stimulus fund to help with the economy and there were Municipalities all over applying for these funds, Ajax managed to get money for a variety of projects. 
For the pool the rumour was that the top 3 bids that were in contention for contractor all had to supply information as to who they were going to use for a sub contractor to actually build the pool.   What I heard was — it was the same company that all 3 were going to use.  The staff report eluded to limited pool of companies and a less competitive environment, they did not say it was one company.

The papers I received only listed the sub contractors for the winning bid, I speculate because they did not want me to see this information.  They used competitive reasons and other privacy legislation reasons for this. 

Just so you know, in the bidding process a bid only needs to supply the first level of subcontractor- the sub contractor does not need to provide anything up to the bid decision level. 

I could pay more money but I really don’t think anything will come from it.   If enough people tell me to file an appeal I will do it. 

_____________

I almost choked on my bagel this morning while reading the News Advertiser,  there was a council meeting and they voted to defer an issue  about purchasing some public art.

There was a vote prior at committee that was 4-3  - for purchasing the art, you can read the story here.  The Mayor, Joanne Dies, Renick Ashby and Marilyn Crawford were in favour and Colleen Jordan, Shaun Collier and Pat Brown were not in favour of the purchase.   They were to vote at the October 11th meeting and Renick was absent — it would have resulted in a tie — there is no tie and tie is the same as loosing the vote. 

So instead of carrying on and Renrick being accountable for the loss by not being at the meeting , they voted to defer and the No side was basically giving them a free pass.   They don’t defer an issue in Ottawa or Queens Park, if you don’t show up for the vote then too bad-  it was not that important for you to be sure to be at the vote.  It seemed the chief Whip was on the Yes side.

What do you think?  I like Art and the dollars are not in the millions but again , the headlines are continuing to say we are heading into another recession,  the municipal level is not where economic policy is made but the decision to spend money on art pieces might not be the most wise right now,  putting the money into something more focused on front line services for the residents might be a better use right now.   

Art purchases are kinds of things are what fundraising efforts are for? 

We fundraise for MRI’s but purchase Art.    $109,000 is the total for the 3 pieces deferred. 
What is a better use for that money right now? 

There are breakfast programs and other groups in this Town that could probably stretch that $100k to go a long way then a beautification effort in the current economic condition. 

Maybe it should be deferred for a few years.

What do you think?

8 Responses to “The reason I filed FOI - should I appeal? — choked on bagel”

  1. ashley Says:

    Hi Karem,

    Thanks for sharing - just a question re the FOI request, I am curious why you care that it was the same subcontractor for all three contractors? I think you have the right to the information I’m just curious because I think I’m missing the point!

    Re the art - I disagree with the purchase but not with deferring the vote. Things come up and local councillor is after all only a part-time job (or at least it is compensated as such), council is small enough to decide that important decisions should be held off until all wards are represented - as long as this is a consistent practice.

    As a side note, someone should make sure the Ajax Council haters know that they don’t always agree on everything!

    Admin: The point about the same subcontractor for all 3 is there is no competition to protect against an inflated price based. It’s supply and demand and if all 3 contractors demand the same supplier it results in a less compeitive bidding process.
    I doubt if it was the other way around and the Mayor was against it , he would not defer and would want the vote to go his way. I bet he only deferred because the absent councillor was to vote his way.

  2. admin Says:

    What I find funny is I ran into someone who asked me if I knew about the art purchase and they used the word economic situation and when I just opened my email now I have received copies of what other people sent to council earlier. So it is not a lot of money but it has rankled people’s nerves just due to the optics of it.

    Art aquisitions are for when the economy is better and you want to pretty up the place.

  3. Marsha Dooley Says:

    Karem I would ask you to proceed only so that you have no questions of unfinished business nor futue regrets. You have nothing to lose but a few dollars and gain satisfaction at seeing the question of ethics and protocols through.

    Regarding the Art I’m not in agreement on the purchase at this time for more than just the money issue. When the Town started the waterfront ownership process years back it was stated that it would be left natural. No structures would be built. Our waterfront would be clear and natural unlike any other municipality. Once again we need to spend money (which we are told we don’t have) for more parking for our summer events.

    I agree art and culture acquisitions should come at a time when we have no tax increases. Maybe funds should be raised by the community and matched by the Town.

    Right now I suspect that the $100K to be spent on ‘arts & culture’ at the waterfront is going to be needed to keep the lights on at St. Francis Centre. The balance sheet on our new centre will be a challenge.

    What’s with the comment from Ashley about ‘council haters’. What a condescending statement to make. I do not agree with a number of decisions of council but that is what democracy is all about. We fought wars for the freedom to disagree. I respect those that I can disagree with and stay friends with. I really have a hard time accepting those that do not like to be challenged and those who become very petty in their retort. Council voting history also makes anyone with independent thought question how often it appears that voting is very (ward) strategic. I am more and more agreeing with others that all council should be voted in as ‘all candidates’ and not ward specific, not all councillors live, nor want to live, in the wards they represent and all councillors have a vote in each decision.

    I will take your comment to proceed under advisement :). I have been back and forth on at large for council as well, I know it is expensive for a campaign to run at large but they had an opportunity on boundary realignment to be radical and make 4 wards be north south in nature from top to bottom and they did not do it. When is the next Town Hall meeting being held by a Councillor? the one that Shaun and Renrick had is due I would think and the residents will want some answers for the questions they asked.

  4. Allen Says:

    I don’t agree with the art purchase. We have better things to spend money on and I do agree with Marsha that the waterfront parks should be left in a natural state.

    As for the contractors… I think you should pursue also. Problem I am seeing developing, through your research, appears that we have a front end contractor charging an admin fee as a pass-through for a sub. Why not hire the sub directly as save money? Is the sub not from the Durham region? Maybe this is the hidden issue.

    Seems a waste of procurement dept time, effort & makes the process uncompetitive.

    Thanks for the comment so far that is 2 to continue, the pool was different then a regular project maybe– because it required work that was not specialised as in pool rebuilding - tanks - water filration etc. but yes it could have been treated as it’s own component and the pool sub contractor bid directly to the Town. There is no requirement that a company be from the town or region and one one hand that is good as there are no relationships perhaps to be exploited if you know what I mean, employees from a company that are not local could bring in money- hotel costs, eating at local establishments , all the things that stimulus is supposed to “Stimulate” but transparency is key! If a company is from Windsor that’s fine , we have companies no doubt that travel the province or country on jobs, that is not an issue for me. Protenctionism has it’s own downsides.

  5. SM Says:

    The money they’re looking to spend on this public art is just as ridiculous as the money they paid having somebody come up with a town slogan/logo several years back. I’m not against art or making our parks more attractive. I’m not an expert on what the going rate is for this type of Art but surely there has to be something cheaper?. Who is the person that chose these pieces?. If this is what council really wants then how about accepting donations and do some fundraising?.

    I agree with the earlier comment that this is the wrong time to be spending money on stuff we don’t necessarily need. I’m not sure if there’s ever a good time. I just have a hard time accepting these expenses when they’re once again talking about raising taxes.

    That’s another thing that makes me laugh. The taxes keep going up and there doesn’t seem to be any improvement to services. The street sweeper only came down my street once this year. Drive around town and look at all the weeds and garbage collecting along the curbs. It’s a disgrace.

    The price I mentioned was for 3 piecesm includes design time as well I guess. I am just thankful we are not on the “World’s Biggest Bandwagon!”. There is something really cool on Chicago I think but that is on the scale of Toronto. This is cool! http://gochicago.about.com/od/attractionsandlandmarks/ss/millennium_park_6.htm

  6. Marsha Dooley Says:

    Chicago has the Bean. Toronto has Moose. Ajax art should be Battleships No?

    Yes! We should have a big ship moored at the waterfront! Put a restaurant on it too!

  7. Marsha Dooley Says:

    Yes …. could we call it Captain Steve’s? @AjaxPolitices would like it!

    NO!!!!

  8. SM Says:

    Looks like they approved buying the highly priced art after all. Guess it’s better then spending $18,000 on a BBQ to celebrate the new incinerator (and yes I’m being sarcastic!).

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