worst, agreement, ever!

Page 7 of this week’s Auroran speaks to the recent audit of the Aurora Cultural Centre’s agreement with the town.  You can read it here:

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The fact that the Aurora Heritage Centre was funded by the Aurora Historical Society (AHS) and multiple sizeable grants were awarded specificaly for heritage use, the primary use being a museum, and the agreement that the Cultural Centre believes to be acceptable shrugs them of any obligation to house a museum, only to “collaborate where possible” , yeah there “may be a misunderstanding”.  

A big one.

Laura Schembri is trooted out in this article to act as P.R. for the centre, she talks about the centre but like before doesn’t address the issue.
Instead she speaks about what a success she believes the centre has enjoyed.
I’m skeptical as to the “tens of thousands” of visitors claims, perhaps if she was able to provide real sets of metrics like the library they would mean more than the spin she is trying to spread.

It’s amazing that she can’t hear what the public is asking for in programming: A museum.

Regardless of the heritage offerings that the Cultural Centre “enjoys presenting”, what have they agreed to provide, and how effective are they in being accountable to their “core” funding source : the Aurora tax payer ?

In the April 2008 Novita Report, on page 21, it states:

“The inital success of the Arts and Cultural Centre project depends heavily on providing clear information on a regular basis in order to set public expectations and to encourage broader public involvement.”

I haven’t seen any evidense of this, and being at arms length from council this no doubt was the reason an audit had to be performed.

In reading the the final June 2008 Novita report, which you can find here:

This updated document provides instructions as to how to read the report.

Interestingly enough it states in these instructions :  “the report is more descriptive than prescriptive”

WTF?  number 1.

Page 3 emphasises that the Cultural Center will be a seprately incorporated organization with close ties to the town.

So where are those ties?  And how close are they?

Under the heading of agreements with the town:

“Core funding from the town will provide “stability” to the centre.”

Certainly contradicts the intent of the report outlined in the notice as:

“establish conditions that will allow the Cultural Center to be established and be sustainable”

The Cultural Centre is the farthest thing from sustainable.

Page 64 discusses R.O.I. and over a 5 year period projects the town spending $2.5 million dollars that will be used to “create services and opportunities which are not currently available in Aurora.”

WTF?  number 2.

The same page outlines some laughable benefits 

1.) Appropriate use of town-owned heritage building

How is a Cultural Centre a “more appropriate” use than a museum?

2.) contribution to “animation” of historic core 

How has our historic core become more animated thanks to 2 years of the Cultural Centre?  It hasn’t.

3.) Provision of a focal point for cultural development in Aurora

Why does cultural development for a town of 50,000 people require a “focal point”?

4.) Fulfilment of “many” of the town’s policy goals

Which ones and specificaly how?

As fo engaging “all” sectors of the community, that is a lofty claim that the Aurora Cultural Centre is far from achieving.

The report creates a thin guise of accountability.

On Page 5 we are to understand:

“that all programs at the centre be delivered in partnership with the community”


“that the town uses its resources to ensure that the cultural centre corporation has the highest level of leadership”

And how is that being achieved, when the town is kept at arms length?

It continues on page 6: 

“the close ties with the town will ensure accountability of the project to the residents of Aurora and the municipality”.

What are the close ties with the town that ensure this?

Page 33 outlines “governance strategy”:

Apparently there is a “covenant with the town for service delivery.

Interesting choice of words.

It also mentions “clearly defined” and “mutualy supporting” fiscal arrangements.

According to whose interpretations?

I have yet to see a single communication from the Cultural Centre that has been “clearly defined.

Fiscal arrangements to this point have been supporting the Centre, I see nothing mutual for the town.

Page 35 outlines a pathetic “communication strategy” in which it states a structured plan for communications is a “very high priority”.

If  “There is a need to identify the various stakeholders and enter into two-way communication with them.” then, why isn’t there one?

Page 43 outlines 3 agreements between the Cultural Centre and the town:

  • Occupancy
  • Provision of Services
  • Asset Management

All three are incredibly flawed.

It is particularly interesting that the occupancy agreement is structured as such:

the town will confirm the Cultural Centre as the “sole occupant”.

WTF? number 3.

If it’s the town’s building, why would it be agreed to that the Cultural Centre be the sole occupant?

In the services agreement it goes on about “fiscal accountability” of which there is little and also speaks to the maintenance of “appropriate” program mix.

Again, who decides what is “appropriate”?

Page 44 identifies that the relationship between the Arts & culture advisory comittee will need to be defined.

Not only was this not done, that comittee was abolished.

We also read that “The process for bringing forward the budget will need to be defined.”

How many years has the Centre been operating without said process?

All of these do little to reinforce the aformentioned ideals of accountability at all, but wait there’s a section for that on page 50 where it identifies further opportunities that can be achieved:

1.) council representation
2.) ratification of the board by town council 

neither happened, why?

3.) approval of the center’s core budget by the town council 

how can this be approved without propper process of presentation?

4.)  monitoring and evaluation tools 

none exist, no evidense of any being sought/implemented

5.) A program advisory comittee 

Never implemented.

Accountability is all talk, and no follow-through.

The report believes that the Centre will be held accountable to key performance indicators:

1.) achievement of “balanced” program mix 

Where is the balance between heritage and culture?

2.) engagement of citizens of all ages and walks of life 

Given the outlandish ticket prices, how is the centre engaging all walks of life?  It exists to cater to a very small elite group.

3.) achievement of high fiscal responsibility 

Given that an audit was required, that the numbers show the Centre to be nowhere sustainable yet that is the reason some have floated for not having a museum, what is the Centre spending its money on?  

If they want to be responsible they need to provide the public with a budget similar to the Aurora Public Library’s.

On page 70 it laughably read tha the center will actively work to target programming to meet community needs.

It has failed on several fronts to do exactly that, in fact the report even indicates how the Church Street school is inadequte to hold anything more than small gatherings.

Aurora is large, culture is created throughout the town an in large venues, the majority of them a huge success and without $500,000 a year from the town to centralize and program.

Clrs Humphreys, Buck and Abel have reinforced the town’s greatest need : our museum, which was sadly displaced for this costly experiment of a Cultural Centre to play out.

It is unfortunate that an agreement that mentions no obligation to house one is being defended as a loop-hole to “collaborate where possible”.

Heritage is an integral component of Aurora’s culture, if that isn’t going to be reflected in a “Cultural” Centre than that organization shouldn’t be receiving any financial assistance from our town, let alone “core” funding.

As far as I can tell, the Centre has little if any core, and the way they conduct themselves is shocking.




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