FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
November 12, 2013
The Citizens For a Better Brampton (CFBB) are dismayed that our Mayor and Council are considering a 6.5% tax increase or millions of dollars of cuts to services in the upcoming 2014 city budget. As has been reported in the media, the fact that our Mayor is the highest paid in all of Canada, earning more than the Premier of Ontario, is quite distressing! It is when you add up all of the Mayor’s spending to include her salary (City, Region, Police Services Board), staff complement, all travel (International & Domestic), community involvement and all expenses, that’s where it gets a bit difficult to accept!
Now, only because of a Freedom of Information request by the Brampton Guardian, we find out our Mayor billed taxpayers $186,000 for expenses on things such as $2,200 for BBQ aprons with her name on them, $1,500 for Rose Orchestra tickets, almost $2,000 for Mandarin lessons and Downtown Toronto hotels while she took them and a total of $130,000 for community events with her name splashed all over them.
Figures will show that our Mayor’s total spending rivals that of Mayor Rob Ford’s, for a City that operates a budget 18 times larger than Brampton’s! Annual cost disclosures also show that Mayor Hazel McCallion’s budget, for Canada’s 6th largest city, is about half of Mayor Fennell’s even though Mississauga’s population is more than 200,000 higher than ours. So before the beleaguered Brampton taxpayer is burdened with additional tax hikes or cuts to important services, CFBB believes it’s about time for some fiscal leadership from our Mayor and some overdue belt tightening of her own.
As a reminder, the last public meeting on the upcoming 2014 Budget is tonight at 7:00 PM at the City Hall Council chambers. We hope to see you there.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
March 26, 2013
Our Mayor, Susan Fennell, never ceases to amaze us at the CFBB ( Citizens For a Better Brampton ). Her sense of personal ‘entitlement’ which shows up time and again – her indefensible level of annual compensation and perks, the recent significant increases in pension and severance packages available to her (and Councillors) which Council approved without debate, her ‘junkets around the world at taxpayers’ expense without revealing costs and results as if she was a trade ambassador ( recently India and China, next month the Philippines! ), serve only to reinforce in the public’s eye that this Mayor exemplifies and enjoys her feeding frenzy at the public trough. It doesn’t show a lot of respect for the citizens of Brampton.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
September 27, 2012
“Response to Mayor Fennell’s Advertisement in the Guardian”
Given the dissatisfaction in the community with the previously untried “Competitive Dialogue” process, would you advise using it again? Is a process that attracts only two serious bids a process which protects your constituents?
Would you retain the creator of this process as a fairness advisor for the future? Do you agree with the Professor that two bids are adequate to adjudge fairness? Do you find it odd that a major Canadian developer would fail to qualify because of conditions imposed by the process?
How have you determined that the Dominus deal represents a “sound business decision”?
How have you determined that the Dominus deal provides the “best value for money”?
How can you represent that the underlying cost of construction is not related to the rents the taxpayer will be paying in the future?
Brampton’s annual operating costs will be increased by close to $8.2M. If the Brampton taxpayer doesn’t pay these costs, who will? Is there any difference between new and old taxes?
You, Madam Mayor, along with other Councillors, approved a secret process. Taxpayers have not been given enough information to assess the investment being made by any rational means. Will you use your position to ensure that Brampton taxpayers will receive adequate information to adjudge this contract with Dominus?
The IPC request asked for a calculation breakdown of how the $242.00 per square foot was derived. Your staff’s recent response to the Privacy Commissioner left that question unanswered. Will you direct staff to provide the information requested, or do you support the incomplete disclosure offered by staff?
With Council’s decision to derogate its responsibility and accede to Professor McKellar’s recommendation that this new procurement process for the City Hall expansion be accepted, the secrecy involving almost every part of the Dominus deal has now without question “hoisted the City on its own petard”, for Council is unable to answer legitimate questions with respect to the deal from an enquiring public. You and Council have surely been the architects of the public’s distrust in your decision making, and the City and the taxpayer are left to be the recipients of an expensive experiment that has clouded the future of downtown, the southwest quadrant and the Brampton community for the next quarter century.
The agenda of the CFBB is simply to get at the facts and ensure that this Council, indeed all future Councils, are accountable, open and transparent in their decisions made on behalf of the taxpayer.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
September 12, 2012
Citizens for a Better Brampton (CFBB) are delighted to have finally received the square footage numbers for the City Hall expansion project. These are some of the most basic facts about this project, and had been withheld by The City. It fell upon a private citizen to pursue a 16 month long, arduous, freedom of information request.
The Information Privacy Commissioner (IPC), acting under the Municipal Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act, issued a crippling blow to the secretive competitive dialogue process. The ruling upholds what CFBB has believed all along; that the excuse of “proprietary information” is not acceptable, and that the public must have access to information allowing us to judge value for taxpayer dollars.
While the members of CFBB are grateful to finally have a breakdown of the total 389,000 square feet, we feel that this falls short of the requested information and IPC ruling. The City was specifically requested:
“To provide clarification on how the $242.00 per square foot price was calculated for Phase 1 and 1a of the Dominus proposal. [Named individual] addressed Council and audience and corrected delegations that presented different numbers for cost and square footage. These figures are not found in the final staff report and cannot be calculated from the information.”
There is no such clarification in the documents received. So that members of the public and press may judge for themselves, CFBB will be posting a document containing the original request, and the information received on our website [http://cfbb.ca/press-releases].
CFBB are somewhat puzzled by Mayor Fennell’s recent full page colour advertisement in The Guardian. This seems to be a crass example of her using tax payer dollars for political gain.
CFBB are uncertain of what she means by citizens criticizing this project based on uninformed opinions. All opinions, including those of The Mayor and Council, are uninformed by the secretive nature of this deal. Only a few select City Staff who participated in negotiations with Dominus could be considered informed. In fact, how could council, so uninformed, give unqualified approval for the proposal?
The citizens of Brampton have also been accused of having an agenda. Indeed we do! Whether residents, after being denied a seat at the table, trying to ensure that their properties are not adversely affected; or the CFBB fighting to ensure transparency with how our tax dollars are spent, we all have an agenda.
We wonder what the Mayor’s agenda is with her self serving advertisement. CFBB will continue to pursue ours as we undertake an in depth review of the numbers only recently made available. Hopefully The City will cooperate with releasing further information to that end. In the mean time, “The lady doth protest too much, methinks.”
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
November 14, 2011
No Astroturf here, just a growing group of ignored voices.
On November 2 the City held its first public meeting on the City Hall Expansion. This meeting was held in the evening, so that working residents could attend, and was a first look at the City’s plans for many. This ‘open house’ style meeting marked an important departure from what the City Manager touted as dozens of public meetings held on the expansion.
Citizens for a Better Brampton (CFBB) maintains that council meetings do not equal public meetings. Many of these meetings did not cover the Dominus proposal in detail, and dealt instead with the procurement process, Council’s outlining of project objectives, and staff reports on the progress of the competitive dialogue. Further, these meetings are not well publicized. Interested citizens are left to sift through a jungle of PDF agendas, which are usually posted less than a week before the meetings are held.
As one resident of Elizabeth Street noted, the November 2nd meeting was the first he had heard of it. This was by a letter received only days earlier. This man’s property directly abuts the construction site. The purpose of the letter was not to inform him of the meeting, but instead seeking his permission to access the construction site through his property and get him to sign off on the related waivers. If stakeholder meetings were indeed held, why was this man not invited to participate? His first notice in writing was a few days before the public meeting and after the deal had been signed? Officials at the meeting said they would be in touch, to which the resident posed an interesting rhetorical question; to participate in the project, or to be told what is happening? Despite what the City manager would have citizens believe, there is an important difference.
How many other residents are still in the dark about this project? How many other stakeholders have learned about this project too late? As the Elizabeth Street resident noted, many of us work during the day, and are unable to attend endless council meetings that go on for hours covering dozens of agenda items. This project will have negative implications for many directly surrounding it. The thought that they were unaware of what was being steam rolled through Council under the cloak of competitive dialogue is sickening.
Businesses along George Street will have trouble attracting customers as a result of the City Hall expansion construction. Some properties may take a hit in property value now lying in the shadow of the new sprawling City Hall campus. With any development, there will always be those in the “not in my backyard” camp. So should we sneak a final report through council, in the dead of summer, in a meeting held during business hours? No, because in a democratic system, even the NIMBYs deserve to have their voices heard.
This particular resident is not a member of CFBB, which illustrates how opposition to this plan transcends our group. We handed out 86 stickers on the night of the public meeting and all of our 120 hand-outs. Many more support us, but are wary of wearing a flag, especially after the condescending and intimidating tone taken by the City Manager in response to some questions asked that night. There are countless others who are only learning about this plan now and are joining with us to oppose a plan that will handcuff the City for generations.
Others have insinuated that we are shills for members of our community that might have their own agendas like former Mayor Peter Roberson and Mr. John Cutruzzola. These men are leaders in our community, and we fully support their right to ask whatever questions, or take whatever actions they feel are necessary to protect themselves. CFBB will always be willing to listen to any citizen bringing forward information they feel might be useful. We are also fully capable of judging for ourselves what concerns are relevant to our issue, and what serve individual interests. We are not for sale, we are not Astroturf, we are committed to bringing real grassroots change to Brampton starting with the City Hall expansion.
Mr. Cutruzzola is a special case due to his long involvement in this issue and pending legal action. He was one of the first to raise a red flag about the extreme secrecy surrounding competitive dialogue. That should come as no surprise because, at that point he was part of a select few who were privy to that information. CFBB was born out of a small group of dedicated citizens, who were hungry from knowledge about this process from any source available; and the City was less than forthcoming.
When the group formalized under the banner of CFBB this fall, we unanimously decided that Mr. Cutruzzola should not be involved. He has not attended any meeting since the group formed, and due to his legal dispute with the City, would not be welcome. With respect to his many contributions to our community, any participation on his part would jeopardize our ability to maintain a dialogue with City staff and to reach some constructive solutions with Council.
We also need to look forward to addressing our legitimate concerns with the procurement process used for the City Hall expansion with Council. We would invite the Mayor and all members of Council to meet with us to discuss these concerns, and possible solutions. We will be proactively reaching out to them over the coming weeks as time allows with the schedule of our volunteers, many of whom work full time.
We urge any concerned citizens to visit our website at cfbb.ca. Any local leaders wanting in engage with us to help build a better Brampton are encouraged to contact us through email@example.com.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
November 2, 2011
Travesty Revealed – Opportunity Wasted
The public meeting held by the City of Brampton at which the Dominus team presented their ‘winning’ project tonight revealed for the first time what the citizens of this community will be getting for their $205M over the next 25 years. What a disappointment! To be sure, it was a well done presentation by accomplished architects. But in our opinion, it reflected failure of significant proportions.
Firstly, the proponent selection procedure using the unknown, off-shore and unusually secretive ‘Competitive Dialogue’ procurement process was not well understood or explained at the onset. Even the elected Council didn’t realize they were derogating their usual decision making responsibility to an untrained and inexperienced City staff and an outside consultant, together unfamiliar with the need to balance disclosure and proprietary considerations with the need for public accountability. The result has been confusion and dissatisfaction, and has opened up the possibility of litigation.
Secondly, the Council and the public have been unable to find out the gross area being built in Phase I nor its cost per sq.ft. to allow comparable comparisons with industry standards and recently completed projects. This has created a significant suspicion that the winning proponent has declared proprietary interest to prevent disclosure of a meaningful figure which would allow the public and the taxpayer to know whether fair value for the expenditure is being delivered. This lack of transparency flies in the face of the declaration on the City’s web site extolling a commitment to openness and accountability.
Thirdly, those in the public who care about their downtown have been outraged that they have been shut out from contributing input of any kind to a project that will impact the future of their downtown for years in the future, and further, that the City had the arrogance and poor judgment of concluding and executing the agreement prior to the first public meeting.
And fourthly, the selected project does not renew the Southwest Quadrant (SWQ) as promised. It is located on a secondary street, it will do little for the creation of at grade retail and service activity and ambiance so needed to animate downtown, it provides no skyline profile to indicate that Brampton even has a centre, and it is difficult to see it encouraging new private investment.
While these are significant failures and shortcomings of this process and the result, the real travesty is the failure of the leadership of this City to understand how to use their space requirements and public investment to City build in a planned, comprehensive way.
Had the City not allowed themselves to be held hostage in thought about property availability on the south side of Queen, they would not have been enticed into using secondary, City owned, scattered property to obtain their space needs. Rather, by expanding the present City Hall north to Queen and providing underground parking in an extended City parking garage as originally intended, they would have seen themselves as the institutional anchor and catalyst for the real prize in building Downtown Brampton. This should have been the comprehensive redevelopment of one of the most underutilized and attractive city centre blocks in the entire country. The northwest quadrant should be left the opportunity to have offices, residential, significant retail and dare we say hotel and convention facilities, and an expanded tax base.
The Citizens for a Better Brampton (CFBB) will continue to push for the Mayor and Council to revisit this issue, and to put forward a plan that is not divisive, but can bring all Bramptonians together around a truly redeveloped SWQ. We will fight to have details of this contact made public, ensuring value for taxpayers. Today, we are launching our website, which will serve as a central point of contact for all concerned citizens. Cfbb.ca will be used to communicate information about the City Hall expansion, if and when it becomes available. We will hold firm over the coming weeks and months, advocates for transparency.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
October 28, 2011
Over 7 months later, City not in compliance with freedom of information request
Brampton, ON – It has been nearly a week since our first press release, and the response from the public has been astounding. At our last Citizens For a Better Brampton (CFBB) board meeting, we couldn’t all fit in the room! There have been hundreds more who have expressed their support through e-mail, Facebook and Twitter.
The response has not been limited to downtown residents. Citizens from other parts of the city are realizing that they need to stand up to the City Hall expansion, and the flawed procurement process used, to ensure that it is never used in future projects.
Members of our group have been trying to get detailed information in the City Hall expansion for months without success. On April 12th, a freedom of information (FOI) request was filed for clarification of the construction cost per square foot. Our own calculations have pegged the average cost per square foot at over $500.
The City was given notice of the request, and had 30 days to respond. On the 30th day, at 7:00pm, the City Clerk responded that they would need more time to comply with the request. That was May. Fast forward to today; the City has still not responded to our freedom of information request. The case has been appealed to the Information and Privacy Commissioner (IPC).
This information is necessary to allow the citizens of Brampton to thoroughly vet this project, and decide for themselves if it represents good value for money. It is unbelievable, and in our view unacceptable, that Council was not given these details and opportunity to review the RFP process and contract details.
Further, our group has learned that the excuse that protecting “proprietary information” contained in the RFPs will not hold up based on precedent set in Ontario. Specifically, the case of Ontario (Ministry of Transportation) v. Ontario (Information and Privacy Commissioner), the Ontario Superior Court of Justice upheld an IPC decision that information gathered under tender and procurement processes must be made public upon request. This ability of citizens to scrutinize how public funds are being spent is an integral aspect of public accountability.
CFBB cannot support the City Hall expansion while important details such as the true cost of construction per square foot are kept secret. We’re concerned that this massive project does not represent good value for taxpayer money. Further, such details as to why the City must commit to a single source builder for phases 2 and 3 remain a mystery and would seem to leave us exposed to further public waste.
Our group wants progress on the City Hall expansion halted immediately. There needs to be time allowed for public review and input. It is clear to us that secrets surrounding this project will eventually see public light. Rushing to complete contract negotiations before that has happened is reckless. Bramptonians deserve transparency on this!
We will be listening carefully at the November 2nd information session, 7:00pm, at the Courtyard Marriott Brampton, 90 Biscayne Crescent. Afterwards, we will hold a press conference with our response to the proposal. We’ll also have spokespeople available to answer questions from the public and the media.
We’d encourage anyone interested in more information about CFBB to contact us by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, Facebook at http://facebook.com/citizens.for.a.better.brampton or Twitter at http://twitter.com/cfbbrampton .
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
October 20, 2011
Secrecy Result – Millions More Spent on City Hall Expansion That Misses the Point of Downtown Revitalization
Brampton, Ontario – It’s an unprecedented call to action to the citizens of one of Canada’s oldest, yet fastest growing cities. A group called Citizens For a Better Brampton (CFBB) is encouraging everyone to come out to a City sponsored public information session scheduled for 7pm., November 2nd at the Courtyard Marriott Brampton, 90 Biscayne Crescent. CFBB would like Bramptonians to ask important questions about this $200+ million City Hall expansion project.
This group of concerned citizens and business leaders, is urging City Council to scuttle the 3-phased project that will sprinkle new office space around the city’s core. The first phase of the project will fill the need for more civic administration space, but add limited retail and parking.
The city hall expansion was recently approved by council in a split vote, 5-5. Brampton Mayor Susan Fennell, an ardent supporter of the development, called it a watershed moment and broke the tie. One would think that downtown councillors would be supportive of this development, one of the largest in the City’s history, taking place in their backyards. Surprisingly, all four downtown councillors voted against the expansion project.
To date, the taxpayer has had absolutely no input into the Dominus/ Cityzen/ Fernbook (Dominus) project design, its plan and impact on the downtown, and its cost, even though he/she is paying heavily for it. What is particularly galling is that the secret deal with Dominus is to be signed before the public meeting just recently scheduled by the City for November 2nd. This is an outrageous abuse of the democratic process.
“This project,” says Scott Goodison – former Business Person of the Year – “isn’t good enough for our city. There’s no ‘wow’ factor there.” Bramptonian Douglas Bryden, an urban development consultant, says the proposed project shows a “shocking lack of public input, and the new Request for Proposal (RFP) process (Competitive Dialogue) is terribly flawed.” At the meeting, Bryden hopes to outline many of the inherent shortcomings within the plans as presented at the August 10th council meeting.
This objective of this group says Goodison, is to “Halt the city hall expansion!” He said the new RFP process virtually silenced everyone, including council. It’s also a last ditch effort, says Goodison, to stop something “that will handcuff Brampton financially for the next 25 years and will restrict the future comprehensive development of the Southwest Quadrant (SWQ). Citizens who are unable to attend the meeting should phone their Councillors and the Mayor’s office to make sure they have their voices heard. Contact information is available on the City’s website or by phoning 311 within Brampton.
This lack of transparency is unheard of in a modern-day city like Brampton, says Bob Posliff, another Brampton citizen, and architect of the existing city hall, built in the 1980s. Attempts to obtain clarification of publically stated numbers from the City have been stonewalled. An appeal to the Information Privacy Commissioner of Ontario, filed on April 12th, has been unsuccessful to date. However, a court upheld ruling of the IPO Commissioner, issued this week, on procurement policy and transparency, should give the Mayor and Council pause. A delay in signing this agreement with Dominus would be prudent.
Some specific questions that CFBB hope to have answered include:
Published costs per sq. ft. for comparable Class A Office LEED certified projects in the GTA are approximately $325/sq. ft. Why are the taxpayers paying in excess of $500 per sq. ft. for the City Hall Expansion?
None of the three major phases of the City Hall Expansion project renew the Southwest Quadrant of downtown as contemplated by the Request for Proposal. They are outside the recognized boundary of the Southwest Quadrant. Is this project, therefore, in contravention of the Request for Proposals?
According to portfolios of past projects by Dominus/Cityzen/Fernbrook, available on their websites, they do not appear to have had experience developing office projects. Which office projects did they submit to satisfy this requirement of the RFP?
The City Hall expansion project has been ongoing since 2005. The staff report on the contract was circulated only five days before it was put to a vote. Why was Council required to vote on this contract August 10th without any real chance for analysis by Council or public input? Did Council have the necessary factual information on which to reach a decision? Is it fair that the taxpayer has been kept in the dark on project details?
Projects of this size should have the support of at least some of the area Councillors, and aim to build a consensus amongst stakeholders. Instead of generating excitement across our community this process been shrouded in secrecy.
Democratic principles of fairness, integrity and openness in public dealings must be the order of the day, and to denigrate and frustrate democracy as has happened in this community brings shame to all, and must stop. A good place to start would be to cancel the Dominus contract immediately, pay the break fee, and call for an open Proposal Call where the citizens of Brampton can have access to the creative juices of the development community and make transparent choices for the long term benefit of our City.
Brampton is Canada’s 10th largest city and among the top 10 most active construction markets in the country. The City takes immense pride in its diverse community, culture and heritage. Canada’s Flower City has a current population of more than 500,000, and is strategically located within the Greater Toronto Area – Canada’s economic engine.
Quotes and positions which have appeared in the local press:
Brampton Guardian March 22, 2010 – “City Hall Expansion Plans Moving Forward”
Brampton Mayor Susan Fennell said she was aware the process Councillors approved would prevent politicians and the public from seeing all three proposals as the review is conducted and she was comfortable with that process.
Brampton Guardian March 25, 2010 – “City Hall Plans Still Under Wraps”
“This is the most secretive RFP ( Request for Proposals ) I’ve ever been involved in as a councillor,” asserted Regional Councillor Paul Palleschi at Wednesday’s committee meeting. Clearly frustrated by staff responses to requests to see the preliminary concept drawings for all three proposals now, Palleschi said it was a “simple” request and stressed he was just doing his job in asking. “I want to see the three design concepts, that’s all I want to see”, he said. “And I don’t have any problem with the public see them either.” “If that’s a real big problem (Councillor access), then we have a problem.”
Brampton Guardian March 25, 2010 – “City Hall Plans Still Under Wraps”
Hutton insisted that the drawings be shown to members of the public sooner rather than later.
“We need to get the overall proposals available and visible to the public as soon as possible,” Hutton said. “We should not keep these under wraps. There are people out there with some pretty good ideas and we need that input. “The financial ramifications of whatever comes down area going to be ours and we will live or die on them, but, transparency has to be the key word and the number one question taxpayers are asking of all of us and all levels of government is, “What are you trying to hide?”
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