Too many attended conference, Kitchener councillor says

By  | June 8, 2011 | 2 Comments | Filed under: Keeping track of Cambridge Council 2010-2014

This ran in the KW Record ………….. comments invited below

By Terry Pender, Record staff

WATERLOO REGION — Coun. Frank Etherington says too many members of Kitchener city council attended the annual conference of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities in Halifax this past weekend and he would like to see limits established for the future.

Eight of the 11 members of Kitchener city council attended the event at a cost of approximately $2,500 each — for a total of about $20,000.

When Kitchener, Cambridge, Waterloo and the region are combined, the costs will climb to about $50,000 for the 20 municipal councillors who went to Halifax.

“Obviously, I think eight out of 11 is too many — way too many,” Etherington said of the Kitchener council participation.

City councillors in Kitchener can attend up to three conferences or meetings a year at taxpayers’ expense. There is no limit on the number attending the same event, and that’s where Etherington sees a flaw in the policy.

“I have no problem with conferences, I think they are good learning experiences, but when you have eight out of 11 going to the same conference, I think that’s a bit much,” Etherington said.

“I think there should be some sort of policy that restricts the number that can go,” he said.

He likes the informal policy in Waterloo that sees the mayor and two councillors attend the federation’s annual convention on a rotating basis. Waterloo councillors are limited to two out-of-town meetings a year. Cambridge limits members of city council to two out-of-town meetings a year, but there is no limit on the number attending the same event.

During the 2011 budget talks, Etherington tried to reduce the expenses for members of Kitchener city council, but there was not enough support for the action.

At the same time, a strong majority at Kitchener council voted to nix a cost-of-living adjustment for senior staff and cut millions from the budget, including $200,000 that was earmarked for the implementation of the recently adopted cycling master plan.

Kitchener Mayor Carl Zehr and Coun. Berry Vrbanovic are among the eight members of city council to attend the convention. Zehr was chair of the big city mayors caucus for the federation, and Vrbanovic was made president of the national organization for cities after serving as a vice-president for years.

“Each councillor has the option to attend three conferences per year and they can pick and choose which ones they want to attend — that’s the current policy,” Zehr said.

“We could always talk about it, look at it and review it. I don’t have an objection to reviewing it,” Zehr said.

Cambridge sent seven of its nine city councillors to Halifax, Waterloo sent three of nine members and the region sent two of 16 members.

The combined expenses for the municipal councillors this year will likely equal or exceed the more than $51,832 spent when 17 attended the federation’s annual meeting in Whistler, B.C. in 2009.

Last year, 15 councillors from among the three cities and the region spent more than $24,860 when the same event was held in Toronto.

The dollar amounts may not seem significant when compared to the total expenditures made by the three cities and the region. But those amounts are very important to some small organizations that seek funds from city councils at budget time.

Isabel Cisterna, the founder and leader of Neruda Productions, asked for $18,000 from Kitchener city council to help pay for the more than 14 events the not-for-profit arts and culture group planned for 2011.

Councillors approved $6,000, and after Cisterna appealed for more funds, increased that to $12,000.

“I didn’t think I was going to get anything, but I went because I needed to make a point to the new council that we do a lot of work in Kitchener and they did not give me any operating dollars,” Cisterna said.

The concerts, festivals, exhibits and workshops organized by Neruda Productions attract thousands of people.

“Last year we were granted $4,000 for the Kite Festival but we received a $3,200 bill from the city,” Cisterna said.

The financial support Neruda gets from the city is far less than what city councillors spent in Halifax this past weekend.–too-many-attended-conference-kitchener-councillor-says



2 Responses to Too many attended conference, Kitchener councillor says

    Debbie Vitez June 8, 2011 at 5:55 pm

    I have added a new catagory
    Keeping Track of Cambridge Council 2010-2014
    Let’s see what we get at the end of this 4 year term..

    Thomas Vann June 8, 2011 at 10:33 pm

    l have been asking council to show some leadership on this for 2 years now. Don’t give me that garbage everyone has to go. Send 2-3 people bring back reports and save taxpayers cash. Now l know why they asked for costs. $20,000.00 spent here folks by our council. Don’t forget to bill us for the stamps.

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