All posts by stabnow

Mayor’s Explanation Leaves More Questions

Via his blog, St. Albert’s mayor attempts to explain his double-dipping to his readers.

One reason presented is the challenge he faces serving as the CRB chair, as well as mayor of this city and “which hat [he should] wear in given situations.”  If it is such a challenge for him, would it not be prudent for him to relinquish one of these positions?  The hours he dedicates to the CRB are the hours that St. Albert loses to having an individual give his ‘all’ to this city.  Regardless if he can figure out which hat to wear, it does not excuse the double-dipping.

The Mayor also cites relying on a professional accountant for advice.  His personal taxes are his business.  But the city’s business are the people’s.  It would be surprising that a qualified PA would even think of advising anyone to double dip.  Is this a way of passing the buck?

And how confident are taxpayers suppose to feel that scribbling “notes to self” is taking care of the money St. Albertans have entrusted this person with?  Do the mayor’s lack of an ATM card or a debit card really have anything to do with him claiming the same expenses from the CRB and the City?  Definitely not.

The blog entry continues on with the number of events he has attended over the last seven years.  Attending community events is part of a mayoral job and have nothing to do with claiming the same expenses from the CRB and the City of St. Albert.

He also discusses his donations to various causes and charities.  That is all fine and good, but the fact is, these donations are tax deductable.  The Mayor does not seem to realize that his personal donations do not account for the dismal way taxpayers’ money has been abused.  Or did he expect that his double-dipping was a donation from the taxpayers?

Throughout this blog entry, the Mayor has attempted to garner the emotional side of his readers by citing various activities that are common duties when accepting the mayoral position stating that any other reports have been biased.  Grabbing emotion is a good political ploy.  But the fact is that the various reports in media have been quoting what the Mayor himself has publically said.  The signed expense reports he files with the City and the CRB also state that what he claims  as expenses are accurate.  How can these sources be biased?

They ar e not biased as can be seen when he once again openly admits that “of course, my record-keeping of mileage and expenses has been inadequate”

Speaking of the signed paperwork the Mayor submitted to the CRB and the City of St. Albert, he can not expect the tax paying public to take his own self-audit as credible.  Especially with the history of mismanagement he even admits to.  Hiding income and double-dipping are serious.  Multiple double-dibbing is even more serious and does not constitute a simple mistake.

With Mayor Crouse’s business and educational background, and as a politician for the last ten years, he, more than anyone else should know and understand double-dipping.  Although he has given each councillor a run down of their supposed errors, one thing remains certain – no other council member to date has been found doing the same.

And why has Mr. Draper done a turn-around from early September where he felt that it would not be prudent to involve city staff because of legalities.  Yet now he is willing to submit some poor tax consumer to looking through Crouse’s books and become a scapegoat for Crouse’s mistakes should this be taken further.  Or is there something in the city’s books that would make certain individuals uncomfortable  if an external audit were done?

An external audit would give more validity to taxpayers than having someone in the city’s admin department doing it.  Presently taxpayers only know of the  confirmed instances where the Mayor double-dipped.  If there was truly nothing more to hide, Mayor Crouse would have readily accepted an external audit.  As it is, there will always be questions as to his honesty and ability to work responsibly and honourably with taxpayers’ dollars.

A definite, obvious blemish on St. Albert’s politics – one that will continue to fester with each tax and budget season.

 

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Crouse Supporters Miss the Point

Although loyal in their support for Nolan Crouse, Doug Musey’s October 11th and Gail Barrington-Moss’ October 15th letter to the Gazette both seem to have missed the crux of the real issue in regards to Nolan Crouse’s expenses.  And that issue is the oft repeated offense of bilking taxpayers in both St. Albert and the Capital Region.

Nolan Crouse’s apologies do not erase what occurred over a confirmed period of nineteen months. Saying he has paid back his “indiscretions” does not erase reality.  Mike Duffy lost out trying to “correct” his error by paying back.  Alison Redford lost out trying to “correct” her errors by reimbursing taxpayers.  Of course both pleaded their innocence in having bilked taxpayers. Only when an independent audit was done in the latter two cases did the real indepth picture emerge.

To date Nolan Crouse refuses to have an independent external audit done.  He has been fighting against the idea for months.  Why?  Could the answer possibly be found in his shoebox?

Barrington-Moss and Musey would both like St. Albertans’ focus to go back to the multi-million dollars the city collects to continue on with “important matters that need to be addressed”. (1)  Before that can happen though, taxpayers from St. Albert and the Capital Region deserve to have some semblance of trust in this politician as well as what he does with taxpayers’ dollars.   Closeted shoebox finances are not the calibre of accounting any municipality should be happy with.  It brings to question how well taxpayers’ dollars are being handled, especially with the 75 additional mistakes Crouse himself discovered in his now famous shoebox.

With an independent audit the “tiny oversight” (2) may, like in Duffy’s and Redford’s cases, present a bigger troubling picture.  On the other hand, such an audit could lessen the doubt of the mayor’s ability to overlook “the day-to-day business of a multi-million dollar city.” (3)

The question goes out to Mayor Crouse:  How serious are you in clearing your name and offering the transparency you campaigned on a year ago?

References:

(1) St. Albert Gazette, Your Views, Flogging a dead horse over expenses, October 15, 2014

(2), (3) St. Albert Gazette, Your Views, Mayor deserves benefit of the doubt, October 11, 2014

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Honestly”

Not even a year into this council’s four year mandate and scandal strikes this city.  News about St. Albert’s mayor’s abuse of funds has not only hit local media sites, but has also garnered national media attention.

No matter how much Nolan Crouse tries to “apologize” for his “honest” mistakes over the nineteen month period presented at October 6th, 2014 council meeting, those apologies will not cut it with St. Albertans.

Not to worry Mayor Crouse, you have company in deceiving the tax paying public.

Montreal, Quebec: Michael Applebaum indicted on 14 charges which included fraud, conspiracy and breach of trust and corruption in municipal affairs. Four months later the original charges were extended to include major real estate transactions. Preliminary hearing scheduled for June 2015.

Hamilton, Ontario: Larry Di Ianni pleaded gulty to six charges of violating municipal election finance rules.

London, Ontario: Joe Fontana convicted of three related fraud charges totalling $1700 in June of this year.

Vernon, British Columbia: Sean Harvey admitted to abusing $14,000 of taxpayers’ money via his expense account. He was sentenced to twelve months house arrest. He was charged with fraud a second time for defrauding his business partner of $69,000.

Montreal, Quebec: Gérald Tremblay resigned after allegations of corruption at city hall that he chose not to acknowledge.

Laval, Quebec: Gilles Vaillancourt arrested and charged with fraud and corruption in 2013

How far Nolan Crouse’s deception goes remains to be seen.

References:

http://www.ctvnews.ca/canada/montreal-mayor-applebaum-faces-14-charges-including-fraud-conspiracy-1.1328587

http://www.thestar.com/news/canada/2013/06/17/montreal_mayor_michael_applebaum_has_been_arrested.html

http://forward.com/articles/185057/ex-montreal-mayor-michael-applebaum-faces-wider-co/

http://www.thespec.com/news-story/2155497-mayors-of-hamilton/

http://www.thestar.com/news/canada/2014/06/16/london_ont_mayor_joe_fontana_resigns_after_fraud_conviction.html

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/vernon-mayor-quits-in-disgrace-1.549515

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/disgraced-ex-b-c-mayor-pleads-guilty-to-breach-of-trust-1.604625

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/montreal/gerald-tremblay-knew-about-corruption-court-documents-allege-1.2766949

http://www.montrealgazette.com/news/Tremblay+faith+doesn+absolve+responsibility+mess+city/10039497/story.html

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/montreal/laval-mayor-resigns-amid-corruption-allegations-1.1193077

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/montreal/ex-laval-mayor-vaillancourt-says-he-is-not-guilty-of-charges-related-to-corruption-1.1308828

 

 

 

Character Assassination

St. Albert was a community where residents took pride in the charm, the friendliness, and neighbourliness it emitted. Then came the changes. More residential properties crowded together in ever-increasing concrete surroundings blatantly dismissing authentic ‘green’ space; leaping tax hikes; increase in bylaws and lack of small community charm as this city continues to compete with the province’s capital. And now proposals of monstrous towering buildings are laid at the residents’ feet.

It is not only Grandin Park residents who will suffer lowering property values and the abominable view towering over their homes, but most St. Albertans would be saying good-bye to anything remotely charming about their small city as they look out of their homes to see Big City endeavours trying to manifest itself into reality. One needs to seriously question why people chose living in St. Albert over Edmonton. Surely it is not because of the city’s exorbitant taxes.

Residents can be assured though that with the forecasted increase of apartment dwellers, the small town feel of this community will effectively be dead. Of course the pro of no longer experiencing the small town feel is that buyers will have an easier time to choose if they would like to live in an “urban village” with higher or with lower taxes. Most dollar conscientious buyers will choose Edmonton.

Speaking of Edmonton and various developers’ attempts at what Amacon is looking to duplicate, it is interesting that many of these developments have become rentals as owners either find they do not like the caged in feeling, or they can not sell their properties at a profit. Is this what part of city council envisions for the future? A transient rental community?

As for believing that this will inject new life for the downtown area – possibly at first. But humans are inherently nomadic and therefore will travel elsewhere once the novelty wears off.

Some will squeal delightfully at the possibility of a LRT coming to this “transit village“. At whose cost though? The taxpayers? It has to be remembered that even with free-spending Alison Redford at the provincial helm, promises for a LRT extension to St. Albert were not made. City and provincial taxpayers have woken to government’s spending. So expecting this type of transit for a “possible” 3,400 people is extremely remote.

Retail and office space lays vacant throughout St. Albert. Other than optimism for this project, it would be interesting to hear why Amacon feels that their vision will not suffer the same fate.

Promoting ICLEI’s urban villages in a smaller community definitely supports the much touted content of the social master plan Councillor Heron championed.   Community spirit can not be successfully fostered when a small city promotes separate identities throughout it.

St. Albert is long overdue for reinstating the MPC so the character of this community is not eroded any further.

 

 

Education

What a fine example our city politicians have given to the students of tomorrow. Is it pushing or bullying their agenda through that sets them apart from those who seek a viable solution for all concerned? Is responsibly studying the pros and cons of a problem an example of the imprint we want to leave on young, impressionable minds? It seems that with what has happened to Erin Ridge residents, students have been taught that it is okay to ‘bully’ one’s own agenda through regardless of the cost it leaves on others. Bully, grab and run because “I” want.

Throughout this sham, students will have learned that reasoning and logic is futile when confronting the illogical minds of adults who can not lead. That can be evidenced in the silence of three councillors, the illogical words of another and the incoherency of a mayor who does not follow the City’s “vision” and bylaws which state that green spaces are to be protected. And then this portion of the council has the audacity to say they want to institute other policies? For what purpose when they can not follow the policies they have already put in place.  A sad statement about individuals whose education was obviously wasted.

Include how some of these local politicians did their homework as a bad example to students. Not doing their research (Draper) results in poor grades. And how can we expect children to regularly attend government institutions when adults like Draper and Crouse, who are paid generous salaries by the taxpayer, do not attend public meetings.

Oh yes, the list continues. Rudely interrupting people while they speak in front of a group; twitter, shuffle papers, and refuse eye contact with those who make an effort of doing their homework as they present it to the ‘class’. Communication is a two way street. Sadly even Councillor Osborne, who ran his platform on this single item, lost his ability to do so.

Who did these four councillors and mayor listen to? Not the residents who did their homework and coherently presented their facts. Not Henri Lemire, the Francophone district’s superintendent who had previously stated “We know from experience our parents are quite accommodating.  If there’s a new school, they’ll make sure their kids attend regardless of where it is. Obviously we want a site that’s large enough.” [emphasis stabnow]  Not even the traffic study had an effect on these individuals. And not even the coherency of their colleagues MacKay and Hughes made a dent.

But they did listen to the one who did sloppy homework – city administrator, Patrick Draper. The one who gets paid an exorbitant salary to not even take the initiative to go back to the province and ask for a short extension while another site was studied. Excellent examples of sloughing off and still expect to pass the grade.

Rounding off this insult to education was left to Crouse at the third and final reading of amendments saying that his representation went “beyond taxpayers and voters” to include children. Of course that is at the cost of other children.

Is it any wonder that our society is such a mess?

 

A Rarity Indeed

Ever notice that months after an election, politicians tend to show their true colours. For most, the platforms they ran on quickly become a distant memory. Sure they will allude to one or two of their “goals” during their time in office, but overall their meaningless words during election season are just that . . . . meaningless.

Then there is the odd politician who goes into office and actually “lives” the promises he gave during an election campaign. Like him or not, Brent Rathgeber is one such politician. He was elected into office to represent his constituents and found that once there, his political values and ethics were being compromised. Voters know the rest of the story.

What does Brent Rathgeber have to do with St. Albert? Other than representing us federally, he has shown a nation what it means to stay true to the election platform he ran on. Residents are lucky to have voted such a man into office to represent them, as such integrity in a politician is a rare thing indeed.

On a local level residents once again struck gold when Councillor Sheena Hughes and Councillor Cam MacKay were elected into office. For those who have been following council meetings, been to various open houses, or have been following council members through various media forms, the one thing that sets these two apart is their consistency in following through with their platforms. Articulate, intelligent and responsive to the citizens of St. Albert, they have not wavered from their election promises.

Old politicians tend not to tolerate dissent or independent thinking, but serious politicians like Councillors Hughes and MacKay show that their independent thinking is what makes them appealing to people from all walks of life.

Already blazing their own paths of transparency and accountability will make the next few years interesting.

The State of Eldorado

The State of Eldorado

Several of our earlier blogs introduced the reader as to how Mayor Crouse and Councillors Heron and Brodhead milk taxpayers’ to support ICLEI’s program. Savvy Albertans also know the ties the provincial government has to this U.N. branch. Is it any wonder then that this city would turn against citizens to push their “smart city” agenda of congesting people into less space through?

A few facts:

  • The City did not fight to keep the school reserves in Akinsdale, but is fighting to take away green space in Erin Ridge to have a school built.
  • Mr. Draper, by his own admission, did not seek out an extension with the province so an alternate viable site, such as the Badger lands, could be found. Is he not working for the residents of St. Albert who pay his salary, or is this an example of his inability to do so?
  • The Liberal Opposition stated that “last month, the government admitted it won’t be able to meet its target and build 50 new schools and modernize 70 more by 2016.If this is the case, then Mr. Draper should have no problem going back to the province and actually do his job. And given the province’s statement, M. St-Jean (Francophone school board trustee) should then have no issue with the extended time period it will take to build this school in Riverside or the Badger lands as the time line could realistically be the same.

Other considerations:

  • Will St. Albert property taxpayers see a reduction on the city’s part in order to accommodate the higher education taxes that will be foisted upon them through the P3 model? If the school is indeed built in Erin Ridge, will these residents’ taxes be adjusted to reflect the devaluation of their properties?
  • If the City can so easily rezone land, imagine what it can do to your neighbourhood.

St. Albert residents have repeatedly been privy to green space land grabs or attempted land grabs throughout Mayor Crouse’s time in office. The Arlington “project” in Akinsdale and the bike skills park in Grandin are the two recent notable ones. And now Eldorado Park in Erin Ridge. Of course the City will go through some motions to try and appease those affected, but when push really comes to shove, quality of life in the affected neighbourhood will be tossed; traffic congestions will get a band-aide solution; and the safety of residents will be ignored so that those supporting this costly endeavour can help propagate the joke of “botanical” St. Albert.

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If you have taken the time to read this, please support Erin Ridge residents by signing their petition. Details can be found at the top of this page.

Another Gaffe?

June 25th, 2013. A well known political figure steps out of his vehicle, approaches a group in public and emits obscenities in front of witnesses. Several months later he is once again caught saying things that no principled politician would be verbalizing in public. One has to wonder why a politician, who just recently won an election, is so insecure with individuals he works for and with.

Asking hard questions and expecting verifiable responses is the mark of a conscientious politician working for the people he represents. It is refreshing that present council does indeed have such individuals on board. It offers a small amount of hope that not all politicians are corrupt.

New perspectives and questions that have been evident in and out of council meetings over the past months should be positively received as they open up scenarios that may not have been previously considered. A sign of true leadership would welcome these as new solutions are sought.

But then true leadership is a rarity and over time many politicians succumb to Machiavellian inclinations where retaining authority and power at the cost of integrity becomes justifiable for them.  This seems to be the case with Mayor Crouse.

He can not circumvent his latest public faux pas. Too many can vouch for what transpired. And until he publically addresses it, it won’t fade from the spotlight. Residents are talking, bloggers are blogging, twitter is tweeting and talk forums are exploding. It may not be quite the Mayor Rob Ford fiasco, but for a small city of this size the Mayor’s conduct towards other council members, as well as the public does matter.

Maybe it is time to do the responsible thing and own the mistake. Even Mayor Rob Ford did. Maybe the stress of being in office for a third term is showing. Maybe it is time . . . . . . .

Bike Skills Park

Albeit the notice sits on page 44 of the January 08, 2014 edition of the St. Albert Gazette and can therefore be easily overlooked, it at least gives residents the opportunity to voice their opinion if they want their green space to be disturbed to erect a bike skills park.

Lessons learned from the Akinsdale and Erin Ridge fiascos should hopefully alert Grandin Park residents of the havoc government decisions can cause residents.

If you are a resident of the affected area reading this, notify others through any means available – social media, flyers, phone, door knocking.

Even those not directly affected should voice their opinion, or at least follow the proceedings as one never knows what special interest group is lurking in the background with an eye on your  neighbourhood.  Support these residents with their preference and hopefully they will support your neighbourhood with yours.

Reiterating the opportunities given to be “heard”:

January 15th, 2014 – Sir George Simpson School – 6:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.

January 18th, 2014 – Grandin Clubhouse – 1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. (odd hours for those that work)

Online: www.stalbert.ca/bike-skills-park

E-mail comments to: bikeskillspark@st-albert.net