An Open Letter to Councillor/Deputy Mayor Lisa Kearns

AN OPEN LETTER
By e-mail and twitter.

November 20, 2022

Lisa Kearns
Burlington Ward 2 Councillor, Deputy Mayor

Dear Ms Kearns:

We know we have had our disagreements over the past term.

However, the majority of Ward 2 residents who voted entrusted you to contribute to decisions that support their well-being and best interests and we must, therefore, forget past differences to bring you identified issues that negatively impact such decisions.

During the election you were made aware we determined that the city had revised its web site with a version that inhibited public access to governance material.

Anne and Dave Marsden ask Tim Commisso, Burlington City Manager and Deputy Mayor of Public Engagement Lisa Kearns, for the return of years of sets of minutes, agenda, reports and videos removed without notice from 2022 updated City of Burlington website.

Prior to the 2022 Nomination opening date we had full access to minutes, agenda, reports before Committees and Council from January 2009 through to June, 2016. Videos, minutes, and attachments July 2016 to present were available.

This gave the public unfettered research capabilities for city decisions made by council from January 2009 on. We did not have to remember the exact date a decision was made and were able to turn up the supporting governance material, including public input, and how council dealt with the information provided.

After 2022 Nominations opened we learnt this was changing in that we now would have to contact staff for any minutes etc. dated Jan. 2009 -June, 2016.

Given we often did not have a date and used the city web site to research what the exact date was, it is now impossible to obtain the appropriate set of minutes and video without a great deal of staff input.

Further, there was no council review of the 2015 Retention By-law to determine if it required update. A process that has certainly occurred in other municipalities many of whom have recognized the value of permanent public access to minutes, agenda and videos.

We stand to be corrected Councillor Kearns and ask that you direct us to an agenda, video and minutes in 2022 that covers such opportunity to publicly engage with council prior to the city making such a huge change in access to governance materials January 2009-June 2016.

What has been even more shocking was the loss of access to close to at least 18 months of minutes, agendas videos and associated reports from July 2016 – present. This being contrary to the city’s commitment and absolutely no notice to the public.

After being assured by Mr. Kwab Ako-Adjei – Director, Corporate Communications & Engagement at City of Burlington (who we found as helpful as he was able to be) that there was a glitch and everything would be worked out and back up on the city web site, weeks and months have gone by without this happening.

There were multiple unanswered questions as to when we could have access restored to governance materials that resulted in offers to provide a copy of the particular set of minutes, and sometimes the video we were attempting to locate. This confirmed the minutes and videos 2009- 2022 were still available to the city but had been made inaccessible to the public, without any prior warning.

November 17, 2022 Clerk Kevin Arjoon contradicts current city position since 2016 that Council/Committee minutes, agenda, reports and videos available for individual website access, claiming 2015 retention by-law requires removal from city website.

November 17, 2022 in response to one of many emails to city staff that included the Clerk, Deputy Clerks and at times City Manager, Tim Commisso, Clerk Kevin Arjoon notified us by email:

“Currently there are no plans to restore agendas, minutes and videos to July 2016”, which contradicts the city’s position since 2016.

We will send you by email a letter to Mr. Commisso that was sent by e-mail and then personally hand delivered for his personal attention on Friday, November 18, 2022. We were assured that Mr. Commisso’s assistant Jen Knight was fully informed that this letter for Mr. Commisso had been placed on her desk on Friday not long after 12 noon.

The purpose of this open letter is to request that as Deputy Mayor you urge Mr. Commisso to immediately address the need for a meeting with us and yourself to receive the City Manager’s assurance that the Clerk is mistaken in terms of his November 17, 2022 statement. Further, that access can and will be returned to the 2009 -June 2016 governance materials removed from the city website that now requires already overwhelmed staff to assist in public access to city archived records, rather than being able to research on a website at their leisure.

Appeal made to Tim Commisso, Burlington City Manager November 18, 2022, to return access to years of removed required governance material without further burdening Burlington staff.

These letters to yourself and the City Manager are our attempts to have access returned to governance material to those who it belongs to, including the elected council members. Rather than access being limited to city staff who can delay access as long as they like claiming the material is archived and thus will take some time.

This is exactly what has occurred to Downtown Business Association minutes that were requested through you as the city Downtown Association Representative on October 28, 2022. Brian Dean, Executive Director, BDBA, claims he cannot be provided before December 1, 2022, when it should be simply a matter of going to the archived minute book/file, scanning what we need and forwarding it along with the last two sets of 2022 meeting minutes. No minute books of such a small organization as this association should be outside their ability to check in less than a week.

Please confirm to us at our email address below any action you intend to take as a result of this letter.

Pro Bono Health, Safety and Access Advocates 308-1425 Ghent Ave.
Burlington, L7S 1X5
905-467-2860, anneandave@gmail.com @LetVotersSpeak marsdens.ca
11Work for the well-being of the city to which I have sent you.” Jeremiah 29:7

 

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11 comments to An Open Letter to Councillor/Deputy Mayor Lisa Kearns

  • Keith Demoe

    If the question is governance, it’s not likely Kearns would do anything to assist you in correcting access to public records…she is not competent. The open letter should be directed to all city councilors, then perhaps something may get done.

    • We are on the public record in agreement with your competency comment Keith. Particularly in terms of the Councillor’s failure to address at our request in 2019 Procedure By-laws that allowed the City Manager to deny delegates access to the lectern if he believed they would misbehave in some way being totally out of line with democratic principles ; her Chairmanship of the Audit Committee in terms of the definition of a quorum and consent agenda items for which there was a delegation and her position that the missing public records was between us and the Clerk and nothing to do with her as our Ward 2 representative and so she removed herself from the pre-election conversation.

      However, the Mayor introduced the Deputy Mayor appointments and portfolios and for an Ombudsman complaint we have to show we have tried to resolve the matter internally before the Ombudsman will accept a complaint. We agree we should follow up with an Open letter to all councillors if Kearns fails to respond as the City Manager has and his deadline is passed. Any complaints must dot all the i’s and cross all the t’s if there is any hope at all of success in utilizing the process and its city weighted decisions that have never to date made one iota of difference in how the Council operates..

    • Dave Turner

      “Hell hath no fury like Demoe scorned by the electorate!” Demoe, you show a complete lack of class by way of your post election comments.

      • Dave Turner it is easy to blame losing an election when those who recognize significant issues that were recognized during the election and have not yet been dealt remain tenacious in taxpayers right to accountability as set out in the Municipal Act previously in the Procedure By-law and now in an expired Corporate Policy. We give top marks to Demoe for his continued battle for accountability , it has been a very lonely road that we have tread for almost three decades. Interesting article by Mathew Van Donegan in Spectator today regarding what the Integrity Commissioner deemed “baseless” allegations that now may just have substance after the OPP came in on the act. Hamilton city manager consulting with city auditor to determine if an internal probe is warranted. Those with tenacity in matters that concern the well-being and best interests of Burlington families and businesses need to be thanked and encouraged not improperly called bad losers.

        • Dave Turner

          Demoe is just plain rude.

          If there is one thing Councilor Kearns is not, it would be incompetent

          Here is an excerpt from a Demoe comment on an earlier Gazette article:-

          “I don’t believe Ward or council got voted in because they do a great job…actually, quite the opposite…they coast for the most part. They got voted in likely because those who showed up to vote, don’t want to see anything change. The others who didn’t vote…I know many…they either have given up or they lack the awareness on how local government’s can benefit their daily lives.”

          So rude and dismissive of the electorate. The characteristics of a bad loser.

          I’m not surprised he appeals to the Marsdens. They were at one time banned from City Hall due to their rudeness and aggressive behaviour.

          • Dave sounds like you have been talking to those who have a lot to lose when our audits are properly addressed as we are assured they will be. Your comment will remain in situ and can be dealt with then.

          • Dave Turner

            Marsdens, I have no idea what you are trying to insinuate by you “in situ” remark other than you know some Latin.

      • Keith Demoe

        Dave Turner…regardless if one loses an election, they can still be critical of the elected. It’s almost like you are suggesting, once a candidate is unsuccessful, don’t get involved in criticizing the performance of current members of government going forward. You are clearly devoted to certain people on council and you jump on anyone that points out irregularities or under performance of these council members…specifically Kearns and Ward. You have this passion to follow so easily and what you need is more objectivity. Not all elected politicians make good decisions all the time…you need to recognize that and be critical when bad decisions are made.

        • Dave Turner

          Mr0. Demoe. I agree all politicians should be held to account. One should not as a supporter be blind to mis-steps and be prepared to be critical. Similarly an “adversary” should not be afraid to offer praise or support when warranted.

          Being rude is not being critical. It’s just being rude, plain and simple. Calling Councilor Kearns “incompetent” is rude and also so far off base. Saying the entire council “coasts” is rude and also so far from the truth. Each councilor works very hard and extremely long hours. It is definitely not a 9 to 5 job.

          You also have been demeaning towards the electorate. Remember this is what you said of the electorate:- “They got voted in likely because those who showed up to vote, don’t want to see anything change. The others who didn’t vote…I know many…they either have given up or they lack the awareness on how local government’s can benefit their daily lives.”. Could some of the reason for the low voter turnout be because the choices offered were not appealing. Maybe some or all of those who did not vote did not want to vote for Councilor Kearns, but also did not want to vote for Candidate Demoe.

          Mr. Demoe, please stop with the rudeness and just state your opinion and reasoning.

          Editor’s note: Use of the word incompetent is not necessarily an opinion – it could be a fact.

          • Dave Incompetene as we use it is always an on the record well evidenced fact, it is looking for trouble to reference it in any other way. Google ‘in situ” and hopefully it covers our intention “remaining in place”. For your information Dave I failed Latin, my final exam marks being 10%.

          • Mary Hill

            I passed Latin at GCSE level.

            Why are Marsdens responding and not Demoe, himself?

            Oxford Dictionary definition:-

            “Incompetence

            The inability to do something successfully; ineptitude.

            General useage

            If you refer to someone’s incompetence, you are criticizing them because they are unable to do their job or a task properly.”

            So Mr Demoe (not Marsdens) please explain why you call Councilor Kearns incompetent.

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