It is the stealthy that stay the course. And politics is a stealth game.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON March 30, 2011 – For those who are new to the business of running for elected office an election campaign can be quite overwhelming and it takes a bit for even the most experienced to get up to speed.

For those running as candidates for the provincial seat in the October election the challenge is greater than normal. They have to find a place to be seen and heard when there is a federal election going on and at a time when Burlington is in the process of figuring out its budget.

Earlier this week the provincial government delivered its budget, the last one before the October election. We felt it good news policy to ask each candidate for a short comment on the budget. We did not seek a comment from the sitting member, Joyce Savoline, because a) she doesn’t communicate with us and b) she is not running in the fall election. So we went our request for comment to each of the known candidates: Brian Heagle and Brad Reaume for the Progressive Conservatives, Karmel Sakran for the Liberals and Peggy Russell for the New Democrats. The response was disappointing.

Getting the hang of provincial politics.  Treated the budget as a political document.

Getting the hang of provincial politics. Treated the budget as a political document.

Russell came back with: Not available this evening…I was tied up all day with my 3 grandchildren and will need to do some research tomorrow to get caught up. The chances of Burlington electing a New Democrat to the Legislature are thin, extremely thin – but Bob Rae did form a government in 1990 – so you never know.

Brian Heagle got back to us with: The Provincial Liberals tabled a budget which tells us much about their style of leadership. In particular, the McGuinty budget increases spending, adds debt and delays the hard decisions – yet calls that being fiscally responsible. It also sets the stage for even more tax hikes. Ontario deserves better.

The budget reflects why we need a change in leadership to Tim Hudak and the Ontario PC Party.

Sakran needed time to prepare a comment on the provincial budget – lawyer needs to catch up with his reading.

Sakran needed time to prepare a comment on the provincial budget – lawyer needs to catch up with his reading.

Heagle is learning to play the game. He was once a serious Liberal being groomed as the Liberal candidate but underwent a ‘conversion’ and is now a blue, blue, blue Tory.

Karmel Sakran said he needed a few days respond.

The Liberals felt that with the incumbent, Joyce Savoline, deciding not to run again and The PC’s not having a clear heir apparent – that maybe the Liberals had a shot at winning the seat.

Well, needing a couple of days to figure out a response to a provincial budget that was clearly a political document as much as it was a budget won’t cut it for any of the candidates.

Stay tuned.


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The wind in city staff sails may have shifted. And the hand on the tiller may not be as firm as we thought it was.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON March 29, 2011 – It was a long, long, long day but your city council managed to approve its Capital Spending budget – and we will have detailed numbers on that for you later in the week.

There were then nine delegations looking for money – ranging from an ask for free use of a room for the Civic Rose people, to a bit of a break for the synchronized swimming people, The Age Friendly Burlington people wanted $30,000 which they said would be matched by the United Way. It wasn’t clear to several council members just what the Age Friendly people were going to do with their money.

Creative Burlington needs $65,000. to stay alive. Ward 1councillor Meed Ward asked what that could be ground down to and was told $40,000. would help. More later in the week on how Creative Burlington wants to morph itself from a support group for artists to an Arts Council which would be in the grant dispensing business.

The city does not currently have a grants policy and city Manager Roman Martiuk advised council not to dispense any money until there was a policy in place. “Without a policy” he advised “all you do when you give out any money, is encourage others to ask for funding.” Council felt it had to at least listen to the delegations.

Council felt they were no longer in the grant game but former Mayor Walter Mulkewich informed them that they were in that game and gave them a nice, concise backgrounder on why they had to be in the grant game.

All the requests were noted and at some point, in the line by line look at the budget. My guess is that some of the groups will get some money and then there will be a direction to staff to come back with a policy so that council doesn’t get caught up in a situation like this again.

The council meeting, which went from 9 am to 3:30 pm – did get a little testy as the day wore on. Chaired by Ward 4 councillor Paul Sharman, his gavel got passed over to the vice chair a couple of times when Sharman, who can be very direct – one might say blunt – at times, was determined to get his two cents worth in.

Spoke to his council and explained that no one is going to get everything they want but that everyone should get some of what they want.

Spoke to his council and explained that no one is going to get everything they want but that everyone should get some of what they want.

The meeting started with Mayor Rick Goldring explaining that he realized there was not complete agreement on what the tax increase should be but after speaking to each council member he felt it was possible, if there was some give and take all around the council table, that they could arrive at an increase that would keep everyone happy.

Earlier in the year Sharman made it quite clear he wanted a 0% tax increase in year 1 while the Mayor was on record as seeing a 2.5 increase as what would be needed. There appeared to be enough votes for Sharman to have his way – but that appearance is a little like ships sailing in a fog. They appear to be there – but then suddenly they aren’t there.

This council has a little caucus of three – Sharman, Taylor of Ward 3 and Dennison of Ward 4 that are strong fiscal conservatives and they can usually bring Lancaster of Ward 6 along with them – which is enough votes to carry an item.

But we are now getting into the nitty gritty and council is learning it isn’t quite that easy. Partly because the budget document they are working from was based on the premise that 2.5% was going to be the tax increase. Sharman has thrown a wrench into those gears and in doing so really stressed staff. Roman Martiuk, City Manager, who is a bit of a magicians when it comes to “working the numbers” is at times totally perplexed with what staff asks him to do.

Goldring was more assertive in trying to bring his council around to the point where they could get something done.  It had been a long day.

Goldring was more assertive in trying to bring his council around to the point where they could get something done. It had been a long day.

And he isn’t always able to come back with the response council wants as quickly as some council members would like him to. It was getting a little testy in the afternoon and then downright ridiculous late in the afternoon. For the first time, Goldring was louder than I’ve ever heard him before and very assertive.

He wanted council to “get out of the way” and let staff do their jobs. “all this nonsense, there is no relevance to it. Staff` gave us what we asked of them. We are just going to have to hold our noses and live with what we have”.

Staff indicated they needed nine to ten months to create a budget, which drew a stern glance from Sharman. They are going to have to produce budgets in a much shorter time frame in 2012 – and that seems to be what this council is going to do.

They appear to be heading for a situation where the city will have a budget that requires quite a bit less than 2.5% but it doesn’t look as if Sharman is going to get his 0% – even though with the very significant $9.3 million surplus from last year, it looks as if a 0% increase could be achieved. Sharman argues that this council was elected to lower taxes and cut costs.

Well they will certainly do that and in the process push staff in a way they have never been pushed before – and they will be a better staff for it. Credit for that does belong to Sharman who is well supported by Taylor and Dennison.

Goldring doesn’t lead that way. His style, which is still evolving, seems to be to let people have their way and to listen carefully to what they want to see accomplished and then to create an environment in which the wishes of each council member can be met.

Goldring is not an iron fist in a velvet glove kind of leader – but he does lead. He is not confrontational in the way Sharman is and he does not get as emotionally attached to issues the way Taylor does. There is a humanness to Goldring that is becoming clearer.

Sometimes you have to pause and think about where you want to get to.

Sometimes you have to pause and think about where you want to get to.

That didn’t go down very well with a couple of the guys with sharper pencils on council. The city has hired an average of 18 new people every year for the past ten years and this council realizes that has to stop. Sharman wanted to freeze that staff compliment at the 2010 level. He got voted down on that but council did agree that the staffing compliment would be frozen at the 2011 level and before a new hire was made, city hall staff` had to figure out who was not going to be in place. No one talked about firing anyone but it was very clear that the city manager had to work with what he had in terms of staff compliment and still deliver the same service and program levels.

There was a lot of deep breathing being done by Roman Martiuk. He is supported by a good staff who know their numbers and while they tend to be cautious – no venture capital people in the building, they are administrators who haven’t been stretched the way this council is stressing them. They know, or they should know, that they are being led and that council is focused.

Ward 1 councillor Rick Craven wasn’t able to get much in the way of traction on any of his issues and when he was “pronouncing”, which he is want to do, he doesn’t seem to get heard. He can get a little acerbic at times and at one point told his fellow council members that they were “naive and simplistic” and that we were headed for “civic chaos”.

There isn’t going to be any civic chaos. What there is going to be is a budget that could be at 0% for year 1, will probably be at 1% – maybe a lit less. And this is the really significant part of what your council is doing now. They are positioning themselves to be able to put together very solid budgets for the following three years of their four year term that meets the real needs of a changing city. This council wants to get this budget behind them – even if it means holding their noses for parts of it – and get into the Strategic Plan,through which they will figure out, with the citizens of this city what we really want – and then they will craft a budget that makes the wants possible.

The day the capital budget was approved and the day the operating budget was gotten into Money Sense magazine declared that Burling was the #3 best Canadian city to live in. and the only city in the GTA in the top ten. Take that Oakville!

Now that award is not all that it seems, but for a city that just loves getting and handing out awards – they will milk this one mercilessly

Ward 2 councillor Meed Ward is still in learning mode – she asks more questions than anyone else and isn’t the least bit shy about letting you know what she doesn’t know. And if what she says come out as a bit silly – she just laughs it off. She is there to serve her people and to learn – and she certainly has her fan club. How effective is she – too early to tell.

Blair is Blair. Blair Lancaster, a quiet, well intentioned woman who wants only the best for everyone and will go to considerable lengths to quiet troubled waters. She seems to have been given the role of the “person with the microphone” at any public event where someone has to lead. Lancaster is Burlington’s girl; their Beauty Queen who is serving her citizens. At that level she is very effective. She is also very fiscally prudent and will not let this city get itself into financial disarray.

The showdown issue for the first significant session on budget making was a vote on a Direction that was to go to staff which read:

That for 2011 Council consider each of the budget proposals and approve, decline or amend

That for 2012-14 staff develop budgets:

    At the 2011 approved complement level

    For each additional position a reduction be identified

The budget documents outline the service impact for Council’s consideration

Increases in FTE be considered should higher cost positions be replaced with lower cost positions.

An FTE stands for a Full time employee.

Not a particularly elegant document but it showed that the clout Sharman has been using up until now may not have that much heft to it. Sharman wanted future budgets to be based on the staffing compliment of 2010 – and except for Councillor Craven no one else voted for using the 2010 number. But don’t count that 0% tax increase out yet.

Eighty percent of the city’s budget goes into payroll. If there are going to be savings it has to be at the payroll level. Sharman wanted the level that everything gets started at to be 2010. He has had to settle for the 2011 numbers and that is what the battle will be over the next few days.

Tracy Burrows, by Law enforcement officer, taking citizens through a budget input session held at the Burlington Arts Centre

Tracy Burrows, by Law enforcement officer, taking citizens through a budget input session held at the Burlington Arts Centre

Council is not all that driven to reduce spending – and much of that is based on the results of the community input meetings that were held. These were staff` led events that were really very poorly attended – less than 50 people at one Saturday morning event. Included in the Agenda for the Budget and Corporate Services Committee was three and a half pages of comment recorded by staff. The list is a mix of ideas and thoughts but there were no burning issues brought to the surface. There was no anger evident. The group just wanted better administration and value for the money being spent but there was no suggestion that spending had to be reduced hugely.

With that kind of evidence in their pockets council members can feel free to tinker and tighten and leve it at that. Sharman seems to be the only one who wants to go down deep and cut.

What Sharman has managed to do is shake up city hall staff in a way they have never been shaken before. This crowd has burned a lot of midnight oil with dozens of Sunday afternoon phone calls. They got a good taste of the corporate world this round.

To be fair to staff – and on this everyone agrees – staff has done a great job of complying with the demands of council. Their job isn’t over yet – but the wind has shifted a bit and they are no longer sailing into icy winter winds blowing off Lake Ontario. There is a hint of that warmer wind that has been out there teasing us into believing that Spring is truly here.

… staff has done a great job of complying with the demands of council.

And when the Toronto Maple Leafs win a crucial game against Buffalo to keep the hope for a Stanley Cup playoff spot alive – well who knows. There just may be a new day coming. The Big smoke to the east of us will become unimaginably insufferable should they actually make it to the playoffs. They aren’t going to win – are they? Meanwhile, Burlington will become a little more smug with its third place ranking and city hall staff will stand taller knowing they have met a significant challenge.

What would Toronto do if the Stanley Cup was paraded down Yonge Street? Implode probably.


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We’ve got $18 million ‘in the bank’ so the lights shouldn’t go out.

By Staff

BURLINGTON, ON March 29, 2011 – It was certainly the shortest full City Council meeting in this term of office and is probably one of the shortest on record for the city of Burlington. Les than two minutes.

All those power lines along the west Beach bring power to your door step.

All those power lines along the west Beach bring power to your door step.

But it had a huge chunk of change attached to it – the city approved and is therefore on the hook for $18 million in interim financing made available to Burlington Hydro Inc, which you the tax payer own. Now we didn’t spend that amount of money, in fact we didn’t even have that amount of money – what the city did do was set up a line of credit with the TD bank so that we could pay our hydro bill.

We had to have “money in the ban;” to pay for any hydro we may have had to buy from an organization that is in place to buy and sell hydro between the different hydro organizations. And apparently they don’t take cheques.

So if for some reason we here in Burlington can’t provide the hydro power needed than we have to move real quick and buy some power from someone who has a bit extra. This all happens in mere minutes. The folks who are selling us the power want to be sure we can pay for it.

There are literally hundreds of hydro corporations involved in this set up. We had to show that we had the cash to pay the bill. $18 million in total. The resolution didn’t say if it was Canadian or US funds.


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Horses in the federal election race are lined up. Meet the people who want your vote.

By Staff

Alyssa Brierley gets nominated by federal Liberals.

Alyssa Brierley gets nominated by federal Liberals.

BURLINGTON, ON March 28, 2011 – Except for the Greens, we now know who the Burlington candidates for the federal election are going to be. On Sunday the Liberals acclaimed Alyssa Brierley as their candidate so we have her, Mike Wallace and David Laird gearing up their campaigns. Brierley was nominated by long time Burlington Liberal Paddy Torsney who is most grateful that there is a Liberal candidate in place. She may have had to jump into the race had the association not found a candidate, Brierley, who is new to politics, has the potential to mount a very strong campaign.

This will be the third campaign for Laird and the first for Brierley. Wallace is defending the seat he has won twice. Wallace lost his first time out but then won in 2006 and 2008. Our Mayor Rick Goldring was the Green candidate in 2008.

Laird garnered 6581 votes in 2004; 8090 in 2006 but dropped to 6600 in 2008. But he is back for a third try and seems to carry the same message; people matter. He has been waiting for this campaign for some time – his nomination took place last May.

Laird, who works with the Children’s Aid Society in the child protection field. A graduate of York University with a degree in English and psychology he brings what he calls a “big picture” view to federal politics. It was a little difficult to pin point Laird on what he would do for Burlington were he to be elected. He describes himself as a humanist and wants to see a federal government supporting seniors and their needs rather than spending what he calls “obscene” amounts on a war plane.

Laird has been a candidate in waiting since last May.  He is going to have to quadruple his 2008 vote to beat the incumbent.

Laird has been a candidate in waiting since last May. He is going to have to quadruple his 2008 vote to beat the incumbent.

Laird thinks governments should ask and not tell people what should be done and believes strongly that technology can make it much easier for governments to serve the public. Laird would like to see some of those security cameras set up in the board rooms of the large corporations and the Prime Minister’s Office, where Laird thinks the major crimes are taking place. He might not get much argument against that belief.

Laird is a strong believer in the need for proportional representation in the House of Commons. From his viewpoint “It isn’t fair for a party with 35% of the popular vote to form a government. He brings that edge of anger about how those with less always seem to get less and bridles at how much what he would call the “fat” corporations manage to get from the federal government.

Laird thinks our monetary policy is all wrong and that the distribution of wealth in the country is skewed in the wrong direction.

Laird will take a four week leave of absence to campaign and, as he has in the past, has the support of a small but highly motivated community of New Democrats in Burlington. His two children, 12 and 18 and a devoted wife will be there in the trenches with him. New Democrats fund their campaigns with small donations from supporters.

Mike Wallace, the sitting member hasn’t had much to say so far. Watch for the opening of campaign offices and lawn signs as the snow moves off the streets and the crocuses begin popping up.


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Just how does someone “steal” your identity”? They collect information about you.

By Staff

BURLINGTON, ON March 28, 2011 – The internet has made it possible for us to communicate almost instantly with people we know and care about. We can read our newspapers on line; we can shop and make purchases; we can do our banking on line. We can also have our identities stolen and find our bank accounts empty because someone has learned enough about us from papers that we innocently threw out in the garbage.

Crime Stoppers Halton came up with a program that had them partnering with Shred-It, that allowed people to bring in their confidential documents and have them shredded for a small donation.

Kelly Gorven, on the right side of this picture, is a Crime Stoppers Board member who has served on the organization since her days as a Sheridan College student.  The Shred it trucks chewed up documents in a matter of seconds. Shown with Kelly are two citizens who took advantage of the shredding opportunity.

Kelly Gorven, on the right side of this picture, is a Crime Stoppers Board member who has served on the organization since her days as a Sheridan College student. The Shred it trucks chewed up documents in a matter of seconds. Shown with Kelly are two citizens who took advantage of the shredding opportunity.

Trucks were located at malls in both Burlington and Oakville. The response was a little on the limited side in Burlington due for the most part to the weak promotion but those that did know about the event and took part in the program were very pleased.

The event was successful enough for the Halton Crime Stoppers to decide that they would hold another event in the fall. Cal Millar, chief Crime Stopper, said the organization is looking into the idea of holding a Shred It day internationally. “We’d like this to be something that happens on the same day in cities around the world.” They are certainly thinking big enough.

In Burlington/Oakville Crime Stoppers raised $4200. in $5 and $10 donations.

The Halton Regional Police Service had an information booth set up in the Burlington Mall and traffic to that location was quite good. Detective Constable Keith Nakahara with the Regional Fraud unit, was on hand to explain to people what steps they could take to protect themselves from having their identities stolen.

Det. Sgt Keith Nakahara, at the Crime Stoppers booth at Burlington Mall last weekend explains how to protect yourself from identity theft.  Robert Strutt of Shred-It is in the background.

Det. Sgt Keith Nakahara, at the Crime Stoppers booth at Burlington Mall last weekend explains how to protect yourself from identity theft. Robert Strutt of Shred-It is in the background.

“The people who want to steal your identity are a pretty sophisticated bunch and they are persistent” explained Nakahara, who added that ” plain common sense is the best defense you have. If it sounds to good to be true – chances are it isn’t true. If you’re in doubt don’t and call the police and report the incident to them.”

Nakahara explained that when people call the police a pattern of behaviour quickly becomes evident to the police and that allows them to take action because they know there is something going on in an area.

The technology can work two ways. The police are now able to alert people by instant email. Information, used properly can make the lives of all of us safer and more productive.

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A devastated Japan sends funds to Burlington for woman at risk. Let’s hope we are as generous with our disaster aid to them.

By Staff

BURLINGTON, ON, March 25, 2011 – The spirit of generosity was at the heart of a cheque presentation that took place at Burlington City Hall on Friday. With Japan struggling to get back on its feet after experiencing a massive earthquake followed by a crippling tsunami, one would have thought the cheque would be going from Burlington to Japan.

But that’s not the way things worked out. Friday afternoon, Halton women’s Place accepted a cheque for $1,200 that was donated by a Japanese benefactor, Taroo Enomoto, a Japanese citizen from Burlington’s sister city of Itabashi.

“Each year since our city’s twinning with Itabashi, Mr. Enomoto has donated to a charitable cause in our community,” said Blair Lancaster, Ward 6 Councillor and Council representative of Burlington’s Mundialization Committee. “This year he wanted it to go to a charity that benefits at-risk women and children in the Burlington and surrounding area.”

Halton Women’s Place’s development manager, Carm Bozzo was thrilled to accept the cheque on behalf of the organization, “We are honoured to be the recipient of this donation,” she said. “Mr. Enomoto’s kindness has touched us and the donation will be used to help support our many families in need.”

From left to right: Carm Bozzo, development manager, Halton Women’s Place; Councillor Blair Lancaster; Mayor Rick Goldring; Ed Dorr, Chair, Burlington Mundialization Committee.

From left to right: Carm Bozzo, development manager, Halton Women’s Place; Councillor Blair Lancaster; Mayor Rick Goldring; Ed Dorr, Chair, Burlington Mundialization Committee.

Several members of council were on hand as Burlington’s Mundialization Committee presented a cheque in the amount of 100,000 Yen (approximately $1,200 CAD) to Halton Women’s Place.

This year marks the 22nd anniversary of Burlington’s twinning with Itabashi. In 1989, a twinning agreement was signed between the two cities and the relationship has since developed through regular citizen visits, official delegations and anniversary celebrations.

Mayor Goldring recognized Mr. Enomoto for his unwavering spirit of generosity and commented on the long-standing friendship between Burlington and Itabashi. “My hope is that residents of our city will be inspired to show the same generosity, kindness and support that our friends in Japan have bestowed upon us here in Burlington,” remarked Mayor Goldring.  “I encourage residents to do what they can to help support relief efforts in Japan during this very difficult time.”


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He is getting better. And he is developing a vision and wants wide public input on. Will we give it to him?

BURLINGTON, ON March 24, 2011 – He sat there wearing an orange shirt that must have been a Father’s day gift, sitting in a large, leather covered, wing back chair and answered the more than 30 questions put to him by a room filled with the city’s economic leaders at a Chamber of Commerce breakfast held at the Burlington Golf and Country Club. And he did just fine. Better, said some, than he did at the State of the City address he gave a number of months ago.

So – what do we know about this Mayor and the city he leads? Well first – he addresses issues head on and when he doesn’t know the answer to a question he just says he doesn’t know. When asked about THE Pier, and he is always asked about the Pier, says that the city is in the process of hiring a new contractor and that he is hopeful to have the Pier opened in 2013. He was asked if the design could change – nope, he replied, the design was seen as build-able by the experts – so at this point in time, no design change.

No one asked about the delays in getting an RFP out to the construction community. Had that question been asked there would have been an awkward answer. And no one asked what the city would do if no one responded to the RFP. There is one council member who is afraid that no one will want to even look at the job. We may have attracted a bit of a reputation on this one. No fault of the Mayor’s but he is the goat carrying the can on this one. What many don’t realize that most of the people who got the city into this mess are no longer on staff, city hall doesn’t announce the departures – just the arrivals.

Mayor Goldring wants everyone to get a copy of this workbook and do their homework.

One of Mayor Goldring’s favourite topics is the Strategic Plan process and he touts the Workbook the city ha prepared and actually asks people to get together in small groups and go through the document and feed their ideas back to the city.

Burlington has prepared Strategic Plans for seven terms of office. Goldring wants to put together a 20 to 25 year vision for the city and as part of this process he has created a Workbook that can be down loaded, as well as a well thought out questionnaire that you can complete online. The questionnaire will tell you a lot about your Burlington.

The Mayor has never been through an Official Plan revision. Given that the next revision we do in 2012 will be critical to how we handle sensitive parts of the city – the downtown core and the West Beachway, our Mayor has some homework to do. Does he want to rely on what old timers Craven, Taylor and Dennison will tell him ? These are the guys that approved a 22 story “landmark” building right on the waters edge

He is going to travel. He has a trip planned to Portland Oregon where they have instituted some innovation transit ideas and our Mayor, who understands better than most on city council how tough a job we have to, as he put it, retool suburbia to meet the times we now live in. Goldring uses the phrase “…we build this city fifty years ago when land and gas were cheap…” and we now have to deal with urban sprawl that requires a car to get around.

Mayor is going the intellectual route; bringing in deep thinkers to inspire the locals.

The Mayor also touted the Inspire Burlington series he has planned for the year with the first event taking place April 12th, 7 pm at the McMaster University deGroote School of Business, South Service Road campus. Featured speaker will be Christopher Hume, the Architecture critic for the Toronto Star. Registration forms are at:

Is Burlington a tourism destination one man asked? We are in between Niagara Falls and Toronto explained the Mayor and it is difficult to stand out with lights that bright on either side of you, but we do have something to offer people. Lunch on the waterfront and walk up Mt Nemo; take in a performance at the Performing Arts Centre and if the elite sports cycling event manages to overcome its problems it has the potential to make Burlington a destination for those who cycle – and there are apparently loads of them, although some of the numbers tossed out were nothing more than exaggerations.

It was a pleasure to learn that Goldring has not yet become a slick politician with answers to or evasions for every question tossed at him. When asked about traffic light synchronization he said he had a complete “non-answer:. The best he could do he said was “dodge that bullet”. For that he got a laugh.

Asked if he liked his job, the response was immediate – “this is an awesome job. If it was easy it wouldn’t be fun, if there were no challenges it wouldn’t be fun. This is a really, really fun job.” This mayor just may have a speech writer working for him when he delivers lines like that.

There were some tough questions. What asked Keith Hoey, President of the Chamber of Commerce, was the 2010 surplus ? $9.3 million was the answer and the follow up question was – what are you going to do with it ? The Chamber wants the city to commit half of any surplus to the hospital re-development fund so that hospital funding doesn’t have to appear on the tax bill, which Chamber members pay a large part of.

Others in the room wanted the city to be administered in such a way that the surpluses are lower with better financial administration.

We have a Mayor who thinks he could serve for at least two terms. If there were an election today he would run un-opposed. Ooops, forgot about the Greek hair stylist. OK, so he’d win in a landslide.


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As impossible as the odds are – the train just might have a station to pull into.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON March 24, 2011 – It was thought that the thing would just rot where it is in the fire hall parking lot on Plans Road but – there is a pulse, albeit very weak and the group of citizens who took on the task of saving the Freeman station now are in a position to collect donations and issue tax receipts.

That they have to actually go out and raise money when there was all kinds of cash actually on the table is a monument to the everlasting shame of those members on council (Taylor, Dennison. Goldring and Craven) that could not find a place to put the station when the funds to make a move was in the bank. One hopes that if there is ever an Official opening that these council members will have the good grace not to show their faces. Leadership seems to have vacated all four of them in the historical side of building community.

The citizen volunteers have formed a board for a non profit corporation and have begun to thunk through ways they think this piece of Burlington history can be saved.

Waiting for a new home. Some are hoping it just rots away where it is.

Ward 5 council member Paul Sharman was polite to the group that appeared before a council committee awhile back asking (pleading actually) for time to come up with a plan. No one on council felt they had a hope in Hades, but none had the courage to tell them to all go home and look for something else to do.

Sharman asked each of the delegations if they would accept the fact that it wasn’t possible to come up with a viable plan that did not include any of the locations that were already decided against – would they then give up. And each, very reluctantly agreed that if they didn’t have something concrete by April – then perhaps the station’s time had come. It was humbling to watch Les Armstrong’s shoulder sag when he answered the question.

Sharman admits to be quite amazed by the efforts of the committee which includes, Jane Irwin, Les Armstrong, James Smith, with councillors Marianne Meed Ward and Blair Lancaster serving as liaison to the group that is now organized as a non profit corporation.

The group seems to have found the pluck that council never had and while their efforts to date are not really concrete their spirit is solid and one hopes that Council, come April, will see their way to giving this group another six months to come forward with a plan that is concrete.

Jane Irwin showed council what Aurora did with their historical station and argued Burlington had an even better building.

It would be nice to see Councillor Dennison get as excited about saving some history as he did about the elite cycling event – which may be on its way down the tubes as it were.

The community organization is about to be incorporated as a non profit and plan to be back before a council committee at the end of April with a vision, sign posts to show where they want to go and how they propose to get there. “We expect to kick some of this back to council and ask for some guidance and direction from then as we go forward with this”, is the way James Smith an architectural technologist who works in the field of computer aided design CAD, and certainly knows the field.

Burlington Green also has a proposal.


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City to consider old media as part of its outreach program. Town crier might be added to the mix.

By Pepper Parr

Burlington’s Committee of the Whole is going to get a chance to decide if the channels through which they communicate with the public and people who visit Burlington should be increased.

What do you think of the city having an Official Town Crier? Oh, and you want a council member in wooden stocks outside city hall as well? I’m afraid the wooden stocks will not be in any budget that gets created for this.

The committee will be given a report suggesting four possible choices:

  1. Adopt an Official Town Crier Program and ask that it be run through Museums of Burlington
  2. Appoint an Official Town Crier to a Volunteer Position
  3. Rely on the Ontario Guild of Town Criers
  4. Do not adopt an Official Town Crier and rely on Student Theatre to provide performers.

City council to be given four options for a Town Crier. One is to do nothing; one will cost next to nothing. Which will they choose?

We thought the city was going to hold a contest but city hall staff don’t seem interested in that route. So appointing someone is OK – but who decides and what the criteria will be in making a decision?

The Museum people could certainly run the program. Going with the Ontario Guild of Town Criers will cost more than Councillors Taylor or Dennison will want to shell out.

Using a student would be nice but that would mean coming up with the several thousand it costs to stitch together the uniform.

City council to be given four options for a Town Crier. One is to do nothing; one will cost next to nothing. Which will they choose?

David Vollick, who hails from the Aldershot part of the city, delegated to council with the idea. Showed up in full costume and cut quite a figure. If we end up with a Town Crier – credit for the idea has to go to him. Looks like a pretty goof Crier but we don’t know yet what else is out there.

Anybody with a good set of lungs and a bell – plus the uniform of course.

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0 for 11 – sounds like the Maple Leaf’s box score but its really what Councillor Sharman wants levied in taxes.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON March 24, 2011 – It started out being a 10%`tax increase over the four year term of this council – which Mayor Goldring thought would play out at 2.5% each year. That was the “policy” the former council left in place for the new council put in office December 1st.

Ward 5 Councillor Paul Sharman didn’t see it that way and at a Committee meeting he chaired early in February, he dropped a bit of a bomb – 0% was possible and Sharman wanted to give city hall staff a direction then to craft a budget that would result in a zero percent increase for the 2011 tax year.

Staff gulped when he dropped that bomb and Mayor Goldring scrambled to convince Sharman not to put the question to the rest of council. Sharman was amendable to that.

But that didn’t stop Paul Sharman and his actions seem to have moved the Mayor a couple of percentage points. At a Chamber of Commerce Q&A session the Mayor said that he expected the increase to come in at maybe 1.5% or perhaps as low as 1%. Sharman is clearly having an influence.

Pushing for no tax increase in 2011

Pushing for no tax increase in 2011

At a council committee meeting earlier this week Sharman issued a prepared statement o his fellow council members in which he set out his thinking. He trotted out some numbers “10 years of 57% tax increases or 4 years of 27% tax increases” and suggested part of why many members of council were elected was because tax payers were saying “enough”.

Sharman agrees with that “enough” statement and added that tax increases and significant staff pay increases “in the context of what has been dubbed ‘the great recession’ was something that was brought to our attention as we knocked on doors during the election campaign”. Sharman adds that “the current Mayor campaigned to some degree on a platform of fiscal restraint.” Sharman adds that “fiscal restraint and accountability is central to my being here.” Nice to hear a council member say he feels accountable isn’t it?

Then Sharman, ever the numbers man trots out some statistics: “Seniors and those living in poverty account for 25% of the population; unemployment is at 2.5%; generous pay increases for non union staff over the last six years have been significantly better than the private sector and city hall benefits are better still.”

Can you see where Sharman is going? He drives his knife in even deeper when he mentions the $9.3 million surplus in 2010 and before that $3.3 million in 2009. For Sharman a tax increase of any kind in 2011 makes no sense. He points out that the city does not yet have a Strategic Plan in place and does not know yet what its long term spending requirements are going to be.

“Now is a good time” declares Sharman “to take a break and give the taxpayers a one year rest from tax increases” – the city coffers can afford it.”

Sharman supports the Mayors 10% over four years but he “sees no merit in taking an increase before we have completed the Strategic Plan”. He adds: “We have not identified our priorities yet.”

“Further” he adds, “I see no reason to take a tax increase when city coffers have been supplemented by two years of significant surplus and when salaries and headcount are perhaps overly comfortable.”

He wanted the committee to take the initiative “right now” and issue a Staff Direction to forget the 2.5% tax increase and bring in a zero budget for 2011. Well, his fellow council members weren’t biting at the bit quite as firmly as Sharman was and Mayor Goldring said he couldn’t support such a Direction at this point in time.

That didn’t stop Sharman. His proposal (and it gets quite technical from here on in folks) was to have staff pay increases that reflect the state of the economy giving consideration to the generosity of the last few years.

Big on providing services. Political enough to be on the winning side?

Big on providing services. Political enough to be on the winning side?

Implement a headcount cap equivalent to 2010 budget, less the 12 existing positions that have been acknowledged as surplus, to encourage a better assignment of staff and productivity improvement. Translation: Not enough work being done by staff for the money we are paying them.

What does it all come down to? Its not clear yet if Sharman has the support of enough council members to make this happen. The Mayor has certainly moved down from his 2.5% and both Councillors Taylor and Dennison are on for less tax. Lancaster can be convinced.

The most risk adverse member of this council. She might want to keep all the surplus in a piggy bank, but she does listen to her peers.

The most risk adverse member of this council. She might want to keep all the surplus in a piggy bank, but she does listen to her peers.

Craven and Mead Ward – hard to tell. Craven tends to spar with Sharman on the numbers. Goldring has begun to let himself think in terms of being a two term Mayor and he is surely mindful that Sharman did have his hat in the ring for the office of Mayor for a short period of time. Once you’ve tasted the forbidden fruit you tend to want more of it.

What is interesting from a purely political perspective is that several of the council members don’t see or appreciate the political optics of coming in with no tax increase. The city can well afford it. Sure there are others who want something different done with that surplus – the Chamber of Commerce wants city council to pass a resolution that has 50% of all future surpluses going directly to the hospital development fund. Good luck on that one fellows.

It will all come out in the wash but, given that it is your wallet going through the ringer – you might want to give your council member a call and pass along your views.

Telephone numbers for each are listed below:

Mayor Goldring 905-335-7607

Ward 1 – Rick Craven 905-335-7600 Ext 7587

Ward 2 – Marianne Meed Ward 905-335-7600 Ext 7588

Ward 3 – John Taylor 905-335-7600 Ext 7459

Ward 4 – Jack Dennison 905-632-4800 Ext 211

Ward 5 – Paul Sharman 905-335-7600 Ext 7591

Ward 5 – Blair Lancaster 905- 335-7600 Ext 7592

They all have voice mail – leave a message, but be polite.


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I knew it, I knew it, I knew it. Let ambition shine long enough and red can become blue.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON March 24, 2011 _ The cat is out of the bag and there is now a race for the Progressive Conservative nomination for the provincial seat of Burlington, now available with the announcement that Joyce Savoline will not seek re-election.

Today Brian Heagle, the 2009 Citizen of the Year (have you noticed that the moment these guys get civic recognition they try to squeeze some value from it – the financial people call that monetizing an asset). announced that he was indeed going to see the nomination. We reported that news item several months ago – way back in January..

Red has turned blue. Heagle to seen PC provincial nomination

Red has turned blue. Heagle to seen PC provincial nomination

Heagle, who ran for a city council seat in Ward 4 lost to the re-doubtable Jack Dennison. Not that Jack was the better candidate but because he campaigned hard – Brian didn’t really campaign very much. If he is to win the provincial seat he is going to have to campaign a lot harder this time out.

He has to over come the tendency to not work all that hard and also the very keen interest he had in running as a Liberal. He met with some very senior people at `Queen’s Park but apparently couldn’t get the assurance he wanted that a cabinet seat would be ,made available to him.

So, Brian Heagle is now a provincial Tory and he said that “Like any parent I want my children to grow up safely and be able to live in an Ontario with the best hospitals, schools and jobs.” He goes on to say in his press release: “However, that path no longer seems assured.” He means he doesn’t think Dalton can deliver.

Heagle says all the usual stuff: “Burlingtonians of all generations need to be respected and given relief from escalating taxes, unwarranted fees and wasteful spending”.

Or “Government must think long term and be accountable. It must spend within its means and on what matters most.” That all sounds pretty good, it’s just the space between the cup and the lip is always wider than we realize. Ain’t that the truth.

When you are running for office you always have to recognize the leader and sure enough Heagle tells us that “When I first met Tim Hudak, it was very clear that we share a people-first, consensus building approach. I believe Tim Hudak and his team have the vision and qualities to lead Ontario and get us back on track.” And, in between the lines you just might read the words ‘and if Tim can’t do it – then I Brian Heagle just might be willing to take a crack at that job’.

Brian and I had breakfast recently and tossed around a lot of thoughts and agreed that we would try to make the breakfasts a quarterly event. It would be nice to be on a first name basis with a future Premier. That’s my take on all this. You heard it here first.

Former journalist want to write laws rather than report on them.  Reaume seeks PC provincial nomination.

Former journalist want to write laws rather than report on them. Reaume seeks PC provincial nomination.

There is another announced candidate. Journalist Brad Reaume threw his hat into the ring a few days before Heagle. Blogger Russ Campbell describes Reaume, as a senior adviser to Halton Progressive Conservative MPP Ted Chudleigh. Mr. Reaume contested Ms. Savoline’s by-election nomination in 2007. He made a well-received speech at that nomination meeting—probably the best of the evening—but he’s a former journalist and that was expected.: I can’t see that he’s done anything much in the riding before or since. Burlington riding association members seem to prefer candidates who’ve been active in riding politics or association affairs and who have made an effort to get to know riding association members on a personal basis. Mr. Reaume seems to fail this test.” For more on what Campbell has to say log into


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Getting into Shape. Council is going to be involved, deeply involved.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON March 23, 2011 Making the Shape Burlington recommendations real is going to be easier said than done.

While the recommendations and the city staff` response to those recommendations has been accepted by council – council is also saying – not so fast, when it comes to who is going to be hired to take on the delicate task of working out just how the citizens are going to be involved in deciding what gets done at city hall.

Council decided at its last meeting on Monday that they wanted to be directly involved in creating the job outline and the job description for whoever gets hired for the two year contract job. Mayor Goldring said that “we don’t do this very often” but on this one we want to be down in the engine room.

Some days the “Civic Engagement Officer” will have to run …

Some days the “Civic Engagement Officer” will have to run …

and on other stands stand firm.

and on other stands stand firm.


Normally Council gives staff a Direction to perform a task and staff get on with the job. Sometimes there is a requirement for staff to report back to Council or a committee. But the hiring of the person who will over see the implementation of the Shape Burlington recommendations is being treated differently – a lot differently.

Rather than have staff just go out and hire someone to do the job – council wants to get their fingers into this one and so Ward 5 council member Paul Sharman put forward an amendment that said:

Direct the General Manager of Corporate Services to present to Council the job description and objectives for the two year contract position prior to recruitment.

We might even see Council find a way to actually interview the applicants.

Whoever gets hired for this contract job will clearly be a retired diplomat who has a thick skin and both a pair of army boots as well as a pair of running shoes.

Look for some tumult when whoever they hire is finally in place. This applicant will have to somehow satisfy everyone on council, which will be impossible, as well as placate a city hall staff that wasn’t all that comfortable with the Shape report when it was first released. And then also have to deal with the Shaping Burlington people who are in place to ensure that the Shape recommendations are put in place.

Interesting times ahead on this one.


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Caution – speed bumps ahead. Cheque, cheque, cheque – oops it bounced.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON March 23, 2011 – There is a better than even chance that the elite cyclists will not race around downtown Burlington on Canada Day or hold events in the roads outside the city for that matter.

Burlington may not see this level of elite cycling on Canada Day

Burlington may not see this level of elite cycling on Canada Day

An event that many hoped would be the start of a “sports tourism” business in Burlington has not lived up to the promise despite untold hours of time on the part of city hall staff and the Halton Regional Police, who reportedly put in more than 300 hours of volunteer time and sent a deputy chief to a council meeting to speak on behalf of the event.

But last week the race promoters, Mid Week Cycling, failed to show up at a scheduled meeting to go over the outstanding issues which are critical to the city and the police.

General Manger of Community services Scott Stewart reported that they were pretty close to having the definitive agreement in place and that he felt the matter of insurance was under control but that there was very serious concern about the routes that were going to be used for the events and the financial capacity of the organization.

What Stewart didn’t reveal at the meeting was the that Mid Week Cycling had bounced a cheque for a reported $769. that had been made payable to the Halton Regional Police.


Craig Fagan is lucky he isn’t in handcuffs for that one.

Burlington has been at this opportunity for more than a year, they have done everything a city could do to make it happen but council decided Monday evening that the deadline of March 31st was to be firm. If the four issues are not fully resolved the city will pull the plug and there will be no elite cycle racing in Burlington on Canada Day this year or in 2012.

What is particularly disappointing is that the 2012 races were to be qualifying events for the 2014 Olympics. Were those races to be held in the Burlington community, the city would certainly have benefited from the world wide media exposure.

Some felt that Mid Week Cycling, the event promoters, were playing a game of “chicken” with the city in the hope that the city would buckle and put up more than the $50,000. that has been promised by both the city and the Burlington Hotel Association.

The council meeting, which was being cable cast live by Cogeco, saw the Mayor look directly into the cameras and tell Mr. Fagan that he had until March 31st to make everything right.

Burlington withdrew from talks that had the potential to lead to the Hamilton Tiger Cats moving into a stadium complex in the Aldershot community. When the numbers didn’t look right – the city walked.

Only a fool would take this council as a bunch of rural rubes.

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We are going to do it differently this time. Strategic plan means home work for citizens.

By Staff

Burlington, Ont.—March 21, 2011 – The City of Burlington is encouraging members of the community to participate early and often in the city’s process to create a new strategic plan for Burlington called Burlington, Our Future

Not a lot of zip in the name is there? But you can expect the document to be significantly different than the last one the city put out. That document was a collection of photographs, platitudes and happy talk.

This Mayor, Rick Goldring, doesn’t do platitudes all that well – although he can do the happy talk quite well.

The city staff explain that: “A strategic plan is a document  adopted near the start of the council term. It sets out council’s vision and goals, and helps to guide council’s decision-making over the next four years and beyond.”

“I strongly encourage every citizen to get involved with Burlington, Our Future to help shape the city’s new strategic plan,” said Mayor Rick Goldring. “There are more ways than ever to get involved earlier in the process.”

See what I mean by the happy talk stuff. But he’s learning and he will get better.

and (2)

Citizens can go to the city’s website, to get information about the strategic planning process and the various opportunities for input.  One of the first opportunities is an online survey to find out what citizens and businesses think are the top priorities for this council. 

Also for the first time, the city is providing an easy-to-follow workbook to help citizens get the conversation going with friends, neighbours and colleagues and share their discussions with council.  These conversations are referred to as “Talk About It…Burlington, Our Future”. Group workbooks and submission forms are available online. Citizens without Internet access can call 905-335-7600, ext. 7378 to get a copy of the workbook. 

The first stage of public consultation will take place now until April 18. Input received will help shape the vision and identify priority areas. Other opportunities for public participation will occur throughout the process.  

That mid April date is just about the time the budget – the document that determines what your taxes will amount to. You might want to keep your powder dry and hold your fire until you know what it is going to cost you to keep your house out of the hands of the bailiff. I make that comment mostly in jest because Burlington has an incredibly kind policy towards those people who are unable to pay their property taxes.  The tax collectors will bend over backwards for genuine cases of financial hardship. It is something for which the city can be very proud.


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Robbers couldn’t wait for the pizza, didn’t get any dough either.

By Staff

BURLINGTON, ON March 10, 2011 – The domino’s Pizza at Walkers Line and New Street had a couple of people burst into the store who turned out not to be customers – there were there to rob the place.

One, armed with a knife, rushed to the counter while the second suspect kept look-out at the door. The punk with the knife confronted a staff member and demanded money. Before the employee could count the change the punks fled – empty handed. Not even a pizza to go.

Police think there may have been a third suspect may have remained outside the store.

Suspect #1 is described as a male, white, light coloured short hair, 6’0′ tall, 160 lbs, 20-25 years old. He was wearing a black baseball cap, a black hoodie, a black waist length coat, dark blue jeans and black shoes with white soles, and two diagonal stripes.

Someone in that store has a sharp eye to get all that detail.

The jacket is probably in a dumpster somewhere but if you know anyone who is keen on pizza, short of cash and has a jacket like this – Crime Stoppers would like to hear form you.

The jacket is probably in a dumpster somewhere but if you know anyone who is keen on pizza, short of cash and has a jacket like this – Crime Stoppers would like to hear form you.

Suspect #2 is described as a male, white, average build, 6’0″ tall, 20-25 years old. He was wearing a darker brown or tan fleece hoodie, dark blue jeans and black shoes, with white soles and two white stripes. Suspect’s jacket is very distinctive (shown in photo). The jacket is a dark blue colour, with a white pattern on the fore arm areas and on the front lower panels. The rear panel of this jacket has very large letters “XMX.”

Suspect #3 is described as a male, 5’5 tall, 200 lbs, and had a large belly. He was wearing all black clothes.

Police list the event as an “attempted robbery” and we would add by thieves who might consider some other line of employment. 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 or by texting “Tip201” with your message to 274637 (crimes).


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John Boich, 1933 – 2011 Requiescat in Pace

He died quietly in his sleep, shortly after being informed that he had been named Citizen of the Year by the citizens of Burlington, Ontario

John Boich 1933-2011

John Boich 1933-2011

John Boich, 1933-2011, athlete, scholar, educator, businessman, political advisor, husband and friend to many, died peacefully in his sleep at the Joseph Brant Hospital in Burlington of pancreatic cancer on March 15th.

A man of huge generosity with both his time and resources John always answered the phone with the words ‘Yes’ on his lips.

John faced his passing with the strength and determination that he faced most things in his life; stoically and with strength and determination.

A man with opinions that he was never afraid to express and a gusto for life that never failed him. From the football fields of the Canadian Football League where he wore the number 12 for the Ottawa Rough Riders and knew all the greats in that sport, to a session of Burlington city council where every council member gathered around John in a circle and bid him their very best as tears rolled down John’s face.

He leaves his wife Arlene, brother, his two children and his three dogs: Buster, Winston and Molly. We will see that the dogs are walked regularly John.

A remembrance service will be held in the near future.


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Sister city in Japan is spared from the earth quake that has devasted parts of Japan.

By Staff

Burlington, On.—March 14, 2011— Burlington’s sister city Itabashi, Japan, has been spared any damage from the earth quake that has wiped some towns off the face of the earth and landed ocean going vessels on city streets.

Itabashi, Japan, Burlington’s sister city has not been damaged by the earth quake that destroyed large parts of Japan.

Itabashi, Japan, Burlington’s sister city has not been damaged by the earth quake that destroyed large parts of Japan.

Mayor Rick Goldring placed a call to the Mayor of  Itabashi last Friday but was unable to get through.  There was a response to an email in which the Mayor of Itabashi, Takeshi Sakamoto who reported that damages have been stayed at minimum in Itabashi city and citizens are safe,”

“Here in Itabashi city hall, we felt several strong quakes. However, damages have been stayed at minimum in Itabashi city and citizens are safe” adding that Itabashi is now preparing for power restrictions.

“Again, I would like to express our heartfelt gratitude to you and Burlington citizens for such kind concern and friendship,” Mayor Sakamoto wrote. “Lastly, I would like to share with you my prayers for your happiness and the prosperity of Burlington city.”

“In times of crisis, it is important to reach out and let your friends know that your thoughts and prayers are with them,” Mayor Goldring said. “I know I speak for my colleagues on City Council and the people of Burlington when I say our thoughts are with Itabashi and the people of Japan as they struggle with the aftermath of this tragic situation. We receive some comfort from knowing our Itabashi friends are safe.”

Spring trees will bloom in Itabashi, Japan and hopefully in Burlington as well.

Spring trees will bloom in Itabashi, Japan and hopefully in Burlington as well.

In May of 1989, the City of Burlington signed a twinning agreement with the City of Itabashi. In the following years, various exchanges and programs have been carried out between ltabashi and Burlington and relations between the cities have flourished on all levels.

Itabashi is located in the northwestern part of the metropolis on the Shyakujii, Shingashi and Arakawa Rivers 45 kilometres northwest of Tokyo. The name Itabashi literally means wooden bridge and was derived from a wooden bridge constructed some 800 years ago over the Shyakujii river.


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Burlington considering a new media; going for a Town Crier to deliver the Mayors words.

By Staff

BURLINGTON, ON March 14, 2011  –  David Vollick got asked to help at a church event awhile ago – they needed someone with a loud voice to let people know about the different events that were taking place one Christmas Season.  They dressed him up a bit and gave him a bell to ring and that planted the deed of an idea in Dave’s mind that resulted in his appearing before a city council committee to suggest that Burlington might get itself a Town Crier.

Costs $50. to clean and press the uniform – but he is pretty isn’t he.  David Vollick as a Town Crier.

Costs $50. to clean and press the uniform – but he is pretty isn’t he. David Vollick as a Town Crier.

Council kind of liked the idea and sent it off to staff to consider all the implications and sometime later this year the city will probably have a Town Crier of its very own.  Vollick wasn’t asking Council to pay him to do the job but he did point at that the people getting the benefit of the Crier usually pay a small stipend to cover the cost of cleaning the elaborate uniform they wear..  As Dave pointed out ”it costs $50. to have this uniform cleaned and pressed.”

His wife Barbara often joins him at any events he works.  What council heard was that Crier could read out the public declarations that are made by the Mayor.   Girl Guide Month or Small Business Week – the range is immense.  There could be a proclamation made on Canada Day.

The first documented use of a Town Crier was in1066, after the Norman Invasion of England.  Criers were regularly used after that  by the ruling King or Queen to inform all the citizens of their orders and decrees. To this day old English law still protects Criers from being Hindered or Heckled whilst carrying out their duties.

The term “Posting A Notice” comes from the act of the Town Crier attaching the notice or Proclamation he had read to the door post of the local Inn or Tavern.

Citizens of the towns relied on the crier for the information, be it good or bad news. Criers were not always men.  Many Town Criers were women. Bells were not the only attention getting device. In Holland a Gong was the instrument of choice for many, and in France they used a Drum, or a Hunting Horn.

Criers where often old military veterans who could read and write but who had fallen on hard times. The position of Town Crier gave them employment and a pension.  The position of Town Crier has often been passed from one generation to the next.

Council directed the City Manager to investigate the idea of establishing an Official Town Crier for Burlington, looking into the costs and report back to the Community Services committee by April 20.

David Vollick ably assisted by his wife Barbara.

David Vollick ably assisted by his wife Barbara.

The intention was to hold a contest for a crier if the city manager could find a benefit for the city.  Tourism Burlington was reported to like the idea and Vollick could see the Crier being used for store openings and other events that wanted to draw public attention.

We just might see someone at City Hall reading out a Proclamation on Canada Day while the cyclists zoom by.


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City staff give the Shape report a very detailed look and bought into most of what was recommended.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON  March 11, 2011  –  It was probably one of the more challenging assignments that has landed on the desk of Kim Phillips, General Manager of Corporate Services for the city of Burlington.  It took her back to her days as a staff member in Cambridge where she learned how vital community and neighbourhood is to the health of a city.

Throughout this piece we use Ms Phillips as the main mention but it has to be pointed out that the work she did was part of a deep and detailed interaction with every department in the city and lengthy dialogue with the city manager and the Executive Budget Committee.  This was a full staff effort.

Ms Phillips was given the task of heading up and writing the response to the Shape Burlington report that has been on the tongues of the political element of the city for more than a year. How was the city to respond?

The report covers all the bases. Ms Phillips consulted widely within the civic administration and with numerous groups in the city as well as people who she felt could advise and counsel her on what is best for the city.  She met with the original Shape Committee as well as the follow up group Shaping Burlington to develop what has the potential to become a turning point for the city and the way it relates to its citizens.

Doing the “digging around” to get a sense of how city hall worked from a citizens perspective was to some degree a painful process for Phillips.  A trained facilitator, Phillips had to move to the other side of the table to fully understand the issues – and it wasn’t always clear that a solution existed until she began to understand on an “at the counter” level what city hall staff do with the public on a day to day basis.

Some of the comments made were hard to hear and Phillips began to understand that there was an information deficit and struggled with “how do you let people know what we are doing?”  There are many on staff who are ‘active instigators’ who care deeply about the city yet their performance was not that evident to the average taxpayer.”

One example of the concern Phillips was trying to convey was a Saturday morning public meeting on the budget.  Some 50 people were in the room at the Arts Centre with about a third representing city staff.  The meeting came to an end and it was staff that was the last to leave as they gathered up their material and discussed how the event had gone.  The “public” had ‘left the building much earlier’.

The response to the Shape Burlington report is fair, balanced and detailed but, not complete because Ms Phillips see this process of engaging citizens as an ongoing process and so she has left a number of doors open.  The process of collaborating seems to have taken root in her office and I suspect within the General Manager class and the Executive Budget Committee as well.

Phillips has certainly made a significant first stab at trying to make it better.

Phillips talked to publishers, talked to people in neighbourhoods and it became evident to her that there was a divide.  Her challenge was to come up with a way to meld the Shape recommendations and her knowledge of what could and what could not be done at the civic administration level, into a document that would be approved by Council.

Everything staff does is at the direction of Council – and if they don’t like what they hear – they don’t approve it.  This council approved the report at the committee level, where it didn’t really get the time and debate it deserved.  The meeting agenda was full and council members are focused on the budget.  But they did accept the Staff report but didn’t buy into much of what Shaping Burlington wanted to see.  It comes back to a full Council meeting where it might get additional debate.

In her report, Phillips hones in on the expectations Shape Burlington raised and described those expectations as a desire for more timely and useful communication and information sharing, interest in early involvement as part of strategic and ongoing decision making.

“…a desire for more timely and useful communication and information sharing…”

“Managing expectations will be important as changes are intended in part to improve feelings of belonging, and the public’s trust and confidence in the City of Burlington’s government.  The City of Burlington makes thousands of decisions every year and has had success in the past with strategic planning, citizen involvement, and strategic communications.”   The Shape Burlington report was clearly seeking change.  “Although Burlington has many communications practices that are on the forefront in the municipal sector,” Phillips points out that “ we recognize that improvement is possible and desirable.”   

“The many ways that allow people to participate and express their view at the municipal level do require constant monitoring for effectiveness. These opportunities can offer ways to improve citizen involvement and confidence in our municipal government. At the same time, the community will benefit from the increased commitment to participate and contribute to the improvement of the city.”

Easier said than done but Phillips has certainly made as significant first stab at trying to make it better.  In her Staff response she pointed out that “…whether you are reading this staff report as a committee member, a participant in the process, a staff person, a member of council, or someone new or without any knowledge of Shape Burlington, there are clear and key messages that are important for all of us.”

She added, in a point that is critical – “…staff will receive direction about council’s commitment to enhance citizen participation in City of Burlington service delivery and decision-making processes.”  The direction and the policy comes from council.  All Phillips has done is set out the options and the potential.

Phillips bought into the idea of an Engagement Charter and the hiring of a person with the specific task of being a resource to staff who would bring about the transformation over time of a new and more open relationship with the residents of the city.

The early draft of the Engagement Charter has a long way to go – and Phillips both acknowledges the amount of work to be done.  For her the process is to involve the community on how best to get significant public input into the content of the charter and the setting out of a path that would be followed to implement whatever gets agreed upon.

Phillips writes: “The Shape Burlington report is also about influence and control.  What is the role of council, staff, citizens and groups?  Facts need to be known about what is unchangeable and what is open for discussion.  What is reasonable in balancing the city’s legislated and professional responsibilities with involvement from others?  Who decides?”

“The Shape Burlington report is about influence and control.”

“We all care,”, Phillips points out and “have expectations, and want to spend our time in ways that have most value.  We all want to be understood.  We also know that we can’t be everything to everyone.  There’s a level of frustration or sense of not being understood in all of us.”

“Any process of change should involve those most impacted.  In the topics of the Shape Burlington report, the citizens involved, the staff, and council now in office are impacted.  It’s time for all of us to ‘reset’ and move forward with a fresh start.  The best outcomes include open dialogue, best value efforts, continuous improvement, trust, and well-informed decision making.” Sounds good doesn’t it ?

“Along the theme of customer-first service, we need to check in about what is important, how to reach out, what the choices are, and why anyone should care.   We need to invite involvement in ways that continue to work for us as they have in the past and in new ways that we may not be as experienced with.  We need to determine appropriate measures that will indicate where progress is being made and guide changes that may be necessary.”  Moving that attitude into the ranks is much more of a challenge.  Has every staff member read the report Phillips wrote ?  Do they know where she wants this city to go in terms of civic engagement ?  Perhaps the city should publish one of those “little red book” that some governments and political parties used to get the message out to the masses.

“How will we know we’ve gotten there” Phillips asks.  “How do we recognizes our successes and how do we measure them”.  Then without quite realizing it, Phillips asks the most trenchant question: “What are you looking for and how will you know you’ve found it?”  That’s a question the citizens of Burlington have to put to themselves and then communicate the answer they come up with to both the staff and their council members,

“What are you looking for and how will you know you have it?”

Kim Phillips General Manager,

Corporate Services

Phillips describes the process we are all about to go into as a stool with a council leg, a staff` leg and a citizen leg.  “If we don’t have all three legs firmly fixed  we’ve got nothing to sit on.  While Phillips didn’t put it quite this way – without three legs we are all flat on the floor.

Given that the city doesn’t employ an Easter Bunny to deliver the goods to us – there has to be a process – and it is the process that matters most.  Phillips writes: “We will work with the community to develop a process that will ‘categorize’ these decisions.  Where issues are appropriate for greater community involvement, we will ensure that the necessary supports are in place to do it well.”

What the Staff report is setting out to do is change the culture at city hall to promote active citizenship and civic engagement.   “The key messages staff take from Shape Burlington’s recommendations” writes Phillips, “are information sharing and working together.  Staff support the development of a document that has been temporarily named ‘Working Paper on Burlington Engagement Charter’.   The Charter will provide a cohesive message of the City’s commitment to citizen involvement. From a priority perspective, we see this as one of the two top priorities arising from the Shape Burlington report. 

Shaping Burlington has suggested that this is a process that could take six to twelve months to complete.  Identifying the team that will work together on the charter should be completed by the end of March.  The team will then discuss their approach, process and meeting plans.  Staff expect that the charter can be completed by the 4th quarter of 2011, allowing time for the strategic planning process to proceed in parallel.

This is a pretty tight time frame within which to transform a culture.  Given this time line, the culture at city hall will have changed before the Brant Street Pier opens.
Targeting completion of the charter for fall 2011 also ensures that the new staff person has an opportunity to be part of the development process before a proposed charter is presented to committee and council for approval. 

That is a pretty tight time frame within which to transform a culture.  Given this time line the culture at city hall will have changed before the Brant Street Pier opens.  While the time line suggested might be somewhat less than realistic,  the intention and the process have more than a chance of making it through the mill.

“Development and implementation of the charter will require ongoing commitment from staff, council, and the community.  At this time, staff do not consider the words ‘engagement charter’ the title of the final document and will work with citizens to present a document using clear, plain language.”  Shaping Burlington representatives have indicated that they prefer the word “civic” to “citizen” related to a charter, but the words will be considered as part of the collaborative process.  We want to ensure that community groups, businesses, and citizens feel included in the charter.  We anticipate that a working group of staff and citizens will develop the document and throughout the process can invite representatives of council to provide input.  As council will make the final decision about approval of the document, the development of it is being suggested to be in the hands of citizens and staff primarily.  Until the new staff person is in place, the General Manager of Corporate Services will coordinate this effort, working with the Assistant to the General Managers.

“…staff do not consider the words ‘engagement charter’ the title of the final document.”  Are we looking at a watering down of the wine before we even get to taste it?


Shaping Burlington representatives have indicated that they prefer the word “civic” to “citizen”.  A citizen votes – not sure if civic isn’t more water in that wine.

So, it is the natives that will work up the document and present that to the appropriate council committee.  Better allow lots of time for that meeting.

“The Shape Burlington report suggested increased citizen involvement in developing a vision statement,  writes Phillips, “so that citizens could be involved in influencing the city’s long term direction and so that the resulting plan is clear and includes measurable action plans that the community can buy into.  Shaping Burlington suggested that the strategic plan process be considered a marketing exercise to reach out to citizens, to create a buzz about the importance of the plan as a priority setting exercise for the community as a whole.”

What we are seeing is a level of pro-activity this city has not seen for some time.  Can it be sustained?  It can, but only if all three legs of that stool are in place.

Communication has been perhaps the biggest public complaint.  Citizens don’t feel they know what is really going on.  Planning department notices that effect a large area are sent out, for the most part to just those homes within a 120 metre radius of a proposed plan,  The city’s web site isn’t has never won any awards for its ease of use and the communications department suffers from a lack of oxygen and sufficient funding.  Phillips announced that a new web site will appear within a couple of weeks. Let’s give them a chance to show us what they have learned.

The Communications department in Burlington isn’t as unified as it could be – and there appears to be a lack of strategy and direction.  The web site comes under the direction of one group with the managing of day to day communications under the direction of another person.  Some re-aligning of responsibilities might improve the performance.  This is one of those instances where structure is impeding process.   There might be just a little “turf protecting” going on here as well.

If communications were what it can be – many of the concerns brought to light by the Shape report would not have existed.  The cry was for greater involvement of all citizens in a shared vision of our city.  We are not there yet.  A large segment of the city see the Performing Arts Centre as a nice to have while another segment is out there raising the millions needed to make the place work and become an integral part of the cultural fabric of the city.

The Shape Burlington report suggested increased citizen involvement in developing a vision statement, so that citizens could be involved in influencing the city’s long term direction with measurable action plans that the community can buy into. 

Phillips writes that: “We agree that this (the development of the 2010-2014 strategic plan) is “the single best time…to influence the city’s long term direction.”  The Executive Director of Corporate Strategic Initiatives will coordinate this process and is committed to a variety of tried and true as well as new citizen engagement methods. 

“Another key point in the Shape Burlington report was the lack of trust and confidence in City government.  From a controllable perspective, the focus of this recommendation is on improving respect for citizens.”

“There are community groups with extensive e mailing lists that may provide opportunities for sharing information and a coordinated approach to the use of this information will be part of the work for the new position recommended.  Since residents have multiple points of contact, these may provide a new way for the city to keep in touch, building on successful relationships that individuals have with trusted groups.”

Those trusted groups might be described by some as those with vested interests.

Another key point in the Shape Burlington report was the lack of trust and confidence in City government.  From a controllable perspective, the focus of this recommendation is on improving respect for citizens.  If councillor Craven’s ripping through a delegation is acceptable – then this council has a long way to go.

A customer service standards review is underway and staff training is being planned

The voters turfed a Mayor that lost their confidence even though he had never lost an election before during in his lengthy career and in one election got more than 70% of the popular vote.  Did the voters have a different expectation or did the Mayor fail to read the expectations of his constituents?  This same Mayor took the initiative that brought into being the group of people who produced the report that is about to be implemented.  There is an irony in there somewhere.

Phillips makes a very significant point when she says: “The biggest challenge in community development is being clear about the limits of support and what can and can’t be done.  As long as staff and council remain focused on the City of Burlington’s services, priorities, and resources, and work collaboratively with the Region of Halton when appropriate to serve community needs, limits will be clearer and consistent approaches will be understood.  Consistency allows for clarity and allows for unique approaches as well.  The keys are up front planning, consultation and information sharing, and ongoing monitoring. 

In order to shift the way the City of Burlington invites community involvement, we need some change.  To implement change, we need a staff resource to: research, develop appropriate policies and practises. This person has to listen to input and receive feedback, write information that will help staff, council, and the community and also be a resource to staff on their projects and processes and provide guidance and advice.  Make civic engagement fun!

As if all that wasn’t enough this new staff person will have to identify strategic issues that merit enhanced citizen involvement and make connections and maintain open communication with representatives that have not been in regular or ongoing contact with the City.

The hope apparently is that Superman or Superwoman is not on an assignment elsewhere and will be available to Burlington for what is clearly a mammoth assignment.

There’s more:  Work with the community directly, in meetings and through social media.  Work with others to provide relevant online learning. Plan and implement training so that everyone can be successful. Support the early adopters and recognize success.

More yet – review efforts that fall short to share the lessons for future use, liaise with the Region of Halton to ensure roles are clear and duplication is avoided,  reach out for community input and feedback, ensure appropriate follow up,  measure, monitor, and report on progress.  That list is endless – is it also unrealistic and creating an expectation that cannot be met ?

The hope, apparently, is that Superman or Superwoman is not on an assignment elsewhere and will be available to Burlington for what is clearly a mammoth assignment.  Can one person actually do al this in one year.  There are people in the Human Resources field who would tell you expecting one person to do all this in a two year time frame is a mistake in the making.

Social media, which few of even the largest brand names in North America fully understand, is going to be added into this mix.  Burlington is in the middle of a pilot project with Twitter and getting ready to do something on Facebook which will be an interesting exercise.  The city has employed three communications advisors since 2006, working in an internal agency model, where each is responsible for assigned departments of which there are now 13 departments.  The recommended staff person will also spend time supporting the city’s implementation of social media.

A reality staff faces in discussing citizen engagement is that people are busy and have multiple interests.  Heck there are hockey games and bridge clubs too you know. Many people, most actually do not get involved in municipal government matters until there is a direct or significant impact on them personally.  Then of course they descend on city hall and expect an immediate response to their grievance and council members, who want to get elected, jump through hoops and look to staff to resolve the problem.

 “…we can encourage and foster civic engagement but we cannot  mandate it.”

Kim Phillips
General Manager Corporate Services

Phillips points out that “we can encourage and foster civic engagement but we cannot mandate it.” Citizens, as Phillips points out, share responsibility for becoming informed and providing input so that they can effectively exercise their democratic rights.  More than 60% of the voters choose not to exercise their option.

Staff held several meetings with Shaping Burlington to discuss the recommendations being presented in this report, the engagement charter, and ways of identifying, measuring and reporting about citizen engagement.  In their delegation to the committee on the Phillips report Shaping asked for a number of changes and for the most part – they didn’t get very much.  However, Phillips writes that: “Chris Walker, John Searles and Ken Edwards have been the key contacts.  Mr. Edwards will continue involvement in the development of the engagement charter, Mr. Searles is assisting with the update of the citizen’s guide, and Mr. Walker is the key contact for the group, and will be sent all information arising from committee and council’s discussions on this report.  Shaping Burlington is also, through Mr. Walker, being invited to budget 2011 consultation workshops and to strategic planning events.  So, Shaping is at the table, just not with the clout they had hoped to have.

This appears to be one of those situations where the city and its citizens are going to get a very significant bang for their buck.  Phillips expects to spend $178,000 for the two year contract position and maybe another $50,000. along the way.  To get all that is proposed for less than a quarter of a million dollars is huge value.  There are those who will carp and write letters to the editor and complain about the waste.  For those people the glass is always half empty when in reality we aren’t even talking about a glass – we are talking about a milk can that is full with rich cream that can serve the city exceptionally well far into the future.

The city and its citizens are going to get a significant bang for their buck – $178,000. to change the culture at city hall is a great deal.  Let’s not blow it.

What one can see coming together is a really bold initiative and quite a big shift on the part of the civic administration that has to serve a council that has members who really aren’t  110% behind this initiative. Members of council may take exception to that comment but let them compare the way they got really excited about the cycling competitions that is to take place on Canada Day and compare that with their feelings for a Charter that will set out what a citizen can expect from the government they elect.  OK, so it isn’t a Magna Carta but it is a big, big step for Burlington.  Let’s not blow it.


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Council committee accepts staff report on Shape recommendations – rejects the idea of sharing power with a community group.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON  March 9, 2011  –  The one thing that always has to be remembered with politicians is that they were elected and given the power to make decisions and they never give that power away.  They might share it – a little, but if you look as if you’re going to actually get your hands on those levers of power – you’re knuckles are going to get hurt.

And so it was that Shaping Burlington learned Tuesday forenoon that neither the staff or the city council were about to give away very much in the way of the power they have to run the city.

Some background.  Former Mayor Cam Jackson created  a committee to look into a perceived lack of trust between the city administration and its citizens and a poor customer service mentality.   John Boich and Walter Mulkewich co-chaired the Committee that produced a report that was given to Council on May 3, 2010.  Council passed its resolution of endorsement July 5, and the document took on a life of its own and became one of the focal points in the October, 2010 municipal election.  The original Shape committee was disbanded and was replaced by a “watch dog” group that named itself Shaping Burlington with the mandate it took on to ensure that the Shape Burlington recommendations saw the light of day and didn’t collect dust on a shelf. 

City Staff were instructed to review the original report and come back to Council with recommendations.  Those recommendations went to a committee earlier this week and after surprising little discussion or real debate the report from staff was accepted in principal with some fine tuning to be done.

Before the council committee accepted the report in principle it heard a delegation from the Shaping Burlington people on what they felt were the shortcomings of the report that was written and shepherded through the municipal bureaucracy by Kim Phillips.

Ms Phillips wrote a detailed, considerate response to the original report and went along with the thrust of the original recommendations – but that wasn’t enough for the Shaping Burlington people.  They seemed to have felt  they were very close to getting their hands on those levers of power and they wanted to make the grip as tight as they could.  In making that comment the intention is not to imply that Shaping Burlington is a bunch of power hungry revolutionaries; they are nothing of the sort.  The do believe in collaboration and sharing but they don’t fully understand the realities of municipal politics.

They forgot the basic principle that guides and directs what politicians do – you never give that power away and you share it very sparingly.

Well, the people who have labeled themselves as “watch dogs” over the city aren’t going to have any of the power they wanted.  They will continue to be on the edge of deliberations.  Consulted from time to time and experiencing that Newfoundland phrase: “killing them with kindness.”  City staff and the citizens of Burlington have yet to find an accommodation within which each can grow.

 “Shaping Burlington” explained Chris Walker, chairman and public voice of the group, “comes from a developing a climate of civic engagement at City Hall”.  They saw the staff response as a good first step but they wanted quite a bit more than a simple step.  Walker was delegating to the Budget and Corporate Services committee that had formally received the Staff report.  Even though there were two members of the Shape Committee on council – there wasn’t much spirit in the discussion and it would be a stretch to suggest it was a debate.  More of council ensuring that its perks and power weren’t tampered with.

The agenda for the meeting also included the Capital Spending portion of the budget and that was where council wanted to be.  Did Shaping get a fair shake at the meeting?  Was the essence of the Staff report and the concerns that Shaping had with that document get the consideration it deserved?  Not really.

The Shape Report intention was to create a position of authority – council wasn’t buying it.

The staff report included the Thank you and platitude stuff about continuing the dialogue and Shaping Burlington, which saw the report a week before it was delivered formally to the committee, took the bait and responded with: “they  look forward to participating in continuing collaboration with city staff on the issues raised by Shape Burlington and its successor group, Shaping Burlington, as recommended in the staff report” and referred to the atmosphere of cooperation and goodwill that has been demonstrated to date.

Walker then mentioned the differences between the Staff report and what Shaping Burlington felt the Shape report called for and said his team was looking for “a more pro-active, less cautious, approach to the issues involved.”  Walker forgot that he is in Burlington where caution prevails

The prime issue for Walker, who speaks for the group, was the way the matter of an Engagement Charter was to be handled. He pointed out that Shape Burlington had recommended a plain language policy document that specifically directs how civic engagement can be fostered. “It incorporates benchmarks and accountabilities, describes the value, purpose and opportunities for citizens to influence city policies, explains how citizens can navigate City Hall and its services, and stipulates best practices”, explained Walker

The Charter, he added,  was to incorporate an early notification system to provide reasonable amounts of time to understand, discuss and develop positions.  Staff, according to Walker “anticipates merely a brief document that describes purposes and accountabilities, but specifically rejects incorporating benchmarks, how to navigate City Hall and its services, and best practices. The report, argued Walker does not include an early notification system in its working paper.  He pointed to a line in the Staff report that said: “ it is not a value and not applicable to all the city’s decision making.”   Walker didn’t see it that way, but he is a pleasant man and he takes the set backs in stride.

Along with an Engagement Charter the Shaping people wanted an Engagement Officer and that was just not on with this council. Walker pointed out that: “The Shape recommendation was the establishing an Office of Engagement whose Director would report to the City Manager. The intention was to create a position of authority, not merely a staff resource.”

Walker and his group were serious about civic engagement and wanted the power to bring that about to be shared.  Wasn’t going to happen.  Walker wanted to be sure staff and council understood his point and explained that the staff report recommends a two-year contract position to assist, not direct, the development and implementation of the Engagement Charter and changes to municipal policies and processes.  Shaping wanted whoever is hired to develop the policies and direct the process. Council didn’t quite see it that way.

One of the eight Shape recommendations was for a Communications Department that would provide timely and reliable information free of political bias. The transformation Shaping Burlington wanted would include a revamped and more frequent City Talk, with  council members encouraged to develop their own communication vehicles.  City Talk is a document the city publishes that includes council member activities in their individual wards.  The council members were not about to give up that free and extremely useful advertising space.

Walker forgot a cardinal rule of politics – keep your name and your picture out there as much as you can.  It is voter recognition that gets politicians re-elected – not what they do – unless they really screw up.

The opportunity to engage at the classroom level was given up by Staff – a speakers list will be drawn up for classrooms to use.  Pity.

Shape Burlington recommended municipal involvement in the Grade 10 Civics program through a module that could be created with input from the City. The proposal received enthusiastic response from school board representatives. “The staff report does not refer to the Grade 10 Civics program in its recommendations to Council, and in a later discussion limits the city’s participation to providing a speakers list.” Shape Burlington envisaged more pro-active participation.

Walker pointed out that the staff report does not refer to a Communications Department transformation, and foresees a continuation of City Talk with some modifications, with space still allocated to members of council.

Shape Burlington recommended that Council periodically hold its meetings in different geographical areas across the City to bring its deliberations closer to the community.  The staff report rejects this recommendation because of logistical and communication challenges. “We believe this is a premature rejection of a strategic objective at this time”, said Walker, so there isn’t going to be a Council road show in different parts of the city – the mountain is still going to have to come to Mohammed.

Walker told the committee that Shaping Burlington looks forward to continued discussion of these and other differences during the ongoing collaborative process.  He had no idea that council was going to have nothing to do with the kind of change the Shaping people wanted, but he pressed on and got into very specific changes in the document.

Craven ripped through Walker when he couldn’t identify Aldershot area community groups.  Cheap shot at a decent man.

Council members asked a couple of questions.  Ward 1 council member Rick Craven ripped through Walker with a bunch of questions that were designed to make Walker look as if he knew nothing about the different community groups in the city.  To his credit Walker stood up to what was really disrespectful behaviour on the part of a council member to a delegation.

Among the specific changes Walker wanted to see were: Authorize the Engagement Officer, not the City Clerk, to work with members of council and staff, recognizing that it is a position of authority.  And that is where the rubber hit the road – council was not giving away as much as an inch of its authority.

The report was accepted as it was presented by staff.  There will be a person hired for a period of time to shepherd the staff report through the civic administration and when that two year period is over – well there might be a change but nothing that resembles what the Shaping people thought they could bring about. 

Walter Mulkewich, a former Mayor of Burlington and co-chair of the Shape Burlington committee that got this all started was unable to attend the committee meeting  but did send a letter in which he said in part:

“I would like to make brief comments regarding the staff report and recommendations with respect to the Shape Burlington Report on “Creating an Engaged Community” in Burlington.

“The position of the original Shape Burlington Committee in its presentation to City Council on May 3, 2010, was that the City implements all the recommendations of the report.   I am satisfied that the Staff report points Council and community in the right direction to begin to do exactly that.

“I am very pleased that City Staff has taken the report and its recommendations seriously, and thoughtfully, and has presented a thorough report to the Committee and Council.  I think that the Staff report has embraced, in large measure, the principles of the Shape Burlington report.  And, I believe the Staff recommendations to Council can establish a process for the City and community to move towards the transformational changes envisaged by Shape Burlington.”

The yellow brick road hasn’t reached Burlington yet.

The yellow brick road hasn’t reached Burlington yet.

When Mulkewich was Mayor of Burlington has wasn’t able to convince his council to move from the title Alderman to Councillor.; this at a time when feminism was close to its peak.  It would not be unrealistic to suggest that neither Mulkewich or Shape Burlington is going to move this council very far down the yellow brick road.


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