Monday, 31 October 2011

Our Democratically Neglected Trustees

Peterborough is a relatively well-educated town. With Trent, Fleming, the Ministry of Natural Resources and the hospital the biggest institutions in the city, you know that there are a fair number of people out there with post-secondary credentials and degrees. This means that there are a lot of parents out there who can be trusted to make good educational choices for their children.

With enrolment declining and Trent’s Bachelor of Education program established, the quality of teachers in Peterborough has never been better. It’s a competitive market, parents have high expectations, and you’ve got to be good and hard-working to be successful. In fact, the quality of teachers at KPR has quickly outpaced the quality of administrators. Ask any Peterborough teacher about the poorly-conceived decisions at Fisher Drive and you won’t get a word in edgewise for the next hour.

So why do KPR administrators think they can tell us what’s best for our kids and our neighbourhoods? 

Rusty Hick takes $200,000 of our tax dollars home to Port Perry every year. He's among the best-paid Directors of Education in all of Ontario. He makes more money than many Peterborough doctors, lawyers, business executives, and professors. He doesn't have an MBA or a PhD or an MD. The least he could is listen.

Let’s return to the School Board / City Council analogy I made in a previous post.

KPR municipalities are something like our city wards. The main difference in governance is that with the School Board, there’s no “mayor” elected separately. The “mayor” is the Chair of the Board, who is simply one of the Trustees elected to the position by the others. These “councillors” are responsible for hiring a “Chief Administrative Officer” to run the business of the “city” as a corporation. At KPR, that “CAO” is called “Director of Education.” That “CAO” is Rusty Hick.

Imagine the following scenario. The City’s actual CAO gets it in his head that people aren’t driving as much as they used to. Some of the city’s roads just don’t have the traffic they once did. Why pay to keep these roads all clean and lit and paved? He goes to City Council and says he wants to hold some public meetings to see what the public thinks about which roads should be closed. City council, indulging him, goes along with it. Some of the councillors attend the public meetings, and start to question why the CAO wants to close roads, because nobody who speaks at the meetings wants to have their roads closed. Actually, they’re kind of glad that traffic isn’t so heavy on them anymore. The CAO, however, isn’t listening. He’s got his mind made up. At the end of the meetings, the committee on road-closures reports that, if the CAO is so fired up to close a road, he can close one, but only as a last resort.

The CAO comes back to Council at the next meeting, and says, “I’m closing Armour Road. We’re going to turn it into a parking lot for city staff. We’re going to see how much that would cost.” A couple of months later, three days before the next council meeting, he says, “no, that’s too expensive, painting all those yellow lines on the road. We’re just going to close George Street instead.” Privately, some councillors suspect the CAO is losing his mind and needs some time off. When they try to argue for postponing a decision, the CAO goes into overdrive, telling them they can’t possibly delay the decision, the decision has to made now! If we don’t make it now, we’ll be stuck with under-used pavement for the next five years! Orders of the Ministry of Transportation!

The councillors turn to the Mayor. Mayor, they say, is this true? The Mayor’s not sure what’s going on. The CAO demands a vote. Councillors vote. The ones who have heard their own constituents say at the public meetings that they don’t want their road closed vote against the CAO’s proposal. The ones who haven’t had that experience, and don’t know what’s really going on because they never come to that part of town, go along with the plan, knowing little more than that if George Street closes, there will be more money to repave the roads in their own neighbourhoods.

What would you expect the Mayor to do in this situation? Wouldn’t you expect the Mayor to step in and take charge? Wouldn’t you expect the Mayor to know the policy? Wouldn’t you expect the Mayor to realize the CAO’s schemes were bound to cause a public furor?

If Brian Horton, Peterborough’s CAO, tried to close down George Street over the objections of Town Ward councillors Dean Pappas and Bill Juby and all their constituents, would you expect Daryl Bennett to stand up and put his arm around Horton and say, “Horton’s my man, right or wrong. We’re going ahead with the plan! Get over it! And for God’s sake don’t anyone speak to the public about this! Issue a gag order to all the Public Works staff! Tell the City Clerk to quit responding to public inquiries and send out some propaganda to smooth things over with the drivers. Tell them we’re doing it to improve the quality of the roads. Maybe they’ll fall for it!”

I would expect the Mayor for whom I voted to recognize that something had gone drastically wrong, and call the proceedings to a halt to figure out just what it was. I would expect the Mayor for whom I voted to realize that the city needed a new CAO.

But wait a minute – who voted for Diane Lloyd, anyway? The other Trustees elected her Chair, but who voted for her in the first place?

Answer: nobody.

Nobody voted for Diane Lloyd because nobody ran against her in last year’s election.

There are probably hundreds of people in the area who are as well if not better qualified to oversee the education of your children than is Diane Lloyd. However, not one of them saw fit to challenge Lloyd for the position of Trustee last year. You can see the election results for yourself. If you read this Examiner news article, you’ll notice what a hotbed of political activism is Peterborough County, as evident by the staggering number of acclaimed positions.

You may remember Diane Lloyd as a former Liberal candidate for federal Parliament. You may remember that current Monaghan Ward councillor Henry Clarke, front-office man with Pepsi-Quaker, had sought the nomination for 2006 to replace Peter Adams as the Peterborough Liberal candidate for MP. Lloyd, who had been the Liberal riding association president, wanted a crack at the MP job, which she may have hoped she’d be a good bet to get, given the residual popularity of Adams and the Liberal brand in Peterborough. Since she needed a job after Westclox closed down, it may have seemed like a good opportunity.

Henry Clarke might have been our MP

Lloyd took the aggressive, signing up members to back her bid for the nomination. One of these picked up on Lloyd’s aggression and created a fuss when he or she sent an email to the media claiming that Lloyd was the only candidate who had passed the security checks and was worth supporting. You can read that tidbit of news here. Lloyd came from behind and beat out Clarke by a few handfuls of votes. The old Liberal campaign page featuring her is here.

Diane Lloyd, beneficiary of democratic neglect

Voters didn't appear to find the candidate especially inspiring. In contrast to Lloyd's claims about building the Liberal party in Peterborough, the popularity of the federal Liberals in Peterborough plummeted over the course of the campaign and has yet to recover. Rookie Conservative Dean Del Mastro was elected as MP.

Lloyd wanted another shot at it in 2008, but finished third, with Betsy McGregor getting the nod instead. When last seen hovering around the margins of federal electoral politics, she was publicly supporting her old rival.

I don’t mean Henry Clarke. I mean Dean Del Mastro. You can read about it in Ann Douglas’s blog.

There are already plans being laid for an “Anybody But Lloyd” campaign for the next Trustee election in 2014.

Anybody out there interested in being that “anybody?”

If not, we could be in for another seven years of dysfunctionality at Fisher Drive.



  1. I love the 'City Council closing roads' analogy. It clearly shows how what starts out as "if" fuzzily becomes "which" without an official decision - just like the closure went from "should we close a school?" to "which school should we close?" WITHOUT ADEQUATE ANALYSIS OR INFORMATION, on the influence of one single person.

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  3. I just found this article from the lead up to the last municipal election in Peterborough and County - lets you know how much trustees make and explains the relationship between administration and board of trustee - some lovely quotes:

    For additional context here is a recent article about additional expenses paid to trustees:

    And for the out of town folks reading the roads analogy, in place of Armour and George mentioned above, substitute these respectively:
    Bowmanville - Mearns Ave, King St
    Port Hope - Rose Glen Rd, Walton St
    Cobourg - Brook Rd, King St
    Campbellford - Church St, Bridge St