I've lived in the same house in Aurora fifty years. I came as a nearly new immigrant with a couple of thousand others. We bought homes with a down-payment of little more than a couple of months apartment rent.We found something more than we expected.Civility, dignity, a welcome and space to grow.
I grew up in Scotland, lived in London, England after the war and lived there for twelve years and then two years in Toronto.But HERE is where I stayed I raised my family of seven in Aurora.
I ran for Council within a couple of years of becoming a taxpayer. It was Aurora's Centennial Year. It took two more tries before I was elected in 1967, Canada's Centennial year.I ran again for re-election. I heard a couple of candidates running for the Office of Reeve, campaigning in my neighbourhood were advising people not to vote for me. I decided if I was going to have to compete with them I might as well do it on their turf. I did . I won. Got more votes than the two of them together,I represented the town on the last York County Council.
Once elections were done, Councillors always welcomed thenewbies.The honour of being elected was shared. They were generous also in sharing knowledge of the town's traditions, history, policies and principles. Staff were always ready to answer questions. I soaked it up.
I came to believe a person is meant to be where a person is. I think I am meant to be involved in Aurora's political affairs. People have given me the opportunity many times over.
As Reeve, I was a member of the Planning Committee involved with the Province in planning the new Regional Government. Opposition to the regional concept was growing. The Province had to close the circle around the megalopolis that was Metro Toronto. Plans for Regions elsewhere in the Province were abandoned.Mistakes were made. But it is what it is.
One objective was to reduce the number of municipalities. Aurora and Newmarket were shown as a single urban node. We fought it and retained our autonomy.We had our own small bus system. Recreation programs were run by volunteers. Both towns had volunteer fire departments.You can't beat that for economy.
The Mayor was the Town's only representative at the new Region. I wanted the job. I campaigned for the Office of Mayor. Didn't make it.
For the next two years,I worked as a part-time reporter and covered the County Board of Education and the Town of East Gwillimbury.The B of E was in it's third year. One and two room schools in the country had to be closed and children bussed to larger schools for equal opportunity.In winter, it meant young children were on buses in early morning darkness and coming home late in the day.It was hard for parents to accept .I covered passionate meetings in the country and reported the hard fought opposition.
I covered East Gwillimbury Council meetings on a Monday afternoon, and learned of many differences between urban and rural municipalities
In 1973, suitably chastened, I came back and ran again for Council. I topped the poll. The Mayor had to resign because of a conflict with his provincial job. I was appointed to the Mayor's office by unanimous vote.I was re-elected in 1975 .
For the first five years, the region concentrated on building roads. Toronto and York Roads Commission was created in 1954. Cost sharing had never been easy.Road construction was years behind. The Province offered fifty cents in the dollar to catch up with the backlog for five years.
Wellington Street is a regional road. In 1972 , re-construction was planned.
Nobody could remember when the road had last been constructed. Sidewalks were a hazard.But the street had a beautiful maple arch . Some of the trees were rotting but canopies were still full. Roots would be damaged by the re-construction. Council braced for the onslaught of opposition. Though we agreed it had to be done.
A group named E.N.D.O.W. Ensure the Natural Development of Wellington was formed with the intention of throwing the Council out in the next election.
They did that. But not before we got a few other things done.
We bought Jack Woods Farm at the south end for a showcase industrial park.
A Business Improvement Area was formed. We delineated the heritage core. Installed Heritage lights and flower boxes. We planted trees and placed benches north of the Wellington intersection. We made an agreement with property owners on the west side of Yonge and constructed a parking lot with plant beds and lighting.A small property in mid block, burned down one night. We bought it and created stairs and lighting for access to the parking lot.When it came time for the merchants to pay their share. The majority voted the BIA out of existence.
We built a new library on Victoria Street with the front at the back.We planned for the block to be a Civic Square.
The works department was a blighted site on Wellington Street. We built a new yard and building on Scanlon Court.
We joined with the Board of Education to build and share an administration centre on Wellington Street. Neighbours fought that as well.
It's the finest building in town and blends beautifully into its site. A Town expects the private sector to erect fine buildings,we can do no less than show the way.
A new Planning Act was passed. We appointed our first planner. When we finally got going we didn't make the mistakes made elsewhere. We built a reputation for sensible consistent, honest planning resulting in beautiful neighborhoods,schools and parks for new families.
Affordable housing was provided wherever it was proposed with our full co-operation.
At the Region, I served on the Board of Health for two years and chaired it for two more.
I served on The Children's Aid Society,York County Hospital Board, Holland Valley Conservation Authority.
I served on the Social and Family Services Committee and chaired it for two years. We built the first Child Care Facility while I was chair.I served on the Region's Finance Committee.
At home, It came time to service our industrial park. Because of the railway, services had to be extended from Wellington Street. They had to pass traverse the Sheppard property.
Endow got their opportunity.The plan was for the rosf to take the shortest distance between two points. The route lay between the field and the bush There was no practical alternative.
ENDOW mounted their forces and the battle enjoined. All but three Councillors were swept out of office.
The services had to traverse the Sheppard property.The snake like road running along the railroad track,three times longer than it needed to be. was the chosen option to make believe something better was achieved. To this day, people wonder at the shape of that road. They built a berm and erected a chain link fence, presumably to protect the sports field from the view of the carriage trade.
Trees they planted are still scrawny. I found out a couple of years ago what I thought was a berm, is a dump of old asphalt from roads under re-construction to save the money to have it transported to a re-cycling yard.
It takes up space from the field and will never likely be removed. The chain link fence lent nothing to the natural environment and its rusty now as well as ugly.
Out of office again, and a single parent,I was appointed to the Social Assistance Review Board of Ontario. I travelled to cities and towns and communities size minimal to nil. We went to people's homes when there was no transportation. I learned to appreciate even more our lovely little town in the hills north of Toronto.
I came back to Council eight more years and participated in the planning of new recreation facilities, a new town hall, re-construction of roads and separation of storms and sewers throughout the old town
In 1989, I was a candidate for the Federal Government. The election was concurrent with the municipal Election. I opted not to be a candidate for both. In the nineties, I served a term on York Region Police Services Board.
During the last council term of the last century something deeply concerned me.People assume there are no principles in politics.They're wrong.The bottom line is common decency. There are things no self-respecting politician will do. Exploiting a family tragedy for political advantage is an example. Even as it horrified me, I realised the problem of dealing with it, without causing more grief to the family.
I saw other things happening with an aggression that chilled as ill will for the sake of it.
I ran again for Council in 2003 and again in 2006.These have been tumultuous years in Aurora's political affairs. I have been in the centre of it. With full intentions of bringing our town's affairs back to what they were and should be, by whatever means possible. I make no apology. A Council works better that works together.The community must be served.
What other people think of us does not concern me as much as how we think of ourselves.