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

By Pepper Parr

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That for 2012-14 staff develop budgets:

    At the 2011 approved complement level

    For each additional position a reduction be identified

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

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

An FTE stands for a Full time employee.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Staff

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Staff

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Staff

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Mayor also touted the Inspire Burlington series he has planned for the year with the first event taking place April 12th, 7 pm at the McMaster University deGroote School of Business, South Service Road campus. Featured speaker will be Christopher Hume, the Architecture critic for the Toronto Star. Registration forms are at: https://cms.burlington.ca/Page6907.aspx

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Halton Liberals pick their Beauty Queen. Two mothers will battle it out for the seat in the House of Commons.

By Staff

BURLINGTON, ON March 24, 2011 – For those Burlingtonians who live north of Upper Middle Road – you have a Liberal candidate, nominated and ready to run in the federal election race that may start as early as this Friday when the Leader of the Opposition puts forward a motion in the House of Commons stating that the government no longer has the confidence of the House.

When that kind of a vote is held and the government loses the Prime Minister is obliged to call on the governor General and ask that an election be called.

Connie Laurin Bowie wins Halton nomination. Why the red jacket? She's a Liberal.

Connie Lauren Bowie, a 20 year Halton region resident was nominated at a meeting in Oakville Tuesday evening

The Burlington federal Liberals have yet to determine who their candidate is going to be but that hasn’t stopped the current federal member in Burlington from getting his ducks lined up.

So, for the political junkies, life takes on a whole new meaning. A federal election as early in May and then a provincial election early in October. They will be in seventh heaven.

However, in the world of politics a day is a month and a month is a year – you just never know. The players though are making it look as if an election will be held and Connie Lauren Bowie is now nominated to run against Lisa Raitt, the current member of the House of Commons for Halton, who has a bit a hole to get herself out of. Her press hasn’t been exactly positive the last while.

Connie Lauren Bowie, a 20-year Halton resident, brings a background that includes international experience as the Executive Director of Inclusion International, a global Non-Governmental Organization that has fought for the rights of those with disabilities and their families with great success for over 50 years.

Hockey Mom with international experience in the field as the Executive Director of Inclusion International.

Laurent Bowie has successfully secured tax relief for families who have children with disabilities, advocated for the extension of maternity leave to one year, and helped to negotiate an inclusive approach to a federal/provincial agreement on early childhood care. Connie Laurin-Bowie has experience in government, working in a senior role for a cabinet minister in the Government of Ontario. She has helped craft solutions to issues related to education, criminal justice, health, tax relief, and immigration – and translated them into policies that made sense for Canadians. Connie is fluent in both official languages and speaks conversational Spanish.

To the best of our knowledge Laurent Bowie does not claim to walk on water but she did win a three way nomination battle that had her glued to a cell phone for a couple of months.

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

By Pepper Parr

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Burlington Green also has a proposal.

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

By Pepper Parr

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Pepper Parr

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

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

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

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

Pushing for no tax increase in 2011

Pushing for no tax increase in 2011

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Telephone numbers for each are listed below:

Mayor Goldring 905-335-7607

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Federal Liberals to choose candidate on Sunday. Only one name is public so far.

By Staff

BURLINGTON, ON March 25, 2011 – Burlington federal Liberals will hold their nomination meeting on Sunday ; 2 pm, at the Burlington Library. That suggests an election is a real, real possibility.

By the end of Sunday then the three major parties will have chose their candidates. Then the games begin.

The New Democrats chose their candidate, David Laird, last May. And the Progressive Conservatives hold the seat. No word yet from the Greens.

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

By Pepper Parr

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

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

Red has turned blue. Heagle to seen PC provincial nomination

Red has turned blue. Heagle to seen PC provincial nomination

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There is another announced candidate. Journalist Brad Reaume threw his hat into the ring a few days before Heagle. Blogger Russ Campbell describes Reaume, as a senior adviser to Halton Progressive Conservative MPP Ted Chudleigh. Mr. Reaume contested Ms. Savoline’s by-election nomination in 2007. He made a well-received speech at that nomination meeting—probably the best of the evening—but he’s a former journalist and that was expected.: I can’t see that he’s done anything much in the riding before or since. Burlington riding association members seem to prefer candidates who’ve been active in riding politics or association affairs and who have made an effort to get to know riding association members on a personal basis. Mr. Reaume seems to fail this test.” For more on what Campbell has to say log into https://russ-campbell.blogspot.com/2011/03/tim-hudaks-200-day-countdown-and.html

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

By Pepper Parr

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

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

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

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

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

and on other stands stand firm.

and on other stands stand firm.

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Interesting times ahead on this one.

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

By Pepper Parr

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ouch!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Grit, gumption, brains galore and she wants to go to Ottawa to represent Burlington.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON March 22, 2011 – There is a grittiness you don’t expect from someone her age.

She is attractive, poised, sharp, with the look of the Greek singer Nana Mouskourii to her.

A keener; did her doctorate WHILE she was doing her law degree.

She is part of the demographic that want to do something to make a difference. She isn’t about making a lot of money, greed doesn’t drive her, but she would like to earn enough to pay down the very significant student debt she carries.

Alyssa Brierley – seeks the federal Liberal nomination.

Alyssa Brierley – a woman seeking the federal liberal nomination for Burlington – wait a minute, wasn’t she going after the provincial nomination – and yes she was. But she got a call from some people with the federal Liberal party in Ottawa asking if she was interested in the seat in Burlington. She certainly was – “this is something I have wanted to do for a long time.” The step into federal politics is so new to her that she has yet to have her photograph taken with the Leader of the Opposition, Michael Ignatieff.

A native of Dundas, Ontario, Alyssa spent a number of years in Burlington and moved to Toronto to do her graduate and post graduate degree work and is now back in Burlington selling Liberal Party memberships. When asked how many she has sold she gets a little evasive and says she’s not exactly sure – but when asked how many she needs – she snaps right back with “one more than the other guy” And that is when you see the steel in Alyssa Brierley’s backbone.

She did gymnastics at the Burlington Gymnastics Club and worked at a store in the Mapleview Mall and is the only child of a Mother and a Grandmother who were also only children. “You don’t have siblings to be friends with when you grow up, so you have to work that much harder than most to make friends” she will tell you. She is in the process of making a lot of friends who she hopes will support her in first, winning the nomination, then winning the election that many people feel could be called before the end of the month.

This young woman is certainly an academic but she is also a street smart lady with an ability to focus on what she is setting out to do and then getting it done. She stresses the point that she is not a politician – which doesn’t make a lot of sense because she has very good people skills and what appears to be an impressive energy level. I think it is the pejorative part of the word politician that she doesn’t like. She has been involved in Liberal Party stuff in Burlington since 2006.

Alyssa Brierley works in Toronto as a policy analyst for an Ontario government, arms length, educational agency. This is a woman who applies intellect and energy to everything she does and makes it fun with a sense of humour that is just beneath the surface but doesn’t take long to work its way into conversation. And of course she will return to Burlington and make her home here when she is elected.

Single in a long term relationship (more than 10 years) with a guy who is her “best friend”, Alyssa is part of that generation that was hugely impressed by the way Pierre Trudeau put Canada on the would map. She has that sense that politicians can make a difference and she wants to go to Ottawa to do just that.

The Liberal Party in Burlington has sent a woman to Ottawa in the past. Paddy Torsney represented the riding for 12 years and Alyssa feels that she can continue that tradition. She wants to restore the faith she believes people should have in politicians and will tell you she “has wanted to do this for a long time”.

Alyssa will tell you what every politician who wants to get elected will tell you – they want to help people. This young woman however brings an impressive set of skills to the seat she wants to hold. A degree in political science from Waterloo, a Masters degree from York and then she did her law degree at Osgood Law School while doing her Doctorate in political science at York University.

For her the Charter of Rights and Freedoms is a very significant document and she feels that she can make a contribution in international law as well as doing something to improve on the very poor way we have served our aboriginal community.

Has she got a shot at winning the election which threatens to be called perhaps as soon as late this week? Another federal Liberal in Burlington? This woman works very hard and has the capacity to make a significant difference. But Mike Wallace, the sitting member, has years of local political experience and he does not want to lose the seat.

The election we may go into could see trust and integrity or the budget as the core issues – neither of which Wallace can influence. There are no coat tails for him to ride – Stephen Harper is not likely to create a land slide, and if there is a coat tail for Brierley to ride on – it might not be good enough to take her the distance. But she will put up one heck of a fight.

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

By Staff

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Police list the event as an “attempted robbery” and we would add by thieves who might consider some other line of employment. Anyone with information on this or any other crime is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 1 800 222-8477 (TIPS) or through the web at www.haltoncrimestoppers.com or by texting “Tip201” with your message to 274637 (crimes).

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John Boich, 1933 – 2011 Requiescat in Pace

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

John Boich 1933-2011

John Boich 1933-2011

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

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

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

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

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

A remembrance service will be held in the near future.

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

By Staff

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Aldershot to nominate their best on April Fool’s Day.

By Staff

BURLINGTON, ON  March 12, 2011  –  Community is that strange mixture that is part geography, part history and part the people who happen to live there.  The way the people choose to live near by each other and make the best of their geography and respect there history is what results in good community.

Aldershot, that collection of side streets with no sidewalks and a main road that was once the route from Toronto to Niagara Falls and then a large, large market garden community, has evolved into a community that fully understands its history and has a sense of place that should be envied by Burlington proper.

It has a Council member who is a full time “booster” and never lets an opportunity to tout the community pass by with saying something.  And if there is a benefit available from city hall – rest assured that Rick Craven will get as much as possible for Aldershot.

Aldershot has a community honour roll that began in 20008, to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Aldershot becoming a part of Burlington.  Craven will tell you that Burlington got the best part of that deal.

He describes the Honour Roll as a great way for us to remember all the wonderful people who have contributed to the colour, personality and style that has made Aldershot such a great place to live”.  Told you – the guy is a non stop booster.

The community has a Steering Committee that chooses the three members who join the Honour roll each year.  Last year’s event named three honorees including: tennis star Frank Kretz, community activist George Bolus and neurosurgeon Dr. Ronald Dolan (posthumously).

Nominations are invited for people of any age whose leadership, vision, creativity or initiative benefited either Aldershot or the community beyond Aldershot . Those nominated must have lived in Aldershot for at least a year.

Nominations can be for people of any age whose leadership, vision, creativity or initiative benefited either Aldershot or the community beyond Aldershot . Those nominated must have lived in Aldershot for at least a year.

A nomination form is set out below and when completed can be mailed to Aldershot Honour Roll c/o 614 Bayshore Blvd, Burlington, L7T 1T1.  We will see what we can do next year about making the form interactive so you can send it in electronically.  Closing date is than April 1.  If you have questions try 905-526-7425

The 2011 honorees will be announced and celebrated at a reception on the evening of May 31st. Tickets are $25.

Print the form  and mail it in.

 

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

By Staff

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

David Vollick ably assisted by his wife Barbara.

David Vollick ably assisted by his wife Barbara.

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

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

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

By Pepper Parr

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kim Phillips General Manager,

Corporate Services

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kim Phillips
General Manager Corporate Services

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

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

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

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

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

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