This week, Council had before it the final decision as to what to develop on the Hallmark lands…Following some procedural wrangling, Council in the majority made the decision to build 1 softball diamond and 1 multi purpose sport field on the land.
I have seen a few comments from folks putting forward their “analysis” or interpretation of what transpired at the Council table…And while I respect the opinion of everyone, and the right to put forward one’s opinion, I do take issue with misstatements of facts. Overheated rhetoric uniformed by facts does a disservice to the discussion surrounding this important matter. And it certainly doesn’t further sports in Aurora. So, I will address some of what has been said regarding council’s decision, in the hopes of clarifying the misinformation.
Several folks have argued that the data put forward by and recommendation of staff was unbiased, research driven, and a practical argument to build two baseball diamonds. As Staff are the “experts”, we as a Council should simply agree and move forward. Well I would, respectfully, disagree. I don’t think any responsible decision maker would take information they are provided at face value or base a decision solely on one piece of information. One should always review, investigate options and then consider. In this case, I had many concerns with the data and the reports that were presented to Council and the public. And I raised those concerns with staff. However, I believe that when Council members have significant concerns with a Staff report, it is more effective and respectful to reach out to Staff directly to seek clarifications as opposed to peppering them with questions in a public meeting. Thus, I brought my concerns to staff in private. And while I received answers to my concerns and questions, the responses I received were unsatisfactory, as I pointed out that there was clearly some misinformation (ie incorrect data and stats) within what was being presented.
Council’s job is to make decisions that serve the best interests of the community. When I am making a decision, I do take staff recommendations into consideration; they inform my decisions. However, Staff reports and recommendations are not the only consideration. We need to consider all information – from staff, residents, and sports and community organizations and most importantly our Town Parks and Recreation Master Plan. A plan that some curiously have now called outdated – even though it was just updated in 2016. The Parks and Recreation Master Plan is a document that has the input of ALL sports organizations. It is a collaboration between ALL sports organizations, Staff, Council and the Parks and Rec Committee. An incredible amount of time, energy – and tax dollars – have been spent in developing this Master Plan. In the interest of making an informed decision, I think we should consider not only a stand alone staff report but should consider the recommendations from the Master Plan, that had the input of all key stakeholders.
And what did the Master Plan recommend? Supporting the development of 1 diamond and 3 rectangular fields(1 being multi-purpose)
I fully appreciate that expertise of our staff and will always take their recommendations into consideration.,.. but as elected officials we have a finger on the pulse of the community and we make decisions that are in the best interest of the community as a whole.. looking at all options, all angles of an issue… And I believe that is what the majority at the Council table did…The vote for 2 softball diamonds failed 5-4. A motion was then put forward by myself to build 1 softball diamond and 1 multi purpose sport field, that motion passed 7-2.. (Councillor Abel once again voted against both options, instead advocating for selling the land and building no sports fields.)
I understand that some folks are disappointed. They wanted 2 baseball fields. But contrary to what some have said, this isn’t a “win” for one particular group over another; this isn’t about making just “one group happy” as some have suggested. That kind of negative rhetoric is pretty disappointing I have to say. To my mind, whether you wanted 2 softball fields or you wanted 1 softball and 1 multi use, the bottom line is we have more sports fields!!! And that is a good outcome.… this is a good day for our sports community. As result of this vote, we will be building sports fields that will allow baseball to grow and will allow our other Town sport organizations – like rugby, lacrosse and football – to grow as well. The best interests of Aurora’s broad sports community have been served. I am looking forward to attending softball games on the new diamond as well as a great Rugby, football, soccer and lacrosse match on the new rectangular field!!