If you throw crud against a wall often enough, some of it is going to stick.
And that seems to be what mayoral candidate Rory Ring is counting on to bring him success in this election campaign.
In attack-dog mode, he has been disparaging incumbent Christian Provenzano in news release after news release.
Are all his claims and complaints true?
From my read, not so much.
But then, I think about the wall. I know some people won’t bother to check the validity of the crud (a more polite term than is usually used) that is sticking to it. They will just accept as gospel what Ring has thrown there.
Heck, you only have to look at the election of Donald Trump as president of the United States to see how well that can work.
Ring in a news release early in the campaign said that in April of 2017 Essar-Algoma had won a substantial victory in its assessment appeal with the Assessment Review Board and as a result the value of its land was dropped from $83 million to $39 million.
He also indicated the city had sued Essar-Algoma for unpaid taxes.
He was wrong on both counts.
The lowering of Essar-Algoma’s assessment wasn’t done because an appeal was won; it simply came about through the reassessment that MPAC does for all property every four years.
As well, the city never sued for back taxes. You can’t sue an entity that is under bankruptcy protection.
He also claimed early on that business and industry took a 56.7% tax-rate hit in 2018 because of the loss of taxes from Essar-Algoma and he continues to make the claim that it was in the 2018 budget.
The latest examples of Ring making claims that have no substance came out in news releases this week.
He said a Freedom of Information (FOI) request was made at the Civic Centre for the purposes of disclosing how much money in total had been paid out to employees in the form of severance costs. The request included those employees who had left or were dismissed from employment at the Police Services, Fire Services or City.
“Unfortunately the mayor is refusing to release this information and would rather hide this total from taxpayers,” Ring said. “So I have to ask why, Mr. Mayor? Tell us how much you paid these employees to leave. Is this partly the reason our taxes went up 11 percent?”
Here again Ring is speaking from a lack of knowledge as to how the system works.
“The mayor and council have no say regarding requests made under Freedom of Information,” Malcolm White, deputy CAO / city clerk, told me. “They are not even made aware of them.”
White said Freedom of Information requests are handled solely by the legal department.
Actually I can tell you from personal experience that even top officials in city hall don’t have a say in what is released through Freedom of Information because I have obtained information through FOI requests that wasn’t forthcoming through initial direct approaches.
For his part, Provenzano said all he knew of Ring’s FOI request he had learned from Ring’s press release whereby he announced to the community he had made an FOI request
In the news release up for discussion here, Ring also claims Provenzano is both judge and jury when it comes to deciding what items will be presented to council and which citizens will be heard.
“In the past, two councillors participated on a rotating basis with the mayor in deciding each agenda. Legislatively the mayor and several councillors may set the agenda as long as there is not a majority of council present which would create a quorum and in effect would constitute a closed- door meeting on items which should be open to the public. So far the Mayor’s excuse to be more open and transparent is that he did not change the format of the meetings, but nothing is preventing him from moving back to a more open and inclusive format.”
Provenzano counters that he did not change the agenda review process, that the exact same agenda review process is being used as mayor and council used when he was elected.
He is backed up on this by White, who explained that an amendment to the agenda review process was made in 2011, after resident Mark Brown complained that he was not allowed to attend agenda meetings, which he claimed should be open to the public.
“Prior to this amendment the Agenda Review Committee consisted of the Mayor, two councillors from the wards that were being used that month for courtesy movers and seconders, the CAO and the City Clerk,” White said in an email..
“After Mark Brown’s complaint to the Ombudsman and subsequent dialogue with the Ombudsman it was apparent that the Agenda Review Committee as structured would be required to observe the open-meeting provisions of the Municipal Act, which had been amended by the province. This spurred a review of other municipalities’ practices in setting council agendas.”
White said the review found that in almost all cases the agenda was considered an administrative practice and was carried out by the clerk, CAO or city manager, and sometimes included the Mayor.
In his report to council, White also pointed out that approval of the agenda is carried out as the second order of business at all city council meetings and that items can be added or removed by a majority vote of council.
As a result he recommended to council on Feb. 22, 201l, that composition of the Agenda Committee be revised to consist of the mayor, chief administrative officer and city clerk. His recommendation was accepted and that is the process that remains to this day.
There is nothing nefarious about it in regard to the mayor, as Ring would have voters believe.
I am getting tired of correcting Ring’s gaffe’s and don’t intend, with the election right around the corner, to correct them any more.
I know he hasn’t been here long so can’t be expected to know all that much about the city, but that doesn’t excuse him for the factual errors he is making.
It also doesn’t excuse those who are assisting on his campaign, people who have been here for the long haul and who must know in their hearts that a lot of what he is saying is absolute rubbish.