Salt with Pepper. – Brain refresh exercise taking place at Paletta. Positive results are expected.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON May 5, 2011 – There is a better way to do things and both Burlington Council members and senior staff are learning that it isn’t very productive to jam eight hours of meetings into a single day and forget about arranging for breaks.

I’m not sure who – either the Mayor or the City Manager – is responsible for setting out agendas and determining what happens when in a meeting but in the very recent past Burlington has held meetings that run for four straight hours. There was to be one day in May where the City Manager was prepared to have 12 hours of meetings. Ward 3 Councillor John Taylor said he wasn’t going to do that – and Taylor was right – as he often is.

Council and senior staff are meeting with a pair of consultants out at the Paletta Mansion,learning how to approach the creation of a Strategic Plan. A Strategic Plan is the document that sets out what the city wants to do longer term. Sort of the vision for the city for the next 20 to 25 years which then gets broken down into what this council can get done in the three and a half years it has left.

This is all very sound management – something this city administration, and council to some degree, have not been very good at. The tendency is to focus on what is in front of them now. First it was the budget and senior staff set out a schedule of events that was brutal, especially for a council that had three new members and a Mayor who was new to the job.

Before really knowing what the job was your Council was faced with issue after issue as they struggled to get on top of things. As they were getting ready to actually get into the budget they learned there as this very, very significant surplus – like $9.3 million, that had been budgeted for but not spent. The Council members didn’t know each other all that well and there was a stunned pause the day that Ward 5 Councillor Paul Sharman said he wanted to see a 0% tax increase when the Mayor had already said he was heading for an increase of about 2.5 – 3 % increase each year for the four year term.

The Sharman “bombshell” took a little time to digest but he was right. The city is awash with cash that it wasn’t using. Burlington was quite proud of a .9 – that’s less than 1 percent – tax increase which was made possible to a considerable degree by the surplus. Hamilton, a dysfunctional municipality if there ever was one, came in with a budget increase of point eight (.8) percent and they didn’t have a massive budget surplus to play with. Your Council is going to be keeping a much closer eye on the flow of cash each month and hopefully make sure the city’s Executive Budget Committee doesn’t pull another “gapping” stunt.

Let me loop back to the training sessions your Council and senior city staff are going through out at Paletta Mansion. There are going to be five sessions – each half a day long. Each is led by a very skilled facilitator who set up a horseshoe type seating arrangement and had council and stiff mixed in together. They were there to work as a team and not have staff on one side and council on the other.

Every 60 to 75 minutes there was a break. Coffee, juice and stuff to nibble on had been set out. Everyone was asked to put their cell phones on vibrate which brought out a very telling remark from John Taylor but we don’t need to go there – do we?

Georgina Black, the lead facilitator from KPMG , a national consulting firm, would pause often and double check with a council member or a staff member to ensure there was agreement on the direction they were going. What was impressive was the pace put in place. Unlike the Budget Orientation meetings which had one staff member after another standing at the podium the Council Chamber droning away at how well they were doing.

These facilitated sessions had the objective of creating something, working towards a common goal, with everyone buying into the concept as they moved forward. If there appeared to be some hesitation, Ms Black would pause and double back and tease out what someone was trying to say.

Every hour or so the “team” and they were treated as a team in these sessions, would break out into small wok groups with six to eight people at a table – half staff half council members – and work through an idea and then report back to the whole group. Then a break to refresh and talk with each other one on one.

It was an impressive session – there are four more to take place. Some will ask – how much is it costing ?– and indeed it does cost – but the city is getting exceptional value for the maybe $25,000 being spent for the five sessions. So before you go standing up on your hind legs and howling about waste at city hall – accept the fact that you now have a council and senior staff learning how to use some of the more advanced management tools. It’s quite a sight to see these men and woman sitting together and learning. John Taylor is having the time of his life. Councillor Craven however is still saying the jury is out. Good thing Craven is not involved with the Freeman Station crowd – he’d miss the train.

Now – if some of this professionalism that Council and Staff are rubbing up against out there on Lakeshore Road can get transported into the Council chamber, citizen – you are going to have a very effective group of people doing a first class job on your behalf. Stand By – I’ll keep you posted on this.

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Less than the cost of a good cigar – that’s what your tax increase is going to amount to.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON May 4, 2011 It’s official. If you have a house in the city that is assessed at $300,000. your taxes are going up $9.64 for every $100,000 of evaluation. So that $300,000 house is going to cost you an additional $27.88 each year.

The tax levy for the rural part of the city is $6.34 per $100,000 of assessment.

Here is how it breaks out in terms of who is getting what on that tax bill which will be in the mail real soon with due dates of June and September.

For every $100,000 of assessment:

Burlington portion

$390.35

$386.83

Region

$374.79

$369.05

Education

$231.00

$231.00

TOTAL

$996.14

$986.88

Region includes Police and Waste Management
Education levy is set by the province

The City of Burlington has a 2011 annual operating budget of $189.5 million (which includes a $1.2 million contribution to the Joseph Brant Memorial Hospital) and a capital budget of $40.5 million. About 80% of the operating budget is for staff salaries.

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Turned out there wasn’t a fire but we walked down eight flights while in the middle of an interview on – Emergency Preparedness.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON May 3, 2011 – It turned out to be This is Emergency Preparedness month. Boring. Do you have the candles tucked away, do you have food for three days in the basement and do you have bottled water set aside and do you know where to run to, to grab those important documents and get out of the house in time?

Debbie Wade, 8th floor fire marshal at city hall cleared the floor and then followed the Mayor to street level.  Fire Marshall’s get to wear the hat – Debbie isn’t keen on it.

Debbie Wade, 8th floor fire marshal at city hall cleared the floor and then followed the Mayor to street level. Fire Marshall’s get to wear the hat – Debbie isn’t keen on it.

All of us have some of the stuff in place and I thought that given this is Emergency Preparation month We would do a story on what is not exactly an exciting news item.

It occurred to me to meet with the Mayor and ask how he decides if he should declare a State of Emergency and then just how does he do that. So there we were, sitting in the Mayors office. He had the Emergency Preparedness manual in his hands – it’s confidential – and he was explaining the procedures involved. Then the fire alarm began to ring. Frank McKeown, the Mayor’s right hand man stuck his head in the door and asked: “Pepper, did you do that?” “It wasn’t me”, I replied as the Mayor reached for his suit jacket and coat and headed out the door. I followed, notes in hand.

Everyone left in an orderly manner with the Mayor holding the door for Debbie Wade to go before him. “You first Mr. Mayor. I’m the Fire Marshall for this floor and I’m the last person to leave after I’ve checked to make sure the floor is empty.”

So we all trooped down the eight flights with the Mayor carrying his Emergency Preparedness Manual and an umbrella. We got down in just over four minutes and were clear of the building before the fire trucks arrived. So, we know that part of emergency planning works. The city does a dry run a couple of times each year. Each Fire Marshall has a back up and that is over seen by Ron Durocher.

Before we were so rudely interrupted Mayor Goldring was explaining how he, as Mayor, acts when there is a city level emergency. Previously I had asked McKeown what the procedure was for the Mayor when there was a major emergency and McKeown said that was one of the questions he and the Mayor asked each other the first hour they were in the eighth floor office of the Mayor at City Hall. They soon found the Manual with all the detailed instructions.

Shortly after asking the question the Fire Chief showed up with a copy of the Manual in his hands and took the Mayor through the steps he has to take if he decides to declare a State of Emergency and then went through the procedures. This Mayor was making sure he didn’t find himself where former Toronto Mayor Mel Lastman of Bad Boy fame found himself when he called in the army to clear snow from the streets on that city. This Mayor wasn’t about to make himself look like an idiot.

Burlington firefighter does his paper work for what turned out to be a non event when the fire alarms went off at city hall.

Burlington firefighter does his paper work for what turned out to be a non event when the fire alarms went off at city hall.

The back up office for command central is Room 247 at City Hall. If there is a major emergency the Mayor and other key staff assemble in that room and use communications equipment the fire department has in storage ready for instant use.

Later this month the Mayor and the Emergency Control Team will meet and do a day long exercise of running the city as if there were a major threat to the city and its citizens.

Asked what he thinks his job is when there is a major emergency Mayor Goldring said he” “tied to visualize what it might be that he had to deal with. I thought of the major derailment that took place in Mississauga in, what was it, 1979 – 80. What would an emergency look like and what would I do?”, he asked.

And then went on to say he saw his role as assuring the citizens that the problem was under control and that the right people were in place to deal with the emergency.

Mayor Goldring, out on the street in the rain with his staff while the fire alarm is checked.  The Mayor brought his emergency Measures Manual with him.

Mayor Goldring, out on the street in the rain with his staff while the fire alarm is checked. The Mayor brought his emergency Measures Manual with him.

I see my job as assuring and empathizing with people. I would be out on the street meeting with people and making sure the interests and the needs of the people were being taken care of.

There was no “I’m in charge here” in the words the Mayor used. “I would have manuals to work from and would ensure that what should be done is done.”

While the Mayor doesn’t pretend to be an expert on emergencies he does think about what could happen and appreciates that a lot of rail traffic goes through Burlington and that there are thousands of trucks on the QEW which runs right through town and that there are ships out there on the lake and all have the capacity to carry chemicals and liquids that are toxic and could be very dangerous if released.

So, the city appears to be in the hands of people who know what to do in the event of an emergency or a catastrophe. What about you? Are you at all ready – and what should you do today that would make you ready.

Literature and information on what to do in an emergency is set out at city hall.  Worth looking at if you’re in the building.

Literature and information on what to do in an emergency is set out at city hall. Worth looking at if you’re in the building.

One of the things you might consider is getting a back up card for your bank account and make out a list with the numbers of all the important things. Your Passport could be in a safe place and having a list of the numbers: Health Card, Driver’s License, critical names and telephone numbers.

There are a number of organizations that are there to help and your neighbours are the best resource you have. Know your neighbours well and let them know you. Society works when we take care of each other.

If you want to really do the job log into any of the following:

Red Cross: www.redcross.ca/storefront

They have an excellent emergency kit that is contained in a knapsack. Handy to have.

Where do natural disasters take place. Click here – all pretty close to home.

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Conservatives get their long awaited majority; Wallace is to be employed for four more years.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON May 3, 2011 — There was an election on Monday – the Conservatives won.

Alyssa Brierley said all she needed to win the federal election in Burlington was to get one more vote than the other guy. Turns out she needed 18,617 more votes to have beaten Mike Wallace who took the seat for the third time and will now represent Burlington for the next four years under a Conservative majority government.

Mike Wallace talks to the Cogeco Cable camera – getting his 15 minutes of fame early in the term

Mike Wallace talks to the Cogeco Cable camera – getting his 15 minutes of fame early in the term

If Brierley sticks around for that four years and runs in Burlington again she will be dealing with a much different Canada – and it won’t be the Canada that NDP candidate David Laird campaigned so hard to be a part of. While the NDP got rid of the Bloc Quebecois in Quebec, leaving that political party with less than 10 seats and therefore without official party status, and did some damage in Toronto the Conservatives finally convinced Canadians they could be trusted and got their majority.

In Halton Lisa Raitt won again defeating Connie Laurin-Bowie by a substantial margin

The results for Burlington broke out this way:

Liberal candidate Alyssa Brierley did a decent job with her 36 day campaign.  She vows to return.

Liberal candidate Alyssa Brierley did a decent job with her 36 day campaign. She vows to return.

Conservative     Wallace    32,777 for 53.9% of the vote

Liberal Brierley        14,161 for 23.3% of the vote

NDP Laird            11,459 for 18.9% of the vote

Green Mayberry        2235 for 3.7% of the vote

The Communist candidate got 147 votes.

Voter turnout was 66.8% of the eligible voters in Burlington.

Wallace rode the Conservative wave that rolled over all of Ontario leaving a few seats for the NDP in the Toronto region. The Liberals faced an historic defeat and will now turn to finding a new leader and rebuilding their party and leaving the opposition task to the NDP who have to show the more than 60 new members of the House of Commons where the washrooms are. Both Michael Ignatieff and Gilles Duceppe were defeated.

NDP candidate David Laird now has six losses notched into his belt.  Does he have another round in him?

NDP candidate David Laird now has six losses notched into his belt. Does he have another round in him?

David Laird now has six defeats under his belt. Brierley the one. Will Laird “do it again”? Brierley says she doesn’t give up easily.

For the political junkies they can now move on to the provincial election in October. The Liberals have their candidate in harness while the Progressive Conservatives have yet to hold their nomination. Rene Papin hasn’t let that stop him from running four color advertisements in the local newspaper and Brian Heagle was busy working the crowd at the Wallace win celebration.

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Queensway community doesn’t like what a developer wants to do to them. Council doesn’t help much.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON April 29, 2011 – It started at 74 units to be built on property that consisted of six houses – the 74 was said to be acceptable based on good planning principles. The local community didn’t like it one bit and they got noisy.

Three houses that front on Queensway west of Guelph line wait for the wrecking ball and the creation of a development that will create 58 housing units in a community that has had nothing but small bungalows.

Three houses that front on Queensway west of Guelph line wait for the wrecking ball and the creation of a development that will create 58 housing units in a community that has had nothing but small bungalows.

That brought it down to 64 units – locals still weren’t happy. That brought it down to 58 units which is where it was left after a long council committee meeting that had Ward 4 Councillor Jack Dennison suggesting that maybe, just maybe, taking out two more units would make everyone happy – but he wasn’t able to get anyone to take him up on that idea. So the community is now battling a development of 6 semi detached units; 18 back to back townhouses and 34 standard townhouses.

Ward 1 Councillor Marianne Meed Ward was the proponent behind getting this project down to 40 units, which from her point of view was “perhaps acceptable” given that there were only six units on the property that was assembled for this development which is located south of the QEW and west of Guelph line; a part of the city that was originally developed as Veterans Act Lands, and like Aldershot, is a community where there are streets with no sidewalks.

It is an older part of the city with larger than normal lots where there is a clear sense of identity and mild resistance to change – at least to the kind of change that the proposed project will bring to the community. Most people saw the level of intensification this development was bringing about to be close to offensive however, it did meet with the zoning and official plan. This is a community that is a just a very short walk to the Burlington GO station, minutes to the QEW and a hop to a large Mall and a skip to a good supermarket. The only thing the community doesn’t have it a “big rock candy mountain”. Easy to understand why these people like their community just the way it is.

The roads in this community are narrower; 6-7metres with no side walks when the norm is in the 9 to 9.5 metre width. If sidewalks were put in the width of the road would decrease. Traffic flow is already a problem and 56 additional homes with a car and a half – well you can see where this is going.

What made this one a little difficult was that there were six properties being assembled for the development with those at the north end zoned a little differently than those at the south end. While planners understand theses intricacies – the average homeowner gets snowed under by this level of detail. All they want is for their community to remain much the same – even though most of the delegations – there were five of them, said they understood change was necessary – they just didn’t think this level of change was fair and good for their community.

Burlington is faced with pressure from a couple of sides. First the province has called for growth and intensification under the Places to Grow Plan. That is just a fact the city and its residents have to deal with. The small enclave of a community that is snuggled in west of Guelph line and south of the QEW is a classic example of what the province wanted to see changed. The lots were created in what is for the most part end of WWII bungalows on mature streets that don’t have sidewalks or sewers. Most of the lots are large by today’s standards; the six that were assembled for this development are large enough to have a very decent sized market garden in the back. You could play a football game in the yards that existed in the properties that were assembled.

The developers saw the opportunity and as one resident said at the Community Development Committee:
“If this project goes through there will be others” and indeed there will be others. Developers see the value and individual homeowners also see an opportunity to cash in and take away the value of really large lots.

So, the requirement to intensify is very real and developers are quick to spot the opportunities and exploit them. The building of homes is a large part of the local economy and more homes means more tax money collected. The location for this development is fabulous. One could walk to the GO station from this project and indeed it was suggested that this development was a perfect opportunity to create a protected bicycle lane that would be on the edge of the Queensway, allowing a rider to be at the GO station in 10 minutes. Provide decent bicycles lockers and the city will have taken a big step to putting its plan for more cycle use in place.

Burlington has a unique rural component that begins north of the 407 and extends to the northern edge of the municipality and includes the Mt Nemo plateau. If the city wants to maintain that rural community, and if you speak to people in Lowville and Kilbride there is no doubt that they want to keep the rural setting, then the development is going to have to take place south of the 407 and QEW – which brings us back to communities that face a development that everyone knows is going to significantly change the place they have chosen to live and raise their families.

This is the challenge that faces Burlington and one that adds wrinkles to the brow of Mayor Goldring. He can see a situation where there will be a battle in every community that undergoes social and development changes. He truly believes there is a better way to do this – but so far hasn’t come up with the formula needed.

“We were not informed about this amendment despite the fact that I had requested to be informed.”

Richard Szymczyk

However, as several people making delegations said: “We know change is coming and we accept that – but can the change be something that respects who we are, where we live and the life style we have created for ourselves.”

Is this the only way we know how to manage the growth that is going to take place? Is there not a better way for the developers to provide the housing that is needed and for the people who live in a community to have a significant say in the way the community is going to change? Is there a person or a group of people within the community that can pull people together and ask the city to provide some resources that will help the homeowners maintain the community they have and at the same time manage the growth?

Some Queensway residents have decided to let developers know they are “available” and put For Sale signs on their lawns.  Is the beginning of the end for a once quiet enclave that is going to go through a significant intensification?

Some Queensway residents have decided to let developers know they are “available” and put For Sale signs on their lawns. Is the beginning of the end for a once quiet enclave that is going to go through a significant intensification?

Or is taking the fight to the Ontario Municipal Board where a tribunal will listen to both sides and announce a decision that everyone will have to accept the only solution? And in the meantime confusion, disruption and a slow breakdown of the social fabric that created the community in the first place. Individuals will sell their homes, take the capital gain and look for a new place to live. Indeed that has already started

Richard Szymczyk, speaking on behalf of the Queensway Ratepayers, brought some focus to what was happening to the community when he said there were two fundamental issues before the committee: process and that of content. While content was a major issue, it was process that had the residents up in arms for they felt they had been short changed when it came to an opportunity to review what staff was proposing and that they were not fairly or adequately heard. “I take some issue”, said Szymczyk “with the fact that the document we have before us, outlines in great detail support for the intensification, but neglects to inform you about the very strong opposition made by those who will be most affected – the current residents.”

Szymczyk complains about the amount of time the community had to respond to a staff document (and this complaint is heard frequently) Szymczyk said “we have had access to the amendments for only a week and it is virtually impossible to organize a community meeting and develop a response. In that period of time. The way the game is played now, ratepayers have to use their spare time to respond to developers who are at times rapacious – and if asking for 74 units and accepting 58 isn’t rapacious then I don’t fully understand that word –and devote all their time to this profit making venture.

There is nothing wrong with profit but does it have to be at the expense of community? And by the way – just who is 1066834 Ontario Limited? They are a division of 967686 Ontario Inc and are located at 4305 Fairview avenue, Suite 216 right here in Burlington.

Szymczyk complains as well about a change in a zoning by law that allowed an increase of more than 30% in terms of density.” We were not informed about this amendment despite the fact that I had requested to be informed.” This complaint has been heard before as well and it appears that the city doesn’t go that “extra mile” for ratepayers and citizens but has a lot of time for developers who work at their projects full time.

It is a small matter of making allowances. For example, a number of people complained that they did not get notices. The City Planner, Bruce Krushelnicki takes great exception to hearing that he is not being fair for he is a very fair decent minded human being. But here is his dilemma. He is required under the Planning Act to advise people of changes by mail and an email address is not sufficient to meet the requirements of the Act. Fair enough – but surely it would be possible to create a list of the mailing addresses and at the same time maintain a list of email addresses and uses both to send out notices? And what’s with this requirement to send notices only to those people within a 120 metre radius? Surely the Planning department could look at its maps and be generous when creating the radius within which people have to be notified and make that radius large enough to cover people who are ‘likely’ to have an interest in the development being discussed. This is a small matter and one that could be undertaken by a progressive community. It is the Spirit of the law that matters rather than the Letter of the law.

Marianne Mead Ward, then a candidate said in her Oct 2010 Special Bulletin for Queensway Residents that City Council has “quietly changed the allowed densities for a controversial housing project in the Queensway neighbourhood –and not one city official or elected representative came clean when directly questioned at a public meeting.” There was an opportunity for Mead Ward, now the Council member for ward 2 to come clean at Committee meeting on April 18th and review for Council and the 40 plus people in the Council Chamber the sad history of this development application, but there was more comment from Ward 4 Councillors Jack Dennison than Mead Ward.

This has been a messy one from the start, complicated by a property assembly that has different zonings on different parts of the six lots involved. It is certainly an intensification, taking six lots and trying to plunk down 74 housing units which has been ratcheted down to 58 units – with the residents howling for 40 units. This is a difference of opinion that seems headed for the Ontario Municipal Board.

One of the six houses waiting for demolition in a neighbourhood that has been stable and secure sine the early 50’s

One of the six houses waiting for demolition in a neighbourhood that has been stable and secure sine the early 50’s

There was a zoning bylaw that called for 30 units on a hectare of property that could be taken to 50 units per hectare if underground parking was put in place. Underground parking was never part of the plan but that didn’t stop city council from putting through a zoning change that allowed for an increase from the 30 units per hectare to 40 units. These zoning changes took place during the summer and at a time when Mead Ward didn’t have an office at city hall. Now that she has – she is stuck with what is going to be painful from a community point of view and expensive for the city when it has to pay for the OMB hearing that appears to be a certainty if a ratepayers spokesperson is to be believed.

City planning staff are satisfied that the modified 58 unit proposal, which falls within the medium density housing range, is appropriate for and compatible with the surrounding neighbourhood. The developer doesn’t appear to want to go any further and so it will get one more round of debate at a city council meeting and then a final vote. Will anyone ask for a recorded vote on this one or would they rather all just hope they can hold their noses and get it done?

 

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The Shape Burlington report as presented to city council in 2010

backgrounder 100Shape Burlington logo

A report by the Mayor’s Citizen Advisory Committee on Civic Engagement – April 2010

Mission Statement

Through community consultation and research into best practices, to determine and recommend to the Mayor, Council, and citizenry, those methods the Committee feels will best enable citizens to become more engaged in their communities and empowered to effectively communicate their concerns to the government and other citizens, resulting in more timely citizen involvement in the decision making activities of local government

Letter from the Co-Chairs

Exceptional people do exceptional work. The people of Shape Burlington who put this report together are exceptional. They are eloquent representatives of the diversity of Burlington’s population as well as first-rate interviewers, facilitators, writers, and include a highly competent web master. All their time and personal expenses were contributed freely as caring and concerned Burlington citizens.

We thank you for volunteering and accepting our assignments without reservation. We congratulate all of you on a job well done.

We could not have developed this Report without the guidance and input of consultants Peter Macleod, Joslyn Trowbridge and Chris Ellis of MASS LBP.

We owe so much to Dr. Joey Edwardh and Ted Hildebrandt of Community Development Halton who provided the administrative services and expertise in community development.

We are honoured that Mayor Cam Jackson had confidence in our integrity and judgment to select a committee and to reach out to Burlington citizens for their views on better and more effective communication and involvement with City Council and Staff. We thank Mayor Jackson for this opportunity to serve our community. We believe we have fulfilled the terms of reference for this advisory committee.

For us, this has been a journey of discovery, which has reinforced our belief that we live in one of the finest communities in Canada.

This Report reflects accurately the views of those people who took the time and opportunity to share their opinions on how we might improve civic engagement and two-way communication with local government. City Council can honour these citizens by considering carefully each and every one of the recommendations. . . In our opinion, these eight (8) recommendations must all be implemented.

We understand that these recommendations will require City Hall and Burlington residents to re-think how local government communicates and interacts with the community in a more participatory and consensual mode. We believe the implementation of these recommendations will foster more informed deliberation, inspire greater confidence in local government, and build a more caring community.

John Boich, Co-Chair Walter Mulkewich, Co-Chair

 

Transforming the culture at City Hall – City Hall must reinvent itself.

As social, technological and demographic trends alter the face of every community, municipal governments are struggling to adapt their long-established practices to meet the challenges of an ever-evolving new world.

Burlington is experiencing a period of rapid growth and change. Citizens are more literate, more educated and more connected than ever before. They are also busier, more distracted and require more from those who represent them, develop the policies and provide the services in their community.

Formed at the request of the Mayor, Shape Burlington was given the freedom to act independently. We spent three months working with Burlington residents and City Hall staff and members of Council to learn more about how the City operates and how it engages with residents.

Shape Burlington is comprised of citizens who live in all areas of the city. They bring a broad mix of experience and expertise to their commitment. We were assisted in our research and procedures by MASS LBP, a public consultation company with expertise in citizen engagement and democratic innovation.

We investigated practices from communities around the world. Who is facing similar challenges? How are they doing it? What can we learn? What best practices are already being implemented, and how can Burlington create its own recommendations?

We conducted interviews with members of current Advisory Committees. We spoke with representatives of cultural and sports groups; representatives of the business community; citizen groups and high school students. We met with City staff at different levels from many different departments. We interviewed Department heads and managers, Councillors and the Mayor. And throughout, we met with many Burlington residents in public forums and listened to them via our website. Ail expressed their hopes for creating a better City and also their frustrations over how City Hail makes decisions or sometimes fails to listen.

Tasked with recording a broad spectrum of messages and observations, Shape Burlington has delineated 14 specific issues that were constant themes in our investigation. From this, we have identified eight recommendations that can help Burlington navigate the future.

Some are self-evident; some are bold. But all come from the people who live in and work for this City. They call for increased engagement and a dearer vision; for more communication to a recovery of trust; for a sense of belonging and more meaningful participation of all segments of our community.

Recommendations

Engagement: Transform the City Hall culture to promote active citizenship and civic engagement

Promoting active citizen engagement and meaningful public dialogue requires a culture shift at City Hall. A crucial first step is the development an Engagement Charter – a plain language policy document developed with public involvement that incorporates benchmarks and accountabilities, and describes the value, purpose and opportunities for citizens to influence city policies.

The charter would explain how to navigate City Hall and its services. It should stipulate best practices for various kinds of public consultation and affirm the city’s commitment to inform citizens and respond to their ideas and contributions. t would address the question of reaching out to a diverse population.

The charter would incorporate an early notification system to provide citizens and groups information about meetings, events and issues, and to allow reasonable amounts of
time to understand, discuss and develop positions before decisions are made. A guide for its development could be the Edmonton PublicInvolvement process.

Vision: Shift City Hall processes to greater involvement of all citizens in a shared vision of our city

Citizens should be more fully involved in preparing Burlington’s Strategic Plan after each municipal election. It is the single best time for them to influence the City’s long-term direction.

The 2011strategic planning process is an ideal opportunity to begin implementing the principles set out in this report. Citizens should be involved in writing the plan.In this way, they will participate in developing a vision statement for Burlington, set out with clear and measurable action plans that the community can buy into. Some participants could be chosen through citizen juries or random selection.

The strategic planning process and the municipal election itself should be linked explicitly in the minds of voters. n this way the election and the development of the strategic plan would be twinned democratic processes and act as the principal conduits through which the city renews and resets itself every four years.

Communication: Empower people by overcoming the communications deficit

The City should foster the development of an independent information service, including a web-based community news and information portal through start-up subsidies and encouraging community support.

In addition, the Communications Department at City Hall should be fundamentally transformed into a timely and reliable source of City information free of political bias. t is an essential step in providing more resources to foster information, education and continuous learning.

After a comprehensive review of diverse multimedia communications processes, the transformation would include a revamped and more frequent City Talk,webcasts of committee and Council meetings and a user-friendly, well-written website that incorporates the latest web2.0 and gov2.0 innovations to make government more accessible and interactive.

Members of Council are encouraged to develop their own communication vehicles that are separate from the corporate communications process.

A robust, independent professional media is essential in a functioning democracy. We encourage the local news outlets to develop the business and technological solutions that will allow them to reclaim their proper role in the community.

Trust: Improve the public’s trust and confidence in City government

Staff and members of Council should review their protocols and procedures for dealing
. with citizens to improve public trust,confidence and respect for citizens. This would include ongoing staff training programs and establishing cross-department and measurable
, customer service standards.

The delegation process should be overhauled so that is not an obscure or intimidating experience for citizens unfamiliar with City Hall or unaccustomed to public speaking. To make citizens feel more welcome, Council, staff and the public should work together to amend the Procedural Bylaw, develop a new manual and provide staff assistance to delegations as required.

To enhance transparency and access, Council could periodically hold its meetings in different geographical areas across the City, including libraries, community centres and schools where students could participate in the proceedings.

Belonging: Build a caring and inclusive community

The City should reach out to minorities, marginalized groups and all of Burlington’s geographical areas. This would include building greater social cohesion through strategic promotion of Burlington’s opportunities and celebrating each others’ success.

In partnership with the community, the City should establish a policy of inclusivity measurements to ensure that City policies, programs and services reflect our changing population. This includes the needs associated with changing population groups, such as seniors and people from diverse backgrounds, and the social, economic and cultural contributions of these groups. The goal is to forge a city where all participate in building the infrastructure for caring and the opportunities to belong.

As society moves faster and individuals become more mobile, creating a sense of place and marking important milestones become more significant. This can be accomplished through pageants and fairs, special occasions and events – a cycle of distinctive annual events that have widespread appeal and draw the community together.

An inclusive community is one that provides opportunities for the optimal well-being and healthy development of all children, youth and adults. All members of the community gain from social inclusion – those who are vulnerable for reasons of poverty, racism, or fear of difference – as well as the broader community that benefits when everyone is able to participate as a valued and contributing member of the community

Participation: Empower committees and community organizations that work for people

An Office of Engagement should be established to foster and implement recommendations contained in this report.

The Director of the Office, reporting to the City Manager, would implement the Engagement Charter, working with municipal departments to review their policies and design more effective forms of consultation and engagement. This would include a program to support different levels of.citizen access and providing meeting space for community/neighbourhood councils and other community-based groups organized around specific issues.

The Director should consider initiating discussions with community groups to develop a template for independent community or neighbourhood councils such as developed in Quebec City, Portland (Oregon) and Los Angeles.

The Director would provide support for Burlington’s Citizen Advisory Committees, important local institutions whose potential has not yet been fully realized because of variation in their

operation, constitution and purpose. Council needs to rethink the structure, responsibilities, standards and accountabilities of future advisory committees. One option is to establish committees that cut across different issue areas.

Youth: Reach out to the next generation

In cooperation with the school boards, Council should invest in meaningful initiatives at different grade levels. Members of Council and staff should be made available to speak to students in their schools.

A specific proposal is involvement in the Grade 10 Civics program, already in place.
Initial meetings with the Director of the Halton District School Board have produced enthusiastic interest in augmenting this program with a module that could be created with input from the City, the school boards and a committee with experience in both these fields.

Using their volunteer hours as currency, students should be brought into the planning process in ways that they help define: creating a website and social networks that allow them to engage with issues that are important to them: transit, sports facilities, bicycle paths, cultural events, festivals, environmental issues, education and diversity.

There is a genuine need, and value, to reach out to Burlington’s youth. Lifelong civic engagement begins here.

Governance: Define roles and responsibilities

A.governance review should be undertaken to clearly define and differentiate the roles and responsibilities of Council and staff.

Workshops, conducted after each election, would help ensure that Council members make effective decisions and spend their time appropriately and effectively at the policy-making level. They will also ensure that staff is empowered to do their job of administration, providing advice and implementing Council policies and decisions.

Messages & Observations

Burlington is using traditional models in a new age

The City of Burlington public involvement processes and methods of engaging the public for both decision- and policy-making are based on traditional models that belong to the past.

Significant social and demographic changes, population growth, increased urbanization, and new technology in the past 30+ years mean that changes in the modes of civic engagement  and communication between citizens and government are necessary to relate to a changing society. In recent years, a wide variety of innovations in civic engagement and democratic inclusion have been developed in municipalities and communities in Canada, U.S. and globally.

Burlington is not on the cutting edge of these developments to match its leading edge economy and above average literacy and education rates.

Everyone recognizes the need for improvement

There appears to be as a broad consensus among the public, City staff and members of Council that the processes of public involvement should be improved. However, there are many different viewpoints on what and how extensive these improvements should be.

The public wants more extensive change than City Hall does.

While staff and members of Council generally agree that improvements are needed, most believe that the City is doing a better job in communicating and promoting and civic engagement than does the public. Further, the public appears to favour greater changes than those suggested by Council or staff.

Many believe that City Hall is not listening

There is a broad consensus among representatives of citizens who deal with City Hall as well as the public at large that City Council and staff is not listening. Citizens want to see that their input is taken seriously and has a meaningful impact on outcomes.

Citizen confidence in local democracy is declining

There is a broad consensus that public confidence and trust of the City and its democratic processes have declined, especially in the past few years. Most members of Council agree.

Tomorrow’s major transformative issues will require a new form of leadership.
Burlington will face a number of significant transformative issues over the next decade: greater urbanization and intensification 1 the impact of build-out on taxes, an aging population, and the need to adjust services for seniors and youth, low income groups and those from diverse backgrounds.

These issues will require leadership at all levels of City Hall to enhance civic engagement.If there is not effective public involvement in the decisions and policy-making processes, the community could become even more distressingly polarized.

Good citizenship means citizen responsibility

Good citizenship is a two-way street Citizens have a responsibility to help make a better community and take part in decision and policy making in an appropriate manner and with mutual respect. The public involvement process should give citizens the greatest opportunities to exercise those responsibilities.

Issues Governance – the roles of Council and staff
Some citizens suggested that a lack of unified direction and leadership from City Council made it more difficult for staff members to do their job and, further, that staff members were not sufficiently empowered and trusted. Others suggested that staff had undue influence over Council and its decisions. These questions of leadership and respective roles are governance issues, but they have a significant impact on the ability of City Hall to establish a high level oftrust for effective public engagement. Some citizens suggested
that staff members are frustrating to deal with because they do not have a sense of Council’s direction or goals. The public has difficulty putting issues into their strategic context when they do not understand Council’s goals or feel Council’s directions do not represent a community consensus.

Governance – size of Council

There was a widespread view that the size of Council should be re-visited. Many citizens felt that Council members were too overburdened to make good policy decisions or be able to respond as well as they should to public demands for input and service. However, Council has been the same size for 13 years and it appears that only in the past few years has the concern about its size become a major factor. So are other factors at play? There were some suggestions that the issue is not so much size as one of establishing better standards, measurements, and process for accountability. There were some suggestions that Council members need not spend as much time on service issues and they should restrict their time and efforts to focus on policy directions and major issues, and show greater trust in City staff to do their job.

Service quality and process

Many citizens thought that the quality of service, response time and staff attitude has declined. Interestingly, several members of Council agreed. Citizens’ experience with City Hall is a major determinant in creating trust in municipal government and the democratic process. Citizens have a right to be well treated, as customers and as citizens. The City does not appear to have a clear quality service policy, although one is in early stages of development.

Not au citizens feel included or respected

Some citizens felt business groups and other organizations have a better relationship with City Hall than those involved in activities such as social justice and the environment They believe that the City should do more to reach out to all citizens and sectors of society.

A number of citizens said they felt intimidated and faced an adversarial attitude on the part of Council when they attended Council or committee meetings as delegates,

Staff reports and presentations

A specific suggestion, repeated several times, was that staff reports should, as olten as possible, include options for Council and public to consider so that there is a greater ability to evaluate the best possible direction. Further, the suggestion was made that staff presentations at public meetings should be dear, succinct and relevant to the audience.
And, the suggestion was made that the Chairs of public meetings, whether they are Councillors or staff, should be trained in conducting meetings.

The need for more and better information

While we live in an information-based society, communications about the local community, local government and local issues have declined. To have information is to have power.
The local information deficit is significant and is a major deterrent to public involvement. There was agreement among all participants that the decline of traditional media as a source of information and platform for debate is a major issue, Fewer professional journalists cover City Hail. Council and committee meetings are often unreported.
Compared to 15 years ago when Burlington had three newspapers and frequent radio and television coverage, fewer pages are devoted to City news and there is no radio or television coverage to speak of. Cable TV is still present but competes in a multi channel and multimedia universe. There was some feeling that the media often shows bias, City Talk received mixed reviews, with a large number of people perceiving it as more of a political document than an information provider. Citizens, especially those involved with
various organizations, expressed a desire to receive information before issues are discussed.

The need for more education

A common comment was that many residents do not understand City Hall’s procedures and policies and therefore require some basic education so they can navigate the system better and have more confidence to engage.

Importance of early citizen engagement

There was wide agreement among the public, Council and staff that it is important to involve citizens as early as possible in the decision-making process, especially for major issues. Citizens felt that they are consulted too late, after the staff report is already in a final or semifinal form. The timeline after a final report is publicly tabled is often only a few days before a committee meeting, leaving citizens little time to adequately prepare if they wish to express their views effectively.

The need for meaningful dialogue

Public information sessions and many public meetings do not allow citizens to become engaged in dialogue with each other to arrive at a consensus. We heard from some members of Council that meetings and processes where residents have dialogue and help frame solutions result in better buy-in because citizens feel they have had an impact.

The influence of single-issue groups

The influence of single-issue groups received mixed reviews. Some citizens considered them to be a major barrier to allowing the opinions of the large spread of citizens to be heard effectively. Several members of Council indicated that this was an issue. Other citizens believed single-issue groups are positive and effective.

More effective use of digital communications

Digital communication and new information technologies are enabling improved interactivity, information-sharing and collaboration as well as a range of social media services, wikis and biogs. They are substantially changing how we communicate and use information. With some exceptions, most people have access to this digital world, particularly young people whose civic involvement is so important. The City should be prepared for the next wave of wireless technology. The City’s website has come in for criticism because it is not user friendly and does not contain useful information. The City has not yet entered the web 2.0 stage. So the City’s proposed website revisions and social media considerations are timely. Some have suggested that web-based communication tools can complement and even replace many traditional meetings. Burlington’s knowledge base could be expanded by a Burlington Wikipedia, a repository of public-sourced information on a range of local subjects.

The importance of public involvement in major policy plans of the city

The Strategic Plan, Official Plan, Capital and Operating Budgets, the Parks and Recreation Master Plan and the Transit Plan are all policy blueprints. Typically, they are the most difficult for the public to provide critical input. There is a need to develop processes to obtain better and more effective public input at the earliest stages. Further, there was a strong feeling that the Strategic Plan does not include sufficiently specific and measurable goals to be effective.

The need to make more effective use of Citizens Advisory Committees

There is a public perception that the Citizen Advisory Committees are not listened to sufficiently. The City is not taking full advantage of this important resource.
Representatives of Advisory Councils have mixed reports on the effectiveness of their activities in terms of influencing City Council decisions and the community’s quality of life. A common issue is that the committees often have difficulty meeting timelines to provide advice.

North versus South,new versus established

It was noted that different geographical areas in the City, particularly new neighbourhoods in the northern and eastern areas, do not feel part of the Burlington community. Some residents of these areas may feel closer to neighbouring municipalities in terms of entertainment and shopping.

 

Excelence in government

One of the best measures of a city’s quality of life is the successful engagement of its citizens with their elected local government. This has been an ongoing issue for Burlington for many years. Citizen engagement is a broad and complex issue, which, ultimately, has its roots in the state of social cohesion in the community. One aspect of citizen engagement is the effectiveness of the communications between the local elected government and the citizens they serve,

In 1997, the City of Burlington hosted a citizens’ workshop on community-based government. Subsequently, City Council appointed a Citizens’ Community-Based Government Committee, which presented a report to City Council in October 1997 with recommendations to improve citizen engagement and communications. After 1997, City Council changed from seventeen elected members to a smaller size of seven members including the Mayor, all of who also served on Halton Regional Council. Other dramatic changes since 1997 include the diminished role of the local media, the use of digital and web based technology, and rapid population growth.

Mayor Cam Jackson has expressed his belief that the City’s communications with its citizens needs to be enhanced to achieve higher levels of awareness and civic engagement. Others have expressed similar concerns. Encouraging broader citizen engagement and improving the way local government communicates with its citizens is a commitment that should involve ongoing, two-way community dialogue. Mayor Jackson has announced the creation of a “Mayor’s Citizen Advisory Committee on Civic Engagement”.

He has asked respected community activists John Boich and Walter Mulkewich to co-chair the committee and select the committee members ensuring a broad range of representation, including gender equity, diversity and geographic representation from across the city. This committee will prepare a report for the Mayor. Their recommendations will be shared with the public and council. John Boich is the former Chair of the Rambo Creek Ratepayers Association, a local citizens group advocating for the citizens in the greater downtown area. Walter Mulkewich is a former Mayor of Burlington and was a member of the 1997 Community-Based Government Committee.

Terms of Reference

1. Review the 1997 report on Community-Based Government (Report of the Community­ Based government Committee,October 29, 1997; City File: 130) and other relevant information on citizen engagement.

2. Review civic engagement with local municipal government through research of current modes of communications between the City and its citizens, as well as the type and level of citizen engagement with the City through Advisory Committees and other means.

3. Develop a work plan, including a communications plan and a budget to meet the mandate of the committee.

4. Solicit information and ideas from members of City Council, City Staff, ratepayer and citizen groups, community organizations, high school students and the general public.

5. Review best practices in communication in the public and private sectors as well as civil society.

6. Consider the culture required to incubate and nurture the engagement of the public, in the public decision making process.

7. Hold focus groups in different areas of the City, which will include invited participants representing a broad cross section of Burlington life, as well as being open to the public.

8. Prepare a final report on its findings and recommendations by March 31,2010. This committee will present this report for the Mayor and share their recommendations with the public.

Purpose

The Mayor’s Citizen Advisory Committee on Civic Engagement is established to move us closer to realizing our Future Focus Seven goals to be “customer focused where residents are part of City Council’s decision-making process” and “striving to keep residents informed and engaged so that all members of Burlington community have the opportunity to have their voices heard.” This Committee will provide ideas and recommendations that could be helpful to implement this Council’s approved goals and strategic actions of the Future Focus Seven strategic plan: ·

Future Focus Seven: Excellence in government

12.2 Engage citizens more effectively in city Council’s decision-maki ng processes by: 12.2.A Exploring every opportunity to raise awareness of city services through different forms of communications technology and offer additional opportunities for citizens to provide their views to council; and,
12.2.B Develop framework and protocol which council may consider for undertaking enhanced public consultation.

Committee composition and organization

Committee Members: Maximum of 10

Administrative Support Departmental Resource Support External Resource

Recruitment and selection

Voluntary, inclusive citizen representation ensuring balanced gender and geographic representation
Mayor’s staff As requested TBA

1. The Committee shall be selected by the Co-chairs.

2. The Committee shall be representative of the social and community fabric of Burlington. Citizens who have had active experience with City Hall as users of services or participants pertaining to City government will be an asset to the committee’s work.

Resources

This committee will be resourced through the Mayor’s office. City staff and Council are asked to be available to provide information and input to the Committee’s work, as requested by the Committee.

Acknowledgements

This Shape Burlington Report is only possible because of the huge commitment, hard work, and outstanding contributions of many people in a short period of time from November
2009 to April 2010. Therefore it is important to not only acknowledge them, but also thank them.

Our citizen volunteers

We thank an incredible group of committed citizens from every geographic area of Burlington representing the diversity of our population who attended many committee meetings and consultations with the public as well as doing individual research.

• The Co-Chairs: John Boich and Walter Mulkewich
• The Steering Committee: Doug Brown, Leslie Bullock,Amy Collard, Ken Edwards, Hussein Hamdani, Blair Lancaster, Paul Sharman, Lorraine Sommerfeld, John Searles
• Sub-Committees (Research, Communications, Community Dialogue, Writing): Marilyn Abraham, David Auger, Kale Black,Neil Bryson, David Conrath, Joey Edwardh, Larissa Fenn, Mark Gregory, Mark Henderson, Tim Lindsay, Paul Mitchell, Rennie Mohammed, Roland Tanner, Chris Walker.
• Other participants: A number of citizens were only able to attend some meetings. Carolyn Forbes, Kurt Koster, Anisa Mirza, John Morrison, Yaw Obeng, Karen Parmenter, Andy Rotsma, Judi Smith, Bob Wood, Ken Woodruff, Pat Wright.

Mayor Cam Jackson

The project was initiated by Mayor Cam Jackson who appointed the Co-Chairs and approved the Terms of Reference. We appreciate his support and commitment without input or interference from his office or City Hall, allowing our committee and report to be independent. We also appreciate his support by providing the resources of his office.
Finally, we appreciate the contribution from the Mayor’s Pride in Our Community Fund (within the Burlington Community Foundation) and financial support from the Mayor’s budget.

The public

We thank people in the Burlington community who responded to our request for input.
• Citizens who attended our three public roundtable workshops.
• Representatives of community organizations who attended three small group conversations
• Representatives of the City of Burlington Citizen Advisory Committees.
• Students at Corpus Christi and Central High Schools.
• Citizens who participated in our on-line survey and dialogue on our website.

Council and City staff

We thank all the members of Council and staff who gave us their time to openly share their experience, skill, knowledge, and vision.

Burlington Community Foundation

Shape Burlington is extremely thankful for the $15,000 grant received from the Burlington Community Foundation (BCF) through its Mayor’s Pride in Our Community Fund. This grant made it possible for Shape Burlington to enter into a partnership with Community Development Halton (CDH) and to engage MASS LBP as consultants to our project. We are also thankful for the interest shown by BCF in our process and for the input of representatives of BCF at several Shape Burlington meetings.

Community Development Halton

Community Development Halton (CDH) is a community-based organization providing Burlington with social planning and community development capability. We were pleased to have CDH as full partners as advisors and participants. CDH assisted the Co-Chairs in the supervision of our consultant, MASS LBP. Joey Edwardh, Executive Director, and Ted Hildebrandt, Director of Social Planning, participated in many of our Shape Burlington committee meetings and public conversations as well as being full participants in our Research Committee. We thank them for their knowledge and skills, as well as meeting space for several meetings.

MASS LBP

MASS LBP is a new kind of company that works with visionary governments and organizations to deepen and improve their efforts to engage and consult with citizens. We were pleased to have Peter Macleod, Joslyn Trowbridge and Chris Ellis work with us throughout this project. MASS LBP helped establish a context and direction for our work plan and final report. They provided us with two important papers, a reflection paper on the trends in local democracy and an environmental scan of trends in innovation in civic engagement in local municipalities. They attended a number of meetings of our Committee and sub-committees, and they facilitated the conversations with City Staff and two of the public roundtables. They also helped facilitate our conversation with the representatives of the Citizen Advisory Committees. Finally, they summarized all our research, conversations, interviews, and meetings and gave us their analysis of the process and its findings to help us shape our final report.

Website (www.shapeburlington.ca)

We are grateful for the many hours of volunteer time of our Webmaster, Roland Tanner, who created and maintained the website. We also thank for the members of the Communication Committee who provided advice.

Three General Managers met with MASS LBP and the Shape Burlington Co-c.::hairs for a candid conversation on the role of citizens in municipal governance. The General Managers perceive a shift in municipal governance that is moving to a more upstream process of citizen engagement and public consultation, doing more engagement earlier in the policy making process. They see staff and Council working more cooperatively with citizens now than ever before, making an effort to be transparent and more open about the constraints facing the City and the changes that are in Burlington’s future. This shift to a more robust process of citizen engagement is still in its early stages, the General Managers say, and thus the implications are still ill defined. Nevertheless, they feel there is a consistent effort being made at City Hall to improve the public’s awareness of new cost containment policies and the impacts this has on the City’s services.

Internally, City Hall faces several challenges to engaging citizens more effectively. The first is a lack of clear measurement of which departments are working collaboratively. This is related to a lack of standards for public consultation and engagement across the departments – while some departments, such as Planning, must adhere to Provincial standards in notification and consultation, others do not. Not measuring what departments
are doing in terms of consultation, and not having best practices and standards to adhere to give the feeling, in the words of one General Manager, of being in a pinball machine, with many consultation activities happening across departments. Without the time and resources to benchmark engagement practices, effective public consultation will be harder.

Other internal challenges include the lack of diversity in City Hall staff, which detracts from the City accurately reflecting the growing cultural and linguistic diversity of Burlington’s community. This lack of diversity can present challenges for customer service and engagement activities. Finally, General Managers expressed concern over the formal rules of Standing Committees and delegations to Council meetings, which can prevent some citizens from communicating their views in a way that makes sense to them.

External challenges to effective public consultation and engagement identified by General Managers include the lack of public trust in democratic institutions and the high expectations and volume of demands placed by citizens on staff and elected officials. The lack of public trust makes positive messaging of the City’s activities difficult – General Managers feel that the public assumes staff is not very involved or caring and not on the public’s “side.” At the same time, citizens are demanding more from staff and elected officials, expecting quick turnaround times to their questions or concerns. These factors combine to make communication, messaging, and consultation resource-intensive.

Speaking about the process of public meetings in particular, General Managers identified two problems. First, they feel that citizens only come out to a meeting if they are upset or unhappy with a situation. This means that broad and inclusive representation is hard to achieve, as only vocal individuals with a stake in the outcome attend. It also compounds efforts to get high levels of participation in priority-setting and visioning meetings, as these meetings do not offer a point of contention for participants to engage on.

For example, consultation on the City’s budget traditionally sees low participation, but offers citizens the greatest opportunity to affect change for the future. Second, an increasingly mobile population means high turnover for neighbourhoods, and thus a different slate of participants show up at each public meeting. This erodes the consensus and knowledge
built through previous consultations, placing more constraints on moving forward through an issue during a series of consultations.

Based on these internal and external challenges, General Managers identified opportunities for improvement to the City’s public consultation and engagement practices. These opportunities are as follows:

• Set standards of engagement and consultation across departments and embed them as aspects of performance management to help change the culture at City Hall
o Look at best practices within City departments and establish corporate consistency
o Establish measurements and benchmarks to respond to citizens in an appropriate manner and time frame, especially when considering vocal groups and contentious issues
o Promote a culture in which staff recognize citizen knowledge as complementary to their own professional expertise
o Help the next Council term to look at expectations and roles around communication and engagement

• Work towards a “one window” service approach where all staff are ambassadors for all City programs and services to break down “professional silos”

• Improve communication with and messaging to citizens by:
o Being clear about expectations and how cost containment strategies will
affect programs and services
o Encourage broad conversations on the City’s future rather than just ‘hot button’ issues
o Use new technology better and begin a social media strategy to reach out to the public in a variety of ways

• Improve citizens’ knowledge of how city government works, potentially by offering educational sessions on and offline

Department Directors

MASS LBP and the Shape Burlington Co-Chairs met with seven department directors, representing the Traffic and Transit, Parks and Recreation, Roads and Parks Maintenance,
·Engineering, Corporate Strategic nitiatives, Finance and Environment departments. The Directors agreed that the rapid pace of technological change require their departments be able to adapt their modes of communication. n light of technological advancements, increased resources and staff time need to be dedicated to learning, using, and sharing new technologies. They noted that the main internal challenge lies in determining the priorities for devoting money and training time to keep pace with new technologies for internal and external communication.

When asked about their views on the role citizens have to play in municipal governance, City Directors felt that overall citizens are deeply engaged. This engagement contributes to high citizen expectations of interaction with Burlington municipal government, especially in comparison to other municipalities. Directors perceive pressure from citizens to provide increased transparency and accountability, and for government to present a sound rationale for its decision-making. The challenge in responding to that pressure lies in providing information that is succinct while using a convenient mechanism for input and feedback.

Directors note that their staff has trouble determining what and how much information they should provide to the public, as well as the amount of resources to dedicate to this task.
They also said that while certain segments of the population, particularly retired or older citizens and those who oppose an issue, can regularly attend and be vocal at public meetings, other demographics such as commuters and younger citizens with families are harder to get feedback from. However, the consistent positive responses to the City’s Quality of Services survey leads Directors to believe that the majority of citizens are satisfied with City Hall.

When asked what they thought was working well in terms of public consultation, Directors expressed pride in a “commitment to excellence in governance at the top” in City Hall culture, including engaging and consulting with citizens to incorporate citizen input into decision-making. Council was particularly praised for its efforts in this regard. Directors identified the ability to make materials such as reports available to citizens online as greatly facilitating City Hall’s ability to provide citizens with an abundance of real-time information. They were also pleased with the interest citizens demonstrated in providing feedback. As noted above, the Quality of Services Survey consistently results in a high rate of return and positive comments. Opportunities for interest groups and special focus groups to make presentations to Council also garner a high level of participation.

Building on these successes and responding to the challenges identified, Directors discussed opportunities to improve the City’s public consultation and citizen engagement activities.
These opportunities are as follows:

• Better communicate the existing opportunities for engagement and consultation

Use more web-based media to counteract the decline in local print media,  For example, use web-casting for sessions on the budget

@ Involve commuter citizens and those without young families/lack of time

Modify the Quality of Services survey to include more questions on engagement

® Consult citizens on improving the website to identify what types and how much information the public wants

Finally, the Directors expressed the need to communicate to citizens that their job, as staff, is to bring many different perspectives of an issue to the conversations that interest groups and citizens are involved in, but not to advocate for any particular perspective. Their challenge is to remain neutral during consultations and allow all options to stay on the table throughout the duration of public input, which can conflict with citizen demand for direction, guidance, and the elimination of unpopular options.

Other Staff

Thirteen staff, including Clerk’s department and communications staff, Councillors’ Assistants, customer service and accessibility coordinators, T and business staff and graphic designers, met with MASS LBP and Shape Burlington to discuss their perspective as frontline staff who communicate with Burlington residents often, if not daily. Many of the challenges they identified related to customer service and the transactions that occur between citizens and City Hall. nternally, staff recognized that they had limited capacity in serving citizens and other customers with different linguistic backgrounds, and that the elderly may not find their services accessible.

The counters on the first floor of City Hall are often the first point of contact for many citizens, and the staff recognized the need to constantly strive for improvement in customer service. n addition, staff identified difficulty in using plain, simple language to inform citizens about an issue. One participant remarked that some reports produced were even difficult for Councillors to understand.

On communications, staff felt that there was a lack of strategic and standard marketing across departments, and expressed concern that some official City communications looked like advertisements for Councillors, instead of focusing on City information and activities. Finally, staff echoed the concerns of General Managers and Directors that the formal rules for presenting to Council and the language used in Council meetings could alienate and discourage citizen participation.

External challenges to effective public consultation and engagement identified by staff included only receiving negative feedback from citizens and thus not being able to identify what staff was doing right, and the lack of initiative from citizens to inform themselves about the issues. Staff felt that they were doing a good job of getting information out to citizens, and expressed frustration when citizens emerged at the end of a public consultation process to claim they had not been informed. t is often too late to consider public input at the stage in which citizens start to provide input. This “not in my back yard” impetus for getting involved is frustrating to staff who feel that they have provided avenues for input early in the decision-making stage.

Finally, staff felt that there was a low level of awareness of the division of responsibilities between Federal,Provincial and Municipal levels of government, remarking that citizens often asked staff to change services that the City does not provide.

Other external challenges identified by staff echoed what we heard in conversations with General Managers and Directors, as well as in departments. The public perception that government employees do not work very hard, the need for staff to remain politically neutral throughout the consultation process, and the difficulty in engaging young citizens were mentioned as factors preventing effective engagement.

While staff felt that their role in customer service, particularly having a live answer switchboard, was making a positive impact on how citizens perceive municipal government, they were concerned that one “hot button” issue that receives negative press can be detrimental to citizens’ positive perceptions.

Opportunities for improvement i dentified by staff include:

• Break down issues to show how they impact citizens and localize meetings to increase engagement
o For example, show how the Official Plan or other planning/visioning documents can affect citizens

•Involve the public earlier on issues and keep them involved throughout the decision making process

• Mail and communication from the City should reflect City business and be politically neutral

• Citizen participation in Council meetings should be less formal,more modern and “real”

•Implement standards and training for customer service for frontline staff
o This is currently being reviewed

• Measure how departments are faring on customer service, implement a system for following-up with complaints

• Market the City better to increase a sense of pride, use strategic marketing

• Advertise outside of City facilities (we go to them instead of expecting citizens to come to us)

Clerks and Communications Department

We spoke with five Department staff responsible for community relations, council services, committee services and communications. This session addressed current practices to interact with and respond to citizens as well as the successes and challenges staff have experienced when connecting with citizens. The department faces several internal
11challenges to effective consultation and engagement. Citizens are demanding more
f information and expecting quicker response times. This places pressure on staff to balance
completing their daily tasks and core work while responding to this demand.

Taking on new staff and using new technology to increase department capacity is a potential solution, but these both take time and resources for training and management. Staff struggle with reporting back to the public on how public input will be used to make changes, and have difficulty communicating operational plans in plain language.
Communication costs, such as marketing, branding, and ensuring consistency across departments, can be high, and the public is usually at odds over this spending, as it competes with spending on core services. Thus staff face increased demand for clear, fast and effective communication, but there is a lack of public will to spend money to obtain this kind of communication.

The Clerks and Communications staff also identified the difficulty in staying neutral during public consultation on a contentious issue, and are often asked by citizens for information on the “best option”,which City staff cannot give. Finally, staff identified a “work squeeze” in the middle of a Council’s four year term, where pressure for results mounts as the lead­ up to the next election begins. They felt that the “City sees customers, but Council sees voters.”

A main external challenge Clerks and Communications staff face is “private sector demands” on the public sector. n the private sector, niche marketing, customized experience, and access to information and technology raise customer service expectations. These are often replicated in the expectations citizens place on elected officials and public servants.
However, the process by which the public sector gathers, interprets, and weighs competing demands and remains neutral and open to all opinions prevents them from offering customized services to each citizen. For example, many staff noted that citizens demand an unrealistic response time to emails (usually two hours). Many citizens send a second email if they do not receive a reply within two hours or so, placing demands on staff that staff simply cannot meet.

Other external challenges echo the conversations with other City staff – the public misconception that staff do not work hard or long hours, a changing audience at public meetings does not allow staff time to keep up with input and demand for changes to plans, and the lack of public awareness of the division of services between the City and the Province. Despite these difficulties, Clerks and Communications staff felt that they did provide excellent customer service and that considering the volume of requests, their response times were adequate. They pride themselves in working to be information providers and to get the right information to the right person, and hold their internal communications to a high standard. They identified the following opportunities for improvement:

• Need research that establishes:
o What does the public think of us?
o What information do you want to hear?
o How do you want to hear it?

• Consistent public notification and consultation process prior to the drafting of reports
o Find a best practice that works with the legislative requirements

• Dedicate more staff and more staff time to the Citizens’ Advisory Committees

• Expand the department’s arsenal of communication methods, including the use of social media and new information technologies

Planning Department

Six staff from the Planning Department responsible for Policy, Development, Planning, Site Plans and Urban Design met with MASS LBP and the Shape Burlington Co-Chairs to identify challenges their department faces when consulting with the public. They identified a shift in the planning and development field towards more public input and consultation, but noted that this takes time and resources to do effectively. The complicated nature of planning

presents staff with a significant challenge when communicating with the public. Specifically, documents and reports, such as the Official Plan, contain information that is imperative for citizens to understand, but are often written “by bureaucrats for bureaucrats.”

This makes it difficult for staff to help people make an informed contribution, and significant resources are required to communicate both the big picture vision associated with planning and the specific tradeoffs associated with a particular project. n particular, staff noted the lack of citizen understanding of the legislative requirements around city planning, which means citizens are asking to change plans that are not always up for negotiation.

Staff feels that the public is only engaged on a topic when it affects them personally, and that citizens do not understand nor respect the stages of consultation associated with planning. They noted that citizens have the greatest opportunity for input during the policy, visioning, and budgeting stages, but usually participate in public meetings that happen after these stages and are mostly meant to inform the public of what is happening. This results in frustration on both sides. Staff also find that citizens come to a public meeting misinformed, thus forcing time to be dedicated to educating and informing citizens on the project rather than providing input or feedback. n addition, the length of time between consultations presents a challenge, as neighbourhoods change and different people show up to different stages of the consultation.

This makes Planning Department staff feel as if they are “speaking to a parade” and erodes the knowledge and consensus built in previous public meetings. Staff also noted that participation rates in rural areas are low, contributing to uneven consultation across the city. Finally, staff felt that citizens are generally adverse to land-use change, and have difficulty communicating the demographic necessity of these changes for Burlington.

Despite these difficulties, the Planning Department prides themselves on their public engagement efforts, noting that they often go above and beyond the legislative requirements for consultation. They try to use public consultation activities as “teachable moments” to help educate the public on how the planning and development process works, and note that of 2000 Customer Service Questionnaires distributed last year, less than 2% had negative comments.

Opportunities for improvements identified by Planning Department staff are:

•Implement a more streamlined, continuous process of engagement that focuses on the positive implications of development

• Dedicate more staff and more time to innovations in public consultation

• Explore ways to cope with the changing audience in public meetings

• Fill in gaps left by the decline of the local media
o Use website to better communicate planning and development projects in a more timely manner

City Talk

The five conversations with City Hall Staff included a short discussion on City Talk, the City of Burlington’s corporate newsletter. Many staff agreed that the newsletter is in need of redesign, and that this is in fact underway (City Talk was previpusly outsourced and is now being brought back in house). They agree that City Talk is an important source of information for citizens who are not online, but feel that it has “lost its way” over the past few years. Staff would like to see City Talk include more information on what is happening in the City and less space devoted to Councillors’ activities. One staff member suggested a survey or inquiry into how the public uses City Talk and what they would like to see it contain.

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Building a better Burlington. Internationally renown speaker to Inspire us June 15.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON April 21, 2011 – Mayor Rick Goldring just might be making Burlington the place to be to hear some of the more inspiring speakers in North America He is bringing a man who is passionate about parks and getting out and walking around – this is the Mayors’ kind of guy.

Multicultural executive and social marketing strategist, Gil Penalosa is passionate about improving quality of life through the promotion of walking and bicycling, and of parks, trails and other public spaces as great places which foster vibrant cities with healthier communities and happier residents.

Renowned environmentalist, Gil Penalosa, coming to Burlington to tell us all to take a hike.

Renowned environmentalist, Gil Penalosa, coming to Burlington to tell us all to take a hike.

Gil earned a Master in Business Administration (MBA) from UCLA’s Management School. Following years of private and public sector senior managerial experience, the Mayor of Bogotá, Colombia (pop. 7 m), appointed him Commissioner of Parks, Sport and Recreation for the city.

Gil led his team to design and build over 200 parks, of which the best known is the Simón Bolívar (360 hectares). They were also successful in opening 91 kilometres of car-free city roads on Sundays, the Ciclovia, where over 1.3 m. people come out weekly to walk, run, skate and bike. They also created the Summer Festival, with over 100 events in 10 days and more than 3 million people attending and since the first year has become the main recreational event in the country.

Gil is executive director of the Canada-based non-profit 8 – 80 Cities (formerly Walk & Bike for Life) as well as a successful international speaker and consultant.

One of the Mt. Nemo walking trails – but how much traffic can these trails take and still be seen as a quiet walk in the country.

One of the Mt. Nemo walking trails – but how much traffic can these trails take and still be seen as a quiet walk in the country.

In his presentations and workshops on creating better communities, he develops strong linkages of walking, bicycling, parks and trails, with improving the personal and public health, enhancing the transportation systems, providing recreation for all, a cleaner environment and advancing economic development.

First Inspire speaker was Chris Hume who made comments that Mayor Rick Goldring said he found himself “gulping a bit” as he listened but “the guy laid it all out” , said the Mayor.

In a survey the city did after the first Inspire event about 85% found both Hume and what he had to say either Very Good or Excellent. 100% of responders said they would attend future speaker events. The Mayor might have to put the Inspire Speakers series on hold until the Burlington Performing Arts Centre is open – he may need the 750 seats they have. Good on you your Worship for making this happen.

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The four give it their best shot but no one candidate moved anyone in the room. Back to the doorsteps for all of them.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON April 28, 2011 – Wow! Can these people every spend money. I lost track of just how many millions the four candidates for the federal seat of Burlington said they would spend on our behalf. A couple of time they even mentioned billions. They tossed off the numbers the way kids do when you’re teaching them how to play Monopoly.

Alyssa Brierley was there as the Liberal Candidate, David Laird there as the candidate for the New Democrats, Graham Mayberry as the candidate for the green Party and Mike Wallace as the sitting member for Burlington in the House of Commons and asking if the community would re-elect him. The candidate for the Marxist Leninist Party did not attend – a Chamber of Commerce meeting wouldn’t be seen as good ground to work for those who want a Socialist paradise. I wondered why a Marxists Leninist party would see Burlington as a place to run a candidate. Burlington ???, I asked when I first heard, had Randall Reef done that much damage to the water we drink?

Wallace lost a bit of weight during the campaign – one notch on his belt.  Will he notch another election?  This is Burlington.

Wallace lost a bit of weight during the campaign – one notch on his belt. Will he notch another election? This is Burlington.

During the all candidate event hosted by the Burlington Chamber of Commerce and sponsored by the Real Estate Association of Hamilton/Burlington, no one candidate moved the room any great distance. There were a couple of good shots gotten in by Brierley and Laird. Mike Wallace seemed to struggle a bit to keep up. Laird was the strongest speaker – he had his file down pat and delivered his opening comments without glancing at any notes whereas both Wallace and Brierley seemed to have to pause frequently to collect their thoughts. Had it been debate rather than the polite Q&A the Chamber of Commerce prefers, Laid would have led and been closely followed by Brierley. The thrust and cut of a debate is not where Wallace excels. Graham Mayberry was almost entertainment rather than an informative candidate.

The room of more than 150 people did like Brierley and they responded with a healthy laugh when Laird said that this was his “fifth” election and that he was at least “tenacious”. The Chamber had said “no walk-ins” but had you walked in you’d have found a seat.

The responses heard were based on the questions asked and while some were surely planted by the candidates it wasn’t that solid a business crowd.

Gave perhaps the best performance at the Chamber of Commerce All Candidate – if Burlington picks up on the national buzz for the NDP – he might – but this IS Burlington.

Gave perhaps the best performance at the Chamber of Commerce All Candidate – if Burlington picks up on the national buzz for the NDP – he might – but this IS Burlington.

Graham Mayberry of the Green Party seemed to mumble at times and said that he didn’t really have a position on income trusts but that he would certainly like to have one. Wallace made it very clear that the Conservatives weren’t going to bring those things back. Income trusts allowed corporations to change drastically how they were taxed and had gotten to the point where they were shaking the very foundation of our economic system and how the government collects taxes from the corporate sector.

On Afghanistan there was one stunning surprise. Everyone was for getting us out of that situation with. Laird didn’t think we should have gone in in the first pace, Wallace said that it is now a NATO issue and we will soon become Peace Keepers. Brierley had us out in July and Mayberry didn’t see us as being there much longer. But not a word from a single candidate on the more than 150 men and woman who died in that country for a mission that not too many Canadians felt all that strongly about. The Supreme Sacrifice didn’t even get a mention and the absolutely disgusting manner the federal government is treating those who have lost limbs and will be in wheel chairs for the rest of their lives wasn’t brought up. The Legion has some work to do on the Lest We Forget campaign.

Laird did get in one of those tried socialist lines about re-orienting away from our Imperial” ways.

Graham Mayberry was different.  He seemed to be having the time of his life and now knows that he wants an income trust.  There will be quite a few Green signs out there – this IS Burlington but there won’t be very many ballots

Graham Mayberry was different. He seemed to be having the time of his life and now knows that he wants an income trust. There will be quite a few Green signs out there – this IS Burlington but there won’t be very many ballots

The way the country is governed got covered pretty well. No one in the room stood up to applaud how well the House of Commons is run. Wallace explained that the difficulty would disappear if the Conservatives could just get a majority government, which Canadians clearly don’t want to give Stephen Harper. To his credit, Wallace didn’t drag out the canard about a “coalition” forming to become a government that wasn’t elected.

Brierley, the person at the table who best understands political science explained that Members of Parliament have to cooperate to get things done and that this isn’t the way the House of Commons works today. She got the first round of applause from the audience when she said “you earn a majority if you are honest with people” Laid just wanted the Prime Minister to stop lying.

In the last eight to ten days the New Democrats have surged forward in Quebec and appear to be taking away votes from the Bloc Quebecois, but do appreciate that what we are getting are the results of polls that are measuring a population that is going through significant change. The one thing we are learning is that they country does not like the way things have been going but isn’t clear on just who it wants to go with. Wallace touts the Conservative line that with a majority all this unsettling business would disappear – so just give us a majority to which Laird added – “I’d like a majority too and Mayberry piped in with “I guess it’s a bit of a long shot for us”.

The close to complete disgust from the Liberal, NDP and Green candidates over the government being found in contempt of the House of Commons was close to visceral. Brierley made the point that this was not a small matter and while Burlington is a conservative community one got the sense from those in the room that the community at large wasn’t proud of the way its government had behaved.

“We have a Prime Minister” declared Laird, “who manufactured his own defeat and then tries to convince us that it wasn’t all that serious. Contempt” declared Laird “is serious and then added that we have an economy that is going to get worse before it gets better” which was why he thought the NDP should form the next government.

Difficult to understand how a party with no experience running a national government and, experience they would rather forget running Ontario, now feels they can move in, take over and do a better job with the national economy.

Brierley brought some very positive energy to the campaign – was it enough?  She has the potential to be another Paddy Torsney which would be a plus for the House of Commons.

Brierley brought some very positive energy to the campaign – was it enough? She has the potential to be another Paddy Torsney which would be a plus for the House of Commons.

On the aboriginal issue Brierley pointed out that the Conservatives cancelled the Kelowna accord which had very real and significant benefits for the Aboriginal community. Of course they cancelled it – it wasn’t their policy. Wallace did point out that Prime Minister had apologized to the Aboriginal people on behalf of Canada for some very real and long standing grievances.

Wallace got his only round of applause when he mention the really poor House of Commons attendance on the part of Michael Ignatieff. Jack Layton was the person who laid that beating on Ignatieff during the English debate. That was probably the point at which the focus of this election began to shift although no one saw it coming. The New Democrats have become ecstatic on the social media and nationally there is talk of an orange wave – but that sense of change wasn’t evident at the Holiday Inn Wednesday morning. Pretty sure David Laird is not giving up his day job or looking for an apartment in Ottawa.

The economy continued to be the focus of many questions. Wallace stressed how good a job the Conservatives have done with the budget but made no mention of the size of the deficit they have created. It is an understandable deficit – the spending had to be done to keep the Canadian economy afloat while we weathered a recession that we did nothing to create and could do very little about. The recession was the result of pure greed on the part of people working within the American housing market that came close to shutting down a world economy.

Brierley made an attempt to point out that the Liberals left the Conservatives with a surplus, which was true but, as Laird pointed out the Liberals handled their fiscal difficulties by cutting back spending significantly and shoved a lot of the cost of delivering services on to the provinces.

Brierley pointed out that inflation is much higher than anyone is admitting and that there is potential for economic turmoil. And there will be economic turmoil if Laird’s wildest dream comes true and there is a minority NDP government.

The session ended with each candidate being asked what their three top priorities were for Burlington. For Wallace it was working with groups, the city and region.; to be more effective and to stay focused on the needs of the city’s seniors. He did admit that he had not done as much as he should have in getting local business into some of the federal assistance programs.

Mayberry of the Green party said he was still learning, that the Niagara GTA highway was an issue he wanted to be on top of and that the infrastructure needed a lot of attention.

Laird pinched a large part of the Green platform when he talked of making sure Burlington was Green and clean and that we develop programs that would result in the exporting of green technology. He didn’t say the NDP would nationalize the banks – so that was a step forward.

Brierley was a little weaker with her closing than many expected. She covered all the bases; balancing the budget, attention to fitness and the arts and a good mention of the Family Pack the Liberals developed for the election but there wasn’t the energy that many have come to expect from this young woman with so much promise.

Each candidate was given 90 seconds to sum up their position and Laird said there were serious problems that have not been identified. “I have shown” he said, “that I have earned your vote.” David Laird has certainly worked hard and did everything a candidate is supposed to do and did it all rather well – but this is Burlington and it may well be the last city in the country to elect a New democrat.

Wallace – well he was Mike. He said he’d done a good job and would like to be re-elected.

Brierley ran though what the Liberals would do, said she would listen and give Burlington better representation in Ottawa. If she ever gets to Ottawa she will no doubt be a very good Member of Parliament. Will she make it this time? Far too many variables out there for anyone to really call this one. Had Brierley had more time and had she put down some roots in the city – she would have been given a much different look. However, many of those who did look her over really liked what they saw.

Graham Mayberry said he was “having a blast”. Said he was “wide awake”, and that’s “not usual for me at this hour of the morning and then added: “It’s crazy but you can vote Green”.

Keith Hoey, President of the Chamber of Commerce for the past seven years, said the Chamber of Commerce has been sponsoring all candidate events for all three levels of government since ‘close to the beginning of time’. It appears to be a part of that layer of civility the Chamber wants to see in place to make the city a good place for business.

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Dumb thief – breaks into Tim Horton’s – leaves with just cash. Obviously not a Canadian.

By Staff

BURLINGTON, ON April 28, 2011 – Halton Regional Police Service are stumped in their investigation for the thief that broke into a Tim Horton’s and left without donuts. An unknown amount of cash was taken.

Some time after 2:30 a.m. on April 25th, a suspect as yet unknown to the police entered the closed Tim Horton’s located at 5353 Lakeshore Road.

Video surveillance revealed suspect attended (what does it mean to “attend” the rear of the building, and forced open the rear door to gain entry to the premise.  Once inside, the suspect forced open the doors to the main office (this was a determined man) and removed cash from the cash registers. The suspect then fled the premise through the rear west doors with an undisclosed amount of cash.

Suspect is described as a male, white, 6’0″ tall, heavy set. He was wearing a black ski mask, grey shirt with a back jacket over top, black gloves, grey sweat pants and black shoes. Pretty good description of a smash and grab artist who apparently doesn’t know what a maple dip donut is.

Anyone with information on this or any other crime is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 1 800 222-8477 (TIPS) or through the web at www.haltoncrimestoppers.com or by texting “Tip201” with your message to 274637 (crimes)

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That wonderful weather – every wondered why? Prof says hydrological resilience in dramatic decline. Huh!

By Staff and much thanks to CATCH

BURLINGTON, ON April 29, 2011 – As record-setting tornados rake the continent and floods hit the Canadian west and the US Midwest, a McMaster researcher is warning that poor local decisions will make global climate change much worse for Hamiltonians. In particular, Dr Mike Waddington says expansions to the urban area will exacerbate flooding problems that are already plaguing the city and leave Hamilton less able to respond to other climatic extremes.

Massive cloud formation that pulled itself into a funnel to wreck havoc on a community.  Awesome power.

Massive cloud formation that pulled itself into a funnel to wreck havoc on a community. Awesome power.

“Our hydrological resilience is in dramatic decline,” the associate director of the McMaster Centre for Climate Change told Tuesday’s annual general meeting of Environment Hamilton. “And what should the city of Hamilton do to mitigate that? You certainly wouldn’t be wanting to expand the urban boundary, in that we have ecosystems in this region which are providing very valuable ecosystem services.”

Waddington highlighted a string of catastrophic atmospheric trends that he contends suggest this is “the first time in the history of the world, thanks to science, that we can actually predict our demise”. He says a doubling of extreme heat days, intensifying precipitation, and more droughts will likely be among the local effects of climate change.

“The distribution of that precipitation is going to become a lot more extreme,” he predicted. “We’re going to go through periods of large drought, and then very large rainfall events. So we’re going to get a lot more of what we’ve seen in the last couple of years.”

Hamilton endured two 100-year storms in the summer of 2009 and over a dozen other extreme rain events since 2005 that have flooded homes and triggered compassionate grants from the city. Council decided earlier this month to battle the province over a 3000 acre future boundary addition in Elfrida, and last fall approved a 4500 acre expansion around the airport that remains under appeal.

The professor of geography and earth sciences is one of two dozen McMaster researchers studying climate change. His current work focuses on the increased risks of wildfires and their relationship to soil moisture. He pointed to the disastrous drought and resulting peat fires that killed an estimated 56,000 people in and around Moscow last summer as an example of what happens when bad local decisions are magnified by weather events. Prior to last summer’s record heat wave, forests around the city had been drained to improve their productivity.

“These were very poor forests in very wet environments, and they drained these ecosystems to make the trees grow better, and once they got very dry, they caught on fire and they wouldn’t stop.”

A similar “triple whammy” of land use change, climatic changes, and the El Nino weather system imposed an air quality disaster on Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia for months in 1997 in what came to be known as the Southeast Asian haze.

“It resulted from the draining of very large ecosystems for palm oil plantations and also for mega-rice projects under Suharto,” Waddington explained. “Emission from the fires in this region alone was equal to almost 40 percent of the annual fossil fuel emissions”.

It remains difficult for science to connect specific weather events to climate change, but it is simple physics that warmer temperatures increase the moisture holding capacity of the atmosphere and provide greater energy to storms. For example, the huge number of tornados devastating the US this month – and especially over the last two days – are being linked to an unusually warm Gulf of Mexico.

Storm chasers take huge risks to capture these images and give us a sense of all the energy that is swirling around.  Changes in our climate bring about  cloud formations like this.

Storm chasers take huge risks to capture these images and give us a sense of all the energy that is swirling around. Changes in our climate bring about cloud formations like this.

Last year set a global record for precipitation, and tied 2005 as the hottest since modern records began. Extreme flooding in Australia and Brazil earlier this year has been followed by current inundations in western Canada and along the Ohio, Missouri and Mississippi rivers.

It is all tied together isn’t it? What we do effects them and what they do effects us. Guess we all need to think about what we do.

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Those Canada Day cycling races – the elite championship event – Iffy, iffy. Promoter has lost the confidence of police and city staff.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON April 26, 2010 – We are going to continue to work with the promoter and develop a safe plan for this event.

Problem is that the promoter of the event is having one heck of a job getting all his ducks lined up and can’t provide some of the plans the police require because he doesn’t have the information he needs from different municipal departments.

The Halton Regional Police Service is going through the motions but they have lost patience with Craig Fagan of the Mid week Cycling Club – that happens when you bounce a cheque payable to the police.

At a council committee meeting last week the police asked if it were possible to have the date for the delivery of Event Traffic Plans and Mitigations Plans brought forward to May 2nd – arguing that they needed time to ensure they could bring in the support they needed from neighbouring police services to man the roads on which the cycling races are to take place. It looked as if the police wanted to bring the “withdraw support date” forward from the 16th of May to the 2nd because they sensed that Fagan was not going to be able to meet the required commitments.

Fagan, according to the police had yet to meet any of the committees by the due date however, after prodding the documents or data the police required got to them. One had the sense that the police were just fed up and would cheerfully walk away from the event and that city staff were of basically the same mind.

Everyone was clinging to the hope that Fagan would actually deliver and that he races would be a huge success – but that is looking les and less likely – which will put a huge crimp Burlington had in developing a ‘sports tourism’ business for the city. The geography is almost custom made the this kind of business and the business community is certainly onside – having gone to the effort to obtain a waiver from the Business Holiday Act that would allow many of them to remain open on Sunday.

Fagan who has yet to be really effective at a city council or committee meeting, claiming that he is not really getting the kind of support he needs from the police services, does appear to have the support of the business people and is said to have made a very strong presentation to the Burlington Downtown Business Association.

Fagan has to come up with very close to $100,000 (by certified cheque if you don’t mind) by noon of May 18th or the police services will with draw their support and will be followed by the city of Burlington.

It took Fagan much longer than he expected to get his agreement with the city in place and without the agreement with the city he couldn’t accept registrations from elite riders. No registration money and no funds to pay the police.

Signs for the event actually taking place are not all that good at this point – seem to hinge on a ‘hope and a prayer’.

Signs for the event actually taking place are not all that good at this point – seem to hinge on a ‘hope and a prayer’.

Because of difficulty with getting Fagan to meet deadlines the police and the city put him on a short lease and required him to report every three weeks. The police would have liked it to have been an even shorter leash. HRPS Deputy Chief Bob Percy had hoped that perhaps the Canadian Cycling Association would guarantee payment of the bills.

If Fagan is depending on registrations and the registrants for the Time Trial portion of the Canadian Road Cycling Championships that had to be moved to the Belfontain-Caledon area are any indication – then folks, there is trouble in paradise – because the registration web site for Ontario Cycling, the organization that handles registrations and fee collection, doesn’t have a single registrant shown for the three different sets of Time Trials. There are maps and course details and where to drop off and all kinds of data for riders – but no registration names.

The HRPS are being pretty tight lipped about everything. When asked to explain just what a Mitigation Document was Inspector Ivan Lortie, the point man on this file, said the police would rather not say and wanted at this time “to work with just the organizer” so it is difficult to know if Fagan’s argument that the police are being onerous in their requests for information and detail has any merit. Whichever, it has become a dysfunctional relationship and one doesn’t build community that way.

Fagan does not respond to telephone calls or email requests for information or confirmation. He apparently doesn’t show up for meetings either.

At an earlier Burlington council committee meeting there was much concern over whether Fagan could actually pull in the registrations. He assured Council he could do that once he had an agreement in place. He has had his agreement in hand for more than a month but at the Council Committee meeting last week no one asked what he had in the way of registration.

High noon of May 16th – Craig Fagan has to deliver a certified cheque to the Halton Regional Police Service for close to $100,000 or they withdraw their support and the city will do likewise.

And a great opportunity will have been missed. Great idea – but the wrong person was leading the parade. We’re going to have to hold our breath on this one and maybe our noses as well.

 

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Salt with Pepper: It is over, you moved out, I’ve moved on. Let’s pay off the bills and treat it as a learning opportunity.

By Pepper Parr

Burlington, On.—April 21, 2011– It was like an old boyfriend coming back with an engagement ring – he didn’t seem to understand that it’s over, the trust is no longer there so let’s just clean up the mess and move on.

Last week, the city’s was given a proposal from the lawyers representing the insurance company that provided the performance bond that was behind the Brant Street Pier construction project. The construction company had walked off the job, the city asked the insurance company to pay on the bond, the insurance company said not now, the city sued and everyone was talking to their lawyers.

The insurance company must have looked at the facts and realized they didn’t have that strong a hand and that they were going to have to pony up some real cash they decided to do what they could to limit their losses.

So they came back to the city with a proposal to have the original contractor complete the building of the Pier along with a number of other companies that would provide design and other services.

This was the beginning of the end for the contractor.  A crane falling over,  stressed steel beams that were later  reported to be sub standard, and things went downhill from there.  The crane operator was reported to have been on a cell phone with his girl friend when he lost control of the equipment

This was the beginning of the end for the contractor. A crane falling over, stressed steel beams that were later reported to be sub standard, and things went downhill from there. The crane operator was reported to have been on a cell phone with his girl friend when he lost control of the equipment

The city also parted ways with company that was handling both the design and project management of the project. Thus, the city had a clean slate to work. City council was now focused and began to pull together a new team to build the Pier and that process was coming along nicely.

The new insurance company proposal is certainly a ‘fly in the ointment and while this Council doesn’t deserve what is happening to the city on this issue, it is now their issue and they have to deal with it. As a Council they were developing very nicely and heading into the development of a Strategic Plan that would keep them focused for the next three and a half years. This Pier mess will pull them away from their game a bit – we will now get to see what these seven people are made of. How much grit is their in their porridge?

Councillors Taylor and Dennison have the most experience but they are both getting tired and finding that days with seven and eight hours of meetings are not pleasant and don’t allow for the clear headed thinking needed to work through problems like this. When the issue of the new proposal from the insurance company got to open committee they immediately went into an In Camera session – so much for the transparency everyone had talked about during the election.

It was a short and somewhat noisy In Camera session. On a Wednesday with a Press release put out late Thursday giving Council four days of breathing room. Here is the press release that was issued.

The City of Burlington is reviewing a proposal from Zurich Insurance Co., the holder of the performance bond for the Brant Street Pier, to finish building the pier.

City staff provided a closed session update to the city’s Community Services Committee meeting on April 20, citing that the proposal was delivered to the city through Zurich’s legal representatives. City staff said they will need at least six weeks to review the proposal, including the engineering components.

In March, the city hired Morrison Hershfield as the lead engineer on the pier project and announced it is no longer working with former engineer Aecom Canada Ltd. The city is preparing a design and tender document for a contractor to complete the pier, with that tender expected to be released in July 2011.

“City Council will continue to monitor the pier project and remains committed to a timely and cost-effective completion of the pier,” said Mayor Rick Goldring. “Any completion arrangements must result in a safe and buildable pier.”

City staff will continue to provide information and status updates to council and the community, including at Community Services Committee meetings.

So – staff are going to take six weeks to figure out if there is any merit to the insurance company proposal – but Council doesn’t have that that kind of time. They will face an unhappy public that will see only more delay, a growing legal bill and nothing firm in front of them when actually there is a decent news story available to the Mayor.

In the Pier Update that was released last Wednesday Council heard about all kinds of progress. Teams have been created, different levels of contractors and service providers had been interviewed, choices had been made and contracts were being prepared for signatures. This was good stuff and the Mayor could have and should have trusted his constituents and told the story. But he issues one of those ‘written or reviewed by lawyers’ documents that tells you nothing and makes you wonder. City engineering staff wanted contracts signed by the middle of July with work starting soon after – and that can still happen.

The proposal from the insurance company has to be considered and it is going to get special consideration that will include a deep level of distrust on the part of city staff towards the original contractor who, before walking off the job demanded more than $2 million in additional fees and not have to accept any liability for mistakes they may have made. The city didn’t buy it then and they shouldn’t buy it now – BUT, do go through the document and make the case for or against the proposal based on the facts.

The plan is to apparently review the proposal and look at if from every possible angle and then use the same metrics to evaluate the proposals and measure it against the proposals already in place. Yes, the date for proposals has closed , nevertheless the city staff are going to have to review the document from the insurance company. Council and the Mayor need to get out in front of this issue and tell its public what’s going on. Mayor Goldring has the confidence of his citizens – don’t lose it..

The Mayor has council members who have taken positions in the past that have the potential to impede progress.

Ward 2 Councillor Marianne Mead Ward made the problems with the construction of the Pier a large part of her election campaign and did regular updates with videos of her in a construction helmet with the Pier in the background. That got her into office where the Pier is now on her plate. Mead Ward has consistently advocated for a mediated solution and seemed to feel that there was a way to resolve the problems and bring the original contractor back to the table and out on the constructions site completing the Pier. That “careful what you wish for” truism is now staring Mead Ward in the eye.

Ward 5 Councillor Paul Sharman will be close to livid with this most recent turn of events and I suspect he will advocate for a very tough stance. Will Councillors Taylor and Dennison go along with him? And where will Craven go with all this. Ward 6 Councillor Blair Lancaster will find the learning curve a lot steeper than she had anticipated.

 

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Strategically perched on a Board and an Advisory Committee, Rick Craven sits at the epicenter of longer term city growth.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON April 26, 2011 – He can be grumpy. He is often pedantic. He is very often a stickler for the rules and can snap out a Point of Order to the chair of a committee faster than most people can say Jack Spratt. He is truly passionate about his Ward. But there is nothing fuzzy or warm about this man who will tell you he has ambitions for higher political office. The one thing you can say is that he is effective

Quick to go to the rule book and quick to cut off improper debate.  Effective? Not always but he believes in what he has been doing since 2000

Quick to go to the rule book and quick to cut off improper debate. Effective? Not always but he believes in what he has been doing since 2000

Rick Craven ha been doing what he does for more than ten years and yet doesn’t hold the “sway” that Councillors Dennison or Taylor have over their Wards. There is a sense of Team that seems to elude Rick Craven and while he has a solid base in Aldershot (Mead Ward Learned that in 2006 when she ran against him and lost soundly) he doesn’t have anywhere near the impact on Council that the other two more senior Council members, Taylor and Dennison have and has been crowded out by the much stronger personality of Ward 5 Councillor Paul Sharman.

When there was an even remote chance that the Tiger Cats would take up residence in his Ward, Craven was like a “hound who had treed a possum” howling and jumping all over the place. He was the biggest booster there was but that one got away on Craven. Then when IKEA let it be known that it wanted to leave Aldershot and move to a location that would allow for larger retail premises that would include a larger office and administration facility – which meant some 150+ more jobs for Burlington but a huge loss for the Aldershot BIA, Craven was big and magnanimous. If it was better for Burlington – then he would live with the loss, secure in his mind at least – that Aldershot was the place to be.

Finally, a development that is mostly pluses – it’s taken a bit of time to get growth along Plains Road.

Finally, a development that is mostly pluses – it’s taken a bit of time to get growth along Plains Road.

There has been some good news for the community. The LaSalle Terrace is slated to proceed and once constructed and operational it will take some of the strip mall look that tends to dominate parts of Plains Road West out of the mix.

While Plains Road tends to be seen as the focal point for Ward 1, it is really the Beachway (that part of the Lakefront that is west of Spencer smith Park), that holds the promise to make Burlington into a city that has capitalized on its truly magnificent waterfront. Add to that, the Burlington Performing Arts Centre (BPAC), which also sits in Ward 1, and you have the two most promising city building projects on the go in the one ward. Craven, a practiced politician, also happens to sit on BPAC Board where he gets a first hand look at that development and sits on the Waterfront Advisory Committee where he sees what is coming up from the grass roots on the thinking around the Beachway.

Craven Chairs the Community Services Committee and at times proves to be a task master who will insist that more formal protocols be followed but has recently given up on that approach. Councillors Dennison and Taylor know everyone by their first names and don’t take to Craven’s insistence that people be addressed more formally. It’s tough to go against Dennison’s “I’ve known you for years” attitude or Taylor’s “happy-go-lucky” folksiness.

He has fun when doing his job but as often as not he leaves a meeting abruptly and in a bit of a foul mood. You never get the sense that he goes out for a beer with the rest of the team. Never appears to be a “happy camper”.

Part of that is because Craven brings a different kind of seriousness to the work he does; almost driven at times. He sees what he believes are big mistakes being made and he knows that in the long run it is the taxpayers who pay for the mistakes.

Craven: “…making sure the taxpayers know what the cost is going to be BEFORE the bill is rendered.”

He knows too, that the taxpayers would like everything they can think of and at the same time he knows they are going to balk when it comes time to pay the bill and sees his job as making sure the taxpayers know what the cost is going to be BEFORE the bill is rendered. Again and again he will tell his fellow council members that they need to consistently explain the consequences behind the decisions council makes.

The city currently has just 68% of the money it needs to pay for the road and infrastructure repairs that are necessary. “We didn’t set that money aside and now we have very poor roads in parts of this city and the public wants them fixed now – but we don’t have the money to pay for that work” explains Craven.

“There are all kinds of surprises out there waiting for us” claims Craven. “The breakdown of the boilers at the Burlington Art Centre is but one example he will tell you about. “Government is not the enemy” says Craven but then adds that “we raise expectations in the minds of the public that they are not really prepared to pay for. There is just one tax bill and all the money we spend is collected through that tax bill.”

“And” Craven is quick to add, “if you abuse that taxpayer it doesn’t take them very long to let you know how unhappy they are”. Craven argues that the role of a Council member is to seek “balance” and use “common sense”. We have to listen to our constituents and learn from them.

“We froze the staffing compliment with the budget we just passed” says Craven and the result, he says, is that the city manager cannot hire a new person if it is going to increase the amount of money he is going to spend. That, according to Craven means that the city manager will hold back on filling a position because he won’t have the funds to pay the person and he goes on to add that not having critical staff people on hand will mean poorer, diminished services.

Gapping is when you create a significant amount of time between when a person leaves a position and when the replacement goes on the payroll – the gap between those two dates result in significant staff savings to the city and because 80% of our costs are human resource based – gapping proved to be very convenient for the city’s Executive Budget Committee.

The decision by senior city staff to make “gapping” close to a policy that was never approved at council has created serious problems for the city even if it did produce more than $3 million of the $9.3 million surplus we had at the end of last year. Gapping is when you create a significant amount of time between when a person leaves a position and when the replacement goes on the payroll – the gap between those two dates result in significant staff savings to the city and because 80% of our costs are human resource based – gapping proved to be very convenient for the city’s Executive Budget Committee.

Craven see “gapping” as something city staff legitimized but it resulted in work piling up and very disgruntled staff and unhappy taxpayers as well. Craven points to the functional design project approved for Plains Road in 2010 on which work has yet to begin.

Burlington, Craven will tell you is not a complete city yet. The Performing Arts Centre is going to make a huge difference and he believes that if we can get our heads around what we want to do with the Beachway, the Lake will become much more relevant to a greater number of people.

The “diamond in the rough” for Burlington – an opportunity to create a truly magnificent waterfront that combines the “finest beach in Ontario” with a vision that reflects what Burlington wants to become.

The “diamond in the rough” for Burlington – an opportunity to create a truly magnificent waterfront that combines the “finest beach in Ontario” with a vision that reflects what Burlington wants to become.

The big issue the city has to face with the Beachway is what to do with the 28 private homes that are left. They are privately owned homes that do not have sewage service and use septic tanks that fall short of acceptable sanitary service. The land on which the homes are built consists of 37 feel of sand, defined as a dynamic beach, that is constantly shifting and is not suitable for development.

The property usage is controlled by the Region which will not allow sewage services to be installed – which is odd because the sewage treatment is literally just across the road.

The city created a Waterfront Advisory Committee just before the last election but it hasn’t met the hope many had for really positive ideas or significant feed back from that committee. Part of the reason for the failure, perhaps too strong a word – let’s just say it didn’t develop into something as effective as the Sustainable Development Advisory, – is that there was a political element to the creation of the Watefront Advisory that may have served a purpose before the election but it resulted in a committee that has yet to really find its way and with the current leadership it won’t go anywhere. The result is that the committee appears to have lost the clout it could have had. Craven sits on the committee but for the most part doesn’t say all that much. One gets the sense he is there to protect his constituency rather than use the committee to promote his community.

Craven studied Communication Arts at Mohawk College and worked in radio for five years as a news reporter. A graduate of McMaster University Craven worked with the Ontario’s Workplace Safety and Insurance Board for two decades.

He got into the political game by coming up through community organizations starting with Chairman of the Aldershot Community Council and on the Executive Liaison Committee for the Halton Police Community Consultation Committees. This is a guy who works at the grass roots level but doesn’t bear the colour or style of a populist. Very personable and outgoing but you don’t get the sense of his being a close team player. Effective though but just a little too serious.

We will return to Councillor Rick Craven later this week and dwell on what could be his legacy to the city and perhaps a step to a higher level of public office.

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Roses are red and if you’re a garden nut this is the time of year to use the Green Thumb to show the community what you can do.

By Staff

BURLINGTON, APRIL 25, 2011 –  There are cat people, there are sports buffs; there are political whacko’s and then – there are gardeners. Those men and woman who spend hours in the garden cultivating, weeding, seeding and nurturing flowers and shrubs.

You see them every spring at the gardening shops buying flats of whatever they fancy. For most people just spending time in the garden is enough but there are others who take huge pride in their garden and they like the idea of having “the” best garden on the block. One can only imagine just how competitive this can get.

Thirty two years ago, in 1978, the city created what is known as the Civic Rose Award (CRA) that was given by a committee made up of the Burlington Parks and Recreation Department, the Burlington Horticultural Society and the Garden Club of Burlington. The City covered all costs of the CRA program.

About ten years ago, at the City’s suggestion, the CRA steering committee became independent of the city and took their direction from a board made up of the two horticultural societies, and the interested public. The CRA committee recruited some 13 sponsors from the community, each of which contribute about $300 annually and present specific awards in their name. The City of Burlington has been one of these sponsors, contributing the prestigious “Mayor’s Cup” and providing the committee with a city facility (for some years now the Tansley Woods Center’s large room) for its awards evening, which draws some two hundred attendees.

The “grant game” is going through a change at city hall and, as City Manager Roman Martiuk less than elegantly puts it – right now the policy on grants is to say No! – no to requests for grants and no, there isn’t a policy and if Council wants a policy all they have to do is ask city staff to develop one. But there are a couple of softies on this Council and they come up with ways to give in kind grants and waive the fee for space that is normally has a fee attached to it.

Thus the Civic Rose Association presented themselves at Council and prevailed upon city Council to waive the fee for the room at Tansley Hall and all was well with the people that run the association.

Mayor Rick Goldring, obviously not a gardener and still putting together a set of political skills, suggested that the top prize should be known as the “Burlington” Cup rather than the Mayor’s Cup. In time he will realize that the 200 gardeners who appear at the awards event have favour that is well worth winning.

Some might suggest that Burlington elected the Mayor they have – not quite true. They decided they did not want to Mayor they had and chose the best option. The current Mayor has their trust, their respect and to some degree their admiration for doing the job he has done so far. But that honeymoon is not going to last forever. At some point Goldring needs his own city wide base. But this is a story about gardens – and the Civic Rose Award brings out the very, very best in gardeners. Look at the Awards for 2010.

One of the advantages of a newspaper on a web site is that a story can be aslong as we want it to be – there are no space limitation – and we can put in as
many pictures as we wish. And so here you are – the winners of the 2010 Civic Rose Awards, along with an application form to be entered into the 2011
competition.

We’ve not indicated which zone a winning garden was in or who won the other prizes – that was last year – but we did want you to see the kind of gardens that grace our city.

Just click on each picture to see the beauty.

Nominations for the 2011 can be sent in any time and must be received no later than June 25th.  Click below to get a nomination form.  All gardens must be visible from a public street, the garden must be a private residence and it must be in the city of Burlington.

View the 2010 winners

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When we have the zones for the 2011 competition we will pass those along to you and we will of course follow the competition avidly in 2011 and publish the results in full glorious colour and detail.

Click here for 2011 Nomination Form

 

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They want to what? Are you kidding, the contractor who walked off the job last year wants to come back?

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON April 21, 2011 – It was a pretty quiet Council committee evening. Interesting stuff which will get covered off in material we file later in the day. Started at 6:30 and everyone was a little grumpy come 10 pm when it looked like we were all going to get to go home.

Tom Eichenbaum was on hand to give an update on the Pier. I wondered why Tom, the senior engineer was giving the update and why this was being left to the very end of the meeting. There was so much good stuff happening with the Pier that I wasn’t ready for the Kaboom!
that made the council committee move into an In Camera session and I get ushered out of the room.

The road to nowhere just hit a speed bump.

The road to nowhere just hit a speed bump.

When Eichenbaum went to the Council table he had a very thick binder in his hands –well he’s an engineer and these guys always have thick binders of stuff in their hands. After explaining that Procurement Specialist Consulting had been put in place and the city was ready to issue a contract to Cassels Brock, a Toronto based firm with a fine reputation. They even named the two people from the firm that would be taking on the task. This was good news. Progress.

The engineering department interviewed six firms to provide project management services and settled on SMA/Mettko, the firm that is doing project management for the new fire station at Appleby Line and Upper Middle Road. This meant the city was going to be working with people they already knew. This was good news. Progress.

Morrison Hersfield was already in place as the Design Consultants. They advised early in April that the permit process was coming along just fine. When a new contractor is put in place everything has to go back almost to square one. New drawings have to be prepared, no one was prepared to rely on drawings from the original design team – they were the guys that provided a design that basically fell apart during a concrete pour.

Poor weather has delayed a structural inspection and the underwater inspection is scheduled to get done at the end of the month. The site survey has been completed. Appreciate that when the original contractor walked off the job the gates were locked and that was it – nothing was done other than to secure the site.

The drawings for the structural steel had commenced. This was good news. Progress.

Everything was coming along just fine and the Mayor was less apologetic about the Pier.

Then Eichenbaum casually mentioned that a document had been delivered to the Engineering with a proposal from the bonding company about a consortium that had been put together to complete the Pier – and that the consortium included the original contractor who had walked away from the job late last year. This was not good news. This was not progress.

Well it was one of those ‘slap me silly’ moments. Here we are doing just fine – going our own way after the original contractor walked off the job and the insurance company said they were not going to honour the performance bond the original contractor had put in place.

The city had ended its relationship with the original project management company and had all but completed the process of putting a new team in place to get the Pier built – and now this?

Eichenbaum was reporting that his staff had only been able to give the document a cursory look and would get into the details and do a full scale review and report back when they have been able to arrive at an opinion. Well, he has to do that. But I’ll bet my allowance that he also put in a call to the legal people to give them a heads up.

Heck we are in the process of suing Zurich Insurance for not paying the performance bond and we are suing the original contractor for walking off the job and we are suing the original contract managers for not doing their job. It took this council close to four months to get all the crap out of the way and get the city to the point where there was movement on the project. Now what?

Tom Eichenbaum wasn’t smiling when he left the Council Chamber and there were voices raised loud enough while Council was In Camera, that they could be heard in the foyer outside the chamber.

It was tough to read the faces of the seven council members when they moved back into open session. The Mayor did say to the Director of Communications that there wouldn’t be any big splashy event to celebrate the opening of the Pier.

This might be a bit of a set back and it may move the Grand Opening date back a bit – but this latest problem is not the fault of anyone on this council or within the Engineering department. They have all pulled together to clean up a real mess.

Imagine that you are dressed in your finest on Easter Sunday and you step outside the house and a robin flies overhead and does what most birds do then they fly – splat on your freshly cleaned suit. S… happens and you just have to clean it up and move on. But Burlington didn’t need this set back.

Let’s hope that the Mayor gets out in front of this one and doesn’t hide behind the advice of the lawyers. Just tell the public as much as you can about what are up against ands ask for their patience and support.

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They aren’t being evicted but the Magnificent Seven don’t think they are getting the respect they deserve from staff.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON April 20, 2011 – The budget is locked in place and everyone seems pleased. So what’s next? Well, new on the radar screen is a squabble about just where the Magnificent Seven are going to perch. Right now they are squirreled away in what Mayor Rick Goldring called “absolutely terrible office space” that he didn’t like one bit when he was just a council member. “There were times when I could hear three different conversations in adjoining offices” he commented at a Council meeting while a report was being reviewed on how space in City Hall was to be allocated.

Six of the Magnificent Seven aren’t being evicted but they are being sent packing – all the way up to the seventh floor.

Six of the Magnificent Seven aren’t being evicted but they are being sent packing – all the way up to the seventh floor.

There is as yet no consensus on what the best configuration should be. The matter of space was brought up when senior city hall staff wanted to put all the Clerk’s staff and the communications people in one location. The Clerks share the space on the ground floor with city councillors and their assistants.

Kim Phillips, General Manager Corporate Services, told Council that the moving around of staff wasn’t being driven by concerns as to where council members should be but rather by internal requirements. That didn’t go down particularly well with Councillor Paul Sharman

Councillor Rick Craven thinks every member of Council should be on the ground floor where they can be seen. Right now the Mayor is on the eighth floor and Council members on the first floor. Ms Phillips didn’t think putting city council on the ground floor where they could be seen was the best use of what she called prime space. She explained that council members are at the Region quite a bit and out in there wards frequently.

Sharman doesn’t have a window in his office and doesn’t feel appreciated either.

Sharman doesn’t have a window in his office and doesn’t feel appreciated either.

Councillor Paul Sharman had major concerns with the way staff was handling the proposed move to the seventh floor and was verbally sparring with Ms Phillips when he said the seventh floor was inconvenient but what bothered Sharman most was that he wondered when Staff was going to think about Council? The move was being driven by a need to get all the Clerk and the communications in one place. “We are being left behind, it is as if we are not really legitimate, we are just politicians.”

“Leadership” maintained Sharman “is Council and we should be right out front, we should be visible and on the ground floor where we are accessible. I don’t feel valued where I am now.” The offices the Council members currently occupy are stuffy little places with a single meeting room that looks like a bunker with no window. Several of the Council members have offices with no window and there is no coffee service. The space really is quite crummy, painted an institutional green that went out of style twenty years ago and certainly doesn’t suggest any dignity. All of the General Managers have much better space.

When things get a little sticky at Council or Committee meetings, City Manager Roman Martiuk steps in and usually starts his comments with the words: “Let me put this in context and then he proceeds to pour oil on troubled waters. Martiuk explained that the city I currently renting space in the Sims building across the street from City Hall and that staff was taking longer look at their space requirements and added that Councillor Sharman’s comments were heard.

At that point Kim Phillips piped in that she has a high regard for Council and that there is a longer report on space needs in the works. She added that this discussion was really about customer service and not about dumping council some place. She added that she felt they should all be together.

Councillor Taylor, an easy going guy, whom Councillor Lancaster has taken to calling “JT” wanted to know why the report on moving people around was even in front of the committee. “Our organizational review is at least two years away, there is no need to move, I believe most of the council members are comfortable”. That wasn’t quite the case. Councillor Craven said he liked the first floor because it allowed him to walk to any department he needed to talk to but he did feel that everyone should be in the same location, which for Craven would mean moving the Mayor down from the eight floor to the ground floor.

Mead Ward has a window in her office and institutional green walls

Mead Ward has a window in her office and institutional green walls

Councillor Lancaster said she felt having everyone together was a good idea. Councillor Mead Ward said her office was “virtual” and that it didn’t matter to her where she was – as long as she had her cell phone.

The Mayor said he felt detached from things being on the eighth floor. The plan was to move the council members and their assistants to the seventh floor where they could walk down one level to the sixth where the General Managers are and up one floor to where the Mayor and the City Manager are located

As the debate took place one could sense the tension between Council and Staff. The Council accommodation is dumpy and this Council wants to be treated with more respect and given office space that is not an embarrassment. Kim Phillips pointed out that the ground floor space is used by the public who went to City Hall last year to get 660 marriage licenses; have 1150 documents commissioned and to record 1400 deaths. Traffic to the offices of the Council members is not as heavy as the traffic is for service at the Clerk’s counter.

A move to the seventh floor was passed with one of those dreaded 4-3 votes.

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Well for the most part, they got it right, they just don’t like the route taken to get to where they got.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON April 20, 2011 – Just about everyone who sat through the 2011 Budget Orientation sessions (they were brutal) and then the actual fashioning of the budget agrees that there has to be a better way to do these things.

Council and staff would like more public input and they want spending to be based on a clearly understood longer term plan. That couldn’t happen for 2011 because the Strategic Plan wasn’t in place. The desire is for specific performance measurements which focuses on service delivery outcomes. In other words – are we getting what we are paying for.

This Council is not going to have a Strategic Plan in place until sometime in September and while the hope is the plan will identify the directions for this term of council, Mayor Rick Goldring “believes preparation must begin now to affect future budgets” and he presented a Staff Direction which was accepted by the Budget and Corporate Services Committee. Here is what they are setting out to do:

That staff be directed to conduct a budget debrief with members of Council and staff for the purpose of identifying levels of satisfaction and areas of improvement for 2012 and report back to Council in June 2011. This is not an evaluation on the results of the budget but rather the process, timelines, public input and methodology.

That staff be directed to provide Committee with a report no later than September 2011 outlining the key deliverables, timelines, cost and resources required to develop and implement performance-based budgeting and reporting for the City of Burlington as it relates to the Strategic Goals and Objectives.

The observation with this Staff Direction is that the people who managed the whole process are the people who are going to carry out the review. Whoever debriefs the Council members will certainly get an earful and someone will churn out a report that lays out all the concerns.

How then do the people who managed the Budget process last time around take the concerns and do it all differently (and hopefully more efficiently) next time. More than a majority of the Council members will say they did not like the way they had to dig and dig for information and that there were too many surprises and that there were Briefings that were tedious, self serving and not necessary.

Will the Executive Budget Committee hear what they are told and return with a process and understandable procedures to allow this Council, which is working quite effectively, come in with a tax increase of less than 1% tax next year?

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The job is done, the harvest is in but there are no seeds to be sown next Spring.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON April 18, 2011 – There is always a sense of relief and regret when a term of office ends. If it’s an elected position there is huge regret when you lose. It isn’t much different when a term of office for community service comes to an end. You get the plaque, the (hopefully) warm round of applause and the complimentary comments on the job you did. And then you go home, you put your feet up – and then what do you do ?

A knowledge economy at work.  Gregory spends as much time at a keyboard as he does promoting Burlington.

A knowledge economy at work. Gregory spends as much time at a keyboard as he does promoting Burlington.

If community service is one of your passions, if you believe that part of your reason for being on this earth is to serve and make the place better for others – sitting at home watching television isn’t very high on the priority list. And that is where Mark Gregory finds himself this week. He serves in other capacities in the city but the task that kept him really busy and invigorated was the Chairmanship of the Burlington Economic Development Corporation. BEDC, a non profit that looks for new companies that think they might like to call Burlington home. An equally large part of the job is to make sure that those who have chosen Burlington stick around.

Gregory who served as a member of the BEDC for four years got chosen by the Board to lead the corporation at a time when layoffs were being made throughout the city and while no one had to shut down and cease operating, it was far from smooth sailing for the Burlington economy as the world weathered a nasty recession.

That recession impacted many organizations in Burlington, including Locomotion, a Burling based communications and public relations firm of which Gregory is the Managing Partner.

Gregory chose to use the time to grow the business community rather than to go into a defensive mode and out of that growth came a number of intriguing initiatives that appear to have served the city exceptionally well. Kyle Benham, Executive Director of the BEDC developed a Rapid Response protocol to deal with those extraordinary situations when a deal was close to closing but needed that extra push to get it done.

For Gregory it was vital that the BEDC take a strategic approach to the situation they faced and he gives an example on how the organization could be “strategic” using the membership it had on it’s Board. Gregory explains that the talent within the BEDC is what makes it possible to pull together a Rapid Response team which is a significant plus – but the talent on the Board is exceptionally deep. “We have a Board member from the IT field, Louise St-Pierre, Senior Vice President, Residential Services, Cogeco Cable Canada LP who was at one point the Chief Information Officer for her organization and is now an Executive vice president located in Burlington.

“She has her finger tips in every significant information technology change on the horizon and we have that talent at our table. We get briefings at every Board meeting and if we see a situation where we need some advice and content briefings when a new prospect is looking at Burlington, a very informed comment is available to us. Few communities have this depth of talent on their Board and we can use that talent to help make strategic decisions.”

One of the effective and pleasurable working tools Gregory developed was his Friday afternoon beer sessions that he will regret letting go. But we all move on and Gregory can let that one go. However, I’m pretty sure Gregory will take a phone call to get together for a beer almost any Friday afternoon.

Mark Gregory cover off last minute details with Lauren Griesbach before the start of the BEDC AGM.

Mark Gregory cover off last minute details with Lauren Griesbach before the start of the BEDC AGM.

Gregory fully understood the need for Burlington to create a “knowledge economy” and he sees the role that the DeGroote school of Business is going to play, as it works its way into the fabric of both the city and the business community, as a very significant part of the transition. That DeGroote facility came on stream during the last part of Gregory’s term of office. “Innovation has to be our top priority” maintains Gregory and he realizes that our continued growth depends upon being innovative.

Mark Gregory will chair the Nomination Committee for the next two years and in that way continue to have an impact on the new blood being brought into the BEDC. He will also serve on the Executive Committee that Executive Director Benham turns to when there is some heavy lifting to be done.

Asked if he did the job he set out to do when he became Chairman, Gregory demurs and says that is for others to say.

The BEDC sponsors a number of events that serve as a networking hub for the large corporations in the city. They include the Economic Outlook Breakfast, the Mayor’s Networking Lunch and their Signature event at which they recognize and honour the entrepreneur of the year.

While economic development is a passion for Gregory the city of Burlington has him getting all mushy and soft. He has worked in many cities; Lethbridge, Edmonton, Regina – and none he says compares to what Burlington has to offer. He was obviously a natural to lead the BEDC. As Chair of the Burlington Economic Development Corporation at a time when the city was struggling to get through a recession we could do nothing about, Gregory maintained the course and has now turned the helm over to someone else. His dance card has an open spot on it.

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Museums Foundation receives $1.4 M bequest from Caldwell Estate. Big plans for Joseph Brant Museum expansion

By Staff

Burlington, On—April 18, 2011 The Joseph Brant Museum just might have a life afterall. The Museums Foundation announced receipt of a $1.4 million bequest from the estate of the Helen Ireland Caldwell. Caldwell, who passed away in August 2010, was first cousin to Marie Ireland, the last Ireland family member to live in historic Ireland House before it was bought by the city and turned into a museum in 1987.

“The Helen Caldwell estate is very pleased that her bequest to the Burlington Museums Foundation will be used to help preserve Burlington’s heritage,” said estate executor Paul Charlebois, Q.C. “The Burlington of today rests on the foundation of the values of its pioneer families.”

“We’re extremely grateful for Helen Caldwell’s generous gift and for her commitment and generosity to the museums of Burlington over many years,” said John Doyle, chair of the Burlington Museums Foundation. “She leaves a great historical legacy that supports the rich heritage our community.”

Helen Ireland Caldwell was a volunteer at Joseph Brant Memorial Hospital, Joseph Brant Museum, the Ireland House at Oakridge Farm, and a longtime member of the Burlington Historical Society.

Born in 1918 Helen Mary Ireland was . 21, 1918 in Hamilton. She was a case worker for the Children’s Aid Society in Hamilton from 1959 to 1983. Helen was instrumental in carrying out Marie Ireland’s dream of turning the Ireland home into a museum.

Helen married Charles Clelland Caldwell in 1948 in Hamilton.  Charles died in 1959, when he was only 39 years of age.

Built between 1835 and 1837, Ireland House at Oakridge Farm was the home of Joseph Ireland, one of Burlington’s earliest settlers. Emigrating from Bowes, Yorkshire, England in 1819 at the age of 27, he petitioned for land at Oakridge Farm and so began a legacy that continues today.

Joseph and his descendants lived in Ireland House until 1985. In 1987, the City of Burlington bought the property from the estate of Lucie Marie Ireland Bush and set up a museum, restoring the homestead to show three distinct time periods that represent the generations of Irelands who lived in the house: the 1850s, 1890s and 1920s.

The property consists of four acres of woodland, gardens, potting shed, cottage/drive shed, and picnic areas. The Museums offer tours of the property, living historical demonstrations, special events and educational programs .

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Is it over? Nope – election is May 2nd but thousands of women are said to have ended their relationship with Steve. Sigh

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON April 18, 2011 – The objective was to have women outvote men by at least 10%. In the upcoming federal election. Eric Williams thought he had come up with a unique idea to get woman to vote by asking them to make a video of them telling Prime Minister Steven Harper that “It was Over” – they were ending their relationship with him.

Williams encouraged woman to do short videos on how they would tell ‘Steve’ it was over which he then strung together and posted as a video You Tube. And it worked – sort of. It’s cute but I don’t think it is going to b a game changer by any stretch of ones imagination.

Williams, a McMaster University students doing a degree in communications and history is certainly communicating but not making much history. There are three videos up with woman in different cities making videos and there is traffic to the You Tube site.

“The main video was at 34,000 when I started editing last night, and was at 41k when I came home this morning”, said Williams. He adds that the response has been overwhelmingly positive.

“The game has changed”, declares Williams.  “We have a chance to really shape this election by significantly increasing female voter turnout.  Major papers and TV are covering “It’s Over Steve” plus we just got endorsed by Margaret Atwood and several MPs.  . There are tons of stories

Williams claims Harper himself has to keep pretending like we don’t exist, no matter how huge this gets.  “He might pander more to women, or broadly criticize web politics, but he will never speak about us by name.  That’s how we are going to defeat him.  I hasten to add that I wish he and his family no ill will, especially Laureen Harper, who always comes across as a lovely person.

“Right now the political parties seem almost blind to us.  They aren’t really engage and they aren’t changing their message.  Once they realize how decisive women are going to be in this election, they’ll be tripping over themselves to win their support.  This truly is a golden opportunity for Canadian women.”

We just want women to think and talk together, and get out and vote.  It’s going to make for a better and more progressive Canada.  I really truly do believe this, and that’s why the campaign is the way it is.  It’s time for women to have a turn and decide for Canada

Check out the You Tube web site:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8qvBv_NPfZY&feature=channel_video_title

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