Thunder Bay City Council Report – September 16 2013

City Council Chambers
City Council Chambers

A busy city hall is a start toward a busier downtown Fort William Business District.
City Hall was rolling along fast tonight until the pet debate 

Thunder Bay Council Discusses Pets Again

THUNDER BAY – It was a fast track for City Council tonight, at least until the issue of pet ownership came up.  At City Council tonight, there was discussion about how to encourage new and younger people to run for Council. Councillor Paul Pugh commented, “I am now retired, but I can sympathize with members of Council who are not retired.”

“I think we want to have policies that support encouraging people to be able to get on Council”.

The discussion was on having Councillors having meals before Council. Currently Council spends about $250 for food when there is a closed session special meeting as the meeting is usually before Council meets. The concern was that younger people who are working are unable to attend without having a meal.

The motion, “I guess it is to eat”, stated Councillor Foulds.

Also at Council was a resolution on Ontario Lottery and Gaming funds. The ratifying resolution required a two thirds majority. That resolution passed without opposition. 

During debate earlier the subject was having some of the funds from the OLG go toward funding Youth Centres in the city. 

Councillor Aldo Ruberto
Councillor Aldo Ruberto

On the subject of having Administration look into the issue of pets and hoarding issues. Councillor Ruberto brought the issue forward after people in the city had come to the at large Councillor concerned over people with large numbers of pets.

Ruberto has amended the resolution, after consulting with the By-Law Enforcement Manager. 

The amended resolution was seeking a report from By-Law Enforcement to report back to Council.

Councillor Foulds stated, “I think that some credit has to go to Councillor Ruberto for sticking with the issue.”

“However, it is not the number of pets that is the issue,” stated Foulds. “There are people with multiple pets, who are taking great care of their pets. I don’t believe they should be penalized for their pet ownership”.

“We have issues with poor care,” stated Foulds. The Councillor added, “I think we have the tools in our toolbox to deal with the issue”.

However the issue was not on limiting the numbers of pets, and Foulds noted that point. 

Ruberto answered, “The issue is enforcement”. 

Councillor Giertuga
Councillor Giertuga

“There are other issues that come up with pets, the by-law officers have not got the authority that they need. There is a point where the care of those pet owners who can’t control their pets. What do we do when the pet owners don’t follow the rules?” asked Ruberto.

Councillor Johnson sought to ask questions of Administration. “Are we able to cover the problems relative to pet control?”

Mark Smith says, “Yes, we have a fair array of by-laws in place. What I am hearing is that the question is in terms of issue is having the tools for enforcement”.

Johnson sought input from City Manager Tim Commisso. That way, Commisso answered, “Direction from Council really helps”.

Johnson then questioned Administration on looking at the “Whole of enforcement, of by-laws”.

Westfort Councillor Virdiramo
Westfort Councillor Joe Virdiramo

Councillor Virdiramo suggested that By-Law Enforcement should present a report to Council on what they do, and when they do it.

“In my ten years on Council we have never had by-law enforcement come before us to tell us what they do”, stated Virdiramo.

“If this motion passes,” Councillor Virdiramo asked, “Would there be grandfathering for someone who had, say fifty cats?”.

Manager Mark Smith explained that to the best of his knowledge there would be a grandfathering clause.

It appears that most Councillors wanted to get their views on the record that they are opposed to limiting pets in the city.

Councillor Boshcoff sought that Council should be moving forward, and that the idea that Council and Administration should be doing that every day.

Councillor Bentz stated that “Councillor Ruberto never came forward with a resolution to limit pets”.

“He came forward with input from people looking for help from the city, and in apartments where there are problems, there need to be ways to solve the problem”.

“We need mechanisms to make things happen faster”. Bentz commented in one of his neighbourhoods the people had to wait for two months this summer over grass a foot deep in a yard. Waiting all summer was a real issue according to Bentz.

Councillor Angus stated he will support the motion, as during his tenure as Chair of DSSAB he was made aware of many problems. 

Councillor Pugh commented “Councillor Ruberto has come forward looking for a report, there was no call for a course of action, just a call for a report”.

Councillor Giertuga commented that “We don’t have the manpower to enforce the by-laws”.

“Lets get a report from By-law on what they do and what level of standard they should have”.

Councillor Rydholm went back to the issue of limiting the number of pets, and then got back on track about the current existing by-laws.

For example in the case of a barking dog, it is not just by-law, a complainant has to keep a two week journal, and be a witness in court if it goes that far.

After all the debate, as the vote was to be called Councillor Ruberto sought to clarify the reasons he brought this issue forward in the first place. There was, Ruberto asserted never a set limit put forward.

Mark Smith then commented Administration souls welcome a broader look at the entire by-law issue.

Sitting the the Clerk’s chair Shelagh Hendrick sought clarification on exactly that Council was seeking with the expanded motion.

Councillor Bentz said, “To lump them all into one, takes the intent out of the original motion,” adding that he would not support the amendment.

Councillor Giertuga stated he will work with the Clerks office toward a larger motion for a future meeting.

The debate the continued on.

“It is enough for me to want to know, because there are people who are suffering,” said Councillor Boshcoff. 

“We don’t want the information pre-filtered before we get it”, commented Boshcoff.

Councillor McKinnon then said, “I know Administration will come back with a good report”.

Manager Smith then commented that the issue of hoarding of pets remains an issue, there were two cases this summer. Councillor Foulds was questioning Administration on the issue. The original complaints that went to Councillor Ruberto, now appear to have been further validated by Administration.

Councillor Rydholm then sought input on how By-Law Officers work, and what specialization they might have.

Voting on the motion was then broken into two paragraphs.

The first paragraph of the motion was a defeat by a seven to six vote. 

The second paragraph was amended, with seven votes for and six votes opposed. Councillors Johnson, Hebert, Giertuga, Rydholm, Foulds, and Mayor Hobbs sought to be recorded as opposed.

Then Councillor Angus sought to re-vote with an amended motion removing the word ‘Also’ from the paragraph. 

The third paragraph then came up for a vote, and was carried.

The fourth paragraph was then passed, with a timeline of December 2013 was then passed.

Council then moved on to the next issues.

After a long session Council has moved into closed session.

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