York Taxpayers get action for women in York region

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During the March 22, 2017 York Region Police Services Board meeting, we raised our concerns with the number of reported sexual assault complaints that are closed as “unfounded” by the police. Unfounded complaints are considered by police as to never have happened.

Here’s the letter we wrote to York Region’s police board on February 16th asking for the police chief to re-open sexual assault files: http://www.yorktaxpayer.ca/uncategorized/our-letter-to-york-region-police-board-about-sexual-assault/

In York Region, almost 1 of every 3 sexual assault complaints reported to police are closed because the victim was either thought to be untruthful or unbelievable. It’s an astounding number compared to the City of Toronto, which has an unfounded rate of just 7%.

Thanks to our advocacy, the York Region Police Services Board has ordered the York Region Police Chief to conduct a review of how sexual assault complaints are investigated. Should the Police Chief discover any sexual assault complaint that was erroneously closed as “unfounded,” it’s our hope that he will reassign the case be reconsidered.

Victims deserve justice.

During our advocacy, the York Region Taxpayer Coalition heard from two York Region MPPs, Reza Moridi of Richmond Hill and Helena Jaczek representing Oak Ridges-Markham. We hope that this review of sexual assaults in York Region will encourage other York Region area MPPs to get weigh in on the importance of police response towards sexual assault crimes.

Upon completion of his review, the York Region Taxpayer Coalition will receive a copy of the Police Chief’s report. We will share any findings and/or recommendations with our members.

York Region wants to ask the province permission to implement new taxes. Here’s why.

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Since the formation of the York Region Taxpayer Coalition back in 2015, we have been warning our members about the alarming public debt load of the York Region Government. In 2015, the Regional debt was pegged at $2.54 Billion. Some estimates we’ve seen expect a $3.7 billion York Regional debt by 2020, an increase of approximately 50% in just 5 years.

Spending in York Region has gone unchecked and unmanaged under the present regime of Mayors and Regional Councillors.

York Regional Government is considering asking the province for new taxation powers. This isn’t surprising: after all, with massive debt loads, York Region has no other choice but to seek new ways of taxing residents. After so many years of ignoring the fiscal crisis facing the Region, we are finally seeing some signs that the municipality will attempt to get its own house in order, yet again at the expense of the taxpayer.

There remains an open faucet of spending on vanity type projects at York Region government. Spending $225,000,000 on a new administrative annex is one example of a luxury item this government cannot afford. Committing tens of millions to an ill-conceived business plan involving broad band internet to service the MUSH sector is another. The Mayors and Regional Councillors love to spend, spend, spend.

The roots of York Region problems lie in the miscalculation the Regional Council made when it came to planning for new growth. Armed with the numbers from the Places to Grown Act, the Region committed to undertaking massive infrastructure spending in anticipated new development. Other regional governments were more prudent, taking a wait and see approach to development. By fast tracking infrastructure spending, York Region planned to recoup the money it borrowed through development charges. They did this by raising development charges to over $40,000 per single family home. When you add this charge on top of what the lower tier municipalities charge in addition, this adds up to a hefty cost for developers.

So, when growth failed to materialize, in part because high development fees decreased the profitability of new developments, York Region Government found that it had to borrow more and more to fund its on-going infrastructure commitments. Concerned about the amount of debt York Region is accumulating, Standard & Poor rating agency downgraded York Region’s credit rating, which makes the cost of borrowing more expensive.

York Region’s administration refuses to admit an error in its planning estimates. Publicly, the administration is saying that it still believes that it will hit growth targets by 2031. It remains committed to funding the infrastructure, which means billions in additional spending are yet to be spent.

To do this, new taxes are required be collected. This means additional taxes on land transfers, vehicle registration, entertainment, alcohol and tobacco and so on, which York Region is asking the province to greenlight.

York Region wants to request powers of new taxation from the province, similar to what Toronto was granted. But what York Region fails to see in their request are accountability and transparency measures, which are contained in the City of Toronto Act. We must replace the ADR (outsourced) Ombudsman with a legitimate Ombudsman who will stand up for residents. We must have an auditor general who can keep an eye on spending. For example: this past week the Toronto Auditor General reported bid rigging on paving contracts – resulting in a police investigation. And we must have a powerful Integrity Commissioner with a lobbyist registry to ensure our elected officials follow the rules.

There is too much money on the line. If York Region wants more power to spend our taxes, we must have the accountability officers in place who have real authority to make sure the billions of dollars our Mayors and Regional Councillors spend are being put to good use and to ensure there is no corruption.

Our letter to York Region Police Board about sexual assault

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After reviewing a Globe & Mail report concerning sexual assault investigations in York Region, the following letter will be delivered to the York Region Police Services Board, chaired by Markham Mayor Frank Scarpitti:

 

February 16, 2017

Christopher Raynor, Clerk

The Regional Municipality of York Police Service Board

17250 Yonge Street

Newmarket, Ontario

L3Y 6Z1

 

Dear Mr. Raynor,

Please include this correspondence with your March 22, 2017 agenda of the York Police Services Board.

The Globe and Mail reports that the 5-year unfounded sexual assault rate for York Region Police is 31%. Of a total 2,058 complaints received by police between 2010 to 2014, 646 were dismissed because the police concluded that the alleged assault never happened. Of the sexual assault allegations received during this period, 790 resulted in charges being laid by police.

In comparison, The City of Toronto received more than 5 times the complaints of sexual assault over this same period of time. Yet, Toronto Police dismissed just 7% of the cases as unfounded. 78% of complaints about sexual assault received by Toronto Police resulted in charges being laid, compared to just 38% of complaints in York Region that resulted in charges laid.

Not too long ago, the Ontario Government launched a $41-million ad campaign asking citizens to help stop the spread of sexual violence. On social media, the hash tag #ItsNeverOK was used.  On television, commercials reminded us that when we do nothing, we are helping the perpetrator. When we do something, we help the victim of sexual violence. “Thanks for not telling,” was the tagline in these commercials.

With a population of 1,122,803, we see that incidents of sexual assault are under-reported in comparison to the City of Toronto.  It isn’t hard to imagine why victims are afraid to come forward to the police judging by the odds that their assault will be dismissed as unfounded by York Region Police.

Residents need to have confidence in York Regional Police and their ability to investigate crimes. We are seeking assurances that those responsible for sexual assault crimes will be brought to justice.

Other police services, such as the OPP and Brantford Police, have responded to the Globe and Mail’s report with promises to re-examine complaints closed as unfounded. It is frankly unacceptable that The Regional Municipality of York Police Service Board did not consider the Globe and Mail’s report during your February 15, 2017 meeting.

It is the responsibility of the York Police Services Board to provide civilian oversight of our police force. The issue of sexual assault crimes can no longer be dismissed/ ignored. We are asking you to direct Chief Joliffe to put more resources towards this criminal activity to ensure that victims of sexual assault are confident to report crimes to York Police. We are also seeking Chief Joliffe to provide answers as to why so many complaints have been dismissed/ ignored in comparison to Toronto Police records. And finally, we would like explanations why Toronto Police have almost twice the success at bringing charges against a perpetrator as compared to York Region Police.

We suspect that the answers to these issues lies within the area of proper allocation of resources within the police budget towards sexual assault investigations. This means that your Board and the senior management team at York Regional Police must do a better job of using budgets more effectively.

We look forward to your response to this very serious matter.

Sincerely,

Maddie Di Muccio

President, York Region Taxpayers Coalition

Our condolences to the passing of Regional Councillor Danny Wheeler

The York Region Taxpayer Coalition is saddened by the news of Regional Councillor Danny Wheeler’s passing on Tuesday. Regional Councillor Wheeler was just 69.

Regional Councillor Wheeler represented the Municipality of Georgina with great distinction for 11 terms.

Flags will be flown at half-mast and this Thursday’s Regional Council meeting will include a moment of silence to honour his memory.

A book of condolences has been set up in the lobby of the Georgina Civic Centre located at 26557 Civic Centre Road in Keswick.

Why York Region Taxpayers Coalition Is Necessary

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Once again, York Region Taxpayers Coalition and its volunteers are having a positive effect on accountability in York Region.

Controversial York Regional Councillor John Taylor from the town of Newmarket has once again been caught red-handed and has been forced to change his ways.

It was a complaint in November 2014 that revealed Taylor was using the municipal offices of the Town of Newmarket to run a private organization that was unaffiliated with the local government. Only after documents from Revenue Canada and the organization itself that proved the allegations beyond a shadow of a doubt did he decide to relocate his private enterprise out of the publicly owned buildings.

In June 2015, Mr. Taylor was compelled to refund $750 to BionX after one of our volunteers revealed that this donation may have breached the Municipal Elections Act.

In November 2015, after the controversial Taylor refused repeatedly to disclose his personal interests in an advertising contract between the local government and Mr. Taylor’s wife’s company, our volunteers continued pushing the issue. Eventually, he gave in and declared his conflict of interest.

In March 2016, after learning about an approximately $1,900 payment made to York Regional Councillor John Taylor by the Town of Newmarket to purchase his campaign website, our volunteers made a number of complaints to the town’s CAO, Treasurer and Director of Corporate Communications – and all refused to address our complaints.

The payment was made to reimburse Mr. Taylor for a website, www.johntaylornewmarket.ca, that he described as:

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Only after our members would not accept these refusals and persisted in their efforts to ensure public funds were not being spent on Mr. Taylor’s political ambitions, did Mr. Taylor change his tune:

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This is now the fourth time in just over a year that the York Region Taxpayers Coalition has caught Newmarket’s controversial Regional Councillor breaking the rules. It’s the fourth time that we managed to bring him back in line.

With people like Regional Councillor John Taylor repeatedly breaking the rules, now more than ever, we need accountability at York Region. Last year we won our battle to have a York Region Ombudsman appointed.

But there’s still more to do.

The York Region Taxpayers Coalition is continuing to push for a Lobbyist Registry, Council Code of Conduct, Integrity Commissioner, and Auditor General.

York Region’s Sunshine List goes from 358 employees to 1,812 in just 3 years

In May 2012, York Region Media Group reported that 358 York Region Employees were included on the “Sunshine List” list of employees who earned more than $100,000 annually.

Yesterday, reports indicated that the number of high income earners has grown to 1,812 employees.

That’s an unbelievable growth rate of 406% in high salaried positions over a period of only 3 years time.

Of a resident’s property tax bill, the portion that goes to York Region is between 40% and 50%, depending on which of the nine lower tier municipalities you reside in.

Canada Census data shows York Region’s population was 1,032,524 in 2011. York Region estimates that the population has grown to 1,133,900 by the end of 2014 – or a 9.8% growth rate. Which begs the question: how does York Region defend hiring an additional 1,454 employees making over $100,000 from 358 employees in just 3 years time?

York Region’s public debt is at an all time high and expected to continue to grow in years to come.

Yet despite the tax burden and the free wheel spending, it is difficult to learn where the public’s money is being spent.

York Region Taxpayers Coalition continues to call for greater transparency at York Region. Specific to York Region’s finances, we are calling on York Region Council to appoint an Auditor General to review spending decisions and provide direction on reducing waste and fraud.

York Region Council consists of the Mayors of the nine lower tier municipalities that comprise of York Region and Regional Councillors elected from the municipalities of Markham, Vaughan, Richmond Hill, Newmarket and Georgina.

York Region Councillor reimbursed tax dollars for a campaign website? Town refuses to answer question despite evidence

York Region Taxpayers Coalition has reason to believe a controversial Newmarket politician who sits on York Region Council has been reimbursed almost $2,000 of taxpayer dollars for his personal web site.

A just-published quarterly report from the Town of Newmarket’s website on 2015 Elected Officials Expenses indicates Newmarket Regional Councillor John Taylor was reimbursed $1,890.70 for a website that was provided by RC Designs, a Newmarket based web company who donated to Taylor’s 2014 municipal campaign by creating his campaign website (see below):

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The Town of Newmarket expense is listed as “RC Design Website Update (for John Taylor) Elected Officials $1,890.70.”

York Region Taxpayers Coalition president, Maddie Di Muccio, made inquiries with the Treasurer of the Town of Newmarket for more information. After a second attempt cc’ing a Toronto Star reporter, we immediately heard back from Newmarket Treasurer Mike Mayes. We’ve learned:

1) That the web address for this site is unknown by the Town of Newmarket. Treasurer Mike Mayes wrote “(the web address) was not provided with the claim but is not required to be in compliance with the Town’s Elected Officials Expense Policy.” (Yes, you read that correctly. The Town’s Expense Policy for elected officials apparently allows tax dollars to be used for personal websites; nor does a councillor have to provide evidence of the actual website)

2) When we attempted to visit John Taylor’s personal website, one he often used to promote his political agenda on, www.johntaylornewmarket.ca, we received a “404 Not Found” error message – even though he promotes this site on his Facebook political profile page.

3) Yet the invoice that the Town of Newmarket paid was for work completed that was for “design and development” and included:

a. Updating the web site to match the Town of Newmarket’s colours;
b. Updating the title of Mr. Taylor;
c. Updating user interface and content;
d. Changes to the site architecture;
e. Adjustments to the content.

The Town of Newmarket’s website publishes an Elected Officials page that displays councillor’s personal website addresses in small print, but they include a disclaimer regarding the views expressed on them. (For example, Newmarket Mayor Tony Van Bynen’s website www.vanbynen.ca listed on the Town’s website includes campaign activity.)

Mr. Taylor has owned political web sites prior to 2015 (although nothing since), but these former web sites consisted of content he used in re-election bids. York Region Taxpayers Coalition is watching for new developments very closely to ensure that public funds were not being used to fuel Mr. Taylor’s political ambitions. A politicians’ website potentially allows them to capture visitor emails that are then used for future campaigning.

There has been speculation that Taylor will be running for Newmarket Mayor in 2018 after what will likely be the current aging mayor’s last term.

York Region politician John Taylor made controversial waves in 2015 after an integrity commissioner complaint was launched when it was discovered he was using town resources to run his personal charity. At that time, Newmarket’s integrity commissioner indicated the Town’s flawed policy was at fault.

Later in 2015, Mr. Taylor paid back a campaign contribution of $750 to a Stronach related company after a complaint was filed regarding a breach of campaign finance rules.

In a staggering lack of accountability by refusing to indicate which web address tax dollars paid for, and that could be used for campaigning, the Town of Newmarket illustrates lax policies on Elected Officials expenses, allowing politicians to use tax dollars for furthering their own political ambitions.

We remind our members of two important details concerning Mr. Taylor:

1) He has run previously for the York Region Council Chair position. He did so just weeks after he was re-elected to Regional Council. Had he been successful in winning this appointment back in 2014, his ambitions would have resulted in a wasteful $250,000 by-election to fill his Regional Council seat.

We believe this incident is pertinent because it reflects Mr. Taylor’s attitude towards using public money to further his political ambitions.

2) Mr. Taylor’s spouse is the Vice President of Metroland Media, which publishes most of York Region’s local newspapers. The Newmarket Era asked no questions of Taylor’s $1,890.70 website reimbursement. We are advising members to view news printed – or omitted – about Mr. Taylor within that perspective.

The Town of Newmarket has yet to address our questions regarding reimbursing Taylor for a website that taxpayers paid for, that doesn’t currently seem to exist, that they admit they don’t know exists, and one that is likely to be furthering his political ambitions, admitting “rules” in place make this possible.

At press time, the Town of Newmarket has not answered our latest inquiry:

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The regional councillor’s Official Profile Page on Facebook includes political campaigning and his website, johntaylornewmarket.ca.

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The Regional Councillor’s LinkedIn page indicates his “personal website”  – which takes the user to  www.johntaylornewmarket.ca – a non-existent url.

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York Region Taxpayers can’t afford another subway extension fiasco

York Region Council travelled together to Ottawa last week with an ill-conceived plan to convince the Federal Government to partner up on a TTC Line 1 subway extension into Richmond Hill.

The problem with “partnering” with York Region is that our municipality is out of money. As a result of poor fiscal management by York Region Council, area residents are facing record levels of municipal debt, sky high development charges, and rising taxes. The public can’t afford to spend $1 Billion on 6 new subway stops for one of our southern lower tier towns.

$1 Billion is the predicted 4-way cost sharing project estimate between the Federal, Provincial, City of Toronto and York Region. The City of Toronto is a less than enthusiastic partner as the Mayor and various Toronto Councillors have pointed out that they have other TTC priorities – such as Smart Track and a Relief Line.

York Region Council seems to have a very short memory on the cost of building subways. In February, Council voted to increase spending on the Toronto York Spadina Subway Extension (TYSSE) to over $600 million, which is almost double to original estimate.

The TYSSE project was slated to cost $2.8 Billion. The Richmond Hill extension is a much larger project slated at $4 Billion. As York Region Taxpayers Coalition has reported previously, the current allotment of costs for the TYSSE exceeds $2,000 per household in York Region. Our organization does not support arguments that York Region homeowners can afford another $1 Billion mega project at this time.

With the Richmond Hill Subway extension, York Region Council is expecting that there will be a housing boom in the area of the 6 proposed stations.

With development charges in York Region excessively higher than the City of Toronto, expectations of developers lining up to build high rise condominium towers may not be realized.

The York Region Taxpayers Coalition is seeking concrete plans from how York Region Council intends to pay off its existing debt before allocating $1 Billion of increased spending towards another mega project like the Richmond Hill Subway extension.

We are asking that our mayors and regional councillors acknowledge the reality of York Region’s financial morass and re-focus on sound fiscal management.

Newmarket-Aurora MPP inexplicably gets in the way of his own Bill

On Wednesday, February 24th, York Region Taxpayers Coalition’s president Maddie Di Muccio attended the Ontario Legislature Committee reviewing Bill 42 on the proposed election of the York Region Chair.

Each of the presenters was supportive of an elected Chair for York Region.

The York Region Taxpayers Coalition presented our views as well and fielded questions from all three parties clarifying our position.

After the Committee hearing wrapped up, Di Muccio stayed on at Queen’s Park and spoke to members of the Legislature on Bill 42.

This bill is a private member’s bill, and as is the nature of private bills, it seems that MPP Ballard may have an uphill battle to get it passed. The level of support from the public and from what was sensed by observing the committee isn’t doubted.

As it stands, it’s unclear whether the governing party, the Ontario Liberals, will agree to place it before the Legislature to vote on.

In fact, we learned yesterday that earlier the Standing Committee of the Legislative Assembly attempted to move Bill 42 ahead, but astoundingly, it was MPP Ballard himself that requested the Bill be removed from the order.

It seems that even MPP Ballard isn’t sold on the idea of an elected Chair.

The advice we received is as follows:

In 2018, voters need to ask candidates where they stand on electing a Regional Chair and support only any Mayor and Regional Council candidates who will agree to a general election. If there is a “made in York Region solution” after the 2018 election, the Ontario Legislature will happily approve this.

However, as long as the current set of Mayors and Regional Councillors are opposed to the idea of electing a Chair person, it’s unlikely that the Ontario Legislature will want to force something upon them.

That’s because sitting MPPs are reluctant to ruffle feathers with their local mayors.

York Region Taxpayers Coalition formally asks Law Society of Upper Canada to provide governance of Ontario’s municipal integrity commissioner profession

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The York Region Taxpayers Coalition is advocating for the Region of York to adopt a Council Code of Conduct, a Lobbyist Registry and hire an Integrity Commissioner.

Approximately 70 of the 440 Ontario municipalities have a Council Code of Conduct and the list is growing.  There are now 38 integrity commissioners employed in this field.  The Municipal Act doesn’t specify any qualifications for an Integrity Commissioner but most of these 38 working in the field are lawyers.

In the past 24-months, Ontario has seen plenty of controversy involving decisions made by integrity commissioners. Some of their decisions have ended up in our courts or are currently being challenged in our courts. Examples include former Toronto city Mayor Rob Ford when asked to reimburse certain charity donors despite the fact that the Municipal Act only allows for two penalties – censure or suspension of pay; and the  Deputy Mayor of the City of Vaughan, who is presently suing the City and its Integrity Commissioner for an investigation she conducted in which his lawyer claims ignored his client’s rights under the law.

We see multiple examples of Municipal Integrity Commissioners acting beyond their scope of duties. These scopes of duties are mandated by the Council they are appointed by.

The York Region Taxpayers Coalition believes that the actions of certain individuals within the Integrity Commissioner field are giving the profession a bad name and requires professional oversight.  The public needs an organization to set professional standards and governance to enforce the “Integrity” of those who call themselves Integrity Commissioners.

Recognizing the growing controversies, the 38 Integrity Commissioners have very recently formed a group called AMICO (Association of Municipal Integrity Commissioners of Ontario). This group has petitioned the provincial government to self-govern.

The York Region Taxpayers Coalition believes that a small group of people to self-govern is a recipe for disaster. The public needs an organization like the Law Society of Upper Canada to step in and fill this governance/professional standards vacuum.

The York Region Taxpayers Coalition has petitioned the Law Society of Upper Canada to assume this role for the Municipal Integrity Commissioner profession.