Citizens take to the streets pushing shovels, snowblowers or driving equipment. Are they marching on city hall?

December 15, 2015

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON.  The city got the main roads cleared – those trucks roared by our front door – and they were not doing the posted 40 kph.  We heard them going by throughout the night.

They call it quality time.

This isn’t a city worker – this is a neighbour being a good neighbour.

The city doesn’t give all that much information on its website – just that they are out there.

A copy of the map showing the order in which streets get cleared in set out below.

The Mrs. get to put her vehicle in the garage.

This morning the part of our driveway that didn’t get done before I called it a day, had a little schnapps to ease the aching bones, had been done by my neighbor.  Thanks Rob – there’s a 12 pack on the way to you – just as soon as I can get the snow off the car and drive the thing.

Meanwhile people are out on the street with their own equipment doing what you do in the suburbs when there is a heavy snowfall.

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First major snow fall give roads department a chance to see how much they remember from last year. So far so good.

December 14, 2013

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON. The snow plow roared by our driveway – it looks like it is going to need another touch from the new snow shovel my wife bought.  I have to add that she was the one who tested the shovel.

The city has a full fleet out clearing primary roads, parking lots and walkways and adding extra buses to meet public transit needs.

They move at quite a clip – full fleet of city trucks is out this evening.

As of 4 p.m. today, all facilities remain open, except for Rotary Centennial Pond. The outdoor ice skating surface in Spencer Smith Park is snow-covered and subject to high winds. It will reopen on Sunday.

The city has received about 20 centimetres of snow as of 3 p.m. today, with another seven to 10 centimetres predicted by early tomorrow.

Updates on snow clearing are posted three times daily on the city’s website at 9 a.m., 4 p.m. and 11 p.m. during winter control operations.

Burlington Transit has added extra buses and maintenance staff to keep buses on schedule. Nice little bit of overtime for the boys at transit.

Birds aren’t going to be out much today.

 “City staff has been working hard around the clock since yesterday to make travel safe in Burlington,” said Cathy Robertson, director of roads and parks maintenance. “While the storm continues, most of our resources are focused on clearing primary and secondary roads. Please be patient if your road has not been reached. The city aims to have all roads plowed within 24 hours following the end of a storm.”

 The city asks residents to:

Drive safely, if you must drive

Avoid shoveling snow from driveways onto the roads

Clear fire hydrants near your home

Keep parked vehicles off the roadways so snow plows can get through

The Gazette learned earlier in the day that the library was closing for the afternoon. We passed that information along to the city’s media people.  If you’re aware of anything else you think they should know – send the information our way and we will get it to them.

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Personal Support Workers used as a reason for changing marathon route. They have a bigger problem; getting a decent wage.

In an earlier edition of the paper we incorrectly named the PSW’s.  Our apologies.

December 14, 2013

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON.  During the several debates at city council last week mention was made frequently of the difficulties Personal Support  Workers had in getting to some of their clients in the east end of Lakeshore Road during the Chilly Half Marathon race that takes place in March of each year with some 4000+ runners on the road.

The Personal Support Workers (PSW’s) work to very, very tight schedules.  If you have a 10:30 appointment it takes place at 10:30 – there is next to no wiggle room in their schedules.  The problems the Personal Support Workers run into were brought up by a number of the delegations that didn’t want the race run on the route it is run on.

Personal Service Workers strike for decent wages.

Turns out that getting to their clients isn’t the only problem the Personal Support Workers have – they want a decent wage as well and have walked of the job effective Friday.

According to their union the 4,500 personal support workers walked off the job yesterday to support their demands for justice and a living wage.

“These workers are tired of being pushed around and taken for granted,” said Sharleen Stewart, president of SEIU Healthcare. “They are paid poverty-level wages of $15 an hour and are expected to pay for gas out-of-pocket when they drive long distances to make home visits.”

Ontario’s Minister of Health spent a day with a PSW worker to see first hand what they do – so the government knows that the issues are.

In the last two years PSW earnings have been reduced by about 7% as a result of a wage freeze combined with inflation and a massive increase in the price of gas.

The Canadian Reed Cross created a new home care agency and merged that operation with Care Partners in 2012. 

“We estimate 50 cents of every dollar given to Red Cross ($143 million this year) is skimmed off for bureaucracy, excessive executive pay and profit. Where is the accountability in this system for delivering quality care to seniors and vulnerable clients?”

Last year the CEO of the Red Cross Society was given a 9% pay increase, bringing his salary to $297 thousand, which is 11 times the average salary of a PSW.

A couple of dozen PSW’s were out on the street on one of the coldest days of the year.  A hundred or so people in Burlington who needed care on Friday just didn’t get it.

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The police want to engage you – which is probably better than having them arrest you.

December 14, 2013

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON. The Halton Regional Police Services board has released the Draft of the 2014-2020.  The Police Service, in cooperation with the Police Services Board is in the process of undertaking a review of its goals and objectives for the next three years. These goals are important as they guide the service in the delivery of services that are vital in maintaining the safety of the residents of Halton.

The the public are encouraged to have a say on what they feel is important by contacting Keith Moore, Senior Planner at 905-825-4747 ext. 4830 or by email at Keith.Moore@haltonpolice.ca

The material is organized into four themes with a series of points listed under each theme.  Unfortunately, there is no comment on any of the points.  The draft consists of a list of things the police plan to do during the next four years.

Community safety, Outreach and collaboration, Organizational capacity and Organizational excellence

Under Community Safety the Board lists:

Identity theft and bank scams are a continuing public threat.  HAlton Regional Police have led a number of successful multi-jurisdictional investigations. 

Ensure that Halton maintains the lowest overall crime rate and Crime Severity Index of any comparable-sized community in Canada.

Deter criminal activity— strengthen crime prevention, community policing and safety initiatives – and relentlessly pursue criminals.

Improve crime clearance rates.

Focus on key areas of concern to the community;  traffic safety and enforcement, growth in illegal drug activity, gangs and organized crime,assaults and sexual assaults, domestic violence,  youth and young adult crime, victimization of seniors/youth/children, technology-based crimes (e.g. Cyber-bullying; internet financial crimes and fraud). , monitoring and tracking of offenders, hate crimes and human trafficking.

Engage and mobilize the community to collaboratively share responsibility for keeping our region safe.

Establish and practice leading-edge emergency preparedness measures, including ongoing business continuity during emergencies and special events.

Under Outreach and Collaboration the board lists:

The  police are out at hundreds of community events.

Build public awareness of and trust/confidence in the Halton Regional Police Service and policing in general.

Educate the public about safety and security issues through an inclusive approach that respects the diverse composition of our community.

Reduce the fear of crime — help those who live, work and play in Halton to feel even safer.

Define and clearly communicate the areas for which the Halton Regional Police Service is responsible.

Strengthen communication and community dialogue (e.g. using social and other media).

Collaborate with our communities in the prevention and solving of crime – and contribute to overall safety and wellbeing.

Strengthen relationships with youth and diverse communities to establish a solid foundation leading to improved understanding of policing, recruitment opportunities and other policing initiatives.

Continue to strengthen working relationships and information exchange with other law enforcement agencies.

Under Organizational Capacity the Board lists:

There are community police stations throughout the Region.  Police appear to want a new headquarters building as well.

Ensure that police resources and funding responsibly address operational requirements and changing demographics.

Enhance the use of police analytics to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of the organization.

Be the leaders in the application of new technologies and maximize innovation, responsiveness, outreach and service delivery.

Ensure that all employees are well-trained and well equipped in accordance with provincial requirements and in areas of emerging concern — and that support of the front line remains paramount.

Strengthen police ability to effectively address situations of elevated risk (e.g. mental health-related incidents).

Embrace human resource best practices and customize them in support of: employee recruitment/retention, diversity, career development, succession planning, performance management, and positive labour relations.

Strengthen employee understanding of the Halton Regional Police Service and its initiatives, and secure support for future strategic directions.

 Ensure that police facilities adequately meet current and future needs.

Under Organizational Excellence the Board lists:

Do the police deliver the service the public needs?  The RIDE program is a proven service.

Ensure that the Halton Regional Police Service demonstrates the highest levels of ethical and professional standards.

Strengthen service delivery and positive interactions with the community.

Ensure that our Police Service is an employer of choice for both uniform and civilian positions.

Strengthen employee motivation and engagement — foster a sense of employee pride and high job satisfaction, and a belief in the value of individual contribution.

Ensure that our police service culture emphasizes respect, responsibility, accountability,relationships and results.

Meet or exceed all current and future provincially mandated police service requirements.

Be the leader in identifying and implementing innovative policing practice

What is the Police Services Board telling us?  Is this list a collection of clichés and self-serving statements?  Is the Board, which oversees policing in the Region, calling the people who police the community to account?

Government services employ people to communicate with the public.  Major corporations have public relations departments that are in place to tell their story to the public.  These are companies that are in business – they are there for the most part to make a profit for their shareholders which are often large pension groups.

Public services are considerably different.  They are in place to SERVE the public and to seek the advice of the public they serve.

This DRAFT plan for the next three years is the first step in the process of making their plans public.

Let us see how the public reacts to the document.

The following data for the fiscal year 2011 puts who the police serve and what the public pays for that service into perspective.

There are 178,232 households in the Region

The police budget for 2011 amounted to $116.4 million.

There were 629 men and women in uniform .

There were 282 civilian people working  for the police service.

Calls to the police for service amounted to: (2009): 124,503; (2010): 129,971; (2011): 128,202.

The annual cost to each person in the Region for the police service we get amounted to: (2009): $224.66;(2010): $225.83 and (2011): $236.08

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King Road grade separation opens, no more waiting for barriers to open while trains pass by on the busiest line in the country.

December 13, 2013,

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON.  The Region had issued a cold weather alert but that didn’t seem to deter the small crowd that showed up to stand underneath a railway grade separation and watch ward 1 council member Rick Craven wave his hands and shout: “Yeah, we did it”.

This is a view that thousands of drivers are going to enjoy from this moment forward – no more waiting for the rail barrier to go up and the flashing lights to go off.  Waiting for the trains to go by is a thing of the past on King Road.

 

And did it they most certainly did.  It was last Thanksgiving when after 96 straight hours of work, and the removal of nearly 800 trucks of fill, this five million pound concrete tunnel we are standing under was hydraulically pushed into place while freight trains rumbled overhead throughout that weekend.

Mayor Goldring cranks the siren on the antique fire engine that was the first vehicle to drive the the King Road grade separation.  In the rear waving to the crowd is Councillor Craven pleased as punch with the completion of a project he has championed ever since he got himself elected.

Once the structure was in place construction crews started building the aqueduct that  allows Indian Creek to flow over the realigned road. That aqueduct was about twenty feet above those of us standing in the cold weather.  

When the aqueduct work was done construction crews were able to start the road and then asphalt n was laid down.  There is still some sidewalk work to be done but today you can peddle a bicycle underneath multiple sets of railway tracks on what was described as the busiest railway line in the country.

No more waiting for the flashing red lights to stop and for the traffic barrier to rise on King Road – it’s now non-stop from Plains Road up to the North Service Road.

Scott Stewart, General Manager for Development and Infrastructure paid a compliment to what he called “our funding partner” CN – “this project would not have been possible without your commitment.”

How cold was it?  Cold enough for the pastries on the reception to freeze.  The significance of this picture is the large concrete piece at the top to the rear.  That is the aqueduct that was built to allow fish to swim over the road that was built.  Sound fishy?  Next to the aqueduct is the bridging that carries the train tracks.

It wasn’t a commitment willingly made by the railway – the city had to take CN to the Transportation Safety  Board to get the funds needed to build the grade separation.  Perhaps that is why the railway people had the crossing bells ringing throughout much of the ceremony.

For the most part these events are photo ops for the politicians but this event was a milestone.  A major traffic bottleneck was fixed and the opportunity to open up the development of some major employments lands on the west side of King Road south of the QEW was more feasible.  Getting the developer to the table will not be as difficult as it was to get CN to pay for the building of the grade separation.

There were no developers in the audience this afternoon.

There were however a number of staff people who deserved to be both mentioned and applauded for the construction of the underpass.

General manager Scott Stewart made a point of recognizing the individuals and groups who were instrumental the project done.  Finishing the job within that 96 hour window was a very significant feat.

Staff from various city departments included: Tom Eichenbaum, Scott Hamilton, Bob Jurk, Derek McGaghey, Genevieve Jane, Jason Forde – from Engineering, Ron Steiginga, from legal, Helen Walihura from Community Relations, and Steve Vrakela from Roads and Parks Maintenance.

Cutting the official ribbon is, from the left,  General Manger Scott Stewart ward 1 Councillor Rick Craven, Mayor Goldring and Director of Engineering Tom Eichenbaum.

The Ontario Public Works Association advised the city earlier in the day  that the King Road / CN Grade Separation Project received  the 2013 OPWA Project of the Year Award in the Transportation, in the $10 – $50 Million Category.

In a perfect world the Mayor and the General manager would have taken that list out to a local pub and hoisted a few and charged it all the ward Councillor’s expense budget.  Rick Craven will be telling anyone with even just one ear how significant this project is – it is certainly one he has pushed since the day he was elected ten years ago.

Background:

Mammoth construction task underway on King Road

Graphic representation of construction task.

Web cast of construction site didn’t please US security types.

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Who knew? Weren’t they just massage parlours where you went to get the kinks taken out?

December 13, 2013

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON.  As part of the mandate of the Human Trafficking and Vice Unit and in partnership with the Canadian Border Services Agency and By-Law Enforcement Officers from Burlington, Oakville and Milton, several Halton businesses were visited on December 11, 2013 and inspected for municipal By-law infractions.

It’s certainly not show business.

The following businesses were found to be in violation of by-laws specific to their industry and as a result received Provincial Offences Notices and/or had the business licence revoked:

Accu Green Health – 774 Brant Street, Burlington – licence revoked

Cara Studio – 4180 Morris Drive, Burlington – Notice of Violation to be served on owner and charges pending

Body & Sole – 550 Ontario Street, Milton – closed operating no valid licence

Mary Gold – 43 Main Street South, Campbellville – Closed operating unlicenced, charge issued

Tai Chi – 2544 Speers Road, Oakville – issued zoning notice for closure, charge issued

Ivy Spa – 119 North Service Road East, Oakville – issued zoning notice for closure, 2 charges issued

The Human Trafficking and Vice Unit is responsible for all human trafficking investigations (both domestic and international – including but not limited to the sex trade, forced labour or domestic servitude), all prostitution investigation (including street prostitution, escort services and disorderly houses – common-bawdy houses), all adult entertainment premises investigations (including commercial massage parlours), all gaming related investigations and all liquor license premises investigations.

Anyone wanting to provide confidential information or tips related to suspected human trafficking is asked to contact 905 825-4747 x8723, via email at HTVICE@haltonpolice.ca or anonymously by calling Crime Stoppers at 1 800 222-TIPS(8477) or through the web at www.haltoncrimestoppers.com.

If you are a victim of human trafficking, dial 9-1-1 or contact the Chrysalis Anti-Human Trafficking Network for free, confidential telephone trauma counselling and referrals for anyone who has been trafficked or exploited at 1-866-528-7109.

 

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Skating pond at Spencer Smith Park opens this Friday afternoon.

December 12, 2013

By Staff

BURLINGTON, ON. All that cold weather we have been experiencing will begin to pay off for us Friday afternoon.

The pond at Spencer Smith Park will open at 4:00 pm where the skating is free to everyone.

Pond opens to the public Friday afternoon.

The pond is open daily from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. with patrollers working on Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. and on weekdays from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m.

The holiday schedule includes:

Christmas Eve, December 24th : 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. 

CLOSED Christmas day

New Year’s Eve December 31st  10 a.m. to 10 p.m.

New Year’s Day January 1st  10 a.m. to 10 p.m.

 Please remember that you must wear skates to be on the ice and children 6 years of age and under must wear a helmet.

 You can call the Pond hot line for  ice conditions –  905-634-7263 or visit the web site   for temporary closure information, updates on pond conditions.

 

 

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Liberals get ready to convene in Montreal – should be looking for credible candidates.

December 12, 2013

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON.  The Liberal Party of Canada will be holding its Biennial Convention in Montréal in February of 2014 – the Burlington federal Liberals are asking their members to sign on for a weekend trip to Montreal.

While a federal election is not on the calendar until 2015 – the Liberals in this town need all the name recognition a candidate can get – and with the federal Conservatives in the mess of their lives – it would make some sense to find the candidate that can win in Burlington.

Its going to take more than a high-profile name to make Justin Prime Minister.

If the Liberals can get their BOY to be seen in the House of Commons a little more often and begin making comments that make sense rather than make him look a little foolish – there could be a different political party running the country.  But – it is going to take more than just the Trudeau name to form a government.

Provincially – with the chances of an election in the Spring better than even – the Liberals are still scurrying about to find a candidate to run against Jane McKenna who has done little if anything for Burlington, but she has managed to become a close to rabid partisan.  Should McKenna survive the next provincial election she will become close to impossible to remove.

Tim Hudak is not likely to survive the next provincial election – which will raise the star of our Lady Jane.

Burlington seems to vote solid Tory blue unless there is a really strong name candidate – then they go with the national flow.  Should Justin Trudeau up his game and begin to be seen as seriously credible a decent candidate will come forward and Mike Wallace would be in for the fight of his life.

But candidates are not like mushrooms – they don`t grow in the dark; they need sunshine and exposure; they need the interaction of vigorous debate so that voters can see the differences in character and ability and not find themselves having to rely on the political party label to make their decisions for them.

Burlington doesn`t have much in the way of a tradition to be proud of in picking candidates that are superior and able to really represent the city.  For a community that is made up of people who are for the most part well-educated and in the top half of the income charts – we can and should be able to do much better than we have done in the past in terms of our political representation.

It`s not the political labels that are the problem – it’s the people wearing the labels.

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Regional government manages to shave property tax by .4%; Burlington will add at least 2% to its tax levy.

December 12, 2013

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON.  Regional Council approved the 2014 Budget and Business Plan earlier this week  marking the fourth time in the last eight years (2008, 2010, 2011 and 2014) that Halton Region has achieved a property tax reduction for Regional tax supported programs and services. 

 What is the Region doing that Burlington seems unable to do?  Halton Region has one of the best records in Canada for keeping taxes low while maintaining and enhancing service levels.

Regional civil servants.

“This is great news for residents and businesses in Halton,” said Regional Chair Gary Carr.  “We are one of the few municipalities in all of Canada that has actually reduced taxes. By maintaining our AAA credit rating and keeping our taxes low we ensure Halton is competitive which attracts jobs and investment to our community.”

Highlights of key investments in the 2014 budget include:

 $177 million in transportation capital investment

$405,000 to create additional child care subsidies

$721,000 to maintain service levels for waste management services

$300,000 to increase the number of SPLIT passes available in the community (subsidy for bus passes for low income residents)

British Royalty paid the Region a visit lat year. Regional Chair Gary Carr was delighted t squire the couple through the Region.  Lord and Lady Action are on the left with a beaming Burlington Councillor John Taylor in the centre. The Action’s were in Burlington as part of a farm tour organized by the Region.

$65,000 to support the development of an Agri-tourism Program to attract more tourism to Halton’s rural communities

$195,000 for Locates (Ontario One Call) a new underground infrastructure notification system

$600,000 to support initiatives outlined in the Comprehensive Housing Strategy

$320,000 for assisted housing programs including continued implementation of subsidies for low income residents

The Regional government maintains a stable of about nine communications specialists – these are the people who pump out the press releases and make sure the good news stories are spread far and wide.

The Region is just one of the levels of government represented on your tax bill.  The city takes its share, then the school boards ask for their share as well.

The people who do all this work on your behalf are the beneficiaries of one of the best pension plans in the country.

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Leblovic’s manage to get at least a part the hearing they’ve wanted on the Chilly Half Marathon route.

December 12, 2013

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON.  They weren’t exactly made welcome at the city council Monday night. At one point it looked as if it was going to be just the one person speaking about the Chilly Half Marathon that is run on Lakeshore Road  every March.

Diane Leblovic was before city council to follow up on her Standing Committee delegation over the route used for the Chilly Half Marathon that runs along Lakeshore Road every March – some 4000+ strong.

A popular race that brings thousands to the city; Unpopular to some of those who live south of Lakeshore Road.

Ms Leblovic had asked if the Marathon portion of the Festivals and Events could be deferred to a date she was available and Council agreed to do so.  Last night was to be her opportunity to deliver some additional “significant” information.  It wasn’t going to be quite that easy for Ms Leblovic.

The list of delegations had three names of people who were to speak about the Marathon which is not the way Councillor Dennison saw things playing out.  He took the position that it was Diane Leblovic who asked for the deferral and it was Diane and Diane alone that was to speak.

That brought out the liberal in John Taylor who was close too aghast that a city council would limit the right of a person to delegate to their city council.

Much toing and froing on that issue with the Clerk being brought in to read through the various pieces of correspondence and the decisions made at previous council and Standing Committee meetings.  Taylor managed to get in several Points of Order and told Council he was going to challenge the Clerk’s decision.   Mayor Goldring finally brought the matter to a close: Diane Leblovic, her husband Nick and Donald Belch  were to each get their five minutes at the podium.

It was worth listening to; both the Leblovic’s dumped on just about everyone.

Diane was there to tell Council that the concerns they had raised were valid and that changes to the marathon race were both possible and reasonable without affecting the integrity of the event..

Ms Leblovic reminded council that on May 21st, Council, without prior notice or discussion, reneged on its earlier commitment to hold a public consultation on this event.

Ms Leblovic explained that their group needed to clearly understand the reason for this unexpected reversal of position.  She asked the Mayor to meet wither and he did so along with Councillor Dennison on May 28th.

As race directors, the VR Pro people are good at their job. Working with difficult situations – perhaps not as good.

At that meeting Mayor Goldring said he had been told by Kelly Arnott, a principle in VRPro, the company that organizes the race that they were about to get a new name sponsor for the event and that the sponsor, who turned out to be Trillium College, would not sign on if there was going to be a public meeting or any controversy relating to the race.

It was at that point that an offer was made, according to Diane Leblovic, for another meeting which would involve the Mayor, Councillor Dennison, Kelly Arnott and Peter Peebles, a staff member who knows the most about setting up this kind of race event.

Ms Leblovic said she had two concerns with any ‘next’ meeting.  She apparently didn’t like the idea of an “open agenda which would permit consideration and discussion of all aspects of the race”.  Ms Leblovic sent the Mayor a list of proposed agenda items and the Mayor provided a detailed response in which “he either rejected or put limitations on many of our suggested agenda items”.

The second issue was to determine the reason for Trillium’s sensitivity over a public consultation about the race.  Ms Leblovic explained that her husband Nick, who was to delegate later, called the president of Trillium College and learned that the College had never heard of the Leblovic group and their efforts to have a public meeting held and denied ever putting pressure on VRPro.

The cat was now out of the bag.

Ms Leblovic explained that the working group was “very unhappy with the outcome of these two events  and “concluded that any meeting would be a waste of time” – it would allow the Mayor to “check the box” saying he had met with the group and “that would be the end of the discussion”.

Ms Leblovic wasn’t done yet.

“We are deeply disappointed that the Mayor and four members of Council and city staff supported a process that was flawed and unfair and that there was an appearance of favouritism to a for profit private business over the legitimate concerns of residents which Leblovic  underlined by telling Council that Kelly Arnott was the first name on the list of delegations and should have been the first person to speak at the Standing Committee meeting but “I have it on good authority” she said “that Councillor Sharman who chaired the meeting directed the Clerk’s office to move Arnott’s name to the bottom of the delegation list thus giving her an unfair, tactical advantage to listen to and rebut the presentations of prior delegations.”

Ms Leblovic still had more arrows in her quiver.  She advised the Council meeting that Councillor Dennison sponsors the Chilly Half Marathon and that his place of business is used for another VR Pro event.

More yet:  Ms Leblovic told Council that VR Pro sponsors the Healing for Woman’s Cancers of which Kelly Arnott is the race director.  The race, according to Ms Leblovic benefits Breast Cancer Support Services whose Chief Executive Officer is Blair Lancaster.  Councillor Lancaster had advised the Mayor at the beginning of the Council meeting that while she did not believe she had a conflict of interest she was nevertheless not going to take part in the debate and would not be voting on the matter.  And she didn’t.

Wow! Diane Leblovic had done her homework and did a very impressive scorched earth exercise.  Council had yet to hear from her husband Nick.

Nick and Diane Leblovic have been “players” in the political life of the city for some time.  Diane served on the school board of trustees and Nick was the chair of the Waterfront Access and Protection Advisory Committee created by former Mayor Cam Jackson as the city was heading into the 2010 municipal election.

That committee had its life cut short when city council sunset the thing in December of last year.  At the time it didn’t look as if that committee, which many felt wasn’t all that effective, was going to have anything in the way of a legacy.  Some of the material they pulled together on possible uses for the Beachway Park and the excellent work that was done by Les Armstrong and his sub-committee on public access to the lake and the Windows on the Lake program, proved to be useful during the debate on the waterfront property on Lakeshore Road between St. Paul and Market streets.  The city has not heard the last of that matter.

Of the two, Diane Leblovic is the better speaker but the lawyer in Nick Leblovic came across strongly when he pointed to what he called a fundamental flaw in a report put out in 2009 when the race was being proposed.  At that time, according to Nick, the report had the eastbound lane of Lakeshore Road closed for 90 minutes – from 10 am to 11:30 am. while the race was run. Leblovic released email that confirmed this information and added “as we all know now the eastbound Lakeshore road has been closed each year since 2010 for between  4 and 4.5 hours” – which Leblovic maintained was not some kind of a “rounding error” but it  almost 300% longer than estimated.

Leblovic wanted to know: “How did this occur?”  Was it incompetence? Or was there a subsequent change to the event that required a significantly longer closure period? Or was the time intentionally underestimated in order to get the new route by Council?

“Given the size of the discrepancy” asked  Nick “one would have thought this issue would have been raised in the post-race evaluations…”.  Nick Leblovic could find nothing in any of the documents he was able to read.

Leblovic asked some leading questions: “Would you have approved the route change in 2009 if the report had contained an estimated closure of Lakeshore Road east of over 4 hours rather than 1.5 hours?”

Nick wanted Council to do two things.  Find out why the 1.5 hour race time grew to 4 hours and require than in future Lakeshore be closed for no more than the 1.5 hours in the original plan.

The length of time Lakeshore Rod as closed is not the only issue for the Leblovic`s and their working group.  The Community Care access organization (CCAC) people who meet the care needs of people who are unable to get out f their homes for the care they need,  work to very tight schedules.  They drive from location to location with next to no wiggle room in the schedule.  Nick Leblovic pointed out that there are people who have to go without the care they need for a full day because the CCAC people are not able to double back to drop in on a person just because the road id closed.

Leblovic maintained the one situation they brought forward was not an isolated one and that there is a high concentration of seniors in retirement homes and multi-residential buildings in the east end.  Like most lawyers Nick was able to see the potential liability to the city were someone to suffer an injury because their care givers were not able to get to their residence. “You are now on notice of this problem and cannot ignore it” he intoned.

Nick had one last suggestion for Council: “One obvious solution would be to eliminate the back and forth aspect of the race which would permit a normal traffic flow along Lakeshore during the race.”

They come by the thousands.

Well that didn’t happen.  Council which had approved all the other Festivals and events at a previous meeting – they had agreed to defer a decision on the Chilly Half Marathon to meet the interest of the Leblovic’s – voted to proceed with the race based on the route used in the past.  Councillor Lancaster had advised earlier that she would not be voting on the matter.  Mayor Goldring, Councillors Sharman, Dennis and Craven voted to follow the Staff recommendation and keep the race route for 2015.   Meed Ward and Taylor voted against the Staff recommendation. It was a recorded vote – expect Meed Ward to use that as she campaigns for re-election in Ward 2 and sets herself up for a run as Mayor in 2018. 

In comments made before the vote Meed Ward was passionate about what the Leblovic’s had had to put up with and applauded them for having the courage to come back to Council again and again to argue their concerns.

What we did learn was that the Ms Leblovic met with City Manager Jeff Fielding who is apparently going to arrange a meeting with Arnott and Ms Leblovic – that should be fun after the mudslinging Ms Leblovic did in her delegation.

Why this issue has ended up on the City Managers desk does raise several serious questions.  The Lakeshore residents had real issues that needed to be dealt with.  One cannot hold people hostage in their homes while several thousand people run a race.

Yes, the date of the race is known well in advance, and the average person should be able to make other arrangements but there are people who are not average in that part of the city; there are people who have special needs.

Imagine for a moment there were e death that a Coroner’s Inquest decided was preventable if a care giver had been able to get to a residence.  Do you want to guess how fast that race would be cancelled forever and would you like to guestimate what the lawsuit might be?

The city has general managers who have direct oversight over how the various departments work.  It does not require a degree in rocket science to figure out ways to get help to people who cannot leave their homes or who have other sound reasons for being able to get out of their streets that are on the south side of Lakeshore Road.

Someone at city hall hasn’t been doing their job on this one.  The race is a hugely popular event, brings in thousands of visitors who spend their money in the city and has to be hugely profitable for the race organizers.  Good for business and good for the city – now find a way to manage the problems of a small group of people.  It’s just a matter of better communication and being sensitive to the real needs of people who need help. .

At the same time let us not see a situation where the genuine needs of a few people are used as a ruse to bring to an end an event that benefits thousands because a neighbourhood does not want to give up a portion of one day in the year.

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City hall wants your insights – they want to pick your brains and do it all in a couple of minutes from the comfort of your keyboard.

December 11, 2013

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON.  They refer to it as “the panel” – it’s a collection of people who want to be on a citizen’s panel that the city will turn to with questions they would like to ask.

A lot of market research companies create these panels of people that they run questions by almost instantly – the trick is to have a panel in place ready to use.  A number of months ago Angus Reid, the Godfather of the polling business in this country, was in town to tell an audience about a service he had developed called Critical Vision that he had sold the city on.

Leah Bisutti, a city hall staffer, has been working out of the city manager’s office on the setting up part of the operation which the city hopes will go live sometime in late January.

It will be a very soft start – the objective is to get a panel with as many people as possible on it – the more people the more accurate the response will be as a measure of opinion on an issue in the city.

Hundreds of Burlington citizens attend budget meetings and give their opinions.  The city wants thousands to take part in a panel that can be reached in seconds and get back responses very very quickly.

There were some concerns that the city would know who the people on the panel are.  The only thing the city will know is the name you give yourself.  The rest of information is on computers to which the city does not have access.

The people who manage the back-end of this computerized poll will want to know your gender, probably your postal code and the ward you live in.  They might want to know your age as well.

This allows them to ask you questions that are appropriate to who you are as a demographic and where you live.  Ward 4 issues don’t mean all that much to people who live in ward 6.

The Vision Critical operation is very good at managing polling data and they can arrive at pretty valid conclusions based on a decent sample.  City hall wants more than a decent sample – they would like to be able to say that we have a significant portion of the panel who tell us they either want or don’t want a particular service provided or they are prepared or not prepared to pay more for a service.

Can we expect to see posters like this on city streets as the city looks for the thousands of citizens it wants to see on its opinion panel.

There is some concern at city hall that too few people will register to be on the panel.  City manager Jeff Fielding points out that Vancouver, another city using the service, needed a year to pull in 1000 people to their panel. 

It can be argued that Burlington has a more active community – we get 200 people out to the Mayor’s Inspire Series and when there is a serious community issue it is not unusual to see 400+ people crowding the Mainway Arena.

The panel, which is a significant, and if responded to by enough people, could become a close to vital tool for the city to get response from people who are busy and not able to get out to meetings but still want an opportunity to voice an opinion.

But it needs people – and that’s you.  If you are a regular Gazette redder and there are now more than 20,000 of them, this is something you want to be in on.

Click on the linkwhich will get you to a box into which you can type your email address.  The people in the city manager’s office will add your name to the list of those interested in taking part.

 Background:

City announces plans for a citizen’s opinion panel.

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Can the planned Lakeshore hotel be ready for 2015 PanAm Games; – 18 months to build a project that doesn’t have final approval.

December 11, 2013

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON.  City Council meetings are a legal requirement.  In Burlington when your elected representatives meet as a Council they usually approve the recommendations that were made by the Standing Committees.

Council adjourns every meeting with a reminder as to when Council is scheduled to meet next and the Mayor, who chairs the Council meetings, states that Council can meet at the call of the Mayor.  During the regular Council meetings various bylaws get passed.  It is the bylaws that give the city the authority to do certain things as set out in the bylaw.

Monday evening Council met and passed six bylaws.  A bylaw was passed to authorize the temporary borrowing of funds from the Royal Bank.  There was another passed to approve the appointment of municipal law enforcement officers for the city of Burlington.  There was also a bylaw to amend the parking bylaw to allow changes to the on-street parking rules  and municipal facility parking.

The view from Lakeshore at Elizabeth street with the hotel on the corner and the seven story condo further south on Elizabeth – closer to the water.  Elizabeth will run south of Lakeshore.  The 22 story condo is on the eastern side.

Slipped in was a bylaw removing the H designation on the biggest development project Burlington has seen for some time – biggest in the sense of the impact it is going to have on the downtown core and the way the citizens of this city see their town.

The developments is taking place in the very core of the city and has been on the planning boards since 1985 when city council approved the project as a “landmark” that was going to put Burlington on the map. The pier was supposed to do that wasn’t it?

The Bridgewater project is a development on the south side of Lakeshore Road the runs from east of Elizabeth, a street that now ends at Lakeshore but will be extended down to the walkway along the lake’s edge.

The project will consist of three structures: A 22 story condominium apartment on the east side of the property,  a seven story condominium apartment that will be on the south-west section of the property  and an eight story hotel that will be on the northwest corner of the property and will be operated by Delta Hotels.

The H part of a zoning designation is put place to signify that there is a hold on the property until certain undertakings have been completed.  In this case there were wind studies to be done and a traffic study to be done.  The city wants to know what the wind patterns are going to be like when a 22 storey building goes up close to the edge of the lake.

This is how the buildings are going to be sited on the property. The opening into the public area from Lakeshore Road  between the hotel on the west and the 22 storey condo on the east is just 50 feet wide.  The public area does widen once you get into the property.  shown on the western side is what they are calling Lakeview Square.  The grading is going to be quite steep as indicated by the steps south of the Square.

View from the lake with the smaller condo in the lower left and the 22 storey condo on the upper right and the public spaces in between. There are a lot of stairs shown just above the promenade which is already in place.

The opening off Lakeshore into the public space is just 50 feet wide. The public may have been expecting a wider “window onto the lake”

With 150 apartment units in the condo  plus 33 other residential units and a hotel with 152 rooms,  traffic along Lakeshore and Elizabeth will be different.  The entrance to the hotel will be on Elizabeth as will entrance to the underground parking.

The property that is being developed was at one point home to the Riviera Motel.  The environmental people needed to know what the condition of the earth was – a certificate was need to certify that it met provincial environmental standards.

This is what Lakeshore will look like once construction is completed. Elizabeth will be on the right and Pearl which ends at Lakeshore will be on the left. The people currently living in the condominiums on the north side of LAkeshore might end up with less of a view.

With the removal of the H designation all the variances that were approved close to a year ago can come into effect.  Some of those variances, approved by the Committee of Adjustment, had conditions attached to them.  These included the provision of various securities – all part of the paperwork that lays behind a development.

When the conditions are met the draft site plan is submitted and assuming that clears the planning hurdles, and there is no reason to expect there to be any problems a building permit can be issued and work can actually begin – shovels in the ground as the politicians like to say.

Couple of things come to the surface on this process.  Council met on Monday and removed that H designation – yet in their remarks neither the Mayor nor the ward 2 council member uttered as much as a word about the project.  It was as if it was a ship that was passing quietly in the night.

Whenever there is good news the politicians are real quick top pick up on it and make sure you know about it.  Monday’s Council meeting had a nasty brutal streak to it with pointed comments being made by almost everyone.  Perhaps the bruises that were left from the meeting were healing.

If this rendering is accurate the site will have a lot of trees which once they mature should make for a very pleasant part of the city. The objective is going to be to get quality commercial operations on the project – the fear many have expressed is a massive Tim Hortons.

Or perhaps there is a problem with the time frames Mayrose-Tyco and Delta have to work within.  The intention was to have the hotel open for the PanAm Games scheduled to be held from July 10–26, 2015.  Officially these are the XVII Pan American Games or the 17th Pan American Games and while Burlington missed out on the opportunity to actually host any of the events the City View Park will be used as a practice field for some of the soccer teams.  The public however will not get to see any of those practices – the PanAm people gave the city a fat cheque that will allow them to take over the grounds.  You probably won’t even be able to walk your dog on the grounds.

City View Park is ready for the Pan Am Games – will hotels rooms be available?

The City View Park will be ready – the same cannot be said for the Bridgewater project.  Officially the project is not yet approved. Mayrose Tyco and Delta have 18 months to dig the hole in the ground and put up the eight story hotel.  Theoretically it can be done – but this project, first approved back in 1985 when it was called Waterfront East and approved when Roly Bird was Mayor and Walter Mulkewich was a member of Council

Was the possibility that the project will not get done in time to be used during the PanAm Games explain why the politicians said nothing before they all scooted away for the holidays?

Background:

Why is waterfront development taking s long?

Bridgewater edges closer to actual construction.

Riviera Motel set ablaze, doesn’t burn down; wreckers will be on site real soon.

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Last Council meeting for the year – another kick at marathon route and hidden in the agenda is a potentially big tax increase.

December 8, 2013

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON.  It will be the last time this city council meets this year.  Along with the usual reports  from the Standing Committees there is an item that was deferred from the last Council so that a delegation can appear to urge the city to re-review the decision to have the Chilly Half Marathon run along a different route.

Nick and Diane Leblovic delegated at the November 13 meeting of the Community Services Committee.

After considerable discussion on November 13th the Standing Committee decided to stick with the staff recommendation which was to continue to have the race run along Lakeshore Road.  The Leblovic’s provided extensive written material in the form of a petition, emails and letters.  Councillor Meed Ward put forward an amendment to the Staff Direction that would create a committee to “organize discussions between City Staff, VRPro and members of the Lakeshore residents working group to consider changes to the Chilly Half Marathon to, among other things, minimize the negative impact of the race on Lakeshore area residents.”

It is a hugely popular event. It takes place on a Sunday morning every March – and it is in all probability going to take place in March of 2014 along Lakeshore Road.

It was pretty clear at that meeting that city staff saw no need for a meeting with any working group – they had done their homework and advised city council Lakeshore Road was the best route.

The Meed Ward amendment was defeated and at that point the Leblovic’s left the meeting.   Discussion on the issue however continued during which time Mayor Goldring mentioned that he and Councilor Dennison had offered to meet with the Leblovic’s but that they were turned down.  In their request to have the vote on the Chilly Half Marathon deferred the Leblovic’s said the took exception to “the Mayor’s action in making this statement after we had left the meeting.  The Mayor could have raised this issue in questions to me which would have provided me with an opportunity to provide important background and context to his statement.”

The Leblovic’s went on to say “the Mayor failed to disclose significant additional information concerning to an earlier meeting with him and Councillor Dennison and to related discussions and communications which took place during May and June of this year.”

The Leblovic document went on to say that: “ If the Mayor had made his statement when questioning me I would certainly have provided this additional information in my responses  which would have provided  a clearer  and more complete understanding of the positions of the parties and the reasons for the decisions that were taken.”

What one wonders is why this “significant additional information” was not given during their 10 minute delegation.

City staffs were very clear in their recommendation – the Lakeshore Road route was the best location for an event that draws well in excess of 4000 people.

It was evident that more attention needs to be given to handling the individual problems that crop up.  Some people have care givers that need to be able to get into their property – surely such situation can be managed.

The Leblovic’s said the “actions of the Committee in having this debate in our absence is not only un-parliamentary, unfair and inappropriate but provides a limited and one-sided picture of the events and circumstances in question.”  They asked that the final vote be deferred – and it was.  That final vote will take place Monday evening at which time there is no reason at this point to expect anything other than to see the Staff Recommendation approved.

The Chilly Half Marathon dates are known close to a year in advance; it should be possible to organize one’s personal life to accommodate a major sports event.   New Street gets shut down for several hours every year for the Santa Claus parade and some people are locked in – admittedly not as many as during the marathon.

A slight change of subject:

The current council set itself a goal of not more than a 10% tax increase during their four-year term. For 2011, 2012 and 2013 the total tax increase on residential property amounted to 8.65% – this included the hospital levy.
When you add in the 4.66 that is a preliminary projection to that total,  citizens are looking at a 13.31% tax increase over the four-year term. That is going to take some explaining as this Council heads into an election year. The preliminary numbers were in a report on “economic drivers” discussed at a Council Standing Committee last week.

 Council meetings at times appear to be a races to get through the Standing Committee reports.  Within those reports are some critically important documents that need both public attention and discussion.  There are problems on the not so distant horizon that need attention.

The report from the Committee of the Whole that met on Thursday will get all of two minutes – but tucked inside that document was the suggestion from the city manager that Burlington residents could be facing a 4.66% tax increase in 2014 – which would blow the promised 10% increase for the term of this council right out of the water.

The significant seven are heading into an election year and this is not something they want to talk about – not at this time.

More on that later.

Background:

Lakeshore Road area residents delegate to council for a different route for Chilly Half Marathon.

 

 

 

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Is ward 1 shaping up to be a hot race before nominations are even opened? Could Councillor Craven be in trouble?

December 8, 2013

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON.  “Talk about a one issue candidate” was the first comment I got when I asked a colleague what she thought of the announcement Katherine Henshell made of her plans to run for the ward 1 council seat in the October 2014 municipal election.

Many see Henshell as a Beachway community advocate who owns property in that part of the city and didn’t like the plans the Region made to eventually buy up all the property and turn every square foot of the space into a park.

Henshell published an idea to turn another part of the city into a park and set out a decent social and economic argument for turning a piece of property into a place where people could observe the birds that call Royal Botanical Gardens home.  What some didn’t realize was that the piece was a very tongue in cheek poke at the current ward Councillor – the land Henshell was suggesting being turned into a park was the home of Councillor Craven.

Katherine Henshell  trudging along to a practice on a Saturday morning.

The idea managed to get some traction in other media – the Toronto Star carried the story and a friend suggested to Henshell that she should run for Council. That planted the seed that has a woman who is a mother with a 15 month daughter, a lawyer with an active practice, a regular hockey player as well as a Seminary student gearing up to run for public office.

Henshell once played as goalie – she now plays defense. Now wants to run interference on city council

A native of Sault St. Marie Henshell has been active in sports all her life.  Highland dancing, volleyball, basketball – anything physical had her out of the house.  When she graduated from high school it was straight into university and then on to graduate work. Henshell wasn’t sure if she wanted to do religious studies or law.  The legal profession won out.  It was while she was studying law at Osgoode – York University – that she decided to live with her sister who lives in Burlington that she got to know this city.

It would be reasonable to describe Henshell as competitive and probably a type A personality.  During her high school sports years she played at the all Ontario level in several sports.

She appears to be a joiner as well.  Active in both the Burlington and Hamilton bar associations Henshell served on the Regional Crime Prevention committee where “we talked quite a bit about appropriate behaviour for young people today”.  For Henshell it is about being responsible for your own behaviour.  Her view that “We each have responsibilities we need to meet, budgets that we need to live within” comes through very clearly.  Politically Henshell describes herself as conservative but she has not been active politically.

What she does appear to have is an incredible energy level and a capacity to soak up ideas quickly.  It doesn’t take Henshell long to drill right into an idea and ask questions.

If she doesn’t understand something – she asks questions.  Actually she doesn’t ask questions – she peppers a person with questions.

Henshell doesn’t come from a family of means.  As a kid she didn’t get to enjoy the trips to Disneyland – when she and her husband were first married they took a trip to Disney in Florida. “No kids” she said “we didn’t have any yet.”

There are no pretensions to this woman.  What you see is what you get.

Henshell seems to be able to connect with people easily.  Why politics – why now – and is she a one issue politician?

Weekends and some evenings on an ice rink keep the mother of a 15 month old with an active law practice in shape.

Henshell wasn’t comfortable with her delegation to city council.  “I had the sense that they weren’t listening and their understanding of the “willing buyer/willing seller” line the Region was using made absolutely no sense.  The people in the Beachway are being robbed of the opportunity to earn the 5%  to 7% annual appreciation of their property that most people in Burlington realize.  They are being held hostage by a set of rules their municipal government put in place – Henshell wonders how many other situations where people are not being treated fairly by city hall.

This woman will be a formidable candidate.  The race in ward 1 will not be a cake walk this time around for Councillor Craven.  He might want to take a close look at the provincial seat should there be a provincial election before there is a municipal election.

Background:

Henshell proposes new park for east end of the city.

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Joseph Brant hospital tops off Family Medical Centre; announces schedule for hospital construction.

December 8, 2013

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON.  It has been a good year for the Joseph Brant Hospital. Not as good a year for old Jo Brant himself – the Pooh-Bahs at the hospital decided to drop the word Memorial from the official name and came up with a spiffy new corporate logo as well.  Times change.

The hospital did a topping off ceremony for the Halton McMaster Family Health Centre (there’s a name screaming for something shorter) and announced how well the fund raising program has been doing.  Incredibly well is the best way to describe the $16.5 million that has been raised.  The target is $60 million the hospital foundation has been tasked to find.

In the world of fund raising “seven digits” is what you go looking for – it’s sort of like the single malt of the fund raising world – and these are not easily come by.  Romancing seven digits calls for a skill set few can bring to the table.  Anissa Hilborn, president of Burlington’s  Joseph Brant Hospital Foundation has done a remarkable job.  The rate of donations is “unheard of”,  which is a testament to both the Foundation and the generosity of the community.

Today there is $16.5 million in campaign commitments – achieved in less than two years’ time.

The Molinaro family brought $1 million to the table, the Hogarth clan followed with an additional million.  The Sante/Peller family added $500,000.  Before any of this happened the Boards and Senior leadership at the hospital put their names down for $23.5 million.

Burlington’s four Rotary Clubs put themselves down for $1 million.  Before anyone got out a cheque book however the hospital auxiliary committed to $3.5 million

Ambassador Giving Societies and Circles were launched in January of this year. The Crystal Ball Gala will be held on September 14 of 2014.  It is all rolling out rather well.

The public phase of the campaign will be launched when $45 million of the $60 million goal has been reached.  All of this is no small achievement and is a significant credit to the Campaign Cabinet made up of 20 community and business leaders.

The Family Medical Centre will be in the structure under construction on the left – with the parking garage on the right.  There will be a passageway from the parking garage right into the hospital.  No word yet on the parking prices.

With the fund raising well in hand – hospital CEO Eric J. Vandewall  talked about the progress and the construction schedule.  First piece of good news was that the provincial government put a little more money on the table.

Next: the hospital has settled on three consortiums who are going to bid on the construction of the building which will be an additional story higher than originally planned:  seven floors instead of the six in the original thinking – however the building is going to look a lot bigger than just seven floors of space for people to get better in. 

They have a timeline in place – now to keep everyone fully informed.

There will be an additional two floors above the actual hospital which will house all the electrical and mechanical equipment making the building look like a nine story structure which will be a couple of hundred yards from the edge of the lake and will dominate the western side of the city.

In the very near future Burlington’s sky line is going to experience a radical change with the Bridgewater condominium/hotel in the middle of town soaring to a height of 22 storeys and the hospital reaching up nine storeys.

The hospital site will take on a campus like setting with the buildings oriented to the lake.

The project is being headed up by Infrastructure Ontario – they work hand in glove with the hospital scoping out just what is needed, where value engineering can be used to get the best for the dollars being spent.  It is at this level that Vandewall  shines.  The work he did in Mississauga  prepared him for the Joseph Brant challenge.

What was originally going to be the renovation of an aging hospital that was well past its best before date, and carrying a nasty reputation as well, has morphed into basically a rebuild with a brand new facility set off to the western side.

Vandewall does remarkable work – he is unfortunately not as well served on the communications side.  The hospital is filled with great good news stories that don’t get told.  Their media relations are terrible.

Entrance to the hospital will be from either the parking garage which will be on the west side of the hospital connected by a passageway or from the street level entrance that will front onto Lakeshore Road.

The new tower will have 172 new beds; there will be a new Emergency department; a new intensive care unit, a renovated Special Care Nursery.

While the focus is on the hospital, contractors have been working away at the Halton McMaster Family Health Care Centre that will attract ten new family practice doctors.  Attached to the Health Care Centre will be a three level parking garage with capacity to have an additional two floors of parking added.

The hospital site will take on the look and feel of a campus – it will be a much different site than the collection of services out there now.  All the construction work gets done while the care givers and the surgeons continue to go about their daily work.

Background on hospital development:

Paying the CEO

Parking garage – how it got paid for.

Getting the Family Medical Centre

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Developer sells units in a project that has yet to be given zoning change approval. “Unseemly” says city hall.

December 6, 2013

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON.  A very senior source at city hall called it “unseemly”.  Some think it might be outright fraud but the people at ADI Developments think it’s just fine.

Popular prices, great location and innovative design.  Tighten up the marketing practices and this could be the project of the year.

ADI, relatively new to Burlington as developers, have shown some surprisingly innovative designs that move away from the stilted, safe approach many developers take.  Their project on Guelph Line, that is now under construction, was a nice jolt of energy and the project at Sutton and Dundas Road is certainly not what that part of the city has seen in the past.

Shovels now in the ground for a a smart, exciting development on Guelph Line.

Smart design, innovative features and a willingness to comply with the suggestions from the planners got the Adi brothers close to being named  the poster boys of the development community.

The two brothers who operate the company, with their Dad back stopping them, saw real potential with Village Square and attempted to find a negotiating point with the Friedman family at which something could be agreed upon.  That didn’t work out and Village Square has since been taken off the market.  Many wonder if the property was ever really for sale.

Artists Walk has also been closed – Debra Friedman has decided to close the operation that was a venue for local artistic talent.

The ADI development on the north-east part of the city is certainly different from past projects by other developers and should appeal to a younger market.

The issue at city hall with ADI Developments is the sale of units at the LINK project out on Sutton and Dundas.  Their application for a zoning change has yet to be approved but the company is believed to be selling units in the development.

What this amounts to is the selling of something the developer does not yet have.  The zoning change they have asked for is reasonable and it will set out how many units are going to be permitted in the project.

The LINK project snuggled right up to Bronte Creek where there should be exceptional views for the units on the east side.  Some very innovative design work done with this project.

Once that is known the developer can then do a final pricing and roll out a marketing plan.  Until the zoning is in place offering a unit for sale, while not illegal, does raise some questions as to just what a buyer is getting.

Developers do have problems in financing a project.  Bankers and other sources of cash want some assurance the project is going to work and that the units built will be sold.  So they pre-sell.  A developer loves to be able to put up one of those “60% sold” sign on a project.  It satisfies the bankers and gives buyers a sense of confidence as well.

Selling units in a project that doesn’t have zoning approval is not something planners are uncomfortable with.  If something goes wrong the public tends to turn to the city and ask why this was permitted.  It leaves a poor impression of the city and, as it was explained to us: “it isn’t the best of practices”.

ADI developments did not respond to a request for comment.

Other ADI development stories:

Guelph Line project breaks ground.

Developer sees potential at Village Square, tries to romance the owners daughter

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Roseland residents asking for an interim control bylaw that will halt all develoment – planner describes it as “draconian”.

December 5, 2013

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON.  Change is an awkward process.  We say we are OK with change but we rarely approach it with a full heart – we kind of shuffle along towards it.

Wise tree planting when development was done originally has given the city a community that has increased in value and given it a character the residents want to maintain.  Developers want to cash in on the wise decisions made a long time ago.

The people of Roseland are struggling to deal with change.  In the years 2012 and 2013, the City and Roseland Community Organization (RCO) have been involved with appeals to the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) opposing development applications that do not conform to the City’s Official Plan. These repetitive applications are draining the resources of both the City and RCO.

Burlington is currently going through a very involved and complex Official Plan Review (OPR), something every city is required to do every five years.

There is a concept in the world of planners that while not new – it is new to Burlington and was introduced to use by Anne McIlroy, a planning consultant who has been involved as a consultant for Burlington for a long time.  They are called Character Area Studies – intended to take a deep look at the character of a community and determine why it is as it is and what parts of it can be saved and what parts can be changed.

Councillor Rick Craven had asked that the Indian Point community in ward 1 have a character study done – when the Roseland people learned about the concept they asked to have Roseland included.

Located on the east side of the city bordering the lake. Roseland is home to many very senior executives – probably the most powerful collection of people in the city.

The RCO crowd are now arguing that if there is to be Roseland Character Area Study in order to address shared concerns, and if it is going to take a couple of more years to adopt the revised OP, then it is “appropriate and prudent to adopt an interim control by-law postponing this type of application until the appropriate regulations are in place.”

By “this type of application”  the good people of Roseland mean those situations where development is taking place that results in significant change to the character of their community.  One resident set out, quite clearly what the issue is:

In the past 5 or 6 years, a number of houses in Roseland have been demolished and replaced by ones of considerably greater size, often through the granting of minor variances. (As an example, the 70 foot lot diagonally behind our property is in the process of having its 1500 square foot bungalow replaced by a 5000 square foot multistory house).  I and others in Roseland recognize that today’s homebuyers wish to have more “built space” and less “botanical space”, and are prepared to pay a substantial price for such a property.  However the effect of these houses on both the smaller ones around them and the neighbourhood streetscape has become a cause for considerable concern.

About 100 people gathered at the Roseland Community Centre and discussed their concerns.  The meeting arrived at a startling conclusion:

  1. Interim Control By-Law for the Roseland area to immediately halt applications for land severance and accompanying minor variances until both the Roseland Character Area Study being undertaken is completed, and consideration is given to the implementation of related Official Plan amendments;
  2. Establish additional regulations within this proposed Interim Control By-law to stop the demolition of existing dwellings within Roseland thereby ensuring that future new housing will be built in compliance with the future recommendations evolving from the Roseland Character Area Study.

City planner Bruce Krushelnicki described interim control bylaws as “draconian” – they are a blunt, brutal instrument and they do have limitations.  The city can, if it so chooses put in such a bylaw that can last for just one year.  The bylaw can be renewed for a second year but after that the bylaw must be lifted and cannot be imposed on that community again.  Such a bylaw could be imposed on some other part of the city.

The following is a collection of some of the notes that individuals put on large pieces of poster paper: at the Roseland AGM.  Their frustration is evident – their understanding of just how brutal an interim control bylaw is  – is not as evident.  These things have a tendency to come with a clutch of unintended consequences.

The community has strength and money written all over it.

The list is extensive:

 “Freeze all building permits “ON HOLD” to avoid the ongoing levelling of existing homes to make way for new builds until study and plan have been approved…i.e.  Rossmore has lost most of its homes

Preamble needed:  There should be a preamble to the document, a very brief description of Roseland as a “long-established aggregate of historically diverse homes and a community of residents of all ages and backgrounds.”

Absolutely–   We are tired of working so hard just to preserve the neighbourhood we bought into.  We have already put much of our own money into protecting ourselves from speculators. 

Interim Control By-law is essential to maintain veracity of the neighbourhood.  We also need to stop the razing of bungalows to be replaced by large houses that are out of character with Roseland.

I wish this had been done years ago- our house is surrounded by “variances” and it is not what anyone wants. 

This is an essential first step which halts the process which most damages the neighbourhood character.

Yes to this freeze and pass an Interim Control By-law.

Renewal and progress are inevitable and valued.  No one wants that to stop.  We want it to respect the character, streetscape and charm of the entire neighbourhood.

Interim Control By-law:  I agree we should freeze severance applications until council completes the Roseland Character Area Study. 

Exclude developers from meetings involving our area.  Their only stake in our community is short term.

Yes it is essential to have an Interim Control By-Law.

Please define “minor variance”.  There seems to be no limit to variance.

Please freeze all minor variances until the Character Area Study is completed!

Redevelopment of Roseland is out of control, particularly in the last few years.  Much of this redevelopment, including lot severances, has been by developers, purely for profit, to the detriment of the unique characteristics -> lot widths, trees, architecture of Roseland.  Therefore, an interim control by-law is essential before it is too late.

Interim Control By-Law:  appropriate and fair to the community.

Agree with freeze or until official plan review is completed. 

Given what has transpired around us, this is a good first step, one that is vital to maintain an orderly transition and understanding of proposed changes called for by council.

Roseland homes have character, there are no cookie cutter homes. It is a community that just simply works and they residents want to keep it that way.

I believe this is a necessary first step in the process.  –> these severance/minor variance applications threaten to alter the essential nature /character of the neighbourhood

Yes- agree but would like to see even stronger controls, e.g. on reduction of setbacks by 50%

An excellent and necessary step to ensure that any development from today will fit with the eventual new Official Plan.

Developers are using our neighbourhood as their inventory for their business: complete one house; move to the next property; and, keep marching down the street – use the construction processes to disrupt the quality of neighbourhood life, forcing people out. They know the by-laws and use them to their advantage – we want an interim control by-law that will stop this until we get a new Official Plan.

Established communities are assets to all of Burlington and not just their residents.  Once lost they cannot be regained.

Burlington’s Official Plan must recognize the reality of Burlington– that it is made up of unique communities which give Burlington its character.

Some areas of our neighbourhood have (almost) reached the tipping point where the developers’ new builds outnumber the older homes and the character has been destroyed.  It has to stop.

Recognition of Burlington’s various neighbourhoods and communities essential to maintaining our livable status buildings in established communities needs different rules than fresh communities

Preserve Roseland as an established community and don’t allow changes to our historically diverse characteristics.

I’m very concerned about the excessive amount of time (that) construction vehicles are blocking traffic in Roseland- especially on Rossmore.

Need to set policies on “established” communities in the Official Plan and not just focus on “new” communities       -need a definition of what an “established” community is

Maintaining the historical diversity of the neighbourhood is important.

Reinforce the need to different planning approach in different areas in the city. 

Perhaps all council members should take a walk or drive through the neighbourhood to understand the uniquely beautiful style of this area.

It would be good for new buyers to be aware of this–before the damage is done.  That being said, there has been quite a precedent set already for what NOT to do.

Yes…we in Roseland are unique and we need to preserve our special characteristics!  People in Burlington like to park cars here and walk.   -> Historically diverse     -> charming, character type homes

Yes, enhance why Roseland needs to be recognized as corporate culture specific to Roseland…this community’s specific values  –History of our past being successful lived in the present add the point somehow

Consideration has to be given to neighbours who have to endure the noise of the building process that is allowed to start at 7:00 a.m. and even all weekend.

Stop allowing the construction of “super-sized” homes.   They don’t add to the character of Roseland.

Roseland should be used as an example of an established community and the benefit of community planning with the City’s Official Plan.  Roseland could be used as a model for established community governance.

I want to see Roseland recognized as an established community with specific characteristics including valuing our historic diversity in our homes.

Add “historically diverse” to description of our neighbourhood.

“Growing in Place” is all about established unique communities with their own policies.  It’s in the Strategic Plan for this council.

Community is special and historic and should be designated as such.  Beware tearing down and rebuilding.”

Every community is unique.  People move to a community for a reason – they identify with the feel of the streets, the amenities that are available, transportation in and out of the community – a host of reasons.

When people decide on where they want to live they kind of expect it to remain the way it was when they decided to move in.

Roseland happens to have an eclectic mix of houses that go from a small bungalow sitting next to a large three-story structure that has all kinds of character and sweeping lawns and wonderful gardens.  It is more than physical character in Roseland – it is the people and the way the streets are laid out and how neighbours walk across the street to each other.  It is a tight-knit group – they can be tough as a society as well.  When the formed their community organization they promptly blackballed their member of council because he wanted to sub divide his lot.

These are intelligent people of means, the speak in paragraphs and don’t move their lips when they read.

The communities tree canopy is superb – the residents want to keep it that way and want to see a tree bylaw as well.

They have asked for an interim control bylaw.  City council kind of coughed over that ask and gingerly handed it over to the city planner and asked him to come with the upside and downside of imposing such a bylaw.

When this report is delivered to the Standing Committee that hears these things – be prepared for the howls from the developers who are buying up whatever they can and putting bigger houses on whatever they can purchase

Roseland worked right from the beginning of its development.  The depression in the ’30s stopped the growth but the community adapted and now has a mix of large homes with much smaller bungalows tucked in here and there.

RCO defines itself as a non-profit corporation established to keep Roseland as the special place we all know it is. Our intent is not to stop change, but rather to shape it. RCO’s mission is to:

    1. Sustain the character of Roseland by maintaining a vigilant posture to planning and development matters.
    2. Provide a means for communication among residents within Roseland and with City Hall, and a means for their participation in decisions that affect the livability and quality of our community.
    3. Take initiatives on projects which enhance the character of Roseland, preserve its heritage, and sustain its greenery.

It will be very interesting to read what the planner comes back with – and even more interesting to see how Roseland decides it wants to evolve.

 

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City Standing Committee structure modified – cut down to just two that will hold evening meetings to accommodate the public.

December 5, 2013

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON.  Burlington now has just two Standing Committees that preview staff reports that eventually go to city council for a vote – where it must be said again – the way each Council member votes is not public unless a member of Council asks for a recorded vote.

Reports on Planning & Building, Engineering, Transportation, Roads and Parks Maintenance matters go to the Development & Infrastructure Standing Committee

 Reports on matters relating to Clerks, Information Technology, Legal, Finance, Human Resources, Transit, Corporate Strategic Initiatives, Parks and Recreation and Fire go to the Community & Corporate Services Standing Committee.

Councillor Lancaster preps for a Standing Committee meeting which she will chair for the first time.

Councillor Lancaster is chair of the Development & Infrastructure Committee with Councilor Craven serving as the vice chair. Councilor Meed Ward serves as chair of Community and Corporate committee where Councilor Sharman serves as vice chair.  The budget will be run through the Community and Corporate committee.

There is also an Audit Committee which will meet on Wednesday’s at 3:30 p.m. and only the meetings required will be scheduled.

Committee of the Whole meetings will be used for Council training, workshops on complex matters and meetings with other levels of government and outside agencies and will be held on Thursday’s at 1:00 p.m. until 3:00 p.m.  Council will get its first peek at a draft of the budget city hall is preparing later this week.

Municipal elections put a bit of a crimp in what council can do during an election year which means there will not be any Committee of the Whole meetings after July 1st, 2014.

As we go into 2014 the politicians begin to change colour and to some degree character.  They become more acutely aware of a public they will be appealing to in a short period of time and some may want to think in terms of polishing up the image so they don’t have to polish up the resume come October 2014.

 

 

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Local “People’s Inquiry” supports a mock trial for Premier Wynne and members of her government.

December 4, 2013

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON.  She was somewhere between 35 – maybe touching 40.  Kleenex in her hands to manage the tears as she gave “testimony” before a mock trial that was held at St. Christopher’s Anglican Church on Guelph Line.

Appearing before three “citizen judges” this witness told of how she had to understand why she was marginalized.

“I once had a comfortable life, I had a car, the trappings, I had a good job, I had friends but then the downsizing took place and I was the one with a new child that was not well and needed a lot of time and attention.

“I has RRSP’s and I knew how to manage.  All that can and did change for me more rapidly than I ever imagined possible.

“I have had to move five times in the last three years.  As a last desperate attempt to find accommodation I could afford I tried sharing accommodation with another single mother – but it didn’t work out and I had to call my case worked when my son was threatened by a child with scissors.  In a flash I was homeless – marginalized.

“I was poor, I was unworthy and made to feel like a low life.

“I was food insecure.  I was housing insecure.

“I felt un-liked, wasted, humiliated – embarrassed.  I began to feel invisible.  People that were part of your life change when you are poor.  I was seen as someone with a disease, as someone with an affliction.

“I couldn’t get a job – no one would take a chance on me.

“People in my situation are looked upon as lazy, as people who chose the life they are living.

“There is no poverty in Burlington because we don’t see poor people on the streets.  For those of us who are very low income people paying $1000 a month for a one bedroom apartment just isn’t possible.

“The politicians don’t understand what it means to be marginalized.”

They sat as ‘citizen judges’ hearing testimony from the marginalized and delivered a verdict that the Premier of the province should be brought before a mock trial in Toronto and charged with failing to live up to her promise to run a social justice government.

This witness was one of several who gave “testimony” in Burlington on Wednesday at a “People’s Inquiry”.  It is one of 20 being held across the province and will culminate in a mock trial in Toronto where the Premier Kathleen Wynne, her Finance Minister and Minister of Community and Social Services will be served with a summons charging them with failing to deliver on the promise to be a social justice government.

The marginalized believe that the Premier has described herself as a social justice advocate and tells the public that is who she is – but those who are on the receiving end of social support see little justice in what they are receiving.

Mike Balkwill, part of a group of community activists working under the Put Food in the Budget umbrella,  asked the 20 or so people at the Burlington inquiry what they felt they could do to have the Premier act on her social justice promise.  The local People’s Inquiries” and the mock trail planned for some time in February are designed to draw attention to where the Premier is failing.

Premier Wynne told the media that social justice is her top priority. A tough statement to take at face value when there are 400,000 people using food banks every month in Ontario.  Wynne’s claim “is believable only if she significantly increases social assistance rates and puts food in the budget of people who are poor in Ontario.”  It is her failure to make even a meaningful increase in assistance that has her being brought before a mock trial.

Wynne runs a minority government and at some point she is going to have to go to the people and ask for their support.  We will support her – will she support us? Was the question most of the people at the Burlington Inquiry were asking.

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Fixing our electoral system; does what we have in place now reflect the wishes of the people who get out and vote?

December 4, 2013

By Ray Rivers

BURLINGTON, ON.  Well there you have it.  Four by-elections last Monday, Nov 25,  and nothing changed.  The polling advantage is always with the opposition in a by-election, so while the Liberal numbers were up, they only managed to keep the seats they had – which means the Conservatives won.

We live in a polarized nation with strong party loyalties in some key geographic regions of the country, so that should not have been an unexpected outcome. But even so, in that close Brandan-Souris by-election, more people voted against, than for, the candidate who won. This is because our political system hands victory to the one with the most votes, regardless how small a percentage of all the votes that might be.  Its called first-past-the-post(FPP) – something designed for a two-party system, which we dont have.

Jean Chretien won a majority by splitting the right-wing vote and coming up the middle.

Jean Chretien snatched his first parliamentary majority between the jaws of the split right-wing vote, the PCs and Reform, allowing him to come up through the middle and win with the support of less than half the electorate.  Stephen Harper is a keen observer of history and a quick-study, so he followed Chretiens lead.  He began by uniting the two parties on the right.  Then he focused on eroding the Liberals strengths and boosting the NDP in their stead. His strategy worked thanks to the Sponsorship scandal, unfortunate Liberals leadership choices, and an ever-opportunistic Jack Layton, pandering to the separatists.  Though Harpers win was even more skewed than Chretiens – at less than 40% of the vote – win he did.

But isnt there something wrong with this picture?  Over 85 democratic nations around the world have adopted alternate electoral systems which better represent the public will.  And, in my book that makes those nations better democracies.  I am most familiar with New Zealands proportional electoral system, first introduced following a referendum in the early 1990s and supported by 85% of the voters.  It is a mixed-member system where half the electoral seats are selected via the traditional FPP, as we have here.  And then the balance are awarded to each political party based on their share of the popular vote. 

Since it is rare that one political party wins an absolute majority in a multi-party system, cooperation and coalitions among parties are the norm.  And multiple parties means greater policy choices for the voters.  If minority government gives you unease, recall that that we experienced some of Canadas best government when the parties worked together in a minority situation, with Pearson in 60s and Trudeau in the 70s. Still, referenda on moving to some form of proportional electoral system were recently held in B.C. and Ontario, and both failed.  In the case of Ontario, the result was unsurprising given the McGuinty governments almost stealth-like lead-up to the vote. 

Stephen Harper realized he had to unite the right – he did and he has been winning ever since.

Federal elections in Australia are conducted using a preferential ballot, another option.  Voters prioritize candidates on their ballot.  If no one wins a simple majority on the first ballot, second and third choices are counted, as needed, until a candidate meets the 50% threshold.  Under this system Jean Chretien would not likely have had three majority terms of office, nor would Harper today.  The federal Liberal party adopted a resolution, at their last policy conference, to move to a preferential ballot when they next come to power, but once in power governments often lose heart to change the system that got them there.

Amid Senate-gate and so much attention focused on what to do with the largely symbolic Senate, there has been little discussion about the lower house, the Commons.  Ontario MP Michael Chong has been working on a private members bill intended to add accountability to the role of the MP and to rein in dictatorial PMs.  Chong had been a minister in the early Harper government but resigned over the problematic Quebec is a nation resolution, which his boss rammed through Parliament.  Given his background and the potential threat his initiative poses for prime ministerial control, it is unlikely his bill will see the light of day.

The objective of any election is for the voters to win.  do Canadians feel they have won today?

And even if the Liberals get into government and implement their preferential ballot, what is the chance that a subsequent government would not simply quash that system, the way Harper killed Chretiens progressive electoral funding program?  We might just have to content ourselves with being stuck with an inferior electoral system.  And continue to see elections like the one in Brandon-Souris, last Monday, where the Conservative candidate won with a respectable 44% of the vote.  Respectable, that is, until we realize that over half of all the voters opposed him. 

Ray Rivers writes weekly on both federal and provincial politics, applying his more than 25 years as a federal bureaucrat to his thinking.  Rivers was a candidate for provincial office in Burlington where he ran against Cam Jackson in 1995, the year Mike Harris and the Common Sense Revolution swept the province. He developed the current policy process for the Ontario Liberal Party.

Background:

Michael Chong: Caucus should get to call the shots.

2011 Federal election results:

Brandon-Souris election results 

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