Servants or Slaves?
There is a universal premise that those who govern in a democracy do so with the consent of the governed. This tenet presumes that the governed have chosen their governors and have empowered them to protect the interests and safety of the governed.
Under current legislation enacted by provincial authority, BIAs are designated as agencies of the municipal government (in Toronto, that would be City Council). Such a definition makes them subject to City Council control and supervision. And this enables Toronto City Council to define the role, duties and performance of BIAs and their Boards of Directors. The means by which control is exercised is by City Council’s ability to appoint and remove members from BIA Boards. Such an act, the removal of any Board member, is not subjected to scrutiny, challenge or cause – it’s done without oversight or appeal. No reason or explanation is necessary.
In other words, if any Councillor chooses to remove any Board member for any reason (political, personal or conduct) the Councillor simply submits a motion at Regional Council to remove the member and the Council does so – no explanation is required. This is control.
The question of whom these BIA Boards actually serve raises an interesting conundrum; do they serve the interests and priorities of Toronto City Council or, do they serve the interests and priorities of their members? It could be added, do they serve the interests of their local Councillor, who is automatically appointed as a member of the BIA Board by City Council?
It’s generally accepted that when a group of individuals form an association, they do so in order to protect and further their own interests. It defies logic that any group will coalesce in order to serve the interests of another party – which may or may not have the same goals as the initial group. It stands to reason that when a business group creates a membership such as a BIA, they do so in order to improve, protect and serve their own respective goals. Otherwise, why were they united? Certainly not to serve and promote Toronto City Council; which has its own mandate from the province and its own source of taxpayers’ funds. Nor was it formed to be used by its local Councillor to advance its Councillor’s agenda – which often happens.
Therefore, one must presume that a BIA is created by ratepayers who, for the ‘privilege’ of paying a tax surcharge (a BIA levy), do so in order to advance the interests of its own members; a goal which may not necessarily comply with the broader priorities of Toronto City Council.
That answers the conundrum of whom the BIA Boards are serving (or should be serving).
Let’s consider an illustration of where the interests of Toronto City Council differ from the interests of a BIA.
The Vacancy Tax Rebate is a good example of City Council attempting to remove a current feature which enables commercial property owners to pay a lower tax rate when their properties are unoccupied and revenue bereft.
Since BIAs are composed of commercial property owners (as well as business tenants), the BIAs should collectively oppose such an initiative of Toronto City Council, as it hurts the interests of their members. Yet, such opposition has not become manifest. The BIAs remain disconnected and irresolute – without leadership or direction.
The only direction comes from the Office of Economic Development (OED), otherwise referred to as the ‘BIA office’.
And the Office of Economic Development takes its direction from Toronto City Council. So does TABIA, which is a clone of the OED BIA Office serving the unelected bureaucrats instead of its members.
It’s long overdue for the BIA Boards to re-think their roles and responsibilities. It is impossible to always serve two masters at all times. BIA Boards must come to grips with this conundrum and stand up and serve their own members instead of serving up their members as fodder to Toronto City Council.
Some delusional BIA members may differ with this logic – arguing that “we’re all on the same side”.
There are two recent developments which will illustrate the opposite – we’re not all on the same side. BIAs are a tool which City Council uses to serve its own interests. Meaning, this is not a marriage of equals but a relationship whereby one side clearly controls the other.
In July of 2017, certain amendments were made to Chapter 19, the legislation which controls the existence and operation of BIAs. Admittedly, these amendments were proposed by the bureaucrats at the OED (to empower their own bureaucratic staff). However, since they were passed by City Council, it’s Council which has to shoulder the responsibility.
One of these accepted proposals dealt with a Board’s self-determination, or lack thereof.
“19-20.1 Authority of the General Manager
The General Manager has the authority to attend and address board meetings, general meetings and annual general meetings, including in-camera sessions.”
What this means is that a BIA Board must accept the presence of the Manager (or his designate) and must allow that individual to address the Board.
Keep in mind that this Manager is a bureaucrat (not an elected politician) and is now given carte blanche to participate at Board meetings in spite of what the Chair of the BIA decides.
This legislated amendment has now emasculated the BIA Board as well as its Chair and relegated the BIA to serving the bureaucrat’s dictates. This new ‘normality’ creates the following scenarios;
- The Chair no longer has full control of a Board meeting – the General Manager of OED has legislative override.
- The Chair cannot refuse the floor to this Manager – the same override enables the Manager to alter the meeting’s agenda as well as its contents.
- The same override prevents the Chair from ruling the Manager as ‘out of order’.
- The Manager, attending with the ‘implied authority’ of his/her title and office, will have an overwhelming influence on the decision in any matter. (Most Board members will not challenge the perceived ‘authority’ of the OED and its General Manager).
- In real terms, this Manager will attend and perform according to his/her personal interests, or the interests of the OED, or most likely, the interests of the local Councillor(s) who sit on the Board. Unless he/she chooses to refuse the Councillors’ requests and put his/her career in jeopardy (Hah!).
- There is also another likely result; in the event this Manager has any personality issues with the Chair or the Board of a BIA, he/she can attend, exercise destructive behaviour, undermine the Chair and render the Board ineffective. In other words, the Manager cannot be overruled or removed. He/she is not only a spy, he/she has jurisdictional authority granted by legislation and his/her actions/decisions cannot be appealed. This is total control.
- The final nail to this coffin is killing any privacy available to a Board when calling for an ‘in camera’ meeting. In the event that a member wishes to oppose or complain against any staff at the OED (which cannot be excluded from ‘in camera’ proceedings), the forum to do so is now denied; privacy being unavailable, this effectively stifles dissent.
- This new reality was proposed by bureaucrats at OED and approved by Councillors at City Council. It is now in effect.
“Oppression can only survive through silence.” – Carmen de Monteflores
Only a blind fool will refuse to see this development for what it is: a tool to control BIA Boards. This was introduced because a BIA would occasionally refuse to comply in the past. Some would complain or even disregard the OED’s or a Councillor’s diktats.
Under this new tool of oppression, any free-thinking, unorthodox or contrarian who elects to swim against the current will quickly leave or be removed from the Board. (Bear in mind that Board Directors serve ‘at the pleasure,’ of Council.** This means they can be removed ‘at pleasure’ as well, without any reasons given.)
** Further, the Chapter establishes that directors are appointed at the pleasure of Council or Community Council under delegated authority, and that Council or Community Council retains the right to replace any appointed director at any time for any reason. Staff propose to amend this provision, enabling Council or Community Council to make a removed director ineligible to serve on any BIA Board for a period of up to four years.
Compound this situation with the fact that Directors are not paid for their service and that leaves any player who fails to dance to the Council’s piper with little reason to stay.
That leaves a playing field governed by Board members who serve as docile Directors willing to toil for the bureaucrats and City Council instead of serving the interests of their members. (Click here for associated article, “Board Member Per Diems” – Ed.)
Removing Board members will be justified as a need to prevent ‘maverick’ BIAs from frustrating City Council’s (and the bureaucrats’) desire ‘to serve and govern’ the city.
That is a lie. Oppression is introduced to be used against “‘scoundrels” but then it’s readily applied against any and all who oppose those governing or unelected officials.
“Imposing oppression is justified on the grounds it results in stability and order. It provides neither. It feeds extremism and opposition; which then are used to justify further oppression.” – Styli.
Such control must be done away. If not, then BIAs are not a benefit to their members. They are there to be used, manipulated and taxed.
Chapter 19 Revisions Approved by City Council
City Council has approved revisions to Chapter 19 of the Municipal Code, as proposed by staff at The City BIA Office, in order to clarify procedures outlined in the document. These changes include modifications to the designate voting regulations at Annual General Meetings. It is recommended that every BIA review and familiarize themselves with these revisions as outlined in item ED22.9.
Adopted Economic Development Committee Item, ED22.9:
** City Staff at BIA Meetings Economic Development and Culture Division staff have been faced recently with incidents whereby their authority to attend and address meetings of the BIA has been challenged. BIA boards of management are local City boards established and appointed by Council and the engagement of City staff with boards is critical to help ensure that they conduct the affairs of the BIA in compliance with the Chapter and other applicable policies and practices. Therefore, in order to avoid any future uncertainty, an amendment is proposed authorizing the General Manager of Economic Development and Culture (a defined term which includes the General Manager’s designate or successor) to attend and address BIA board meetings, general meetings and annual general meetings, including in-camera sessions.
** Board Procedures and Practices Several amendments to the Chapter have been proposed regarding board procedures and practices. A provision is proposed to be added requiring boards to notify the City’s BIA Office and Councillors appointed to the board of all board meetings five business days in advance of the meeting, and provide the meeting agenda, previous meeting minutes and financial statement along with the meeting notification. The objective of the amendment is to ensure that Councillors and staff receive timely notice of meetings and relevant meeting materials. In order to improve public accessibility to BIAs, an amendment to the Chapter is proposed that requires boards to appoint a board member or BIA staff member to be the designated contact for the BIA and provide contact information for that designated person to the City’s BIA Office for posting on the City’s website and inclusion in public information materials where appropriate. Further, in order to better respect the decisions of the board and promote consistency, a provision is proposed to require that every director comply with the decisions of the board.
- 19-3.9. Authority of the General Manager The General Manager has the authority to attend and address board meetings, general meetings and annual general meetings, including in-camera sessions.
OED recommended changes intro by General Manager – http://app.toronto.ca/tmmis/viewPublishedReport.do?function=getAgendaReport&meetingId=11861
And https://www.toronto.ca/legdocs/mmis/2017/ed/bgrd/backgroundfile-103856.pdf (showing changes)