Stan Frost: The Enforcer

By Scott Lamberton

Having slapped down a group of demanding environmentalists’ at last week’s council meeting with his now famous battle cry of “we will hold the line at a 2% budget increase”, Deputy Mayor Stan Frost decided to demonstrate his considerable body-checking skills against a new “rough” group at this week’s committee of the whole council meeting: wheelchair activists and their sidekicks with “menacing” seeing-eye dogs (prancing standard poodles and one gregarious black lab).
In defense of Mr. “The Iceman Cometh” Frost, the delegation leader (Jerry Ford–a former candidate for town council until poor health forced him to suspend his campaign in the last election) was a little ”rough” in his presentation to council.  Still you have to wonder if Mr. Ford’s rhetoric wasn’t a little warranted when a public service is suddenly cancelled without consultation because there was some ”auditing” issues.
Its all about the money folks.
As background, the Ford was raising centres on the issue of offering “equitable” public transit to ”frail seniors and persons of disabilities”.  The Town of Cobourg has historically had an innovative approach to this public service–so much so that they received a national award from the Canadian Urban Transit Association (see page 7 of the awards report)
The innovation allowed “Wheels users” (seniors and the disabled) to make weekend use of special-needs transportation (Van Taxi) when regular transit was available but when the booking systems were not available (Coach Canada).  The system worked quite fine for everyone involved for six months.  Then in December it was abruptly cancelled without explanation.  Instead such users must book for weekend travel 24 hours in advance or in the case of a Monday morning 60 hours in advance (see page 5 of the agenda).
As the delegation rightly asked: who when taking public transportation has to book it 24 to 60 hours in advance–especially on the weekends?
Where is the equity in that?
It was at this point the rhetoric heated up: “Would any other group of 350 citizens be treated differently.  Wouldn’t they get notice?”; allegations of no communication from town staff on repeated inquiries (“blown off”, “prejudicial”, “cavalier”); provincial Customer Service Standards; human compassion; discriminatory action, etc. etc. ( See Consider This live notes of the delegation starting at Delegation commences at 7:00 p.m. (please note that these are “live notes” so grammar, wording is not always correct–I’m writing furiously at the time).
Council DID ask informed questions and were genuinely concerned.
M.Mutton also raised objections to Mr.Ford’s strong language as did the Mayor: “no one is treated in a cavalier fashion by our town staff”, said His Worship.
Eventually a town staff member explained that there were issues around completing a “proper audit” around the services provided by Van Taxi and Coach Canada and that their were “add-ons”.  The attending delegation appeared surprised to hear this–they were adamant in their presentation that this service was at no extra cost to the Town.  The staff member assured everyone that a report would be completed in two weeks time. Still, Mr. Ford made his point: why didn’t this award-winning service continue for these citizens until a report was produced? Why was it suddenly cancelled without consultation and without warning?
That didn’t really matter for Mr. “The Iceman Cometh” Frost.  Instead, he chastised Mr.Ford for his rhetoric and tone: “You may feel like you are a victim here, but I categorically reject that anyone has been the victim of discrimantory action by Town staff.”
And then he said it again.
Some Citizen Questions and Comments: ”Mr. Iceman, would it have been so hard to talk to your citizens first
before cancelling a needed public service?”
Somehow when your message is: Citizens of Cobourg ask not what your town can do for you but rather what can you do for your town! -it sounds much more user-friendly when JFK said it.  I’m guessing when you are acclaimed to office without opposition you expect no opposition what-so-ever when you have to govern.  We will all be watching to see if you are similarly inclined with the police budget, the public service union wages budget, and, of course, the management salary increase that always regularly follows the former. Mr. Ford: “discrimination” just doesn’t fly.  You have to appeal to a larger constituency.
Accuse the powers-to-be of insensitivity, incompetence, ineptness, poor communications skills, or even (if
necessary) idiocy.  But “discrimination” is a hard battle to win in the wider public sphere.  No one likes that.  You did your cause a disservice and allowed the “real” perpetrators of the problem an out.
Given the amount of people I know that were supporting you in your municipal campaign–I’m a little disappointed by your rhetoric.
Your Worship: I note Mr.Iceman’s jibes at you last week: “I’ll leave it up to you, Mr. Mayor, to reduce the county budget down from a 2.2% increase.”
I loved your “realpolitic” answer last week: “We have social services expenditures to deal with post-recession AND ongoing infrastructure costs for roads and bridges”.  Tell it like it is.  Don’t be bullied.  But more importantly YOU ran on a platform of “communication”.  Make sure that is your watchword for this budget process.