Mayor to hand over a golden key – should it open the door to the Burlington Performing Arts Centre? No lease in place yet.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON  October 18, 2011  – It is going to be a “boffo” event.  There will be something for everyone.  Face painting, cake, balloons, the Burlington Teen Tour Band, tours of the facility and special shows that will give everyone a chance to sit inside the Main Theatre and hear a short performance.   All to commemorate the turning over of the Burlington Performing Arts Centre from the city (it is your building) to the Burlington Theatre Board, a non-profit organization that is in place to oversee and govern the staff of the Burlington Performing Arts Centre.

Mayor Goldring is usually very direct - no flim flam with this guy. But something went werong last Monday.

This is all a little on the complex side but there are very good reasons for having these different organizations in place.  One of the reasons is to ensure that city council doesn’t get its sticky fingers into the workings of the Centre.  All your council gets to do is own the building on your behalf and provide an ongoing financial subsidy to ensure that it is able to operate.  Council has no say in who appears on the stage, nor can council hire or fire any of the BPAC staff.  That can only be done by the Theatre Board, which is all very good governance and important stuff.

Getting to the point where all those legal wheels turn smoothly is easier said than done.  Plans for the public event have been in development for some time – problems is that there isn’t a lease in place nor is the Relationship Agreement that is to govern how the city, the BPAC and the Theatre Board are going to get along has not been completed.

Council met last night and would have liked to have approved the agreement but it wasn’t ready and so an amendment was put forward that changed the words “Authorize the Mayor and City Clerk to sign”  to “ Authorize staff to continue negotiations regarding”,  and that really isn’t a subtle difference.  It is a very significant difference and your Council could have and should have made that point very clear.  The city does not have a deal with either the Theatre Board or the Burlington Performing Arts Centre – yet.

Burlington is fortunate to have a Mayor who is pretty straight forward guy.  I’ve not seen any fast and loose stuff from him before but on this one – he is treading on soft sand and not the solid footing we normally see from him.  The Mayor is pretty close to a tireless promoter of the Performing Arts Centre and mentions it every chance he gets and promotes with all the authority behind that chain of office he wears.  During the live broadcast of the Council meeting Monday evening he urged people to go to the Centre’s web site and get all the details on the big event.  Fortunately for the Mayor the council meetings broadcast on Cogeco has a limited audience (and we mean limited) so few people would have heard the message.  Good thing – because there isn’t a single word that we could fin on the BPAC’s web site about the city event at the Centre.  Nor was there any mention of the event on the city’s listing of what’s going on in town.

The Theatre Board and the city and yammering away at some pretty fundamental matters – money of course, like who is going to pay for what, when.  If these details don’t get the attention they deserve right up front – you know what happens?  The lawyers get phone calls asking them to get us out of this mess.

That happened to Burlington with the development of the Brant Street Pier.  The agreement between the original contractor and the city didn’t have an adequate dispute resolution and when there was a difference of opinion – well you know what happened with that one.  We got known as the city with the “mistake on the lake”.

Quite why the Mayor wasn’t right up front about the problems – he was being broadcast live on Cogeco and could have used a few minutes to explain what the problem was, but he chose to take a pass.  Not like him.

So, right now the BPAC people are squatters in a building you own.  We apparently haven’t learned all our lessons yet.  The people at BPAC are all very decent folk and very good at what they do.  The people on the Theatre Board are decent folk as well and other than the fact that there are too many lawyers on that Board they are good at what they do.

But good intentions are not what we base our legal undertakings on.  Thought we had learned that lesson.



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