Two geniuses use hand gun in a Lakeshore Road convenience store robbery.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON  February 7, 2012  – Perfectly innocent people are victimized by crime and when that criminal is a gun toting youth sticking a gun in your face and ordering you to get down on the floor – becoming a victim takes on a whole new meaning.  Few people ever recover from an armed robbery.  The trauma is with them for the rest of their lives.

Last Sunday at around 7:00 a.m., two men, one armed with a handgun, entered the Real Convenience Mart, located at 5353 Lakeshore Rd., Burlington.

The firearm was pointed directly at the store clerk, death threats were made and the clerk was ordered to the ground.

The men stole the cash content of the till and the ATM located inside the store – not sure how they managed to do that but that is what the police reported.

The suspects also took several cartons of cigarettes and lottery tickets, which were all stuffed into a duffel bag.  The clue that these two were not in the genius category is in the theft of lottery tickets.  True justice would have them stealing a ticket worth a couple of million – but these idiots wouldn’t be able to collect on it because the lottery people know where every ticket is sold – cash a winning ticket and they’ve got you.

These two geniuses were described by police as follows:

Suspect # 1

Description:  male, white, 20-25 years of age, 5’9 to 6’0 tall, approximately 175 – 180 lbs, average build, short dirty blonde hair with receding hairline, fair complexion.

Clothing: Dark coloured jacket with “New York” on the back with a possible Yankees patch on the front. White hoodie underneath the jacket, dark jeans, and white runners.

 Suspect # 2

Description: male, white, 20-25 years of age, 5’6 to 5’7 tall, approximately 140 – 150 lbs, slim build, with dark hair, fair complexion. Lettered tattoos on his right forearm.

Clothing: Dark coloured jacket, dark jeans, white runners.

They are believed to have fled the scene in a newer model sedan, possibly a Toyota Corolla or Camry.

Anyone with information that would assist in this investigation is asked to contact the Burlington Criminal Investigations Bureau at 905 825-4747 x2315, Crime Stoppers at 1 800 222-TIPS(8477), through the web at www.haltoncrimestoppers.com or by texting “Tip201” with your message to 274637(crimes).

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Gas prices significantly lower in Hamilton for all brands – why, and what can you do about it?

By Pepper Parr

Each Sunday we drive to Hamilton to attend the church of our choice and unless we are late, there is nice comfortable conversation along the way.  A few Sunday’s ago I turned to the Missus and asked: Are all the gas prices in Hamilton lower than they are in Burlington – and if they are – why are they lower?

With no snow in the driveway this Sunday, February 5th  we set out to document what differences there were in the gasoline prices in Burlington and Hamilton.

We drove south from Upper Middle Road and down Guelph line and took pictures at four gas stations, some offering regular gas at the same price, some with lower prices.

With that information in the camera we headed to Hamilton and went west along Main Street in the Westdale community next to McMaster University where we took pictures of the same brand gas stations and recorded their prices.

In Burlington regular gasoline at the

The Shell station on Guelph line $1.249 per litre

Burlington Esso on Guelph Line $1.249

The Petro Canada station immediately across the road from Esso also wanted $1.249

Shell station on Guelph Line and Mainway was $1.249 cents per litre.

At the Esso station just across the road gas was $1.249 a litre

Husky was the lowest amongst the Guelph Line stations - $1.247 per litre

At the Petro Canada station, across the road from the Esso station gas was $1.249 per litre

At the Husky Station a little further north on the west side of Guelph line gas was $1.247

A ten minute drive into Hamilton and the prices were a lot lower – low enough to make the trip worth your while ?  Perhaps not but we make a point of gassing up when we are in Hamilton.

Here are the Hamilton prices:

Esso station $1.226

Husky station $1.226

Shell station $121.9

Best price in Hamilton was at the independent Pioneer station where gas was $1.217 per litre

Pioneer station $1.217

 

At the Shell station on Main West in Hamilton - $1.219 per litre of regular gas

Regular gas at the Hamilton Esso station $1.226

Husky in Hamilton $1.226Why the difference in prices?  Because that is what the retailers can get away with.  Prices for each brand of gas are set by the regional marketing office but the change is made at the gas station.  We tend to use Shell because they hand out Air Mile points and were told by the operator at that station in Hamilton that he had “the lowest price on the strip”.  This guy obviously wanted the business and was prepared to cut his price by a couple of pennies to get it.  The Shell station in Burlington is more convenient for me but the guy in Hamilton wants my business and because I am driving by once a week anyway – he gets the business.

Best price in Hamilton was at the independent Pioneer station where gas was $1.217 per litre

And that is about all you have in the way of impact on market prices.  Stop buying your gas at places that have higher prices – and if enough people do that – the price will come down.

After driving by the gas stations and checking out the prices we went on into Dundas to just look around and get some exercise and have lunch.  Their Main Street was a delight to walk along and there was all kinds of stuff to see.  Walking through their Heritage district was a pure delight.

The sign certainly caught our attention. Perky, inviting. Retailers in Dundas aren't beaten down the way those in Burlington are who have to compete with malls that have tens of thousands to spend on upgrades.

Posts that flyers can be put up on make streets in Dundas a little more friendly.

We wondered what it was that made the downtown part of Dundas so pleasant and the retail stores so attractive.  Well even though it was a Sunday there were lots of people on the street; the weather certainly helped.  The streets were welcoming, the merchants had a certain perkiness to them  and the local Business Improvement Area had made the streets a little more people friendly.

What was it that made the difference.  No malls, at least not the customer sucking malls that pull everything away from Burlington`s downtown core.

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Halton police detectives lead investigation and arrests of a gang of ATM skimmers, recover $30,000 cash.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON  February 3, 2012  –  The chiefs all looked a little wooden but it was a great day for the two Halton Regional Police Service detectives who told how, working from a tip, they managed to break wide open a significant gang of organized criminals who were scamming automated banking machines and tucking hundreds of thousands of dollars into their own pockets.

There were representatives from the OPP, Durham, Halton, Toronto and the Canadian Bankers Association - all basking in the glow of some fine police work done by two Detectives

Det.-Constable Dwayne Perron and Det.-Sgt Brad Murray handled most of the questions during the press conference and they clearly had a firm grip on what was done and how it was done.  Cases like this could be career makers for these two officers.   They were the lead players in what was described as one of the larger press conferences the Halton Police have held.

The police displayed a table of currency they had seized when they raided a number of locations including a credit card lab and arrested twelve people who were part of a gang that stole at least $300,000, stolen from customers and banks in Halton and across the Greater Toronto Area (GTA). Police also seized what they called an impressive collection of electronic devices that were part of a credit card duplication lab set up by the criminals

Halton Detectives Murray and Perron explaining to the media how the ATM skimming operation worked and some details on the investigation they carried out that arrested twelve people.

During a Friday morning press conference at the Oak Walk Drive police station, police displayed around $40,000 seized during the operation and dozens of pieces of equipment, which they said was used to capture and record people’s banking information.

The investigation became active when a financial institution investigator alerted them to the skimming in October 2011.  Police had reason to believe the gang had been operating since about April 2010.

Besides the two detectives who ran the investigation there were representatives from Durham Regional Police, Ontario Provincial Police, Toronto Police, York Regional Police, and the Provincial Asset Forfeiture Unit who were all part of the investigation and collectively executed eight Criminal Code search warrants on residences in Markham, Vaughan and Toronto.

Along with the $40,000 cash police found what they described as a credit card printing lab, instruments used to forge credit cards and numerous fraudulent credit cards.  Three vehicles were also seized.

Halton Police Chief Gary Crowell said: “This particular fraud involved the suspect’s installing illegal skimming devices and hidden video cameras on bank machines and gas station credit card readers, conducting counter surveillance to ensure the devices were not discovered by the public or the police and subsequently removing these devices,”

Police recovered camera equipment, false fronts used on legitimate ATM machines along with small electronic boards that aided in the capture of data. Also seized were a collection of blank bank cards.

“Once the devices were removed by the suspects, the stolen data was then downloaded and compared to hidden camera surveillance that they had obtained, thereby revealing the PINs of the victims’ bank or credit cards. The downloaded data and the PINs were then encoded onto a variety of fraudulent cards.”

Crowell explained that with this information the suspects would then either withdraw money directly from the victims’ accounts or make direct purchases with the fraudulent cards.  During the investigation some of the suspects were caught on surveillance tapes when they installed the devices.

Police estimate the suspects compromised 280 bank machines and around 10 gas station credit card readers across the GTA.  Det.-Constable Dwayne Perron said 35 incidents of this fraud took place in Halton, where only ATMs were targeted.  Police believe the suspects involved in these incidents are part of two separate criminal organizations who shared one credit card lab.

Charged with fraud over $5,000, conspiracy to commit an indictable offence, and participation in a criminal organization are: Dmitri Chalenko, 28, Dennis Glukhov, 31, Viacheslav Glukhov, 31, Vadim Glukhov, 53, Alla Glukhov, 53, and Matvey Tchirkov, 29, all of Vaughan; Makar Tchirkov, 24, Rishan Thayalachelvam, 29, and Geevan Negendran, 32, all of Markham; and Janesmathan Vilvarajah, 22, of Toronto.

Charged with fraud over $5,000, conspiracy to commit an indictable offence, participation in a criminal organization, two counts of possession of instruments for use in forging credit cards and two counts of possession of credit card data are: Viatcheslav Shevelev, 27, and Maksym Gaiderov, 22, both of Toronto.

A representative from the Canadian Bankers Association told the press that this kind of skimming ATM`s was on the decline nationally and that the newer `chip and pin`cards were making it harder for thieves to get at the data on the cards.  He explained that banks lose more than half a billion dollars a year on this kind of theft and that banks reimburse customers whose accounts are compromised.

Halton Regional Police Chief Gary Crowell advised residents to put their hand over the keypad of the ATM machine and to stand close to the screen to avoid being skimmed by hidden cameras.

Chief Crowell recommended people use their hand and body to conceal the keypad when entering their PIN, to check ATMs to make sure card slots all look the same, be suspicious of signs directing them to use a particular ATM, review their credit card and bank account statements regularly and contact their financial institution immediately if unknown transactions or withdrawals are present.

The banks, through a co-ordinated effort with the Canadian Bankers Association are constantly surveying transaction on the Interac network and when they spot something that seems out of the ordinary they will give clients a call and ask if they completed a particular transaction.

This reporter got two calls from the bank during the period of time this investigation was taking place.  Out of the house when the calls came in I was surprised to hear the answering machine tell me that the amount available to me for withdrawal had been reduced to $1.00 and would I call the bank immediately.  I live off that bank card – so I called quickly and was instructed to go to the nearest branch of my bank with my bank card, that was now no longer valid, and have two pieces of photo identification.  Arrived at the bank – they took the old card issued me a new card and said my withdrawal level was back where it has been.

What if that call had come in on a weekend?  I know which gas station I used that card at and I`ll be watching.

 

 

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There is one group of citizens who think the city has it right; do the fireman agree ?

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON  February 4, 2012  – Most of the usual suspects were on hand for one of the public reviews of the 2012 city budget, along with city staff who were ready to explain the finer points of what looks like is going to be about 3.4% tax increase over last year`s which was less than 1%.

Citizens gathering in a public session to review a proposed city budget with Council members on hand to answer questions and staff on hand to delve into the details. They weren't doing that in Syria last Thursday night.

The public event, held at the Burlington Art Centre drew about 30 citizens who went through the workbook the city had provided.  The evening started with an overview from Acting Treasurer Joan Ford after which staff joined each table to go through the well laid out workbook that for those attending , raised questions to consider.

We learned an interesting little bit about the technology the city uses to get the sense of what people in a meeting think about an issue.  The city has a couple of dozen little key pads that look a bit like a remote but are quite a bit smaller.  A question will pop up on a screen and people in the room key in the number that fits their answer to the question – less than two seconds later the results appear on a screen.

General Manager Budgets and Corporate Services, Kim Phillips brought the tool to the meeting – it was kind of neat to see what people in the room thought about a specific issue – you had the answer in seconds.  This sort of thing could and perhaps should be used at larger meetings – say the Heritage Workshops where views are usually very mixed it would help to see what people were thinking.  It was very “real time” and useful.

Here we are at the nitty gritty stage. Citizens have talked through their concerns and the politicians now join them for a more focused conversation. This table had executive level firemen taking part. They want the new station fully manned and they'd like to see funds set aside for the upgrading of the station on Plains Road as well. Lots of firemen on the province's Sunshine list as well. That's the list of those who get paid more than $100,000 annually.

Once a group has gone through the workbook the situation shifts and the politicians who were in the room join the table to discuss the major concern each group had.  This particular public session saw a group from the fire department taking part – we’ve not seen specific stakeholder groups appear at these sessions in the past.  The fire department has clearly decided that they need to make their point in quieter community based sessions.

It was interesting to watch Councillors Mead Ward and Craven along with the Mayor join the table and hear what the group had to say.

The evening ended with each table giving the audience a sense of their take on the budget.  At this session the sense was that the city was on the right track ad that spending was seen as appropriate.  One person thought some of the information given could have been put in a better context and made part of a large picture – good point.

While the workbook is some 20 pages, it covers the points city staff wanted to hear discussed and while there was no sense that anything was being hidden, public input on the questions that were asked, might have been helpful.

Time for these public sessions is limited so the city set out two service choices and asked participants to respond. They were told that the city planned on spending $80.71 on fire protection; $75.74 on capital spending, $66.53 on Roads and Parks Maintenance; $39.42 on Local Boards and committees (Library, Performing Arts Centre, the Economic Development Corporation;  $32.92 on Parks and Recreation services and $28.60 on transit services.

The figures given are for every $100,000 of urban residential assessment – so if your house is assessed at $300,000 then you would multiply the number given by three.

The graph shows what tax rates have been historically. The city portion of the total tax bill has not always been in sync with what the Region and Schools Board ask for. Wide swings during the Jackson administration.

The participants were asked if they would maintain the amount budgeted for 2012; if they would enhance the amount (increase) or reduce the amount budgeted.  Staff were on hand to delve into some of the detail in each of the spending categories.  What would you have done with each of those categories?  If you want to share your view, General Manager Kim Phillips would love to hear from you – she can be reached by email at phillipsk@Burlington.ca

A closer look at the proposed 2012 city budget called for some thinking and some animated discussion at the Burlington Art Centre session last week.

The participants were asked if they would support or not support reducing the frequency of mowing the grass under the Hydro rights of way from five times a year to four times and save $6000.00 .  Or if they would support or not support reducing the school crossing guard coverage during lunch hours at under utilized crossings?  I suspect the parents located near those crossings would like some say on this one – the specific crossings weren’t set out in the workbook – but if you`re concerned  – ask your ward councillor.

There are 15 hanging baskets on Lakeshore Road between Maple and Locust – are they worth the $4000.00 the city spends to put them up and maintain them every year?  Tell your Council member if you don`t think that is money well spent.

Running a city is a complex business and keeping everyone happy is no simple matter.  A lot of people disdain politics – but like it or not – it is the glue that keeps the place together.

The previous session held elsewhere in the community had just five people in the audience and while that is disappointing – there is a very important point being made by the city.  They have, each year, gone out into the community with well-prepared material and organized the event so that everyone had an opportunity to talk and make their views known.  The attendance was disappointing but people in the city know that they can make their views known – so when the budget is approved – let`s not hear a lot of carping about the public having no input.  There are additional public sessions scheduled.  If you’ve got a beef – there is a chance for you to get your two cents worth on the table.

Chamber of Commerce Chair Tamer Fahmi listens in and considers a possible poker game with the assistant treasurer.

The sessions are kind of fun.  One table left the sense they were prepared to get a small game of poker going – heck they were talking about the city budget so why not have some fun.  That the deputy city treasurer along with the President of the Chamber of Commerce was at the table shouldn’t send out any alarm signals – they both looked like quarter a hand players to me.

Small, community based information sessions are just part of the public process.  The budget, both the Capital budget, which is a longer term document and the Current budget – which sets out what is going to be spent in the current year, get discussed at length during the Budget and Corporate Services committee meetings, where any citizen can delegate and be given ten minutes to make their point.  If you’re really hot and bothered about an issue – you can delegate at the Council meeting, where the budget is made official.  You`re expected to have new information if you delegate at Committee and delegate again at Council – and you get just five minutes at a Council meeting.

If you’ve nothing new to say at a Council meeting you get met by stone cold silence from the seven members of city council, who thank you for your delegation and dismiss you – it can be a  humbling experience, and it happens more often than it should.  So if you chooses to delegate – be well prepared with facts and figures.

City council had asked staff to prepare a budget with a tax increase that ranged between 2% and 3.5% – they’ve produced a document that came in at 3.4%.  Council at the Committee stage can and should squeeze this back to 2% and ensure that the needed funds for the road maintenance is in place.

The breakdown of what the city plans to commit itself to for the re-development of the Joseph Brant Memorial Hospital - when and if it ever gets re-built. The city is looking at a number of ways to collect these amounts. A straight tax levy every year or possibly a longer term funding that would spread the cost over several generations.

There was a very interesting and innovative proposal put forward by Councillor Taylor for a debenture offering that citizens could subscribe to as a way to raise the funds needed to pay for any re-development that gets done on the Joseph Brant Memorial Hospital.  The proposal would have given citizens a risk free investment opportunity and also have spread out the re-development costs over a longer time frame.  If there is ever a re-developed hospital in Burlington –and it is far from certain that there ever will be one – the cost can and should be spread out over several generations.  Giving people a better financial return than a savings account wouldn’t hurt either.

 

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Lifestyle change awaiting resident accused of drug trafficking. He`s going to have time to “contemplate”.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON  February 4, 2012  – Jeremy Isard is looking at some new experiences and may be the first person in Burlington to get to know, in a very up close and personal way, the new plans the federal government has for criminals.

You see, Isard got caught with some cocaine in his pocket, not just once – he got caught a couple of times and now they’ve got him in a police cell awaiting a bail hearing.  The Halton Regional Police used one of their undercover officers to meet up with Isard and buy some of that snorting stuff.  Isard must have thought he had a great customer in the making and that maybe that customer had some friends – nothing better than a satisfied customer base to keep the cash rolling in.

Bricks of cocaine - this stuff is produced by the ton. It is BIG business controlled in large measure by organized criminals.

Isard came to the attention of police  in March of last year and began to pay him more attention than he really wanted because they were pretty sure they had a drug trafficker in their sights – the sentence for drug trafficking is seven years in prison – and sentences like that bring great joy to police officers.

More importantly for Jeremy Isard is the change in the rules that determine parole eligibility – by the time Isard’s trial is over his eligibility for parole will be quite a bit different.  The cost of doing business has gone up for Isard and for those who buy the cocaine he  sells are going to have to look for a new supplier – because you know that the undercover police officer was not his only customer.  All the drug transactions took place in the City of Burlington.

Drug dealers can use an iPhone app to weigh the cocaine they are selling you. These guys have the cash flow to buy all the tools they need.

Last Friday, the police determined they had enough evidence and arrested Isard after he sold 1.75 grams of cocaine to an undercover officer.   With handcuffs firmly fitted the police searched their suspect and a residence on  Longmoor Drive in Burlington and found a quantity of cocaine, scales and packaging.  Jeremy was in business”  but his $4500.00 of operating cash was taken in as evidence, which means Isard is going to have to find money somewhere else to pay for a lawyer.  The police scooped up 72 grams of cocaine.  Clearly Isard was just a distributor, hopefully the police got a look at the food chain and can now focus on where the stuff was coming from – and while they were at it – they got a good look at where it was going.  So for those of you who buy the stuff – the police now know who you are, which means you are on a list you didn’t really want to be on.  The police call that a “person of interest”.

Isard, 29 years of age, a Burlington resident, has been charged with two counts of possession of cocaine for the   purpose of trafficking,  six counts of trafficking in cocaine.

Police remind the public that Crime Stoppers is there to report on any illegal drug, gang or gun activity 1 800 222 8477.

 

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Wallace uses five of his fifteen minutes of fame, the 15 minutes he was a song & dance man at BPAC don`t count.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON  February 1, 2012  – When you get a document that starts with: `”Pursuant to Standing Order 108(3)(a) and the motion adopted by the Committee on Thursday, September 29, 2011, the Committee resumed its study of the Report…`” well you get the drift and will understand when one asks the questions – what are they saying?

According to our trusted source in Ottawa, a House of Commons committee has agreed to look into “the use of secret “In Camera” sessions to discuss substantive motions.”

What this means is that they aren’t going to actually go into secret closed meetings, but that they are going to look into just what all this would mean to the democratic process – and that is a good thing.  Let us hope that the meetings in which they look at the “looking into” are themselves public and open.

All the blue on that map gave MP Mike Wallace the seat and the Conservative party a majority, which they will now do whatever they want with.

Our Ottawa source – the Ms Kayd O’Malley of CBC fame, chimes in with: “To which one can only add a hearty – and parliamentary “Hear, hear.”  Kudos to the opposition for picking up the issue — and to the government members for not shutting it down.

Having committees go into closed session was something Burlington’s MP Mike Wallace attempted to do before the holiday break.  At that time he was advised that he had to give notice of his intention to put forward that kind of a motion and yesterday served notice that is what he would do.

Before Wallace got a chance to put forward such a motion in the Committee of which he was vice chair – a different committee passed a motion to “look into” the use of secret closed meetings.  That meant that the Wallace initiative gets put on ice until the other motion is dealt with..

So, for now, the committees are open to the public and Mike Wallaces’  fifteen minutes of fame  are maybe used up and he has lost his chance to be known for one of the great (some would say shameful) moments in the history of parliamentary procedure.

 

 

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The waters under this bridge are not troubled – yet. Council and community going to have to work this out.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON  February 1, 2012  – The good people in the Glenwood School Drive part of the city, who used to use the bridge that crosses the GO train tracks and gets them out of their close to land locked community and onto Fairview where they can access local amenities, now know that the city isn’t interested in spending $2 million plus to build a new bridge and they also know the city is going to listen to them.

All of a sudden - the bridge was closed.

The Queensway area residents really weren’t prepared as a community to deal with the city when it sat in on a Community Services Development Committee meeting  to consider the options available to replace the bridge that had been shut down for safety reasons.  A couple of people appeared at the Committee but didn’t know they could delegate and the chair of the meeting didn’t take advantage of the opportunity to invite someone forward to the podium to comment.  She did caution them when they got a little noisy.  There was a teachable moment lost that evening.

Built in 1972, the contractor told Jack Pierce that it would last forever. Forever arrived late in November and residents have been hoofing it as best they can to get to schools and Fairview.

The proposed cost of getting a bridge over those railway tracks re-built and operational again was a little too stiff for this council – they were looking at a possible $2.5 million for a bridge that handled some 70 trips a day – but it was clear they had to do something – so rather than debate the matter fully at the Committee meeting on January 18th they asked staff to research the option of putting in a pathway that would run from the northern GO station parking lot  through to Fassel Avenue and doing away with the bridge all together.

Cary Clark of the Engineering department was given this football to carry and ten days to get it all figured out and to his credit he came back with all the data needed to make a decision and maps that made it all clear.

From the right: Paolo Valenti, wife Tanya and Jody Kirkwood met with other community members to work out a strategy to take their concerns to city hall

While staff were doing their work the community was also learning about what it could achieve.   They had put together a petition and got 240 signatures on it and gave it to the ward Councillor and then organized as a community to delegate the city.  This time around they were prepared – they had sixteen people who were ready to stand at the podium and tell the city what they wanted and why.  They met with the Marianne Mead Ward, their council member and went through the process and prepared their plan.

Because there was some urgency the Committee that first heard the problem referred it to Council which was meeting ten days later – which is unusual for this council, but it did expedite the situation.

Alas, the residents didn’t get a chance to do their thing at the Council meeting.  The city decided to defer the matter to a full committee meeting, which made sense, but could the city not have found a way to tell the residents the matter was going to be deferred?  There were some 25, perhaps 30 people from the community in the Council Chamber waiting for their chance to speak.  Many of the parents brought the kids with them which made the Council Chamber feel like a day care centre.  They will all be back in February to discuss the solutions the city engineers have come up with.

Ramona Canney of Brinell Avenue has something to say to the committee as does Rohan Nazareth of Glendale Court.  Add to that list Alicia Lovatsis and Sharron Thompson. Gabrial and Olivia Kirkwood and their friends Lainey and Hailey Simpson will take to the podium and speak for the youth in the community.  Paolo Valenti from Glenwood School Drive has become the leader for the community and is learning quickly how city hall works.  He will soon learn whether or not city hall wants to listen,

The biggest nut that had to be dealt with by the city is the price tag – the clear sense from Council members was that a $2 million replacement bridge was just not on.  Here are the options put forward:

Option #1:  A path that would run from the northern GO station parking lot eastward close to 400 metres and then go north on the same path until they join up with the west end of Fassel Avenue.  To make this one work the city has to acquire six very small parcels of land from four different owners and a bridge has to be built over Rambo Creek.  The Conservation Authority gets involved with anything over any of the creeks in Burlington.  This option will come in at $880,000 which includes the $100,000 to demolish the bridge that is no longer safe.

The pathway would be paved with lighting and a chain link fence to separate the pathway and the private property.  Some property owners might want to have gate opened up for them so they could slip out onto the path.  If they do – get your suggestion along to your ward Councillor or to the city engineering department.  The city will tell you that you will have to pay for that gate but if you make your request one of the conditions for being nice, nice about losing your bridge this just might manage to get gates put in free at no cost to you.  Don’t be shy about asking

Option # 1 has a 400 metre path that runs just north of the GO tracks into the northern GO parking lot where people could then take the pedestrian tunnel south to the other side of the tracks and then connect with Fairview.

 

Option # 2 is quite a bit cheaper for the city but there are some significant concerns with how CN rail will react to having the GO train platforms used as a side walk for Glenwood School Drive resident to use as their side walk to the tunnels that will get them to and from Fairview.  Some safety concerns for young people walking along those platforms was also mentioned – but if the kids aren’t smart enough to be careful, perhaps they shouldn’t be out by themselves.

The route for option #2 is the same as # 1  – residents would walk to the west end of Fassel south on a path which would extend a little bit further and cross some rail tracks and end at the extreme east end of the northern side of the GO train platforms.  There is then a longish walk along the platform to the first tunnel under the tracks that would get residents to the south side parking lot where buses come into the south parking lot.

Option 2 has the residents crossing under the GO tracks and being at the almost extreme east end of the north side of the GO platform. CN might have a problems with people not taking the train using the platform.

 

This option is quite a bit cheaper $370,000.00 which includes the $100,000 to demolish the existing bridge.

How would genuine community engagement

have made this a better situation for everyone?

How different would this situation have been if there was a Community Engagement Charter in place and the city had someone on staff whose job it was to get out into the community and ask people – “how can I help you with the problem you are having?”

Burlington is at the beginning of the process of pulling together a team that will actually write the charter – but that isn’t going to be available for at least six months.  In the meantime  this Council could show the community that they are there to help and to serve.  Stay tuned.

 

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Ottawa reporter claims Burlington MP Mike Wallace is about to trash one of our parliamentary traditions

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON  January 31, 2012    In the news business it’s called the “plain brown envelope” that was usually left at the front desk of a newspaper office.  The envelope usually c9ntained documents that were very incriminating – quite often a photograph of someone with someone they were supposed or expected to be with.  Journalists just love this stuff.

The internet changed the plain brown envelope to an email and earlier today we got one that went like this:

Extremely BAD NEWS, but typical of Wallace’s behaviour in the ‘Harper Government.’

Now we see the political slant and while we may not share the viewpoint what was attached to the email did interest us – and should interest anyone who cares a whit about our parliamentary democracy.

The one thing that makes a democracy work is that information flows and is available to the public.  We get to see what they are doing and what they are saying.

Always a smile, often a laugh; you're friendly local MP - putting forward amotion that will end the flow from a committee that does critical Second reading of government bills. a committee that will

Marvelous Mike, Burlington choice to sit in the House of Commons and represent our best interests appears to be the stalking horse for a change the government wants to make in the amount of information that is made available to the public.

A highly regarded Ottawa journalist, at least in the eyes of most members of the press bureau on Parliament Hill, Kady O’Malley said the following:

“Regular readers will doubtless recall last month’s aborted attempt by Conservative MP Mike Wallace to rewrite the government operations committee rules on the fly in order to force all discussion of future business behind closed door,  “as,” he remarked at the time, to the amazement of certain liveblogging onlookers, “it should be.”

What Ms O’Reilly is talking about is pretty technical stuff.  To help understand why this matters; know this.  The government introduces a bill into the House of Commons by what is known as a first reading.  The bill then gets sent to a committee for what is called  Second reading where it is given a line by line review.

It is these Second reading committees that we are focused on.  Marvelous Mike, Burlington’s MP, appears to want to have the committee that he is vice chair of meet behind closed doors – meaning the public never gets to know what they have to say.

Well when the federal government introduces a bill to change the way pension are paid out, you dear reader, will want to know exactly what those rascals are saying.  Bad enough that we taxpayers have to shell out tons of money to pay for the exceptionally rich Members of Parliament are currently given, but to not be able to hhear what each member says during the Committee review of a bill that impacts you directly – is just a little much.

Not much anyone can do about it because Prime Minister Stephen Harper commands a majority government.  In the Parliamentary tradition the House of Commons is expected to debate with each political party getting a chance to put their viewpoint forward.  You can watch and hear what they say during first reading but, if Marvelous Mike Wallace has way, you won’t get to read a word of what goes on during the line by line review of the bill the government has put forward.

Kayd O'Malley, respected Ottawa based journalist cover House of Commons committees like no one else. WAs in the room when Burlington MP Mike Wallace attempted to have a committee move into closed session. will be in the room when Wallace tries to do the same thing again.

What can you do about that – well you let your member know you aren’t pleased and ask for an explanation and listen carefully to the answer and don’t be fooled by the weasel words that get used.  Remember, Mike Wallace is in Ottawa as both YOU Member of Parliament but he is also a member of a government and the current government doesn’t appear to want to make some information available to you the taxpayer.

The committee that Marvelous Mike serves as vice chair is going to hear him put forward a motion – well let’s let Kady O’Malley tell the rest of the story.

“ At the time, the chair — NDP MP Pat Martin — deemed the motion too substantive to have been brought forward without proper notice, which, given the then rapidly approaching break, pushed the whole issue off until … well, now, apparently.

“Word has it that the required notice has been duly given, which means the motion to consider all future committee business in camera could be on the agenda as early as Wednesday, when the committee will convenes its first full meeting of the new year.

“It’s not clear whether that session will take place in public, but given the mathematics of majority, it may not make much difference: If the government wants it to pass, it will pass, which, frankly, would be worrying enough all on its own, considering that Government Operations is, after all, one of the four opposition-chaired oversight committees, and as such, should properly go about its business in public whenever possible.

“Far more unsettling, however, is the prospect that the Wallace manoeuvre was actually a test run, which, if successful, will be repeated at other committees until such time as all future committee business will be conducted beyond the gaze of the public.

“Also under procedural lockdown: the newly created Subcommittee on the Review of the Report on Organized Crime in Canada, a spin-off from Justice, which has been trying, and failing, to sign off on the report in question since the previous parliament, and, perhaps most notably, Environment, whose members are reportedly at loggerheads over the results of its statutory review of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act.

“Given the Keystone XL/Northern Gateway-sparked musings from the prime minister and other senior Conservatives on the need to streamline what they now refer to as the ‘approval’ process, when that report is finally tabled in the Commons, it will likely provide considerable insight on how the government intends to proceed.

The Keystone Pipeline is a something many Canadians want to see built so that the oil from the tar sands in Alberta can be shipped to refineries in Texas.  The Northern Gateway is a pipeline many want to see built from Alberta to the west coast where it will be shipped to China.  These are all great exporting opportunities fr Canada – however they both have significant environmental concerns attached to them and many want to see this decision fully and openly debated.

“Now, it bears noting — again — that there is nothing particularly unorthodox in committees choosing to deal with some matters in private: travel budgets, witness selection and the drafting of reports.

“Still, though, the plethora of padlocks popping up on the committee schedule will likely do little to reassure those who worry that the party that came to power on a pledge to bring unprecedented transparency to Parliament Hill may no longer be committed to the principle that true accountability relies on the watchful eye of the beholder.”

Kady O’Malley is perhaps the very best reporter on parliament hill where she gathers material used on CBC’s Saturday morning radio program The House – best program there is on what is happening in Ottawa.  Marvelous Mike says he doesn’t listen to it – yeah right Mike

We will let you know what our man in Ottawa does on Wednesday.  Do the right thing Mike, and remember what they taught you in grade 10 civics.

 

 

 

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Queensway community residents miss their bridge; city council ponders $2 million replacement.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON January 29, 2012 – It was built in 1972 so that students could get to the school on the other side of the railway tracks.  Jack Pierce a resident in the Glenwood School Drive part of Burlington, south of the QEW and west of Guelph Line, said he was told that it would last forever when it was built.  Forever arrived last November 24th when after a close inspection the city said the bridge was probably not safe for pedestrian use and the city immediately closed the structure.

Built in the 70's to allow people from the Glenwood School Drive community to get to shops and community amenities the bridge is now unsafe.

To have the bridge collapse onto the GO train tracks would create a level of havoc the city could only shudder at.

Now the city has to decide what to do with the bridge and for the people who live in what is sort of a landlocked community.

What came as a bit of a surprise to many was the actual traffic level – the numbers reported were – 70 trips a day – and that counted the trip over as one trip and the trip back as a second trip.  Which suggests that some 35 people use the bridge each day.  Not exactly high traffic but there has to be a way for the people in that community to be able to get out.  The only retail outlet in the community is a very small, slightly shabby convenience store.

The bridge has undergone a number of ongoing fix-ups but there were never any serious problems.  All it needed was regular maintenance.  Somehow, someone missed the degree to which the rusting had taken hold and with that information in hand the bridge got closed – real quick.

One city hall wag was astounded at the dollars that were being suggested to resolve this problem and suggested it might be cheaper to just buy everyone a car or at least a bicycle.  Several members of Council talked of the need for people to do more walking and cycling – which didn’t go down very well with the few people from the community in the audience.

Council committee members were experiencing a little heartburn over the costs involved and discussion took place as to what other options were possible.

The staff report recommended spending the $380,000. to get the bridge operational again and then look into what the options were over the next five years.

That idea didn’t settle with Councillor Sharman all that well and he wondered why it was not possible to create some kind of a foot path westward from the bridge to the GO station parking lot where pedestrians could then use the well-lit underground tunnel to the south side of the tracks and access the transit service from the south side of the tracks.

Example of the rust that has set in throughout the bridge making it unsafe for public use not to mention the havoc that would take place if the thing fell down on the GO tracks.

There were problems with that solution and the answers that came back from staff were based more on what they thought than what they knew.  Turns out there is a small creek running through the property the foot path would be built along and that would mean getting approvals from the Conservation Authority.   The path would have to be paved and lit and during the discussion no one was really sure if the property needed was actually available.

Residents had been without a bridge since November 25th – close to 75 days and all they had to look at was a report with a recommendation that Council didn’t seem too keen on approving.

Staff reports to committee usually get voted on and passed along to a full Council meeting where approval is given.  This report was not voted on but referred to Council so that it would not be delayed till the next round of committee.

The engineers were given their instructions; take a look at that path possibility and come back with some creative solutions.

From the left Julie Kirkwood, Tanya Valenti and husband Paolo with their daughters - these are the people who pulled together the 240 signature petition asking that the bridge be repaired - quickly.

The community wasn’t exactly idle during all this.  Unfortunately, there wasn’t anyone from the community able to make a delegation.  Paolo Valenti, a community resident sat in the public gallery blissfully unaware that he had a right to speak at the meeting.  While he had pulled together a petition from the community he didn’t know they could make a delegation.  He gave the petition with the 240 signatures on it which he passed on to the ward councillor Marianne Mead Ward who didn’t seem to advocate as energetically as she has in the past for this community.

The original options brought to a Community Services Committee meeting were to spend $380,000.00 to fix up the bridge and make it stable for the next five years.  While this is an unexpected expense there was more than $500,000.00 saved on the Fairview Brant intersection road work done so getting the Drury Lane bridge back into service isn’t a financial concern.  City engineers felt it would take four to six months to fix up the bridge to the point where it could be used for foot traffic.

Five years down the road the bridge would have to be completely re-built at a cost of $2,000,000.00 in 2012 dollars.

The community now has a better idea as to just what they can do – expect to see them out at the Council meeting on Monday, the 30th.

What no one mentioned during the Committee meeting was the significant increase in housing that was added to the community last April when Council approved a project that added more than 50 units to property that previously held six houses.  Given the size of the lots – 1/2 acre each for most of them – this community is ripe for developers who want to build smaller units and significantly increase density.

 

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Region and McMaster name JBMH as preferred site for Family Health Care: is Burlington really on side for this?

 By Pepper Parr

Burlington, Ont. –Jan. 26, 2012—McMaster University has selected Joseph Brant Memorial Hospital as the preferred site for the Halton McMaster Family Health Centre, the city, Halton Region, McMaster University and Joseph Brant Memorial Hospital (JBMH) announced jointly today.  Nice news, but notice the city of Burlington isn’t in that list of names.

Now, pay very close attention to the language used – the JBMH is their preferred site, which is a long mile away from being THE site.  The decision isn’t theirs to make – theirs being McMaster, the Region or the JBMH.

“This is an important announcement for Burlington, and demonstrates a partnership that is devoted to enhancing health care in our city,” Mayor Rick Goldring said today at the Burlington Convention Centre during his State of the City address. “Creating a teaching hospital here in Burlington will raise the quality of health care for the people of Burlington and provide a great complement to the redevelopment of Joseph Brant hospital.”

It might – but isn’t there going to be a teaching element at the new hospital being built in Oakville?  Does anyone really think that the province, who happen to be a little short of cash these days, is going to build a teaching hospital in Burlington?  Great if we can get it – but I don’t think it’s in the cards girls and boys.

The city and the region have committed $10 million to McMaster University as part of the Ron Joyce Centre, housing the DeGroote School of Business, on South Service Road.  This project included a commitment by McMaster to open a Halton McMaster Family Health Centre in downtown Burlington.

Well, McMaster has reneged on Burlington in the past (recall the plans – heck even an announcement and a sign saying parking lot # 4 on John Street was going to be the home of the McMaster/DeGroote School of Business – but somehow the buildings migrated a bit to the south and east of our downtown core.

The Oakville hospital is under construction. Their Foundation has raised more than $18 million. Staff have donated $675,000. JBMH doesn't even have a sign announcing their re-development. There is a drawing.

“One of the key initiatives in the Citizens’ Priorities – Halton Region’s 2011-2014 Action Plan is to attract new physicians to establish medical practices in Halton,” said Regional Chair Gary Carr. “A partnership such as this will help to bring new physicians to the Region, and give more residents access to a family doctor.”

The new Oakville hospital is under construction. Hamilton has two hospitals. Is the provincial government going to pay for a large new hospital when there are hospitals less than a 15 minute drive away? Tough to do when the province admits they don't have any money. There are more than 30 other communities looking for money to build hospitals. Milton is in desperate shape.

Doctors are going to come to Halton Mr. Carr but they will be settling in at the NEW Oakville Hospital where there is already a hole in the ground with a fixed price contract signed and more than $18 million raised buy their hospital foundation – of which more than $675, 000.00 came from the staff.

McMaster anticipates using two floors, and about 15,000 square feet (1,394 square metres), of Joseph Brant as part of the Phase 1 project.  All parties hope to be operational at Joseph Brant by the end of 2013.

These guys have taken the Liberal Party resolution to allow the public sale of marijuana too seriously and are clearly setting aside some of their allowance money to buy good weed and a little less on single malt.  McMaster wants those two floors of space and if they have to jerk the public around to get it – well tough on the public.  We’re talking turf here people, not to mention budgets.

“Although we are still working through our approval process, we know this location for the family health centre will be an excellent opportunity to strengthen our ties to Joseph Brant Memorial Hospital for the benefit of the hospital, the residents of Burlington and Halton and the Michael G. DeGroote School of Medicine,” said Dr. David Price, chair of the Department of Family Medicine at McMaster University. “This centre will also serve our expanding family medicine program in the Region.”

Pipe dreams, pipe dreams and terribly mis-leading.  2013? – they won’t even have a hole in the ground by then.

Dr. John Kelton, dean and vice-president of the Faculty of Health Sciences, added: “This is an important step of our move towards having learners from our medical school and many of our health science programs involved in health care throughout Halton.”

The site plan application for Phase 1 will be submitted to the city’s planning and building department in May. Public consultation will help the community better understand the plans at Joseph Brant.

Are these people assuming that the Memorandum of Understanding between the city of Burlington and the JBMH will be signed by May?  It’s been, what, five months in the making so far.  There are people on Burlington city council who don’t want as much as a dime moving out of the reserve fund that has something in excess of $4.8 million in it at the moment.  If one counts the votes on the Burlington city council – I don’t think there are enough to slip this one past the public.

If this Burlington city council gives the JBMH any of the money raised through a special tax levy and all the city has to show for it is a parking garage – every member of council is at risk of not being elected.  Burlington has put up with The Pier debacle and are going along with their Mayor and his decision to complete The Pier.  They will not go along with paying $60 million for a parking lot.

On Aug. 10, 2011, the province confirmed that the Joseph Brant Memorial Hospital re-development project is approved. This project, with a budget of more $300 million, will result in a significantly rejuvenated hospital.

You do recall dear readers that we were in the middle of a provincial election and the Liberals were going to say whatever they had to say to stay in office.  One of the things they said was that Burlington was going to get its hospital.  Recall too, that the Minister who was on her way to Burlington to deliver that good news didn’t make it.  She didn’t make it at the polls either – she lost her seat.

“We are very pleased to have the new Halton McMaster Family Health Centre on our hospital site,” said Dr. Dwight Prodger, Chief of Staff at Joseph Brant Memorial Hospital. “There will be many benefits to Burlington and area residents with the HMFHC being located here including improved access to family medicine and specialist physicians and it will also help increase the hospital’s ability to recruit and retain new physicians.”

They will be pleased as punch to get a teaching hospital settled in at the JBMH..  Using lines like “very pleased to have” suggests this is a done deal.  Go back to that headline – a teaching facility is their “preferred” location. 

The project will proceed in two Phases. The hospital will begin with an RFP process and tender on Phase 1 in 2012 and construction in 2013. Phase 2 will go through a similar process with the tender award in 2014.

This sounds a little like the early stages of The Pier – recall that there was a plan that called for a much larger pier but when the prices came in – well things got cut back a bit.  Expect lots of cutting back on this one as well.  It just might get cut right back to the tap root.

In December 2009, City Council approved a municipal contribution of $60 million for the proposed hospital redevelopment plan.  The city is working on a Memorandum of Understanding and contribution agreement with the hospital that will outline when and how Joseph Brant Memorial Hospital will receive the city funding.

This is true.  The when and how of those funds moving from the city’s bank account to the hospitals is far from settled.

The city began collecting $1.2 million in 2010 and 2011 through a special tax levy. City Council earmarked $2.4 million from previous years’ surpluses, and now has $4.8 million committed in a reserve fund earning interest. The tax levy amounts to $4 for each $100,000 of residential assessment.

This is also true but it doesn’t mean that we are going to see a teaching facility at the JBMH.

The city has shown leadership in committing $60 million for the hospital redevelopment, and taxpayers have confirmed they think this money should be spent on improving our community hospital.

This too is also true – more true is that city put their money where their mouths are.  The JBMH Foundation has yet to announce that they have raised as much as a dime.  They did have a nice group photo taken.

The Joseph Brant Memorial Hospital redevelopment  and expansion is a $300 million-plus project. The planned civic contribution is $120 million. The Joseph Brant Hospital Foundation has committed to raising $60 million through a fundraising campaign in addition to the city’s contribution of $60 million.

Nice statement but no announcement from the Hospital Foundation as to how much they have raised.  There are a number of traditional major donors who are keeping their cheque books in their pockets.  When the redevelopment of the hospital is real – they will write cheques.

A telephone survey by Ipsos Reid in November 2009 found strong public support for the hospital redevelopment project and for a municipal contribution. Ninety per cent of Burlington residents surveyed agreed the project was important, and 72 per cent of those surveyed were supportive of the project when told about the proposed $60 million municipal contribution.

So?  Can you imagine anyone saying they don’t want an improved hospital..  Burlington people are quite decent and they would see the need for the city to pay a portion.

Joseph Brant Memorial Hospital was built in 1961. The last major update and refurbishment was more than 40 years ago. The redevelopment of the hospital is expected to include: 10 new operating rooms, a new intensive care unit, 76 new in-patient beds, an enlarged and improved cancer unit, new diagnostic imaging and laboratory areas, enlarged parking facilities; and  an expanded outpatient surgical suite.

Those enlarged parking facilities are where the Burlington tax dollars are going to go.  Someone needs to put a hobble on all this.

 

 

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Dedicated municipal servant rents apartment across from city hall; moves into city manager’s office.

 By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON  January 29, 2012  He got into the municipal business as a meter reader while still a student  in his home town and has worked for different cities for the past forty years.  Jeff Fielding was poached by Burlington from London and is about to become our third city manager.  He brings experience gained at municipalities across the country.  One of his proudest moments was the day he became city manager of Kitchener, his boyhood home town.

Jeff Fielding, Burlington's new city manager brings 40 years of experience and a collegial attitude to the 7th floor of city hall.

Burlington has a truly seasoned, experienced municipal bureaucrat who wasn’t looking for a place to end his career but rather a move to a city where he felt he could truly ply his profession.  Fielding comes across as a friendly, open, and more than prepared to listen, manager who can, when circumstances require it, be tough as nails.

I watched him work, admittedly for a very short period of time, with what struck me as a very sharp, motivated staff in London.  When the point of the discussion taking place in their Council chamber began to drift – Fielding cut in and asks that everyone stay focused.  You get the impression that one comes to meetings he chairs well prepared or you get one of those “in my office please” comments.

Fielding has taken part in six to seven meetings with Burlington city hall staff and used whatever spare time he had to find himself an apartment until his youngest is out of school and ready to transfer to Burlington.  His wife, who currently works in London, will be seeking new employment in Burlington.  There are three children; one in university, one making a community college decision and the youngest still in high school.

He was in town for the Mayor’s State of the City address to a Chamber of Commerce audience and met more people than he is going to remember.  He was also in town for a critical council and senior staff meeting that focused on what got done in 2011 and the strengths and weaknesses of the team.  Parts of that session were uncomfortable to more than one council member and a couple of staff members as well.  The city manager was in the room letting them know how he operates while staff and council had an opportunity to get their measure of the man.  If what I saw in London was any indication, Burlington is going to be very well served and the senior staff are going to have not only a leader but a solid mentor as well.

Fielding describes his job as giving Council what they need to make quality decisions and that behind everything he does is ensuring that the decisions made are aligned with the Strategic Plan, with the cities governance objectives

He will probably arrive in town sometime Sunday evening – get his stuff stowed away in his new apartment and be at city hall just a few minutes behind everyone else to give his new staff time to be ready for him.  His newly printed business cards will be on his desk and the room will be freshly painted, but he apparently doesn’t get a new chair.  He will sit in on his first Council meeting Monday night and watch how his staff handle the tricky question of what to do about the closed Drury Lane bridge and watch how his staff make up for a rather weak original report.

Then he might watch in amazement as he hears how council is going to deal with a bridge that handles something in the order of 70 people a day and could cost as much as $2.5 million to replace.  Might he wonder if the suggestion from one city hall wag that “it would be cheaper to just buy all the people in the community a small car or bicycles than it will be the replace the bridge” has any merit?

Fielding, a city manager who can be tough when he has to be. His experience will allow him to mentor a team that can be grown and at the same time address the problem with all the "acting" staff positions.

Fielding understands that time is everything and knows too that the Burlington “brand” has to be developed, polished and promoted if the city is to attract the corporations that will create those high-tech, high paying jobs that have been made the lynch pin of our financial success.

Like every other government practitioner Fielding tells you that he is going to be both transparent and accountable.  Does that mean the secret pre-meetings council and staff  pow-wow at are going to be dispensed with ?  A “pre-meeting” is an event that takes place before a scheduled meeting at which there is no “public” to listen.  If there is something they don’t want to come out – this is where that decision gets made on how to handle anything that is messy or sticky.

Late in 2010 Council learned there was a “surprise” surplus of $9.6 million.  Fielding does not use the term “surplus” and replaces it with planned savings.  That’s neat and it has the sound of professionals who are in control but it is really a bit of sophistry.

Funds that different departments are given in the budget to fulfill their work mandates are, in Fielding’s eyes, not necessarily the property of the department.  He talks in terms of shifting and sharing funds and doesn’t appear to have any time for corporate silos or turf building.  Maybe he will manage to pry some money out of the hands over at legal and please Councillor Dennison immensely by applying it to the “shave and pave” solution to our infrastructure shortfall. Shave and pave is a process used to upgrade roads – shaving off old asphalt and putting a new coat of asphalt on – extends the life of a road considerably.

Fielding wants to work with an aligned council where he can be part of the re-building trust, a phrase that comes up more often than one would expect.  Former Mayor Jackson gets tagged with the most divisive mayor label; but one has to ask if one man could have done that much damage in a single term.  If the previous Council was that divisive there has to be some sharing of responsibility.

What we have in Fielding is a man who the Mayor has great confidence in and expects him to develop the staff that will deliver on the promises this Council has made to the public and expects to make to the public as the city deals with both its problems and its opportunities.

Fielding sees the problems as something superior management can handle and says he looks forward to creating some revenue generating opportunities.  There aren’t that many traditional revenue generating opportunities for a municipality other than increasing fees and service charges.  Truly dynamic leaders will look for ways to go “outside the box” with their thinking and here the city’s decision to try and do more with Burlington Hydro,  a city wholly owned subsidiary, would seem to be hopefully a first step in looking at more than the tax rolls and service fees for revenue.

These are not traditional directions for any city – the idea that a municipality is in “business” is something new to most municipalities in this country.  However, the Mayor has some top notch entrepreneurial talent in his office and if that talent can be grafted onto a city manager that knows how to lead and develop senior management talent – Burlington just might be entering a new era.

London does some things quite differently than Burlington.  They use the honorific “Your Worship” rather than Mayor.  Wonder who decides what the language will be?

Will Burlington see substantial change in the way staff serves taxpayers; will there be real transparency and accountability?

The London city hall is quite modern looking and there is much more attention paid to the display of their history in the lobby.  And, the Mayor and members of Council are more available to the public – all are on the second floor right next to the Council Chamber.  On a personal note, media in London get much better treatment.  There are six individual desks in the Council chamber set aside and marked “Media”.  Extensive use is made of overhead projections and they have a projector that actually works.  There is quite a bit of glass used in the décor of the chamber.  Burlington has that ‘second hand furniture” look and feel to it.

They have a practice with delegations that will hopefully find its way to Burlington..  The chair of the meeting ask the delegation – what their outcomes are – in other words – what do they want to come out of what it is they are going to say to council.  We could benefit from a change to the way we handle our delegations.

Two television crews cover the meetings: Rogers Cable and CTV television – each has their own camera in the room with an attendant behind the tripod.  The result is a much more professional video production.

For Jeff  Fielding the team is what matters the most and based on my short period of time at the London city hall – it is very much a staff team environment.  There is a very comfortable level of camaraderie between the city manager and his staff.   Fielding exudes the confidence his staff needs to know they are being well led and at the same time expected to deliver their very best.

New city manager Jeff Fielding with General Managers Kim Phillips, centre and Scott Stuart. The three will set the tone for a new city hall culture.

In Burlington, Fielding expects to find his niche and then add value to the process. His style is relaxed and collegial.  He is certainly a dedicated municipal civil servant.  He leaves a city that was paying him 253,671. plus $9,882 in taxable benefits and coming to Burlington for about $215,000 – maybe a bit more- to head up a staff that has to be given credit for carrying the full load during the four months the city has been without a city manager. General managers Kim Phillips and Scott Stewart deserve significant performance bonuses for keeping things on track and together.  They not only did the job of acting city managers but carried their own work load as well.   Fielding obviously did not leave London and come to Burlington for a bigger pay cheque.

Fielding delights in telling people how he learned as a very young bureaucrat that “all I had to do was listen and people would provide me with a wealth of knowledge and insights – all for free.  I learned that people really cared about their neighbourhoods and about their City, but maybe not so much about local government.  I learned firsthand that public service could make a difference.” These became lifelong lessons that were never forgotten.

Fielding tells people that his close friends realize he is a “bit shy” and that he is best described “inwardly outgoing”.  That wasn’t my experience with the man as we talked for more than an hour. Jeff Fielding is direct, keeps his thoughts on track and reminds you that he sees public service as an honourable and deserving profession and that public servants make a difference in people’s lives every day.  “I believe this with all my heart”, he said.  He adds however that many city employees no longer believe in the value of public service because of their lack of confidence and trust in the organization.”  Expect Jeff Fielding to bring about a different culture at city hall.

Fielding's 39th birthday was awhile ago. His tone and approach to his new job as city manger will be evident to staff within 39 days.

“I have worked in public service in five different decades”, he states and adds “I grew up at a time that was influenced by John Kennedy who spoke so passionately about public service in the early 1960’s.  Admittedly there has been a tremendous change in public opinion but I am very proud to be a public servant.”

This is what Burlington has hired; a seasoned professional, committed to the ideals of public service who has left a larger city where he has done all he could get done, and decided that when he saw the opportunity in Burlington he felt he could bring his skills to a community that had both a Mayor he was sure he could work with and a Council that was decent and committed..  He also saw a staff that, given some leadership and mentoring, could really excel.  Burlington just might have taken the first step into a level of staff leadership.

Let’s see how things go in the next ninety days which is the amount of time Fielding feels he needs to get a grip on the various issues and gain some experience working with his senior team and the men and women who show up at their desks every day.  As he gets a clearer sense of how the pace works he will I am sure look at the list of names with the word “acting” before there title and make decisions that should have been made some time ago.

Welcome to Burlington Jeff.

 

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Eleven very big and very expensive truck tires are not where they are supposed to be.

By Staff

BURLINGTON, ON  January 26, 2012  There is someone out there who has wheels that don’t belong to them.  Thieves stole twelve Michelin X2E2 (G) low rolling resistance tires and twelve aluminum outer 5 hole rims. Total loss is valued at $11,000.

The theft took place over the weekend of December 9th, 2011.  The thieves gained entry to the fenced compound of Trans East Trailer Ltd., 3091 Appleby Line and removed tires and rims off a tri -axle trailer parked in the parking lot.

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

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Mayor gives the business community his take on our economic health. “We are in good shape”. Really?

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON  January 26, 2012  He managed to get through a 25 minute speech without once saying a word about The Pier,  but did tell the Burlington Chamber of Commerce, State of the City audience that the city is in good shape.

Mayor Rick Goldring chose to point to the opportunities and left his audience with the impression that the challenges we have are all manageable without detailing just what those challenges are.  The deficit the city faces with its infrastructure; the very real political problems he faces with the re-development of the Joseph Brant Memorial Hospital, where he has to front $60 million of the $300 million cost and hope that he can survive the damage when the province doesn’t come through with their portion of the funding in 2014 – which is an election year for the Mayor.  Goldring opened the kimono just a little when he said: “…we didn’t anticipate the timing of the announcement or the fact that the city taxpayers along with donours have to front end $60 million each over the next six years.”  Mr. Mayor, if the provincial government does it to you once – you just know they are going to at least try to do it to you again, so don’t bend over.

Old Lakeshore precinct continues to be "the jewel" that has yet to find a crown.

No mention was made of the opportunity to play a leading role in the development of the Mainway Beach west of Spencer Smith Park, that has been languishing for more than a decade.  That opportunity, to do some significant and very innovative development in that part of the city, looks as if it is going to get away from us and be in the hands of the Conservation Authority, because Burlington hasn’t come forward with any solid plans or initiatives.  The Waterfront Advisory Committee has let the city down terribly on this one.  It had the opportunity to develop and present some creative ideas that would offer some solutions to make much more out of the western beach and the Old Lakeshore precinct.  The Mayor can’t do it all.

While things appear to be under control with the plans the province had to ram a road right through Lowville, the fact is that the Minister who told the Mayor that the road would not be built is no longer the Minister responsible for transportation.  Saying “we are committed to keep our 50/50 rural urban split, meaning that all new development must occur south of the Dundas-407 corridor” is one thing.  Putting a stake through the heart of the idea of an Escarpment highway is another matter.  The Mayor is going to have to rely on rookie MP Jane McKenna to ensure that we don’t get horn swoggled by the province should they try to argue that Burlington is going to have to take it on the chin for the greater good of the province and all those jobs that will result in trucks being able to roar across the Escarpment with products bound for the U S of A.

Thordon Bearings, a Burlington based technology company with a bullet proof vest made out of patents and trade secrets. Burlington could use a few more of these.

The American economy is in such poor shape that Burlington would be better selling products to China and India.  We would be even better off if we could create intellectual property industries and sell ideas and technology to South America and some of the developing countries.  Thordon Bearings and EcoSynthetix are great examples of what we are capable of – and at that level Mayor Goldring was dead on when he talked about the opportunities for on-going executive education at the McMaster DeGroote School on the South Service Road.  The disappointing point the Mayor made was that less than 4% of the McMaster business students who do a co-op program – there were in excess of 140 of them in 2011 – worked with Burlington based companies.  This city is letting top notch talent work on co-op programs with companies outside of the city – probably our competitors.  We should be and could be providing at least 20% of those students with co-op opportunities.  Not because we want to give them work experience but because we want to be able to pick their brains and use their developing skills and energy.  They  just might find a future vice president as well.

Burlington has been on the cusp of breaking through an economic barrier for a number of years but the city doesn’t have any class A office space.  Hopes have reigned supreme for more than a decade for the development of some first class office space.  Goldring told his audience there are three major development applications approved several years ago – but there are no shovels in the ground yet.  Can he use a cattle prod to get something moving on this? Someone is going to have to get very creative and put together a development in the downtown core that involves the federal and provincial governments who will take some space in a new building to ensure it is economically feasible for the first five years.  You know the phrase – if you build a better mousetrap they will come – but you have to put some cheese in that mousetrap.  We seem to have forgotten that.

Is Brant street going to see some class A office space or will it always be retail that is consistently challenged to be viable?

An appeal to the Ontario Municipal Board for a change to the Official Plan that would allow for more height on property at Brant and James Street favoured the developer who can now put up seven floors as of right and can ask for an additional three floors.  The understanding within the Planning department is that the developer will make it a mixed use building with retail on the ground floor and both residential and commercial above that.  The developer used the same model for another development five or six blocks north on Brant and one block east where a 17 story building, a parking garage and a smaller structure that hopes to attract medical practitioners.

The city’s heritage problems didn’t get as much as a mention but the Performing Arts Centre got the favourable comments it has gotten since the day it opened.  However, no one is saying anything about what the revenue and expense number for the BPAC look like.

The Mayor did announce one very interesting program that is just being launched.  InnovateBurlington is an intern program that was put together by an advisory committee that saw the need for an innovative, entrepreneurial community of graduate students who could gain some meaningful work experience during which they would develop strategic projects for local corporations.  Burlington needs a little more ginger in its commercial diet.

Innovate Burlington is a partnership between the BEDC, the city, the Chamber of Commerce, The Centre for Skills Development and Training and McMaster University.  These were the founding forces that took part of Rick Goldring’s election platform and grew it to the point where it was ready to be made operational and given to the BEDC to operate at least during the early stages.

Serious problems with retaining the really significant heritage homes in the city weren’t addressed.  We can’t be a world class city if we ignore and demolish the important heritage homes.  A city that forgets its roots will, like a tree, eventually topple over.  Freeman Station is still out there waiting to be saved.

Mayor Goldring tells Chamber of Commerce audience that he is just taking care of business.

Mayor Goldring is developing as a speaker.  For some reason he came across as a little rushed this morning – sounded as if he needed to get all the words out before people left the room to get to their offices.  Public speaking can, and should be, entertaining.  It has a pace of its own and hopefully over time Goldring will develop a style that is a little less rushed.  As for content and style it had a line that will certainly get picked up by others and I think you can expect to see it in his campaign literature.  He said the 21st century is going to be about the ability to learn, unlearn and relearn.  He can put that on a T shirt and win an election on it.  And make no mistake about it – short of a calamity, Goldring is a two term Mayor and maybe even three.   Based on what we have seen so far from this man – we should be so lucky.

Whenever you talk to someone who has lived in Burlington for more than ten years you will hear again and again how great a city this is to live in.  It does have great geography going for it – but it doesn’t have much in the way of buzz going for it.

We talk about the high tech, high paying jobs we want to attract.  The people who do the innovative thinking at work need a city that is innovative, fresh, growing with at least some excitement in it.  Goldring clearly underlined that point when he said: “the state of a city is an attitude, a feeling, a level of confidence about how things are going”.  We are confident – are we complacent as well?

 

 

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State of the City; Goldring addresses business community advises “we are in good shape.

By Mayor Rick Goldring

BURLINGTON, ON January 25, 2012

Good morning ladies and gentlemen. Thank you all very much for coming this morning to the State of the City Address.

Last year there was record attendance for this event, and I am pleased and a little surprised that there is approximately the same number of people here this year as last. I thought the honeymoon would be over and the attendance would be less. Maybe the honeymoon is over and that is why you are all here.

Thank you to the sponsors for your contribution to this event. Scotia Bank, Bell, the Certified Management Accountants Association along with the Burlington Youth Soccer Club – you are all great contributors to our community. I have great affinity for the BYSC as all 3 of my daughters played soccer at all levels in the club and 2 continue to play soccer as young adults.

I also want to thank TV Cogeco for being here this morning, providing many who cannot be here, the opportunity to see this event at a future date on TV Cogeco.

I also wish to thank the Burlington Chamber of Commerce for not only hosting the State of the City Address, but also for the efforts you expend in the areas of advocacy as well as providing educational and networking opportunities for your members. The net impact of your efforts is a significant contribution to prosperity for our city.

Before I go any further I want to introduce my colleagues from Burlington City Council: Councillors Marianne Meed Ward, John Taylor, Jack Dennison, Paul Sharman and Blair Lancaster. Councillor Rick Craven is away on a well earned vacation in the Caribbean.

I also would like to introduce the Senior Executive Team with the City:

Kim Phillips – Acting City Manager – General Manager of Corporate Services;

Scott Stewart – General Manager of Community Services – who also served as Acting City Manager  while Council was in the recruitment process; and

Steve Zorbas – Acting General Manager of Development and Infrastructure.

Kim only has two more days in the Acting City Manager Role.

I want to publicly thank both Kim and Scott for the time that each of you served as acting city manager. You both did a superb job – we were in good hands.

At this point, I would like to introduce our new City Manager – Jeff Fielding – who is with us this morning, even though he does not start until Monday.

Jeff was the City Manager in London for almost 8 years and prior to that, was the City Manager in Kitchener. Jeff brings with him not only great experience as a municipal leader, but also an incredible amount of enthusiasm.

Jeff, welcome to Burlington. We are all looking forward to working with you.

There are a number of additional members of our senior management team and staff who are also here this morning. We are extremely fortunate to have a fine team of public servants serving the needs of our community.

Goldring says being Mayor "has been everything I had hoped for, and at times more, and some times much more!"

This morning is my second opportunity to address the Chamber and the public through the press, and TV Cogeco and talk about our city. I have had the privilege of being the Mayor for just over one year now, and I must say that the opportunity has been everything I had hoped for, and at times more, and some times, much more!

The State of the City address can be a series of statistics and facts to prove we have done our job. However to me the state of the city is an attitude, a feeling, a level of confidence about how things are going. That is the foundation that allows us to focus on the hopes and dreams for the whole city.

This past year, I had the opportunity to speak to many residents. I attended more than 300 community functions and it often seemed that I spoke to every person present. In the Mayor’s Office, we had over 150 meetings with concerned citizens, groups and staff about the matters that were important to the community. I had the occasion to speak to and engage in dialogue with many service clubs, church groups, community organizations and business groups, including 10 CFOs from local businesses in a meeting that was arranged by the Chamber.

I was in arenas, art centres, halls, parks, libraries, schools, hospitals, churches, food banks, and just about any other facility we have here in Burlington. I visited local businesses regularly and met with several prospective Burlington businesses. During the year I hosted the Mayor’s Community Roundtable and invited about 30 community groups to attend and we have had great attendance. We established a series of Open Door sessions where residents simply show up to meet me without an appointment to discuss their issues. In fact there is one this Friday morning at City Hall.

Last week I invited some prominent citizens for dinner to talk about the city’s challenges and opportunities. This group of participants represented social services, culture, development and the business sectors. For me it was an inspiring evening. The level of enthusiasm and expertise we have in our community is an asset that we need to capitalize on more.

Many citizens also engaged me in grocery stores, shopping malls, on the street while out I was out walking, at the Y during my workouts, and sometimes even when I am out of town. This past Sunday I talked to a resident at the Sleeman Centre in Guelph while attending a Guelph Storm hockey game with my daughter.

In 2011 I had the opportunity to do Ward Tours with my colleagues. We drove through neighbourhoods, walked through parks and pathways, visited developing areas, areas of concern and areas of opportunity. I am consistently impressed with the work of my colleagues on Council, with how in touch they are with the Ward’s they represent, and how hard they are working every day in little ways that few people see.

The Mayor is chief spokesman for the city; directs trafic as well.

While the Mayor is the chief spokesperson for the city and the head of council, it is not the Mayor’s role to lead on every issue. The city is fortunate to have the blend of different people on council who are all community leaders.

So how are we doing?

In my inaugural speech just over a year ago, I spoke about the importance of rebuilding TRUST; the trust between council members, council and staff, council and the public and between City Hall and the public.

Elections can and often do end up creating at the beginning an interesting dynamic for municipal councils and the staff team they lead. It takes effort on all sides to meld together, different views, experiences and approaches into a cohesive team. I am pleased to report that the organization has come a long way in a year resulting in higher levels of trust and respect that allows us to focus on the issues in front of us more effectively.

I would like to read a quote from Kent Murdoch, President and CEO of the O.C. Tanner Company:

“If your workplace culture isn’t open and honest, it won’t create satisfaction, and you will experience turnover and a lack of productivity that will cost you money, ideas and time. On the other hand, if the work environment is ethical, productive and positive, people will stay – and stay committed. They will drive your organization forward”.

The result of a high trust organization will be a much better and more trusting relationship with the people we serve.

Having a high level of trust doesn’t mean that all decisions are unanimous. We all know that this is impossible. Trust is based on transparency, openness, an explanation of decision making, honesty and respect, including respecting alternative positions. This is true in our interaction with each other, staff and the community.

As we move forward to look at what happened in 2011 and what we look forward to in 2012, I hope you come away with these thoughts from today:

  1. I believe you should feel positive about what is happening in Burlington and how your council and city staff are working on your behalf.
  2. All municipalities have their challenges. We don’t have to look far to see examples. Burlington is in a better position than most. We have a very good and diversified local economy, we have a great quality of life and access to amenities and services and we are in a position to address our challenges in a professional and thoughtful way.
  3. We are addressing our issues head on. We are “living within our means” and we will continue to do so.

Highlights of 2011

2011 was an eventful year.

Joseph Brant Memorial Hospital

As we saw and heard in the video we played earlier, on August 10th the Province of Ontario announced the go ahead on the Joseph Brant Memorial Hospital re-development project. This project, with a budget of over $300 million will result in a significantly rejuvenated hospital.

We will see new operating rooms, new private rooms, a new cancer clinic and many more improvements. The progress that has been made on this project is remarkable. This redevelopment will provide the infrastructure needed to provide the healthcare that Burlington must have for this generation and the next.

The project will proceed in two Phases. The hospital will begin with an RFP process and tender in Phase 1 in 2012 and construction in 2013. Phase 2 will go through a similar process with the tender award in 2014.

We have members of the Joseph Brant Memorial Hospital here this morning and I would like to acknowledge Eric Vandewall and the team.

The re-development of the hospital is not the only thing happening at Joseph Brant. As most of you know, the city and Region committed $10 million several years ago to McMaster University as part of the DeGroote School of Business at the Ron Joyce Centre on the South Service Road.  This project had a second component which related to the commitment by McMaster to open a Halton McMaster Family Health Centre in the Burlington downtown area.

I would like to welcome here today Dr. David Price, Chair of McMaster Family Medicine and Dr. John Kelton, Dean and VP of Health Science. I am pleased to tell you today that McMaster has selected the Joseph Brant site as the preferred site for the Halton McMaster Family Health Centre. McMaster anticipates taking ownership of two floors and about 15,000 square feet at Joseph Brant as part of the Phase 1 project.  All parties hope to be operational at Joseph Brant by the end of 2013.

We anticipate that a site plan application for Phase 1 will be submitted to our planning department in May this year. Through public consultation this will allow the public to more fully see and understand the plans at Joseph Brant.

Performing Arts Centre

The Burlington Performing Arts Centre opened this fall on time and on budget. This facility is absolutely magnificent. It is and will remain a centerpiece of our community for generations.

Burlington residents now have access to performances that could not previously come to our City. Our community cultural groups now have a place to perform and an environment to be inspired.

To build a city, attract creative people and have a vibrant downtown, you need the performing arts. The Prime Minister of Canada agrees, and as part of the opening week festivities Prime Minister Harper came to Burlington to celebrate with us. The Prime Minister spent most of the day here in Burlington, had an opportunity to visit one of our thriving businesses and to see Canada’s musical ambassadors The Burlington Teen Tour Band.

Education and Partnership

Our city building continued in education and partnership.

Ground was broken this fall for the new Alton High School, Library and Community Centre. This is a joint effort with the school board and public library to integrate high quality services on a more cost effective basis.

The city is also building Norton Park with soccer and football fields across the street and creating a campus to meet the community needs. This is a great example of partnership in action.

The McMaster DeGroote campus on the South Service Rd. brings a significant educational institution to Burlington "making world class executive education" available to the business community.

Life-long learning, innovation and entrepreneurship are critical to our prosperity and continued success. One of the very important institutions in our community to help us achieve this is the DeGroote School of Business. This is the home of the McMaster MBA program.

The program has expanded to 577 students for the 2011/12 academic year and continues to see an increase in International students which make up 20% of the class entering in 2011.

The program is in the top three in Canada for return on investment. 100% of the co-op students secured employment placement for the fall 2011 program. Since 2010, 17 Burlington companies have recruited co-op students. However, only about 4% of these co-op students are finding permanent employment opportunities in Burlington.

McMaster representatives are here today and I encourage local businesses to look into these opportunities. This is a win/win situation and if we can attract and keep leading graduates in our local economy, we will all benefit.

McMaster’s presence in Burlington also makes world class executive education available. Since 2010, 840 executives have participated in programs. Former Dean, and our good friend Paul Bates, leads this initiative. This is an opportunity for the community which we hope you consider.

I believe that innovation, entrepreneurship and keeping our young graduates in our local economy, is vital to our future.

To help achieve this, I am pleased to announce today that through partnership with the BEDC, McMaster, the Chamber of Commerce, and The Centre for Skills and Development Training, we are launching Innovate Burlington.

Innovate Burlington is a first step towards building a sustainable innovation and entrepreneurship program in Burlington.

Innovate Burlington will provide recent graduates the opportunity to work as interns, in Burlington, on meaningful projects to help local companies. We see this as a win for graduates and a win for you, our local businesses, who will have access to a tremendous talent pool. You may well find your future leaders through this program.

I hope you will seriously look at this opportunity for your organization. I would also like to introduce to you one company that already has. Here today are Ryan Djordjevic and Tim Sluy from Global Mobility Products.

There will be a formal launch for this program on February 16. I would like to thank Kyle Benham, the Executive Director of BEDC and Anita Cassidy, our Program Coordinator, for their efforts in getting this program off the ground. I would like to express my personal thanks to the Advisory Team that has contributed to this effort.

Strategic Plan

A new Strategic Plan was developed in 2011. The Strategic Plan focuses on three key areas: Vibrant Neighbourhoods, Prosperity, and Excellence in Government.

This plan was developed with unprecedented public input. It is a much more focused document than previous plans. For example, we reduced the number of initiatives from 107 to about 42 for the term. We have created a plan which is meaningful, focused, and attainable.

Niagara to GTA Highway

In October 2010, the province attempted to amend the Region’s Official Plan maps with a change that identified a corridor for a new highway right through the middle of rural Burlington. Council is committed to protecting this natural heritage for generations to come.

Escarpment map with an arrow showing a new road was a surprise to many. The corridor proposal was removed but still lurks out there.

Through a tremendous effort by Councillors Taylor and Lancaster and the Stop the Highway coalition this corridor proposal was removed from the Official Plan maps and Minister Wynne announced in July that there would be no highway.

I spoke to Minister Ted McMeekin about this issue again last week.  I am assured that the province is looking at all multi-modal options, including rail, road widening and public transit to address our long term transportation needs.

There are still challenges associated with this issue and we continue to fight to protect the rural heritage. We need 21st century solutions to our transportation challenges.

In addition to these major milestones in our community, there were many others were noting:

  • Burlington Transit ridership increased by 7.0% in 2011.
  • In 2011, construction value increased meaningfully. Residential construction value grew by 23% and Industrial/Commercial development grew by 30%. That translates to a total of $451 million in construction this past year. We hope to see job numbers reflect this investment in 2012.
  • Some high profile retailers selected Burlington as a location of choice. Sail, an outdoor retailer selected Burlington in October and should be open later this year. And of course the Apple Store opened prior to Christmas at Mapleview Mall.
  • In August, EcoSynthetix completed a successful IPO, raising just over $100 million. Congratulations to John van Leeuwen and his team. Prime Minister Harper was also impressed and visited EcoSythetix on December 2.

So where are we going in 2012?

In 2012 and beyond there are a number of challenges and opportunities to address.

Community Engagement

Our new Public Involvement Coordinator, Christine Iamonaco is in the process of creating an Engagement Charter – a document that helps define the relationship between citizens and the city, whether it be staff or council. We need to demystify and enhance our processes to create an environment where our citizens can provide appropriate and timely input on the many initiatives and decisions that council is responsible for.

Official Plan Review

This year we will commence an Official Plan review. This is an exercise mandated by the province that must be done every 5 years.

An official plan is a statutory document which sets out the land use policy directions for long-term growth and development in a municipality.

I believe that this official plan review is the most important in Burlington’s history for a number of reasons.

  1. We have the lowest projected growth rate of any municipality in the GTA for the next 20 years.
  2. We are committed to keep our 50/50 rural urban split, meaning that all new development must occur south of the Dundas-407 corridor.
  3. After the Alton Community is complete, we have very little room left for “greenfield” development.
  4. Up to 80% of future residential development will be intensification, redevelopment and infill.
  5. We need to maintain an appropriate amount of employment lands for new business and new jobs to 2031.

Council will be having a workshop on the Official Plan shortly and just as the Strategic Plan had an unprecedented level of public input, we will also have a very thorough public process for the Official Plan review.

Neighbourhood Development

We continued to develop and protect our neighbourhoods in 2011 and will continue to do so in 2012 and beyond. Over 80% of our neighbourhoods will see little change, while certain areas of the city will see further intensification.

Aldershot

A great example of this is Aldershot and the Plains Road Corridor.

Plains Road; an old suburban highway transitions into a vibrant urban main street.

Plains Road is in the process of transitioning from an old suburban highway to a vibrant urban main street. My compliments to Councillor Rick Craven, along with the Aldershot BIA and the Plains Road Village Vision, who have lead many of the positive changes we have seen along Plains Road.

A fundamental factor that is influencing the Village Vision is that Aldershot has insufficient population to attract new businesses.

The newer residential and commercial buildings have more cohesive design features that result in a more vibrant and attractive area of the city. There are many examples of this and the most recent is the brand new Aldershot Library.

The new 403 interchange, a new Kings Road Underpass (that will be completed this fall) along with the work of the Aldershot BIA and city staff, have all contributed to the tremendous level of interest and activity with regard to new development along Plains Road.

Downtown

Under the Province of Ontario’s Places to Grow plan, our downtown is designated as an urban growth centre. It is expected, in fact it is mandated, that our downtown should add more residents and more jobs.  We have seen some progress on this but progress has slowed.

There are 3 major development applications that were approved several years ago; however the shovels are not in the ground yet. When complete, these projects will add over 650 residents and over 500 jobs.

We need more of this. In the spring, council will be participating in a workshop discussing the potential for the parking lots located to the west of Village Square and east of Brant Street, south of City Hall. We see these lots as development opportunities that have the potential to add more jobs and residents without taking away parking spaces.

Downtown parking lots on John and Brant street offer significant development opportunities.

The success of a downtown is one of the major keys to a prosperous city. Development needs to continue in the downtown in order for our city to thrive.

I should mention that Councillor Meed Ward is taking me on a Ward Tour on Monday which will allow us to look at all of the opportunities we have in the downtown.

Economic Reality

The economic climate has changed significantly over the last 5 years.  The issues in the US and Europe have cast a negative pall over many in the world. Canada is fortunate, on a relative basis, but we cannot be too smug as we are still vulnerable.

The world is transitioning from an Industrial Age to an Information and Communication Technology Age, resulting in many traditional manufacturing jobs being eliminated or moved to countries in the developing world, like China and India.

We need to leverage our investment in McMaster to help foster innovation, job creation and life-long learning in Burlington. I believe a culture of life-long learning is critical to prosperity.

“In the 21st century literacy will not be about reading and writing but will be the about the ability to learn, unlearn and relearn.”

The days of having only one job with one organization are over and the ability to be resilient and flexible in adapting to changing circumstances has never been as important.

Governments at all levels have to deal with issues differently. Yesterday’s approaches to the challenges of today and tomorrow will not work. We need to be creative, innovative and use ingenuity to address our future.

I am pleased to say that our staff has responded appropriately to these challenges in a very positive manner.

Burlington has to "front end" $60 million of the $300 million Joseph Brant Memorial Hospital redevelopment.

Last year, we had a City of Burlington tax increase of .9%. Obviously good news, but it is not sustainable to continue on at that level. The regular operations of the city require an annual increase to reflect increasing costs. On top of this, we have infrastructure challenges that all municipalities have. As much as the hospital announcement was great news for Burlington, we did not anticipate the timing of the announcement or the fact that the city taxpayers, along with donors, have to front-end $60 million each over the next 6 years.

I am confident we can deal with our financial challenges carefully and judiciously resulting in responsible tax rate increases and “living within our means.”

So what do I hope you take away from today?

  1. I hope you feel positive. Our City is in very good shape and we are committed to keeping Burlington as a thriving prosperous inclusive community through strong fiscal management, innovation and partnerships and cooperation.
  2. We all have challenges. Our City is changing. I propose to embrace this change.
    • We have a meaningful Strategic Plan in place and you will see a more focused Council and a Council and Staff that better understands our priorities.
    • We will continue to improve in how we work with the community as we work through the change that is taking place.
    • Your City is focused on improving customer service, productivity through technology and decision making through engagement and measurement.
  1. We will “live within our means.”

In closing, I would like to thank the Chamber for hosting this event.

I want to thank council and staff of the city for all their hard work.

I also want to recognize the efforts of our faith communities, services clubs, social agencies, sports groups, and arts and cultural organizations, for the major contribution they are to a city where people, nature and business thrive.

It is an honour and privilege to serve as your Mayor.

I look forward to continuing to work collaboratively with you to make this city the best it can be.

In my inauguration speech I closed with the African Proverb “If you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go together.”

Ladies and gentlemen, we are in this together and together we will continue to build a wonderful City.

Thank You.

January 26, 2012

 Burlington Convention Centre

The Burlington Chamber of Commerce has been hosting the Mayor’s Annual State of the City Address for thirty years.  With advocacy being a key objective of the Chamber, hosting the Mayor’s Address gives Burlington business people an excellent opportunity to gain a greater understanding of local politics and how issues being dealt with by the mayor and council can affect them and their business.  Often viewed as the mayor’s most important speech of the year, the address outlines the city’s challenges, opportunities and priorities for the upcoming year.  Recently, the mayor has made use of technology by conducting real-time polls during the event to gauge the thoughts and priorities of those in attendance.  This gives the audience a way to directly interact with the mayor during the event.  The Mayor’s Address is one of the premier events hosted by the Chamber which hosts 80 events each year.

 

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An exceptional service for Halton Region employers; one-to-one service for those looking for work.

By Staff

BURLINGTON, ON  January 25, 2012  Halton Region residents looking for work or employers looking to fill positions now have access to a “personalized” service.  It is a significant time saver for employers.

The service for employers includes personalized services such as: screening and matching services to help employers select the best qualified candidate; reference checking and education verification service; training incentive programs to off-set the cost of training and hourly wages; access to the Haltonjobs.ca job board; the Employment Halton LinkedIn group where employers can network together regarding hiring needs and access to annual job fairs.  All the services are free.

If you are looking for a job the Region has an accessible employment resource centre complete with one-on-one support to help people searching for a job, help explore career options, and access programs and funding for apprenticeship and career development programs.  The only thing they don’t do is send a cab to pick you up. All services are free.

Funding for the Employment Halton office has been provided by the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities.

In 2011, there were 8000 visits to the Employment Halton office and over 190 employers in Halton received services from Employment Halton staff.  The service exceeded Ministry targets for the number of clients and employers served and the number of clients that obtained jobs.  Anyone who is searching for a job or interested in training for a new career can visit the Employment Halton office in Bronte Village Mall (2441 Lakeshore Road West – Bronte Village Mall) in Oakville

Job creation is a top priority for every level of government and they don’t want to leave very much to chance. “The government believes people are our best resource the province has and programs like these help them to continue to contribute,” said Glen Murray, Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities.

To learn more about Employment Halton visit our office in Bronte Village Mall, call us by dialing 311 or 905-825-6000, toll free: 1-866-442-5866, TTY 905-827-9833 or visit www.halton.ca/employmenthalton or www.haltonjobs.ca.

 

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Neighbours help nab thief attempting to break into a Woodland Ave home.

By Staff

BURLINGTON, ON  January 25, 2012  A Woodland Avenue resident, returning to her home at 4:45 in the afternoon on January 23rd interrupted a break and enter in progress.

Two suspects had pried open a back door to gain entry into the house. When the suspects were alerted to the resident’s presence, they fled on foot through neighbouring backyards.

Police were dispatched to the area. Alert neighbours saw the fleeing suspects and managed to capture and detain one of them for police.

Police also seized a vehicle that had been left behind by the suspects, parked in the victim’s driveway.

Police are still seeking a second male suspect, described as 6’1”, olive complexion, with a tattoo on his neck and wearing a black coat at the time of the break-in. Two female suspects are also being sought that were seen exiting the suspect vehicle and fleeing on foot.

James Mann, 19 of Hamilton, is charged with Break and Enter, Obstructing Police.  He is being held pending a bail hearing.

Anyone with information regarding this incident is asked to contact the Burlington Criminal Investigations Bureau at 905-825-4747 x2315, Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS(8477), through the web at www.haltoncrimestoppers.com or by texting “Tip201” with your message to 274637(crimes).

This is the second reported break in the community in as many weeks.  Hopefully Judges in Milton handling these cases will send a message to not only the criminal element via the stiff sentences they impose but to the community as well.  A statement from the bench is perhaps called for.

 

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Tax increase thinking would have Burlington as one of the lowest in GTA – council talking 3.4%

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON January 17, 2010  – This time last year Council member Paul Sharman was savaging senior city staff over the data they had provided council and the budget recommendations they had made.  This year Sharman was blowing kisses to Joan Ford, Acting city treasurer.  How things do change.

Has Sharman learned to see things through the lens of a civic council member rather than his private sector corporate lens?  Or has the city`s Executive Budget Committee learned something from the 2011 budget exercise?   Whichever, the projections for the 2012 budget look pretty decent at this early stage but as Councillor rick Craven pointed out, “the comments in the staff report – “There are insufficient financial and human resources to support all existing services, add resources to respond to community growth…”  Craven, who runs a very tight committee meeting made the point that “we are not funding infrastructure needs adequately either.  “We are setting aside half a percentage point of the budget when we need a full 1%. to get our roads where they need to be.”

The city budget team is projecting a tax increase of 3.444%.  They were directed to come back with a budget for 2012 that was between 2% and 3.5%

There isn’t going to be very much that is new in this budget – the exercise is going to be to move as much money as possible into infrastructure and ensure that we have the funds the hospital has asked the city to contribute for the rebuild of Joseph Brant Memorial Hospital.

Councillor Dennison pointed out that the hospital is still working at drawings for the parking garage and that they have no sought any building permits or prepared for a site plan review.  The Memorandum of Understanding between the hospital and the city is not yet signed but Acting City Manager Kim Phillips believes construction on the garage will get started this year and the city seems prepared to write the cheque for the first $7.5 million.

Lots of kudos for Ford on her draft budget - will everyone be as happy when it comes down to the final determination?

Acting treasurer Ford gave a Council committee an overview of what the budget recommendations were.  Mention of service cutbacks and the elimination of underused facilities was frequent.  But at this point no one has detailed which services might be cut back and there wasn’t any mention from Council members as to which facilities were underused in their wards.

All Boards and commissions were asked t keep their increase requests to below 2%, which for most is close to impossible.  Lots of haggling to be done yet.

Festival looking for an 80% city funding increase.

The surprise for many this morning was the close to last minute request from the Sound of Music festival for a close to 80% increase in the funding they get from the city.  They are asking that the city increase the $52,000 they are currently contributing to $86,000 – which as Councillor Lancaster pointed out is an 80% increase.

It was going to take more than a “spoonful of sugar” to make that medicine go down.  Sound of Music Executive Director Dave Miller had a presentation with lots of pictures and data but the state of the electronics in the Council Chamber are in a pretty sad state of disrepair and he was unable to share his power point presentation with the people in the public gallery.

If the Sound of Music Festival is going to get the increase they want – there is going to have to be a significant change in attitude on the part of this Council.

Miller was asked by Councillor Taylor if the Festival had written a letter asking for the increase.  Apparently they had not.

More on the Sound of Music story in a report to follow and much more once we’ve had a chance to look at the draft budget.

 

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Those were not neighbours making a call – imagine what could have gone wrong had the criminals gotten into the house

By Staff

BURLINGTON, ON January 17, 2012  It was a cold Canadian winter night with everyone in a home on Cherry Hill Crescent snuggled under their covers.  The sound of breaking glass at 3:30 am was not expected – and brought the residents of the house to their feet.

The police canine unit was brought in to track down suspects that had begun to break into a Cherry Cr home.

Suspects had attempted to enter the home by smashing a rear sliding glass door, but were scared off by the occupants who witnessed two males running from the area.

Police conducted an extensive search of the area, including the use of a canine unit, but were unable to locate those responsible.

Tips related to Home and Business security can be found at www.haltonpolice.ca under the ‘Community Policing’ tab.

Anyone with information regarding this incident is asked to contact the Burlington Criminal Investigations Bureau at 905 825-4747 x2315, Crime Stoppers at 1 800 22-TIPS(8477), through the web at www.haltoncrimestoppers.com or by texting “Tip201” with your message to 274637(crimes).

 

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Chocolate, chocolate, chocolate – delicious fun event at Ireland House.

By Staff

BURLINGTON, ON  January 17, 2012  – It is difficult to see any relationship whatsoever between chocolate and the Ireland House at the Oakridge Farm – but who cares?  They are putting on a chocolate making event – which is a half day long taking place on Sunday, February 12 at Ireland House from noon to 3:00 pm.

Yummy, yummyy - choclate making event. Book early.

It is just chocolate, chocolate and more chocolate – and oh yes, a little bit of history thrown in to keep it legit.  For the chocolate lover – and that would be most of us – this is an event to make time for.

Space is limited – 40 people max, so if you want to take in this event call Ireland House and reserve your space.  Tickets are $30. each – take the Missus and you get two tickets for $50.

The program is delivered by Chocolate Tales, a group that market this niche offering where owner David Levy bring his mobile chocolate-making service to workshops about the art of chocolatiering. They use only use certified nut-free Belgium chocolate.

 

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The reindeer that left Spencer Smith Park didn’t go back to the North Pole. They were stolen.

By Staff

BURLINGTON, ON  January 16, 2012  There is a group of people, less than twenty, who gather in a city workshop and plan for the lighted display that appears every year during the holidays in Spencer Smith Park.   They give of their time and pick up a significant part of the costs to build and later maintain the lighted displays that are a delight for the rest of us to enjoy each year.

Somewhere in the city there are a couple of punks who thought it was a huge lark to slip into the park at night and dismantle the display of a small herd of deer.

The replacement value for the six foot, steel framed, lighted display, hand made by the Festival of Lights Committee that have been doing this for more than 15 years, is approximately $2,500.

In a basement or perhaps a garage somewhere – the punks that stole the display are chuckling away.  They are not likely to grow into the kind of young men that grow up to volunteer in their community.

Lynne Snider is one of some 20 volunteers who create, build and then install the displays that dot Spender Smith Park during the annual Festival of Lights.

They might want to think about helping put up the 12,000 feet of tube lighting that is used for the Festival that lasts 40 days and pulls an average of 600 people into Spencer Smith Park during the event.

The official opening of the Festival of Lights features a march in by the Burlington Teen Tour Band who, would you believe this, devour more than 960 pieces of pizza  during the chow down they get after the opening.

The loss of this particular display is disheartening and disappointing for the Festival Committee who in 2012 face some significant financial hurdles.  The Burlington Downtown Business Association has decided they are not able to continue funding the Festival with their $5000. Contribution.  The BDBA found that the traffic to Spencer Smith Park just didn’t work its way up Brant Street.

Oddly enough, the city isn’t involved in this significant event.  It doesn’t have a staff member on the Festival Committee.  Michele Allan, chair of the Festival Committee is confident that a new source of funding will come through for them.  If you’ve any funding ideas – pop a note along to her at: burlingtonfol@yahoo.ca

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

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