Burlington is now in a new phase - the decisions made in the next 120 days will see a pivot in a direction that is far from clear

By Pepper Parr

October 12th, 2023



The hiring of a new City Manager is pivotal for any municipality.

The current City Manager, Tim Commisso, is due to complete his work on January 10th, 2024, expect the Mayor to keep him on as an advisor for a period of time.

The City Manager, traditionally is the only person a City Council hires. He is put in place to run the administrative side of the City.

Every city manager has a style, an approach to the way they do things. During a short period of time Burlington went through two city managers: Jeff Fielding followed by James Ridge. The two men were total opposites – for those who worked with both – it was quite a ride.

It would be hard to find a policy, a service or a change that Jeff Fielding made that you could point to.  James Ridge did his best to introduce newer approaches – the 2018 Council didn’t like much of what he attempted to do and made firing him their first order of business.

Tim Commisso’s legacy will be radically different.

In the three or four months ahead of us Commisso will be up to his ears in working through the changes, some subtle, other much different, in the newest version of the Strategic Plan – the document that sets out to guide what gets done in a city.

Burlington is at a point where it is becoming a much different city.

Population growth between now and 2031 is going to sky rocket. All those new people will live, for the most part, in high rose towers.

They will need services and they will put a huge strain on the roads – traffic congestion is something they will complain about for decades.

Transit, which was a joke for the longest time, will become a vital service. The city has to get cars off the streets – a feat that will challenge everyone. Burlington today is married to cars – it will be a messy divorce.

Tax increases will upset many – the current Mayor is a spender, living with the belief that all those high rise towers will result in the money just rolling in – give the city a decade and there won’t be any financial problems.

Maybe, spending money that you don’t have and doing so with the belief that it is on the way is not the definition for fiscal prudence.

The fundamentals of finance are not the current Mayor’s strong point. Getting her way is something she has managed to do quite well. When she came into office she had a Council with five people who were newbies.  They now know where the washrooms are and each has developed a style and a way of doing things. Not much in the way of collegiality with this lot.

Two of the five think the Chain of Office is something they might get to wear.  Maybe.

Which Brant Street do you want? You are going to get something close to what the graphic suggests.

Now that she has Strong Mayor powers Marianne Meed Ward doesn’t have to listen as much to the other members of Council on what can only be described as a fractious group of people serving as a City Council. They do nice nice talk talk during the public sessions – but there are struggles that are for the most part kept out of sight.

The budget that will be presented to the public later this year will have some input from Council – but it will be the Mayor’s Budget.

The City Manager that is hired might end up being what Mayor Meed Ward decides  is best for the city

Burlington is going through massive changes with nowhere near enough engagement with the citizens.

Challenging times indeed.

Salt with Pepper is the musings, reflections and opinions of the publisher of the Burlington Gazette, an online newspaper that was formed in 2010 and is a member of the National Newsmedia Council.

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1 comment to Burlington is now in a new phase – the decisions made in the next 120 days will see a pivot in a direction that is far from clear

  • Lynn Crosby

    What’s best for the City or what’s best for the next election brochures, social media posts and website headlines and one-sided “takes” (missing the small print, of course, and the opportunity for real feedback from residents)?

    I hope when they did the recent renovations at City Hall, that they added a revolving door.