Monday, 15 May 2017

Toomas Karmo: DDO&P: Encounters with the Powerful of Our Town, on a Fine Saturday Morning

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"): 4/5. Justification: There was enough time to develop the necessary points to reasonable length (and fortunately not enough time for the luxury of verbal excess, as when one yields to the temptation of sermonizing.) 

Revision history:

  • 20170517T0250Z/version 1.1.0: Kmo repaired a broken hyperlink, meant to connect with his posting of 2017-03-06 or 2017-03-07 (the open letter to his presumed FSB or SVR case officer). - Kmo  reserved the right to make  further tiny, nonsubstantive, purely cosmetic, changes over the coming 96 hours, as here-undocumented versions 1.1.1, 1.1.2, 1.1.3, ... . 
  • 20170516T0002Z/version 1.0.0: Kmo uploaded base version (already  reasonably polished). He reserved the right to make  further tiny, nonsubstantive, purely cosmetic, changes over the coming 96 hours, as here-undocumented versions 1.0.1, 1.0.2, 1.0.3, ... . 
[CAUTION: A bug in the blogger server-side software has in some past weeks shown a propensity to insert inappropriate whitespace at some 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. - The blogger software has also shown a propensity to generate HTML that is formatted in different ways on different client-side browsers, perhaps with some browsers not correctly reading in the entirety of the "Cascading Style Sheets" which on many Web servers control the browser placement of margins, sidebars, and the like. If you suspect "Cascading Style Sheets" problems in your particular browser, be patient: it is probable that while some content has been shoved into some odd place (for instance, down to the bottom of your browser, where it ought to appear in the right-hand margin), all the server content has been pushed down into your browser in some place or other. - Finally, there may be blogger vagaries, outside my control, in font sizing or interlinear spacing. - Anyone inclined to help with trouble-shooting, or to offer other kinds of technical advice, is welcome to write me via]

Early this month, I sent the following (largely self-explanatory) e-mail to the Mayor and Council of Richmond Hill,  to Mr Michael Pozzebon (the Project Manager, at "Corsica", of the envisaged David Dunlap Observatory and Park (DDO&P) subdivision, as promoted at, and to Mr David Bronskill (; this is the lawyer who has chiefly represented Corsica in most or all of its 2009-through-2015 legal contests with the Richmond Hill Naturalists):


TO: Mayor and Council, and two individuals on the team of the aspiring
       David Dunlap Observatory and Park "Observatory Hill"
       subdivision-developer team

FROM: Toomas Karmo

RE: l'Arche Daybreak: opportunity to sponsor, in 2017-05-13  walkathon fundraiser

As I indicated to you last year - I am herewith recycling much of my 2016 l'Arche-fundraising letter - Richmond Hill is in various ways a sad municipality. Our town is a textbook case of breakneck urban growth, with a three- or four-decade record of planning failure.  Nevertheless, Richmond Hill has not one, but two, claims to national and international attention.

One of these is the currently threatened David Dunlap Observatory and Park, where around 32 hectares out of the 77-hectare total are slated for a 520- or 530-home subdivision, in a legal  case that has cost me the bulk of my life savings. (I did not save a single tree. Many details, as you know, are at, most notably in my long  2016-04-26 essay on "Sorrow - Its Anatomy and Its Remedies".)

The other, however, is happier. l'Arche Daybreak is a residential facility (with even its own fine, small parkland) working for the developmentally handicapped. It was in this facility that one of the major 20th-century Catholic pastoral theologians, Fr Henri Nouwen, did a significant part  - perhaps, even, in qualitative terms the most significant part - of his deep thinking and deep writing. The facility will also be permanently associated in the public mind with one of the most remarkable families to appear in Canadian public life, the Vaniers. l'Arche was founded at Trosly, not far from Paris, by Jean Vanier, and in due course brought also to Richmond Hill. The still-living Jean is himself the son of a former Governor-General, perhaps the most respected of  the numerous Canadian Governors-General since 1867.

As in 2015 and 2016, so again on 2017-05-13 I am participating in a 5-kilometre walk to raise funds for l'Arche Daybreak in Richmond Hill. I turned to many of you in 2015 and 2016, asking if you might be willing to sponsor me in the walk. I turn to you with the same suggestion again this year.

Although I did not receive responses in 2016, and although I did not receive sponsorships from the persons I approached in 2015 - tempers were evidently frayed over DDO&P - I was nevertheless pleased in 2015 to receive an e-mail of moral support from Councillor Brenda Hogg. I was also pleased both in 2015 and in 2016 to be greeted at the walk venue by the Mayor and/or one or more Town and/or Regional Councillors.

Perhaps you can consider what you might be able to do for this cause in 2017? If you wish to donate financially, I believe you can do so via, typing my name ("Toomas Karmo") into the offered interface, and using your credit card. In the unlikely event that this Web link fails, you should Google under "l'Arche Daybreak walk 2017 donate", or under a similar search string, or as a further resort phone me.

I am proposing in due course to post this e-mail to,  as part of my ongoing blog archive of incoming and outgoing DDO&P-significant correspondence.

Hastily, cheerfully,

Toomas (Tom)  Karmo
(to 2017-04-30  at 42 Gentry Crescent, Richmond Hill L4C 2G9, but from 2017-05-01 at 406 Centre Street East, Richmond Hill L4C 1B7)

I have  learned over the years that this annual fundraising walkathon is liable to be attended by persons from centres of municipal importance or power. Obfuscating a little here for courtesy, I gesture in a vague way in the direction of Town officials, police, and the Church. I was therefore not dismayed this year to have once again raised zero dollars. My humiliating failure in fund-raising was compensated by a number of conversations with the Powerful, of sufficient substance to justify logging here under two heads.


First comes Mayor Dave Barrow. 

The Mayor kindly approached me at the walkathon warm-up meeting, shaking my hand and continuing to chat amicably when I steered our conversation toward that sinister reef which is the DDO&P heritage-conservation file.

I noted to our Mayor that there had not yet been any public announcement of summer tours at the Observatory. In making my point, I forbore to convey the full depth of my worry to him. - The worry (I write tonight, with the Mayor no longer beside me) is gradually growing, surely in the minds of many. Although it is important to do what the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada Toronto Centre (RASC-TC) has failed to do since its 2009 establishment of a dominant DDO presence - namely, to mount a credible programme of citizen-science astrophysical research, with at least some modest publications in the journals - it is right that the successful 2009-through-2016 RASC-TC public tours should loom large in the municipal mind. With its tours, at least,  RASC-TC has managed to perpetuate the summer hospitality we in the DDO family had been extending since our First Light, in 1935, up to the 2008 sale. As a senior GTA heritage activist and I had agreed on the phone Saturday morning in one of our frequent consultations, not long before the Mayor shook my hand, the public may now have reason to fear a behind-the-scenes difficulty. 

To my low-key query the Mayor replied, amicably, that the Town was still checking things, making sure DDO was safe for eventual tour groups. He added that helping with this checking was our own erstwhile Operations Manager, Mr Archie de Ridder. 

I assured our Mayor that Archie was indeed the right person for the job. At this point I may or may not have had the presence of mind to remark that I probably could recruit an additional erstwhile DDO engineer, in the unlikely event that the Town team finds a backup necessary. 

I did have the presence of mind to remark to our Mayor that I had written to Commissioner (for "Community Services") Mr Shane Baker weeks ago, inserting into that long report everything I could think of under the DDO public-safety rubric. 


Second, I cover one or more exchanges with one or more other figures - with one or more others from the Ranks of Power, in one or more separate, or even in two or more concurrent, chats. As a courtesy, I omit or obfuscate some person-identifying details, as I rather quickly run through the main points. I add a little after-the-fact commentary in italics:

  • It is not, in the opinion of at least one of the Powerful (this individual is a Town Councillor) clear that the Town can afford to foot the DDO deferred-maintenance bill. In this Councillor's opinion, it is appropriate for outside parties to attempt fund-raising. I for my part noted in reply that according to Prof. Tom Bolton's expert-witness testimony at the 2012 Ontario Municipal Board hearing, the bill is on the order of 10,000,000 CAD. Such a figure, I said, dwarfs the fund-raising capabilities of RASC-TC (whose annual income, already heavily committed, is on the order of a modest 100,000 CAD). I noted also that even the excellent walkathon fundraising event going on around us, under the auspices of Jean Vanier's l'Arche Daybreak, could be expected to bring in at most 100,000 CAD. - I may as well add tonight, for full philosophical clarity, that there can be no objection in principle to non-governmental fundraising, and that in this regard the Councillor and I do agree. Let the worthy cause of defending DDO, and its 45-hectare remnant park crudely carved out of the former 77-hectare DDO&P - plus whatever else from the full DDO&P can at this late stage in the game be rescued - take in any funds at all, say I, from any quarter. (If, for example, Russian interests - they have been downloading this blog hard over the past week or two - feel they can raise their Canadian diplomatic profile by doing something to rescue DDO, let them be bold. I have already remarked in my open letter to my presumed FSB or SVR case officer, at, on the advisability of some public benefactor's buying some or all of those so-inappropriate subdivision homes, tearing them down, and reforesting the land thereby liberated.) My argument concerns practicalities. Governments, I argue, have deeper pockets than do either our NGOs (RASC-TC among them) or our commercial firms.
  • The approach of a certain member of the Powerful, "PQR", to Corsica, a few years ago, was possibly less amicable than I used to think. I used to think that PQR had blandly asked whether Corsica intended "to sue Tom Karmo", and had received a reassuring denial. Now, however, it appears that in that portentous café-or-restaurant encounter PQR had actually gone so far as to lecture Corsica, telling them that if they were to sue, PQR would take it ill, judging such a suit by such a corporation against such a lone activist to mark the crossing of an ethical line. - I infer from this Saturday-morning revelation that I have been in greater legal danger than I used to think I was. I therefore repeat tonight what I have said many times before, for the benefit of Corsica - namely, that if sued I would have to do what the poor in their desperation are on occasion forced to do, appearing in court without benefit of a lawyer. (Except, perhaps, that I might persuade some Clayton Ruby, or some David Donnelly, to plead my case pro bono? But such fantasies, pleasing though they may be as one is pottering about in one's washroom or kitchen, are unrealistic.) 
  • This same member of the Powerful, PQR, has tried to help me, in ways that I cannot be expected to know in detail. - The assertion (I comment tonight, after the fact) is consistent with other elements in my life experience, and so does attain a certain plausibility. People in supposedly cut-throat North America are capable of helping other people, in ways which the beneficiaries sometimes fully understand and sometimes do not fully understand. In the former category is the remarkable gift to me, by a known friend, of three jars of niacin capsules, to a total value quite possibly exceeding 100 CAD. Niacin seems to me and my friend mission-critical, as underpinning mood, and therefore in some cases (mine included) liable to prevent an incapacitating downward spiral. In the latter category is the unknown benefactor a decade or so ago who somehow caused me to receive, in the post, copies of a magazine for railway enthusiasts. Likewise in the latter category is the lady at Mass, in Richmond Hill's Mary Immaculate Parish, whom I have tried to find again, and have so far failed to find. Just a few weeks ago, she pressed a 100-CAD banknote into my hand, asking me to use it to buy a new jacket. (The stark truth, as I shall have to explain in the unlikely event that I run across her again, is that I have several presentable jackets, and that I had simply happened on whim to wear a ragged one to Mass on that Sunday morning. The worn-out jacket had been a welcome, and even moving, gift, from one of my late Mum's caregivers, who for her part had had it from a lodger in her house. Being fond of this jacket - it figures prominently enough in the facepic photo accompanying this blog -  I had simply worn and and worn it through the years, eventually reducing its warm forest-green wool to the point of elbow puncture. I  am wearing that very jacket, again admittedly in defiance of bourgeois propriety, tonight, as I sit here in the Richmond Hill Public Library Main Branch, typing up this blog posting.)
  • My various actions on the DDO&P conservation file have helped the conservationist cause. - The assertion is, on the face of it (so I comment tonight, after the fact), astonishing and implausible. How can I have helped the Richmond Hill Naturalists if not one tree has been saved in the face of Corsica's so-inappropriate commercial ambitions - with our own casework so notably derailed at the 2012 Ontario Municipal Board, with the Richmond Hill Naturalists' lawyer eliciting hearing-room gasps by suddenly departing from client instructions? (This is the dramatic, baffling, incident which I discuss, along with much else in the DDO&P file, in my 2016-04-25 or 2016-04-26 "Anatomy of Sorrow" posting, at For present purposes, it is helpful to start reading the 2016 posting from the words "I should perhaps add a few words here about the realities of /../.") - But since my interlocutor (or interlocutors) at that particular Saturday morning point was (or were) in other ways credible, I do, pondering everything tonight, have to take his, her, or their assertion seriously. Perhaps what was meant was that no matter how badly the Naturalists' case went, it would have gone still worse if I had hung onto my poverty-blocking half million, or had worked for less than my actually logged 5500 (or so) hours, or had done less to promote public transparency in such Web projects as this present blog.
  • It is significant (said my municipally powerful interlocutor(s)) that just as the Town did not take up the Province's offer of an interest-free loan, around 2008 or 2010 or 2012, to help save DDO, so also the Town has now chosen to expend its "Canada 150 Community Infrastructure Programme" grant of 790,000 CAD not on DDO but on the rehabilitation of the Morgan Boyle Park. - The Morgan Boyle Park, I would for my part add, lacks the national significance attaching to DDO&P. - Our community paper reports the funding decision, without favourable or adverse editorial comment, at - Thinking things through tonight, I concur with my Saturday-morning interlocutor(s). My reasoning is that if federal money which could in theory have been applied toward DDO&P is once declined, Richmond Hill will find it harder to solicit DDO&P federal funding in future, and so has imprudently reduced its room for intergovernmental manoeuvre. 
  • Our federal Member of Parliament, Mr Majid Jowhari, has in the last few days, or last fortnight, or so, signalled a lack of federal concern in the DDO&P file. - This particular claim, from this particular Saturday-morning interlocutor (or, as it might be, set of interlocutors), is bleak indeed. I am hoping in the coming weeks to ask Mr Jowhari for an interview, to be chronicled on this blog, so that I can check on the accuracy of what was on Saturday morning claimed to me. Perhaps somewhere there has been a miscommunication. Perhaps Mr Jowhari now desires to serve his constituents by clarifying, in part through the good services of my blog, his actual position - or, in the worst case, to win respect for political courage by confirming via this blog that what was was so bleakly claimed to me Saturday morning was indeed accurate?

[This is the end of the current blog posting.]

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