On Monday, October 22nd, Vote for Betty Disero for Lord Mayor and for Gary Zalepa for Regional Council
It Is High Time For NOTL’s current Lord Mayor, Patrick Darte, to Say Goodbye!
A Commentary by Niagara At Large reporter and publisher Doug Draper
Posted October 17th, 2018 on Niagara At Large
If you are a voter living in the municipality of Niagara-on-the-Lake and you are feeling as fed up or angry as many of the rest of us in Niagara are over what has been going on at the regional government level, the good news is this.
There is something you can help do about the mess at the Region in this coming Monday, October 22nd municipal elections by voting in people who can play a role in making our regional government work in ways that are open, fair, civil and functional again for all of us who live and work in Niagara, and want to build a healthy, prosperous future here.
Voters in Niagara-on-the-Lake (NOTL) can play an important role in getting Niagara Region’s council back on track again by going to the polls – en masse – this October 22nd and electing two good people we at Niagara At Large believe you are fortunate to have on your ballots.
Those two people are currently NOTL town councillors – Gary Zalepa, who is now running to for NOTL’s one and only directly elected seat on the Region’s council, and Betty Disero, who is running for Lord Mayor of NOTL’s town council and who would, as Lord Mayor, also hold a seat on regional council.
Both Disero and Zalepa have openly expressed their disappointment in the conduct of too many of the players and at the overall quality of governance at the regional level and have vowed to participate in working for something far better if elected.
Given the magnitude of the mess we now face at the Region around partisan-laced cronyism and controversial hiring, right up to the hiring of former NPCA CAO Carmen D’Angelo as CAO for the Region – a hiring that has triggered so many alarm bells it is now the subject of an Ontario Ombudsman’s Office investigation – and given the lack of civility, fairness and openness demonstrated at too many regional council meetings, candidates like Disero and Zalepa, who express a will to change all that for the better, means a lot.
Given how divisive and dysfunctional things have become at the regional level over the past four years with the Region’s current chair, Al Caslin, and his cabal running the show, electing enough good people to make a difference at the Region means everything.
As a veteran news reporter in Niagara, I know that many of us feel closer to our local councils and place more focus on them at election time.
Yet it is very important to remember that our regional government is responsible for a huge percentage of our tax money – now more than a billion dollars annually – and has much to do with such essentials as waste collection, water and waste water treatment, regional roads, policing, affordable housing, and long-term care and public health services.
The Region also makes decisions about planning that can have either good or bad consequences for how our communities grow and what becomes of what are left of our precious green spaces in Niagara.
That is the reason why we simply cannot afford another four more years of to be blunt, the shit shows we have too often been treated to, courtesy of too many characters on the current regional council. It is not good for our future in this region, and for the future of young people who want to live in Niagara and build something better for themselves and their communities.
Unfortunately, over the past four years, NOTL’s current lord mayor, Patrick Darte, has shown, through his record at the regional government level, that he cannot be counted on to help up build that better future.
Time after time, Darte has voted in lock step with Caslin’s same group of fellow travellers on motions that have contributed to the whirlwind of chaos and controversy that engulfs the regional government today.
Darte was among those who, right after the current term of regional council began in December of 2014, voted to appoint Caslin the Region’s chair (effectively marking the end of Gary Burrough’s tenure as chair during more decent times one can only dream about now).
In February of 2015, Darte joined a majority of members of what has been dubbed by at least some citizens as Caslin’s cabal, in voting against appointing an integrity commissioner to address code of conduct complaints at the Region.
Then in June of 2016 he voted with more or less the same group of councillors against demands by members of the public to have a ‘value for money audit’ done on the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority (NPCA) – a trouble-plagued body where he has a seat as a board member, yet apparently saw no conflict in voting for or against an audit anyway.
A few months later, in October of 2016, Darte compounded his record at the region by voting to hire then NPCA CAO Carmen D’Angelo to the CAO job at the Region, despite a list of questions and concerns circulating about D’Angelo’s tenure at the Conservation Authority at the time.
Then, and in spite of his earlier opposition to an independent audit of the NPCA, in February of this year Darte voted in favour of calls from an angry group of Pelham residents for an audit of that town’s financial books, even though a review of the town’s books by a major accounting firm, KPMG, found “no unreported debt” and cleared the town and its council (including Pelham Mayor Dave Augustyn, who appeared to be the real target for some here) of any wrong doing.
More recently, in July of this year, Darte was among those who voted to close any further probe into charges that the 2016 hiring of CAO D’Angelo may have been compromised or tainted – charges that persist to this day and are now, thanks to continued revelations in the local media, along with pressure from members of the public and a handful of gutsy regional councillors, are now the subject of an Ontario Ombudsman’s investigation.
Then there is the NPCA where Darte continues to sit on a board of directors that has presided over decisions to relieve a number of respected conservation workers of their jobs.
It is also a board that has presided overan unsuccessful lawsuit against a Niagara citizen who raised concerns about the way the NPCA does business, a continued lawsuit against a former NPCA employee for raising concerns about workplace harassment inside the organization.
It’s a board that presided over the censuring and smearing of Lincoln regional councillor and former NPCA board member Bill Hodgson for reasons that found no support in a recently released Ontario Auditor General’s report, and over a whole litany of troubling findings about the way this body goes about doing business, listed in that same Auditor General’s report.
All of it adds up to why it is so necessary for voters in Niagara-on-the-Lake to show Patrick Darte the door, and to bring in people like Betty Disero and Gary Zalepa who promise to deliver something far better at the regional level than what we have suffered through over the past four years.
While you are at it, why not vote for Gary Burroughs – a person of honesty and principle, which means a lot in politics these days – to a seat on the town’s council.
Going back to my earliest years as a reporter for The St. Catharines Standard in the 1980s, I’ve have always known Gary Burroughs to be a person of integrity, who has done is best to work in the interests of the community at large.
To learn more about Betty Disero from her campaign website, click on – http://bettydisero.ca/
To visit Gary Zalepa’s campaign website, click on – https://www.garyzalepa.com/
To read read Ontario Auditor General Bonnie Lysyk’s entire Special Report on the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority’s operations, click on –http://www.auditor.on.ca/en/content/specialreports/specialreports/NPCA_en.pdf
A Brief Footnote from Niagara At Large reporter and publisher Doug Draper –
I wish to stress that these are endorsements from the heart because this observer of what has been going on at the regional council level over the past four years is convinced that for the sake of our region, and for my daughter and her friends who are in their 20s now and would like to have a future here, we cannot afford four more years of the horror show we have had.
Niagara At Large is not receiving a single penny, directly or indirectly through advertising or any other means, from anyone for posting these endorsements.
Stay Tune for more endorsements in the few days to come before we vote.
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