Ward 4 Councillor broadcast to her constituents and tells them about a new program from city hall.

By Pepper Parr

April 28th, 2022

BURLINGTON, ON

Asked if she would run again Coun. Stolte cited her “disappointment and frustration had overwhelmed her on the day but that she was waiting for the results of this  coming weeks reports regarding the in camera closed meetings. Coun. Stolte expressed her sincerest gratitude for the many constituents, larger community members and staff that have been very thoughtful and encouraging 

Getting people to take part in a ward meeting is a tricky business. Council members can promote the event but it is up to people to actually get out to the meeting. Covid has limited what people are prepared to do.

City technical types basically set up a broadcast studio in the Community Room at Tansley Woods. From there they can broadcast out, allowing Councillor Stolte to speak to people participating in the room remotely and bring in people who are participating from their home or office. Theoretically this could have been an international event if there were people in the United States or the UK who had some experience helping people to get to know their neighbours.

Lisa Kearns was the first Councillor who managed to set up a hybrid meeting and make it work. The live people in the AGB, where Kearns holds her meetings had less than eight people first time out.

Ward 4 Councillor Shawna Stolte

Ward 4 Councillor Shawna Stolte, who announced during the Integrity report delivery and debate that she was not cut out for this kind of work and that she would not run for office again in October.

Glenn Nicholson, served as a community focal point on his street when many of his neighbours were flooded in 2014

A potential candidate showed up at the ward 4 meeting Wednesday night along with eight others and 30 people taking part on line.

Taking part on line requires the creating of what amounts to a small broadcasting studio to capture what is being said by those who participate on line and those in the meeting room, which in this case was in the Tansley Woods community centre.

Stolte went one step further than Kearns when she had a city staff member taking part virtually and talking about a city program we had not heard about before.

Burlington now has a small collection of “connectors” – people who help other people connect to others in their neighbourhood.

Sounded like a really good idea that seems to be working. Something to follow up with for more detail.

At this point here is what we can tell you.

A connector “self-selects” – they do that by getting in touch with Jennifer Spence at City Hall

Spence meets with the person, often over a cup of coffee and talks about what the person would like to do, what they know about the program and then explains in detail what the program is and how these self-selected connectors can do their thing.  You can reach city staff running the program at:  communityconnects@burlington.ca .

Mary Alice St James, a retired elementary school principal and a candidate for Council in ward 5 during the last municipal election, identified herself during the meeting as a “super” level connector, which is something that would be hard to argue with.

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Liberals to open their campaign office on Sunday

By Staff

April 27th, 2022

BURLINGTON, ON

Mariam Manaa

 

For those of you who think as Liberals, you will want to know that the Burlington Liberal candidate, Mariam Manaa will be  holding the Official Opening of her campaign office that will be located at 790 Guelph Line, unit 4

The event will take place at 3:00 pm this Sunday and feature Burlington MP and Cabinet Minister Karina Gould.

The city has yet to see the Progressive Conservative candidate Natalie Pierre.

Will the Mayor Meed Ward be on hand – don’t count on that.

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Expect several members of Council to be at the Clerk's Office early next week

By Staff

April 26th, 2022

BURLINGTON, ON

 

The nomination period for individuals who would like to run as a candidate in Burlington’s 2022 Municipal Election will open at 8:30 a.m. on May 2 and run until 2 p.m. on Aug. 19, 2022. Nomination papers can be filed by appointment only. Voting for the election takes place between Oct. 11 – 24, 2022.

Starting May 2, nominations will be accepted for the offices of:

  • Mayor
  • Councillors (local and regional)
  • Trustee, Halton District School Board
  • Trustee, Halton Catholic District School Board

Katherine Henshell, first candidate to file nomination papers in 2010 tries out a seat in the Council Chamber and thinks she likes the look of her name on the name plate.

Nominations may be filed at City Hall at 426 Brant St., with the Office of the City Clerk, located on the main floor, during regular business hours (Monday to Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.). On the last day of the nomination period, Aug. 19, 2022, nominations may be filed between the hours of 9 a.m. and 2 p.m.

Filing a nomination
Nomination papers can be filed by appointment only. Please call 905-335-7777, ext. 7805 or email clerks@burlington.ca to arrange a time.

Husband Pete Ward was on hand in 2010 to photograph Marianne Meed Ward as she filed her nomination papers.. No picture taking like this will be permitted this time around.

The forms required to file a nomination are available in the Office of the City Clerk on the main floor of City Hall at 426 Brant St. and on myvoteburlington.ca. The following must be provided at the time of submitting a nomination:

  • Nomination Paper (Form 1)
  • Endorsement of Nomination (Form 2) – required for nominations for an office on council only. A nomination for an office on council must be endorsed by at least 25 persons. A prescribed declaration is required by each of the persons endorsing a nomination.
  • Filing fee – in cash, certified cheque, money order (payable to the City of Burlington), MasterCard or VISA. The fee for the office of mayor is $200 and $100 for all other offices.
  • Candidate identification (driver’s license or another government-issued photo identification)
  • Proof of citizenship (Canadian passport, citizenship, or another government-issued identification).

Also starting May 2, nominations will open for the offices of:

 

Quick Facts

  • To run in the October municipal election, candidates must:
  • be a Canadian citizen
  • be at least 18 years old
  • live in Burlington (own or rent), or
  • not live in Burlington, but you or your spouse own or rent property in the city.
  • The City of Burlington is hosting a series of virtual information sessions for individuals who are interested in running as a candidate in the City’s 2022 municipal election at 7 p.m. on April 27, May 10 and June 23. Learn more and register for these free events at myvoteburlington.ca.
  • A person cannot begin campaigning until their nomination papers are filed.
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Communications department: a filter that controls media access to senior staff

By Pepper Parr

April 28th, 2022

BURLINGTON, ON

OPINION

Part 2 of a series

In the news game reporters have what they call sources.

They are frequently people working in a city hall department or someone in the private sector who can explain a complex document, process or procedure.

Mutual in trust is usually in place.

Each year during budget time calls would get made to the people working on different parts of a budget – a list of the reserves was always an issue.

The amount of money that was budgeted in a year but didn’t get spent often got placed in reserve budget which was often referred to the piggy bank and used by council members for favourite projects.

More often than not there were follow up questions to the experts; with both people on the line a clearer understanding of what are often complex issues is gained.

One of the more challenging was Development Charges – a contentious category for everyone.

Up until very recently Burlington was recovering less than 70% of what they spent handling development application work. It took a couple of expensive reports from consultants, and in the most recent set of discussion, long meetings with BILD (Building Industry and Land Development Association) and the West End Home Builders Association before a final figure was arrived at.

Development charges are very difficult to explain and at the same time a very significant part of the cost of buying a house that is under construction. Those development charges are all added to the cost of the residence.

Not something the average person fully understands.

Reporters have to wade through thick documents, try to understand the contents and the follow up with staff members.

That kind of thing is done at every newspaper, on line or print, in the country.

But that is not the way it works in Burlington.

Former City Manager James Ridge – fairly described as media adverse

The change began during the last years of the former City Manager James Ridge administration.  What started in about 2016 is maintained by the current City Manager Tim Commisso.

Donna Kell was the communications coordinator at the time. Kwab Ako-Adjei was hired by Ridge and the game slowly changed.

Ako-AdjeiKwab gave Kell the chance to develop her career somewhere else

In a mature, professional organization Ako-Adjei would have reached out to the media and made a point of meeting the player’s and talked about how the two (media and administration) could best do their jobs. Access is the most important thing for media.

I first met Ako-Adjei at an event at the Waterfront Hotel – chatted for less than a minute; I was able to have a longer conversation several months later.

What we began to experience with Ako-Adjei and his staff was when we made a call to a staff member they would either tell us we had to call the communications department or if we reached out by email we would get a reply from one of the communications people who would ask what our questions was – they go away and come back with an answer.

None of the people who serve as communications staff have formal training in journalism or any work experience in journalism.

Most of them have a designation as a public relations specialist.

Public relations is in place to do everything possible to get out the story a corporation wants to get out and where there is a kaflooey, limit the damage and say as little as possible.

I want to share our most recent experience with access. It goes like this.

Sue Connor is the Director of Transit. She came to Burlington with an incredible reputation. The city was lucky to get her.  She is seen and respected as a strong voice on the conversion of transit out of diesel into batteries or H20.

She takes part in the proceedings of CUTRIC (Canadian Urban Transit Research & Innovation Consortium) a solution based consulting company; leaders in the field.

We reached out to Sue asking if we could talk about the views she would be taking to the CUTRIC (Canadian Urban Transit Research & Innovation Consortium) conference which was taking place about a week or so later.

Sue Connor – An Executive Director and Director of Transit for Burlington.

Our interest was in Sue Connor as a respected leader in the move from diesel to a less climate damaging source of energy.  She is a solid manager who runs one of the happiest, nicest places in the city to work

We got a call from the city communications people who asked what we wanted to ask Conner.

We explained that the event was not a city event and that Connor was attending the conference as an individual and not someone representing Burlington Transit.

Conner had advised the City Manager earlier in the month that she would retire at the end of the year. Shortly after that announcement Connor was elevated to the position of Executive Director filling the gap that was created when Heather MacDonald retired.

The end result was there was no interview with Sue Connor – which is unfortunate – she is one of the best on the ground thinkers in the transit business in the country and also ran one of the best operated departments in the city.

Policy and practice related to media come straight from the City Manager. While Ako-Adjei, has his finger prints all over every bit of information that comes out of city hall; he reports directly to Commisso.

Kwab Ako-Adjei

Kwab Ako-Adjei is leading an initiative known as One Burlington – it is there to polish the brand and ensure that “ GET THAT QUOTE)

This is not a healthy situation and has to a considerable degree lessened the amount of information that gets through to the public

We are not the only people struggling with the communications department – several members of the very divided city Council have similar issues.

There is a link, not too difficult to find, between the messy Integrity Commissioners report that was really all about citizen access to information and the control everything communications department.

The root of all this is the office of the City Manager.

The City Manager gets his marching orders from City Council and this council is not going to lift a finger to bring about a change in the way city hall works with media

There are options that I will talk about in the future.

Part 1 of the series

The above are the opinions of the publisher of the Burlington Gazette, an online newspaper that was formed in 2010 and is a member of the National Newsmedia Council.

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Rainbow Crosswalks in Hamilton get a better go of it than those in Burlington - more TLC in Hamilton water?

By Pepper Parr

April 24th, 2022

BURLINGTON, ON

 

Why does the Rainbow Crosswalk in Hamilton, on a street that has more than 300 transit buses driving over it every day and thousands of cars as well look as good as they day it was painted?

Damaged Rainbow Crosswalk in Burlington.

While in Burlington two Rainbow Cross walks are peeling and are a bit of an eyesore.

Hamilton Crosswalk next to city hall is in splendid condition despite heavy traffic.

What a bit galling is the big expensive fuss the Mayor made of the installation of the Rainbows – which are attractive and make a much needed statement?

It’s like a gift that is broken – and no effort is made to make a public statement about what is being done to fix the damaged Crosswalks and when results can be expected.

It’s a bit of an affront to the people who really supported the decision to have Rainbow Crosswalks in the city.

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Mistakes get made in the news business - you apologize and correct the misitake

By Pepper Parr

April 24th, 2022

BURLINGTON, ON

 

On Saturday we published a news story and an opinion piece that had a serious error.

We reported that the Closed Meeting Investigator, who had done a review of the meetings that were the subject of an Integrity Commissioners report, were going to be heard in a Closed Session of Council

We were wrong. A trusted adviser called me at just after 7:00 pm on Friday to advise me that the agenda for the May 4th CSSAR FIX Standing Committee had been published and the reference to the report was that it was to be heard in a Closed Session of Council

That was incorrect – we got it wrong.  Our source misread the listing which said “…Closed Session report.

The two content pieces will be revised and we ask the readers and the Clerk’s Office to accept our apology.

In the world of new reporting, mistakes are made.

In 1948, when Harry Truman was running for re-election as President of the United States, the Chicago Daily Tribune called the election result just a little too early. Truman had won – the early polls misled the editors of the newspaper. Truman won 303 Electoral College votes – his opponent got 189.

 

Set out below is a copy of the New York Tines Corrections section. They list the corrections needed for errors in previous editions.

It happens in the best of families.

The New York Times runs a Correction Section in every edition of their paper.

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Saturday in the sunshine - politicking and advocating

By Pepper Parr

April 24th, 2022

BURLINGTON, ON

 

Call it ore-election campaigning or maybe a chance to get out for some fresh air and sunshine.

Our reporter bumped into Ward 2 councillor Lisa Kearns who was leading a walking tour of the downtown area on Saturday to review and discuss current, significant planning projects in various stages. A total of 10 high-rise projects were discussed. One has been rejected by city council.  Two are under construction, one has been approved by the Ontario Land Tribunal, two approved by the OLT subject to conditions, one subject to site plan approval and three under appeal by the City

Ward 2 Councillor Lisa Kearns took some of her constituents on a tour – her fifth tour so far this year, showing her the location of the ten projects that are in various stages of development.

In this picture Kearns is steps away from the Waterfront Hotel that is the object of a development application asking for Official Plan changes and zoning bylaw changes to build two structures that will top off at 40 stories.

Kearns said she could live with the 20 and a bit buildings the city planners are talking about.

The developer will undoubtedly take an appeal to the Ontario Land Tribunal where they are reported to be represented by Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt LLP,, a highly regarded law firm that just might get something a bit better than a defeat.

With the sun shining and people getting out for some exercise the Alienated Grandparents Anonymous had a crowd on a walk through the downtown area protesting in front of the office of MPP Jane McKenna, Ontario’s associate minister of children and women’s issues,  during their march through the downtown on Saturday.

Parental alienation needs to go.  That’s the message marchers delivered on Saturday.   Photo by DENIS GIBBONS

Members of the Alienated Parents and Grandparents Peer Support Group, Our Alienated Grandchildren Matter, and Alienated Grandparents Anonymous stopped in front of the office of Burlington MPP Jane McKenna, Ontario’s associate minister of children and women’s issues,  during their march through the downtown on Saturday.

 

 

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It's a matter of trust and competency - not much of it around this past couple of weeks

By Pepper Parr

April 26th 2022

BURLINGTON, ON

OPINION

Reports that are going to Council meeting as a Standing Committee are always published about 10 days before the meeting.

The report on the comments from a Closed Meeting Investigation were put on the city web site sometime after 7:00 pm on Friday.  Bad optics but optics are no longer a concern for this council or this administration.

The respected law firm, Aird and Berlis were brought in because someone filed a request with the city Clerk asking for an investigation – basically to determine if the city was following the rules about going into a Closes session.

The four dates that were investigated related to those occasions when the Integrity Commissioner was asked by Councillors Nisan and Galbraith to determine of Councillor has breached the Code of Conduct.

Few would argue that she did not – she certainly did and has accepted the consequences of her decision.

What the public wants to know is – did the city tell its citizens enough about why they went into CLosed and what they talked about during the meetings.

The Integrity commented that the could improve on what it tells the public.

The public will get an answer to that question; it may not be as fulsome as they expected and would like to see.

In their report Air & Berlus conclude that on each of the four occasions complaints were based on the city met the rules as set out in the Municipal Act – and they site chapter and verse to back up their conclusions.

It goes before Council on May 4th as a Receive and File Report .  All Aird and Berlis were asked to do is advise on whether or not they had the right to go into Closed.

Getting that answer, which we already know has cost the taxpayers $15,000.

Marianne Meed Ward in September of 2018 asking the public to trust her

During the discussion on the Integrity Commissions report Councillor Galbraith made this statement.  He said Staff can submit a report and ask that it be discussed in a Closed session of Council.  He added that it is Council that determines whether or not they actually go into Closed.  They have to vote on that – each time.

Burlington’s city council is beginning to look foolish, incompetent and lacking a clear sense of direction.

Mayor Meed Ward said in a lengthy Statement she released on her tweet account that trust in this council has to be maintained.  She could not have been more right.

In the 2014 election Marianne Meed Ward asked citizens not for their vote – but for their trust.  And they gave it to her and were impressed enough to make her Mayor.

She has lost that trust – the skills. the integrity and the spunk to win it back do not appear to exist.

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

 

 

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When is enough enough - the ADI Group may have asked for too much

By Staff

April 21st, 2022

BURLINGTON, ON

 

Developer wants to work well into the night to construct a tower that no one wanted in the first place.

Residents in the immediate area of the ADI Group development – Nautique; a 26 storey development that was controversial when it was just an idea.

ADI is asking for a noise exemption to allow construction until 11PM – Monday to Friday from May-September.

Resident have said this is totally unacceptable. In this area there are three senior complexes. Martha’s Landing, Pearl & Pine and also Martha’s Terrace.

The City of Burlington was unable to stop the height and intensification of this development but surely the city can prevent this noise extension from taking place. Those of us living in this area have a right not to have to listen to constant construction noises until 11PM.

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Rickli Sculpture Finally has a Home of its own at the AGB

By Pepper Parr

April 21st, 2022

BURLINGTON, ON

 

A number of years ago insurance executive Dan Lawrie  donated a healthy sum to the Art Gallery of Burlington to commission a Walt Rickli sculpture that would sit in the Outdoor Garden that was eventually named after the Lawrie  Family.

I was personally impressed with the work – to me it was an incredible work of art. The AGB curator at the time saw it as very good craft work; he didn’t see the interpretation that Rickli felt the work expressed.

The sculpture, which was very heavy, was put in storage and remained there for a number of years.

I had occasion to be in the Art Gallery recently and asked whatever happened to the work – and was told that it is now in the Garden.

I skipped around to the Conservatory and there it was.

Photographed it so you can see what Rickli did – when you are in the Art Gallery next see for yourself and decide if this is art or craft.

It was certainly a large work and weighed a tonne. It was paid for by a respected citizen with the work done by a respected and award winning artist.

There is an obligation to at least support and recognize our own.

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Kearns Puts a More Positive Spin on the Messy Integrity Meeting at Council on Tuesday

By Pepper Parr

April 21st, 2022

BURLINGTON, ON

 

Ward 2 Councillor Lisa Kearns held her sixth – it may been her seventh Ward meeting. This one was another hybrid.  She made comments about the Integrity Commission process that she took part in yesterday that are worth publishing.

Here is what she had to say.

“We also had a report in Council yesterday that we dealt with in regards to the Integrity Commissioner, and one of the Councillors, Councillor Stolte who had made a misstep and was cited for an infraction against the Code of Good Governance. There were two counts that they had identified had been breaches and she was penalized accordingly in the recommendation report from our third-party Integrity Commissioner.

Councillor Kearns has always supported positions taken by Councillor Stolte.

“There has been some media coverage. There is a lot of weight to what is ethical is not always legal, and what is legal is not always ethical. I want to acknowledge that the Councillor was working very hard in the pursuit of opening up greater transparency and communication to the community.

“Many of you are no stranger in knowing that there are matters that I would like to be brought a little bit more into the open. One thing that you will start seeing is a definite improvement in listing the locations on why we are going into closed – especially if it’s for litigation matters. There are some conversation out there around having an increased number of times of this Council going into closed versus the last Council so I do want to be really upfront with that.

“There is significant litigation, especially for matters in and around the downtown. Many of you will know that because we have posted all of the individual locations or files that have been submitted Ontario Land Tribunal as appeals against the new Official Plan in the downtown alone. I believe there are 26 of those, in addition to any other site specific concerns that we are working through the tribunal with, so that to me, does make up the bulk of those close sessions; whether they are proposals for settlement or updates on litigation strategy those are considered in closed under Section 239 of the Municipal Act.

“The other piece that is significantly discussed in closed session is matters surrounding Robert Bateman. It’s a very large acquisition where some proprietary pieces of information are discussed. My council colleagues know there are parts that I will be looking for their support and making more public. But we are not always alone in our decision making, our decisions do affect other parties.  I do continue to applaud Councillor Stolte’s pursuit of working to bring about more change.

“But at the same time, I always respect the process and process was duly carried out by our third party Integrity Commissioner and I do respect the findings of that report. Although it was a very uncomfortable situation to move through as a council. I am hopeful that we will come out on the other side as more knowledgeable and continue to shine for our city constituents in the very best light that we possibly can.”

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The news game and how it sort of works in Burlington

By Pepper Parr

April 21st, 2022

BURLINGTON, ON

Part 1 of a series

Media has always had a role to play in the way a public is informed.

Like any commercial sector, and media is a commercial sector, it has had it low points and its high points.

Media brought about the downfall of US President Richard Nixon when the Watergate story was told.

Media failed terribly, and to some degree is still failing, in the United States with the way it reported on and failed to report on Donald Trump.

Media has excelled with its reporting on the war in Ukraine and how different countries around the world have responded. That the South Africans have gone mute is more than disappointing.

The way in which media reported on the tragic death of Princess Diana and the response from the Royal Family changed the way the British public reacts to their monarchy – that institution is undergoing a tectonic level shift and may not exist at all a few decades from now.

The advent of the internet stripped away the revenue base of print media, many have just sold their presses and disappeared.

Online newspapers began to appear.

The Gazette came into being when a group was trying to establish a radio station for Burlington, not being fully aware of how complicated it is to get a license to broadcast over the public air waves.

I was asked to help with the writing of a business plan and convinced those involved that a radio license was not possible but there was an opportunity for an online newspaper.

At about that time, ten years ago, John Boich and Walter Mulkewich co-authored Shape Burlington which took serious exception at the way city hall handed out information and advocated for public support for a new newspaper.

Shape Burlington cracked the ice that was blocking so much information but it didn’t open the flood gates.

The Gazette grew organically – take that to mean slowly. We covered the building of the Pier and covered the attempt on the part of the owners of the Air Park who were secretly dumping tonnes of fill on land without the proper licenses with the intention of creating more runway.

It took several years of court cases, a libel suit against the Gazette and two citizens before the Air Park owners threw in the towel

Eventually the courts cases ended and the Air Park owners decided they had had enough and walked away from the libel suit as well.

The Gazette was the first online newspaper to be accepted as member of the Ontario Press Council – an organization that became the National Newsmedia Council

Media matters.

Fully understanding just what it is and how the different players are expected to play the game is a different story in Burlington.

The Gazette has worked with five different city managers. The relationship with three of the five worked well.

It was my practice to reach out to a new city manager, do an interview and help where I could as they settled into the city. Jeff Fielding was a dinner guest at my home; I took him to the top of Mt Nemo – he was amazed.

The other guy from the Region

James Ridge: Ten years in the Canadian Army in the Discipline side of the service where he attained the rank of Major were not the ideal background for a job that calls for collaboration and an ability to accept different points of view.

James Ridge was different. That first call to him in Vancouver went well enough; he talked about his dogs and the plans he had for he and his wife to drive across the country while their furniture followed in a moving van – for which the city paid. That is a common practice.

Before Ridge left Burlington he banned me from attending at City Hall on two occasions – one was a life time ban.

The reasons for the banning was set out in documents that I have yet to see. There is litigation. More on that at another time.

When Tim Commisso was hired, first as an interim City Manager and then hired as THE City Manager the relationship was iffy but reasonable.

Tim Commisso had years of experience on the administrative side of the city before he went to Thunder Bay – then returned to Burlington to become the city manager..

I have never met Tim Commisso.

Traditionally media and administration meet personally to exchange greetings, get the measure of each other and set out the rules each intends to follow.  Being the senior level Commisso was the one to do the inviting.

My approach has always been to make sure that those I deal with, elected or appointed, understand that I am not there to be there friend. I am there to hold them accountable and do what I can to ensure that everything is transparent.

Given the current mess where a member of Council is the subject of an Integrity Commissioner report that recommends she be docked five days’ pay I am not sure I can say that we are doing just fine with the matter of transparency and accountability.

One perseveres.

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How did the Integrity Commissioner arrive at 5 days pay as a penalty for breaching the Code of Conduct

By Pepper Parr

April 21st, 2022

BURLINGTON, ON

 

The stories we published on the Integrity hearing shot readership through the roof. Not as high as the story on the closing of Emmas but very good nevertheless.

It isn’t possible to publish a single story that tells the whole tale – the meeting ran for 3.5 hours.

So we are going to excerpt sections from the transcript we have and run those over the next few days.

The penalty is what seems to interest most people. Why five days and how much money will Councillor Stolte lose.

On the money side her income from the city is what is at risk – the income from the Region couldn’t be touched.

The city portion of the total salary is about $60,000 – assume 260 work days a year – divide the 60,000 by 260 and you get what she has to give up. It won’t put Stolte in a lower tax bracket.

Earlier in the meeting Commissioner Abrams commented on the matter of contrition saying in conversation with Stolte he came away with the impression that she was contrite but when he reads the opinion piece Stolte gave the Spectator he felt that she was not truly contrite and seemed to hint that he would have recommended a 30 day penalty.

Ward 3 Councillor Rory Nisan, one of the two Council members who filed a complaint with the Integrity Commissioner

Councillor Nisan said: “…you mentioned since the report that you’ve not heard the contrition that you heard privately. Does that mean you have an updated recommendation for a penalty for us at this time or are you able to provide some colour as to what you would have recommended had you not received that contrition.”

Abrams: “Let me answer the question this way. It’s in Council’s hands to deal with our recommendation in any way of wishes. And it’s quite reasonably simple to ask if the circumstances warrant something other than what we recommended in the report and I spoke to that so it’s acceptable for Council to take into account the counselors opinion pieces as published in the Spec for example.

“And so in the context of this matter, a sanction anywhere in the range of five to 30 days could be reasonably supported by the contents of the report and the circumstances directly tied to the report after it was finished and provided to the council and to the respondent. So that the counsellor public comments are relevant. “… relevant to councils consideration of the recommendations that appear in our report, simply because contrition did that play a role in our assessment.”

Councillor Bentevegnia said he wanted to “follow up a little bit on that question that Councillor Nisan mentioned in the report he thought was very, very explicit and very detailed.

Angelo Bentivegnia serving as the Chair of a Council Workshop

“The recommendation that you have put forward or I’ll say your office has put forward the circumstances were anything from a reprimand up to as the 90 days you mentioned. I know you’ve given us the situation where we have to make a decision but how does commission decide what is appropriate I know you have that range, but why didn’t you say a reprimand or why didn’t you say 90 days?

Sorry if I’m getting too direct. I’m just curious.”

Jeffrey Abrams responded: “Well, that’s that’s quite a fair question. And in fact that recommending a sanction is more art than science. There’s an important issue, breach of closed session confidentiality is an exceedingly important issue.

A reprimand is not another thing. It’s a statement by counsel that a member of council has fallen short of their ethical responsibilities. We do from time to time, I recommend a reprimand and it’s a meaningful sanction. A monetary penalty is a more significant sanction. And therein lies the question of what is the appropriate sanction. In our view and looking at other Integrity Commissioner reports and considering what we have done elsewhere.

Jeffrey Abrams: a partner in the firm Principles Integrity who serve as the Integrity Commissions for the city of Burlington.

And given what’s happened recently, with respect to this report, it’s not extraneous to the reporters relates to this particular matter. We think that somewhere in the range of five to 30 days is appropriate.

Now, that puts you a bit on the spot and we recognize that it’s very difficult for councils to meet in a disciplinary mode. We recognize that we do have some thoughts on how to do it better, but that is what the legislation requires it at present.

And so as we have indicated this is more art than science and it is now in your hands.

Council voted to accept the recommendation – 5 days with no pay.

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Council votes unanimously to penalize Councillor Stolte five days pay for breaching the Code of Conduct

By Pepper Parr

April 20th, 2022

BURLINGTON, ON

 

After three and a half hours of debate, Burlington city council voted last night to accept the recommendation set out in the Integrity Commissioners report that said ward 4 Councillor Shawna Stolte had breached the Council Code of Conduct on two occasions.

The penalty was to not pay Stolte for five work days.

Integrity Commissioner Jeffrey Abrams

Jeffrey xxx, the Commissioner who did all the talking related to the report, said  had he been aware that Stolte had written an Opinion piece in the Hamilton Spectator he would have recommended a 30 day without pay penalty.

Ward 4 Councillor Shawna Stolte

He said that in arriving at what the penalty should be he had taken into account that he felt Stolte was contrite. When he learned that Stolte had written the Opinion piece (the same opinion piece appeared in the Gazette five days earlier) he said he would have recommended a 30 day period of time without pay.

The decision by Council to accept the recommendation was unanimous.

In closing the meeting Mayor Marianne Meed Ward began the process of trying to heal the differences and urged her colleagues to look at how much they had achieved this term of office.

The meeting was a hybrid event that had Councillors Nisan and Galbraith taking part from their homes while the rest of Council was in chambers.  The complaint to the Integrity was filed by Nisan and Galbraith.

City Manager took part in the meeting and commented on several occasions.
The Gazette reported last night that Councillor Stolte had said she had begun to realize she “was not cut out for this kind of work” and said she would not be running for office in October.

Stolte set out the numerous occasions when she said she had tried to have her council members look for ways to ensure that the public had more information on just what takes place in a Closed sessions of Council.

Of the two breaches that the Integrity Commissioner identified the Bateman High school property purchase was the one that drew the most attention and concern.
Councillor Stolte told her colleagues that she was not going to apologize for what she had done.

A separate report from the Closed Session Investigator is due early in May. It will report on the review it has done of the Closed Session practices of the administration.

Councillor Galbraith made a strong point when he said Staff bring a recommendation to go into a Closed Session of Council but it is Council who make the decision to do so.

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Stolte announces she will not run for the ward 4 Council seat in October

By Pepper Parr

April 19th, 2022

BURLINGTON, ON

 

Ward 4 Councillor Shawna Stolte announced she would not be running for the Council seat in October.

Ward 4 Councillor Shawna Stolte announced during the Integrity Commissioners report that she had come to the conclusion that she was not cut out for this kind of work and said that she would not be running for Council in October.

Council has yet to determine what the penalty would be for the two breaches of the Code of Good Governance.

Ward 5 Councillor Paul Sharman asks her to reconsider the decision.

 

 

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Some spicy comments on the Integrity report and the role the Mayor played

By Staff

April 18th, 2022

BURLINGTON, ON

 

Roland regrets:

“I posted a comment on Friday on my personal Facebook account about the current controversy between Burlington councillors.

“Nobody can claim that ‘private’ Facebook accounts are really private any more, and I can’t complain, given the circumstances in which I made the post, about anybody breaking the ‘confidentiality’ of a personal account.

“Within about two hours I thought better of the comment and deleted it. However, while it was online the comment was copied and sent to the Burlington Gazette, which posted it in an article today.

I’m not reposting the comment here, because it doesn’t need any further publicity, but it is linked to above.

“I have long been guilty of sudden rushes of blood to the head, and it frequently gets me in trouble. “Good Roland” tries to be fairly even-keeled and temperate. “Bad Roland” can’t keep his mouth shut.

“While I stand by the essence of the points made in the second paragraph (and made them in a more articulate way here), I have no evidence for the guess made in the first paragraph, and therefore should not have made it. I also crossed the line into an ‘ad hominem‘ attack in the words I chose to use on Facebook. I sincerely regret those words and apologise to the mayor and the two councillors concerned.

“We started the 905er Podcast because we wanted to contribute to a more balanced level of debate, based on a sound understanding of events and a willingness to see both sides of an argument. While we are not going to shy away from being critical when we believe it is warranted, it should always be within a context of fairness, balance and a basis on established facts. Even when critical, our writing and the comments we make on our podcast should never cross the line into personal attacks. I fell short of the standard we have set ourselves, and the standard expected of any responsible entity that claims to cover current affairs with journalistic standards.”

 

 

There are some very strong views being voiced by well-informed people on the release of the Integrity Commissioner’s report released last week.

Roland Tanner, who produces the 905er, a podcast aimed at the 905 market.

Set out below is what can only be called a rant.

Good on him. There are many others holding the same views

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Buying or renting a house in Burlington - the numbers will not work for a lot of people.

By Pepper Parr

April 18th, 2022

BURLINGTON, ON

 

It is a sticky situation.

The cost of a house has sky rocketed.

The inventory of houses for sale is low.

Two groups are currently looking into the housing problem.

And a Housing Working group that was brought into being due to the persistent efforts of ward 4 Councillor Shawna Stolte.

And she is about to get a public spanking on Tuesday for telling the public about some of the things being said in Closed sessions of Council about property that is being redeveloped by public agencies to benefit the public.

Go figure.

Having said that, the city planners are doing some solid work; gathering the information on which to base the strategy that is needed to find a way to provide housing for the thousands of people who are going to move to Burlington in the next two decades.

Expect the work that City Council has approved on the housing file to become a major election issue. Will it get the Mayor re-elected? The people who will benefit have yet to move to the city.

There is the common ground established that housing is a basic human right, and there is a collective civic responsibility to ensure that the supply of housing available within a community can accommodate the varying needs of residents throughout their lifetime, including financial needs.

Working Group on Housing, made up of both volunteers and people steeped in the business of housing has met virtually for a number of months.

Burlington has initiated a project to develop an Innovative Housing Strategy that sets out policies, tools, identifies partnerships, and actions to address residents’ current and future housing needs. The consulting team of Dillon Consulting Limited (Dillon) and SHS Consulting (SHS) were retained by the City to carry out this work, in partnership with the City’s Housing Strategy Project team, Housing Strategy Working Group, and Housing Strategy Steering Committee.

Housing: what can Burlington do and how do they go about doing it.

While there has been a lot of effort and emphasis on improving housing opportunities in the City, this Housing Strategy project provides an opportunity for a focused approach. The principal objective is to develop an innovative Housing Strategy for the City of Burlington that sets out policies, tools, and actions to address residents’ housing needs, identifies opportunities for partnerships, and redefines Burlington’s role in meeting local housing needs, now and in the future.

What is the biggest issue?  Affordability or inventory?

There are many different ways of defining affordable housing. Definitions that exist in provincial laws, may differ from definitions used in federal housing programs. For many people, there is also a very personal definition of affordability based on their own income.

Affordable Housing

The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) defines affordable housing as housing with a price for purchase or rent where households spend no more than 30 percent of their gross household income on housing.

In the case of ownership housing, the Provincial Policy Statement (PPS) defines affordable housing as, the least expensive of:

  1. Housing for which the purchase price results in annual accommodation costs which do not exceed 30 percent of gross annual housing income for low and moderate income households; or
  2. Housing for which the purchase price is at least 10 percent below the average purchase price of a resale unit in the regional market area;

In the case of rental housing, the PPS defines affordable housing as, the least expensive of:

  1. A unit for which the rent does not exceed 30 percent of grow annual housing income for low and moderate income households; or
  2. A unit for which the rent is at or below the average market rent of a unit in the regional market area.

In Halton Region’s Official Plan, affordable housing is defined as:

“housing with a market price (or rent that is affordable to households of low and moderate income, spending no more than 30 percent of their gross income.

      1. a) Affordable rental housing should meet the demand of households at the low end, as described in Halton’s annual State of Housing Report, pursuant to Section 86(7). Such households would be able to afford at least three out of ten rental units on the market.
      2. b) Affordable ownership housing should meet the demand of households at the high end, as identified in Halton’s annual State of Housing Report. Such households would have sufficient income left, after housing expenses, to sustain the basic standard of living.”

Attainable Housing

While there is no universal definition of attainable housing, it is often used to refer to rental or ownership housing without any subsidies which is affordable to workforce households or households with moderate incomes. In the US, it is defined as non-subsidized, for-sale housing that is affordable to households with incomes between 80 and 120 percent of the area median income.

Using the Consumer Price Index (CPI), to bring the 2016 incomes to 2021 values, the estimated average household income in Burlington for 2021 is $159,083 and the estimated median household income is $124,154.

Based on research conducted as part of this report, findings indicate the following 2021 average ownership prices in Burlington:

This development at 2100 Brant sold out before the sales office was opened.

Single-detached: $1,398,357

Semi-detached: $901,963

Townhouse: $894,997

Condominium townhouse: $575,299

Condominium apartments: $575,299

This means that, within the context of Burlington, ownership options are only affordable to households earning $164,016 or more on an annual basis, unless they had a down payment greater than 5% or spent more than 30% of their income on housing costs.

With respect to rental tenure, the research conducted as part of this report indicates the following average monthly rents in the primary rental market in Burlington9:

    • Some of these units at the Burlington GO station will be rentals.

      Bachelor: $1,229

    • One bedroom: $1,577
    • Two bedroom: $1,641
    • Three+ bedroom: $1,658

This means that, within the context of Burlington, rental options within the primary rental market are only affordable to households earning $60,072 or more on an annual basis.  This is further complicated by the low vacancy rates for rental housing in the City, which has remained below 3% since 2010.

Within the Burlington Context, where the cost of all tenures of housing is high, there are very few “affordable” housing options for households within low and moderate income deciles when applying the Federal and Provincial government’s definition of “affordable”.

Given the City’s stated objective for the Housing Strategy to provide a toolkit with options to address housing needs across the entire housing continuum, the strategy will need to provide tools to address both housing “affordability” and “attainability” throughout Burlington to best position itself as an inclusive and complete community that provides housing options for all.

When “affordable housing” is used within the context of this report it is meant to encapsulate the definition of affordable as set out in the Halton Region Official Plan and does not mean government- assisted housing or subsidized housing.

These two developments; one at the Burlington GO station and the other in the east end are part of the inventory that will come on line at some point. The GO station development has most of the approvals it needs. What isn’t know – how much will the rents be?

Burlington’s role in housing.

Through the work completed to date, it was determined that the biggest impact the City of Burlington can make, as a lower-tier municipality, is to provide innovative solutions to address housing affordability and attainability for middle-income earners. Increasingly, middle-income households are struggling to find housing that is appropriate for their needs and income level in Burlington with the high cost of housing posing significant challenges for middle-income working households.

Providing support to these households insures that they can remain housed in Burlington.

It is in addressing the middle income needs where the City can make the biggest moves.

 

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The Integrity Commissioner report that will be read out at the City Council meeting on Tuesday had its genesis way back in February.

By Pepper Parr

April 17th, 2022

BURLINGTON, ON

 

A reader corrected us on the matter of the Closed Meeting Investigator hired to review and report on the practices used in Burlington.

We watched the archived February 15th meeting of Council which you can look at yourself using the link below.

Mayor Meed Ward during the February 15 session of Council

What is especially interesting is the Mayor’s body language; the Stolte comment on how an

amendment had come forward and the explanation from the city manager on what was to happen.

The amendment that was put forward came from Councillor Nisan, there apparently wasn’t any notice given that there was going to be an amendment.  In commenting on his own amendment Nisan is clearly reading from prepared notes.

Aird & Berlis the law firm retained to serve as the Closed Meeting Investigator, is certainly a solid, if conservative group. They are not known for innovative solutions to issues – but they are sound. If there is even a hint that there are flaws in the practices in Burlington – it could be seen as time for the current City Solicitor to move on.

The Gazette has been criticized for the stand it takes on some senior members of the current administration.

Take the eight minutes and decide for yourself what is actually happening.

Put the lines below into your browser.

https://calendar.burlington.ca/?StartDate=02/15/2022&EndDate=02/15/2022&Calendar=City%20Meetings&Category=Council%20Meetings

That will get you to the calendar and the meeting of the 15th of February.

Scroll to the bottom of the calendar to  the line that reads:  Revised Agenda.

That will bring up the Agenda – scroll down to item 12g which is set out below.

Staff direction regarding closed meeting protocol (CSSRA-02-22) (SD-04-22)

Click on that and watch for the next 8 minutes.  You can quit when Councillors Kearns begins to ask about how the service provider (Aird & Berlis) was chosen.

Realize that at this point, February 15th, Nisan and Galbraith had already filed their complaint with the Integrity Commissioner – so the blood was in the water at this point.

The item on the agenda for Tuesday April 18th is set out below.  It will not be discussed in a Closed session.  Unfortunately, the time frames are such that there may not be any delegations.

If you are interested and have some comment that can add to what is taking place  – do delegate.

 

 

 

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The crass, vile, political chicanery at city hall needs close public scrutiny in the way they handle a Code of Conduct matter

By Pepper Parr

April 16th, 2022

BURLINGTON, ON

 

While most of us enjoy the break from the day to day life we live, hoping that we are getting through the pandemic and that whatever the new normal is going to be that nice warm weather is included – there are civic issues that need close attention.

Earlier in the week the Integrity Commissioner released a report in which they stated that a city Councillor had breached the Council Code of Conduct and recommended that the Councillor be docked five days pay.

The report is lengthy. It sets out four items and decided that ward 4 Councillor Shawna Stolte had breached the Council Code of Conduct  on two of them.

Ward 1 Councillor Kelvin Galbraith

Ward 3 Councillor Rory Nisan

The Integrity Commissioner was responding to complaints filed by two other members of city council: Rory Nisan and Kelvin Galbraith.

Mayor Marianne Meed Ward is not a party to the complaint but is believed to have been very active in getting the complaint to the Integrity Commissioner.

Councillor Stolte does not deny doing what she is accused of doing. She published a statement the day the contents of the Integrity report were released saying that if her being docked five days’ pay was the price it took to get the issue of Closed sessions of Council on the table and part of a robust public discussion then so be it.

A robust public discussion is exactly what the city needs – there is no certainty that any such thing will take place.

The Mayor said on Thursday that she had yet to read the report and would do so on the weekend; Councillor Sharman said he too had yet to read the document.

Take those two statements with more than a grain of salt.

Councillors Nisan and Galbraith have not made themselves available for comment.

Councillors Kearns and Bentivegna have not made any comment.

Those close to what happens at city hall have known for some time how fractured this council has become. When Meed Ward was elected in 2018 the population was for the most part filled with hope that development would be reined in and towering residential buildings would be located away from the downtown core.

The Nautique condo development found a way to get around a transportation issue – shortly after shovels were in the ground and the crane was in place purchase agreements were pulled and higher prices put in place. It was the kind of development people feared would take place.

The developers wanted to build and sell condominiums close to the lake.

Five of the seven member council were new to municipal politics and have struggled to deal with the very significant issues.

Burlington is being forced by the provincial government to grow its population at a startling rate. The Burlington that many love as it is are having a difficult time accepting the construction of towers that rise 26 storeys across the street from a six storey city hall.

Some 40 development applications are before the Ontario Land Tribunal, a jurisdictional body where Burlington has not done very well.
The number of Closed sessions city council has held is the nub of the issue. Stolte is not the only member of Council who wants to see fewer

Closed sessions and only when they are absolutely necessary.
Burlington is the subject of an investigation by the provincial Investigator of Closed Meetings. There is no date for a report on that investigation.

In 2017 the Halton district School Board decided to close two of the city’s seven high schools. It was a divisive process. In the fullness of time the HDSB decided to declare the former Robert Bateman High school surplus – which meant it was able to sell the property.

Conceptually it is a great idea – winners everywhere – until Council decided to seal their lips and keep the public out of the picture.

There is a very tightly defined process for selling surplus school property. The city of Burlington turned out to be the only bidder for the property.

At the time Brock University was looking for a new home for its Faculty of Education. Suddenly there was a real synergy in play.

When matters of property are before city council they are usually discussed in a Closed session. A developer making an application to construct a large residential tower or a property that is going to have a hundred or some homes always involve zoning and Official Plan amendments. The city administration wants hold these discussions in private, as well they should. Thus the rationale for going into a Closed session.

The difference with the Bateman property is that all the players were public – none of them were asking for or seeking a zoning change or an amendment to the Official Plan for an organizational profit.

The interests of three public organizations (a school board, a university and a municipality) that serve the interest of the public (You and I) were being worked through.

To add to the discussions there was a very real concern about the amount of asbestos in the former Bateman high school, what the cost of its removal and who was going to pick up that cost.

The site is big, the Mayor wants it to be a public place, the school board wants to get rid of the property but rent back some of the space. Brock University wants to make the place home for the Faculty of Education. Councillor Stolte wants the public to know what all this is going to cost. .

Councillor Stolte felt that because these issues were important to the public at large the need for Closed Sessions was lessened and took the positioned that the greater good was more important. She never made any secret of her position.

The city’s legal department didn’t see it that way nor did the Mayor. Both wanted much more control over the issue

And so here we are in the midst of crass, vile, political chicanery.

It is time for the public to weigh in and let their member of Council know what they think and feel.

This is not something that should be allowed to slip by without a close public review.

Related news stories:

Integrity Commissioner’s report in full

Councillor Stolte Statement

The Closed Session issue has been around for a while

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There are a lot of questions to be asked: are there going to be any answers from either Council or the Administration?

By Pepper Parr

April 14th, 2022

BURLINGTON, ON

OPINION

A matter of major significance is now going to be discussed in public at city council on Tuesday the 19th.

Getting it on the table has not been easy – there were far too many people at both the Council level and the administration level who wanted the Integrity Commissioner’s report discussed in a Closed Session of Council.

Ward 4 Councillor Shawna Stolte

Councillor Stolte, the subject of the Integrity report, has to be recognized for taking the high road and setting out her position and the why of what she did. There are numerous concerns.

How will Council handle the report? The Integrity Commissioner will present the document and be on hand to answer questions.

Will the Councillors ask any questions?

And there are a lot of questions to be asked.

Ward 3 Councillor Rory Nisan above and ward 1 Councillor Kelven Galbraith

Of the two council members who filed the report: who approached who? Did Nisan call Galbraith or was it vice versa? Realize that Councillor Nisan doesn’t want to leave his home – Covid19 fears.

Councillors are seldom at their office in city hall this past year – so there is no opportunity for the kind of casual conversation and the open exchange of views and collaboration that Stolte sees as vital.

There is concern over an email that Stolte sent to a constituent – how did Nisan and Galbraith get their hands on that email?

Who influenced who at City Hall? What role did the City Manager play?

What role did the City Clerk play? What was the level of collusion between the Mayor and the City manager ?

Will there be public delegations?

Who is going to ask the hard questions?

There is an investigation underway by the Investigator of Closed meetings about the practices used in Burlington.

Does that report not have a bearing on what has taken place?

The meeting on the 19th is scheduled as a virtual meeting – which is unfortunate.

The calendar doesn’t’ work and permit genuine public participation. City Hall is closed Friday and Monday. The public saw the report for the first time at 6:00 am this morning.

It will take time to digest and understand what the issue is – and there is an issue.

People don’t gather as much as they used to – the current Covid19 wave is impacting a lot of people. Councillor Sharman is reported to have become infected.

The concern that many have is that the Integrity report will be read into the record and no one will ask any questions – hoping that is Council and the administration go mute and that this will then all just go away.

Democracy doesn’t work that way.

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

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