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It was love at first hearing, she was swept off her feet and sat in contented bliss while sweet sounds entered her ear.

By Pepper Parr – almost totally plagiarized from a Sarah Banks blog

BURLINGTON, ON April 18, 2011 – It’s no secret, I feel like somewhat of an outsider here in Burlington. On the rare occasion that I spot someone with the potential to be like-minded (I’ve got excellent radar in this regard), I have to get a hold of myself and rein in my inclination to exhibit bizarre gestures of desperation. “Hey there! You look like my kind. Open-minded, progressive thinker with an appreciation for sarcasm, sustainable development, humanity and CBC Radio. Wanna be friends?”

Christopher Hume. The man speaks my language. And then some. <br> Photo credit: Randy Risling
Christopher Hume. The man speaks my language. And then some.
Photo credit: Randy Risling

I had to exercise particular constraint this past Tuesday when I saw the wise and wonderful Christopher Hume speak at the Inspire Burlington speaker series hosted by Mayor Rick Goldring. I felt like he’d arrived on the mothership (in this case, the GO Train) and I was more than ready to be transported back to Planet Toronto with him.

In case you don’t know, Mr. Hume is the wry and outspoken architecture critic and urban affairs reporter for The Toronto Star. He knows what makes for a great city and he doesn’t hesitate to let you know when Toronto (or in this case, Burlington) isn’t making the grade.

As a relatively new Toronto transplant, I too have not held back in my criticisms of B-town. Occasionally, I sense I may have a few behind-the-scenes foes who don’t share my disdain and wish I would shut my trap.  So it was nice to have a little validation with Hume’s expert insight in the room.

Among his many observations, Hume feels the design of Burlington leaves much to be desired. “A lot of Burlington’s problems are design problems,” he said. He shared some less than impressive slides of forgettable intersections and nondescript streetscapes. He gave moderate credit to the dynamics of the stretch of Lakeshore Blvd occupied by Pepperwoods and Benny’s but was quick to note that the romance only lasted one block.

The important thing, he said, is not the height. “It’s how the building meets the street. Is it interesting? Is it engaging? It’s what’s happening at the street level.”

Early on in Hume’s presentation, he put it right out there for the 150+ crowd to chew on—”Burlington is run by the development industry.” I’m pretty sure I clapped the loudest. Right on, Hume. Tell it like is.

As a member of the Burlington Waterfront Access and Protection Advisory Committee, I’m especially interested in what goes on behind closed doors with city staff and the Robert Moses‘ of Burlington. Not surprisingly, I’m skeptical and have my doubts that the development deals being done in this town put the needs of residents first. But I’m also resolute in my desire to show that we (the lowly residents) have more power and influence than we may realize. And we’re entitled to it, to boot. But I digress. Back to my hero, Hume. One of his more gentle reflections was that “the buildings are the buildings but the important thing is what happens in between them.” In other words, the opportunity for urban vibrancy and life in general to occur is made possible by a combination of both organic goings-on of humanity and thoughtful long-term planning decisions.

There is a unique one-shot opportunity for Burlington to succeed in achieving this urban design magic, described above.  I would love to know what Hume’s thoughts are on the Old Lakeshore Road Precinct. Aside from hazard lands, the City owns none of this precious parcel on the downtown waterfront. It is owned by a combination of developers and individuals. Condos *will* be built there and we as citizens have an opportunity to influence what this prime chunk of land will evolve into.

It won’t be easy but it’s also not impossible.

The question now is: did she get his autograph?

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Economic development gang meets at a moneyed estate – hoping some of the wealth once there will rub off.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON April 7, 2011 – It was perhaps appropriate for the Annual General Meeting of the Burlington Economic Development Corporation (BEDC) to take place at the Paletta Mansion. The site has history and wealth attached to it; first when it was given to Laura Secord by the British Crown for her role in the War of 1812. Secord, a Canadian heroine had alerted the British of a American attack plan. The property went through a number of hands before it was bought by Cyrus Albert Birge who used the property as a summer playground.

When Birge died suddenly in 1929 he left a fortune to his daughter Edythe Merriam MacKay who built the mansion we use today with her inheritance. Those years were different times and the monied set lived a life of leisure. Birge had amassed quite a fortune when her merged a screw manufacturing company into what eventually came to be known as the Steel Company of Canada.

The property’s mansion ranks among the finest representations of great estate homes designed and built in Burlington in the two decades between 1912 and 1932, and was the last of its kind and quality to be built in Burlington. Paletta hardly gets a mention in the literature – he put up a couple of million dollars to pay for the purchase when it looked as if the city was not going to be able to acquire the site.

Some 75 people gathered for the AGM to approve a financial report (which had a surplus) and install a new board of Directors that has five more directors than Royal Bank of Canada.

Leo DeLoyde, former General Manager of Development and Infrastructure for the city of Burlington and also a former CEO of the Burlington Economic Development Corporation before it was spun off as the stand alone organization it is today was on hand.

Stranger shows up for a service award and a free dinner.  Leo DeLoyde talks with fellow guest at the BEDC AGM

Stranger shows up for a service award and a free dinner. Leo DeLoyde talks with fellow guest at the BEDC AGM

The BEDC had a decent 2010 with 42% of its revenue coming from the city and 68% from other grants and revenue it generates..

The incoming chair is John Chisholm, Partner and CEO of SB Partners who will serve a two year term. He is joined by Louise St-Pierre, Senior Vice President, Residential Services, Cogeco Cable Canada LP , Paul Subject, President, STANMECH Technologies Inc. and Ruta Stauskas, Vice President, Boehringer Ingelheim Ltd.

The BEDC reported 852 new jobs were brought to Burlington in 2010, 27% of which were created in the professional services field. The organization had a construction target of 400,000 sq ft of new space for Burlington and brought in 380,000. Overall, the organization was just a little shy on most of its target which was seen as acceptable given that the Canadian economy is just pulling away from a rather savage recession in the United States.

John Chisholm, CEO of SB Partners starts a two year term as Chair of the Burlington Economic Development Corporation.  He leads an organization that weathered a recession – tough act to follow.

John Chisholm, CEO of SB Partners starts a two year term as Chair of the Burlington Economic Development Corporation. He leads an organization that weathered a recession – tough act to follow.

The future hope for the BEDC lay in the new initiatives that were put in place – the most successful being the Rapid Response Team, a concept developed by Executive Director Kyle Benham. As he explained the concept – there are situations where a deal is close to closing but there are still significant outstanding issues. That is when Benham is able to call on a team of people that is flexible and immediately available. A closing deal may require some input from a financier, help from the city planning department, some give on the part of a developer; – each situation is different. What is consistent however is the need for a rapid response to the situation that needs that little extra, last minute push in order to close.

“We can do that in a city the size of Burlington” explains Benham “because while we are not a huge city there is a depth of talent that is accessible and immediately available.

We’ve pulled together Rapid Response teams in a number of situations and while we are not always successful it isn’t because we didn’t have the talent we needed.” Burlington is one of a few municipalities in Ontario that can deploy this type of talent which is seen as a Best Practice in the economic development field.

Another BEDC initiative is the evolution of the work force in the community. Having the deGroote school of Business unit of McMaster University in Burlington gives us access to an academic institution many communities don’t have and that is a big draw for people looking for a community in which to locate. The BEDC is also continuing with the Next Generation Manufacturing Project. The changes taking place in 21st century manufacturing make it imperative for corporations to be on top of what is happening. We are able to do develop this kind of program and make it available to the manufacturing sector.

The BEDC is continually improving its investment profile, which is the image and view that the world has of Burlington. “Our job” explains Benham, “is to create am image for Burlington that makes us an attractive choice for companies that want to locate in a stable, safe community that is very close to its markets.

It was the way the BEDC had chosen to improve and develop that profile that got a bit of a rough ride at a Council committee meeting where the planned budget for 2011 was discussed. Benham had plans to visit Appledoorn, our sister city in Europe, to try and entice a Dutch company to locate in Burlington. Council didn’t get very excited about that idea.

Kyle Benham takes the BEDC through another AMG – this time he has a surplus to show for his efforts.

Kyle Benham takes the BEDC through another AMG – this time he has a surplus to show for his efforts.

Mark Gregory eases out of a two year stint as chair of the BEDC and looks forward to the next community service task.

Mark Gregory eases out of a two year stint as chair of the BEDC and looks forward to the next community service task.

Nor did council fully take to the explanation that the development of small business in Burlington was best done at the Regional level. Council felt that five new small business operations that create 25 jobs is realistic, but that bringing in a large corporation that will create 125 new jobs was very hard to achieve. Much more so for Burlington which doesn’t have any class A office space in the downtown core.

It was evident that there was a bit of tension between city council and the BEDC as to where they should be looking for those new jobs everyone wants to see come to Burlington. Most economic forecasters believe that small business is the best driver of economic growth in Ontario and that that is where the effort to build local economies should be focused

At his Q&A with members of the Chamber of Commerce earlier this month Mayor Rick Goldring mentioned that he wanted to see and was working towards more Small Business creation in the city.

John Chisholm and his Board have their work cut out for them as the BEDC and the city work out a business development philosophy that is more closely aligned. Mark Gregory steered the ship through a very nasty recession but if there is to be smooth sailing the way the growth objective is reached needs some work.

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New form of social communication seen in Burlington. Demonstrators brave cold to talk to politicians wearing ear muffs.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON April 15, 2011 – I mentioned to the photographer who was taking pictures of the demonstration in front of the Waterfront Hotel on Lakeshore Road Friday morning that not very many people were honking their horns.

“Hey pal”, he responded, “this is Burlington and demonstrations are unheard of in this town.” But it was most certainly a demonstration and the more than 55 people from the Stop the Escarpment Highway Coalition wanted to make sure Tim Hudak, Leader of the Opposition at Queen’s Park knew how they felt about his view the the GTA xx highway was a good idea.

More than 50 demonstrators kept their banner stretched across the front of the Waterfront Hotel in Burlington Friday morning – asking the public to support their objective of keeping any kind of highway from running through the Escarpment

More than 50 demonstrators kept their banner stretched across the front of the Waterfront Hotel in Burlington Friday morning – asking the public to support their objective of keeping any kind of highway from running through the Escarpment

It was a cold windy morning but they were out there and they were noisy. Hudak took it all in stride as he entered the hotel to speak to the Progressive Conservative party faithful – but didn’t say a word about the demonstration. And, based on the comment made by those who wear blue instead of red inside the hotel – the demonstration fell on deaf ears. That didn’t stop the scurrilous comment that the demonstrators were being paid $80.00 at demonstrate. The Coalition wishes it had $80. to buy hot chocolate for the demonstrators. This group is about as grass roots as it gets. They represent 12 community organizations with some 7000 people on their mailing list.

Geoff Brock does a stand up piece for a television news camera during the demonstration against long range plans for a highway through the Niagara Escarpment.

Geoff Brock does a stand up piece for a television news camera during the demonstration against long range plans for a highway through the Niagara Escarpment.

But media is what these public demonstrations are all about and they certainly got coverage. The aim of the Coalition is to keep the issue in front of the public – one can expect to see more of this type of thing. Queen’s Park is a future stop for the people with the banner sign.

Meanwhile, inside the hotel a more than respectable crowd of Progressive Conservatives showed up with all the usual suspects on hand. Brian Heagle and Rene Papin, both declared candidates for the seat that Joyce Savoline has decided not to contest again, were on hand pressing the flesh. Ted Chudleigh and anyone else that wanted to get elected as well as the people that make a political party viable were on hand. Jimmy Tap was there was well – looking rather dapper in a well cut sports jacket. Gosh – even Cam Jackson was on hand and took a bow when called upon.

Tim Hudak, Leader of the Progressive Conservative opposition at Queen’s Park chats with Rene Papin before his pep talk to the party faithful at a breakfast meeting.  Papin is one of two declared candidates for the provincial nomination in Burlington.
Tim Hudak, Leader of the Progressive Conservative opposition at Queen’s Park chats with Rene Papin before his pep talk to the party faithful at a breakfast meeting. Papin is one of two declared candidates for the provincial nomination in Burlington.

Hudak didn’t speak for very long and there was nothing trenchant in the remarks he made. The Smart Meters (the Dalton McGuinty initiative to get people to use hydro power during off peak times) have to go and the LIN’s (Local Health Integration Networks) will get booted out of existence even faster if Hudak can form a government next October.

Hudak told his audience that he saw great hope for Conservatives federally based on the way he saw the election going. Mile Wallace, the federal MP for Burlington and up for election against a young Liberal doing much better than many expected, sure hopes Hudak is right.

And just to show that Hudak was a straight up kind of guy he announced that he would be out canvassing with Mike Wallace and with Ted Chudleigh and meeting with some of Burlington’s business leaders.

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Another fan – with a point of view. He might be right!

BURLINGTON, ON April 15, 2011

Good Morning

A good friend of mine Jim Barnett called me an hour or so ago about the article you wrote about my delegation before Council on Monday night. I certainly understand your point of view but don’t agree with it.

Do you know that Council took away from all non union staff their annual cost of living increase for 2011.(Perhaps you should have researched and included that fact in your article) This was the backdrop to my comment on pay. Could you imagine them taking an increase and all staff being asked to forego the same increase? What Council did was take the lead which was in my opinion the right thing to do under the circumstances.

The article on Joe Lamb’s delegation to city hall is here.

By the way I enjoy your website. I have added it to my favourites.

Cheers,

Joe  Lamb

 

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It isn’t going to be Breakfast at Tiffany’s for Hudak Friday morning. Cold porridge and a no highway here demonstration.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON April 14, 2011 – The Stop Escarpment Highway Coalition (SEHC) will be serving Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak a reminder for breakfast at the Burlington Chamber of Commerce’s morning meeting this Friday. The SEHC is protesting Hudak’s promise to build the Niagara to GTA Highway (previously called the Mid-Peninsula Highway) from Fort Erie to North Burlington if elected Premier. Demonstrators will let him know that the highway is not wanted.

Hudak is attending a breakfast meeting for the Burlington Chamber of Commerce:

  • Friday, April 15, 2011
  • Protesters to attend from 7:15AM to 8:00AM
  • Breakfast to be served at 8:00AM
  • Waterfront Hotel
  • 2020 Lakeshore Road, Burlington, Ontario (at the foot of Brant St. at Lakeshore Rd.)

The Coalition is committed to ensuring there is no new highway ripped through the Niagara Escarpment, a national treasure and UNESCO reserve. They also want to highlight the importance of this issue for all Ontario taxpayers. “It may not be your backyard – but it’s your back pocket,” said Susan McMaster, Co-Chair of COPE. “Hudak is planning to spend billions of dollars for a highway that isn’t needed. That’s a cost we’ll all bear.”

That arrow is where they bureaucrats and planners wanted to ram a road through.  And that battle isn’t over yet.

That arrow is where they bureaucrats and planners wanted to ram a road through. And that battle isn’t over yet.

The highway got to be called the Green Arrow when it appeared on a provincial government map last October to the surprise of just about everyone. The community pulled together quite quickly with a voice that was loud enough to have the provincial government put a hold on the idea which at the time they said was just a concept.

For Hudak this issue has become the “apple of his eye” because he thinks he can earn more votes promoting the highway than we would if he were to oppose it. The Coalition which was conceived when Burlington Councillors Blair Lancaster and John Taylor held a public meting that saw more than 800 people in the Mainway Arena. Out of that came a list of people and organizations that almost immediately had signs out on the back roads of northern Burlington and then hours of time in meeting rooms creating an organization that pulled together a dozen different community groups with support from both the Region and the city.

Hudak is now up against a very well organized Coalition that has exceptionally sound support from the city of Burlington. While the candidates for the Burlington provincial seat are quite due to the federal election – you can bet the mortgage money that none of them will be with Hudak Friday morning. Support for the Green Arrow isn’t going to pull in votes in this city.

Signs like this were out on the back roads of Burlington days after the Coalition was formed.

Signs like this were out on the back roads of Burlington days after the Coalition was formed.

While keeping the pressure on Hudak The Stop Escarpment Highway Coalition people have not forgotten what the provincial government is doing. In March 2011 the Ministry of Transportation released the latest report on the status of the project. Public comment must be submitted by June 6, 2011. The report includes optimizing existing road networks, a new highway from Fort Erie to Welland and continued study on a highway commencing at the 403 in Ancaster and cutting through Flamborough on the way to toll highway 407 in North Burlington.

The coalition maintains that this would irreparably damage Niagara Escarpment, agricultural land and eco-systems along the way. The Coalition is currently canvassing Federal election candidates on their position on a National Transport Policy and intends to publish the results. Members believe this is needed to ensure rail transport options are given due consideration in the Niagara GTA project as well as overall sustainable transport planning.

The local provincial candidates are being canvassed as well for their views on the highway.

Finally, a real local issue. Should be fun.

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How do you tell the guy? “We need to move on”, “It’s over” “We can still be friends?” Women are asked to share their experiences.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON April 13, 2011 – This is supposed to be the election that is going to be dominated by social media. Everyone is tweeting or posting a message to their Facebook page and this is all supposed to keep us in the loop and know, to the last second, what’s going on. Ok, if you say so – I suppose.

All that ability to communicate with us is a step beyond the telemarketers interrupting dinner – but its happening so I guess we have to live with it. Right?

It isn’t all doom and gloom though – there are some funny things going on. The Raging Grannies have done a song that is available on You Tube. And Eric Williams of Hamilton has created a You Tube section with a feature that is titled: It’s over Steve!

The theme is of women who are talking to some man in their life and telling him that the relationship is over. Women will identify with this one – and some of it is really quite funny.

Williams’ take is asking women who have a camera attached to their computer to do a little piece on how they would end a relationship – in this case with Stephen Harper.

“They are just regular everyday Canadian women.  Strangers I recruited off the street after we setup our shot.  Basically I said, stare into the camera and break up with Steve in 60 seconds or less, just like you have before, or have seen in movies.    The girls did their own acting.” And now they are getting their 15 minutes of fame.

Williams is a communications student at McMaster University where he is doing two undergrad degrees and would like to see his effort go “viral” which in the world of the techies is like taking down all ten pins with one bowling ball – three times in a row. Big stuff.

Williams says he “is not affiliated with any political party and hasn’t  received funding from anyone.  We have big plans for future episodes to be released this week and throughout the election.

“The goal”, says Williams, “is to boost the female turnout on election day.  I’d like to see their turnout be at least 10% higher than the last election. Women are awesome at social networking and I think it’s gonna work.”

“We are having a great time making these! And adds: What an age we live in, eh? Can’t get much more Canadian than that. McLuhan would call it cool!.

You get viral when people see the item and pass it along to their friends – some of these things spread around the world in a matter of hours. Sort of like watching a “wave” at a hockey game.

The “It’s over Steve! Gets a little political at the end – we apologize for that. We pass it on in the spirit of good fun. If you happen to come across something on Ignatieff or Duceppe or Layton in a similar vein – pass them along. We need something to take for the assault on our senses during election campaigns.

 

 

Here you go:  Its Over Steve – Episode 1

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Salt with Pepper: So – who won? Won what? The federal election debate. Oh, that.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON April 13, 2011 Thousands of Canadians tuned into the federal election debate on television but I’m betting most of them didn’t stay for the full two hours. It got kinda boring, no it got very boring at times. Was there a winner? Yeah – Jack Layton actually won the debate – but he hasn’t a hope in Hades of winning the election and his health is such that he probably would not be able to finish the term were he to win.

But he did get off some of the best lines. Stephen Harper was the same, empty, bloodless person he has always been. The man just doesn’t emit any sense of empathy. Michael Ignatieff was OK – but if the sense that he needed a knockout punch to win – then he didn’t win because there was no knockout punch.

Gilles Duceppe was in there plugging away for Quebec’s interests. Odd that he could be part of the debate but the Greens were not given a place at the table. Elizabeth May is at least lively, focused and good at going for the juggler. However, five candidates would have been too many. Why does Duceppe take part in a debate for English Canadians – shouldn’t he be limited to just the French debate?

I watched the debate at two different locations – the Mike Wallace Conservative campaign office and at the Alyssa Brierley Liberal campaign office. Mike had the larger crowd – maybe 15% larger. He was also serving beer and wine. And the usual suspects were at his event. The Mike crowd were quite boisterous and guffawed like fans in a tavern watching a hockey game.

When Jack Layton sucker punched Ignatieff over his House of Commons attendance record one voice in the Wallace crowd hollered out: “Thanks for that Jack.” To the Wallace crowd it was all great sport and they felt their guy was more than holding his own. Mike himself was in fine form.

Try as Ignatieff might he was never able to make the point that the election was taking place because the government had been found in contempt of the House of Commons. That is a big deal and it will be part of the Harper legacy. Harper wouldn’t see it that way – he saw it all as “bickering” between political parties that was wasting everyone’s time – especially his.

It was interesting to note that while the two local campaign managers were roughly the same age and appeared to me to be good at what they do – the Liberal crowd was younger and much more engaged. The Wallace crowd was definitely older and reminded me of the people that were at one of the early Cam Jackson campaign for Mayor events. You didn’t get the sense that they were as aware or “with it” as the Liberal crowd.

The Liberals were quieter than the Tory’s. Alyssa Brierley was “tweeting” throughout the debate. There was the sense at the Liberal event that Iggy did OK – he didn’t make any monumental goofs, and he was certainly miles ahead of poor Stephane Dion. Ignatieff had been well briefed and knew his file and at times the passion in the man did come through but never with the vigor that was needed.

While election signs are not a particularly reliable measure of support for a candidate, there appear to be more of the red ones than the blue ones out there and a lot of the blue ones appear to be on commercial property rather than homes of people who can fill in a ballot. There are some of the orange ones and I’ve seen a few of the green ones as well.

Harper did more than hold his own. He was standing there taking on all comers and while the answers were acceptable, other than his explanation that there was no money to be saved on the new fighter jets he planned on buying – as he said they wouldn’t be spending a dime for another five years.

Did the country trust Harper anymore after the debate than they did before? I don’t think so – but the country is getting used to the guy. Will he get the majority he needs? Really hard to tell. Will there be a higher voter turn out ? Well make sure you vote and drag your neighbours along.

Will we end up with another minority? That could happen. My sense is that we will end up with another minority government – who will lead that government and will it have the confidence of the House? Big questions. But hey, we Canadians learned what “prorogation of the House” is all about so we can handle a confidence matter.

We’ve done all right with the last two minority governments. If Harper does not win a majority he’s toast and if Ignatieff does not form at least a minority, he too will be toast. And Layton’s health is such that this is probably his last election. So, we could see all three men off the federal stage 18 months from now. Duceppe? Oh he will still be there – he gets great deals for Quebec.

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No debating please – we are after all Burlingtonians – but polite questions would be nice.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON April 12, 2011 – The Burlington Chamber of Commerce wants its members to hear what all four candidates running for the federal seat in the House of Commons and have arranged for an all candidates event on Wednesday April 27th – 7:30 am with a continental breakfast to be followed by a Question and Answer session.

All candidates from the four major parties that have registered to run have confirmed their attendance at the meeting.  The meeting features a moderated question and answer session where attendees can ask questions of each of the candidates. Will the moderator let one candidate ask questions of another candidate – or is that too close to a debate?

Registration opens at 7:30am with a continental breakfast running till 8:00am. And the “games” run from 8:00 to 9:30am.  The meeting is free to Chamber members and costs $10.00 (includes HST) for non-members.  You must sign up in advance.

The event is sponsored by the Realtors Association of Hamilton-Burlington.

All four candidates are shown below.

 

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Much patting on the back as Council approves the operating budget for 2011. We are in a financial holding pattern.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON April 12, 2011 – It went down pretty quickly. After 18 hours of committee meetings city council passed the operating budget in pretty quick order and after thanking themselves and anyone else they could name it came to a recorded vote with Ward 1 councillor Rick Craven voting against the budget.

Councillors Taylor and Dennison were delighted to vote for a budget that they truly believed in even though both men said they realized it was a “holding budget” in place until the Strategic Plan for the city was determined.

Taylor said this was just the fourth budget he has voted for in the 12 budgets that have come before him.

Blair Lancaster said she wished the strategic Plan had been done first so that the budget could be aligned with the Strategic Plan but she too realized that a budget had to be struck this month.

Paul Sharman who is responsible for the move to come in with a much lower budget than last year said he saw this budget as an opportunity to show voters that we took them seriously when they told us on their doorsteps that the 45 and 5% increases each year of the last term of council was too much.

Sharman said the reserves look good. The debt load is pretty good. He was satisfied and believes that while 1% will be hard to do again – he didn’t think we will see the 4% and 5% numbers for awhile.

Marianne Meed Ward said no one got everything they wanted but everyone got something and described it as a transitional budget with continued fiscal restraint in the years ahead.

Mayor Goldring thanked the Executive Budget Committee meeting for the 90 hours they put in on the budget and then also thanked Councillor Sharman for the work he did in leading the Budget and Community Services Committee saying that your tax meetings were easier than mine” referring to the time when Goldring as a Councillor chaired the committee.

Goldring pointed out that the less than 1%` increase was the lowest in ten years with no substantive changes in the operation of the city. “We bought some time” said the Mayor. And for that he can thank a couple of lucky breaks that resulted in a $9.3 million surplus that Council had to play with.

Goldring did have an easier time than Sharman and also brought in budgets that were in the 4% and 5% range – more than the voters were prepared to swallow in 2011.

Councillor Craven didn’t smile very much during the council meeting as he voted against he budget.

Councillor Craven didn’t smile very much during the council meeting as he voted against he budget.

Odd man out on this budget was Councillor Craven who said he was shocked that staff had delayed hiring people which resulted in the $3 million saved as a result of “gapping”.

“Our job is not to find the lowest possible tax increase but to find the right tax level. “This budget he claimed does not align our resources with our needs and we are millions of dollars short in meeting the expectations of the community.”

Craven has disagreed with his fellow Councillors on a number of points. He thought it “shocking” that the city is going to open a new fire station without all the full time staff needed. Council decided to continue using overtime work to cover the requirement making fire Chief Shayne Mintz’s job that much more difficult.

“At a time when we want better communication with our Citizens” declared Craven “we have reduced the number of City Talk pages we are going to publish. City Talk is a publication that is inserted into a newspaper and posted to the city’s web site. It tells what Council members are doing and updates citizens on want the city is doing in the way of road closures and repairs.

Other than finally paying the Councillors the increase they had deferred for a number of years there were no changes to the operating budget. Mead Ward wanted $25,000 added to the budget for WiFi service at all the city’s facilities. When it became evident that there wasn’t support for the idea Mead Ward withdrew the request.

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Council members take a pay increase hit – for the third time. A lamb ate their lunch.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON April 12, 2011 – Joe Lamb didn’t need much time to get to his point. “You’ve all done a great job and the budget you have delivered” he told Council on Monday evening “is a good budget. BUT”, he said, “the two Councillor pay increases that are before you tonight were approved by a vote of 4-3. “I also see” said Lamb “that three of the four votes in favour were cast by rookie Councillors.”

“I am hoping that one of you will find the humility and show the leadership necessary to reverse this decision tonight. It is very difficult to have the troops follow when you are not willing to make the sacrifice yourself”.

And with that, Ward 2 Councillor Marianne Meed Ward fell on her sword, changed her vote and the recommendation to increase council members pay was defeated.

Lamb however, completely missed the point but did manage to scare the pants off council members who are now in the embarrassing position of making the decision as to what they get paid, in their hands.

Burlington was smart enough a number of years ago to create a Citizens Committee that determined what the pay increases for Council members were to be – but rather than stick to the principal,, which was a good one, they ran for the hills when a single person stood before them and tried to embarrass them.

Joe Lamb uses 25 words to scare the pants off a majority of Council members as they scramble to get away from a Citizen Committee recommendation that sets out what they should be paid.  Not a lot of guts shown at Council on Monday night.

Joe Lamb uses 25 words to scare the pants off a majority of Council members as they scramble to get away from a Citizen Committee recommendation that sets out what they should be paid. Not a lot of guts shown at Council on Monday night.

Lamb who is a council member for Parry Sound where he lives part time now that he is retired, should have known better. Prior to knee capping the Council members Lamb did make a coupe of really good points. He congratulated council and said the budget they brought in for 2011 “looks fantastic and you are all to be congratulated”

“In my opinion your challenge in the next four years will relate to the cost of staffing and the replacing of an aging infrastructure. What is beneath the ground is sadly in need of investment.”

“Employee wages and excellent benefits and an incredible pension plan will continue to weigh heavily on your resources and we need to find innovative ways to address the ever increasing burden associated with this issue.”

After admonishing Council members for accepting a pay increase they had every right to take – they had after all deferred an increase they were entitled to for 2009 and deferred the increase they were entitled to for 2010 – and were now asking for what they had taken a pass on when times were really tough. Council had already done the right thing.

What Joe Lamb now needs to do is agree to sit on a committee that would put in place a procedure for paying our Council members what they deserve so that delegations like the one he made Monday night don’t get repeated..

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Finally, a permit has been approved and New City Park development can begin – again.

By Staff

Burlington, On – April 11, 2011 – Finally, the City of Burlington received  notice that the development permit conditionally  approved by the Niagara Escarpment Commission for New City Park in July 2010 has been approved by the province. Not everyone is happy with the decision but at least there is a decision and the project can now move forward.

It all started with the Pan Am Games.  Some don’t think we got very much of that pie.

It all started with the Pan Am Games. Some don’t think we got very much of that pie.

New City Park is a development of 165-acre (67-hectare) at the corner of Dundas Street and Kerns Road that began in May 2010. It as to be home of the Burlington part of the PanAm games but got tied up in a couple of bureaucratic knots.  When Burlington’s participation in the PanAm games fell apart

The Niagara Escarpment Commission issued a permit for phase one, on site grading works, in May 2010.  Construction on the play fields stopped in July 2010 when a citizen appeal for the phase two of the construction was filed with the NEC.

On Oct. 5, 2010, a Niagara Escarpment Hearing Office hearing was held to consider the appeal.  The hearing officer’s report and recommendations from that hearing were filed with the Ministry of Natural Resources in December 2010 for the minister’s review. The minister had the task of reviewing the recommendations of the Hearing Officer and making a decision on whether or not the development permit should be approved.

In a decision dated April 7, 2011, Natural Resources Minister Linda Jeffrey directed the NEC to issue a development permit allowing the city’s park development to resume. Preparation to resume construction will begin next week with full construction on site expected to resume in early May .

“When completed, New City Park will be the city’s largest park, offering a stunning view of the Niagara Escarpment and a variety of active and passive recreation options,” said Mayor Rick Goldring. “The province’s support of the NEC decision means the city can provide this much-needed park to the people of Burlington while making use of the previously approved stimulus money.”  The location of the park – on the Burlington-Hamilton border will make it more accesible to Hamilton people than those in Burlington

The city bought the lands for New City Park in 2002 in partnership with the Bruce Trail Association. In May 2009, the city applied for funding under the Canada-Ontario Infrastructure Program and was successful in getting $4.6 million in senior government funding for the first phase of the new park. This was matched by $2.3 million in city funding. Under that funding arrangement, work on phases receiving Stimulus Funding must be completed by October 2011. With al that money on the table there is going to be a lot of construction equipment re-shaping empty fields into public parkland.

Development of the park can now begin.  Going to be a bit of a rush to spend the Stimulus money before the bank closes
Development of the park can now begin. Going to be a bit of a rush to spend the Stimulus money before the bank closes

When completed, New City Park will include sports fields, playgrounds, trails, a pond/wetland, a pavilion, open space areas, natural areas and supporting amenities.

“The city has worked closely with the Niagara Escarpment Commission and the province at every stage of this project,” said Allan Magi, Burlington’s executive director of strategic corporate initiatives. “We are excited to resume the construction of this magnificent park which will result in much-needed additional recreation facilities for the citizens of Burlington as well as significant restoration and protection of the sensitive escarpment lands.”

The BIG issue for many is the use of synthetic turf on some of the soccer fields which some do not feel is all the environmentally friendly. The lack of serious public involvement was a concern to Burlington Green as well as Holton who has been very vocal with her views on the use of synthetic turf but her voice seemed to be facing a xxx

On its web site Burlington Green said it understood that “no other park of the 130 protected by the Niagara Escarpment Plan Open Space System (NEPOSS) has synthetic turf.   The park as part of the Niagara Escarpment is UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve designated which aims to “maintain, ensure, protect and preserve” the natural environment for future generations.” But that battle seems to have been lost at a time when the Burlington Youth Soccer Club takes the air out of one of its domes to replace the turf on one of its soccer fields. One of the issues about that synthetic turf replacement is what will be done with the synthetic turf that is no longer useful? Peter Summers told a council committee meeting that they are working with the turf manufacturers to determine how best to dispose of the synthetic material. That problem doesn’t yet have a solution that is both clear and satisfactory to everyone.

BurlingtonGreen’s position was that the city should not proceed with any additional artificial turf installations until more comprehensive research is conducted on the environmental, financial and health considerations of this product and that the findings be effectively communicated to the citizens of Burlington. That argument has been lost and Burlington is now going to have a number of park locations with artificial turf and the product may be approved for residential use in the city. Apparently there is just no stopping progress.

For Margaret Lindsay Holton, who has been consistently vocal on he way the park was being developed, the good news last Friday was that Spring has sprung!! For her the rest of the news was about as bad as it could get. “The decision is” an eco-disgrace”, she said. Many felt the argument at the appeal level (this stuff gets very confusing) was over the use of artificial turf but that turned out not to be the case. The issue for the hearing officer was about the proposed size of the parking lots and the size of the as-yet-unseen plan for the stadium. Given his recommendations, the Ministry of Natural Resources has made the decision that the Niagara Escarpment Commission could re-issue the Development Permit, provided certain new ‘conditions’ were met.

Margaret Lindsay Holton says: “the way is seemingly now clear for this noxious product to go in to the park without
a proper Environmental Impact Assessment.

According to Holton three fields of plastic grass are going into New City Park. Mayor Rick Goldring, who once ran as a Green Party candidate, feels that is wonderful and Alan Magi, Acting Executive Director Corporate Strategic Initiatives sees it as magnificent for the city

A tireless advocate for the environment, looses to synthetic turf in New City Park

A tireless advocate for the environment, looses to synthetic turf in New City Park

Holton, a rather forlorn comment says: “by the look of it, the two natural
playing fields that were proposed in future development will not be permitted now because the increased intensity of use afforded by the artificial turf will stress the carrying capacity of the park to the max. Great eh? No REAL grass playing fields at ALL.. All in all, Burlington will be the first park within the vaulted NEPOSS park system of 130 parks supposedly protected by the Greenbelt Act to get plastic grass.”

Holton adds: “But, for now, the MNR ‘decision’ of yesterday is final, as flawed as it now is. PanAm is getting their park to their design, in collusion with Burlington City ‘Corporate Strategic Planners’. The public, citizens of Burlington & local residents, per se, have had little to nothing to do with this final ‘PanAm’ design. And, as such, it is a solid slap in the face to all Burlington taxpayers. It is we who will pay and pay and pay for this PanAm plastic grass in perpetuity, not the local ‘soccer club’ , or the fleeting PanAm org who will decamp after one month of ‘tournament’ play on their fenced-in FIFA-2 certified artificial turf in 2015”

Holton is certainly passionate in her views. Is she right? Too early to tell, but synthetic turf is here.

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Coming in second isn’t in the play book Brierley reads from. A lot is going to depend on how her leader does on Tuesday.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON April 11, 2011 – She came out of the gate quickly. “My name” she said “is Alyssa Brierley, and I am thrilled to be here today to launch our campaign to win Burlington for the Liberal party on May 2”

Nominated by Paddy Torsney, the last Liberal to hold the federal seat in the House of Commons, Brierley says she was approached by people within the federal Liberal Party to run for the nomination and was then acclaimed when no one else chose to contest the nomination.

Brierley was introduced to the larger Liberal community at a Town Hall meeting in Hamilton and had her picture taken with the man she hopes will help her win the election in Burlington.

Brierley was introduced to the larger Liberal community at a Town Hall meeting in Hamilton and had her picture taken with the man she hopes will help her win the election in Burlington.

Then suddenly, there are those Liberal red lawn sign popping up faster than the Spring flowers. . And the campaign is off to a pretty fast start. So who is this woman and what is she going to do for Burlington? “People look to their elected representatives for inspiration and for solutions to the problems” said Brierley when nominated.

“In short, people look to their elected representatives for hope. I recognized that the political process is the key to change, and that by making smart choices, we could make a difference at home, across the country, and even in faraway places. I’ve devoted a lot of time and effort to the study of political science, economics and law because I wanted to equip myself with the tools to improve the lives of people in my community.

“But look where we are today. Mike Wallace, Stephen Harper and the Conservative government have completely changed the face of federal politics. In a short five years, Mr. Harper has turned federal politics away from a tool for strengthening our country and into a cynical, coldly strategic game. I can’t ever recall a time where the prime minister has so arrogantly manipulated our democratic processes for his own personal gain.”

“We see it time and again in the headlines: Parliament prorogued, important memos surreptitiously altered, Parliament lied to over and over, election laws ignored. The Conservatives have brought to federal politics an unprecedented culture of deceit and corruption. This is the only government in our nation’s history that has ever been found in contempt of Parliament.”

OK – so the lawyer with a PhD is going to run her campaign based on what the Conservatives have done to the country. So far we’ve not heard what she will do for Burlington.

Brierley planting yet another lawn sign.

Brierley planting yet another lawn sign."So who am I?" she asked rhetorically at her nomination. " I am an energetic, young woman with a multitude of experiences who is passionate about making a difference for the people of Burlington and Canada. My roots are in Burlington. It was in Burlington that I developed my passion for public service, and I am deeply indebted to this community for lighting this fire in me. :I have degrees in political science, economics and law. I'm also pursuing a PhD in political science focusing on global politics and international relations."All good stuff – but what will she do for Burlington? We don't know that yet nor do we know how the public will take to her – but there are a lot of those red lawn signs out there."But I'm not just a politico or an academic - I have also developed business insight through my work in both the public and private sectors, and through my work as a lawyer. I've worked in financial services and telecommunications, in corporate and commercial law and in the development of regulatory policy. At the same time I remain true to my commitment to the community through my volunteer work with low income individuals and newcomers to Canada."Campaign office was packed on opening day. Liberals greeting Liberals and getting their marching orders.

Ahh – the stuff of campaign speeches. Rouse the audience, get their blood going – that and a bit of marching music can sometimes win you an election. But it isn’t going to be quite that easy in Burlington this time around. The Liberal Party leader, Michael Ignatieff, is still a bit behind in the polls and we won’t have any real sense of who he is until the debate on Tuesday, April 12. If he comes out of that event a winner – then there will be a real race in this city for the seat in the House of Commons.

There will be a number of debates in the city; one being sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce on April 27th.

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They are getting – silver Porsche car-jacked north of Burlington.

By Staff

BURLINGTON, ON April 8, 2010 – The driver of a car saw flashing blue lights in his rear view mirror and pulled over at the intersection of Conservation Road and Twiss Road and was approached by a person he believed to be a police officer. Told to get out of the car the driver did so and the person with what was thought to be a police badge jumped into the silver 1999 Porsche 944 CV, black convertible top and drove off.

A person in the car that was thought to be a police car drove off behind the Porsche.

The stolen car was last seen southbound on Twiss Rd, south of Campbellville Road. The suspect vehicle fled the area northbound. The victim was not injured as a result of this incident.

Suspect #1 is described as a male, white, 35 years of age, 6′ 2″ tall, short haircut, a freshly cut chin strap beard and muscular build. He was wearing a long sleeved black shirt, jeans and produced a dull gold badge in a black leather holder hanging from a beaded chain.

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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Halton Board names new school after Citizen of the Year, the late John Boich.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON April 8, 2011 – It is a lovely school John. Pretty big too and construction is coming along just fine. There will be hundreds of kids flooding through the doors next September. I wonder how many of them will even know who the school was named after?

The late John Boich with a favourite neighbour.

The late John Boich with a favourite neighbour.

But, I know that your spirit will infuse the place and by the time they graduate they will understand what it is to be a citizen and to be engaged. They will have graduated and been “boiched” all at the same time.

It was a struggle though John to get your name on the building – it got a little political at the end (are you surprised at that?) and the decision came about when there was a tie vote at the Board and you name was drawn from a hat. You must have chuckled when you saw that happen Johnny Boy! Priya had organized the whole thing with three delegations on your behalf.

They are going to use all your names and call the school the John William Boich Public School. Arlene (she’s doing OK John) said the “whole ‘family’ was present and thrilled at the outcome. It was a nail-biter considering the politics that surround such an event, but we did it!”

Little did the Halton Board know that they would end up with your name on one of their schools. Makes you want to order another plate of sweet potato fries doesn’t it ?

John William Boich Public School will open in September.

John William Boich Public School will open in September.

Arlene met the new Principal and, according to her, “he seems to be a really good guy —a Serb too, if you can believe it! She knew you’d get a chuckle out of that too.

There was much partying at the Mohan’s afterward. Arlene is so happy — weepy too — because she knew how much you wanted this.

Take care fella.

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Wallace takes to the streets of Burlington – asking to be re-elected the House of Commons – for a third time.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON April 8, 2011 – Burlington MP, Mike Wallace is casually dressed and ready to do his door-to-door thing to get himself re-elected to the House of Commons. It’s an election Wallace didn’t think the country needed but he is cheerfully out there campaigning and always ready to tell you, should you ask, what he has done for Burlington.

Mike Wallace looking over the piles of literature that will get dropped off at every door in the riding.

Mike Wallace looking over the piles of literature that will get dropped off at every door in the riding.

Wallace isn’t the kind of guy who will tell you he hopes some day to become a member of the Cabinet. He’d be quite happy to sit on the Treasury Board but given that he doesn’t expect that to happen soon Mike talks about what he does do well and, in his words, gets things done for Burlington.

“I listen to people” explains Wallace and where I think I can help I build a case and take it to whoever makes the decision. Getting the then Minister of the Environment John Baird to Burlington and out on a boat to tour the Randall Reef area of Hamilton Harbour resulted in a cheque for $30 million to cover part of the cost of covering the contaminated site in Hamilton Harbour where tides and the water flow patterns have dumped years of toxic waste into a portion of the harbour that is now the second worst toxic waste site on the northern side of the Great Lakes. The only place worse is the Sydney, NS tar ponds.

The tar and toxic metals that gathered in Randall’s Reef were the result of run off from Shepherd’s creek in Hamilton and run off from the steel plants. Paying to put a cap over the waste and seal it for centuries is going to involve municipalities, the province, the federal government and the steel companies in Hamilton.

Wallace brings several perspectives to each request that comes across his desk. “Is it something I can actually do something about”, he explains. “Can I add some value to the request” he adds. “Sometimes there is an issue, like agriculture, that I don’t know much about so I direct people with agricultural issues to the appropriate person and will set up an appointment for them and then follow through on that appointment to make sure it takes place.”

Thirdly, the request has to fit within the “party perspective” adds Wallace. So if you want a stack of get out of jail free cards – Mike Wallace is not the man to approach.

Wallace sees his job as “bugging and begging” for funds that pay for projects in the community. “If there is a project that I can believe in and can make a case for it – I will become that projects champion.”

Mike Wallace loves maps that are covered with blue boxes.  He has seen maps that were covered with red boxes.

Mike Wallace loves maps that are covered with blue boxes. He has seen maps that were covered with red boxes.

“We have a bit of a reputation on Parliament Hill” says Wallace. When Bev Oda, a member of the Conservative Cabinet sees us coming she will duck away and say “here come the boys from Burlington” and on that level Wallace is relentless and knows no shame.

Wallace, who seems to enjoy canvassing door to door, says he hasn’t been hit with a purse yet or chased away from the door with a broom either. Could that be because he doesn’t mention the word “prorogation” or try to explain what “contempt of the House means”?

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Big time baseball comes to Burlington. League that develops players for the major leagues setting up in Burlington.


By Staff

The crack of the bat and all eyes follow the ball. Is it a pop fly or a bouncy grounder and did someone just slide into third base?

It is Spring time and that means baseball and for those who love the game – things in Burlington just got better. The Burlington Twins, formerly the Mississauga Twins have made Nelson Park their home turf and will play their first home game on Saturday, May 7th at 2:00 pm

The team schedule for this year is Thursday’s at 7:30 pm and Saturdays at 2:00 PM. Full schedule is available at https://www.mississaugatwins.ca/mt_calendar.shtml

The ball team is part of the Intercounty Baseball League announced today the franchise will move to the City of Burlington and will operate as the Burlington Twins with Nelson Park as their home field for the 2011 season.

Doug Kelcher and Scott Rogers will manage the team as General Manager and Assistant General Manager respectively.

Joining Elliott Kerr as part of the ownership group is local Burlington businessman Scott Robinson, COO of Burlington based Interior Design House, a fixture in the Burlington community for over 20 years and Backspin Marketing Group.

Season tickets for 17 home games will be available for only $75 (that’s just over $4.00 a game – great deal) so make sure you get yours today. Follow the Twins at www.burlingtontwins.com

The IBL was founded in 1919 with just four teams—Galt, Guelph, Stratford and Kitchener—and is the oldest amateur men’s league in Canada. During the early years, the league expanded to include the cities of London, Brantford, Preston and St. Thomas, Ontario. It was previously known as the Intercounty Major Baseball League and the Senior Intercounty Baseball League. The league has been home to a number of aspiring major league players, and the league has continually graduated players into the major league ranks each year. The league includes franchises in Toronto, Brantford, Barrie, London, Kitchener, Hamilton and Ottawa, who joined the league prior to the 2010 season.

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Budget making for Burlington takes longer than baby making. And there isn’t any “oh, how lovely” to a budget

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON April 5, 2011 – After sitting on a padded bench for three days, two of them back to back, Acting General Manager Finance Joan Ford’s comment that “it is that simple” when explaining how the city puts its budget together doesn’t seem to have the – ‘oh, I get it’ sense to it.

But, if you step back from the long, tiring, sometimes inane, sometimes funny sessions – it is quite simple. At least putting the budget together is simple – passing it and figuring out what goes and what stays – I don’t think even Ms Ford would say – “it’s that simple”.

Basically it works like this. There is a budget cycle, which for Burlington is ten months in duration and staff can look for that to change as they head into the 2012 budget cycle. Council is going to want this process squeezed down to five or six months – and with the same staffing compliment as well.

There was no “acting when Joan Ford took to the budget stage – nothing but consistently good delivery.

There was no “acting when Joan Ford took to the budget stage – nothing but consistently good delivery.

Each department gets its forms on-line and is asked to enter their data and back it goes to the finance office where all the numbers are pulled together. Frequently Ms Ford will ask a department to take another look at a number they’ve submitted and there is discussion around who is more right.

When Finance has all its numbers in, an analysis is done and it gets sent to the members of the Executive Budget Committee, which is the next level up and where the really sharp axes come out. That eight member committee is led by City Manager Roman Martiuk, and consists of the General Managers: Kim Phillips of Budget and Corporate Services and Scott Stewart of Community Services and Joan Ford of Finance. Add to that the Executive Directors: Allan Magi, Steve Zorbas and then stir in the Director of Human Resources Roy Male and a rotating Director, which this year is Clerk Angela Morgan, and you have the team that works with the guidance given it by city council to create a budget that manages the revenue needed to meet the expenses it takes to keep the city running.

Martiuk who chairs the EBC explains that they never vote but “we do work towards consensus and give every member of the team an opportunity to voice their opinions.”

“I seldom make rulings but I have had a situation, not with this city, where I was advised to tell council they were wrong. I ruled that council was never wrong and that ended that discussion”.

Martiuk explained that he discusses matters with council members on an ongoing basis and has all but immediate access to the mayor – both are on the same floor of city hall. Getting a budget position this year was complicated by a number of matters explains Martiuk. First our initial instructions were to come back with a budget that was in the 2.5% to 3.5% range – that was given to us by an out going council. Everyone thought that was a really big step forward at the time – the city had experienced 4% to 5% increases for the previous four years – so 2.5% looked really positive

“We worked up our numbers within those parameters”, explains Martiuk.. “Normally”, he adds, “we go back to council with a draft but that doesn’t happen during an election year “so we were left to work on our own, which we did.”

To add to the complexity was that a number of matters were producing very favourable results for the city over which staff had no control. The gas tax was going to be very good, the income from investments was also very good. Low snow removal costs in 2010 were a big help. “Normally”, said Martiuk, “there is good news and there is bad new but during the last half of 2010 it was basically all good news and we were working within a cost containment model which meant money was coming in a at better clip than usual and we were spending less.”

Martiuk agreed that the 2010 $9.3 million surplus is probably the biggest the city has ever experienced. We are not likely to see that situation again. Each department knows its financial position at the end of each month with an aggregate number available at the end of each quarter.

There was quite a bit of tension between staff and council members as they waded into the development of the budget. Much of that tension was the result of some rather startling comments made by first time council member Paul Sharman who brought a very brusque and direct style to his question of staff. His directness brought out the fiscal concerns that councillors Taylor and Dennison had been harbouring for years. With Sharman leading then there was a new tone to this council. It was sharper, more focused and tougher in its position of city hall staffing and payroll. Have the fattest surplus on record certainly helped but this council seems to have more political sensitivity and it is always aware that it hurts when it gets caught out.

 Once council votes on the budget and formally approves the tax levy for 2011 the EBC will meet to review how budget setting for 2011 went and then report to Council on any changes in the budget making procedure that should be made. Even before those changes get discussed and then put into place Joan Ford will be generating the documents that will report budget numbers for each department and Board every month as she tracks expenditures against revenue and looks for any variances that reveal a problem.

Ms Ford has to deal not only with the city departments but the Boards and Commissions as well. These include the Library Board, which this year had some really serious problems to contend with, the Burlington Performing Arts Centre which is going to draw down close to half a million every year for a number of years and will probably always need a transfusion line stuck into one of their veins.

The Tourism people, the Economic Development Corporation as well as the Burlington Art Centre need and get funds from the city. Some of them also have revenue sources of their own but all are seen as “members of the family” and they need their allowances.

The hospital is going to undergo a very substantial upgrade at some point in the not too distant future. The city is preparing for this by setting aside $1.2 million each year.

Every time you see that $ sign – make the sound – “kaching” – because money is going in or coming out of the budget that keeps the water running and the snow off the sidewalks.  

Ford, a Milton resident, has been with the city for much of her career and is currently the Acting Executive Director, Finance. She manages a team of people who have a really solid grip on what gets spent within every department and can spot changes the moment they appear. The Finance office is the first line of defense when it comes to cost constraint. There isn’t any of that “spend your budget or you lose it” within this finance department. Managers appear to have to justify every nickel with Ms Ford before she takes the numbers to the Executive Budget Committee where she has to defend them.

That’s the spending side of the Budget – there is also the revenue side.

First there are the taxes levied, then there is income from development charges which are shrinking because Burlington is approaching the “built out” stage of its development.

There is the gas tax that puts close to $5 million in the coffers. Then there is investment income – we earned $1.5 million on that last year. And of course that $3 million chunk of change that was the result of the “gapping” with our human resources that produced the much of the surplus that solved a lot of problems. That surplus was a gift to a council in its first year in office – they won’t have anything like that to work with next year.

All the back and forth with the numbers was done under the firm control of Joan Ford and her crew who work out of the Simms building across the street from city hall.

When the council budget committee is in session Ms Ford and a number of her trusty aids are in the chamber with her – each has a thick loose leaf binder and all kinds of briefing documents with them for reference. When a council member has a question one of the assistants or Ms Ford will pop out the answer – and they always have the answer in less than three seconds.

On the final day of budget deliberations at the committee level there is a computer in the chamber hooked up the computer that holds all the numbers – as a decision is made to approve an item it gets keyed in and the operator can tell council where they are in terms of balancing their budget.

The last items is always for an amount that rounds everything off. When that number is entered Ms Ford leans back, flashes a smile that is a large part smug and says – it’s really that simple.

We wish.

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Tax increase of less than 1%, staff levels frozen and pay increases held to about 2.75% Sharman feels he won.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON April 4, 2011 – Paul Sharman, the guy who fist put the 0% tax increase on the table, says he got what he wanted when the council budget committee settled on a tax increase of less than 1%. “Actually I got more than I wanted” claims Sharman, who then listed the achievements of this council as it crafted its first budget and brought in the lowest tax increase in more than 10 years on the fourth month of their first year in office.

  • We have complement control now said Sharman
  • We have reduced the city hall payroll from the four to five percent increases of the past few years to something in the 2.75% range.
  • We used some of the 2010 surplus to cover the cost of the 2011 contribution to the redevelopment of the Joseph Brant Memorial Hospital. Had we not done that we would have had to make the contribution out of the tax base.
  • A necessary contribution to OMERS, the employee pension plan was made from the surplus.

While these are all great achievements, much of it was possible due to a surplus of $9.3 million from last year which council used to send money to Joseph Brant Hospital and meet the pension fund obligations. Add into that the better than expected return ($1.5 million) on the investment portfolio and this council had a pretty hefty kitty of cash to work with.

Staff salary increase to be about 2.75%

Staff compliment to be frozen at 2011 level.

Part of  2010 surplus used to pay for hospital and staff pension

A large part of that surplus, (more than $3 million) was the result of “gapping”. When a job is created the city budgets for that job for the full 12 months even though the position may not have been filled for that period of time. The “gap” between when the job was open and when it was filled is what they call “gapping’. Neat little financial trick isn’t it? Do you run your household that way?

A council that got re-elected on a 2.5% tax increases delivers a budget with a less than 1% increases.

The less than 1% tax increase is a big step for this council. Ward 3 councillor John Taylor brought up an important point when he spoke of a day when he and Rick Goldring were campaigning on the same street. “I was at the doors talking about a 3.5%`tax increase and Rick was behind me saying the tax increase would likely be 2.5% increase” said Taylor.

Both men had served on the previous council and were working with a number that had been developed by the Cam Jackson council. What neither knew at the time was there was going to be a very significant surplus to work with. Which of course begs the question: Why didn’t council know there was going to be a surplus – surely they can add up numbers.

A step for this council is to implement a process whereby council knows what the city’s position is on a monthly basis. Everyone else works that way. Council had hints that there was going to be a very generous surplus but it took some digging on their part to get the actual number from city staff. It shouldn’t work that way. The seven members of council are the Board of Directors for the city corporation and staff has a responsibility to report to them. This is one you can email your council member on – demand better financial reporting.

This council worked very hard on the budget and in the process got much more control over what happens on the staffing side at city hall.

The staff complement is now frozen at whatever is set out in this new budget. If staff want to create a new position – they have to do so with the money they were given. In the past number of years an average of 18 people were added each year. It was getting out of control and your council wrestled that one down to a freeze on new staff additions.

The discussion on the budget covered three full days. For some reason the bright lights on the management side of the city feel that keeping everyone in the room for a session that runs from 9:30 to 3:30 is good management practice. Things get done partially because people are just work down. Senior staff members come and go during the day but every council member is almost glued to their seat. And then, most of them have constituency matters to deal with at the end of the day. Councillor Taylor wisely asked that next year they work in half day sessions. Wise request John Taylor.

Mayor Goldring prepares to lead the city into the creation of a strategic plan after the budget success.

Mayor Goldring prepares to lead the city into the creation of a strategic plan after the budget success.

With a really solid week of work behind them Sharman is going to do something he has never done before. “I am going dark for a week” he said and added “I am going to Aruba to scuba and will not have a single communications device with me.” We will certainly see a sun tanned Brit returning to Burlington – whether he will be able to function is another matter.

Sharman “goes dark” while in Aruba to scuba.  No contact with anyone but the fishes.

Sharman “goes dark” while in Aruba to scuba. No contact with anyone but the fishes.

For Mayor Rick Goldring this budget was “the most thorough process I have experienced and the longest budget session I have experienced.” Goldring saw it as very demanding but a process that produced the kind of tax increase the taxpayers had demanded. “And”, he added, “there is much more work to do.”

On the toughest day of the budget setting – a session which went from 9 am to 3:30 pm, Goldring then took part in a high school student speech contest. The next morning he did a breakfast with the Burlington Downtown Business Association. He is earning what we pay him – and we don’t pay him enough, not when you measure it against what senior staff are getting.

Once the core budget issues were settled – and those were (1) staffing compliment and just how much the civic bureaucracy was going to be allowed to grow, (2) what the staff salary hike was going to amount to and (3) how the 2010 surplus was going to be handled, council was then able to allocate the funds they had at their disposal. And they did have a lot to play with. More on that in a future story.

It was a good budget session. This council is now working together and doing their job. But there is still not real unanimity at the council table. Ward 1 councilor Rick Craven voted against the budget.

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Waterfront design competition stopped at Council budget committee. Meed Ward fails to deliver, Craven scuttles a good idea.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON April 4, 2011 – It was an idea that former Toronto Mayor David Crombie (The Tiny Perfect One) put to the Waterfront Advisory Committee. “Hold a design competition for your waterfront and make sure you get at least one oddball on the committee”, advised Crombie

Earlier in his session Crombie told the Advisory committee that Burlington was once a leader in the development of the Lake Ontario waterfront, but had fallen away from its leadership position.

Few smiles and fewer words from Craven at the Waterfront Advisory meeting which didn’t stop him from trying to scuttle the idea at the Budget meeting.

Few smiles and fewer words from Craven at the Waterfront Advisory meeting which didn’t stop him from trying to scuttle the idea at the Budget meeting.

His idea for a design competition gained some traction at the Waterfront Advisory level and Ward 2 council member Marianne Meed Ward took on the task of getting the $45,000. needed to hold the competition. Ward 1 councillor Rick Craven, who sits on the committee, said hardly a word at the Waterfront Committee meeting but had lots to say at the council Budget meeting where he did as much as he could to scuttle the idea.

After more than six months of seminars and briefing sessions the Waterfront Advisory committee finally got down to some real work and then went at that with a vengeance. Gary Scobie was given the task of running the Old Lakeshore Road sub-committee responsible for that little wedge of land that is south of the Old Lakeshore Road, none of which the city owns – except for the road itself which, if intelligently used, could impact all of the development that would take place in that area.

Scobie was the point man for the committee when it appeared before the council budget committee explaining what a design competition was; how good an idea it was and how it would work. Scobie was refreshingly open – not something you see all that often at council. He wanted to “work out of the box” and believed that while the properties in questions are held by 17 different owners the city does have what Crombie taught them was a “bully pit” that could be used to bring developers around to the point where the trade offs could be made.

The road is city property – development is going to have to take this account.  17 property owners will all have to come to the table.

The road is city property – development is going to have to take this account. 17 property owners will all have to come to the table.

With the property in the hands of 17 owners – no one developer is going to able to impose a view or an overall design on what is described as the “eastern gate to the downtown core” unless someone does an awful lot of very expensive property assembly.

The waterfront committee wanted to hold a design competition that would bring some exciting ideas to the surface and let the public have a look at what comes out of the competition. The property owners would be invited to become an integral part of the people meeting with the three design architect’s chosen to take part in the competition.

What Scobie didn’t really succeed in getting across to the council budget committee was that this was an experiment as much as anything, something to kick start some creative thinking about what to do with the waterfront area just east of Pearl Street. Meed Ward coached Scobie through a question and answer between the two of them designed to elicit the view point the Waterfront people wanted to get across – it didn’t quite work.

Waterfront walkway stops at this point – but could continue along the Old Lakeshore Road that city owns.  Design competition would bring out some ideas for the public to consider.

Waterfront walkway stops at this point – but could continue along the Old Lakeshore Road that city owns. Design competition would bring out some ideas for the public to consider.

That doesn’t mean the idea wasn’t a good one. This council just wasn’t prepared to give the Waterfront people $45,000. to go off and hold a design competition without a lot more information and a chance to buy into the idea.

When it looked as if the design completion has a ghost of a chance, Councillor Craven petulantly said that if the Waterfront got money for a design competition he wanted funds for a design competition for Plains Road in Aldershot. One would have thought Craven could have/should have made his views known at the Waterfront Committee level rather than sand bag his colleagues at the Budget level.

At the Waterfront Committee level it was clear that they were not fully aware of what they were going to run into at Council. The group didn’t take any of their thoughts to the city planner – who, they should have known, has to be a significant part of what they were setting out to do.

Nevertheless they soldiered forward and while the case they made wasn’t as detailed as it had to be they weren’t turned down flat. There is room for them to come back with a much more detailed and thoroughly researched proposal. They do have some friends on council.

Meed Ward had to eventually withdraw the request for funds – it wasn’t because the rest of council was against the idea – they just didn’t know enough to be able to support the request. Ward 3 councillor Taylor and Dennison of Ward 4 were very much onside – but they wanted more information. They weren’t about to put $45,000. into the hands of a committee without having a pretty clear idea as to what was going to happen with it.

Design competitions are used to bring new ideas to a city. The close to iconic Toronto city hall was the result of an international design competition and while Crombie will tell you it isn’t all that efficient a building it certainly changed the way the world saw Toronto.

Banks did some of the research on the cost of a Design Competition – it wasn’t all that deep.

Banks did some of the research on the cost of a Design Competition – it wasn’t all that deep.

A design competition seemed like a really good idea but the Waterfront committee didn’t take advantage of support available for them within city hall. The research on design competitions amounted to a couple of phone calls made by Sarah Banks. A contact within city hall explained that a competition with a $15,000. fee attached to it would get a firm who assigned a couple of architectural students to the project and maybe some drawings and that w

While Burlington has a good profile and our western waterfront is in desperate need of a major makeover the downtown core east of John Street presents a very significant opportunity and a major planning challenge. The Waterfront Advisory people deserve credit for getting an idea out of the committee level and before a council committee.

The architectural firms that take part in design competitions don’t make any money on these things, they tend to lose money, but the publicity and the potential for some work is usually worth the effort. If their design wins and it is picked up by the trade press they expand their profile – and that is what brings clients to their doors.

The Waterfront committee didn’t appear to be in touch with any of the several architectural magazines in Canada to get some background and create the opportunity for a story about their plans within the design community. An opportunity to showcase the city was lost by a committee that chose to work by itself and not do it right the first time.

Fortunately they have a chance to further develop their idea and bring it back to council. They need to work on their story and get one of the two city council representatives onside – or do what they can to get rid of him.

Scobie’s performance as a delegation to the Budget Committee earned him the chairmanship of the Waterfront Advisory when that job opens up.

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Secret slush fund used by all council members; un-audited and controlled by senior, senior staff member.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON April 1, 2011 – The investigative reporting team at Our Burlington has uncovered a slush fund at city hall that appears to be under control of a very senior staff member with what is believed to be collusion by all city council staff.

Meaning behind the code name of the secret slush fund is not yet clear.

Meaning behind the code name of the secret slush fund is not yet clear.

The code name given to this investigation – loaves and fishes, was the result of a tip from a very high source on the 8th floor of city hall.

Loaves and fishes is a fund used to pay for perks to council members and are doled out by the senior staff member, These funds are doled out on a regularly. Control of the account rests in the hands of a very senior city hall staff member. The account is not audited, in fact the auditor is probably not even aware of this secret account that appears no where in any of the city’s financial statement and cannot be found on the city web site.

The understanding is that the “ins and outs” on this account are kept in a locked desk drawer. There appears to be some correlation between this account and the council member payroll accounts. Details on the relationship between the loaves and fishes account and the payroll accounts is sketchy because there don’t appear to be any audited records on the loaves and fishes side.

The tip to our investigative team was given to us on Friday, April 1, 2011

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