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Can the residents of this city make a Mayor out of Marianne Meed Ward or will she become a one term wonder?

SwP thumbnail graphicBy Pepper Parr

November 22, 2019

BURLINGTON, ON

 

In December of 2014, the city council that was first elected in 2010 sat behind a table on the stage of the Performing Arts Centre waiting to be sworn in. his was the first time the swearing in ceremony took place at that venue.

Trumpeters from the Burlington Teen Tour Band were in the gallery to the left of the stage; the sound of blaring trumpets heralded the event.

While the council being sworn on December 2014 was a repeat of what residents elected in 2010 there was still some electricity in the air.

As each member of Council was announced, after they had been sworn in, the applause for Marianne Meed Ward was just that much louder, lasted just that much longer than the applause for anyone else on that stage. If two people had stood up and shouted “bravo” and clapped loudly I swear she would have gotten a standing ovation.

Meed ward election night 1

Mayor Elect Marianne Med Ward at the Polish Hall on election night

Mayor Goldring may not have recognized what was going on but the 2018 election campaign had begun.
On Monday, December 3rd, Meed Ward will be recognized as Mayor and the trumpets will blare. The Meed Ward supporters will see this as the beginning of a new dawn.

It is far too early to tell if Marianne Meed Ward is going to grow into a great Mayor. There are still a lot of people out there that do not wish her well.

She is going to have to work with five people who have never served on anything that has had input into city policy considerations. Angelo Beneventigna is familiar with a lot of the people at city hall and has more in the way of understanding as to how the city works than most of the others.

What Beneventigna has to figure out and realize is that he wasn’t elected to be a “friend” of those who handle the day to affairs of the city but to assure that they are always accountable to council and to the wider public they serve.

Meed Ward will be something of a den mother for the first 18 months.

Paul Sharman, a man that Rick Goldring once said was the best strategic thinker he has ever met, will be sitting on the same stage.

Councillor Shar,man with his back to the camera debates with Councillor Meed Ward during Strategy Planning sessions. Both are strong contributors to Council and Committee meetings

Councillor Sharman with his back to the camera debates with Councillor Meed Ward during the 2011 Strategy Planning sessions.

Sharman will be the odd man out on this council. He brings a reputation for abrasiveness and a tendency to be abrupt with people. He is more comfortable getting his own way.

When he became BFF (Best Friends Forever) with Councillor Craven there was little hope of there being much in the way of collaboration. Sharman consistently referred to Meed Ward’s “ideology” which wasn’t one he shared. He was more comfortable with his own. The Gazette began to refer to Sharman as “Mr. Data”; he always wanted more data. Over time we realized that the request for more data meant that Sharman didn’t have to make a decision.

Goldring saw Sharman as the best strategic thinker he had ever met – We won’t test the veracity of that statement. However, Paul Sharman does come at what he does from a strategic perspective.

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Intense to the point of making delegations uncomfortable ward 5 Councillor Paul Sharman does know how to drill down into the data and look for results.

In 2010, to the surprise of many and shock to others, he fist nominated himself for Mayor. When Rick Goldring filed nomination papers for the office of Mayor, Sharman muffled his ambitions, withdrew the nomination for Mayor and nomination himself for the ward 5 council seat that Goldring was vacating.

Meed Ward needs Paul Sharman to get through the first 18 months. He is the only person on the new Council that can get a budget passed. He might even manage to somehow produce a budget with a 0% increase. There are hundreds of thousands of dollars in city reserve accounts; – Sharman knows those accounts better than any of the newbies..

Could he find a way to loosen up some of that money?

The option the LaSalle PArk MArina Association hopes is chosen through the Environmental Assessment due MArch 2013.

Funds to pay for the break water barrier were found – all the city had to do was raid the Hydro Reserve fund.

If the outgoing council could find a way to use $4 million plus that was in the Hydro Reserve find for the breakwater facility at the LaSalle Park Marina – Paul Sharman can find a way to wiggle some funds out of other reserve accounts.  This of course will drive the Director of Finance bananas – that department likes nice thick reserves earning solid interest for the city.

Many people are watching how Meed Ward handles herself in the first 18 months. The people she took political power from are quite willing to see her fall on her face.

The pressure will be immense, which will be nothing new to Meed Ward. The current council has bullied and harassed this woman for the past eight years. Some of the behaviour bordered on the kind of thing you report to authorities that can take corrective action and ensure that there is due process.

Her council colleagues were not the only level that harassed Meed Ward; the failures in the Clerk’s department are legion.

Meed Ward tried hard to establish a good working relationship with Mary Lou Tanner when she was first appointed as the Director of Planning. Her efforts didn’t take.

In the months ahead, expect Councillor Sharman to go into his “smarmy” mode and do his best to charm the newcomers. He has reached out to all of them.

He will sit and wait patiently and should Meed Ward not be up to the job she has taken on – Paul Sharman will try to convince the city that he can do the job – for he was the best strategic thinker Rick Goldring had ever met.

Red jacket at city hall

The mandate is thin – the hope runs very deep.

Meed Ward’s mandate is thin. However, she has the goodwill and high hopes of many of the people who want to see the core values that are Burlington be recognized, kept and built upon.

Too early to tell if the battle lines for the 2022 election are drawn.

For her fans, and her supporters – stop lauding and convincing yourselves she can walk on water.  What Marianne Meed Ward needs is to be held accountable day in and day out.

In 2014 she asked people to trust her – they did and she changed the way the city operates.

She will need that trust going forward.

Related news stories:

The day city council beat up Marianne Meed Ward

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13 comments to Can the residents of this city make a Mayor out of Marianne Meed Ward or will she become a one term wonder?

  • joe gaetan

    The electorate has spoken, they think Marianne Meed Ward is up to the task of being Mayor of Burlington. Like all of her predecessors she will hopefully be judged accordingly, on her performance and we will get a chance to cast our votes of approval in 4 years. In the meantime, I see no reason to question her credentials or to look into a crystal ball to see if she can work with council, that is a two way street as well.

    • Hans

      If MMW performs as she has in the past 8 years (in spite of a council that was determined to block her efforts) Burlington could have the best mayor since I first moved here in 1971. Imagine what she could have accomplished with the support of a council that was not affected by “groupthink” …

  • Lover of Liberty

    1. MMW and council are not even sworn in yet, so pontificating on their failure is vastly premature and frankly sad.
    2. MMW, at the last council meeting of the current administration, as the Gazette so wisely wrote an article on, made a point on calling out Dennison for his inappropriate comments following how the council should conduct themselves. (“This stops here tonight”) when the current Mayor would not. That set the tone for this new council. So Sharman will not allowed to be the way he was, he has no friends on new council to divide them. He will have to play nice. Paul Sharman should have a lot less stress as he is no longer servicing 2 wards, so playing nice will be easier for him. Otherwise, he will know what its like to the odd man out, but not in a good way.
    3. Angelo “Bentivegna” , has already said, he will not let Paul Sharman dictate how he serves his Ward 6 residents, he will do his homework, ask tougher questions on city staff, and give Ward 6 a seat a the table. He is already doing so.
    4. The Gazette has already published articles showing that this new council is already busy, studying previous budgets, they are getting involved, they are trying to get a head of the learning curve. They are making their presence known.

    This positive activity, for these new members is exciting. This shows they are willing to do the work we the voters asked them to do. City Staff is just going to have to start respecting the wishes of citizens of Burlington. They can either get on board, or leave.

  • Stephen White

    Securing nearly 50% of the popular vote in a four candidate race for Mayor, plus 4 out of 6 Councillors in support of a change agenda, seems pretty convincing to me. Ward 1 was an anomaly with so many candidates running, and had there been one less candidate running in Ward 5 splitting the vote a much different outcome would have emerged. The mandate is pretty conclusive, and Burlington voters clearly opted for change.

    Clearly, the first priority is a budget with a tax rate lower than the past few years. Priority two is getting alignment and facilitating culture change among staff at City Hall. Third priority should be re-visiting the OP and instituting a much more inclusive consultation process that more clearly represents public opinion and consensus and produces a more balanced strategy.

    The Mayor has exceptional interpersonal, communication and engagement skills. She has the ability to build consensus. And while I agree with the need to hold elected officials accountable, we also need to give her a fair and reasonable chance to see what she can deliver.

  • Don Fletcher

    I’m not sure what a Rick Goldring endorsement of Paul Sharman as the best strategic thinker that he has ever known really means? How many has he known? What would qualify him to judge? You get the point.

    I agree with Phillip that MMW’s margin was decisive. You must assume that the 40% of residents who voted are representative of the whole.

    While the newbie councillors have a steep learning curve, many of them campaigned on the principles that Marianne Meed Ward did, and should be considered like-minded on some of the big ticket items (i.e. over-intensification). A cooperative, energetic & cohesive council will be a huge benefit to our new mayor.

    Finally, Pepper, do you not recall that our City Manager, James Ridge, and his deputy, drove the highly unpopular and incomplete Official Plan approval process with most of the existing council nodding acceptance. If there is a possible major roadblock to implementing a new vision & culture at City Hall, it is this pair in my opinion. I like the new council’s/ mayor’s odds.

    • Rob Allan

      I agree with you. The challenge at City Hall will be working with a City Manager who from his army days is used to leading by telling people what to do. Perhaps it’s time he stepped down.

      • Centerline

        H The City manager on;y has about 18 months left on his 5 year contract, wait him out and save the Severance.

  • mitch

    Goldring was a ribbon cutter. He stood in front of about two hundred people and lied to us all. This was the infamous coyote meeting in the summer of 2017. He said he had heard enough and he was going to take action. I think he meant he was going to walk out of the room and go to his car. He did absolutely nothing. He deserved to lose, just like Jackson lost to him. Both were useless. Sharman is in only because there were too many running against him. He will provide comic relief if nothing else.

  • Jim Barnett

    Marianne won the race for mayor. Period. Now she has to deliver on her view of the future. In my opinion she deserves the cooperation of the councilors to start the process of governing the city and work with the region. She will need to impress upon staff that they are there to assist the elected officials to carry out the wishes of the electorate and not just work to accomplish their own agenda. We will know soon on how well the new team is working. A budget with a city tax increase less than 2.5 percent is a measurable and an achievable first start.

    • Tom Muir

      I agree Jim.

      Like I said here before, not long ago, the government just tells the management staff to cut the extra over the 2.5% (for example) out and decide themselves what doesn’t get done.

      That’s how it was done when I worked in government – very effective and efficient with everyone’s time.

      With all the new Council members a good time to start so they don’t get overwhelmed and BS’d.

  • Phillip Wooster

    I don’t see Marianne as having a “thin mandate”; in fact, the election results showed she decisively beat her two opponents with a very clearly stated and transparent agenda. As for Sharman, the man remains a legend—if only in his own mind.