Habitat doesn’t let the drizzle fizzle the re-launch of their ReStore on Appleby Line.

By Staff

BURLINGTON, ON May 14, 2011 – The Habitat for Humanity Halton ReStore did a “re-launch on Saturday and despite the drizzly weather small groups of people showed up and learned about a resource in the community they did not know about.

ReStore – like any other retail building supply store – great prices and no HST.  Can’t beat that.
ReStore – like any other retail building supply store – great prices and no HST. Can’t beat that.

The ReStore is a retail outlets that sells recycled construction material and building supplies that are donated to the store by contractors who salvaged the material or who had surplus material and supplies they donated. The Restore on Appleby Line is on of 62 spread out across Canada and is part of the Habitat for Humanity organization that builds homes for people who would normally never be able to afford a home of their own

The quality used and surplus building materials and other home-ware products at attractively reduced prices 40% to 75% off
the original cost are sold without HST being added. Kind of place you want to drop into before you head for the big box store in the Mall..

The proceeds from ReStore support the programs of Habitat for Humanity Halton in the community. All materials sold by ReStore were donated for that purpose. In addition to raising funds, ReStore helps the environment by diverting thousands of tons of usable materials away from landfills.

Habitat Halton was founded in 1999 by a group of individuals from Port Nelson United Church. The first chairman was Peter Fisher, a long time resident of Burlington. Initially, the group served just Burlington, however in July 2002; they became Habitat for Humanity Halton. They were granted charitable status in March 2000. To date, the group has built and sold eleven homes to hard-working, local families with mortgages structured so they can afford them. Five homes are in Burlington, two are in Acton, and four are in Georgetown. Currently Habitat Halton is building two homes in Oakville.

Father and daughter look over a door that was recycled and just might meet their requirement.  If it fits, the price will be right.  Little Miss Pig Tails however, wasn’t all that keen on the colour.
Father and daughter look over a door that was recycled and just might meet their requirement. If it fits, the price will be right. Little Miss Pig Tails however, wasn’t all that keen on the colour.

Everyone wins when either shopping at or donating to ReStore. The vision that drives Habitat is a world where everyone has a safe and decent place to live. The Mission behind what they do day to day is using their knowledge, skills, community relationships, volunteers and other resources to create and promote safe and affordable home ownership options with the aim of alleviating the cycle of poverty within our community.

The core values are Housing for All and Human Dignity for everyone. Habitat for Humanity Halton does this by partnerships with others.

Habitat believes that faith is lived through action. Building on their Christian foundation, they serve and work with people of all faiths and beliefs in a spirit of justice and compassion. They believe there is a role for everyone committed to their vision, mission and values and seek only to enrich the organization through diversity.

There are currently two homeownership opportunities. Habitat for Humanity Halton will have a one bedroom condominium in North Burlington that might make homeownership possible for someone.

Habitat in Halton is run by a ten member community Board chaired by Edward McMahon with Anne Swarbrick serving as the Executive Director

Koinonia Farms (a Christian community in the USA founded by Clarence Jordan) used the concept of building affordable houses as the basis for running their housing ministry. Multi-millionaires Millard and Linda Fuller served as volunteers and embraced Jordon’s concept of partnership housing, forming the basic model for Habitat:

  • Those in need of adequate shelter would work side-by-side with volunteers from all walks of life to build simple, decent houses;
  • These houses would be built with no profit added and no interest charged; and
  • The building would be financed by a revolving Fund for Humanity with the Fund’s money coming from the new homeowners’ house payments, donations and no interest loans provided by Supporters. These monies would, in turn, build even more Habitat houses.

In 1973, the Fullers decided to apply the Fund for Humanity concept in developing countries choosing the former country of Zaire to launch their house building program. In 1976, they returned to North America and chose Americus, Georgia as the headquarters for Habitat for Humanity International. In recent years, Habitat has grown to over 1600 affiliates in the US and Canada and is at work in over 90 countries around the world. To date Habitat for Humanity has built over 300,000 houses worldwide making Habitat the largest homebuilder in the world.

Executive Director Anne Swarbrick chats with customer during the re-launch of the ReStore on Appleby Line.
Executive Director Anne Swarbrick chats with customer during the re-launch of the ReStore on Appleby Line.

Habitat is a independent, non-profit, Christian housing program dedicated to the elimination of poverty housing by building homes in partnership with families in need. Families contribute hundreds of hours of sweat equity to the construction of their home and repay a long-term no-interest mortgage. Habitat for Humanity is not a giveaway program. We give families a “hand up, not a hand out.

Habitat is a partnership between volunteers, homeowners, churches, businesses and communities. In 1984 Habitat’s most famous volunteer, former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, along with his wife, Rosalyn, participated in their first Habitat build project. Their personal involvement in Habitat’s ministry brought the organization national visibility and sparked interest in Habitat’s work.

Habitat for Humanity Canada (HFHC) was born in 1985, with the formation of the first Canadian affiliate in Winkler Manitoba. In early 1988 an HFHC national office was established, which is currently located in Waterloo, Ontario. HFHC now has over 73 approved affiliate organizations from coast to coast. To date, HFHC has built 2000 homes in Canada. As of January 2009, HFHC Foundation, the fundraising branch of the organization, is located in Toronto, Ontario.

The International headquarters is the “hub” of all of the Habitat’s activities and goings on. Do you want to build in Jamaica or another part of the world? For more information visit Habitat for Humanity International www.habitat.org

If this is something that interests you as a volunteer, call them; if this is something you think you can donate surplus material and supplies to, call them, if you think Habitat can help you find a decent home – call them The number is 905-637-4446.

 

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Bike check up for the kids and a helmet thrown in – you want to get there early to get in on this one.

By Staff

BURLINGTON, ON May 13, 2011 – Mark it on your calendar. Saturday May 28th at the Burlington Mall South Parking Lot – 9 am to noon – come early – get your bike safety checked FREE – get a Bike Helmet – FREE and lots more – sponsored in part by Burlington Neighbourhood Watch, Halton Regional Police Service, and Burlington Mall.

 

The event takes place in the south parking lot of the Burlington Mall

The event takes place in the south parking lot of the Burlington Mall

 

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$10,000 – not a penny more for two cycle events that won’t take place in Burlington. A teachable moment for the city ?

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON – May 12, 2011 – Ward 2 Councillor Marianne Meed Ward perhaps put it best when she said – “same old, same old” as she commented on the latest step in the cycling saga – the event that isn’t going to come to Burlington – that one.

Once again event promoter Craig Fagan of the Midweek Cycling Club failed to attend a Council Committee meeting to update the city on just where things are. We did learn that the Canada Day event that was going to be a feature for downtown Burlington on Canada Day is now going to take place in Toronto at the CHIN Day event at the CNE..

Council however is still having small conniptions with this event and isn’t ready yet to tell the promoter to take a hike. The Burlington Hotel Association has advised the promoter that the $20,000. they were going to contribute has been cut back to $10,000. because the signature event on Canada Day isn’t going to take place.

The Halton Regional Police Service (HRPS) haven’t heard a word from Fagan since he had a letter hand delivered to Deputy Police Chief Bob Percy saying the five planned elite level cycling event had been reduced to two events in Burlington.

Halton Regional Police Inspector Ivan Lortie on the left with Inspector Joe Taylor.  Lortie was to be the lead on the cycling event.
Halton Regional Police Inspector Ivan Lortie on the left with Superintendent Joe Taylor. Lortie was to be the lead on the cycling event.

HRPS Inspector Ivan Lortie was on hand, with his pistol on his hip and a microphone strapped to his shoulder – he was the Duty Inspector Commander for the shift, and he had to be able to communicate with the police in the field. I am able to report to you that Burlington was at peace while Lortie was in the Council Chamber – unless of course his microphone was turned off – but that wouldn’t happen with Inspector Lortie. This guy is one tough cookie.

Council struggled with what to do – pull the plug and walk away from it all or hang in for another few days and let the contract fail when Mid Week doesn’t come up with the certified cheque they have to delivery to the Halton Regional Police before noon of the 18th.

Councillor Blair Lancaster wanted to pull the plug and said that Fagan’s not being at the Council meeting “spoke volumes”, while Councillor Sharman said he was not in favour of shutting down the event at this point, he did want to make sure that the city didn’t pay out the $30,000 budgeted for the event. His comment was that “all we have to do is wait till the 16th and this will just evaporate”.

Councillor Taylor said he came into the meeting feeling very pessimistic and had now realized that if Burlington wants to take part in provincial and national level events it is “going to be tougher than we thought”.

Councillor Dennison added that the city needed to be careful that it did not get a reputation as a place that doesn’t hang in when things get tough. “Our record on this event”, he said, “is not untarnished. “If we pull out we will look bad. This was a difficult thing to put on and some of our delays have made it more difficult. Let’s not be totally unsympathetic”, he said.

Mayor Goldring said he was “disappointed” but “It’s over, it’s over, let’s not drag out the pain any longer.”

Council eventually settled on paying up to $10,000. IF the two races left on the schedule for the Burlington area take place. General Manager of Community Services Scott Stewart was given clear instructions to approve payment of $5,000. for each of the two races IF they take place.

Meed Ward added that none of the two events left are actually going to take place in Burlington. Her view was the contract had not been honoured and the city should pull out.

The original agreement was for a two year contract with 2011 a sort of warm up for the 2012 events that were to be 2014 Olympic qualifying events. Where does the 2012 opportunity stand if 2011 proves to be the total disaster we are looking at right now ?

Is there an opportunity to meet with the national cycling people and see if they have an event organizer that is more competent and reliable than Midweek proved to be. ? When the idea was first brought to Burlington in 2010 Council went for it on a recorded vote with then Mayor Cam Jackson voting against the idea. Councillors Thoem and Craven both voted for it then – with Craven saying then that he “kind of liked the idea” Everyone on Council saw the potential – no one saw the headaches or the complexity of the traffic management.

One hopes that Deputy Chief Bob Percy does not miss his lunch on the 16th while waiting for Craig Fagan to show up with a certified cheque – it isn’t going to arrive.

What has Burlington learned from this sad situation? Where did we make mistakes? Did the Halton Regional Police demand too much of the organizer? It was clear from the very beginning that the organizers were not prepare to deal with what the police felt was necessary for public safety. Did the police ask for too much?

Our geography is all but perfect for competitive cycling events but to make this type of thing happen there is a ton of community managing to get a handle on. Farmers needed access to roads to get their hay off the fields during their peak season. The strawberry people weren’t able to shut down their operations for a road race. There were huge traffic concerns on both rural roads, downtown streets and heavily used provincial highways.

Tour de France winner.  The Burlington event didn’t manage to get started, lots of lessons for the city and the Regional police.
Tour de France winner. The Burlington event didn’t manage to get started, lots of lessons for the city and the Regional police.

Yet the Tour de France takes place every year and those bicycles come roaring into the Arc de Triomphe in Paris at the end of the week long race. If Paris traffic can be managed – Burlington traffic can be managed. There are lesson here for us.

Councillor Lancaster said the writing was on the wall and the city should walk away from it. The writing was on the wall when the promoter didn’t should up at the first meeting Council considered the idea in 2010.

 

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Vandals working the Spruce/Strathcona area. Keep the lights on and let the dog loose.

By Staff

BURLINGTON, ON May 12, 2011 – Halton Regional Police Service is investigating several incidents of vandalism in Burlington. Sometime overnight on May 6th, five incidents of vandalism were committed in the area of Spruce Avenue and Strathcona Drive.

In each occurrence a sharp cutting object was used, to cut tree limbs, saw fence posts and puncture/slash car tires. These incidents are believed to be connected. Approximately $ 1000 in damage was caused.

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 Pier – progress, good solid progress – but we’ve not settled with the bonding company yet.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON May 12, 2011 – There was another update on progress with the building of THE Pier at the foot of Brant Street. This time both the City Solicitor, Nancy Shea Nicol and the Director of Engineering, Tom Eichenbaum were on hand to answer questions. That expensive lawyer from the Big Smoke to the east of us was also on hand to advise and direct. This time he was carrying his smaller briefcase – think that was a good sign.

It looks a little rough today while it undergoes inspections and the drawings to complete the work are brought up to date – but the Pier is coming along just fine.  The city has control of this file now.

It looks a little rough today while it undergoes inspections and the drawings to complete the work are brought up to date – but the Pier is coming along just fine. The city has control of this file now.

Council, as they usually do on this file, went into closed session to talk behind closed doors about the latest from Zurich Insurance on where things stand with the submission they delivered to the city a number of weeks ago. The city is suing the insurance company for several million – asking them to pay up on the performance bond put up by Harm Schilthuis and Sons Ltd. to ensure that they would finish the job. Harm Schilthuis and Sons Ltd., the original contractor walked off the job last December and the city sued both the contractor, the company that designed the Pier and was overseeing the construction and the insurance company that provided the bond.

The City was handling the file rather poorly under the former Council but when the new team took to the horseshoe table in the Council Chambers a new attitude was evident. As well, a number of engineering types are no longer on the city payroll.

The legal stuff will take time but my sense is that the City will prevail and that there will be a settlement in the City’s favour when all is said and done. There is now a Project Management Team (PMT) in place which consists of a professional project management firm (Mettko) and a procurement consultant (Cassels Brock) – we’re not going to be buying any sub standard steel this time around. Recall that there was failure with some of the steel used for the deck of the Pier that failed when there was a concrete pour.

The city is on schedule to have half of the construction drawings ready by June 1. An inspection of the caissons and other parts that are under water has been done – the preliminary report says no problems at that level. The electrical room has been inspected and it is fine. The city is working with the supplier of the light fixtures to determine how to incorporate what has apparently already been purchased into the design.

The site was basically abandoned by the previous contractor, Harm Schilthuis and Sons Ltd. Last December. Working through various contractors, the city has had to go in and ensure that everything is as it should be.

With the drawings that will be available early in June Mettko will prepare an initial cost estimate and then go out to tender in July. Tenders will close in August and a decision made in September as to who the contractor that will build the Pier is going to be.

The Mayor might want to put the Burlington Teen Tour Band on notice that they will be needed Labour Day to March down Brant Street to celebrate the signing of a contract and as a dry run for the Official opening that is penciled in for sometime in June of 2013.

The submission from Zurich Insurance didn’t help when it arrived a number of weeks ago but if the smile on Tom Eichenbaum’s face when he left the closed session of Council Committee last night is any indication – things are going just fine.

The Pier is going to get built and it will open before the summer of 2013.

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Say thank you to a snow plow.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON May 13, 2011 – I thought the city knew something the rest of us didn’t know and that they had put that snow plow out in front of City Hall as a hint of what was to come – more snow?. I quickly checked the Farmer’s Almanac to see if there was any wisdom there for us – nothing. Maybe the truck ran out of gas – given the cost it might have made sense to just park the truck there and wait till prices fell.

Who could have known that the plow is there to remind us that we are about to go into National Public Works Week to recognize all those people who repair the roads, fix the bridges and make sure that the city infrastructure functions

The plow is to remind you that the snow is going to come again and that the plow is there to move it when it does return.  Say thank you to the plow.

The plow is to remind you that the snow is going to come again and that the plow is there to move it when it does return. Say thank you to the plow.

General Manager of Community Services reminded a Council Committee last night that thousands of people toil each week to ensure that we live in a city where things work. So if you’re downtown and have a moment pass by the truck and give it a pat and say “Thank You.

Scott wasn’t at Council Committee just to tell us why a snow plow was parked in front of city Hall. He was on vacation but, looking very tanned and fit, he was doing his duty and overseeing a significant report on how well the re-organization of Parks, Recreation and Maintenance is going and to sit in on an update of The Pier. More on that elsewhere.

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If you’re into firemen and how they get people out of cars when there is an accident then we have a deal for you.

BURLINGTON, ON May 11, 2011 – Saturday, May 14, at the Burlington Fire Headquarters Station on Fairview St. fireman from Canada and the United States will take part in an exciting auto extrication competition.

Seven auto extrication teams with six members each will participate in the competition.

Fire Department teams currently enrolled are from Halifax and Enfield, Nova Scotia;

Brampton; Mississauga; Chili and Brighton, New York; and Burlington. The goal of the

challenge is to help rescuers stay current with auto extrication practices and share ideas

and techniques to improve life-saving techniques.

Burlington fire fighters will go up against fireman from Canada and the United States in an auto extraction competition.

Burlington fire fighters will go up against fireman from Canada and the United States in an auto extraction competition.

This event is open to the public. All are welcomed to attend. Food and beverages are available. Children under 12 years of age will receive a free hot dog. Saturday, May 14, 2011, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Headquarters Station, 1255 Fairview St., Burlington
Competition to be held at Training Complex at rear of station.

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Four months to report on the year end financial status of the city didn’t please your city Council.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON May 11, 2011 – The city’s books closed December 31st and Councillor Paul Sharman was some ticked in getting a report four and a half months after the year end and he made his point of view very clear when he told senior city staff that corporations 20 times the size of Burlington would have year end figures on their desks within two weeks of the year end.

Council wants financial reporting to be much more timely so that they can get a grip on problems.  Mayor Goldring suggested that the problems with the Tyendaga golf course could have been resolved much sooner if Council had had better financial information.

Council wants financial reporting to be much more timely so that they can get a grip on problems. Mayor Goldring suggested that the problems with the Tyendaga golf course could have been resolved much sooner if Council had had better financial information.

And he wanted no less from the number crunchers in Burlington. The city certainly has the tools to provide the data Council wants to see and what, one would hope, every manager wants at their finger tips. Burlington uses software from SAP, a German based multi-national that is amongst the top three financial software companies. Their stuff is pricey but it does the job and has software specific to the municipal sector.

Sharman, who brings more than thirty years of senior executive experience to his role as Councillor for Ward 5, has worked in environments where figures for each month were on the desks of senior management three days after the end of a month and five days after the end of a quarter. To be given numbers four and a half months after the year end was for Sharman “bizarre” and “I am”, he said “struggling with this. We should have known about these numbers a month after the year end at the very worst.”

Sharman then moved to issue a Staff Direction that would call for quarterly numbers not later than one month later. City Manager Roman Martiuk didn’t think a Staff Direction was necessary but he didn’t assure Sharman that he would get the numbers he wants for each quarter in 30 days. Martiuk mentioned that getting the year end numbers three and half months after year end “was somewhat typical” for Burlington. That didn’t appear to be acceptable to this Council – we can expect to hear quite a bit more on financial reporting.

Sharman says “Council has an information deficit”.  Acting Executive Director of Finance is going to have to act quite a bit faster.

Sharman says “Council has an information deficit”. Acting Executive Director of Finance is going to have to act quite a bit faster.

Council is struggling with what Sharman called ” a deficit of information” – they just don’t have the data they need to make the decisions they have to make and getting a year end summary four and a half months after the year end emphasizes that point.

The displeasure that council vented will in time work its way into how the city administration provides information to Council and to the public. There is a cultural shift taking place at City Hall that is going to require staff to do much more with less and at the same time get required information into the hands of Council faster.

We will follow up with just what was in the staff report soon.

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Good day for the developers; city’s infrastructure gets put to good use but citizens take it in the ear. But it isn’t over – yet.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON May 11, 2011 – s who had to sit through a four and a half hour meeting wading through two development applications. One for approval of a development at Walkers Line and Dundas and the other f0 approval of a 14 story apartment building at Brock and Elgin – just north of Lakeshore road and east of Maple Avenue.

Both situations brought to light the battle over just how Burlington is going to manage intensification brought upon us by the provinces Places to Grow legislation. The city has to accommodate more people, 30,000 more by the year 2031, and given that there isn’t any “greenfield” development sites left – the growth will come from intensification on the property we do have. Greenfield development sites is property that is basically an empty fields. All Burlington development is going to take place south of the 407 suburban boundaries.

There was a lot of ‘tooing’ and ‘froing’ about the zoning bylaws and the City’s Official Plan, which is due to the fact that few people fully understand the role that each plays in the development of a site.

Lot of things about this project that are just a little bent: public involvement being the biggest.  We can do better than this.

Lot of things about this project that are just a little bent: public involvement being the biggest. We can do better than this.

Developers have quickly figured out that all they have to do is talk about intensification, making use of the existing infrastructure or using public transportation or, in the case of the Molinaro development at Brock and Ontario streets, talk about contributing to the vibrancy of the downtown core – and basically they get whatever they ask for. It’s all very legal of course – the planning staff cover all the bases with deeply reasoned reports which staff take a couple of months t prepare and then give citizens less than a week to review and respond to.

Which is what got Burlington Street resident Mark Henderson to the podium to delegate before Council as to why the Brock/Elgin project should not proceed. Henderson was elegant and while persuasive not persuasive enough to change the vote.

Henderson was a member of the Shape Burlington committee as were Councillors Sharman and Lancaster who had sympathy for the points Henderson was making but not enough for them to go along with the Councillor Meed Ward request that the matter before Committee be deferred until the community had a decent chance to review the Staff` reports.

Henderson’s two main points were that the process is flawed and that community does not have a truly adequate opportunity to respond to Staff reports – and on that one he got agreement. The Planner, Bruce Krushelnicki has in the past agreed that a change in the process is needed and the city can expect to see longer time frames for the public to respond. It would be nice too, if the City would make some of its resources available to those who object to a development.

A large part of the problem with the recent developments is the understanding with what the Official Plan means and what it doesn’t mean and then a deeper understanding of what a zoning by law means and what it doesn’t mean. These are tricky waters and they are not fully understand by people who come forward with complaints but they are very fully understood, and manipulated by the developers and the planners they bring to the table. Nothing wrong with that – if you’ve got a legal problem or a tax problem you want the best talent money can buy and the Molinaro’s have done very well with Fothergill and Associates, their planning consultants.

Henderson started out by saying it was “very clear that citizens were very concerned with the height and density” of the proposed project. Most people in the community believe that the Official Plan allows for a seven storey building and they don’t understand why a developer gets to walk in, ask for 14 stories and get it.

Krushelnicki will explain and the Molinaro planner will also explain that there are solid and sound reasons for allowing the 14 storey application and that is where the confusion and resentment sets in.. “Double” asks Henderson – “why is this acceptable. If this is acceptable then there is something terribly wrong with the Official Plan or something wrong with the planning staff. It isn’t so much that there is anything wrong with either – but there is, as the late Paul Newman said with the infamous line: “What we have here is a failure to communicate”.

Henderson’s plea to the Council Committee was that the community “expected to be listened to”. “There are a lot of new faces around the council table” he said and we thought that meant things were going to be different “but it looks” he said as if it is “just business as usual”. One could hear a couple of “ouches” from Council members.

“What are the limits” asked Henderson. “We are reasonable people – sure you make an adjustment here and an adjustment there , we understand that but double just does not seem reasonable to us.”

“We will get to the point” he warned “where people will just give up and stay home” which caused the Mayor to ask just what the height and density concern was. The Mayor realizes that the city has to intensify and he is not uncomfortable with these higher buildings going up in a part of the city that has many tall buildings.

This gave Henderson an opportunity to point out that there was going to be a 14 storey building on land where there was once nothing but single family detached dwellings and that the project was at the outer edge of what is colourfully called “high rise city” and that in time there will be another one and then another one because if one developer can get 14 storeys then others will expect the same and there are already close to a dozen tall buildings in the immediate vicinity.

What Henderson didn’t appreciate is that there is a hydro line demarcating the property and that the hydro line will become the out edge of this kind of high rise development – which was the justification Krushelnicki and his staff used.

The Mayor made a really strong point when he asked Henderson if it was “not possible to really, really listen and not agree?” And that’s where the rub is. Henderson felt this was coming down to a perception that this is just a public parade – my being here is just tokenism”

After the election we expected different kinds of criticism; we wanted to see compromises and all we are getting is $500,00 worth of trinket which get covered by the price of one of the 115 units the developer is asking for.

And added Henderson – there has been no public input or participation in determining just what the developer should give back to the community for the significant increases in height and density..

“I don’t recall the community being asked what it wanted in return for the advantage given the developer. Let’s have some payback and make that process one that has public engagement.. And on this one he had Mead Ward fully onside but Councillor Sharman wasn’t as sure and he asked” “Has the developer purchased the right to go to 14 storeys?” He didn’t get an answer but the developer has offered – and there was no discussion on who decided what those should be.

Here is what the developer put on the table:

$250,00 towards the burial of the hydro wires on the west side of Brock Street from Elgin to Ontario

$75,000. towards a new play structure in a neighbourhood park

$20,000 towards the construction of a pathway through the hydro corridor.

$55,000 towards the public art reserve fund

$50,000 towards landscape feature at the corner of Brock and Elgin

$50,000 towards the parking reserve fund

It comes to $500,000 and it just doesn’t seem to be near enough for what is being given to the developer. If the developer did purchase the right for 14 storeys – he got a great deal – and no one is suggesting there was any deal made. What was missing in what Henderson called the “trinket” conversations was meaningful public participation. The meeting ran half an hour over the 10:30 pm adjournment time and didn’t get the attention it deserved.

It was a long meeting and Mead Ward did her “I have an amendment” number several times and each time she had no support – that by the way doesn’t mean she was wrong. This is a Council that is learning as it grows – and it is growing.

It was a cool early summer evening and several of the developers gathered in a small circle outside City Hall and chatted about how the evening had gone for them. The Dundas-Walkers Line development took a bit of a shave when it was cut back from 31 condominium townhouse units to 23 but they left the room happy with their gain – even though at some point in the future there is going to be a bit of a stink over garbage collection. This particular project consists of two long rows of townhouses side by side – 11 units, each 20 feet wide all strung together with no break in between. One group will have their garbage picked up at their door fronts while the other will have to carry theirs up the street to have it picked up. Ward 3 Councillor John Taylor wasn’t happy with that one and promised to follow up. The project was in Councillor Blair Lancaster’s ward but she didn’t have all that much to say about the project. A little more attention to detail would have helped Lancaster.

There is more to these two developments. They got approved at Council Committee and now go to Council for final approval and while the rules of procedure are quite a bit more rigid at Council the community has several openings that can be widened to get more for the citizens.

We will return on both these projects.

 

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Memo to City Manager: Dig into one of those reserve funds you have and bring the technology in Council Chambers up to speed.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON May 10, 2011 – It started with the wobbly chair t the inaugural session of Council. For a moment it looked as if newly minted Councillor Blair Lancaster was going to end up on her little tushie when she went sit down on the chair from which she was to sigh her Oath of Office.

Then there was the couple of weeks when the digital sound track of Oh Canada was “wobbly” and ran at different speeds – THAT was terribly embarrassing.

This week, for the third time in the past while, it was the audio visual system that wouldn’t allow the technician to get anything up on the screen so we had the Mayor handing out printed copies of the presentations being made. The “audio visual” failures have been close to consistent. It got so bad Monday evening that Roman Martiuk, the City Manager had to ask the technician to stop creeping up to the well of the Chamber Council to try and get the thing to work.

Typically in a setting where technology is going to be used someone does a short dry run to make sure all the parts are working. We don’t appear to do that.

The microphones that are used by the people around the Council ring are – well dated might be an appropriate work. Council members continually find themselves slapping at the button to turn the microphone on or off.

Time Mr. Martiuk for an upgrade to the Council Chambers. There must be some loose change in one of the many funds you manage to cove the cost of the needed upgrades. Alternatively we could pass around a tin cup at one of the committee meetings that had a decent attendance or maybe sell copies of the presentations being made and raise the money that way.

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Mayor throws a grounder, twins lose home opener 7-4 but the fans hang in while the weather refuses to cooperate.

By Sports Staff

BURLINGTON, ON May 7, 2011 – It wasn’t one of his best moment but Mayor Rick Goldring was there throwing the ceremonial first ball at the home opener for the new to town Burlington Twins semi pro baseball team. The ball landed a foot or so into the ground before home plate – but the catcher as able to scoop it up.

New bleachers will soon be in place at Nelson where the Burlington Twins played their league home opener on Saturday.

New bleachers will soon be in place at Nelson where the Burlington Twins played their league home opener on Saturday.

There was a nice enough crowd and it was certainly a family event. The weather will be a little more cooperative as we get into May. The beer garden was open – need to gussy that up a bit, but the hot dog vendor was doing a brisk business.

The Twins were home to the Ottawa Fat Cats who won the opened 7-4. The game got just a little bit exciting when the Twins brought in four runs in the final inning but by that time the Fat Cats had too comfortable a lead.

Pitching with both teams was allright, some very good batting but the base players and those in the field need some work and help on both sides. The ground was a wee bit soggy which didn’t help. But it was a nice way to spend a Saturday afternoon. Meet friends ands- schmooze with your neighbours and let the kids tear around knowing they were safe. Michael Burgess gave a very, very spirited rendition of Oh Canada – held every note and we all got to feel the hair on our skin bristle just a bit as we all stood tall.

Burlington Twins rest up in the bull pen before the home opener at Nelson. Field was just a little on the damp side but it was a good game of baseball – final score of 7-4 for the other guys wasn’t very good though.

Burlington Twins rest up in the bull pen before the home opener at Nelson. Field was just a little on the damp side but it was a good game of baseball – final score of 7-4 for the other guys wasn’t very good though.

Elliott Kerr, team owner was seen watching over a bunch of young kids – think he was eyeing potential for a really young farm team.

 

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Burlington tag team going into the ring at Queen’s Park to petition legislature to STOP any escarpment highway.

By Staff

BURLINGTON, ON May 8, 2011 – Members of Burlington Council will be at Queen’s Park May 9 to support a petition from more than 3,000 people opposed to building a highway across a rural stretch of the Niagara Escarpment.

Burlington area MP’s will present a petition to the Legislature protesting the building of any highway through the Escarpment.
Burlington area MP’s will present a petition to the Legislature protesting the building of any highway through the Escarpment.

Burlington MPP Joyce Savoline and Halton MPP Ted Chudleigh will present a petition against a proposed transportation corridor from Niagara to the GTA to the Legislative

Assembly of Ontario.  Mayor Rick Goldring, Ward 3 Councillor John Taylor and Ward 6 Councillor Blair Lancaster will sit in the visitors gallery of the Legislature supporting the petition, and will be joined by Lowville resident Janie Moorse who collected signatures from homes and businesses throughout Burlington.

“This is not just about Burlington, this is about Halton Region and beyond,” Moorse said. “The rural area of Burlington is Halton’s playground, and contains the Bruce Trail, which is used by hikers from around the world. The area is a destination for cyclists, rock climbers, photographers, equestrians and wildlife enthusiasts. It contains historic farms and cemeteries dating back to the 1800s.”

Early map showing possible highway development route.  Burlington wants nothing to do with this plan – but there are many who think a new highway is inevitable.

Early map showing possible highway development route. Burlington wants nothing to do with this plan – but there are many who think a new highway is inevitable.

In October 2010, the province modified Halton Region’s official plan, the document that maps out what growth can happen and where, placing a proposed transportation corridor across escarpment lands in rural Burlington. In response, Councillors Taylor and Lancaster hosted a public meeting in December 2010 with more than 800 people attending.

Following the meeting, the city joined with a coalition of seven citizen groups  to oppose the proposed escarpment highway. In February 2011, the province announced that the proposed route would no longer appear on the region’s official plan.
Mayor Rick Goldring

“I am pleased to be here with my colleagues, Councillors Taylor and Lancaster, who have successfully worked with the community to ensure this world biosphere reserve is protected for generations to come. We can celebrate our success as a community while realizing that more work is to be done to ensure our escarpment lands are protected.”

Councillor Blair Lancaster pointed out that: “This is an important message we are sending to the provincial government. The people of Burlington are serious about protecting this escarpment land, and will work with government to make sure it happens.”

Hundreds of these signs dotted the back roads of north Burlington.  The locals do not want any road cutting through “their” community.

Hundreds of these signs dotted the back roads of north Burlington. The locals do not want any road cutting through “their” community.

Councillor John Taylor added that: “The city will continue to partner with citizens and community groups to protect the Niagara Escarpment. Burlington is committed to protect the escarpment lands, the rural countryside, prime agricultural land and the Greenbelt from urban development.”

It is not unusual for council members to grow their careers and move on to higher levels of government. Taylor will not want to become a provincial MP but Lancaster and Goldring – just might be looking at the seats Joyce Savoline and Ted Chudleigh have occupied and decide that they like the look of the Legislature more than a Council Chamber.

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Fagan fades and city plus police prepare to pull the plug on the Canada Day cycle races planned for Burlington.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON May 6, 2011 – It was no great surprise but with considerable disappointment that Council meeting as a Committee learned that the promoter of the planned Championship level cycling events scheduled for late June and on Canada Day will not take place.

The Mayor and Deputy Police Chief Bob Percy were advised by letter that two of the four remaining events were going to take place elsewhere, which led Councillor John Taylor to say that he was going to vote to with draw Council support for the event. The police, who at this point were just totally fed up with Crag Fagan, head of Mid Week Cycling, the promoter of the event.

Two events were still a go – the event at Rattlesnake Point and the event in Aldershot/Waterdown but they won’t happen when the city pulls it support. The Hotel Association and the City had put up $50,000 in the way of grants – that money was held in escrow – so it isn’t lost.

Fagan didn’t have the decency to call either the Mayor or the police and thank them for their support and explain why he was moving two of the event, including the Canada Day marquee event, to some other location.

Chris Glen, chide parks guy in Burlington advised the Council Committee that they were not able to reach Fagan by telephone or email, which was pretty standard procedure for him. When there was a problem – Fagan faded.

The Halton District Police Service should now issue an arrest warrant for Fagan due to the cheque that he bounded.

Sports cycling has a future in Burlington – we just need the right promoter – and Mid Week Cycling wasn’t it.

 

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Burlington is creating a Strategic Plan that will set out just what kind of a city it wants to be. Magi and Dwyer lead the process.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON May 6, 2011 – So, said the guy in the sales lot – you’re looking for a Strategic Plan – what kind of a budget do you have ?

Not all that much money and I need something that will last me at least four years.

How heavy duty will your driving be?

Not sure exactly, some of my travel will be very heavy duty will all kinds of passengers and many of them will have a lot of baggage – and then there will be those short runs to the LCBO. It will be a pretty solid mix.

Colour matter? Four door? Automatic transition? Sound system?

Probably blue – we’re a blue town. Four doors for sure and a hatch back – we are going to have people crawling in and out of the thing. Automatic would be nice – don’t need sound, there will be all kinds of talking going on.

If Burlington was buying a strategic plan from a sales lot that is how the conversation might go – but we are not going to buy a strategic plan we are going to build our plan with a level of community involvement that includes over 80 community groups and almost anyone else who has something to say.

The process is headed up by Allan Magi, Executive Director, Corporate Strategic Initiatives and Michelle Dwyer, coordinator of Corporate Strategic Initiatives. From now through to September they will be directing the effort that will have city hall staff, your Council and you the public figuring out and thinking through what the strategic plan for the city should be for the next four years.

With a Strategic Plan in place ( and we won’t have that until sometime in September) City Council can then begin to develop a budget for the remaining years of its term and move forward on each of the objectives set out in the Strategic Plan.

Council and senior staff members have been working through just how they want to create the Plan while Magi has been working on the relationship with the consultants and keeping in touch with Council members while Dwyer has been gathering data and getting input from staff. This, apparently is the first time staff have been as directly involved at input into a plan, said Dwyer and many appreciated being asked what they thought and felt the city should be doing in terms of the direction it will grow in. Dwyer pointed out that many staff members live in the city and they want to be able to comment both as citizens and employees who have an insight into what can and can’t get done. For Dwyer that realization was a pleasant surprise.

 

Much of the research and data gathering was done by Dwyer who came across an idea used in Edmonton that she thought could be used in Burlington equally well and that was a Work Book that people would download form the web site and complete.

Dwyer has been with the city for some time. She worked in Parks, the in Clerks and now with Community Strategic Initiatives. She was also the United Way associate for the city. Dwyer studied at Mohawk College.

Dwyer will tell you that this assignment is one of the most exciting she has worked on. She is getting an up close look at what the different departments see as the future of the city and at the same time working with stakeholder groups who have their own vision. Out of all these groups will come a Mission, Vision and Values statement and that, Dwyer will tell you, is a big deal.

Mayor Goldring mentioned the workbook at a Q&A held by the Chamber of Commerce and suggested that citizens gather with their neighbours in small groups and go through the Workbook. The idea didn’t exactly float but didn’t fall to the ground like a lead balloon either. It was a different approach, sort of like homework for the community, an idea that Dwyer came across in her research and convinced the Mayor to give it a try in Burlington – and it worked.. People downloaded the workbook, went through the document and sent them back to city hall. A number of people also did the one line survey that was put up.

The creation of the Strategic Plan is running on several levels. While Magi and Dwyer gather material, work with staff and then organize the more than 80 stakeholder groups in the city and arrange for presentations to Council, a group of Consultants hired by the city to take senior staff and council through the finer points of crafting a Strategic Plan. Just how do you create a Strategic plan anyway ? The plan that was in place for 2006 to 2010 had very little impact on the how the city grew and wasn’t much more than a collection of statements and a lot of nice pictures.

This Council didn’t want to make that mistake again but who knew just how to do this. The city didn’t have that level of expertise in house. The standard citizen Quality of Service survey was revised with input from both staff and Council – results of that work are in the review and analysis stage

Another phase is the community input, which is where community groups make presentations to city councillors. The first took place at the Burlington Arts Centre where seven groups presented. The second input session had 13 community groups telling Council what they think should be in the Strategic Plan. The community stakeholders resulted from a list sent to council for input – groups were added or deleted from the list.  Forty four key stakeholder groups  were asked to provide for council consideration three priorities they would like to see in the Strategic Plan. Some came forward with the “same old” but there were some interesting insights.

Allan Magi came to Burlington 20 years ago and expected to return to the consulting work he was doing – but hasn’t managed to do that. He explains that the Strategic Plan process he is leading will be the eighth Burlington has produced and that Burlington was one of the first municipalities to get into the process of creating a Strategic Plan.

Past plans have been less than inspiring and this Council wanted to do it differently and Magi was given the job of leading the process. “We first wanted to ensure that Council had ownership of this Plan” he explained. “We wanted the Plan to be more operational and to tie the first part of a 20 year plan to the term of office for the Council” In other words Magi was charged with coming up with a plan that was based on a 20 year vision

with clear objectives as to what would get done ion the next four years..

“There are huge intangibles in a Strategic Plan explained Magi. It is a Council’s vision that they drew from the citizens. We wanted ground level input and we wanted to cast our net as wide as possible. In the past the community input was somewhat limited and this Council didn’t want to make that mistake.

Magi was involved in the city portion of the Shape Burlington report that was the first document to put the city on a different path and has worked very closely with the Shaping Burlington people, who were the successor organization to the Shape group, that were commission by then Mayor Jackson to ask some fundamental questions as to just how the city worked and where the problems lay. Former Mayor Walter Mulkewich and the late John Boich co-chaired the Shape group and delivered a very significant document.

Magi came out of that process with a much different view of what the city wanted and is using much of what he learned to produce a Strategic Plan process that will build on what Shape Burlington taught us.

Magi learned that the city had to move much earlier on getting public input – “much, much earlier than it has in the past.” “We knew we needed more interaction but we weren’t completely sure how we would do that. We knew that we had to test ideas and try to anticipate the direction the process was going in to be sure we were on the right track.

A Strategic Plan can become a wish list and remain just that but this Council wanted a document that would have ideas and direction and be something that citizens saw as reflecting what they saw for their city. At the same time the objectives set out in the Plan had to deal with fiscal reality. Burlington is at the beginning of a shift into a different form of development. Gone are the days when there was “greenfield” development after “greenfield” that produced significant revenue from the development charges.

The city had to think in terms of making better use of what it has and that has meant quite a bit of infill development – and if the reaction to the rather small development in the Queensway community and the upcoming plans for a large apartment building at Brock and Ontario are any example – the infill process is going to be noisy and awkward.

There are challenges on several fronts. The city has frozen suburban development at the 407 and now faces the possibility of a new highway around Lowville and the Mt Nemo plateau which would have the all but immediate effect of moving the suburban development to that new road. Many feel this will be the end of the rural north for Burlington. Big, big community fight at that level – which saw one of the larger community demonstrations in front of a downtown hotel against any Niagara-GTA highway.

The city has to decide what it wants to do with its languishing western Beach and also what to do with the downtown core that isn’t living up to expectations. Understanding how we are going to manage the city for a growing seniors population and the challenge of bring high quality, high paying jobs, to a city that doesn’t have any Class A office space.

All these issues will, ideally, be reflected in the Strategic Plan that Allan Magi and Michelle Dwyer are stick handling through a very delicate process. Hovering over everything Magi and Dwyer di is the fiscal reality. Burlington managed to come in with a very small tax increase for 2011 – due to a very significant surplus from the previous year. The city may not be quite that fortunate next year and will have to teach its ratepayers how much what they want is going to cost.

Magi, who came to the city with an MBA tucked under his arm and a bit of consulting experience on his resume is now managing two consultants from a firm that has an international consulting practice who are helping Burlington put together a Strategic Plan that Magi would like to see, when it is completed, as one of the best any municipality in the country has produced. One wonders if Magi saw any of this coming the day he walked into a Human Resources office in Burlington for his first interview.

Magi has learned that there has to be more process and that while process takes time it does result in a more cohesive community. While this isn’t new territory for Magi it is stretching him and he seems to be having the time of his life on this assignment.

He came to the city to work in the engineering department, the moved over to water resources and on to Recreation and Parks and now he heads up the Corporate Strategic Initiatives and works closely with the KPMG consultants who were brought in to help staff and Council put in place the management tools and processes that will allow for the creation of a Strategic Plan.

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Salt with Pepper. How does “politics” work in this town anyway? If your councillor isn’t going to get it for you – who will?

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON May 5, 2011 – She gave it her best shot. Ticked off the Mayor no end as she went through four amendments to a motion and then called for a recorded vote on each amendment. Marianne Mead Ward was doing battle and there was no stopping her.

The first amendment was to reduce the number of units at a development in the Queensway community – south of the QEW and west of Guelph Line. The developer had asked for 74 units, city planning was prepared to go along with that but the community didn’t go for it so it got reduced to 64 – which still didn’t work for the community so it got cut back to 58 units – and nothing, but nothing Ward 1 Councillor Marianne Mead Ward could do would get it any lower. She did manage to get a foot path through the project rather than the road that was originally planned.

What I found interesting was that Mead Ward had to fight to limit the change that was going to take place in HER. I always thought that a Ward Councillor sort of ran things in their ward. The Council member was seen as the “go to person” if you had a problem or something you wanted done. Jack Dennison makes phone calls for his constituents, Paul Sharman in Ward 5 holds Town Hall meetings and Blair Lancaster can be seen at many a meting in the northern part of the municipality listening to “her” people. Council members identify very closely with the ward that elects them – if they don’t – they don’t get re-elected.

In Aldershot Craven is the equivalent of the Marlborough Man – he’s the go to guy and others keep off his turf.  Mead Ward is going to have to up her game from that of a Girl Guide to perhaps a Wonder Woman.  Maybe a little more lobbying would help.

In Aldershot Craven is the equivalent of the Marlborough Man – he’s the go to guy and others keep off his turf. Mead Ward is going to have to up her game from that of a Girl Guide to perhaps a Wonder Woman. Maybe a little more lobbying would help.

Every council member will tell of occasions when they drove out to pick up some garbage that had not been collected. The council member sort of “owns” the ward. Rick Craven of Ward 1 is almost a “Marlborough Man” responsible for Marlborough Country – which some of you may know as Aldershot. If it happens in that community Craven knows about it and probably made it happen.

So when Mead Ward was asking Council to go along with amendments to a motion that was before Council approving a development application, she didn’t get support from the majority of Council. She forced them through one amendment after another. When she had lost the vote on her first amendment she moved on to the second amendment

The first was to:

Refer Planning and Building Report PB-28-11 back to staff with instructions to reduce the total unit count by 10 units and present the revised recommendation to a future Community Development Committee meeting.

She lost that one. The she said – well how about this and introduced an amendment to:

Refer Planning and Building Report PB-28-11 back to staff with instructions to keep low-density zoning for the southern portion of the site and present the revised recommendation to a future Community Development Committee meeting.

She lost that one as well. At that point Mayor Goldring turned and asked if she was done and in the spunky voice of a Girl Guide on a mission Mead Ward piped back. “Nope, got two more”. And proceeded to introduce her third amendment which was to:

Refer Planning and Building Report PB-28-11 back to staff with instructions to allow a pedestrian only access to Glenwood School Drive and present the revised recommendation to a future Community Development Committee meeting.

Mead Ward believed that the development was just too much for that part of her ward and that traffic was a serious problem now, before the development had even begun, and was only going to get worse. She battled this one every inch of the way.

Round four and an amendment to:

Un-delegate the future site plan application by 1066834 Ontario Limited, a Division of 967686 Ontario Inc, 4305 Fairview Street, Suite 216 Burlington, Ontario, L7L 6E8,  for the lands at 2359, 2365, 2373 Glenwood School Drive & 2360, 2366, 2374 Queensway Drive by as a result of neighborhood concerns.

And here Mead Ward won an critical point. Usually the details of a development – referred to as the Site Plan, are delegated to the Planning Department who work with the developer. It is out of the hands of Council and handled by the administration. By un-delegating it meant that the issue comes back to Council and that the community has input – and if you know Mead Ward – there will be lots of input.

Now that’s a lot of detail – but the point to be made is this: Why does a Council member have to fight every other council member for something she wants to see done in her ward and which the people in the community want to see done. The only person who spoke up FOR the development was the planner representing the developer.

What Mead Ward was asking for was not something that was going to impact the city – it was very specific to her ward. Everything she wanted for her people was within the Official Plan and kosher with the zoning bylaw in place.

I was amazed that the other council members didn’t support Mead Ward. There was nothing precedent setting about what she wanted to do. There was going to be growth – the community just didn’t think that taking a land assembly that used to have six houses on it and plunking down 74 units was good for the community. The Mayor disagreed and made his remarks at the end of the debate.

My question to this Council, its Council members and the ratepayers at large is this. At what point do other Council members butt in and get involved in the detail and minutiae of a development in a municipal ward that is not theirs? If Council members can prevent or impede what another Council member wants to see done in their ward why elect council members for a specific ward? Just elect them all “at large” and then anyone can decide on anything.

Struck me as odd that the other council members were adamant and consistent in ensuring that the development that was not in their ward was going to proceed the way the Planning department had proposed even though neither the community or the Councillor for that ward wanted what had been proposed. We do politics different in this town.

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Play ball and listen for the sound of the crack of the bat – Ooops soggy field.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON  May 6, 2011  –  The Burlington Twins got off to a slow, slow start in Burlington this week.  The team was to take to the field Wednesday evening for a solid warm up, but while the grass had been cut and the mounds raked – the ground was just a little too soggy – so they spent their time cleaning up equipment.

Assistant coach Jamie Trull thinks the “boys” will be out later in the week to warm up for the home opener which takes place on Saturday – starts at noon – at Nelson Park on New Street.

The Intercounty Baseball League is the oldest in the Country – started organizing games in 1919.  solid ball played by up and comers and guys who just like to swing a bat and chase a ball.

Burlington is welcoming the Twins who moved west to the third best city in the country to live in.  The team has to rise to what Burlington is – and of course Burlington has to support the team.  With a ticket price of $4.00 for adults and kids get in free it has to be one of the best deals in terms of family entertainment.

Elliott Kerr, team owner, has plans for a lot of side show entertainment with kids running the bases during parts of the game and prizes for catching foul balls.

There are plans for a small beer garden and later in the season improved bleachers will be installed.

Toronto Maple Leafs played the Hamilton Thunderbirds.  Toronto took that first game 3-2; much like the hockey team with the same name – they can now say they are “unbeaten”.  The Burlington Twins might put an end to that scoreboard.

 

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Councillor Dennison almost begs for road repair funds – Holtby and Crosbie to get new surface real soon.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON May 5, 2011 – The good people of Holtby and Crosbie avenues are finally going to see their roads renewed, taken down to base and rebuilt for the first time in more than 50 years. The city is going to spend $916,000 on the task that resident on the streets will tell you is long overdue.

Getting money into the infrastructure budget to rebuild the roads that are in terrible state of repair has been a challenge for Burlington. Poor fiscal management in the past took money out of the roads repair and renew budgets which has put the city in a position where more than 30% of the road work that should be done under normal repair and renew schedules isn’t getting done because the money to do so isn’t there.

During the just completed budget masking session (that produced a $9.28 per $100,000 of assessment) Ward 4 Councillor Jack Dennison used every opportunity he could find to put funds into that budget account and while he got some money in – he wasn’t able to get as much as he needed.

Palmer Drive, a much used road has a lot of patches but it will be awhile yet before it gets a proper repair job.

Palmer Drive, a much used road has a lot of patches but it will be awhile yet before it gets a proper repair job.

Palmer Drive, a well used road in Dennison’s ward needs work but it will have to wait its turn. Dennison rode over every one of those cracks and pot holes while he was canvassing during the municipal election on his bicycle. He had his ear bent at many a door step.

Money however, oddly enough, isn’t the prime factor in getting your road repaired tomorrow. Repairing a road is complex process that starts with a need being brought to what is known as the Joint Utility Committee – that include the telephone company, the hydro company, the cable company, the gas company, the people who handle the pipes that carry water and the pipes that carry sewage and waste.

When there is a need for a road to be repaired the need gets taken to the Committee to make sure that anyone else who has work to be done on that road or street gets to do it at the same time. Gone are the days when a road was opened up to fix the telephone lines and then opened up again to fix a gas line and then again the next year for the sewage line.

Infrastructure people are now much more sophisticated and they now have software that tells them the condition of every road in the city and when it is due for renewal or repair. The city coordinates with the Region and of course the traffic and transport people because if a road is going to be closed for a period of time and it is a bus route – the alternatives have to be figured out.

Add the fire department to the mix and of course the police will want to know as well. Are you getting the picture? Everyone has their fingers in the road repair and renew pie.

Scott Stewart, the General Manager for Community Services, and the kind of guy who knows how to get his hands on a shovel, told a Council Committee recently that it was nice to have all the extra money being sent his way for road work but that money wasn’t going to translate into a road repair in the next couple of months.

All the extra money does is allow the Joint Utility Committee to meet and decide where to spend it. Sort of like a poker game; someone flush with some extra cash gets to sit in for a few hands and blow a couple of thousand.

Italo DiPietrol points out a pot hole on Holtby Street, a 50 year old road that is due for repair this summer.  Burlington has not set aside enough in the way of funding to get all the road work done – but Holtby and Crosbie will get total rebuilds this year.

Italo DiPietrol points out a pot hole on Holtby Street, a 50 year old road that is due for repair this summer. Burlington has not set aside enough in the way of funding to get all the road work done – but Holtby and Crosbie will get total rebuilds this year.

For now though, the good folks on Holtby and Crosby can figure out where they are going to park their cars and how they are going to get in and out of their driveways while the city pulls the existing road apart and new pavement is laid down and sidewalks are rebuilt. There will be some flower beds that will take a beating.

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Knock three times on the ceiling if you want me, twice on the pipe if the answer is no. Council moving to 7th floor – Mayor on the 8th.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON May 5, 2011 – Expect to see your Council members with boxes of files and Rolodexes in their arms sometime soon as they all troop from their current ground floor office to space on the seventh floor of city Hall.

Councillor Mead Ward will take her computer while Councillor Lancaster will taker her tea cups and plants.  Councillor Sharman will take his white board.

Councillor Mead Ward will take her computer while Councillor Lancaster will taker her tea cups and plants. Councillor Sharman will take his white board.

Right now your Council members and their assistants are in some of the grungiest office space you have ever seen. Mayor Goldring commented that he hated the space he was in while a Council member. The meeting room available to the Council members looked and felt like some kind of an underground bunker with assistants tucked away in corners.

The move came about when senior staff decided that it was better administration to have all the Clerk’s department staff and the communications people in the one place and that brought into play the idea that Council members could be put somewhere else – which didn’t go down all that well with Ward 5 Councillor Paul Sharman who said at the time that Council members are the leaders and are entitled to space befitting the job they do.

An interesting part of the political culture in Burlington is the way we treat our politicians; sort of like poor cousins who are given “hand me downs” and always fearful of taking what they are entitled to in terms of remuneration and perks. Council members have not had a pay increase for two years and there is no plan to re-instate the Citizen’s Advisory Committee recommendation that put the pay scale plan we have now (but don’t follow) in place so that Council members never had to find themselves setting their own pay scale.

Ward 1 Councillor Rick Craven felt that Council and the Mayor should be on the ground floor where they were visible and more accessible. If you are meeting with the Mayor, one of his staff` has to take the elevator to the ground floor and escort you to the eighth floor. General Manager of Corporate Services, Kim Phillips thought that Council members were out of the office much of the time and that the space on the ground floor could be put to better use in terms of public access to different departments. A better understanding of both the role and the perception of the role played by elected officials might have led to a different comment.

The discussion surrounding the move revealed some of the tension between members of the Executive arm of city hall staff and members of Council. This Council is quite a bit more cohesive and has a better sense of itself and the role it plays in the running of the city than previous Council’s and there are people who have served in senior executive roles and expect their accommodation to reflect the role they play. There are senior staff members who get paid more than Council members who have forgotten that Council leads and gives directions.

Will Council members have space that is bright, airy and open in their new digs on the seventh floor?

Will Council members have space that is bright, airy and open in their new digs on the seventh floor?

The cost of renovating the space came in at just over $28,000. The move will keep the elected officials and their staff in the one location where they have all but immediate access to each other as well as being close to the City Manager who is also on the eighth floor.

Longer term, Council may spruce up the Council Chamber, put in a better microphone system; upgrade the audio visual system and install an electronic voting system so that all votes are captured and made part of the public record. Then move the Council members to the ground floor where they belong.

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Possibilities for a cycle to work pilot project in new Queensway development.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON May 5, 2011 – At some point the city will issue a building permit to the developer and construction will begin on the 58 unit project located in the Queensway community – south of the QEW and west of Guelph Line. Whether that happens this month or 18 months from now, there is going to be development and that means more people living in the community – about 125 or so more and they are going to travel from their homes to work.

Einstein rode a bicycle to work – the citizens of Burlington can too – if they are given a safe way to use their bikes.

Einstein rode a bicycle to work – the citizens of Burlington can too – if they are given a safe way to use their bikes.

And here is where an opportunity exists for the city to initiate one of the pilot projects it has in mind to see if they can convince people to use bicycles instead of cars. Mayor Goldring has been hankering to get a bicycle pilot project in place for some time but the right situation hasn’t presented itself. What he wants to know is this: Can people be convinced to use their bicycles to get to work. The Mayor personally drives the car that comes with the job he has – so he ‘aint’ doin all that good’ on the setting an example scale. But he is the Mayor and having people see him flying down the street, chain of office flailing in the wind isn’t exactly the image we want to convey. So- we will cut some slack for the Mayor – but is it possible to give the average Burlington resident a way to cycle to work and perhaps not have to have that second car.

The Mayor want to pilot project that idea but he needed a situation that had at least a chance of working.

At past Council meetings a number of Council members have said they see the roads – even with bike lanes as just too unsafe. Councillor Taylor says he rides n the sidewalks. Councillor Dennison is a different cat – he rides on the road but he too doesn’t ride his bicycle to council meetings.

The past couple of weeks has seen the Queensway development get a lot of attention but not much in the way of results from the as far as the residents of the community were concerned.

With a protected bike path kept clear year round – residents in the proposed Queensway development would be able to bike to the GO station.

With a protected bike path kept clear year round – residents in the proposed Queensway development would be able to bike to the GO station.

But there just might be an opportunity to use this new development as a pilot project for bicycle use. The idea would be to create a protected bike lane on the south side of Queensway running from where the foot path will end at the north end of the project and have it run all the way to the GO station.

Then install a dozen or so locked bike lockers. Put in a dozen of the things and if they get taken up keep adding lockers until the demand stops. The city might even convince the developer to pick up the cost of the bike lane and get GO transit to install the lockers.

It’s got possibilities. Let’s see who picks this one up – Could be Mean Ward of Ward 1 or the Mayor himself. This is a chance to put their money where there mouths are. We shall see.

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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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