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Tree replacement policy up for final approval at Monday's city council meeting
Oct. 21, 2017
By Joelle Kovach

A plan to put Mayor Daryl Bennett back on the city police services board may get a final vote from council Monday.

Last week, councillors voted without discussion to allow the mayor to re-take his seat on the board.

He hasn't served on the police board in more than five years, following a bitter dispute over the police budget in 2011; Bennett thought police were asking for too much money.

After that, the mayor was suspended from the board while the Ontario Civilian Police Commission (OCPC) investigated 11 allegations of misconduct against him (he was alleged to have shared confidential police board documents with council, for example, and also to have made public remarks to undermine the force and the police chief).

The OCPC found Bennett guilty of all 11 allegations, but then dropped all its findings (except one) when the mayor said he would take them to court.

The one finding that stuck: Bennett made disrespectful comments about Chief Murray Rodd (he once said it was an embarrassment the chief made the Sunshine List, for example).

Bennett says he stands by his comments, and he hasn't apologized to Rodd. Now the mayor has a legal right to return to the police board, and he plans to take a seat for a one-year term starting Nov. 30.

Coun. Dave Haacke will have to step down from the board to make room for Bennett.

The appointment is part of a list of city committee roles that the mayor proposed to councillors, last week.

Councillors didn't object even though a Toronto lawyer hire by the OCPC to oversee the board during the first six months of 2017 wrote a report strongly discouraging the mayor from ever returning to the police board.

Toronto lawyer Mark Sandler wrote that he thought the board would function better if the mayor were to stay away.

Other plans that will receive a final vote Monday night at City Hall:

Voting system

Council will vote a final time on a plan to stick with the company that provided online voting and automatic tabulation services in the last three elections.

The plan is to use the services of Dominion Voting Systems Corp. of Toronto, for the next two municipal elections (2018 and 2022), at a cost of $304,892 (including taxes).

Last week, Coun. Dan McWilliams said he was concerned that the internet voting service could be hacked - he said he didn't want to read a headline stating that Russians have tampered with Peterborough's electoral system.

City clerk John Kennedy told councillors the services from Dominion have been audited repeatedly, and there were tests done to see whether the system could be hacked (it couldn't).

Still, McWilliams said he'll be voting in person, not online - and he encouraged others to do so, too.

Tree replacement

Council will vote a final time on a revised plan meant to make it less expensive for private landowners to replace trees they've removed on their own properties.

On Sept. 25, councillors reviewed a proposed new bylaw that would have expected private landowners to plant three new trees for every large, healthy tree removed on their own properties.

The replacement trees couldn't be small, either - the bylaw specified they must be fairly large (average cost per tree: $450).

Councillors decided at the time that $450 per tree was too expensive for landowners and asked staff to review the bylaw and make it more manageable for people.

So staff came up with this solution: when the landowner removes a smaller tree, they may replant just one or two smaller trees to compensate (at a cost of $50 to $80 per tree).

Mayor Daryl Bennett said last week the bylaw wasn't meant to be onerous or expensive to people - the idea is to protect the tree canopy, which is disappearing.

But Coun. Dean Pappas said he had concerns: "I hesitate to go onto someone's property and tell them what to do on their own yard," he said.

Still, councillors voted to approve the bylaw, and now it's up for a final vote.

On Monday, The Examiner's website will have livestreaming of the meeting as well as live-blogging and tweets. The meeting begins at 6:30 p.m.