Walking Dead Aurora

Buried in binder 4 pg 4 of the Town of Aurora’s 2014 Operating budget under the section of “Community Grants” is listed “Museum Grant” with an attached amount of $50,000.

This item is easily overlooked as it is a bit of a misnomer. One might expect that this grant is to fund the “Aurora Museum” but that isn’t its purpose because there is no such thing. You can thank the Aurora Historical Society for losing that years ago.

This grant is a lump sum the Aurora Historical Society has continued to receive from the town for over 10 years, which they have been spending on Hillary House, and to a much lesser degree the Aurora Collection.

At the Town of Aurora’s final budget meeting of February 24th I delegated on the issue.

The video of that meeting has been posted to Youtube and you can watch it here:

My delegation happens between 1:00 and 8:50.

I had to schedule my delegation for the final meeting of the budget cycle as the Aurora Historical Society’s Annual Genneral Meeting wasn’t held until February 13th.

It was only then that I could grasp the gravity of what has happened to that organization.

More on that in future posts.

Sustainability has been an elusive issue for the Aurora Historical Society, and one that they have no real desire to resolve.

Winding the clock back to a General Committee meeting from 2009 and we read:

a) Mr. Andrew Kipfer, President
Aurora Historical Society

Mr. Andrew Kipfer addressed General Committee to provide a history of use of annual budget contributions toward the Aurora Historical Society from the Town of Aurora in past years and to justify the continuation of those contributions.

General Committee recommends:

THAT the comments of the delegate be received and referred to the 2010 Budget deliberations.

You can read more here:
http://www.town.aurora.on.ca/aurora/index.aspx?ArticleID=3118&lang=en-CA

In 2010 the Aurora Historical Society was asked to forward their business plan.

A Strategic Plan, provided by a provincial trillium grant was drafted for the society to run from 2010 – 2013. It can be found on the society’s woefully outdated web presence.

Among the goals of this plan, several were not realized and they are:

  • “leaders” in heritage
  • “clear and focused audience development
  • “accessible” Hillary House
  • appropriate internal capacity
  • effective development program

Another goal that went unrealized during the same time frame was a 3 year fundraising initiative with the intent to raise 3/4 of $1 million.

Instead of raising money the society has hemorrhaged it like a zombie with a headshot.

Comparing the organization’s financial statements from 2011 through 2013 and it is appalling how much money has been bled out.

A meager $66,000 remains.

If this was done in the private sector heads would roll.

It’s no surprise that at this years annual general meeting that a former president inquired if they were contemplating an exit strategy.

A current board member addressed the crowd saying that sometimes organizations have to die and be reborn.

A statement that arrived 4 years to late as the Town of Aurora’s continued funding has only served to re-animate its corpse.

And apparently funding that will continue indefinitely because this council is to squeamish to initiate a grown up discussion as to proper accountability.

Instead the preferred course is to ignore the zombie elephant in the room.

When faced with the issue last year the action was the same.

From the article on page 8 of February 5th, 2013 Auroran “Mayor Geoffrey Dawe said he agreed with the sentiment that this is not the year to pull back”.

So instead the Society received $60,000 from the town and burnt through that as well as an additional $75,000 of their own savings.

Surely our council would have the sense to pull back after reviewing the Society’s operations from 2013 including the cheesy 3 page excuse for a report to the town’s budget committee which  may as well had this cover:

dead

But no, watching the February 10th budget meeting our Mayor wanted no part of addressing the issue.

Instead he suggested a notice of motion be made for that to take place.

WTF?

You have to wait for a notice of motion before you have a discussion pertaining to an item in the town’s budget during the budget cycle?

This is ludicrous.

Where is the financial leadership, and accountability our Mayor campaigned on?

If a notice of motion came forward during the year it would no doubt be deferred to the budget cycle, and this folks is how nothing gets resolved and Aurora is left inheriting a growing mess.

In the February 13th Auroran on page 23 Mayor Dawe is quoted “it would be totally inappropriate just to turn away at this point. It doesn’t give them any option whatsoever and would be bad faith on our part”.

Another WTF?

The town has given them grant money every year, in addition last year they sponsored a table at the failed fundraising event “Hilarious House ball”, at a cost of $1,100 to the town.

This to an organization that had to surrender the Aurora Collection to the town after subjecting it to deplorable conditions and losing 1,600 artifacts.

The Aurora Historical Society has operated in a state of perpetual stagnation leaving in its wake a litany of missed opportunities.

If anything it is the Historical Society that has been inappropriate and acted in bad faith.

The Town’s current solution of doing nothing lacks sustainability and innovation enshrined in the strategic plan and it needs to wake up and realize that having “faith” in this organization is both irrelevant and negligent.

By handing over $70,000 this budget cycle is it is funding intent instead of performance.

Instead of helping the organization change it is enabling it to parade its decomposing corpse around town in search of fresh victims.

As Seth Godin has pointed out the only reason every project doesn’t scale to infinity is that something runs out. Time, money, natural resources, new fashions, new customers… something is scarce.

The first question you need to ask about your project is: what’s scarce?

The second: how do I get by with less of it?

I do not understand why the town’s grants, which make up such a significantly large component of the Society’s annual funding (over 40%) are not linked to performance based budgeting when the provincial grants they receive are.

Page 21/22 of this recent KPMG study that addresses innovation and sustainability suggests the adoption of Social Impact Bonds:  http://www.kpmg.com/Ca/en/IssuesAndInsights/ArticlesPublications/Documents/Shifting%20Gears.pdf

When the Mayor states that not extending this grant doesn’t give the Historical Society “any option” this helps complete the bigger picture.

The “Museum Grant” is no longer seen as a grant at all.

It is an entitlement.

One the Historical Society has become dependent upon.

On page 9 of the March 1st 2011 Auroran is states “What the Historical Society would ultimately like is the stability that would come in having their services as a regular line item on the Town budget”.

On page 17 of the February 13th 214 Auroran the outgoing president lists among her goals

“making sure their municipal funding was a line item in the municipal budget.”

But that isn’t the reality.

The Aurora Historical Society doesn’t enjoy a line item in the town’s budget, it receives a grant that hasn’t been justified for over a decade.

The fact that it perceives otherwise, and has been unable to stabilize itself while receiving annual grant money from the town erases any remaining confidence one should have in their operation.

The fact that council continues to hand over grant money as though it were a line item in the budget without doing their due diligence and in absence of having any discussions makes one wonder if they have become zombies themselves.

Given that this CBC article has pointed out how zombies have become a $5-billion industry ( http://www.cbc.ca/news/arts/the-walking-dead-4-brain-blasting-thoughts-on-zombies-1.2527639 ) and Toronto has become the birthplace of the “Zombie Walk” a now-international phenomenon, there appears to be an untapped revenue stream in Aurora’s growing legion of the walking dead.

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