Thursday, March 24, 2011

Google Laidlaw, Application Deadline and Councillor Green?

Laying Down the Laidlaw

Ward 3 Councillor Maggie Laidlaw is taking it on the chin for some comments made during budget deliberations earlier this month. On the first night of budget deliberations, Laidlaw said that she had used the Street View function of Google Maps to get a closer look at the homes of some of the people that sent her complaints about the proposed 5.67 per cent tax increase for the 2011 budget. She noted that the more vehement anti-tax constituents had "two cars and a boat in the driveway, and these people are asking for taxes not to go up." Laidlaw’s sleuthing gave fodder to her council colleagues, got her the label “Councillor Creeper” from a Guelph Mercury blogger, and opened the floodgates of public response from the man and woman on the street.

In a letter to the Mercury a few weeks ago, Laidlaw tried to better articulate her position. “I have often wondered, over the years, whether the people who complain most bitterly about, for example, the city’s investment in public transit, community facilities, libraries, taxes, etc., are the ones who could most afford to pay taxes and, in a very small way, ‘share the wealth,’” wrote Laidlaw. “In the last couple of weeks, of the many emails I received about the budget and other things, I randomly picked out the three that appeared to be most vehemently opposed to a tax hike of any sort, and who were, in fact, pushing for a zero tax increase. I Googled their homes just to get an inkling of whether my theory might be correct.”

But Laidlaw’s clarification seems to have inspired only more vitriol. One woman writing to Mayor Karen Farbridge (which was shared by the Mercury on the 59 Carden St. blog) demanded that she “must hold this councillor to task” for violations to the Council Code of Conduct, in a manner more stringent than just a “slap on the wrist.” In her response, the Mayor wrote, “It is not the role of a Mayor to supervise Councillors’ responsiveness to constituents. It is up to the voters to make their own judgments at election time.” She also encouraged the letter writer to express herself directly to Laidlaw, but don’t expect that to sooth the savage beast, as it were.

Nope this is a hot button, for sure. Look for more responses, both heated and cooled, in the days ahead.

Former Councillor Going Green (Politically and Entrepreneurially)

Former Ward 4 Councillor Mike Salisbury is not letting his loss in last October’s municipal election keep him down. Instead, he’s now seeking higher office as a nominee for Guelph’s Green Party candidate in this fall’s provincial election. “Electing Canada’s first Green Party member will send a strong message that Guelph is a leader in Canada’s green industrial revolution,” said Salisbury in a press release. “What we need most is a local change agent who understands the cultural dynamics of our city, and can leverage our local energy initiatives to create sustainable, high-paying jobs here in Guelph.”

Indeed, these are busy times for Salisbury, who along with kicking off ambitions for provincial office, also appeared on the CBC show Dragon’s Den this week with his new Guelph-based business Tribute Caskets, which manufactures environmentally-friendly caskets that can also feature artwork and photo designs to better memorialize the deceased. The episode aired Wednesday night on a CBC station near you, so you know better than I do how things turned out for Salisbury. As for his political ambitions, Salisbury’s is currently the only hat in the ring for the Green Party of Ontario nomination. Their nomination period closes on April 17th.

Exciting Paperwork News!

If you’re reading this on Thursday, then it’s just one more sleep until the deadline for candidates from the 2010 municipal election to file their financial statements from the campaign. This is not exactly news because the Ontario Municipal Elections Act has always required candidates, both successful and unsuccessful, to file their financial paper work after a suitable grace period. But the difference this year is that those financial statements will be made available to the public through the City’s website. A press release sent out on March 14th said that 26 of the 57 candidates that ran for mayor, city council or school trustee had filed their paperwork thus far. The final deadline is at 2 pm Friday.

But out of curiosity, what happens if a candidate doesn’t file their paperwork by tomorrow afternoon? The penalty, should an elected candidate fail to submit his or her financial statement by the deadline, is the forfeiture of any office to which he or she was elected, the office is deemed to be vacant, and the candidate is ineligible to run in the next municipal election. The penalty for unsuccessful candidates who fail to file by the deadline is ineligibility to be elected or appointed to any office to which the Act applies until after the 2014 election. Well, I hope everyone’s punctual then.

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