Heritage Advisory hits up city manager for twenty big ones then asks the Mayor for time to spend the money.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON  May 2, 2012  In the world of things Heritage time is always a factor which most people take to mean the length of time it takes for a house to become “heritagically” significant.

Turns out that time from the Heritage Burlington perspective means how much time they need to get their reports completed.   In a letter to the Mayor last week Heritage Burlington advised they needed to push back the date on which they were going to deliver the results of the ruminations on how to fix the problems related to things heritage.

Community workshop drew more than 100 people but there was no sense of resolution when it was over. There were more questions than answers and the report that came out of it didn't really answer the questions.

And problems there certainly are, much of which was related to the different understandings people in Burlington have about just what having a house listed on anything be it the “inventory”, which is one list, the Registry, which is another list or if you’re on the Designated list.  It can be confusing and confusion there has been in Burlington for some time when it comes to Heritage matters.

The city never quite managed to come to terms with just what it wants to do with Heritage and Council isn’t of one mind on the subject either,  which doesn’t help.  Councillor Dennison who lives in a house that is designated would float the Joseph Brant Museum out into Lake Ontario and set it aflame if he thought he could get away with it.

Councillor Sharman seems prepared to put the rights of the property owner ahead of the rights of the community to have some link to its heritage.  If someone owns a property they should be able to do whatever they want with it – if it happens to be historically significant, then the city can buy the building, is the view Sharman touts.

Oakville doesn’t look at its heritage quite the same way and Niagara on the Lake has built a community that earns a living from its heritage.  Burlington tends to squabble over its heritage.

Up until very recently the membership of the Heritage Advisory committee tended to have people who would inventory or register a property if you whispered the letter H.  A citizen had to fight to get their property taken off the inventory even if they were there as a C or a D property.

While the current Heritage Advisory Committee is completely focused on the report they were to get to Council this June and haven’t done much else – they have decided to recommend that everything on the C and D parts of the inventory be taken off that list.  Once their report is presented to the city they will get on with the normal run of business – until then getting property off the inventory will be easier said than done.  The delay is something that can be put up with while this refurbished committee gets on with its task of coming up with answers to

The process for placing and removing properties on the Municipal Register and criteria for designation

Dealing with property rights and values

Suggesting incentives and support for heritage preservation

What to do when a property owner wants to alter, demolish or restore a heritage property. What processes and procedures should be put in place?

Explain to the public clearly what Legislative responsibility the city has to meet.

Set out a clear decision making processes the public will buy into

Come up with a process for stakeholder and community engagement to be entered into by Heritage Burlington, with input from the Public Involvement Coordinator, before final recommendations are presented to CDC by Heritage Burlington.

It didn’t take the Advisory Committee very long to realize they just didn’t have enough reliable data on which to base the recommendations they were expected to make.  They needed to hear what the average Burlingtonians thought and felt about heritage.   Whenever heritage came up for discussion there were two clearly defined groups who were usually at loggerheads with each other.

Another problem the Advisory Committee had was when they sought opinions on matters heritage all they had were lists of people who were either very pro or very negative when it came to questions about heritage.  They knew what they were going to get in the way of answers before they even asked the questions.

Getting reliable data meant going to the public and asking questions and that meant some public opinion polling for which there was no budget.

Burlington has a public opinion research organization on contract and it was suggested they see if they could scrounge up some money to do a short public opinion survey. It was suggested that the city manager had a fund they just might be able to tap to cover the cost of the research.  Ask and you shall be given seemed to work.  The city manager has coughed up a total of $20,000 to cover the cost of the survey.

The committee had hoped to have all this done by the middle of June – but when they took a close look at the work load and the way things work at city hall they realized it just wasn’t going to be possible – thus the letter to the Mayor asking for an extension.

With these additional resources in hand the Advisory Committee was able to go forward and produce the kind of report they wanted to deliver.  There are some very professional people on this committee who are quite capable of producing the kind of report the city needs.

In their letter to the Mayor the Advisory committee explains that: “Because of unforeseen difficulties in sourcing funding and scheduling key resources, it has become apparent that the original timeline cannot be met to achieve satisfactory community engagement and ultimately a final report of the quality that this project deserves.  Moreover, synchronizing our work within the policies, practices, communication patterns and staff workload at City Hall has taken more time than we anticipated.”

The Advisory Committee had bumped into “bureaucratic reality” and had to ask for more time and suggested that:

The public Open House be held May 31st instead of April 25th

Progress report to Community Development be on June 18th

Final report to Community development be September 10th instead of June 18th.

It had certainly seen better days and when the owner wanted to sell he was told the listing on the Registry would impact on the price he could get - so the property was taken off the Registry - just like that. So much for the intgrity of the Registry.

James Clemens chair of the Advisory Committee believes they can do the job they were asked to do within the new time frames.  We can expect Council in committee to go along with thus – unless there are some pressing requests to have property removed from the Registry.  Then things could get interesting.

In the past there have been people with an “axe to grind” or a personal  interest they want to take forward and being on the  Advisory Committee they can advance a personal property interest.  There is at least one member of the newly constituted committee that has a vested interest and a specific goal, which is not the purpose of this committee even though the objective of the committee member is a laudable one. We are given to believe there is more than one person with what are called “ pecuniary interests” that are not declared.  At city council committee meetings the chair begins by asking if there are any declarations of a pecuniary interest.  That should perhaps be standard procedure at the Advisory Committee level as well.  Putting personal interests first isn’t tolerated at Council and shouldn’t be tolerated at advisory committees either.



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They are taking to the roads, trails and old railway lines on their bikes to get a close up look of where you can use a bicycle comfortably.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON  May 2, 2012  The Sustainable people are taking to the road with bicycles Sunday May 6th to let people get a clearer sense of what the city has to offer cyclists and point out where some of the problems in getting around on a bicycle are located.

The event will begin at the Central Library at 2:00 pm on the Sunday and wind their way from the Library to the Centennial Trail and pedal across to Spencer Smith Park and join up with the old Grand Truck – CN rail line and out to the canal and then back to Lakeshore Road where riders will cross to the North side of the street and take either Nelson or Brock and work their way up to Caroline and travel east to Brant and South to city hall.

Some might choose to take a break along the Spencer Smith part of the Sunday Sustainable bicycle ride. Starts at the Library - 2:00 pm

The event is Burlington’s first Jane’s Walk event which is held in hundreds of communities across Canada to celebrate the life of Jane Jacobs, one of the leading urban thinkers who made significant changes to the way urban development was done in Toronto before she passed away in 2006.

The event is being sponsored by the Sustainable Development Advisory Committee with help and support from the cycling committee.

The Jane’s Walk events started out in 2007 as walking tours of urban centres but quickly grew and with suburban communities getting on this band wagon the bicycle has become the mode of transportation for many communities.

Jane Jacobs was an urbanist and activist whose writings championed a fresh, community-based approach to city building. She had no formal training as a planner, and yet her 1961 treatise, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, introduced ground-breaking ideas about how cities function, evolve and fail that now seem like common sense to generations of architects, planners, politicians and activists.

Some of that common sense has yet to work its way to Burlington but there is hope.  If you are planning on taking part in the review and update of the city’s Official Plan you could certainly do much worse that reading what Jane Jacobs has written.

Jacobs saw cities as ecosystems that had their own logic and dynamism which would change over time according to how they were used. With a keen eye for detail, she wrote eloquently about sidewalks, parks, retail design and self-organization. She promoted higher density in cities, short blocks, local economies and mixed uses. Jacobs helped derail the car-centred approach to urban planning in both New York and Toronto, invigorating neighbourhood activism by helping stop the expansion of expressways and roads. She lived in Greenwich Village for decades, then moved to Toronto in 1968 where she continued her work and writing on urbanism, economies and social issues until her death in April 2006.

A firm believer in the importance of local residents having input on how their neighborhoods develop, Jacobs encouraged people to familiarize themselves with the places where they live, work and play.

On Sunday we get to play on the trails and paths in Burlington. Paul Toffoletti, Chair of the Sustainable Development Advisory Committee,  has no idea how many people are going to show up,  “maybe twenty” he said.  Surprise Paul and let’s get 100 people out there on bicycles.

Burlington has two other bicycle centric events during the summer months.

What we don’t have is that Olympic trials event that was going to see the streets of the city  and rural roadways used by cyclists wanting to qualify for the Olympics that will take place in London, England this summer

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A passion for compassion – is this the real Burlington? Seven speakers will be here in May to tell you why it`s important.

By Staff

BURLINGTON, ON  April 27, 2012  Does Burlington have a “Passion for Compassion”?  Spencer Campbell certainly thinks so and is putting his time,  energy and some of his money where his mouth is.  He has organized the first ever TEDxBurlington event.

TED’s are places where “ideas worth spreading”  get put out by recognized speakers.  Each presentation is short, less than 15 minutes.

The event, scheduled for May 27th at the Burlington Performing Arts Centre.  Speakers include:

A leader in reducing maternal mortality in African developing countries Dr.Chamberlain is expected to show the difference compassion in action can make.

Dr Jean Chamberlain – distinguished McMaster Medical Professor and Founder of www.savethemothers.org  (focused on reducing maternal mortality in African developing countries)

Patrick O’Neill – CEO of www.extraordinaryconversations.com  and leadership expert who has been involved with, among others, the Middle East Peace Process

Michael Jones – a Juno nominated Pianist who will in part perform during the session and ask us to explore the heart of our own creativity

Josh Nelson – a childhood cancer survivor. Three years ago from a wheelchair Josh asked the Sears National Kids Cancer Ride cycling team to ride for him until the day he could ride with them.  Last year he cycled for that noble cause – from Vancouver to Halifax with the same team.

Scott Graham – local author, speaker who focuses on helping kids develop character, confidence and budding leadership

Trish Barbato guides people on career and leadership issues. She will tell you why you just have to be passionate about what you do.

Trish Barbato – author of “Inspire Your Career” and a recognized authority and speaker on career and leadership topics.

Arthur Flieschmann – With his daughter Carly co-wrote “Carly’s Voice: Breaking Through Autism”. One of the first books to explore firsthand the challenges of living with autism.

For information on TEDxBurlington please visit (www.tedxburlington.com) or email us at info@tedxburlington.com  attention Spencer Campbell.


In the spirit of ideas worth spreading, TED has created a program called TEDx. TEDx is a program of local, self-organized events that bring people together to share a TED-like experience.

Our event is called TEDxBurlington, where x = independently organized TED event. At our TEDxBurlington event, TEDTalks video and live speakers will combine to spark deep discussion and connection in a small group.

The TED Conference provides general guidance for the TEDx program, but individual TEDx events, including ours, are self-organized.

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Through the magic of television and the community broadcasts done by Cogeco – you can hear Ken Greenberg if you missed him live.

By Staff

BURLINGTON, ON  April 25, 2012  Close to 200 people converged on the Studio Theatre at the Performing Arts Centre a couple of weeks ago to hear what Ken Greenberg had to say about how you build a city.

It was an event worth taking in.  The occasion was one of Mayor Goldring`s Inspire series with which he brings interesting speakers to the city to talk about issues that need some thinking.  The audiences  get to hear what outsiders, who are exceptionally well informed in their area of expertise,  have to say about the way we are doing things in our city.

Ken Greenberg fascinated his live audience at the Studio Theatre. His talk will be broadcast by Cogeco Cable.

Greenberg was fascinating to listen to.  He started by outlining just where we had come from as a city, where we are today and how we got where we are.  It was a solid presentation – but then when it got to the Q&A part,  the event became an occasion that had people who are making a difference in this city asking an expert how they could best go about making change happen.  It was quite something to be part of – and if you didn’t get to the event you can tune in and listen to the broadcasts Cogeco Cable will be doing.

Friday, April 27, 2012 at 1:00 pm

Saturday, April 28, 2012 at 9:00 pm

Sunday, April 29, 2012 at 10:00 pm.

The next Inspire Burlington will take place on June 12 at the Ron Joyce Centre, DeGroote School of Business at 7:00 pm. Featured speaker is Chris Crowley, best-selling author of the Younger Next Year books.


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Citizens recognize the gift from our twin city in Japan. Blossoms on the Sakura trees worth celebrating.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON  April 25, 2012  It took a little juggling but Burlington’s Mundialization Committee managed to get the permit they needed out of the Clerk`s Office and they can now hold the Sakura Tree celebration ceremony they had planned on Sunday April 29th.  It will take place at 1:00 pm at Spender Smith Park and while there may not be a large crowd on hand the significance of the event is important.

These sakura trees have been in place for close to 25 years. Each spring their blossoms come out, first in pink and then change to white, and then fall to the ground. Each spring the hope, the beauty and the relationship with the people of Japan who gave us the trees is renewed.

The trees have been in place for close to 25 years.  Each spring they sprout pink blossoms that turn to white.  Set out as they are in two rows in Spencer Smith Park closer to the east end immediately south of Lakeshore Road they are a very, very impressive sight.

After a short period of time the pink blossoms turn white and then they fall away.  The early spring we have had this year brought the pink blossoms out a little earlier than usual and then the sudden shift in weather shook everything up.  But the ceremony to commemorate and remember the relationship we have with Itabashi still takes place.  Each year the trees blossom and remind us of those people in Japan.

Ed Dorr worked with Parks and Recreation staff and can’t say enough about Karen Sabzali, with the Parks and Recreation department, and the help she gave in getting through the layers of bureaucracy in the Clerk`s department.  Sabzali gets the `we have customers` message.

Dorr couldn’t understand what the fuss was all about.  The city wanted the $100 fee for the permit paid, the Mundialization committee had to pass a motion to approve the payment when all that was happening was $100 was being moved from one city pocket to the other.  Such is the way some departments at city hall work.  The city managers direction to treat citizens as clients and leave them wanting to come back to your store is quite new and hasn’t reached all the departments yet and those that did get the message are still getting used to the idea.

When you are in Spencer Smith Park and you see the trees, pause and remember how they got here.

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Show biz career revived; Burlington Mayor gets his act together and brings Arrogant Worms to town.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON  April 21, 2012   He is back!  The show is going to take to the stage, the show biz career is being revived and you are invited to be there – Come to the Mayor`s  Cabaret.

The Cabaret was an event the Mayor of Burlington dreamed up during his first year of office.  It got off to a bit of a bumpy start with a change in the event date but this show is now ready for the stage.  This city has a tradition of the Mayor holding a sort of Gala event at which funds are raised that the Mayor gets to distribute.  The only rule is that the Mayor doesn’t hold a Gala in an election year.

It is going to take place at the Burlington Performing Arts Centre on September 29, 2012. It will be a variety show featuring special guests Lighthouse and The Arrogant Worms, along with some very talented local artists. The Mayor believes this is sure to be a “spectacular evening”.   As long as he doesn’t play the piano – it will be an entertaining evening.  And eh, don`t bring that “song and dance”  guy back – the one who tripped over his broom and forgot the words to the song he was singing.

It is going to be an evening of fun with the community out enjoying itself.  This was done when the Blue Jeans Gala was held and we got to see and hear some of the talent Burlington has produced.  The Spoons were on stage and Silverstein was there with all the energy and big sound they bring to what they do.  That was a blast!

Proceeds will go to the Burlington Performing Arts Centre; and proceeds there should be.  Through ticket sales, both a silent and a live auction and a cocktail reception the Mayor hopes to raise a significant sum for the BPAC.  Mark the date on your calendar.  September 29th.  Tickets can be ordered from the BPAC:

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Some city streets to be closed two different weekends during the summer.

By Staff

Bicycle lanes will be painted on Appleby Line and Walkers Line and on- street parking on those two streets south of New Street will be prohibited.  It was a struggle to get this through both a committee and a council meeting but they got it done.

Despite Councillor Sharman’s concern over the lack of any measurement on the traffic flows before the lanes got painted he should not be seen as opposed to cycling.  He just wants to have some data on hand before and after the lanes are painted so that the city will know if they did the right thing.

Some of the "old timers" on city council need to take a rest from time to time. Councillor Jack Dennison takes a break while riding the Great Waterfront Trail Adventure last year.

No data – but much more bicycle use this summer. During two weekends streets will be closed to vehicles and the roads available only to cyclists.  During Ken Greenburg’s Inspire lecture at the Performing Arts Centre the mayor announced that parts of Appleby Line will be closed the weekend of June 10th and on July 15th streets in the city will be closed in conjunction with a festival taking place.

More details as we get closer to the event.

Expect to see Councillors Sharman and Dennison out on the street with their bicycles.  Councillor Meed Ward is game for this type of thing so expect to see her there with her girls.  Will Councillor Lancaster be seen at a community event?  Will Councillor Craven lighten up just enough to get out and have some fun?   Councillor Taylor  has a bicycle and if he feels his dog needs some exercise – he might well be there.

The Mayor will most certainly be out on the street.  Interesting question is what kind of a bicycle will he ride and how many people will he draw.  Are we going to be looking at some interesting T-shirts?

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They weren’t necessarily leaders when they started out but they certainly led this city in the right direction.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON  April 14, 2012  Leadership and the ability to see the big picture and the long term goal is the heart and soul of every organization – be it a multi-national corporation, a large metropolis or a social organization.  There have to be people with an idea and the energy and willingness to go forward with it.

Thursday evening many of Burlington finest business people gathered at the Convention Centre to recognize the best in each of six categories – all well deserved.

There were other awards given out as well for different kinds of leadership.   Two joint awards in particular were given out that deserve additional recognition  beyond the 450 people in the Convention Centre.

Keith Strong took the big cheques that came in and used his unique way of getting people to do things to get the Performing Arts Centre built on time and under budget.

Keith Strong and Gary DeGroote were awarded the Tourism Ambassador Award for their tireless efforts to get the Burlington Performing Arts Centre off the paper plans and to the point where there were shovels in the ground and construction cranes putting steel beams into place.  DeGroote wrote big cheques and Strong made sure the money got added to and was then used in such a way that they could say the building was on time and under budget.  Not something seen all that often in the municipal world and certainly not something Burlington sees that much of – the city still suffers the pain and looks at the scars of a waterfront pier project not yet completed and millions over budget but now under control and on track.

The people who are part of the crowd that is in the know and at the centre of much that happens in Burlington know what DeGroote and Strong managed to pull off but the larger community, the citizens that will benefit from the building, haven’t a clue as to who these two men are or what they did.

Walter Mulkewich with his best smile, was awarded the Tourism Ambassador Award for his early and untiring efforts in getting the Performing Arts Centre to the point where it was a building and not just an idea.

Two other very public figures – former Mayor Walter Mulkewich and former city council member Mike Wallace shared the Tourism Builder Award.  These two men aren’t joined at the hip, certainly not politically, but they have run side by side and kept the embers at least glowing until the city was ready to commit to building a Performing Arts Centre.   Mulkewich, a lifelong socialist and Wallace who came to realize he is a conservative as blue as the waters of Lake Ontario.

Mulkewich and Wallace were part of the group that saw the need and did the low level community committee work to get the idea fixed in the minds of the community and kept fanning those embers that grew into flames that produced the heat and energy that got a community to get behind the project.

Wallace went on to higher office while Mulkewich went on to retirement but the two of them worked closely in the very early years, as far back as the 70’s, to grow the idea that Burlington was big enough to handle a centre for the performing arts.

You always know when Mike Wallace is in the room - you hear him. He brought his inherent energy and humour to getting the Performing Arts Centre off pieces of paper and feasibility reports and to the point where it could become a reality.

Wallace was then able to finagle things in Ottawa and got the Prime Minister’s office to include a trip to Burlington to inspect a high tech research operation on, Ecosynthetix Mainway and spend some time at the Burlington Performing Arts Centre where Wallace preceded him on taking to “the boards” and then forgetting his lines.

What many will not fully appreciate for some time was that while the Prime Minister was in Burlington (the first time a Prime Minister had ever visited the city) he also made a policy statement on the arts and the role they play in the health of a community and the economy of a country.  That sort of got lost with the crowd that was very busy having their picture taken with the Prime Minister.

That event would not have taken place has Mulkewich and Wallace not done the very early work and the building  would not have gone up the way it did without DeGroote’ s financial contribution and Keith Strong’s  unique way of convincing someone they really can do what he has asked of them.

We are fortunate to have all four men in this community.  Although I don’t think we always have to send one of them to Ottawa.


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There will be public art outside Performing Arts Centre – and that’s about all we know. Deadline for submissions was Friday.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON  April 14, 2012  For some, a Friday the 13th would be looked at a little askance and those who deal with the public or are expected to deal with the public, might ask themselves if this is a good time to make a statement.

Friday came and went and if you are into “art” you might have slipped over to Hamilton and taken in the Art Crawl along James Street North.  Your chances are much better than even that you would bump into someone you know from Burlington as you strolled along the street.  And “bumped into” was the operative word – the streets were packed and there was a really nice buzz.

I fully expected to jump into Jeremy Freiburger, who is the man behind much of what is happening in the art world in these parts.  He is a major force in Hamilton art circles and is doing almost all of the art business in Burlington that is being paid for with public funds.

His Cobalt Connects has the contract to oversee the juried selection for public art that will go in front of the Burlington Performing Arts Centre.  Closing date for submissions was yesterday – no word yet on how many artists sent in their ideas.

Sometime in the not too distant future, before the Pier is completed perhaps, there will be a piece of public art in front of this building. Will it be something that people actually come to Burlington to see? Do we have it within us to choose art that is superb or will we get stuck with something provincial and dull. There are some very good people on the selection committee but the public isn’t hearing very much about the project. Maybe soon.


Freiburger said recently that there were 15 submissions and that he expected close to 50 submissions from artists as far away as Europe and South America by the April 13th deadline.

Cobalt Connect also has a contract to develop a Cultural Master Plan for Burlington.  That group is beavering away but not much has been heard – they’ve yet to settle on their communications plan – which in the language of bureaucrats means deciding how they will release and manage the flow of information.  Some call that “spin” – making the news work for the person putting out the news rather than seeing your role as a responsibility to inform. Answering direct questions and being available to media doesn’t appear to be part of the communications plan at this point in time.

We’ve exchanged emails with Freiburger during the past ten days.  He tells us that he is “media friendly” but he isn’t ready to talk about his “communications plan” until it has been approved and the day it is approved he isn’t going to be available.  He’s having lunch with the Governor General of Canada, which is a private event.

While the art itself was interesting the placement was a mistake. The BPAC patio is a great location - now to see what we get in the way of submissions. It's kind of exciting - let's keep the public in this loop.

Burlington isn’t comfortable with public art.  The city’s experience with the “orchids” on Upper Middle Road was not a pleasant one.  While the art itself has merit – the location was just plain stupid The decision to put the art in that location was made by people who used public money (actually it was Section 37 money) with almost no public input.  When the decision was announced on the location there wasn’t much of a public outcry.  The words “what?” or “are you kidding?” weren’t heard.  Part of the reason for that is Burlington citizens are still learning to use their voices.

LINK  https://www.burlingtongazette.ca/?p=5203

The Shape Burlington report was very clear in its comment that the city suffers from an information deficit.  The public just doesn’t know what is being done – because the people doing the doing are not saying very much.

The BPAC people will use very close to $750,000 of public money during 2012.  We are into the second quarter of the year but the public has heard nothing on how many tickets have been sold and where things stand financially.  Heatherington did say that more than 30,000 tickets had been sold when she was at a city council committee pleading for additional funds for her 2012 program.  She got what she asked for.

The city of Burlington put a Strategic Plan in place last year and said they would review that plan and discuss progress – and guess what – they did.  There was a city council session that was devoted to reporting on what was working and what wasn’t working.  That’s the way people who are given funds by the public are supposed to behave.

Dan Lawrie, the CEO of an insurance company, put up a large part of the money being used to pay for the art that will go outside the BPAC, said recently that both he and Brenda Heatherington, Executive Director of the Burlington Performing Arts Centre (BPAC)  feel a little awkward while they wait for the decision the jury will make on which submission will be chosen.

For Lawrie, one gets the sense that this is very much his baby and he wants to see something stupendous get selected.  But it isn’t his baby – the decision gets made by a group selected to do that job.  Those placed on the jury are well qualified people – one would hope.

Jeremy Freiburger, Chief Content and Cultural Strategist at Cobalt Connects heading up two major art projects in Burlington. Still learning how to communicate with us.

What’s missing from this dance is some music.  We have what we are told are very good people selecting what will get placed outside the BPAC – but at this point in time we’ve no idea what that will be, which is the whole idea behind an open juried competition.  We announce to the world what we want and let the artists out there decide if they think they can do something for us.   In a previous story we explained how all that will work.

It would just be nice, and the responsible thing for the people we have entrusted to do this work for us, to see a steady stream of information.  In a world with more than 1,000 television channels that carry mostly junk it would be nice to know who sent in some ideas.

Stay tuned while Cobalt Connects decides what kind of spin they want to put on the story.

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Acclaimed Titanic author to speak at library April 17th; tickets limited..

By Staff

BURLINGTON, ON  April 4, 2012  Prolific, widely honoured publisher, writer and historian Hugh Brewster, an internationally recognized authority on the Titanic, brings us his vivid examination of the people and the ship known to all after the events of April 1912.

On the Centenary of the tragedy, Hugh Brewster visits the Different Drummer Bookstore Engaging Ideas series at the Burlington Central Library on April 16th at 7:00 pm, to discuss his superlative new book, an absorbing document of the passengers’ stories, RMS Titanic: Gilded Lives on a Fatal Voyage.

Tickets are $10, available at the bookstore and at the third floor Information Desk at the Library.

Brewster has worked closely with Robert D. Ballard, the discoverer of the remains of the Titanic, and has created several acclaimed books about the vessel, for both adults and young readers.

The author has an extraordinary gift for storytelling and for recreating history, both in person and on the page.  His other subjects have included Grand Duchess Anastasia, John Singer Sargent, Mozart, and the First World War.

To reserve seats in advance, please contact us at (905) 639 0925 or diffdrum@mac.com.


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Committed shopper didn’t take to the Momstown line ups – suggests going on line to save time or head for the Mall.

Sarah O’Hara, a Burlington Mother of two, who is completing a joint Arts Degree/Teaching certificate program at York University, will be our “Critical Consumer” with regular contributions once she has finished her studies this April.  A hearty welcome to her.  This lady has a keen eye for value.

By Sarah O`Hara

BURLINGTON, ON March 31, 2012   When a friend sent me an email about a Momstown clothing sale, I thought I’d check it out.  Last summer my daughter still fit into the shorts, Capri’s and sundresses from the summer before, although they were much shorter than they were originally.  I know I won’t luck out again this year, so I am going to have to buy some new things.  My friend Christy’s son is three years older than mine, and she hands down all of his clothes to us.  We aren’t fortunate enough, however, to have a close friend or relative with a daughter slightly older and bigger than mine, so we have to shop for my six-year-old, Laura.

I have to admit, I do love to shop.  Usually I go from Burlington Mall to Mapleview Mall and buy whatever is cute or on sale or durable – all of these are factors in my decisions on clothing for Laura.  However, this year we have a different financial situation in my household, so I have to pay more attention than usual to price tags.  Thus, when I found out about the Momstown sale I decided to go.

The dream view for every Mother shopping for childrens clothing at bargain prices.

The email said the first hundred people would get a goody bag.  I like to get anything for free so I resolved to be there right at eight o’clock, when the sale began.  However, when setting my alarm last night I was hesitant to set it too early.  After all, it has been a busy week with six a.m. wakeups – Saturday is my morning to sleep in a bit.  Besides, would anyone actually show up to buy used clothing and toys at eight o’clock on a cold Saturday morning?

As luck would have it, my kids woke me up by seven thirty anyway, and by eight o’clock Laura and I were out the door.  It’s only a few minutes from our house to the Angelic Treasures Christian Childcare Centre on Mountainside Road where the sale was held.  We turned onto the street just after eight and immediately saw cars and minivans being rerouted from the already-full parking lot.  I groaned inwardly but was determined to follow through on my aim to be financially smart and buy some decent second hand clothes.  After all – how long do kids actually wear their clothes?  I have donated outfits that have been worn less than a handful of times.  Kids grow – fast.  It seems silly to pay full price for clothes that only last one season.

I parked on the street and Laura and I trudged through the still-snowy grass to the back of the Centre, following bright orange signs hung with balloons directing us toward the entrance.  As soon as we turned the corner I groaned again – this time out loud.  There were at least sixty people queued up at the entrance.  Mothers, grandmothers, women with very pregnant bellies, a few men, strollers, toddlers, and women with politely unobtrusive lumps under their jackets obviously concealing babies.  We made our way to the end of the line.  I spoke to the woman in front of me who told me she is not a member of Momstown, the hosts of the sale, but that she often comes to these types of sales.  The woman behind me told me she is from Lindsay and is staying in Burlington with her in-laws for the weekend.  She is not a member of Momstown either, but heard about the sale on Kijiji.  She often finds out about such sales through the Internet and plans for them when she comes to Burlington, as she said there is very little of this sort of thing in Lindsay.

This isn't the line up outside the Angelic Treasures Christian Childcare Centre on Mountainside Road but it paints the picture our Critical Consumer, Sarah O'Hara wants to pass along - the line ups were just too long.

By this time I counted forty people in front of us and forty behind us.  It was ten after eight.  Slowly, slowly, the line moved.  When we were close to the doorway a Momstown representative came around with a clipboard and ballot entries for a draw.  With fingers numbed from the cold I filled out my information and asked her if this type of lineup is usual.  She assured me these sales always draw such a crowd.  Unfortunately, due to space restrictions, only a few shoppers are allowed into the sale at one time.  Laura and I finally gained entrance and were relieved to feel the warm air.  However, we were then stuck in a tiny vestibule for about ten minutes.  This was both the entrance and the exit, so we were routinely pushed up against the wall while people left with sacks full of goodies from clothing to ride-on toy cars.

One of the people exiting was an old high school friend, Lee-Ann.  She stopped to chat for a moment and told me she used to be a member of Momstown, but because she worked she was able to make very few of the scheduled events.  She told me the meetings are generally held on week days in the afternoons and because of her hours as a working mother she was never able attend.  She felt the group is best for stay-at-home mothers or those still on maternity leave with young babies.

We eventually made it to the table in the lobby where we could choose which draw to put our ballot in.  I let Laura pick and she chose an Avon draw.  I’m sure the stuffed panda in the basket helped to sway her vote.  I paid my Toonie to the volunteer at the desk, and then we lined up again to wait for a certain number of people to leave before we could enter the sale proper.  A volunteer told me that to my right was the boys’ clothing, across the hall toys, and through to the left girls’ clothes.  After that I could continue through to check out.

In about five minutes, after receiving some signal I was not aware of, the volunteer told us we could go in.  Laura and I entered a small room lined with racks of boys’ clothes.  They started from 0-6 months, 6 months to a year, and so on.  The final rack held clothes for ages five and up – this was the one rack that applied to my family in the crowded room.  I rummaged through the hangers of assorted clothes, each marked with a price and the identification number of the seller.  The clothing ranged from brand new looking to very well worn.  I finally found a pair of camouflage shorts for $2.

Mothers shopping for clothing. This wasn't a photograph of the Monstown sale - but it's what you run into when there are crowds looking for bargains.

We then moved into the toy room.  This room had games, books, videos, puzzles, cars and dolls.  It also held exersaucers, playpens, bicycles, vibrating “bouncy” chairs and safety gates.  The prices ranged from a few dollars to about fifty dollars.  I saw a bouncy chair for five dollars sitting right beside one nearly identical for thirty.  I am not sure who set the prices but the range didn’t make sense to me.  I browsed through a table of toy cars and was surprised to see some broken cars for $3.  I saw a large tent-like castle which looked like fun but it was $45 – far more than I would pay for such a toy.  The toy room was well organized however, and had many books and toy animals neatly packaged in zippy bags at reasonable prices.

Finally Laura and I entered the room we had come to see – girls’ clothes.  Again the racks were organized by age.  The racks with clothes for young children were bursting at the seams, while the one we were interested in – age five and up – had very little on it.  I managed to find two cute pairs of Capri pants for $2 each.

I spoke briefly with Andrea Kovacs, who told me she owns Momstown Hamilton.  Momstown is a franchise.  The first one was started right here in Burlington, and now there are twenty chapters nation-wide.  She told me the $45 per year membership fee pays for all the events and get-togethers members can enjoy.  There are both on- and off-line programme events for members, and each event aims to include six pillars that are fundamental in infant and child development.  These include literature, nutrition and fitness, art and music, play and socializing, math, and science.  The programme also helps mothers to make connections with others.  She further informed me that a recent study by the University of Waterloo confirmed that Momstown plays a distinct role in helping new mothers deal with illness such as post-partum depression.  Andrea told me that they had thirty sellers there today, and that sixty per cent of their sellers were not members.  They have this sale biannually.

Momstown seems to be geared to the stay at home Moms with younger children

When my children were babies we frequented the Burlington Family Resource Centres.  Laura was just two weeks old when we first attended “Calling New Parents,” where I learned all the ins and outs of being a new mother.  I met many new mothers there whom I still call friends today.  We met at each others’ homes, took our babies on walks and to movies.  The Centre grew with our children and we were able to register for programs such as Mother Goose, Creep Crawl and Toddle, and Creative Movement and Arts.  There are no fees involved and it is a fantastic network for new parents who want to seek out connections and learn about parenting.  I guess the biggest difference from the Early Years Centres and Momstown, besides the fee, is the on-line connection.  Momstown also hosts events and field trips (which cost extra on top of your yearly fees).

After speaking with Andrea, Laura and I moved on to pay for our three pairs of pants.  Of course we were met with yet another line up.  A volunteer took the tags off my clothing and put them in an envelope.  Then I moved to another line where a volunteer behind a table totaled my bill and gave me a receipt to take to yet another volunteer, whom I paid.  She cheerfully asked me if I got the information for another sale just a few blocks away hosted by BAMOM (Bay Area Mothers of Multiples).  I replied just as cheerfully that I did, but inside I was aching for the anonymity of a good old mall where I could walk in and out of stores at my will without having to pay to get in, nor wait in lineups to enter and pay, or collect stacks of flyers and coupons (which is pretty much all my “goody bag” held).

This lady was NOT at the Momstown sale - her pet would not have put up with the lineups. Don't think she would have either.

So I spent six dollars for three items – a very good deal.  But it took me an hour, and about forty-five minutes of that was spent in lines or shoulder-to-shoulder with other people.  I think I will make my way to Burlington Mall next week and see if I can get good deals for Laura’s summer wardrobe without this hassle.  I am all for recycling and up-cycling, and for new mothers I would highly recommend buying second-hand items such as cribs and high chairs.  But for me, as the parent of a four- and six-year-old, this was more hassle than it was worth.  In the future if I want to buy used items, I will do it from the comfort of my home and shop on Kijiji.

The Burlington Momstown can be found at:  https://burlington.momstown.ca/

An excellent little shop on Main Street in Milton has no line ups and a very wide range of  slightly used and new clothing at bargain prices. SnailsnPails  221 Main Street East, Milton –   https://www.snailsnpails.com/



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First it was fire trucks getting into SOM at Spencer Smith; now it’s getting adequate parking space for sponsors and vendors.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON March 30, 2012 It’s tough getting the respect you think you deserve.   Dave Miller, Executive Director Sound of Music (SOM) Festival seems to find himself facing hurdle after hurdle.  It started with city council committee rejecting the SOM request for an additional $34,000 spread out over two years – $17,000 each year.

Miller delegated at two committee meetings and a council meeting and while he came close the best he could do was a “we will work with you on this for the 2013 budget”.  Miller limped away resolved to do the best he could with what he did have.

At a council committee meeting last night, Wednesday,  Ward 2 Councillor Marianne Meed Ward commented that some of the material in the Festival and Events report that was being discussed would have had an impact on the budget discussion if it had been available.  Staff agreed that it was unfortunate that the information in the report had not been made available to people just as soon as it was known rather than wait until it was published in a report. It is not immediately clear just what was in the report discussed last night that could have significantly changed the budget discussions.

Two of the more than 125 Sound of Music volunteers driving in stakes as they set up for Sound of Music.

While not getting the funding he felt SOM had actually earned left Miller with a hard case of indigestion, it was water under the bridge; he had more important issues to deal with.  He learns that the fire department doesn’t want him to use the East Lawn – that space on the Waterfront to the east of the “in progress” pier construction.  Two years ago the SOM people added  a “community stage” and was in the process of building up this feature.  SOM also had plans to move the “bike coral” to this area – that’s the place where people with bicycles can tie up their “wheels”.

Being told that the fire department didn’t want the SOM people in that area because it would impede their ability to get in if there was a fire.  Miller takes a deep breath and meets on the East Lawn with people from the fire department and they look around and decide – no problem – you can be here.

Miller wonders why he gets told that he can’t use the space but when he chases after the people who make the decisions they tell him – it’s OK.   So the East Lawn will be used by SOM in 2012.  Those that take in events on that side of the waterfront will get an up front and personal look at the construction of The Pier.

Feeling that he has put out one fire Miller turns around ready to press on and then learns that the parking the SOM has rented for many years is not going to be available in 2012.

SOM rents 110 spaces in the parking garage on Lotus Street. “We used that space for our sponsors and vendors who need to be as close as possible to the venue.”   Miller says he put in his application last September and asked for 140 spaces this year.  The response – you can’t have 140 spaces – in fact you can’t have any space in the Lotus Street garage – but we can give you space in two different parking lots in the area.

Miller doesn’t understand what has changed.  And he doesn’t understand why he is told now that he can’t have the parking spots. “They could have called me in for a conversation last September.”  Miller wants to know what’s changed and “who is making all these decisions that are really hurting the event we run”.

Miller points out that the Sound of Music Festival has won awards for the past ten years on being one of the top two events in the province; one that Miller maintains contributes $4 million to the Burlington economy.  And the event is free to anyone who wants to walk down to Spencer Smith Park on those nice easy going summer evenings in early June.

To add insult to injury Miller tells people that Hamilton almost showers the events in their community with funding.  The Crawl – an increasingly popular event on North James Street in Hamilton that has the public visiting dozens of art galleries in the area.  The Crawl got more for their event than SOM was asking for from the city.

Hugely popular music event running into static and facing hurdle after hurdle, Line up for 2012 will be announced early in May.

Something has gone amiss with the relationship between the city and an event that is hugely successful from any metric you use to measure.  The SOM was originally a city run event and when it got too big for city hall staff to handle it got spun off to a non-profit.  Miller has been with the event since his early days as a volunteer.

Heading up an operation with more than 125 volunteers, the organization  draws tens of thousands to the city, Miller  works from his kitchen table and uses space at city hall when they have to hold a meeting.  This is an outfit that is very skinny in terms of staff and facilities – everything goes into the event.

On the surface it would appear the Sound of Music Festival deserves more and better consideration.

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The Queen is coming; The Queen is coming – to Ireland House on Mother`s Day.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON  March 23, 2012  They are all aflutter over at Ireland House.  The “Queen” is going to be there on Mother`s Day (May 13th) and they are just beside themselves with excitement.

It is truly an event of enormous proportions and all funded by the – well you know who sends cheques to the good people in Burlington, who so continuously and loyally support a government of a certain colour – Royal Blue of course.  But I digress.  Let me tell you of this event in the words we got from Ireland House.

“The Museums of Burlington are excited to announce we will be hosting a very special event this May: The Queen’s Jubilee & Mother’s Day Royal Tea. On Sunday, May 13th, from 10:00am to 5:00pm at Ireland House at Oakridge Farm, we will be honouring Queen Elizabeth II and her Diamond Jubilee; celebrating the 60th anniversary of her accession to the throne, her 60–year reign and her service and dedication to this country.”

“Her reign of 60 years is the second-longest for a British monarch; only Queen Victoria has reigned longer. Her Silver and Golden Jubilees were celebrated in 1977 and 2002; her Diamond Jubilee is being celebrated during 2012….over her life, she witnessed the ongoing transformation of the British Empire into the Commonwealth of Nations…”

They went on to say:  “On this special occasion, the Museums of Burlington will highlight one of the shaping influences of Canadian history – politically, through governance, social values and customs as well as  Canada’s role in the world.”

I am just dying to see that “shaping influence”.  This is a press release that went over the top and then got away on them.  It continues:

“The Burlington community will be able to come together to commemorate this grand occasion. Thanks to the generous support of Canadian Heritage, (a cheque for $20,400 is the definition of generous) we are able to offer the public free admission to the event.”

Queen Elizabeth II will be impersonated at Ireland House on Mother's Day. Better there than at the Queen's Head on Brant Street.

“On May 13th, those attending can celebrate with royal splendor and experience outstanding entertainment, live performances with Sophisticated Brass and the Burlington group “Hotsy Totsy” specializing in songs from the 1940s & 1950s.

“The day will also include special guests and attractions, thematic presenters, royal ceremonies such as a “knighting”, an opportunity to participate in a royal tea garden party complete with specialty sandwiches, traditional scones and sweets, tea workshops, royal horse and carriage rides and  the chance to interact with Queen Elizabeth professional impersonator!”  Did you see that exclamation mark?

If the weather is good it should be a nice way to spend Mother`s Day and let little girls and boys get all dressed up.  Do little girls and boys dress up anymore?

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Different perspectives on student art. Dutch use war scenes to work from while Burlington students use local landmarks.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON  March 21, 2012  Three or four weeks ago there was a sudden unexplainable burst of traffic from Brazil of all places to the Our Burlington web site.  At one point there were over 350 hits to the web site from Brazil.  They’d get to the Home page and leave.

We get traffic from more than 20 countries but usually nothing more than two, maybe three except for those bandits from Ukraine – they are always prowling.

Some of the art work from Burlington public schools and our twin school in Apeldoorn, the Netherlands, on display at city hall.

Then we noticed there was an increasing number from Holland and it climbed and they were drilling down into the web site and we began to watch carefully and took a second look at our anti-virus and hacking software defences.  We got just a little nervous after five days of consistent growth in traffic from Holland while other countries were stable in terms of traffic.  Why were those wooden shoes walking across our screen?

When I leave a Council or a committee meeting, I usually have a word or two with Bob, the security guy at reception.  Monday evening there were a bunch of partitions on wheels scattered about the atrium that could be rolled around with what looked like art from elementary school students on the panels. “The ones with the red borders are from school kids in Holland, they are part of something being done by the Mundialization Committee” explain Bob.

A quick email to the security people – you can stand down fellows, there is nothing wrong with the traffic from Holland, it’s legitimate but it is sure playing havoc with our day to day, hour by hour analytics.  School children were given an assignment that had to do with Burlington, Ontario and if you want to know anything about Burlington, Our Burlington is the place to go.

The Dutch students took an interesting approach - half of each piece is a photograph the other half was drawn in by the students..

The traffic was the result of the student art exchange that had students from John T. Tuck Public School in Burlington and the Heuvellaan Public School students in Apeldoorn.  The Apeldoorn works explore war monuments while the local art is inspired by Burlington landmarks.

The student art exchange is one of many events organized by the city’s Mundialization Citizen committee to celebrate Burlington’s twinning relationship with the cities of Apeldoorn, The Netherlands and Itabashi, Japan.

This is the first of several art exhibitions planned this year. The next exhibition will be held in May and will feature art from four Burlington elementary schools and six Dutch schools.  In June, there will be an elementary art exhibition that will also feature art from Japanese elementary schools.



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The band will play on, the speakers will boom out sound while the SOM people that make it all happen keep their fingers crossed.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON  March 20, 2012  For a short period of time the Sound of Music Festival was a contender for the $17,000 they had said they needed to make their 2012 program solid.  Dave Miller the Executive Director of an organization that believes it has a $4 million economic impact on the city,  appeared before city council pleading for funds he felt the Sound of Music Festival needed.  Miller had done something few people manage to pull off  – and that was appear at an early budget committee meeting; at the final budget committee meeting and last night at the meeting where the budget gets cast in stone.  It was all for not.

While there will be crowds in front of most of the stages this summer the stage on the East Lawn - out behind the Waterfront Hotel may not get put up this summer. Pier construction crews apparently need the space. That could mean a $25,000 hit to the Festival which added to the $17,000 they didn't get from the city is going to hurt.

To add insult to injury Miller learned earlier in the day that the SOM was not going to have access to the East Lawn of Spencer Smith Park – the space was going to be needed by the crew completing the construction of the Pier, which according to Miller would significantly impact programming for the 2012 event.

The Festival was having a string of bad luck and the hope was that it would not extend into the summer program that has been listed for the 12th time in a row as one of the top 50 events in Ontario.

The SOM people have had some difficulty dealing with city hall which is something they are working on improving.  At their first meeting with the city’s budget cycle they were almost booed off the stage and the question asked was: When is enough, enough.  City council didn’t think the Festival should get any bigger and they certainly didn’t want to give them any money.

The Festival does have a reserve of $400,000 which Councillor Taylor thinks they should dip into.  While the word reserve is used to describe the funds – they are really operating cash needed to cover day to day expenses during the Festival.  And for anyone who knows anything about the show business – it can get a little hairy when weather turns bad, crowds don’t show up, revenue looks like the water going down the toilet.  That’s just about the time that expenses begin to get out of hand as well.

Councillor Dennison was onside for the $17,000 the Sound of Music people were asking for - as was Ward 2 Councillor Meed Ward. The rest sat on their hands when it came to a vote.

The Festival has learned to keep a really good chunk of money in the bank for those rainy days.  While we are usually very tough on people who want to keep things confidential –we believe that if you want public money you open the kimono – we went along with SOM keeping their financial statements confidential.  Last year was apparently not a good year financially however previous years have been financially strong.

Council didn’t seem to be able to pick up on what the Festival does for the city financially and they seemed to miss the point completely about the growth potential.  Councillors Meed Ward and Dennison were onside for a one time grant of $17,000 but the others wanted to wait until there was a fully fleshed out business case which everyone expects city hall staff to have a hand in putting together.

And that for the Sound of Music Festival people is part of the problem – they don’t particularly want the city to have its hands in the SOM pockets.

Expect the SOM people to pull back into a huddle while they figure out how they are going to deal with this new reality.  Better if they could snag that broadcasting contract and steer clear of the city hall crowd.

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Ideas worth spreading will be on the stage at TEDxBurlington this year; a first for the city.

By Staff

BURLINGTON, ON  March 20, 2012  Spencer Campbell  grew up in Burlington and lives here now.  He’s done some amazing things but it is his latest initiative that you might want to hear about.  Keep the words TEDx Burlington in mind and you might want to reserve May 27th for a possible outing.

TED stands for  a Technology, Entertainment, Design.   It is a known as a group that pulls together people who have Ideas Worth Spreading and Campbell is bringing  a version of that program to Burlington.   The local version is called TEDxBurlington.

TED'x's have been held all around the world - Waterloo Ontario recently held a TEDx - now Burlington.

TED is an international organization created to get people talking about ideas and then spreading those ideas as far and as wide as possible and then putting them on a web site.  It is a non-profit organization devoted to Ideas Worth Spreading. It started out in 1984 as a conference bringing together people from three worlds: Technology, Entertainment, Design. Since then its scope has become ever broader. Along with two annual conferences — the TED Conference in Long Beach and Palm Springs each spring, and the TEDGlobal conference in Edinburgh UK each summer — TED includes the award-winning TEDTalks video site.

TED has thousands of filmed talks from the likes of Sir Richard Branson, Bill Clinton, Jane Goodall, astronomers / physicists to philosophers/performers to many, many less known but just as inspirational speakers. The intent is to get highly motivated speakers –those who are  professional and those who are not – from various walks of life to  share their personal passion on issues that matter for audience discussion.

The TEDx program gives communities, organizations and individuals the opportunity to stimulate dialogue through TED-like experiences at the local level. TEDx events are planned and coordinated independently.

Spencer Campbell, entrepreneur and Burlington resident is heading up the group bringing a TEDx event to the city.

Spencer Campbell is bringing TEDx to Burlington to do the same thing and has so far confirmed four speakers for his May 27th event. Get to TEDxBurlington for more details.

On the platform so far are:

•  Dr. Jean Chamberlain – distinguished McMaster Medical Professor and Founder of www.savethemothers.org an organization that focuses on reducing maternal mortality in African developing countries.

•  Patrick O’Neill – CEO of www.extraordinary conversations.com    a leadership expert who has been involved with the Middle Eastern Peace Process

•  Michael Jones – a Juno nominate Pianist who will perform during the session and ask us to explore the heart of our own creativity

•  Josh Nelson – a childhood cancer survivor. Three years ago Josh asked the Sears National Kids Cancer Ride cycling team to ride for him until the day he could ride with them. Two years ago Spencer Campbell cycled with 41 others across Canada in 15 days to raise more than $1.5M for childhood cancer patient needs – Josh joined them from Woodstock to Toronto. He gave an incredibly moving speech when they stopped in Burlington.  Last year Josh  cycled – from Vancouver to Halifax.

•  Scott Graham – author, sought after speaker who focuses on helping kids develop character, confidence and budding leadership.

•  Trish Barbato – author, inspirer and career planning expert

TEDx events have taken place in cities around the world. The advent of a TEDx in a city is usually a sign that it has grown up and has an engaged informed population.

TEDx Burlington will take place in the Community Studio at the Performing Arts Centre.  Each speaker gets a maximum of 16 minutes.  The event runs from 1:00 pm to 5:00 pm with a reception after the event at Thinkspot!, a three minute walk from the Performing Arts Centre.

The event is limited to 100 thinkers/doers/humanists. All the “talks” are videotaped and streamed online.

Campbell feels Burlington is ready for a TED event.  They do tie in nicely with Mayor Goldring’s Inspire series where experts in different fields come to the city to engage the community in subjects that relate directly to Burlington.


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Heritage is challenged to get it right within a very short time frame. New chair and vice chair installed. Now the hard work begins.

REVISED October 2, 2012

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON  March 13, 2012

They had their work cut out for them.  The marching orders were pretty clear.  There was a new chair and vice chair in place and the mood of the Burlington Heritage  Advisory Committee at their first meeting, after a bombastic Council Committee meeting, was pretty upbeat.

Jim Clemens was made chair and Kathleen White was installed as vice chair.  Clemens, a retired high school history teacher who spent a significant amount of time with the Ministry of Education arrived in Burlington in 1971.  He was smart enough as the newly installed chair to set up a work plan, distribute the work load, make a presentation to city council and then head off to Florida for three weeks.  He has since returned.

Clemens was appointed to the Heritage Committee three years ago.  He now serves as one of the two Burlington Historical Society members on the Committee.

Kathleen White, a bilingual University of Toronto history graduate lives in one of the 67 homes in Burlington that has been designated as a Heritage home.  Kathleen can trace her family roots to the 1800’s in both Ontario and the Prairies.  She works in the private sector with technology and is the mother of two small children.

Clemens and White appear to work well together – they are going to need to if they are going to meet the deadlines and at the same time produce a report that moves Burlington away from the polarization that has be-deviled the city and at the same time put in place the sense of community that will bring the city to the point where it respects its heritage and goes that additional mile to save what is worth saving and have everyone proud of what we are doing.  That the Freeman station appears to have found a new home is a first step and is perhaps the turning point for things heritage in this city.

Heritage in Burlington is in very, very rough shape.  The best the city has managed to do is not have the opposing points of view attempting  to kill each other.  For reasons that neither side of the argument could articulate clearly, there has been very significant opposition to putting a home on any kind of list and more importantly, a serious lack of understanding as to what heritage is and why it is important.

It has been a poorly managed file at city hall.  People who should know better have made some very stupid comments.  Developers have stirred the pot with self-interest comments and the real estate community has contributed nothing of value to the situation the city finds itself in.

What many fail to understand or appreciate is that Heritage Burlington is governed by the Ontario Heritage Act which makes no mention of the owner of a piece of property.   The complaints that come from Burlington residents about the way the committee behaves are understandable, but there is nothing the Committee can do about that.  They are required to follow the rules as they appear in provincial legislation.

There has clearly been an inability to communicate on the part of the Heritage Committee in the past.  With a new chair and vice chair in place, both of whom know how to communicate, one can hope that a better stream of information gets through to the people who have had problems with heritage issues in Burlington – that would be the 100 plus that showed up at the Heritage Workshop last December.

Under a new Mayor who at least understands heritage the city has begun to inch its way forward.  It should be said however the city’s council members should be thoroughly ashamed of their behavior, having gotten federal government Stimulus Funds and then failed to find a suitable location for the Freeman railway station which is about as historic as anything in the city.  It certainly belongs right up there with the Joseph Brant Museum.

The railway station that saw the loading of hundreds of thousands on bushel baskets of fruit from area orchards and then served as the platform from which the youth of the community were taken off to wars from which many never  returned.

Petty, small thinking and self-interest seemed to have replaced the pride of community and a what’s in it for me began to take its place.

HMCS Burlington: Sailed past what is now Spencer Smith Park, acknowledged a salute from the shore party, swung back out into the lake and never returned. Decommissioned in 1945

The city has completely lost any historical connection with its water front – not a jot of recognition to the canneries that were once there; one is very hard pressed to show where the wharves at which ships tied up to take on and transport the lumber, then the wheat and then the fruit that came out of the soil.  For some reason history, or at least some of  it doesn’t seem to matter.  At the same time, this city has one of the most impressive and complete naval war memorials in the country on it’s waterfront – this in a city that really doesn’t have a naval history.  HMCS Burlington sailed past the lakefront breakwater once and we never saw the ship again.

The Advisory committee knows they have their work cut out for them and that there are concerns, at least with one member of Council, as to how useful the Advisory committee actually is.  Blair Lancaster of Ward 6 and Councillor Sharman of Ward 5

Councillor Lancaster was prepared to put those pretty pink work boots to the Heritage Committee and set up a Task Force to deliver on the Staff Direction Mayor Goldring had put forward. That, mercifully, failed.

have never come across as strong friends of the Heritage movement.  Sharman sees any involvement in what can and cannot be done with a person’s property is an infringement on their property rights and he wants to see changes made.  Lancaster wanted to see a Task Force created to resolve the issues that came out of a well-attended community workshop last January.

Sharman was rude enough to ask Jim Clemens, chair of the committee delegating to Council if he was prepared to buy a house whose owner  was asking to be taken off the register.

The facilitator of the November 2011 workshop, Stephanie Roy McCallum, of Dialogue Partners gave the city more than their money’s worth with the report she turned in.

Marianne Meed Ward sits as a Council non-voting member on the Heritage Advisory as well as being one of the Council members on the Waterfront Access Advisory Committee.  Meed Ward has created a reputation as being a very direct and energetic Council member who isn’t afraid to ask questions.  She has turned her volume down a bit of late.

Watching her as a participant of the Heritage Advisory Committee one sees a very different Marianne Meed Ward than we see at Waterfront – which for her was a signature election issue.  At the last Heritage meeting she was involved, active, animated, at times leading and very much a part of the process.  One doesn’t see the same Meed Ward at the Waterfront meetings.  Missing there is the energy and the drive.

Meed Ward has arranged two sets of one-on-one meetings with the Council members for the Heritage committee – she just went and did it because it needed to be done.  They will be taken through the first draft of the response to the Staff Direction and then taken through the final draft of the response before it gets taken to a Council Committee in June.

The committee has already lined up the talents of the new Community Engagement Coordinator and has been assigned someone from the city’s communications department to handle media.

The schedule these people have to work to is incredibly tight.  They now have a full complement with Jeff Sutcliffe, Fraser Dunford, Jim O`Neil and Albert Facenda made full members of the committee.

Diane Gaudaur, Linda Axford and Chelsey Tyers are added as non-voting members.

There is an interesting wrinkle to the make up of the Committee.  The Burlington Historical Society has two members on the committee as of right.  One of those two is Jim Clemens, the current chair.  One might ask: If the Historical Society becomes unhappy with the direction Heritage Committee chair Jim Clemens is taking, might the committee remove him as the Historical Society member and thus see him out as chair?  Just asking.

The Committee has gone through some very tough times.  It found itself with a mandated job to do and little in the way of support from the community.  It had to work with the Burlington Historical Society, a volunteer association that has no ties to city hall other than a couple of seats on Heritage Burlington.  The Historical Society plus is that they have the interests of preserving history as their mandate.   Then there was the Burlington Property Owner’s Association made up of people opposed to the idea that city hall, or anyone for that matter, could tell them what they could or could not do to their homes.  That group has a very boisterous membership.

Add to that there is a Planning Department led by one of the better planners in the province, who is as cultured an individual as you’re going to find in Burlington – but for some reason the Planning staff come across as heavy handed and dictatorial.  The tone and the language used in their web site presence and the regulations they post just doesn’t come out sounding helpful – it tends to put backs up and causing people to decide not to work with them.

On the Heritage Burlington web site there is a statement: “A heritage property may be designated by a by-law passed by City Council according to procedures defined in the Ontario Heritage Act. Designation provides a measure of protection against demolition and damaging alterations.

“Renovations and alterations to the exterior must be approved by Heritage Burlington or City Council. Interior features are usually not included in the designation, and may be altered without any approval process. Heritage Burlington assists property owners during the designation process, prepares a designation report, and advises Council on the reasons for designation.”

Every word is true – but the tone and the intention are just a little too much for many property owners who don’t trust city hall and don’t think anyone has the right to tell them what to do with property they own.  And when property owners read about some of the emotionally based, completely irrational decisions made by their council members – well that’s where the deeply rooted differences of opinion set in.

And then there is THE Registry – a list of homes and properties that is misunderstood and badly managed.  The previous council, that is the rascals who sat from 2006 to 2010, confused residents with some of the information they put out.  The situation was allowed to get out of hand, partly because there was no leadership from Council.  Jane Irwin, a member of the Historical Society who can usually be relied upon for a cogent, well informed comment, once explained to Council much of the background on registration and designation.  The Council, for the most part, did more harm than good – it was this crew that totally failed on the saving of the Freeman Station.  Councillors Taylor, Craven, Dennison and Goldring were all part of that Council and they let the funding they had in hand to move and repair the Freeman Station get away while the station begins to rot beside the Fire Station on Plains Road.  To add injury to insult the fire chief recently got council to go along with an upgrade to the fire station that was well over $250,000

Clearly heritage and the history of the city doesn’t have much traction and that is perhaps the biggest task ahead of everyone.  That task is going to take years.

With the recommendations from the Heritage Workshop in hand Mayor Goldring was able to take the next step and have Heritage Burlington review the consultants report and then provide direction in a number of very specific areas.   Heritage Burlington took that Direction and boiled them down to four tasks that were assigned to the committee members with very specific reporting dates and tight time lines.

The Staff Direction asked Heritage Burlington to set out a definition of heritage and then detail what the value of heritage is to the community.   This one should be interesting.

Morgan Warren  and  Randy McLaughlin are expected to lead this one – loads of contention here.

The premises they intend to work from are:  What does heritage mean for the residents of Burlington. How is this represented and defined?  What is or should be the cultural significance supporting the designation of existing and future heritage properties? Discuss the “why” behind heritage conservation.  How do we best celebrate and showcase Burlington’s heritage?  How do we develop a variety of opportunities and options for preserving, and promoting  heritage and culture in the city?

The second task in the work plan is the process and procedure behind the listing of heritage properties.  This one is also going to be led by McLaughlin with deep support from Geoff Cliffe-Phillips.  They will be guided by questions like: What is the process for placing and removing properties on the municipal register and what is the criteria for designation?  What should the city be doing about alterations, demolitions and restorations to buildings that are deemed to be historically significant. This is to include the Heritage clearance and permit process.

Should the designation of a heritage properties be voluntary or enforced?  Who participates in this decision-making process?  What are the criteria for heritage determination? What already exists and how might this be modified to reflect better the needs and wishes of residents and stakeholders and still maintain a heritage conservation process that can successfully managed by the city?  How does the current listing process function? What works? What doesn’t?

A third group is to focus on Property.  What are the rights and values attached to property?  Are there and should there be incentives and support for heritage preservation?   What exactly is the Legislative Responsibility?  What is the balance between heritage conservation as led by the City and the individual rights, roles, and responsibilities of property owners?

What is the property owner’s responsibility?  Is it a shared responsibility?  And what about the city, what is their responsibility?

Committee member John Vice is going to lead this group with loads of help from Sarah Thompson, Jacquie Johnson  Gardner and Randy McLaughlin.

The fourth work topic area is the decision making process.  How do decisions get made and what role does the  Planning Department play in all this?   What should be expected of city council and the Clerk’s Department and then what role does Heritage Burlington play? – realizing that this committee is bound by the Ontario Heritage Act.  Vice chair Kathleen White and committee member Randy McLaughlin are going to lead this group.

The deadline for getting all this done is tight and the city wants answers for a June meeting.   Council is not prepared to let this fester for much longer.

Getting the work done is just part of the task before this committee.  They then have to communicate with a diverse lot, including: Developers, Property Owners’ Association, Owners of Heritage Properties, Burlington Historical Society, Heritage Umbrella Group, Real Estate Companies, Heritage Workshop Participants and the general public.

What got the ball moving at Heritage was a layered thing.  The first layer, but just one of several was the very detailed report from Stephanie McCallum Roy of Dialogue Partners who was engaged by the city to hold the Workshop in November.  That three quarter day event pulled more than 100 people into the Mainway Arena where things got noisy from time to time and a number of people walked out in disgust with the comment that “nothing was going to change”. Mayor Goldring had prepared a Staff Direction for a meeting in January, but because the facilitator was unable to attend it was moved back to the next round several  weeks later.  So everything sat – but not before the Kilbride matter came and went.

When this building was removed from the Registry on a motion put forward by Councillor Taylor, it basically trashed the concept behind the Registry – it may not recover which will make some people happy but is a mistake from a heritage point of view.

2080 Kilbride Road is a house that is in a very dismal state of disrepair.  There are holes in the roof covered with blue tarpaulins.  The property is owned by two people who are in long term care homes which the family is finding very difficult to manage financially.  They wanted to sell their property but felt they would not get full value because the house was on the Registry.

Ward three Councillor John Taylor asked Council to take the house off the city operated registry of significant homes so that the owners could sell the property.  The argument was made that homes on the Registry do not bring the owners their full value.  For many it is a specious argument that is far from proven, but there are developers and real estate agents who will tell you, that if you are on the Registry you will get less for your property when you try to sell it.  Albert Facenda, a developer just appointed to Heritage,  delegated to a council committee with what he claimed was proof positive that property values decline when a house goes on the Registry.

Councillor Taylor took an overly emotional approach to a property matter in his Ward. He would have been livid if the Planning Department had allowed their feelings to creep into their work.

Councillor Taylor took a very emotional approach to this problem; one that he would have been livid about had staff been as emotional in their report. Taylor managed to convince his fellow Council members to go along with him and remove the property from the Registry so that it could be sold BUT they added that if the new owners came looking for a demolition permit, then the building would be designated as an historical property.

Should such a situation arrive – that is should someone apply for a demolition permit, the city has to issue one within ten days – and that could get problematical if a developer intent on tearing the house down chose to apply, say late on the Friday of a long weekend. The Mayor would have to call a Special Meeting of Council – before the ten day window expires – and should it be during the summer when a couple of Council members are away?  Well you can see the scramble that would take place.

Mayor Goldring was a little dumbstruck when Council voted to remove the Kilbride property from the Registry and asked his fellow Council members where the logic was in their decision.  Taylor had shown the city that Council is at times far from logical and all too often blatantly emotional in the decisions it makes.  Would that they had been as emotional about the Freeman railway station.  That was not one of their finest hours.

With that very regrettable decision behind them we can expect to see others who are on the Registry asking to be removed.

Add to the mix some refreshing but very surprising comments made by Jeff Fielding, the newly appointed city manager.  When asked if his staff would come back with some recommendations, he tells council staff isn’t going to touch this “with a ten foot poll”,  and then he goes on to tell council later in the meeting that Council has all the information they need and they should “just do their job”.  We haven’t heard language like that before.  Very refreshing.

Heritage has been vexing for Burlington.  It has been polarizing.  It is now going to get interesting.  We will keep you posted.
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To Zumba or not to Zumba? Can I get it with a coupon or on Wagjag? – asks savy shopper O’Hara.

By Sara O`Hara

BURLINGTON, ON  March 13, 2012  I love Wagjags.  There is something attractive about getting up to seventy per cent off an item, even if it is something I don’t need.  I buy so many Wagjags I had to create a new file folder in my cabinet devoted to these handy little coupons.  Last summer I sent my five-year-old to acting camp for a fraction of the regular cost.  I have bought bowling Wagjags, restaurant Wagjags, and even hair and spa treatments.  It is a great way for consumers to discover new places and for businesses to increase their customer base.

You don't start a Zumba class looking like this - you go to Zumba and hope that you end up looking like this.

Last summer my friend Christy and I got a wagjag for “Buts and Guts,” a four-week boot camp at SST Fitness on New Street and Guelph Line.  The class started out with about twelve people.  By the end of the first hour two of the women were laying on the pavement, exhausted, and one man actually vomited.  Christy and I stuck with it.  By the end of the four bi-weekly workouts we were doing burpees“ and squats with the best of them.  I think it was the best shape I have ever been in.

This class ended right before Christy’s and my family rented a cottage for a week on an island up north.  Needless to say after a week of too much barbecued steak and beer, both consumed while lying on loungers reading trashy magazines, we were right back in the sloppy shape we started in.

Christy and I ended up buying a Zumba Wagjag around Christmas time, but we just kind of let that one linger in the above mentioned file folder.  With winter comes a type of hibernation in my home.  The cold weather makes me crave comfort food and lazy evenings on the couch.  The thought of us venturing out after a long day to a gym wasn’t too attractive.

We both kept talking about getting back into it, but as always, life gets in the way and we let it slide.  Finally we decided we need to get back into some kind of exercise routine.  Christy and I both have young children.  Christy is a professional business-woman and I am a full-time university student who spends my limited “free time” studying or writing essays.  We both desperately needed some “me” time, and we still have those lingering memories of the endorphins kicking in as we did our Buts and Guts last summer.

One of the largest Zumba classes every held had 400 people in it. More then 7.5 million people attend a Zumba class each week.

Tonight we headed over to Burlington Zumba at 1160 Blair Road, unsure of what we would find.  I have done Zumba at the Y several times, but this was a first for Christy.  Both of us were expecting to find a class full of toned twenty-something’s, wearing mid-riff baring tanks and leggings to show off their perky behinds.  We were pleasantly surprised to find a room full of women of all sizes and ages.  There were a few teens, but mostly women our age or older.  Mark, the instructor, was a lively man with a huge smile and an enthusiastic personality.

When he pressed “play” we couldn’t help but begin to move our feet as the room filled with vibrant music that recalled holidays on salty beaches.  As Mark began to move and point to his feet (Zumba instructors don’t call out moves, one is expected to mimic them) the class followed as best as they could.  I bumped into the women on my left and right repeatedly, but they merely laughed and I saw them bumping into the people on their other sides, too.  One woman got a bit carried away shaking her stuff and actually fell right down.  As terrible as it may sound all I could think was thank goodness that wasn’t me!  Of course I made sure she was okay, and although slightly embarrassed she got right back into it.

Zumba is for all sizes and shapes - all you have to want to do is get into shape.

I can’t explain the thrill of shimmying and samba-ing with thirty other slightly awkward women.  No one was looking at anyone else, no one had time to.  The moves change so fast that as soon as you get one move down you’re onto the next one. Zumba isn’t like the step-classes of the 90s where the instructor will single you out if you get the move wrong – as Mark said, “as long as you go left when the rest of the room goes left, you’ll be okay.  Oh – and SMILE.”

I noticed everyone had a big smile on their face throughout and the mood was one of fun and energy.  The hour passed quickly.

If anyone sees a wag jag for Zumba and is scared to try it for fear of looking silly or uncoordinated, I urge you to put those fears behind you.  I can almost guarantee you will not be the only one who doesn’t know the moves!  I also think you will enjoy it.  On the drive home Christy and I were hyped up after the kick the exercise gave us, along with the kid-free time we got to enjoy together.  Our plan is to continue twice a week until our ten classes run out.  Then we want to start another boot camp we also bought through – where else? – Wagjag.

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Who is Jeremy Freiburger and what does he want to do to us? And will it hurt?

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON  March 11, 2012  Jeremy Freiburger is the Founder of the Imperial Cotton Centre for Public Art that was very recently renamed CoBALT Connects  and is responsible for overseeing the implementation of Burlington`s public art program.  He is working away at the recently announced competition for the art work that will be placed on the exterior patio of the Burlington Performing Arts Centre.

With the new name Freiburger made one of his best connections ever by convincing the city of Burlington that he was the best person to develop the Cultural Master Plan which his group immediately renamed the Cultural Action Plan.  The objective is to establish a pro-active and collaborative approach to cultural development in the city.

Jeremy Freiburger will lead the search for a cultural identity and the development of a cultural action plan.

A McMaster University graduate with a degree in Drama and Comparative Literature, which usually gets you a job driving a cab, Freiburger chose to dive even deeper into cultural studies and took classes at the American Music and Dramatic Academy.  Added to that were numerous workshops in stage performance and direction, arts administration, grant writing, human resources and volunteer management, branding and marketing for the arts

As founder and Executive Director if ICCA Freiburger developed four facilities in Hamilton that are home to more than 100 creative workers and artists.

Freiburger is “not sure if it’s an advantage being trained in the theatre”,  but has come to the realization that being creative and entrepreneurial were symbiotic.  “For the better part of my life” he explains, “I’ve been exploring combinations of business and art as both an arts practitioner and administrator.”

The man who is going to guide the thinking that gets done to produce a Cultural Action plan for the city has “found himself  gravitating towards scenarios that aim to answer the questions that go beyond the immediate need of the cultural  industry (beyond the survival skills); and look more closely at those that are emerging and require resources and attention to flourish.  These are also areas often mired in semantics, conflict, communication nightmares, as well as incredible opportunity, energy and reward.  It’s at this point of friction and exploration that I find the most compelling work.”

Almost every project Freiburger has taken on provided him with an opportunity to learn the language of another industry, required entrepreneurial risk, partnerships and an open approach to project management.  All  skills and characteristics, that will be needed to complete the project,  has to be in the hands of the Ministry funding the project, by the end of March 2013.  As an aside, Burlington has a slew of events that are due to be completed during the first quarter of 2013: art unveiled in front of the Performing  Arts Centre, the Pier officially opened and now a cultural action plan.  And you know who is going to take credit for all this come the election in 2014 don’t you?

The project is an Ontario government Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport project funding 60% of the $100,000 contract and the city coming up with 40% that is a mixture of cash and in kind contributions.

Prior to taking on the oversight and management of the public art program for the city Freiburger managed the Imperial Cotton Centre for the Arts (ICCA which he founded in 2004 and is now called the CoBALT Connects.

Before founding the ICCA Freiburger did a basic needs analysis for Hamilton and Region Arts Council, which focused on the studio needs of local visual artists and the organization’s interest in starting a  ‘collocation facility’.  Despite the overwhelming need, availability of property and soft financial commitments from local funders, the organization decided not to pursue the initiative.  He quit.

That failure to follow through and fund the arts was the final signal Freiburger needed to move on and become a full scale entrepreneur.  Much of his entrepreneurial goal was based on the ability to “keep dreaming”.  “After months of   scanning  the countless vacant properties in Hamilton’s downtown core, calling  agents asking for tours and listing details, all the while having no clue what we were really planning to do with the information” Freiburger pressed on.

“While working in Oakville managing the Festival of Classics was a phenomenal position,” explains Freiburger,  “I was still surrounded by fellow artists and friends in Hamilton who wanted to see the concept we presented come to fruition.  With absolutely no resources (no money, no organization, no contacts of great influence) we continued our pursuit.  It was discouraging but we were determined, a fair bit idealistic, and young enough to not think too much.  Finally in the summer of 2003 our persistence paid off when we met the owners of the 270 Sherman complex.  It was a spark moment for both parties.  They had a massive property that needed animation and we had the energy and ideas to push it onto the community’s radar.”

Within days of meeting, Freiburger and his team were renovating space, hosting open houses and connecting the property with City officials, arts organizations and the general public.  “All things we had no experience in – all things we had been collectively wanting for years together” said Freiburger.

Freiburger signs the cheques and changes the light bulbs; part of being a cultural entrepreneur

“This is the point at which I realized I was the entrepreneur and the others were just dreamers.  The team dwindled quickly as the labour got harder.  The team completely disappeared when it was time to talk contracts with the building owner and  brownfield remediation with staff from Economic Development.  It very quickly became clear that it would be me that would keep this idea alive.”

“I wasn’t paid a penny for the first two years of running the ICCA” states Freiburger.  The work was tenuously balanced in evenings and weekends for the first year while he  managed the theatre in Oakville, but eventually he gave notice there in order to make a serious commitment to the ICCA.

It was a grind and Freiburger found that after being featured in the Annual Report of the City of Hamilton Economic Development Department for three years, yet not having received a dime in financial support, he decided he needed  a new relationship with the municipality.  He tends  to like heading into the lion’s den – so he intentionally chose not to set his sights on the Culture Department,  but focused on Economic Development.

In 2005 Hamilton endorsed a clusters approach to economic development and ‘film and culture’ was one such cluster.  Freiburger explains:  “By 2007 the City had done plenty of work in the other clusters but very little in the one of most importance to me.  So instead of waiting for them to get interested we invested $30,000 of our own money to conduct a basic industry impact study.  The thought was that instead of coming cap-in-hand to the City, we would flip the relationship and approach them with investment opportunities and resources to help focus their efforts”.

With research partner Centre for Community Study and inroads at City Hall to gain key statistical information Freiburger embarked on studying the basic economics of the cultural sector. This immediately brought intense criticism from the arts and culture community.  The ICCA and its partners developed the database of creative industry organizations and business, and  authored the final report.

Since completing the study the information has been utilized by Hamilton to inform its economic strategy. Other organizations have used the data to justify and guide programming decisions, and it has become the foundation for the ICCA’s organizational plan.  The dedication to an alternative relationship resulted in paid consulting contracts that far outweigh the costs of the original project, and has framed our relationship in a completely unique way with the municipality.

So, what is Freiburger going to do in Burlington?  Well for starters he wants to see a community engagement process that has people “doing” things more than “talking” about things.  “When we engage with the community we will have them doing things” – which is difficult to explain but for Freiburger “pushing the line” is a large part of the way he does business.

The project has to be completed by March 31st, 2013.   Burlington picked up on an opportunity to have a project funded under the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport`s  Creative Community Prosperity Fund.  The city got $61,550 to, as the Ministry put it “to build on the successes of the 10 year Cultural Strategy, Public Art Master Plan, Parks and Recreation Cultural Asset Plan, and earlier cultural mapping and economic impact studies.  The city will update and enhance these tools to provide the municipality and cultural community with an integrated Cultural Plan.”

Freiburger, who will report to Director of Parks and Recreation, Chris Glenn, has broken the work into five sections: 1) the cultural producers, these are the people who “make” art; ; 2) the cultural industries, the people who support the cultural producers in a myriad of ways; 3) youth; 4) citizens and 5) education.

Kim Selman, Stephanie Seagram and people from Kitestring will be working with Freiburger on a close to daily basis.

By the end of it all Freiburger expects to be able to tell Burlington: “This is where we think you are going” and add to that where the city might best go in terms of developing its cultural industries.

Burlington’s city council recently turned down a budget request for $20,000 to cover the cost of a one year pilot project in Cultural Collaboration between the Heritage people and the Cultural crowd with the Royal Botanical Gardens folks thrown in for good measure.  The presentation made to Council was a little disjointed and there was apparently some confusion as to who was to do what in terms of behind the scenes work.  It looked as if that link wasn’t made and that the project didn’t even get talked about at the “pre-meetings” your Council holds before most of the public meetings.

Director of Parks and Recreation Chris Glenn, on the right, will be the city's point man for the team developing Burlington's Cultural Action plan

Barbara Teatero, Director Museums Burlington, didn’t manage to convince anyone on Council that the idea had legs and when Councillor Sharman asked them what would happen if they didn’t get the funds they were asking for – they didn’t have an answer.  That brought a quick end to that request.  Council got themselves off the hook by suggesting the idea was perhaps premature and should wait until the Cultural Master Plan delivered its findings.

We now know a lot more about Jeremy Freiburger, the man behind the task of helping Burlington figure itself out culturally.  With a single public art collection – The Burlington Art Centre;  a pitiful little museum;  a part of a historical farm and a Performing Arts Centre that is in the start-up phase of proving itself  plus a library that struggles to keep up with demand but nevertheless offers wide, varied and popular series of programs – Freiburger has his work cut out for him.


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Putting the cultural wheels in motion and making the arts a bigger part of the city’s economic development.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON  March 12, 2012   “I would like” said the city of Burlington, “a Master plan for the cultural industries in my city.   Here is what I have, now what should I do to grow what I have.”

That basically is the question a Request for Proposals asked and what the CoBALT CONNECT contract is going to answer in the next twelve months.  Here is how a conversation between the city and CoBALT CONNECT might have gone as the negotiated the contract.

Burlington has been engaged in creating a cultural policy since 1991.  In that time the city managed to build a $40 million + Performing Arts Centre that we are so proud of we decided it needed to be adorned with some public art and we are spending an additional $100,000 on that.

The Brant Museum is a combination of culture and heritage and is within what some describe as a "cultural district".

Burlington believes in developing community capacity – not just municipal capacity, which is a collection of buildings.  In Burlington, a number of leisure and recreation programs are delivered through partnerships with community hubs and we want to do the same thing with the delivery of cultural services.

The city has seen significant population growth, we are the largest city in the Region and are nestled in beside Hamilton which has much more urbanity than we have, although not quite as much civility, and they draw the younger people in our city and we want to create more draw for that demographic here.

As well, we are seeing much more diversity than we are used to, and we want to integrate the different cultures into the cultural fabric of the community

We think the development of our cultural plan process will break out into three phases.  We bureaucrats like phases, they give us something to look forward to and we can usually get something into the budget to keep these phases alive.

Phase 1 from our point of view will begin with a review – we don’t want to re-invent the wheel now do we – but we do want to look at what other cities of a comparable size have done and at the same time get really adventurous and take a peek at what cities that are nowhere near what we are and see what they have done.  One of the objectives is to bring all the members of the internal cross department team we will develop, up to speed and have us all working from the same base.  We are desperate to make sure that we eliminate the silos – even though some of us are kind of comfortable with the things – if you know what I mean.

Phase 2 is when we think we should add a layer of community consultation and we would like this to be really robust.  We want to see a very high quality, transparent and mutually beneficial relationship between the city and its cultural stakeholders by the end of this process.

Stained glass artist Teresa Seaton is a force to be reckoned with in Burlington's cultural community. She will have a lot to say to the people developing a cultural plan for the city.

This is where we want to involve the focus groups we will establish.  You will have a focus group made up of the people who do culture; the playrights, the actors, the artists and even the buskers if there are any in Burlington.  Then a focus group of the people who serve the cultural industries; the Chamber of Commerce, the Downtown Business Association.

We want to see a Youth focus group as well as a focus group from the education sector and then a focus panel from everyday citizens.

We want to hold two large scale collective engagement events plus a series of public consultation opportunities.  We’d like to see this as wide open as possible and not just those cultural dilatants who feel they are the true holders of the cultural flame.

Throughout these processes  we hope there will be an intense search for measureable data.  Change that from hope to a ‘gotta’  – we need data to give us some idea what the heck we`re doing.  The public knows we are spending their dollars when they see a road paved but it`s not quite as evident with the world of culture.  So we need numbers that will support what we are doing.

Phase 3 is where the chickens should be coming home to roost.  With community engagement coming out of our ears and everyone happy little campers, we want to be able to put our analysis, conclusions and recommendations in front of the public shaped as a Cultural Plan.  And we want this to be boffo!  This has to be a WOW! thing for the city.   2013 is going to be a great year for us and we don’t want any downers anywhere.

THE Pier will be opening, the art in front of the BPAC will be unveiled and our political masters will be in the final lap of their term of office and they all need to get credit for this plan.  So make sure they are in on it from the get go.  That won`t be hard – they will be using their elbows to get at the table.  You watch and see – even Councillor Dennison will find a way to appear as a cultural buff.

Throughout this public engagement phase, the relationship between the city and the Cultural Action Plan committees  will be tested, redefined and reshaped to reflect the needs of the larger community as we discover what they are.

The longer term hope is to introduce new, sustainable governance systems for planning and decision making regarding our cultural resources.  We have made a terrible mess of planning and explaining our heritage to the city,  we just don’t want to and can’t afford to make those mistakes again.  Can you help us?

Here is what we bring to the table.  We have a data base that has 356 organizations that have some link to culture – some of them might be slim links but we see culture as something that includes everything and anyone.  For us that ranges from the Mayor playing the piano at an event and the local MPP tripping over a brook and forgetting the words when he did his Singing in the Rain impression of Gene Kelly.  That event was given some legitimacy when our very own Jimmy Tapp gave us more than one chuckle.

Like bureaucrats around the world we break our work into phases and from 2006 to 2010 we focused on providing leadership for cultural development, building capacity and delivering clear benefits for the growing cultural community. Some of those benefits are not that easy to see – so we need to up the confidence level with our tax payers.

Our Heritage stuf is a bit of a mess right now but we are working on that.  Your mission, now that you’ve accepted it,  is:

To create a pro-active collaborative approach to cultural development.

Create a broad internal understanding of the cultural planning process and then give us some ideas on how to connect service delivery policies to our Strategic Direction..

When you do this we want there to be broad community engagement in the cultural planning process that includes cross sectional opportunities to move forward.

Chris Glenn, Director Parks and Recreation for Burlington is the "report to" person on the development of a cultural plan. He is on the far right. Councillor Paul Sharman, a strong supporter of culture in Burlington will be following developments closely.

Include in the report you are going to give us, a detailed cultural mapping process and an economic impact analysis which results in the identification of cultural and creative economic hubs and the evolving community needs and priorities.  We want you to highlight the public and private opportunities and while you`re at it give us significant insight into the concept of a cultural district strategy.  And help us find a way to make this meaningful to those folks in the Orchard and Alton parts of the city as well as those way up there in Kilbride.

Make sure you include a calculation of the economic impact of what culture can contribute to the economy of the city.  We want you to identify the generation of a dollar value that culture can deliver to the city.

We want you to create a rich cultural electronic portal for ongoing reporting, analysis and promotion.  You will know what that means.

Add to that a well-supported Cultural Plan to guide the city and its stake holders.

And because we think we are giving you a significant amount of money – something in the order of $100,000,  we want you to hold at least 15 meetings with staff and various advisory groups; we want you to hold at least two public consultations; add to that at least three focus groups – one consisting of education people, one from the cultural industry and another from the cultural sector

You’re going to have to hold a Council workshop as well, that will include the internal stakeholders.

Then wrap the whole thing up with a launch event at which you deliver the report for the full stakeholder community.

That’s basically what the city asked for in a Request for Proposal and then based on a proposal submitted by CoBALT CONNECTIONS they awarded them a contract and said  get a wiggle on,  we need the report in just over a year.

The folks at CoBALT Connection are already digging into the task.  Jeremy Freiburger, the man behind that organization is probably going to have to open up an office in Burlington to keep on top of it all.  Gosh, we are seeing some economic spin off already.


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