Burlington group delegates at the Region: opposed to the amalgamation of municipalities; offers cautions arising from challenges in the recent Provincial budget.

News 100 blueBy Staff

May 17th, 2019

BURLINGTON, ON

 

A number of months ago the provincial government announced a review of how municipalities are providing vital services to residents and local businesses.

The announcement came as a surprise – it hadn’t been mentioned during the provincial election that made Doug Ford Premier of the province.

However it did send shivers down the spines of municipalities across the province – was the Premier about to do to them what he did to Toronto – cut the size of city council in half.

The provincial Review was established to review eight regional governments (Durham, Halton, Muskoka District, Niagara, Oxford County, Peel, Waterloo, York), Simcoe County and their lower-tier municipalities. In total, 82 municipalities are included in the review.

The objective of this review is to ensure that these municipalities are providing the vital services that residents and local businesses depend on.

The province appointed Ken Seiling and Michael Fenn as special advisors to assist with the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing with the Review. Michael Fenn was once a member of the management team in Burlington.

The province asked the public to “share your thoughts on the municipalities where you live, work or spend time.

“We want to hear your views on the way your elected municipal representatives make their decisions and represent your community. We also want your thoughts and observations on the efficiency, effectiveness and cost of the various municipal services that your municipalities provide.

“In particular, we are looking for your feedback on:

regional governance
decision-making
service delivery

“We will work with this feedback to ensure that our regional government system provides accountability, service delivery and governance that is best for the people of Ontario.

“We will report back on what we heard during this consultation in fall 2019.”

Seiling and Fenn will be listening to delegations at the Regional offices on Friday.

Here is what a Burlington grass roots delegation said:

 

Good Afternoon Mr. Fenn; Mr. Seiling

  • We love Burlington Prov Review signWe are the We Love Burlington Advocacy Group.  We are distinctly ‘grass roots’ and non partisan.  We advocate on a broad range of issues that affect the City of Burlington and its citizens.
  • We mobilized as a very small action group about 6 weeks ago around the regional government review with a primary mission of raising public awareness that the review existed and what its implications could be.  We believe that we have been extremely successful within the very limited time frame available to us.
  • We recognize that the regional government review’s aim is to find efficiencies for the municipalities involved, to improve services and to address governance issues if they are found to exist.  We support these objectives generally.
  • We oppose any suggestion of amalgamation of the City of Burlington into a broader Halton Region organizational structure because we know, as reported in the 2015 Fraser Institute Report, that such actions are seldom fiscally prudent or operationally effective.  We are concerned with a potential:
    •  loss of direct access to local decision-makers and a loss of sensitivity to local needs
    • Loss of Burlington’s distinct and proud heritage
    • Increased bureaucracy and increased government, though potentially fewer politicians which is good
    • Reduced or lost services, and
    • Higher costs resulting in a higher tax burden and larger municipal debt.
  • At present, Burlington has the highest ratio of councillors to citizens of any municipality in the region and we believe, the province (1:30,500 for Ward Councillors and 1:26,143 for Council as a whole).  We believe therefore that we have an “efficient governance structure” which also has the requisite sensitivity to local issues not possible in a larger, less directly accountable and more distant governance model.
  • City council on innauguration Dec 3rd - 2018

    Burlington city council they day they were sworn in: Said to be the best bargain around when it comes to civic government.

    We understand that similar concerns have been put forward in detail by other delegations and in other jurisdictions.  However, we would like to offer some additional cautions arising from challenges in the recent Provincial budget and other initiatives which have been implemented since the announcement of this review in January or which are on the government’s current policy agenda.

  • In particular, the context of local municipal program delivery has changed dramatically in the last few months as a result of the:
    • Opening of private cannabis stores which are now the subject of municipal regulation and enforcement.
    • Reductions in transfers and support to public health entities and the potential for further consolidation of such services
    • Reductions in transfers and support for child care, legal aid and a number of other social assistance programs
    • Elimination of the LHINs and CCACs, with unclear catchment areas and successor organizations, which at the very least creates uncertainty and confusion around any local responsibilities for health care delivery.
    • The proposed availability of wine and beer in corner stores which will create an additional regulatory burden on municipalities and, as in the case of cannabis, require a local focus in such areas as proximity to schools.
    • Proposed changes to planning approvals through Bill 108 which appear to suggest a return to the substance (if not the fact) of the OMB model creating further uncertainty for local and regional planning directions.
    • Potential changes to the Development Charges Act, again through Bill 108, that would download a number of additional costs to municipalities.
    • Proposed changes to the Conservation Authorities Act, Environmental Assessment Act and 11 other pieces of legislation – all with downstream but unclear impacts on municipalities.
  • In light of these considerations, we would submit that a better immediate focus for your review would be a “who does what exercise” prior to any consideration regarding governance and/or the redistribution of program delivery responsibilities.
  • In particular, such a review would provide valuable insight into the optimal organization of service delivery at the local level in what has become a very dynamic policy context.  It should also include an analysis of the net impact to taxpayers when all of the above initiatives are fully implemented.
  • Indeed, how can we identify the overall cost/benefit of anything coming from the regional government review when the impact of provincial downloading to the municipalities is still unknown?  We’re not saying that benefits won’t be derived but what will be the net result?
  • In addition, there are processes and process improvements to the existing environment that could be mandated by the review; such things as a commitment to a defined exercise of self analysis by the municipalities in the region or common targets for further efficiencies in the current structure; a process of continuous improvement.
  • There are also possible specific efficiency opportunities within the existing governance model.
  • For example, consider optimizing/rebalancing procurement responsibilities.
  • Could the region execute contracts and procurement deals with broader scope of application, hence greater potential savings?
  • Are regional vendors of record a viable option?
  • Are provincial vendors of record available to the region with even greater potential scope for application and savings?
  • Is regional fleet management a possibility since, historically, discreet organizations often over buy and under utilize?
  • Are the information technology platforms common across the region and truly interoperable?  Is full advantage being taken of a common data resource/catalogue across all municipalities?
  • city hall with flag poles

    “We firmly believe that an empowered citizen is the single best and most critical element of any governance structure that you could devise.”

    Is “Open Government” a reality enabling an informed and committed citizenry within the governance structure or merely window dressing?  We firmly believe that an empowered citizen is the single best and most critical element of any governance structure that you could devise.

  • We believe that before significant change is made to our existing governance and service delivery environment, available but non-disruptive improvements should be made first.  Our overriding concern is that that there is a limited capacity for the quantum of change to municipalities that is anticipated over the coming months.  And the system is in danger of being overloaded and becoming dysfunctional.
  • Large business transformation and restructuring projects often fail not because they are ill-conceived but because too many projects at once, no matter how worthwhile, result in overloading what is essentially a ‘closed system’.  Each project is critical on its own merits but the final tally of impact can be devastating.  Cultural and organizational change is not inherently ‘open-ended’.
  • We believe that it is prudent that you, as the Reviewers, help the government take the time to understand the complexity of the various organizational, governance and service delivery models that are being reviewed.
  • We also believe that it is equally critical for you to identify where the true problems lie and the distinctive and varied nature of the opportunities for improvement.  We support recent announcements that suggest that distinct and varied solutions are being sought; that there is no “cookie cutter” approach contemplated.
  • We understand that change is both necessary and positive as long as it is thoughtfully done with better service to the citizen and better stewardship of public resources as the goal.
  • However, even necessary changes imposed without a solid, well-understood environment for service delivery and decision-making can lead to system-wide confusion if not failure.
  • We know that you are searching for “good ideas” but even the best ideas can be injurious to a system that is overtaxed with unclear outcomes and dwindling, uncertain resources.  Today there are simply too many undecided elements in the policy and funding framework that municipalities have been handed by the province.
  • We welcome examination of services that could possibly be more effectively planned, funded, delivered and/or co-ordinated at the regional rather than City/town level; that would benefit through broadening the scope of operation.  However, we have not conducted a detailed analysis and will not offer candidates carelessly.
  • We are opposed to any direction that would further distance the citizens of Burlington from those whom they elected.
  • Although we may not always agree with the decisions of our chosen officials we support the decision-making process and would argue that the citizen’s voice is both heard and respected in Burlington and in Halton generally.
  • In closing, we understand the objectives of the review and support them.

We believe that Halton Region is well run with a governance model that works and a service delivery model that is continually reviewed with necessary adjustments and improvements made.

  • It has even been referenced by one of our provincial representatives as a “poster child” for regional excellence.
  • We love B Prov Rev

    They took an appeal to the Burlington MPP at Queen’s Park – and came away basically empty handed. From left to right: Deborah Ruse Lynn Crosby, Blair Smith and Josie Wagstaff

    We are concerned, however, that the review may impose change on a structure that has already experienced multiple shocks and can no longer absorb their impact.  We caution you to proceed slowly and with a view to the cumulative financial and operational impacts of recent provincial policy directions.

  • Finally, we firmly believe that the citizens of the affected communities should have a decisive and deciding voice in any proposed changes.
  • We understand that the review and its consequences are entirely within the powers and prerogatives of the provincial government.  We do not challenge that.  But not one individual voted for them a year ago when they were unannounced and perhaps not even contemplated.  As Blues guitarist Joe Bonamassa opined – “Just Cos You Can, Don’t Mean You Should”.

 

 

 

 

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Police Investigate Burlington Gas Station Robbery

Crime 100By Staff

May 17th, 2019

BURLINGTON, ON

 

The Halton Regional Police are currently investigating a gas station robbery that occurred on Walkers Line yesterday.

At approximately 4:49 pm, a lone male suspect entered the Petro Canada Gas Station located at 1200 Walkers Line in Burlington. The male was armed with a knife and confronted the lone employee of the gas station. The suspect stole cash from behind the counter before leaving in a dark colored Chevy Cruze 4 door hatchback. The gas station employee did not suffer any injuries as a result of the robbery.

The suspect is described as a male with light complexion, balding red hair with a beard, approximately 45-55 years of age, 5’10” – 6’0″ with an average build and hoop earrings in both ears. The suspect was wearing a black jacket, black pants and white Adidas running shoes. Suspect was armed with a small pocket knife.

Robbery Suspect gasstation WalkersThe male in this photograph is a suspect in this crime, but please be reminded that persons are presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.
Anyone who may have any additional information pertaining to this investigation is asked to contact Detective Stephen Siomra of the Halton Regional Police at 905-825-4747 ext. 2343.
Tips can also be submitted to Crime Stoppers “See Something? Hear Something? Know Something? Contact Crime Stoppers” at 1-800-222-8477 (TIPS) or through the web at www.haltoncrimestoppers.ca

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New Democrats will be introducing their yet to be nominated candidate as they canvass this weekend.

News 100 blueBy Staff

May 16, 2019

BURLINGTON, ON

 

We publish a report on what will be open in the way of public services whenever there is a holiday weekend coming up.

This weekend there will be an additional twist – free parking, city hall closed, hours for the swimming pools and the splash pads – the usual – but this time you will see some people going door to door introducing their candidate – well not the candidate yet but the Burlington New Democrats are fully expecting Lenaee Dupuis to be vetted by the national office of the NDP and running as their candidate in the upcoming federal election in October.

That means that, except for the Greens – and perhaps a couple of fringe parties – the slate of candidates for Burlington are in place.

Karina Gould, the sitting member and the Minister for Democratic Institutions will be the Liberal candidate;

Jane Michaels will be the candidate for the Conservative Party and Lenaee Dupuis representing the NDP.

Dupuis 2 LARGER

A Rotarian, a hockey Mom with a crazy dog. Also about to become the NDP candidate in the October federal election.

What do we know about her? A Rotarian, a Human Resources Professional who has worked in a variety of industries including Technology, Consumer Packaged Goods, Freight Forwarding and Medical Devices. Her network is broad and her experience is tenured. She has recruited at all levels, developed training programs such as Change Management, lead candidate and team assessments.

Lenaee holds a Biology and English degree from Trent University and a Human Resources diploma from Sir Sandford Fleming College.

She is also a hockey and baseball mom to her son, Alton, and loves to travel with him and her husband Kevin.

She also has a crazy dog named Buddy that you should ask her about!

Local NDP types say they are going to be out canvassing this weekend, which will be the first time Burlington has seen an NDP candidate at the doors five months before an election.

The Gazette will be doing detailed interviews on all the candidates.  Material on Gould and Michaels can be found using our Search feature – upper right hand corner of the Front Page.

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Rural sector gets to bend the Mayor's ear - great ideas and an arrow pointing to the source of the problems - city hall.

News 100 greenBy Staff

May 16, 2019

BURLINGTON, ON

 

Mayor Marianne Meed Ward wrapped up her final Red Carpet Red Tape focus group earlier this week around the kitchen table of Capstone Farm, the home of 2010 ward 6 candidate Vanessa Warren and some of the rural business community members. The Mayor thought it “was a perfect setting for this group and I’m very appreciative of Vanessa’s offer to host us around her beautiful farmhouse kitchen table.” It appears the Mayor wasn’t taken out to the barn.

There was a time when farming was the economy - Burlingtonès produce was sold around the world.

There was a time when farming was the economy – Burlington’s produce was sold around the world.

The Mayor maintains that “farmers and rural/agricultural businesses are a cornerstone of Burlington’s economy and a core part of our history and identity as a community.

“We are committed to helping them grow and thrive. There are many unique issues that face this group of businesses and today, we got into detail about what is most pressing.

Long the apple in the eye of the development community - it is the part of Burlington that xxx

Is there any really active, full scale farming taking place? The equestrian business thrives, a great pear orchard on the north side of Dundas but few, if any cattle, no swine. What is the long range plan? A playground for the rest of the province?

“The group had already done their homework, having met to brainstorm last week in preparation for our session today. This session included families that have each been farming in the area for 150+ years, passed on through generation after generation.

“In keeping with how our other focus groups were run, we started with a roundtable discussion on what the main challenges are to starting or growing a business in our rural areas, talked about what is already working, and brainstormed ideas about how to improve things. Since the session was more conversational, jumping from challenge to solution more easily, the structure of highlights will be more fluid than previous blog posts in this series.”

There was nothing "granular" about the pile of earth dumped on land yards away from an Appleby home. Three court cases and an appeal - Burlingtin was out hundreds of thousands in legal fees and the mountain of earth is still where it was illegally dumped.

This Appleby Line resident wonders if the Court decision will mean this pile of earth will be hauled away. Or does the decision mean she has a claim against someone for the damage done to the value of her property?

Key highlights:
• Urban planning (where there is much more clarity) vs rural planning (nothing granular) – Rural relies heavily on business/land owner for EIAs, maps, justifying, etc., and detailed planning is downloaded to landowner/farmer (so before we can even do anything creative, we must do most of the work because there isn’t enough clarity around our land use).

• Regulations that lack clarity or defined “tipping points.” There are a lot of definitions in documents like the OP and beyond that are lacking, such as:

o “key feature”
o “natural heritage system:
o “adjacent to”
o “existing use”
o “special events” (and why only 6? And when are EIAs necessary?)

• Regulations that are so onerous as to favour large scale/big finance and exclude small business (they have the money, staff and expertise).

• Prolonged timelines are an issue with multiple agencies, most specifically and most often the Niagara Escarpment Commission (NEC), the Halton Conservation Authority, and the City of Burlington. As applications cannot be worked on concurrently, the staged reviews across multiple agencies end up creating a very lengthy timeline. It should also be noted there are many times when NEC exemptions can be granted (and should be obvious at the outset), but still require a full application for review, creating very unnecessary delays and red tape. Can we get more clarity from NEC about what the easy and clarified checklist is, to understand what is going to be exempt so in good faith, they can get started — can we develop an MOU (Memorandum of Understanding) of things that are likely to be exempt?

Building Permits: NEC is involved with almost all the lands up here (in the rural area); also, the Conservation Authority is involved too. Mapping has issues and much of it is not ground truth. Used to be able to get a permit in a couple of weeks (back in the 70’s). City of Burlington was felt to really mean “how can I help you get things done” vs now it is more like “here’s what you need to do, polite but not genuinely helpful”. Engineered stamped drawings for agricultural building all-of-a-sudden necessary. Now, things take 3-6 months to process with a lot of additional steps.

Second is on the building review side — should be at client’s option — if you are required with engineered stamped/signed drawings — then why is there 30-60 days wait to have it reviewed (it’s like having it reviewed twice) and even at the end of an expedited service they’ve paid for, they came back at the last day to ask for more info.

The sweet spot for every politician is ...

Regional Chair Gary Carr tastes some honey from an xxx on a pear farm in Burlington.

• In order to protect farming, we have to protect farmers and let them have other ways to make money on their land and this effects the OP. Everything seems to be a no before it’s a yes. Seems an effort to protect something – but what? Can that even be identified and communicated?

• Have an SME (Kelly) at the City has been really helpful lately to move through a lot of these processes and suggest alternatives so instead of just hearing “no” it becomes “here is what will get you to yes”.

• Can there be a pre-consultation option for all 3 agencies before complex projects start the application process? If it’s no – we can get to no faster that way and save lots of people time and money. Could there be a day biweekly that all agencies meet and do speed dating through a bunch of pre-consults with a form filled out ahead of time to triage and look at fire, public health, NEC, etc.

• Protect the steward of the land – the land owner – they respect the rural area more than anyone and we need to trust them.

It took $2 million out of the legal department's budget to pay for the tear long tribunal that decided the Jefferson Salamander was important and that an expansion of the existing quarry should not be poermitted. It was rural Burlington residents who were the force behind that battle - they were not to be trifled with.

It took $2 million out of the legal department’s budget to pay for the year long tribunal that decided the Jefferson Salamander was important and that an expansion of an existing quarry should not be permitted. Not a mention of the aggregate problem at the Red Tape event.

• Point of Access to Fields has become an issue – Public Works at CoB will come along and reditch a roadside and not replace the access as a level crossing with a culvert – it’s City Land right of way – who pays for the culvert?

• Need to review storm water management in rural areas – ditches and culverts that are full of silt and no longer working. There are municipal ditches on private land that land owners aren’t permitted to clean or maintain but need work.

• CoB interactive maps and zoning maps are not current on the website so it’s not easy to find out when you’ll need a permit. You can’t do any real pre-work yourself. City doesn’t offer GIS layers on the maps.

OVERALL TOP IDEAS:
• Let’s create a culture of service at all agencies that is a “YES” mentality. A “Here’s how we get to yes” mentality.

• More clarity in rules, zoning, definitions in policies and more encouragement of farm diversified use to help support their economic sustainability.

• Pre-consultation options to save everyone time and frustration.

Red tape red carpetMeed Ward was working full out that day. She went from her rural meeting right into the first meeting of the Red Tape Red Carpet Task Force, a group of business owners and thought leaders who will help distill all the information collected in the past two months and identify the biggest opportunities and most logical actions we can take to remove obstacles and help our businesses thrive.

There have been four private closed meeting with data, idea beefs and bouquets – but no one who doesn’t have a steak or an interest in the room.

Not the healthiest way to conduct public business.

The Mayor is opening things up – to whom and why to just the small special interest groups. She knows better.

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MPP's office said to be trying to 're-educate' people who want to sign a petition - No love lost between the We Love crew and the MPP.

News 100 redBy Staff

May 15th, 2019

BURLINGTON, ON

 

There are fundamental rules in political discourse – there is at least one elected official in Burlington that hasn’t figured that out yet.

We love Burlington Prov Review signWhen an MPP agrees to host a petition – that is, keep a copy of the petition in their office so the public can come in and sign the document – the expectation is that when you enter the office and explain what you want to do – staff will politely show you where the document is and loan you a pen while you put your signature on the petition.

That apparently is not the way the Petition is being handled in the office of Burlington MPP Jane McKenna

The Gazette has been advised that “that when people come in to MPP Jane McKenna’s constituency office to sign WeLoveBurlington’s petition, staff attempt to “re-educate” them on the regional review and go so far as to promise that amalgamation is not going to happen in Halton.”

We love B Prov Rev

Part of the WeLove team outside Queen’s Park: From the left Deborah Ruse, Lynn Crosby, Blair Smith and Josie Wagstaff

Lynn Crosby, part of the We Love Burlington team points out that: “First of all, we believe that everyone is entitled to their opinion – no matter how well or misinformed. It’s what makes for a dynamic conversation that advances the agenda, any agenda. However, in this particular case, we stand in danger of missing the forest because we are focusing on one particularly ugly tree.”

She continues: “WeLoveBurlington agrees that amalgamation is unlikely in Halton – but this was not always the case. The petition, as all petitions do, reflects a point in time and that time may now be less relevant. This is not to say that there are not many serious issues attached to the regional government review and we have been careful to identify them accurately and often.”

“The most serious are a potential loss of local voice in decision-making, a lack of meaningful and true consultation with citizens concerning possible impacts, the potential to overload municipal governments with the effects of provincial downloading, the possibility that change will stress an already stressed municipal framework to the point of failure and the lack of transparency around the review’s recommendations.

“Add to this the fact that citizens will not get to decide whether any changes recommended by the review are what they want or can accept. So, amalgamation may not be ‘the issue’ now but it certainly is a suitable proxy for the range of serious issues that present themselves.

Will Burlington MPP JAne McKenna take a sick day on Tuesday or will she vote against the budget and bring down the government forcing another election? She will be looking at one of the shortest political careers on record if she does.

MPP Jane McKenna during her first run for office – she won, then she lost and then she won again.

“Please go to Ms. McKenna’s office and sign the petition. When her staff try to re-educate you, perhaps you can re-educate them.”

No love lost between the We Love crew and the MPP.

The WeLove delegation will be delivered at the Provincial Review session taking place at the Regional offices on Friday. The Gazette will publish that delegation on Friday.

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Jim Young: wants to give CHAT a second chance admits they cannot escape a degree of criticism.

opinionred 100x100By Jim Young

May 15th, 2019

BURLINGTON, ON

 

In recent Gazette pieces on Citizen Action Labs and Engagement many valid points have been raised, some with which I agree, others on which I differ and offer my experience.

There are two different types of groups advocating for the citizens of Burlington. City appointed Citizen Advisory Committees and Independent Groups who advocate on issues of particular interest to them. Both types can, and have, enjoyed varying degrees of success in their advocacy and engagement with the city.

Some thoughts on why some of them work and some don’t may help start a conversation on Citizen Engagement and the future of City Advisory Committees.

ECoB debate at Baptist on New

ECoB filled church halls – raised thousands of dollars – they were as grass roots as it gets.

The difference in influence between Citizen Advisories may simply be this: Citizen Advisory Committees where there is a directly associated department exert less influence on council. Those Committees where there is no associated department, often exert more influence.

Sparsely attended Transit Advisory meeting - staff talent shows up - members appeared to have missed the bus.

Transit Advisory meeting – staff talent shows up – members appeared to have missed the bus.

Burlington Seniors Advisory is successful because there is no “Department of Seniors”. This absence of departmental influence allows them to pursue seniors’ issues across multiple departments like Transit and Adult Programming. Without departmental affiliation, they are also free to work with Non-City groups like BfAST on issues like Free Seniors Transit. Most importantly, BSAC gets to make its cases directly to council or other city departments without any overshadowing staff influence.

Burlington Cycling Advisory (BCAC) has similar freedom from “Departmental Influence” and given the popularity of cycling with citizens, staff and council, they take full advantage of that.

Two non-city advocacy groups which have had remarkable success, for different reasons, are BfAST (Burlington for Affordable Sustainable Transit) and ECoB (Engaged Citizens of Burlington).

Sue Connor with Jim Young

Jim Young taking part in a Bfast panel discussion with Director of Transit Sue Connor

BfAST are mostly ex-members of the old Transit Advisory, frustrated by years of anti-transit positions of former councils and staffs. Their success rests in not having to advise City Council. Free from staff control BfAST brings together advocacy from city and non-city groups and departments as diverse as Burlington Transit, BSAC, ECoB, BSC Inc. and many more in a way that City Advisory rules can prevent. With a new Transit Director and a new outlook on council, a rapport has developed with BfAST which may provide a model for what advocacy and engagement might look like.

ECOB logo

Engaged Citizens of Burlington came out of nowhere and energized the citizens of the city through the election debates they organized in every ward – packed audiences in most cases – and incumbents who failed to show.

ECoB started as a protest against downtown over-intensification. Castigated by council and censured by planning and communications staff, it grew to become a massive voice for engagement and change. In the October election, ECoB’s organisation of mayoral and candidate debates changed the make-up of council and has given us a council who seem to genuinely want to engage.

Unfortunately, not all citizen advisories work. The old Transit Advisory failed because of a council and Transit Department that did not want advice from transit users or citizens, and the restrictive procedural rules imposed by committee clerks. In an attempt to recover, council created ITAC the city’s Integrated Transit and Transportation Advisory, a committee overweight with staff from Roads, Transit, Transportation and Parking and that same clerical forbearance that spoiled its predecessor.

ITAC were the torch bearers at council for the failed Cycling Lanes on New Street and who advised council to reject Free Transit for Seniors. Surely that says all that needs to be said about committees which don’t work.

Linda McKay with Mayor and Searles

Jim Searle, at one time the chair of the CHAT team poses with the then Mayor Rick Goldring. Some Advisory groups get too close to the elected officials and not close enough to the people they are supposed to represent.

I would like to finish on a positive note but CHAT (Charter Action Team), the committee responsible for Burlington’s engagement charter cannot escape a degree of criticism. CHAT was formed in 2014 under the auspices of Burlington Corporate Communications Department to implement engagement ideas from the 2011 Shape Burlington Report.

Any engagement undertaking, eight years in the making and only now reaching out for “Citizen Action” can hardly be considered a resounding success.

However, given the renewed attitude on council, I am more optimistic and hopeful that under their direction, CHAT will be more amenable to real engagement than the past suggests. If we could be sure of more council direction than staff on this new initiative, I would be even more hopeful. Let us get engaged with Citizen Action Labs and give CHAT one more try.

Related content:

City announces Civic Action labs

Jim Young doesn’t like the look of what he sees

Gazette opines on where it think the problem can be found.

 

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Burlington Green announces the Eco Film Festival line up - note the dates

eventspink 100x100By Staff

May 15th, 2019

BURLINGTON, ON

 

Burlington Green has been running what they call an EcoFilmFest at the library on New Street for a number of years.  The films focus on environmental issues.

The 10th annual Eco-Film Festival program for 2019 is set out below.

It is both an exciting and informative series of documentaries that creates awareness and opportunities for collective action within the community to help protect the planet.

 

BG film

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Angelo Paletta named the Burlington Foundation Distinguished Philanthropist for 2019.

News 100 redBy Staff

May 15th, 2019

BURLINGTON, ON

 

Each year the Burlington Foundation chooses a person, sometimes a couple to be named as the Distinguished Philanthropist for the year.

Angelo PaletteThe 2019 Distinguished Philanthropist will be Angelo Paletta described as a prominent business leader and generous philanthropist.

Angelo is the face of Paletta International. He has called Burlington home since 1964, and over those many years has contributed significantly to the growth and development of the city. “Angelo’s commitment to making our community a better place to live for everyone is always at the heart of his philanthropic endeavors,” says Colleen Mulholland, President and CEO, Burlington Foundation.

BCF-Paletta-and-Mulholland

Angelo Paletta with Colleen Mulholland, President of the Burlington Foundation.

“Angelo, who has supported our foundation for many years consistently demonstrating a passionate and generous commitment to many charitable needs and causes. We are truly delighted to honour and celebrate his legacy of giving and social impact.”

Angelo will be honoured at Burlington Foundation’s 20th Anniversary Celebration being held on the evening of Thursday, October 24, 2019.

The award is presented by Canada Life.

In 2013 Angelo was the Patron for the Burlington Community Foundation annual fund-raiser.  Watching him work a room is a pure delight.

Related news story

Angelo as Patron of the 2013 Fund Raiser for what was ten the Burlington Community Foundation.

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Art Gallery gets a bail out from the city - while city finance people make bean counters out of curators.

News 100 redBy Pepper Parr

May 15th, 2019

BURLINGTON, ON

 

Things got a little sticky for the Art Gallery of Burlington (AGB) – the cash didn’t flow the way they needed it to flow.

It was vision and cultural courage that got this piece of art outside the Arts Centre. The artists in the city are going to have to bring the vision to city hall and press hard for the cultural courage that will be needed to make the city a place with a cultural base.

It graces the entrance to the Art Gallery – many don’t understand what it means.

The AGB is one of the local boards Burlington created to provide services that a community may value but that do not fall within the usual service delivery of the municipality. These services may be as varied as economic development service or arts and culture. The City of Burlington has relationships with several boards:

• Aldershot Business Improvement Association
• Art Gallery of Burlington
• Burlington Downtown Business Improvement Association
• Burlington Economic Development Corporation
• Burlington Museums Board
• Burlington Public Library Board
• Burlington Theatre Board
• Tourism Burlington

Local Boards - 2019 budget

Burlington Theatre Board is the corporate structure for the Performing Arts Centre. The City pumps more than a million every year into Performing Arts and just shy of a million into the Art Gallery. The total into all the local boards is in excess of $15 million.

These organizations have service level agreements with the City which outline services provided by the City to the boards. Over the past few years, some boards have requested additional accounting services. It made little sense for each of these Boards to have their own accounting department. Bunking in with the city made more sense and better operational reviews. The city has already begun to work with several of the Boards and some changes have taken place since January 2017 in accounting and financial reporting services provided to the boards.

Robert Steven AGB

Robert Stevens, Executive Director of the Art Gallery.

In 2017, a request was made to the Controller and Manager of Financial Services by the Executive Director of the Art Gallery to consider providing accounting services to the Art Gallery. The concern driving this request was that financial information being received internally was not timely due to cumbersome accounting procedures and therefore was not useful for proactive decision making.

Finance management determined that it would be useful to understand the financial processes at the Art Gallery before deciding to provide accounting services. Finance staff provided support in developing accounting policies and procedures, cash flow forecasting, budget preparation and other financial processes beginning in the summer of 2017.

Through the work performed by Finance staff it became evident that the Art Gallery was experiencing cash flow challenges. To help reduce the likelihood that the Art Gallery would have to increase its line of credit, the City provided additional funds over and above the budgeted operating grant. The City provided an additional $265k in 2017 to assist with the cash flow challenges.

In 2018 the City expanded its financial services to the Art Gallery to include accounts payable and accounting services. The additional services included bringing the Art Gallery into the City’s financial system, SAP. Finance staff continue to support the Art Gallery with financial reporting and cash flow analysis. This support includes attending the Audit and Finance Committee meetings of the Board. More timely, accurate and complete financial reporting is provided to the Board and management of the Art Gallery. The provision of accounts payable services enabled a cash flowing of operating expenses through 2018. At year end the cash flow extended to the Art Gallery resulted in an intercompany payable to the City of $424k.

Finance staff have been on site at the Art Gallery two days per week up to and including the audit of the 2018 financial statements which concluded in March 2019. Art Gallery staff have been mentored so that they are now able to assume responsibility for more of the financial management. Finance staff will continue to provide support but will have less of a presence at the Gallery. Finance staff continue to look for additional opportunities to support the Art Gallery in establishing good financial management practices. The focus in 2019 will be to reduce dependence on the City for cash flow support.

During 2018 the Art Gallery held a successful fundraising event which netted funds of $181k. The Board of Directors of the Art Gallery has requested that approximately $60k of the funds be held in a reserve fund for future needs.

Some financial stability for the Art Gallery

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Just how high is an 11 storey building - depends on what you are measuring.

News 100 blueBy Pepper Parr

May 15th, 2019

BURLINGTON, ON

 

Two things struck me during the Monday and Tuesday Standing Committee meetings.

441 MapleThe first was during the Statutory meeting on the development proposal for 411 Maple Avenue where the operator of a long term care nursing home wants to sell the property to a developer and use the proceeds from that sale to build a new long term care retirement home in the Alton community.

The proposed development is inside the Urban Growth Boundary, which is currently under an Interim Control Bylaw that has stopped things cold.

Much of the discussion during the lengthy meeting was about the heights involved. What started out as a 22 + storey building, got whittled down twice to the now 11 storey development.

The operators of the long term care retirement home were hoping that they would get an exemption from the interim control bylaw.

That didn’t happen.

Heather_MacDonald COB planner

Heather MacDonald – City Planner

Here is what did happen which was interesting. Kelvin Galbraith asked Heather MacDonald, the Planning Director if the practice in the new official Plan would be consistent in its use of measurements.

The Director wasn’t able to say – absolutely.

We have heard complaints from a number of people about the way the height of a structure is defined. Planners tend to use the number of storeys – but a storey isn’t a unit of measure – it is used to describe some space.

Galbraith slight smile

Ward 1 Councilor Kelvin Galbraith wanted to know what unit of measure was being used to determine the height of a development.

Galbraith wanted to see metric measures used and he appeared to want the actual height of the building to the top of the very top floor. He appeared to want to know just how many metres in the air the building was going to rise.

On occasions a developer will say it will be 11 storeys with an amenity area at the top. That amenity space is an additional number of metres of height.

One would have thought the Planning Director would have taken the opportunity to say that there would be data that would be clear.

A missed opportunity. Hopefully we might see a council member pick up on the need for clarification and get a staff direction in place setting out how developments will be described when it come to their height.

Burlingtonians are a little sensitive about height these days.

The second thing that struck me was what we spend on the culture-entertainment sector.  Some whoppers in those numbers – that is covered in a separate story.

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Rainfall ( between April 1 and May 13, 226 mm) has resulted in the closure of all the grass based playing fields.

News 100 greenBy Staff

May 14th, 2019

BURLINGTON, ON

 

It was on again off again for a week – then they just gave up and said Closed until further notice.

The weather is playing havoc with the folks over at the Parks and Recreation department.

Grass sports fields are closed due to unsafe conditions. Public safety trumps everything.

Flooded ball park

No ball playing on this diamond. This is basically the situation across the city – except where there is artificial turf.

In a media release the city said: “Due to the amount of rain the City has had over the past few weeks, all natural turf-grass playing fields will be closed until further notice.

Between April 1 and May 13, 226 mm of rain has fallen in Burlington. The average monthly rainfall for April and May combined is 150.3 mm.

The soggy conditions of the fields are a threat to player safety and use of the fields will cause damage to the turf resulting in significant repairs and lengthy field closures. Not all grass fields have been mowed because site conditions are too soft. Mowers have become stuck resulting in the need for costly repairs of the tracks left behind which also pose a risk to player safety.

Mower in mud

The field conditions are terrible – a lot of damage done.

Murray Cameron, Manager of Park Operations explains it this way: “We’ve had much more rain than normal this spring, so our fields just haven’t had a chance to drain. They will need several days of drying conditions for the ground to become firm enough to support a mower and dozens of people using the area, so please stay off the fields until further notice, even if we get one or two warm sunny days.

“Repairs of fields are costly and time-consuming and injuries are not how anyone wants to start the season.”

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Burlington has declared June to be the month of play - now to get the weather to co-operate.

News 100 yellowBy Staff

May 14th, 2019

BURLINGTON, ON

 

June is the Month of Play and the City of Burlington has many activities planned to help people get outside, have fun and be active.

The Burlington Kite Festival, presented by the Rocca Sisters Team

The Burlington Kite Festival, presented by the Rocca Sisters Team, is being held on Sunday, June 2, 2019 from noon to 4 p.m. at the Brant Hills Community Centre, 2255 Brant St.

Festival participants can build their own kite (while supplies last) or bring their own kite to fill the sky with dancing colours.

This year’s event will feature the Curiosity Cube which involves interactive, hands-on science experiments using the latest technology to inspire curiosity in the next generation of scientists. There will also be face painting, balloon animals, stilt walkers and much more. All are welcome.

Splash pad LaSalle - swimming

Splash pad at LaSalle.

Spray Pads
Community Park Spray Pads will be opening on May 18.

Nelson swimming pool

Nelson pool.

Summer Outdoor Pool Openings
• Nelson Pool and Splash Park opens June 1
• LaSalle Outdoor Pool and Splash Park and Mountainside Pool and Splash Park open June 15

Please note, Nelson Pool and Splash Park will be closed June 9 and July 6 to 7, and

Angela Couglan Pool will be closed after May 31, 2019, until Spring 2020 for pool renovations.

Learn more about swimming lessons and recreational swimming schedules at burlington.ca/swimming.

ParticipACTION’s Community Better Challenge
Help Burlington become Canada’s Most Active Community. All you need to do is track your activities during the challenge. The challenge takes place from May 31 to June 16.

Download the ParticipACTION app for free at participACTIONapp.com.
Start tracking your activities!

Burlington Walks the Talk
Burlington Walks the Talk is a community program that encourages people to create or join neighbourhood walking groups year-round. The program offers a “how to create a walking group” guide and a place on the City of Burlington website to share information about upcoming community walks to invite others to participate and learn more about walk meetup times and locations in Burlington. The first 10 groups to post their community walking group on the community walk meetup calendar will receive up to 10 t-shirts for their walking group (while supplies last).

Pop Up n’ Play
Popping up in City of Burlington parks throughout the spring and summer is our Pop Up n’ Play experience where children can explore, create, imagine and play in their own way.

Yoga in the Park
Each week will feature a fully qualified instructor in a different park. Bring your yoga mat and/or towel, water, and wear appropriate clothing. All experience levels are welcome.

NEW-Pop Up n’ Play Fitness
Parents can join free Yoga in the Park every Sunday morning in May and June from 10:30 to 11:30 a.m., while kids get their move on at our free Fitness Pop Ups. Encouraging children to be active and have fun in non-traditional activities. Build a ninja course, find a new way to balance or swing, create a strength challenge or make up a new game. Ages 4-14. Parents are to be in the park during the program.

Play Streets
The community program offers the opportunity for weekly, local street closures which encourage the use of neighbourhood streets for safe, active play and social interaction between neighbours of all ages and is available all year.

Koogle at the bandshell

Summer play at the Band Shell in Central Park

Concerts in the Park
Bring a blanket or lawn chair and enjoy an evening of music under the open sky at the Central Park Bandshell. Concerts begin June 16 and run every Wednesday and Sunday until the Aug. 18. We offer music for every style and age.

100n1 Day Burlington
A festival of citizen engagement, 100In1Day Burlington is part of a growing global movement that is changing how people interact with their cities. 100in1Day Burlington inspires residents to activate 100 innovative, thought-provoking ideas into activations to transform our city, all on one day, June 1.

The City of Burlington encourages people of all ages to get outside and enjoy the many parks, outdoor spaces, playfields and recreational play experiences that support active living and a healthy lifestyle for all ages, abilities and cultures. Learn more about recreational experiences and where to play at burlington.ca/play. Get Outside. Live & Play Every Day.

Glenn Chris

Chris Glenn, Director of Parks and Recreation in his PArks& Rec uniform.

Chris Glenn, Director of Parks and Recreation maintains that “Flying a kite is just as fun for adults as it is for kids. For the rest of the Month of Play, we have a variety of activities to keep everyone active, having fun outdoors throughout the city all summer long. Get outside and play this summer and help Burlington become Canada’s Most Active Community.”

 

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Farmers Market at Burlington Centre opens on the 22nd.

News 100 yellowBy Staff

May 13th, 2019

BURLINGTON, ON

 

Farmers Market LionsThe Farmers’ Market at Burlington Centre, operated by the Burlington Lions Club, will open for its 61st consecutive season on Wednesday, May 22nd and continue through October 26th.

The 50 vendors at the Market offer fresh local produce in season, eggs, meats, cheese, baked goods and wine.

Market hours are Wednesdays 8:00 AM – 2:00 PM; Fridays 8:00 – 3:00; Saturdays 8:00 – 2:00.

The Lions use the proceeds to support local community, health, and youth needs.

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It has become a 'Place to Grow' - faster than you thought possible.

News 100 redBy Staff

May 13th, 2019

BURLINGTON, ON

It just doesn’t stop.

PC Leader Doug Ford faced a barrage of questions from Liberal Premier Kathleen Wynne and NDP Leader Andrea Horwath in Monday's CityNews debate in Toronto.

PC Leader Doug Ford faced a barrage of questions from Liberal Premier Kathleen Wynne and NDP Leader Andrea Horwath during the election debates. We are now seeing the answers to many of those questions.

That’s what happens when you elect a government that promised change – this time you get it.

The provincial government tabled Bill 108. It’s not good news.

The Bill affects 13 pieces of legislation including the Conservation Authorities Act, Endangered Species Act, and the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal through changes to the Planning Act.

Set out below is a brief overview of some of the changes.

Susan Lloyd Swail, Senior Manager, Livable Communities is calling it the Developers Dream Bill; the Ontario Home Builders Association got pretty much everything they asked for. In her comments she points out that:

Click to view report

An update is due later this month.

The Bill enacts changes to legislation that implement the provincial Housing Action Plan. Overall it makes it easier to build housing anywhere in the province. The new Growth Plan, A Place to Grow comes into effect May 16th, 2019. It permits expansions of settlement boundaries (up to 40 ha- 100 acres at a time) and conversions of employment land ahead of an MCR- Official Plan review. Expect more sprawl onto farmland.

The government is cutting regulations and policies that protect the environment, endangered species, and allow citizen input to speed up development approvals. Not that we are running out of housing. Municipalities plan for housing and are required to keep a 10 year supply of land designated for growth and a 3 year supply of draft and registered housing- that means housing ready to build.

Ironically, many of you will recall that developers taking OP’s to the OMB created on average a 3 year delay. There is no doubt we need more low income subsidized housing in than is currently available especially in the GTA but there is no shortage of unaffordable single family homes.

Many of the changes to the Planning Act affect LPAT- We are going back to the old OMB with a twist- it will still be called the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal (LPAT).

The new LPAT disallows third party appeals (non-profit groups) on certain matters, like subdivisions and matters where Council hasn’t made a decision. We also expect the cost of participating in hearings to increase. Rather than policy conformity the new LPAT will go back to an interpretation of good planning. Progressive municipalities with strong planning are not happy with this change as it is seen as undermining their authority. In municipalities that don’t follow good planning this change could be positive.

Environmental Defence plans to launch a campaign to kill various aspects of Bill 108 in the coming weeks.

Democracy at its best – the electorate getting what they elected.

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M. M. Robinson High school closed for the day due to water main break.

Newsflash 100By Staff

May 13th, 2019

BURLINGTON, ON

 

M.M Robinson High School will be cancelled today (Monday May 13) due to a water main break on Upper Middle Road in Burlington.

There is no water available at the school. We have been advised by Halton Region that the repairs will take more than 6 hours.

School bus transportation has been cancelled.

The J.W. Singleton Education Centre (Halton District School Board office), located on the same property as the school, will also be closed today.

Further updates will be provided as information is received.

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Burlington advocacy group to delegate at the Region on Friday - asking public to sign their petition opposing amalgamation of Oakville, Burlington, Milton and Halton Hills.

News 100 blueBy Pepper Parr

May 13th, 2019

BURLINGTON, ON

 

They are the We Love Burlington Advocacy Group. The describe themselves as a distinctly ‘grass roots’ and non partisan group. They advocate on a broad range of issues that affect the City of Burlington and its citizens.

We love Burlington Prov Review signThey have mobilized as a very small action group around the regional government review with a primary mission of raising public awareness that the review is taking place and what its implications could be. They claim hey have been extremely successful within the very limited time frame available to them.

They recognize that the regional government review has been initiated to find efficiencies amongst the subject municipalities, to improve services and to address governance issues where they are found to exist. The “We Loves” are very supportive of these objectives generally.

They are however against any suggestion of amalgamation of the City of Burlington into a broader Halton Region organizational structure because we believe, as reported in the Fraser Institute Report of 2015, that such actions are seldom fiscally prudent or operationally effective.

The “We Loves” along with the Oakville “We Loves” will be delegating at a Regional meeting on Friday the 17th.

The Gazette will publish their delegation on Friday and report on how the meeting progresses.

We love B Prov Rev

Deborah Ruse, Lynn Crosby, Blair Smith and Josie Wagstaffe outside Queen’s Park after an unsuccessful meeting with MPP Jan McKenna

The Burlington “We Loves” have not had an easy go of it when it comes to support from their MPP. They were able to arrange a meeting with her at Queen’s Park but made little progress in getting her to speak for the people of Burlington and read their petition into the record.

They were at first unable to get the Minister to make a copy of the petition available for signing at her Burlington office.

When the MPP for Oakville Burlington North offered to make the Burlington petition available in her office, along with the one from citizens of Oakville, McKenna apparently saw the light and said she would post a copy in her office where people could sign it.

Gary Scobie, a frequent Gazette commenter urges people to get down to MPP McKenna’s office this week and sign this petition. “There is strength in numbers and I believe the vast majority of Burlingtonians support our local and regional governments, so let’s add our signatures to something we believe in.”

The Petition reads as follows:

To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario

Whereas, the Government of Ontario has announced a review of Ontario’s eight regional municipalities, the County of Simcoe, and their lower-tier municipalities, including Halton Region and the City of Burlington; and

Whereas, Municipal governments are responsible for funding and delivering crucial local services on which residents depend; and

Whereas, 97 per cent of residents are satisfied with the quality of services delivered by the Region; and

Whereas, 95 per cent of the City of Burlington residents rate their quality of life as excellent or good; and

Whereas, Halton Region has maintained an AAA credit rating for 30 consecutive years due to effective governance and prudent fiscal policies; and

Whereas, Burlington has a proud heritage that goes back to 1798 and its founding father, Six Nations Captain Joseph Brant; and

Therefore, we the undersigned petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario as follows: That the City of Burlington remain a distinct municipality within a two-tier Region of Halton municipal governance structure.

McKenna office hours are: 9:00am and 4:30pm, Monday to Friday.
Her office is located at 472 Brock Ave., Unit 104

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'I can't talk to you' said the Council member - 'I've been told not to' Really?

SwP thumbnail graphicBy Pepper Parr

May 10th, 2019

BURLINGTON, ON

 

Media and members of city council have an odd relationship.

We first get to see the people elected to council during the election phase.

Some ask for help – we are generous and tell them as much as we can about the job they are seeking.

We get to know some of them very well. And every time we tell them – “we are not your friends. We are delighted you are running for office and we wish you well.”

The moment we become their friends our usefulness ends and our integrity dies.

The Gazette has always had a strong interest in encouraging candidates for public office that share our view of what public service means – and that is – An informed public can make informed decisions. We are consistent and persistent in digging out information politicians decide they don’t want to share.

Once the candidate is elected the rules of the game change – we are now one of the organizations that works at ensuring the council member is accountable and transparent.

media smartsSomething happens to people when they are elected. They begin to see whatever they say as important. They expect every word of their media releases to be published just the way they gave it to us.

We point out that they have confused reporting with public relations. The only person who really cares about what a young member of council has to say is their parents.

I was recently covering a photo-op event in the east end of the city – most of the Council members were on hand and the two members of Parliament who represent Burlington.

There was one council member in particular I wanted to talk to. Up until the meeting last week I thought there was a good working relationship but had begun to notice that this particular council member tended to want the conversations to be off the record.

On this occasion, as I approached the council member he said: “I can’t talk to you”. “What” I asked – “what do you mean you can’t talk to me. Why not?”

“Can this be off the record” was the response. “No” was my response. “Then I don’t want to talk to you” and the council member walked away.

I tend to be persistent – and pressed the issue. “Who said you can’t talk to me.”

That’s when the first shoe hit the floor. “I have been advised not to talk to you until your situation with the city is cleared up.”

Where did that advice to the newly elected council member come from?

This was an individual who looked to me for advice, comment and direction while running for office.

This was the individual who asked if we would publish comment and opinion pieces and help him create a stronger profile in the city.

What I found astounding is that an elected member of council decides to heed the advice of an unnamed person (we are pretty sure we know where the advice came from) without questioning the source.

It is a little late in the game for a council member to decide that they don’t want to talk to media.

Anyone who asks what the issue is with city hall has only to read the Gazette. We have been brutally honest – and written at length about just what the issue is.

The details can be read by anyone.

In one of the documents we received from the city the word “vexatious” was used. We had to pull out our Oxford English Dictionary to be sure we fully understood the word.

Vexatious – causing or tending to cause annoyance, frustration, or worry.

synonyms: annoying, vexing, irritating, irksome, displeasing, infuriating, maddening, exasperating, provoking, galling, rankling, grating, jarring, harassing, harrying, bothersome, tiresome, troublesome, niggling.

That would describe me; something I am proud of.

The council member has less than a year under his belt – perhaps he will learn over time. I’m not betting on it.

We are waiting for the other shoe to drop.

Salt with Pepper is the musings, reflections and opinions of the publisher of the Burlington Gazette

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Young: Can Citizen Action Labs improve engagement where previous efforts have failed?

opinionred 100x100By Jim Young

May 10th, 2019

BURLINGTON, ON

 

Recently the Gazette reported that the City of Burlington will seek improvements in the working of Citizen Advisory Committees and Citizen Engagement in general via three Citizen Action Labs.

External consultants will conduct the labs to “Help us shape the way we move forward with citizen committees and citizen engagement at the City of Burlington!” They will pass citizen input and lab results on to city staff.

I want to feel positive about these labs. I have filled out the on-line survey and have signed up to participate. But when our city’s Corporate Communication Group, the department charged with corporate, government and citizen communications, hires an outside group to conduct communication exercises I worry. We have been down this road before.

The City’s Charter Action Team (CHAT), responsible for The City Engagement Charter was formed by Council in 2014 in response to The Shape Burlington Report of 2011.

No doubt CHAT believe they are engaging and communicating well. Yet, most of the anger around citizen engagement and many Non-City Advocacy Groups have sprung up over that same period due to frustration with Citizen Advisories. Some of these Non-City groups have helped shape Burlington more than the city sponsored ones. So the question becomes: Can Citizen Action Labs improve engagement where previous efforts have failed?

The Gazette article provided a link to a delegation I made at council on behalf of ECoB on citizen engagement in April 2018. Re-reading that delegation, not much has changed. However, with a new council, elected on pro-engagement platforms, and apparently committed to that, I am hopeful that things will be different this time.

However, CHAT’s record leaves me looking at Citizen Action Labs through a cautious lens.

Gary Scobie, far right, was a member of the Waterfront Access and Protection Advisory Committee which was sunset by the city last December. Scobie went on to sit on the Ad Hoc Waterfront Committee.

Gary Scobie, far right, was a member of the Waterfront Access and Protection Advisory Committee which was sunset by the city. Chair Nicholas Leblovic is far right with Michael Sullivan to his left.

So why do some citizen advisory committees work while others don’t? How is it that some non-sponsored advocacy groups are more effective than city sponsored ones? I offer my thoughts based on experience with both types of groups, starting with a general explanation of Citizen Committee workings then examples of what seems to work, what doesn’t and a few caveats for Council, Staff and Citizens seeking greater engagement.

There are currently sixteen Citizen Advisories. Essentially they exist to “Advise Council”. That advice is fed to council via Committee Staff. So city council gets advice from two streams. From its professional departmental staff and from well-meaning, but non-professional Citizen Advisory Committees. If these two advice streams were equivalent, with equal access to council, all might be good. However they are not.

Advisory Committees are made up of citizens and interested stakeholders, appointed by council, who have a vote. Then there are non-voting staff from the department related to the advisory committee’s work. Staff from the city clerk’s department guide the advisory committee through council processes and procedures and record meeting minutes which, as any committee person knows, is a very influential position.

In essence, city departmental staff get two kicks at the can. They recommend actions directly to council then get to weigh in on advisory committee decisions. Citizen members can be, and are often swayed by the weight of staff expertise. This can leave citizen members feeling that unless they are cheer leading for staff recommendations, their views are not valued or appreciated.

Advice from Committees is funneled through staff as guidance or recommendations to council. Unfortunately such guidance often slants towards staff positions. This can be frustrating for citizen members. In instances where departmental staff recommendations are at odds with citizen committees, historically citizen advice is overlooked.

The next piece will be on examples of what seems to work, what doesn’t for committees and a few caveats for Council, Staff and Citizens seeking greater engagement.

Jim YoungJim Young is an Aldershot resident who delegates frequently at city council.  He once sat on the Seniors Advisory Committee.

Related news articles.

News story on the creation of the Citizen Action labs.

Young column on why Advisory committees can never work.

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Mayor listens to developers and real estate professionals - asking what can we do for you.

News 100 redBy Pepper Parr

May 10th, 2019

BURLINGTON, ON

 

Oh to have been a fly on the wall.

There she was at the front of the room asking a group of developers and real estate types – what can we do for you?

Had Jeff Paikin been in the room the Mayor would have gotten an ear full.  In a recent communication with us he said:

Jeff Paikin

Jeff Paikin – New Horizons Development.

“Moved to Burlington permanently for our offices just in time to be subject to a council that shuts down our business and a mayor who twice uses unauthorized videos of our site to stand on her soap box and pump up over-intensification even when it doesn’t exist.  Nice warm welcoming feeling for a company that pays and has generated hundreds of thousands of tax dollars annually.”

We wonder how Jeff really feels.

Mayor Marianne Meed Ward was doing another part of her Red Tape Red Carpet initiative to learn how the city could be what Premier Ford has already declared we are: – and that is Open for Business.

The focus group Meed ward was meeting with was made up of a full-house of over 40 leaders from the development and real estate industry. It appears that the audience was made up of people who volunteered to attend and perhaps a few that were asked to take part.

In her newsletter on what has become known as the RTRC initiative Meed Ward said:

high profile 421

Development in the City of Burlington is a very hot issue: Mayor Marianne Meed Ward

“As everyone is well aware, development in the City of Burlington is a very hot issue, and was one of the most commonly discussed during last fall’s election campaign.

“My goal is to find a way to help our city grow in the right way and in the right places, and to partner with my colleagues at City Hall, with residents, and with our development community to make that happen.

“With that said, the Red Tape Red Carpet Task Force initiative is not just about development. It’s about helping all of Burlington’s businesses thrive. Developers and real estate professionals are just two industries of many in our city, but they overlap with those of businesses that are growing, relocating, or starting out here. Their struggles become the struggles of other businesses too.

“At the same time, developers are a business like any other, and while they face challenges around permits and approvals, they also have to deal with access to talent, adequate transit, employee parking, and beyond.

“The focus group was an important step in better understanding the top issues facing this group, and I appreciated how many leaders from these industries showed up to participate in this journey.

“While the City of Burlington’s current Interim Control Bylaw was top of mind for many in the room, we know that geographically that only applies to 1% of our land in Burlington. Furthermore, we know things weren’t perfect before that was put in place, so we focused on the challenges that already existed and have long-term impact.

“What we heard from this audience was the following challenges – again, many of which were commonly heard at other groups we’ve met with over the past 2 months (common themes from yesterday’s session are highlighted in bold):

The Permit process – flaws and delays
Ability to attain SPAs in a reasonable time
Dealing with the MTO – lack of accountability to timelines, lots of delays
Delays with Halton Conservation
Conflict between the different levels of government
Business mindset is lacking
Lack of accountability with the City
Too many agencies involved
Staff act like they’re afraid of losing their jobs
No incentives to reduce operational friction
Hydro
Inconsistent bylaw/zoning interpretation/zoning uncertainty
Lack of vision
Lack of control over other agencies / influence
Affordability of projects becoming unrealistic: land, construction, time all push up costs
No “leader” to manage applications
Lack of KPIs for city staff (perceived or otherwise)
Provincial policies are shifting / rethinking
Lack of staff knowledge in understanding market forces
Lack of respect for landowner rights
Too in the weeds – focus on important issues
Lack of common sense being applied
Opinions can depend on mood of person who is assessing the application
Building envelopes
No severance / Niagara Escarpment Commission
Environmentals on particular corridors
All the time delays cost money
Political agendas – development applications treated politically instead of on their own merit
Time associated with the severance process (took 2 years)
Zoning inflexibility (ex: Seniors Long Term Care facility)
Timing associated with obtaining a zoning verification letter – used to be 10 days now over 5 weeks
City staff raising issues that do not apply to the application in question
Limited incentives available for developers to build sustainably, and integrate sustainable design features
Public transparency re: cost recovery/recovery funding
Compare to Brampton, where 100 units got approval in less than a year – fast process, open to discussions, and Mayor/Council wanted things to happen
Perception that plants and animals have more rights than people
Hard to get calls returned from City Hall (all departments)
Outdated city standards (ex: Parks)
Lack of downtown parking for offices, bars, restaurants and retail
Transit dead spots

“While it took a few minutes to switch gears and focus on the positives, there are certainly reasons everyone in the room is still doing business in Burlington and we wanted to ensure we clearly understood what those are:

BEDC as a facilitator, expeditor and supporter
Great fast-track process for building permits
Experienced city staff are good to deal with
Online process that shows if a building permit is closed
Mayor seems very on board
Facilitation at this event was great – Interim City Manager was great facilitator at the table
Professional people to deal with
Sustainable design guidelines
Ability to start work early to help shorten delivery sometimes
“None”
Burlington building process is good
Councillor was helpful overriding bad staff decisions
Building department closing out an old permit +
We win most if not all appeals to OMB/LPAT
Development application website is good
Community safety – businesses with shifts / evening hours are less worried for their staff getting to/from work
Burlington’s culture, family-orientedness & energy draws people here to live and work
Access to talent, amenities and housing (high tech talent is easier than other segments though because of housing costs)

“Again, we finished the day by leveraging the knowledge and experience in the room to come up with solutions, ideas and changes that the City can spearhead to make things better:

Some of the comments Meed Ward highlights are:

Support a culture of service and efficiency by ensuring staff have clear KPIs and they are part of their performance reviews

Incentives for hitting KPIs and going above and beyond

Business/file liaison to track, communicate, and shepherd a file to completion in a reasonable time

Leadership needs to stand behind file planner

Encourage staff to learn more as things change to drive subject matter expertise (regulations, etc.)

Leverage better technology to streamline and automate / CRM system / Self-Serve

Customer service training / commitment to customer service

Hire more people if short-staffing is impacting speed of turnaround

Cut the timelines to match the Municipal Act

Apply a stronger sustainability lens and offer incentives

Allow multiple levels of approval to run concurrently

Seniors housing/land zoning strategy

Business advisory board

BEDC needs more influence

More advocacy/upward pressures necessary to other levels of government

Stand firm on the position of what is good for Burlington – don’t sit on hands with other agencies

Be collaborative vs combative

Site visits at properties to understand context and better apply common sense

Create more “fast track” and “premium” services – willing to pay for speed

Do more to educate the public about the benefits of growth to help those inherently resistant to change to see the positives

Make it a priority or essential that new hires in these departments have spent at least some time in the private sector on the other side of the table to provide better perspective and understanding

Next round of comments shouldn’t go back to bottom of the pile

Be ok with weighting the value of certain projects in their worth to the community (jobs for example) and be willing to prioritize those in terms of speed and attention – not every project is equal

Apply Artificial Intelligence / automated processes to remove personal opinion from the process

Shorten time frames for turnarounds of minor revisions

Fees should be payable on approval not all up front (or reimbursed when deadlines are missed)

Empower staff with more decision-making power to apply common sense

Remove height restrictions

Educate the public on good planning practices

Be more consistent – don’t change policies when Councillors change

Leverage tech being used in other municipalities (ex: Mississauga)

Focus group with staff: what are THEIR challenges to moving quickly & how can we help

Provide more info on the steps that happen in the process & why it takes so long. What is happening each day over the course of all those months (and sometimes years)?

Quick morning meeting/daily scrum (15 min) each day by team leaders to set goals with staff: what will you get off your desk today and move forward? Then hold people accountable and recognize good performance. Ask the question “What will it take to get this approved today?”

More of a culture of recognition for making things happen. Celebrate those staff.

Red tape red carpet The next focus group will include several contributors from the rural business ecosystem who sit on the newly formed Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee with the City of Burlington.

The next step is to take the learnings and information back to the Committee at their next meeting later this month.

Meed Ward has moved with considerable dispatch  on this initiative.  What is disturbing is that she has ensured there is no media in the room.  Why not?

 

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Farm Market begins it's eight season - Opens Mother's Day.

eventspink 100x100By Staff

May 10th, 2019

BURLINGTON, ON

 

Market friends — spring is here and so it’s time for Season 8 of the Centro Farmer’s Market! —— Opens Mother’s Day – every Sunday through to Thanksgiving. 10 am to 5 pm

One of the gems of the Downtown Core.

Centro logoNow in its 8th season, Centro Market is a food focused farmer’s market in Burlington Downtown, established with the goal of fostering community while connecting people with fresh healthy food and to the wonderful folks that grow and produce it in our area.

wrb

Fresh doesn’t get much better than this!

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