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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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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