Friday, 22 July 2016

Toomas Karmo: CIVIC EMERGENCY: RASC Pulls out of DDO 2016 September

From photography-of-dioramas art, on post-apocalypse themes, by Lori Nix
(working in New York, with Web outreach at http://www.lorinix.net;
the artist and Toomas Karmo have no commercial connection, and do not know each other personally).
Reproduced herewith by Toomas Karmo from the artist's
 http://clampart.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/Observatory_web.jpg,
with the artist's permission very kindly granted.

Quality assessment:


On the 5-point scale current in Estonia, and surely in nearby nations, and familiar to observers of the academic arrangements of the late, unlamented, Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (applying the easy and lax standards Kmo deploys in his grubby imaginary "Aleksandr Stepanovitsh Popovi nimeline sangarliku raadio instituut" (the "Alexandr Stepanovitch Popov Institute of Heroic Radio") and his grubby imaginary "Nikolai Ivanovitsh Lobatshevski nimeline sotsalitsliku matemaatika instituut" (the "Nicolai Ivanovich Lobachevsky Institute of Socialist Mathematics") - where, on the lax and easy grading philosophy of the twin Institutes, 1/5 is "epic fail", 2/5 is "failure not so disastrous as to be epic", 3'5 is "mediocre pass", 4.5 is "good", and 5/5 is "excellent"): 5/5. Justification: There was enough time to develop most of the appropriate points to reasonable length.

Revision history:

  • UTC=20160723T1650Z/version 3.2.0: Kmo added a remark on the advisability of his meeting the convict M.Muzzo in prison, and added a remark on his deliberately "forgotten" gardening tools, and cleaned up a very mild discourtesy, and cleaned up some typos or other cosmetic faults. 
  • UTC=20160723T1555Z/version 3.1.0: Kmo added a reference to Shanoff 2016-06-04 Toronto Sun opinion column on Tarion. 
  • UTC=20160723T1540Z/version 3.0.0: Kmo made a quite substantive addition, noting the subdivision project delay (launch is now scheduled for 2017-03-18), noting the possibility that RASC-Toronto has been used to give glamour and cachet to the subdivision, and asking the developer's Project Manager for comment. 
  • UTC=20160723T1416Z/version 2.1.0: Kmo made a small repair in grammar, and also added the quite substantive point that DDO&P is in the ward of Councillor Godwin Chan.
  • UTC=20160723T1345Z/version 2.0.0: Kmo made some substantive changes (softening a criticism of RASC-Toronto, and adding remarks on the possible future roles of Councillors Cilevitz and Chan). 
  • UTC=20160722T1959Z/version 1.0.0: Kmo brought the essay into a reasonably finished form and did an upload. He reserved the right to make  nonsubstantive tweaks, without formal documentation, over the ensuing 60 minutes, as here-undocumented versions "1.1.0", "1.2.0", "1.3.0", and so on. 


[CAUTION: A bug in the blogger software has in some past weeks shown a propensity to insert inappropriate whitespace at some late points in some of my posted essays. If a screen seems to end in empty space, keep scrolling down. The end of the posting is not reached until the usual blogger "Posted by Toomas (Tom) Karmo at" appears.]


0. Preamble

Early in June of 2016, I posted to this blog an imaginary artistic representation of an abandoned observatory, with the artist's permission. With the news of 2016-07-22, it is necessary to post  that disturbing image again.

At a first glance, all looks well. The observing floor, with its console, ladder, and computer table, seems in the first half-second a plausible scaled-down version of the DDO (David Dunlap Observatory) main-dome floor. 

But then reality sinks in.

The dome slit - in a normal observatory diligently closed as the morning twilight brightens - is in Lori Nix's post-apocalyptic artistic vision now open to the noonday. From this permanently open slit enters a luxuriant spread of vines, as when city starts reverting to jungle. 

****

I write to focus municipal, Provincial,and Ottawa minds on the crisis marked by the 2016-07-22 announcement from the current David Dunlap Observatory and Park (DDO&P) tenant, the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada's Toronto Centre (RASC-Toronto). In part, the announcement speaks for itself. Here is what it says. I quote it in full, under the legal concept of "Fair Use", while noting that its author has appended an assertion of copyright in the styling "Copyright © 2016 RASC Toronto Centre, All rights reserved." And I quote it while opining that in coming hours, or at any rate in coming days, it will be further posted, to full public view, at what has in the past proved to be a usual place for such RASC-Toronto announcements,  http://www.theddo.ca


Dear RASC Toronto Centre Members,

With deep personal regret I’m informing our members that the Council of RASC Toronto Centre has decided not to pursue a lease agreement for the DDO with the Town of Richmond Hill. Town staff have been told of Council’s decision.

Council felt it was not in the Centre’s best interests to continue the lease discussions. At this point, we expect to continue programs at the Observatory until about the end of August to honour tickets already sold for the summer program.

I’d like to personally thank the many, many enthusiastic Toronto Centre volunteers whose hard work made the DDO such a success over the past seven years. Their efforts resulted in the 2015 RASC Qilak award and the Richmond Hill Volunteer Achievement Award. We have a great deal to be proud of.

Paul Mortfield
President, RASC Toronto Centre


****

Comment is needed from my desk in my capacities 

  • as an employee at DDO on two concurrent contracts, each of essentially a half-time nature, from 2006 mid-November to the end of 2008 June;
  • as a longtime member of RASC-Toronto;
  • as the lead author of the annual bright-stars article in the RASC Observer's Handbook (a publication with a current press run of around 9,000 copies, and now with an  emerging Web component; I started in 2001, under Prof. R.F.Garrison, being appointed lead author in 2015; my volunteer-labour contributions are logged in my computer as comprising - I give here the most recent five years - 65h04 (65 hours, 4 minutes) so far in 2016, 72h13 in 2015, 49h17 in 2014, 57h58 in 2013, and 38h32 in 2012; 
  • as the individual who founded the "DDO Defenders" in the winter of 2007/2008 (being, however, in essence ejected from its leadership by municipal politician Karen Cilevitz in the spring of 2008; the "DDO Defenders" is now somewhat misleadingly named, having as of 2011 or 2012 chosen to support the developer's aspiration to build 520-plus homes on about 32 of the 72 DDO&P "Trapezoid" hectares);
  • as the conservationist principally threatened with court action in recent years in Richmond Hill politics (full details are at  http://www.karen-vs-toomas-legaldocs.ca and http://www.karen-vs-toomas-blog.ca; I have received no threat since the Jason Cherniak letter of 2014-12-12, analyzed at the latter of these two sites; I further stress here that lawyer Jason Cherniak is not to my knowledge himself a land developer, and I add in this context that Jason Cherniak is not to be confused with his father, the Oak Ridges Moraine land developer-cum-lawyer Lloyd Cherniak);
  • as the individual financing the bulk of the court and tribunal work of the principal DDO&P conservationist organization, the Richmond Hill Naturalists (http://www.rhnaturalists.ca; I financed, almost solo, all court and tribunal proceedings except 2009 Conservation Review Board; my total outlay on the case, almost all of it by way of payments in support of the court and tribunal work, was 500,000 CAD or 550,000 CAD; although now too poor to afford a lawyer, I am happy to attmept my own court work if sued, and to rely on this blog and other Web materials if I should break down in the courtroom under the concomitant stresses of my fear and my (mild) autism)

1. Background to the 2016-07-22 RASC Crisis


(A) Further background can be had from earlier postings on this blog. 

(A.a) At http://toomaskarmo.blogspot.ca/2016/04/toomas-karmo-essay-on-sorrow-its.html is a posting of 2016-04-26, entitled "Essay on Sorrow - Its Anatomy and Remedies". Section 1, entitled "Case studies in the anatomy of sorrow", deals with my private and subjective conjecture that Richmond Hill Naturalists' lawyer Virginia MacLean (http://virginiamaclean.com; on 2016-04-26 I call her, however, "MM"), in departing from client instructions at the 2012 Ontario Municipal Board by supporting construction of some streets and houses at DDO&P, was a victim of blackmail. 

Today, 2016-07-22, I herewith remind Virginia of our angry exchange of e-mails from a couple of years ago, and of my repeated requests for her to meet with me so that she can explain what she was doing at the Ontario Municipal Board in her painfully short, stunningly concessionary, "Summation" of 2012-09-10, so that I can - however reluctantly - in my poverty pay up the 10,000 CAD that the Naturalists still owe her. I herewith remind Virginia that she has had repeated communications from me about this in the last few months.

Section 2, entitled "Remedies for sorrow: the DDO&P file", details among other things my possible interrogation by the late Alfredo DeGasperis (in a friendly, but mysterious, 2008 meting, in which my interrogator chose to remain incognito, and in which I for my part did not press hard for his personal particulars); and the criminal record of DDO&P development-firm director's nephew Marco Muzzo (one conviction only; surely, I subjectively predict, there will be no other); and the mysterious 2016-04-18 resumption of earthmoving activity at DDO&P after a many-week hiatus; and the claim of  "Mr or Ms or Dr or Prof. or Sir or Dame I.Seem-Powerful" to have seen a University of Toronto document asserting an ongoing University contractual or quasi-contractual stake in the envisaged sale of DDO&P homes. Above all, this section contains my appeal to the development company directors, in the Muzzo and DeGasperis families, to meet with me, and to agree with me that there are more important things than an approximately-32-hectare subdivision, and to let a process of healing and citizen-led reforestation begin. 

(A.b) At http://toomaskarmo.blogspot.ca/2016/05/toomas-karmo-2016-05-03-e-mail-from.html is a posting of 2016-05-03, entitled "2016-05-03 e-mail to DDO&P-casework public figures, re blog". This helps bring my "Essay on Sorrow" to wide public notice. It also calls in the public interest for other parties in the DDO&P casework, of whatever political persuasion, to contribute to this present blog, without fear of censorship. 

(A.c) At  http://toomaskarmo.blogspot.ca/2016/05/islands-in-time-of-civilizational.html is a posting of 2016-05-16 or 2016-05-17, "Part C" of an multi-week essay with the overall title "Islands in a Time of Civilizational Decline". This covers among other things DDO astrophysics research capabilities up the 2008 July shutdown; my formal rebuttal of a 2007-09-10 University of Toronto press release, falsely representing DDO as lacking relevance in astrophysics research; the 2007-10-30 University of Toronto Governing Council meeting, in which it was resolved to sell DDO&P (I mention among other things the possibility that Council member David Peterson was legally required to recuse himself, and also mention a second question of legal conflict, involving not Mr Peterson but the University's retention of Goodmans LLP); the University's possible delicate financial position, involving deferred maintenance on its Toronto-wide physical plant; the question whether the University's sale was legally,  and from another standpoint ethically, licit (I cite the original donor's 1932 Deed of Indenture); the 2008 public rallies (one of these featured the late federal New Democrat parliamentary leader Mr Jack Layton, thanks to careful diplomacy by then-conservationist Karen Cilevitz); the University's striking assertion, made to me  by then-Vice-President Ms Catherine Riggall, that "We [meaning the University] don't do moral leadership"; my 2007 assurance from the relevant Dean at the University that I enjoy the free-speech rights normal in our 'Varsity setting; the eerie event with David Grey Eagle Sanford's owl, in an afternoon of First Nations ceremonial for the DDO&P conservationists, and its connection with realtor-law questions of "Stigma" in the advertising of home sales; the conservationists' detailed "as-found" photography in 2008, and in that context our one inadvertent injury to municipal-provincial-national heritage (the loss, by one of my hard-working conservationist colleagues, of a blueprint); the hideous scenes of grief in 2008 July, not normally experienced by middle-class persons in peacetime, and in that context my photocopying of documentation pertaining to earmarked (perhaps, for all I know, now incorrectly administered?) DDO 1950s- or 1960s-era funds; the linked question of the Walter Helm Endowment Fund; the mysterious 2008 July death of my DDO computer (but my data was backed up); the question of Prof. Karl Kamper's DDO archive; my 2008 handling of a building key, including my envisaged method of proceeding should I in future be subjected to government interrogation; the University of Toronto Police head's resort to a line of sexual questioning, in our interview of 2008-07-12 (including my futile e-mail followup through President Naylor); and the "Moving Day at DDO" YouTube film, with a remark on what did not get filmed (including the apparent University of Toronto Police resort to duly parked ambulance; was this, I ask in "Part C", an unsuccessful attempt to invoke the 72-hour psychiatric-detention provisions of "Form 1", as  contemplated in the Ontario Mental Health Act?). 

(A.d) At http://toomaskarmo.blogspot.ca/2016/05/reupload-part-d-islands-in-time-of_23.html is a posting of 2016-05-23 or 2016-05-24, "Part D" ("Conclusions") of "Islands in a Time of Civilizational Decline". This covers prospects for DDO&P, both under a favourable scenario in which the developer pulls back, allowing citizen-led reforestation, and under an unfavourable scenario, in which the developer builds the envisaged 14 streets and the envisaged  520-plus homes.  

So much, then, for earlier postings on this blog. 

There is also (B) the already-mentioned http://www.metascientia.com, and the already-mentioned pair of sites http://www.karen-vs-toomas-legaldocs.ca and http://www.karen-vs-toomas-blog.ca

Next, (C) I should draw attention to my series of comments on an interesting but occasionally gappy blog essay by Greg Strom, at http://acuriousguy.blogspot.ca/2015/04/the-ugly-battle-over-david-dunlap.html,   retrievable in Google by searching on the string ugly battle dunlap observatory. It suffices here simply to quote what I wrote to fill in Mr Strom's various gaps, since my sequence of comments nicely sums up the legal formalities of the casework: 

  • [On 2015-12-30:] I am involved in this heritage conservation case, the weightiest in Canada, as a 2006-thru-2008 DDO employee. I founded the DDO Defenders late in 2007, but in the spring of 2008 lost my leadership position (I am autistic, and clumsy) to Karen Cilevitz (she is not autistic). I funded the Richmond Hill Naturalists for all legal actions except their (largely successful) 2009 Conservation Review Board case, and additionally settled out of court in 2014 with Karen Cilevitz (since the 2014 municipal elections, Councillor Cilevitz). I therein lost most of my life savings (500,000 CAD or 550,000 CAD or so; of this, most was spent on RH Naturalists, and 37,000 CAD or so paying the lawyer who helped me settle out of court with Karen Cilevitz). Your own figures are correct in essence, but we still should make one correction: not 520 homes, but 531, perhaps plusminus 1 or 2 or so. Of these 531, some are on McMansion-style lots, in some instance or instances with boundaries within 150 metres of the largest of DDO's three telescopes. - The DDO Defenders fought alongside the Naturalists for full conservation until 2010, after which Karen Cilevitz changed their stance. Full details on Councillor Cilevitz's side of the case are at http://www.karen-vs-toomas-blog.ca/ and http://www.karen-vs-toomas-legaldocs.ca/. - The developer has some promo materials, urging purchase of the DDO homes, at http://www.observatoryhill.ca/. - I would urge readers to look at all three Web sites, and to contact me if I can be of any help in clarifying anything: Toomas(dot)Karmo(at)gmail(dot)com; 647-267-9566. It is additionally helpful to sign up for the developer's newsletter via the interface provided at http://www.observatoryhill.ca/. I would particularly urge those readers with a conservationist philosophy to sign up: let us be very polite to the developer, but let us keep well informed through all available channels, that unhappy newsletter included. (signed) Toomas Karmo
  • [Later on 2015-12-30:] I should post again, to make sure all the facts of the Richmond Hill Naturalists' (RHNats) legal work are on record. (1) In 2009, RHNats argued at Conservation Review Board (CRB) for Conservation Heritage Landscape (CHL) status, in the meaning of the Ontario Heritage Act (OHA), on 72-hectare DDO "Trapezoid". Oppoosing were Town (seeking CHL on approx 50%) and developer (seeking only OHA protection for key buildings and for greenspace immediately adjacent to key buildings). CRB decision recommended CHL on approx 75%. (2) In 2012, RHNats argued at OMB, calling to the witness stand Prof. Bolton to testify re light pollution. OMB decision favoured the developer. (3) In 2013, RHNats sought leave to appeal at Divisional Court, arguing that OMB had in 2012 paid insufficient deference to CRB. Judge rejected this argument, holding that in law CRB can recommend to OMB, and yet is powerless to bind OMB. (4) In 2014, RHNats argued again at OMB, this time (at my urging, as ongoing RHNats donor) calling to the witness stand two international light-pollution authorities (Luginbuhl, from Arizona, and Shore, from Italy). OMB decision again favoured developer. (5) In 2015 April, RHNats were represented by a pro-bono lawyer, as developer sought award of costs for 200,000 CAD against RHNats. In its decision, OMB awarded 100,000 CAD to developer against RHNats. It is helpful to check "Google News" for the various bits of press coverage, most notably in Richmond Hill community paper, "The Liberal". At CRB and Divisional Court, Defenders observed without arguing, and at 2012 and 2014 OMB, Defenders argued against RHNats. RASC has not argued in any of the various legal proceedings. - As a student of these various proceedings, I am surprised by failure of OMB to accord protection at least to the greenspace closest to the telescope. Is it in the public interest to have McMansion-scale lots so close? - As a private citizen, I urge (A) competent provincial and federal involvement in the DDO conservation file, and (B) (to prevent a heritage abuse such as DDO from recurring) OMB reform. (signed) Toomas Karmo PS: I am willing to face whatever law suit(s) anyone may (I write here in a pure hypothetical) one day try to bring against me, but am probably going to have to SELF-represent in court(s): lawyers are for the rich.
  • [On 2016-02-24:] Fresh news: according to a newsletter disseminated today by RASC-Toronto to its members, including me, Corsica has offered to donate the two key heritage buildings (which house the three telescopes) to the Town of Richmond Hill, rather than to RASC-Toronto. Town staff are, according to the newsletter, instructed to pursue long-term lease arrangements with RASC-Toronto. So RASC-Toronto, having been tenants of Corsica, would appear to be slated to become tenants of the Town instead, and NOT to become owners of property. - This is a rather favourable outcome. It places ownership of the properties into public hands, opening that ownership up to public scrutiny through such mechanisms as the Freedom of Information legislation. And of course there is now no danger that RASC-Toronto will, in its financially constrained position, be some dark day tempted to sell the properties to private commercial interests such as Corsica or Corsica's commercial allies.
  • [Later on 2016-02-24:] Of course we still have to deal with the destruction of 32 hectares of greenspace. Let the work stop (I say), and let Corsica simply walk away, with some pipes laid, and much soil moved, but with the projected 531 homes largely or entirely unbuilt. Then let us, the citizens, somehow, with our own labour and sweat now work bit by bit to get topsoil and trees back, over
    a period of years - if necessary, toiling in deep poverty, if necessary toiling with the few hand tools we can afford, as opposed to the power machinery with which Corsica ravaged those 32 hectares in 2015. - Corsica is the creature of the DG Group, formerly known as Metrus. DG Group is the creature of the De Gasperis family. De Gasperis family, and also the Muzzos, who with the De Gasperises are involved in this case: we have to sit down and talk the ethics through, in a properly Catholic context. I e-mailed you about this, both directly and thru Corsica lawyer D.Bronskill, this evening. - Toomas(dot)Karmo(at)gmail(dot)com 647-267-9566
  • [On 2016-03-23:] We now have good press coverage, via Richmond Hill weekly community paper The Liberal, for the transfer of the two key heritage buildings to the Town of Richmond Hill. Check Google News for this (headline "Disputed Richmond Hill observatory buildings now belong to town: Astronomy charity members fuming over developer's decision", dateline 2016-03-02, byline "by Kim Zarzour"), or else point your browser directly to the coverage, at http://www.yorkregion.com/news-story/6372190-disputed-richmond-hill-observatory-buildings-now-belong-to-town/ .
Finally (D), there is a work in progress, my http://www.ddopark.ca. This site adds relatively little to the materials already cited. A little awkwardly, is is under password protection. The protection is no longer imposed for any profound reason, but now merely because this is work in progress, not ready for the casual surfer. Anyone needing to read it can do so by using as login name jessie and as password accuracy

The lower-case "jessie" is a small tribute to the 1932 Observatory donor, the wonderfully upright and public-spirited Jessie Donalda Dunlap. I can speak rather confidently to her character, having looked at some of her correspondence, and at related papers, in the University of Toronto archives.

I have yet to write up (E) my rather comic account of police handcuffing on 2008-07-30, and of my formal police instruction to refrain from entering DDO&P (an instruction which, I presume, has legal force up to the instant the DDO&P western rump is transferred to the Town, as predicted for this summer, and which, I presume, becomes a nullity as soon as title is transferred - for the Town lacks, I presume, the legal power to bar my entry into the rump once the rump becomes a Town park; but I propose to check all these legal points with the police and the Town before attempting entry). 

 2. Assessment of the 2016-07-22 RASC Crisis

Very early, I think in the first few days of the DDO&P conservation crisis, I saw a thing which I think, in my capacity as a would-be Catholic private religious contemplative in the general theological framework of Firenze (Toscana) hermit Sr Julia Holloway, God desired me to see. I had long been going to public dinners at the local Catholic Worker house, and I had there made the acquaintance of "X". "X", when I knew him or her there, was probably poor, and yet did not seem desperately so. "X" was perhaps in a social situation not radically worse than my own, in which I have shelter and meals always to hand, and am able to pay my rent promptly. 

Now, however, something had happened. 

"X" seemed to avoid my gaze in the street and to be reluctant even to talk. I think I gathered from "X" that "X" was now sleeping in some improvised quarters - perhaps (but I am only 80-percent sure I am remembering this accurately) in a brothel or a homosexual sauna, such as can be entered upon paying some such fee as 12 CAD, and in which the indigent can, I believe, in practice be secure enough against sexual molestation. Privately horrified and in largely concealed anguish, I pressed upon "X" not my customary 1 CAD or 2 CAD handout to the indigent, but a banknote for 20 CAD. "X" accepted this, and then made her or his rapid escape, down a side street. 

Although I have seen worse things than this, such things are few and far between. (My dear mother's deathbed in 2011 was worse, as were my dear father's 1991 death, and my brief examination of occupied Estonia in 1990, and a 1974 Nova Scotia forest fire.) 

I stress that in my private and subjective belief, God desired me to see the bleak thing and to link it to the DDO&P conservation case on which I was then just barely embarking - even as He (perhaps) desired me to be aware of the 2016 Marco Muzzo criminal proceedings. On that bad 2016 day, I plainly saw the Christ-like figure of the wealthy and disgraced convict as he stood in his glass-enclosed dock. For most of his time in the dock, he faced the judge. There was, however, an instant at which our gazes met. As I have pointed out already (perhaps more than once) to his uncommunicative defence counsel (and as I point out again), I must be allowed to visit him in prison, and must be given some guidance regarding the practicalities of this visit by counsel. 

My  2007 experience with "X" was perhaps a sign, meant to impress on me the special gravity of what was already in 2007 promising to be a long period of DDO&P casework. Back in those initial months, I estimated to friends, in current retrospect reasonably enough, that we might be facing a fifteen-year fight. 

****

Having, then, here remarked on the general seriousness of the situation, I turn now to the specific seriousness of the 2016-07-22 news, as contained in the already-quoted statement from RASC-Toronto. With RASC-Toronto (as we on 2016-07-22 learned) gone as of 2016 September, Lori Nix's artistic vision of an abandoned observatory looms. 

It cannot be said that my esteemed, and now departing, organization was a fully happy influence on the declining fortunes of DDO&P. 

To the best of my knowledge, RASC-Toronto did nothing, in all its 2009-through-2016 tenancy under the aspiring property developer,  to further DDO&P astrophysical research. 

On the side of conserving national heritage, my organization did bring back into amateur-level service one of the two principal auxiliary telescopes, the 0.4-metre reflector in the Administration Building south dome. 

It is further to the credit of my organization that it took over DDO public tours, faithfully continuing the public-outreach work which we, the DDO staffers, had been doing since the summer of 1935. 

And it is to the credit of my organization that, liaising with the University's Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics, it brought books and other artefacts back into the Administration Building. RASC-Toronto thereby partially, or for all I know even largely, remedied the University's frightening 2008 July evacuation of heritage contents. 

Again, it is to the credit of my organization that it carried on with my own pre-2009 efforts in DDO&P gardening - conserving the beds I had created and double-dug around 2005, and doing significant planting of its own, and even procuring from within its ranks the (volunteer?) services of a horticulture professional. (In horticulture, I am myself merely an autodidact.) 

And I will long be grateful to my organization for the fact that despite having harshly ordered "DDO Defenders" activist Dr Ian Shelton, along with astronomy-and-radio enthusiast Ken Baine, off DDO&P on a public tour night, and having once in the broader daylight literally chased Dr Shelton's naively chosen political colleague Karen Cilevitz into the forest, RASC-Toronto has almost never been emotionally abusive toward me. 

But the debit side of the ledger is weighty. 

Our Town Council will be mindful of the infrequency of RASC-Toronto's visits to the Council chamber when that perpetual theme, DDO&P conservation, has been up for discussion, and of their uncivic demeanour in the Chamber on those rather few occasions on which they have attended. I remember in the most vivid way, as will others, the night they did come, en masse, with the evident intention of packing the public seats. (This was the night in which I unfortunately broke down in weeping or shrieking, thereby to my shame bringing the deliberative proceedings of a significant Canadian municipality to a dead halt for five or ten minutes. I have not previously explained, but may as well explain now, that I suddenly saw RASC-Toronto's tactic as analogous to the packing of public seats in a courtroom in Soviet-occupied Estonia, in trials such as were in the later-Brezhnev, or Andropov-Chernenko, era accorded to a small bevy of gulag political prisoners, including Enn Tarto, Lagle Parek, and Mart Niklus.) 

I recall, as will others, an episode of heckling from RASC-Toronto's position in the public seats.  It is because it was I at the podium microphone at that instant that I was forced a moment ago, in today's retrospective blogging, to stick a dark "almost" in front of my bright "never", when discussing abuse. 

Above all, I recall, as will everyone working on the case, RASC-Toronto's self-promotion. 

Whereas the podium is a place for us to try to call our Mayor and Council to civic account, exercising with all possible vigour and skill our Charter free-speech rights as we strive to clarify issues, my organization - seemingly ignorant of the way things work in municipal life, and seemingly uninterested even in learning - used it as a place for praising themselves, in the upbeat promotional tones familiar from radio commercials. 

The most damning entry on the negative side of my organization's ledger is, however, the following: RASC-Toronto has to the best of my knowledge never - not ever, not once in its eight or so years of DDO&P involvement - spoken out against the developer's envisaged destruction of 32 or so hectares in the 72-hectare DDO&P "Trapezoid" lands. From this I conclude, as subjective and private opinion freely expressible in the light of Canadian defamation case-law - I cite, now as at many times in previous writing, WIC Radio Ltd v Simpson (2008) -, that their involvement in DDO&P was not public-spirited. It was the opposite. It was self-interested. They wanted (such is my private and subjective opinion) a presence at DDO&P less to enhance Canadian astrophysics research than to give themselves, qua organization, extra heft.

We cannot, in all this unhappiness, discount the possibility that RASC-Toronto has allowed itself, whether wittingly or unwittingly, to be used by a commercial interest. Could it be that the developer was happy to make RASC-Toronto its tenant, so as to give its envisaged homes glamour and cachet, for as long as sales queries were vigorous (the advertising, available through http://observatoryhill.ca, does play up the astronomical theme), and happy enough to drop RASC-Toronto - as one might drop a tool that has served its purpose -  once most of the pertinent queries had been addressed? Better commercial minds than mine will have to ponder this.

Such minds will further have to analyze the developer's 2016-06-21 mass-distribution e-mail announcement that development would be held back:


COMING MARCH 18, 2017.

A project this important
deserves detailed thinking.

Hi Toomas,

We're thrilled to hear how excited people are about Observatory Hill, because we are too. We know you're waiting to see designs. The reason we haven't shared them is that they simply aren't perfect yet.

All of the builders involved with the project agreed from the onset that this development would be amongst the best Canada has ever seen, and a vision like that takes time. In saying this, we are getting closer to a release, so yes, we're asking you to wait a bit longer, but it will be worth it. Our goal is to open in March of next year (2017). Observatory Hill is shooting for the moon, and is poised to deliver a lifestyle and living experience beyond anything you'd expect.

Thank you, and please keep an eye on your inbox.

The Observatory Hill Team



It has been cynically suggested to me, by a close observer of GTA real estate, that subdivisions are routinely and deliberately "delayed" once enough homes have been spoken for - i.e., once a sufficient number of prospective buyers have in some way committed themselves. The cynical suggestion is that there are commercial advantages in the delay, as the already-committed become more and more anxious to finalize everything, and therefore become less and less anxious to quibble over points of workmanship. The normal thing in a situation of complaint is to work through the development-community grievance adjuster, the "Tarion Warranty Corp." (http://www.tarion.com) - an organization in which the wife, Ms Karen Mortfield, of the 2016-07-22 RASC-Toronto statement author Paul Mortfield has herself been (perhaps still is) a vice-president. Some background on Tarion can be had from Alan Shanoff's opinion piece, "Tarion too close to builders: After 40 years, new home buyers in Ontario deserve better warranty protection", in a Toronto Sun upload of 2016-06-04 to  http://www.torontosun.com/2016/06/04/tarion-too-close-to-builders.

Some public response, perhaps rebutting the cynical suggestion, from the developer's project manager Mr Michael Pozzebon would now be helpful. This present blog would be one appropriate place for such comment, since I have undertaken ever since the 2016-04-14 blog launch to publish polite and correctly signed incoming comment without censorship.  A simple, wide-distribution, press release from Mr Pozzebon's side, explicitly citing this blog, would be still better.  

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What can be done for the welfare of DDO&P? 

I am prepared to take up the slack left by RASC-Toronto, donating a few tens of hours of gardening in 2017 and 2018, if the Town will ease my financial burden by buying the plant materials. I can continue using my own many tools, which I deliberately "forgot" in the lower level of the Great Dome in the upheavals of 2008 July, and which are meant to serve the public interest. 

Since security at DDO&P becomes a sudden near-term problem - I have today to bring the impending September security concern to the notice of, among others, York Regional Police - I have to make myself available as a person-on-site. If the Town's Parks department desires it, I can do my mathematics or physics studies in the Administration Building, without pay, at some upstairs desk. I could on random nights sleep right in the building, after completing my daytime civic duty of legally picketing the developer's envisaged Administration Building sales centre. (That is to say, if there is a sales centre - as always, we must be open to the possibility that the developer decision-makers, being as visibly Catholic as I myself am, will see reason, and relent, and perhaps chat with the Archdiocese, and pull back.)

Further, since RASC-Toronto never did significantly revive astrophysics research, and since RASC-Toronto is now confounding everyone by leaving, we have to figure out some other way of reviving it. 

Here I make myself available to the rather misleadingly named "DDO Defenders". I am aware that these muddled, ethically compromised, people have acquiesced in the developer's despoiling about 32 hectares. I do realize that these people have almost no credible record in conservationist tribunal and court argumentation.  (They did try, amazingly, to argue not for but against the RH Naturalists' expert-witness light-pollution testimony at the Ontario Municipal Board. Fortunately for us, the conservationists,  the otherwise conservation-averse OMB hearing Chair blocked their effort.) But I am aware also that in their ranks is professional astrophysicist Dr Ian Shelton. I am sure his wife Tuba has also retained something from her sometime astrophysics doctorate, even though not teaching undergraduates in the discipline. 

We may well be doomed to leave the big telescope to mere public outreach. Liquid nitrogen for its research spectrograph is expensive. The spectrograph electronics, rotting in its nine years of disuse, will in any case likely require gutting and replacement, for a sum in essence guesstimated for me by a DDO engineer to lie in the tens of thousands of dollars. Can such dauntingly large electronics monies be secured through NSERC at the federal level, or at the provincial level through a Trillium grant, at a time when some level of government must also somehow address the multi-million-dollar bill for deferred maintenance on the main heritage buildings? If funds for refurbishment of the spectrograph electronics are not forthcoming, we should at any rate be able to work in the long-established framework of the American Association of Variable Star Observers (AAVSO). Dr Shelton could help me organize some "Citizen Science" AAVSO programme. Although Dr Shelton will have his own ideas, and although he as my scientific senior must prevail, I for my part would today at least suggest an attempt to take timings of binary-star eclipses, as an ancillary to investigations of binary-system mass transfers, with appropriate public volunteer labour under his and my direction. 

On the side of public tours, I can of course help out, just as I used to, again and again and again, before the 2008 shutdown, and as Dr Shelton, with his doctorally qualified wife, still more competently can. It is helpful that Dr Shelton's wife was herself the DDO public-outreach coordinator in the years leading up to the last University-funded tours.  

It is easy for me, in particular, once again to help give auditorium lectures to the public, and once again to give little Dome talks - for an honorarium if administratively possible, but as an unpaid volunteer otherwise (at any rate until my envisaged 2018 departure for Estonia; if need be, this, too, could perhaps be put off).  

And on the side of engineering, I know (having explored the matter carefully in recent months, in a face-to-face teatime meeting) that I can recruit at least one of the former DDO engineers. At any rate, this recruitment is feasible if the Town - in concert, perhaps, with the Province, and perhaps eventually also with Parks Canada - works out some scheme of payment for him. 

On the side of the Town, it will perhaps be possible to draw in Councillor Karen Cilevitz. She has no university degree (she has only a diploma, in some branch of healthcare), and her attainments in amateur astronomy are to my knowledge slender. But she was an earnest and passionate advocate of full DDO&P conservation until her 2011 change in allegiance. Karen will of course object that there is a 2014 legal agreement between her and me, restricting our communications. But I never have any pride, ever. Or at least I ought not to have any. If I detect any, I know it is my duty to mortify it. I am therefore now and in future (as at all times also in the past) happy to sit down with Karen, in any convenient spot, and have coffee, and talk face to face, as we jointly work out how we can jointly help DDO.

Additionally, there is on Council a person to my mind still more suitable than Karen for this type of deliberation, namely Councillor Godwin Chan. In contrast with Karen, Councillor Chan has a high and relevant professional qualification: he has served as a lawyer on the team of the provincial Attorney General. Councillor Chan is additionally, with former Councillor Foster, an author of a strongly worded DDO&P-conservationist motion, duly passed at Town Council. And DDO&P is in Councillor Chan's ward (Ward Six).

Perhaps the correct diplomatic solution here is a solution on which Karen lifts those restrictions on communication which she and her lawyer Jason constructed, and in which additionally Councillor Chan becomes once again prominently active, and in which I end up working in some way or other with both those Town Councillors - the Councillors themselves, of course, now in turn becoming a welcome means of liaison with the Town's Parks Department, and with the Province, and with Parks Canada. 

I will over the next few days be trying to reach out to an amateur organization which, unlike RASC-Toronto, has on the basis of my limited information a credible commitment to astrophysics research - the North York Astronomical Association (NYAA; http://www.nyaa.ca). Can some solution, perhaps, be assembled which draws in the two Sheltons, and my engineer friend, and perhaps other former members of the DDO family, and perhaps either two or three people I used to know slightly in the York University Department of Physics and Astronomy or an ancillary York University unit, and Karen  - I do well to write here, " Councillor Karen" - with Councillor Chan, and an NYAA contingent? 

These are early days for assembling a solution. At this stage, we above all need exploratory discussions, in which all parties - the three levels of government included - provide ideas. 

[Having interrupted my normal blogging routine, on which uploads are made at the beginning of each Universal Coordinated Time (UTC) Tuesday, in the four-hour UTC interval 0001Z/0401Z, I must now try to return to the routine. My hope is  to make my next upload at the normally scheduled time (in this instance, in the four-hour interval UTC=20160726T0001Z/20160726T0401Z), but for once with an anomalously low wordcount.]

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