Citizen gives her take on using consultants - Ouch she says, look out residents.

opinionandcommentBy Gwen Lock

February 3rd, 2017



Yep- you couldn’t make this stuff up could you? Apparently the City of Burlington cannot function without the aid of consultants – refer to the 2017 budget request by City Manager James Ridge for a $550,000.00 ” just in case piggy bank” – approved – Cha-ching! (View on page 27 pf 2017 Proposed Operating Budget if anyone is interested)

So if it is inevitable that we are to have consultants lecturing Burlingtonians on how to live and what kind of city they are going to get for their tax dollars, as in so many other past situations, I would personally feel comfortable if it wasn’t all so “cosy”.

James Ridge - looking right

City manager James Ridge is a Toderian fan.

As previously reported (Inside Halton Feb 10th 2016) “It was city manager James Ridge who called in his former Vancouver colleague to advise Burlington on intensification and review of its official plan.” Cha-Ching!

OK – so James Ridge in his position as City Manager for COB calls in his ex-colleague Brent Toderian who was fired from his position (without cause) as Director of Planning, City of Vancouver in 2012 after almost 6 years.

Toderian Brent - blue shirt

Brent Toderian who was fired from his position as Director of Planning, City of Vancouver. Consults for Burlington.

I think it’s only natural to want check this guy out – after all consultants charge LARGE! A quick internet search brought up the following article published in the Vancouver Sun 31 January 2016 by Jeff Lee (the link to the article in below for anyone who would like to read it)

This particular article provided a bit of background as seen from a local (Vancouver) point of view. It would appear that the impetus for the firing may have been the fractious relationship that existed between then City Manager Penny Ballam and Brent Toderian – well let’s be honest – there’s no “may have” about it is there ? Consider the following after Hallam herself was ousted from her position as City Manager in 2015.

15 September 2015 – CBC News Vancouver (direct quote)

“When news of Ballem’s departure broke, former Vancouver city planner Brent Toderian, who was let go at the recommendation of Ballem in 2012, issued a tweet simply saying “What goes around, comes around.”

What goes around, comes around. #Vancouver #VanPoli

— @BrentToderian

Speaking to the CBC later, Toderian, who is now a city planning consultant for cities around the world (Cha-ching!), reflected that Ballem’s departure represented an opportunity to change the culture at city hall.

“It really is almost the entire city-making function that is about to be refreshed. That is both challenging and an incredible opportunity. “The morale at city hall has not been the best in recent years, so I think this is a chance to get back to Vancouver city hall being an international model.”

Mmmmm -classy guy – trash your old boss – reveals quite a lot. Type A personality????

So how did we end up in this situation? Like Mayor Goldring I seem to have lost the plot. REVIEW TIME !!!!!

23 March 2015 -James Ridge takes up his position as City Manager (as per COB web site)

11 February 2016 Consultant Brent Toderian arrives at the invitation of ex-collegaue James Ridge to advise Burlington on intensification and review of its official plan -Cha-Ching!

Mary Lou Tanner

Planning Director Mary Lou Tanner had worked with Brent Toderian before he was invited to Burlington.

21 September 2016 (as reported Inside Halton) Mary Lou Tanner, Burlington’s chief planner and director of building announces that at a cost of $20,000, Consultants BrookMcIllroy -Cha-Ching! have produced the 28 page Tall Buildings Guidelines – she described it as “a living document” that will evolve as staff has more experience implanting it. What does that even mean?

14 November 2016 Consultant Brent Toderian, invited back again to lecture, apparently by the Mayor, but this time with Consultant Jarret Walker (Jarrett Walker and Associates) -Cha-Ching!

8 December The Financial Overview of the 2017 Proposed Operating Budget is presented to The Community and Corporate Services Committee. James Ridge makes a pitch for $550,000.00 in 2017 budget -Cha-Ching!

23 January 2017 (After review and approval by The Community and Corporate Services Committee 16th and 19th January 2017) Council approves the 2017 Operating Budget. Signed, sealed and delivered! Cha-Ching!

25th January 2017 it’s reported that Developer Carriage Gate Homes has dropped the BIG planning application on the planning department’s collective overflowing desk-if approved massive Cha-ching!

Marianne Meed Ward reports it in her news letter as if it was a shock and a big surprise and arranges a public meeting. Sadly though, as correctly reported in this publication, it appears to conform to the Tall Buildings Guidelines – can you say OMB -Cha-Ching!

So after a long journey in response to your very pertinent question posed in the title of your article – “do we need consultants?” As we have seen so many times in the past COB seems totally unable to function without them I suppose the answer must be yes.

Goldring - Christmas picture

Mayor invited Brent Toderian to speak at one of his Inspire lectures

Is Brent Toderian, for example, the right choice for Burlington? I personally find it difficult to imagine a less suitable fit. He appears to have no time for consensus building; according to him you spend your energy convincing the convincible – so does that mean you ignore the yet to be convinced? Absolutely! He never ever wants to hear the words “stable neighbourhood” because in his world they do not exist; his advice is to take those words right out of the conversation.

Unsurprisingly taxpayers are viewed as nothing more than cash cows who then become an annoyance when they dare to try to get in way of “planning” As per the Brent Toderian’s of this world,rip that band-aid off quickly.

Ouch! – lookout residents!

Gwen Lock is a Burlington resident with strong views on how the city uses consultants.  She believes choosing Brent Toderian to advise was a mistake.

Return to the Front page
Print Friendly, PDF & Email

14 comments to Citizen gives her take on using consultants – Ouch she says, look out residents.

  • Miska

    What a great article. We need more of these.

    The entire City staff, councilors and mayor need to get the boot. They are out for them and not the residents. I agree I cannot wait for the election. I will be personally going door to door getting residents in my ward to vote out the current councilor.

  • Doug

    You need to bring in a consultants when you hire incompetent people, then when it is discovered they can’t do the job you can’t fire them, or you would be admitting the high level people who approved the hire were wrong (can’t have that).

    So they hire an incompetent consultants because they don’t know any better, or they would not have made the original hiring mistake.

  • gordon

    Good perspective Penny!
    The reality is that the majority of Burlingtonians have no interest in what goes on in municipal government. Look at the pathetic number of voters who turn out at each 4 year interval. Newsflash…this will not change! This does not bode well for a changing of the guard despite the resounding cry from a relatively nominal few who call for wholesale change in this forum. Most Burlington citizens have no awareness of the issues presented in this e-paper largely because their working lives are spent elsewhere and they have no interest in following the local affairs that in their perspective have no relevance or impact on their lives.
    All this to say that the incumbents will likely remain firm in their comfy overpaid seats for at least another term or longer…no incentive to leave and compete for a real life job.
    Just sayin…but I think it’s bang on!

  • Penny

    Why is it that everyone thinks that the 2018 election will necessarily change anyone on Council. We have seen a councillor who took the city to the OMB get reelected. We have seen sound proposals go by the wayside yet money going into “road diets”. We have been voted ( I would like to know by whom and what the criteria is) as best midsize city, yet we have a public transit system that does not meet the needs of the residents, with no change in sight.

    Forget the election, it is perhaps time to picket City Hall, or call our councillors on an ongoing basis to let them know that the approach being taken is not what is needed…..Actions speak louder than words. No point paying for consultants if the money is not there to make the changes….perhaps some prioritizing of needs vs wants is required.

    • Tom Muir

      I agree with Penny about the elections. Don’t count on defeating anyone on Council. Anyways, it’s not until October 2018.

      So this idea isn’t going to work, for certain now, and it’s dubious in 2018. It’s futile as a principle approach.

      Picketing City hall is a good idea. We need a plan for the spring.

      If Ridge is feckless then he needs to be called out too. Calling Councilors about this is a start.

      It’s pretty clear that everyone here is on the same page.

  • LB

    Great assessment of what is going on…it screams “Wake up Burlington!”, and time for CITIZENS to take back their ‘power’ from these misguided self-absorbed consultants.

  • Lynn

    James Ridge is also sitting on the PAR Committee for the high school accommodation review right now. The Mayor chose him as the City representative. I have absolutely no idea why. He contributes nothing and does not even acknowledge the massive amount of development that his own planners are putting in the downtown core! Doesn’t seem to occur to him what damage will be done if they remove Central high school from the City. Nor does he speak up when the Board says “we work closely with our city’s planning department.” No, actually you do not. You have admitted in front of City Council that you never sit and meet with them, but get all your planning data from newsletters essentially.

    • Yvonne

      Totally wrong and waste of taxpayers money for the City to be involved in a possible school closing. I have commented before on the value of school trustees and their role with this matter Probably Mr Ridge and Mayor think they can throw their weight around and influence decisions ,when in fact its none of their business Too many hands in the cookie jar that have no business being there

  • Steve

    It truly is time to clean up this town with the voting box. Starting with the Mayor.

  • It’s just a bunch of people peddling theories which have no validity. They just ‘want’ the world to work like they think it should. When the people in Burlington act like the people from every other place an result in an over crowded traffic snarled mess – it’s off to some place else.

    You would think if these people did such a great job in Vancouver they would want to live there.

  • Concerned Parent

    This exact same scenario is playing out in the PAR process to close Burlington High Schools. The Board of Ed has hired a totally inept ‘Moderator” for the public meetings from research company Ipsos Reid, who is unable to control and properly moderate the meetings; neither are the caliber of his research skills those that one would expect from a company such as Ipsos, given the counsel he provided to the Board on wording of the questions used in the December 8th public meeting. Another complete waste of the public’s money.

  • Stephen White

    Great article Gwen!

    You really summarized this well. All the more reason why Goldring and Ridge need to go…and they can take their buddy Toderian with them.

    And as Tom as quite rightly pointed out, Burlington residents are being manipulated by a small elite who seem intent upon superimposing their will on what they believe are a gullible public. This Mayor and this Council are on the wrong side of so many issues it is unbelievable. I have lived in Burlington 42 years and I have never seen the degree of anger and outrage on issues as I have in the past eighteen months.

  • Hope

    Great read !
    Our scary city rides again
    Election Day can’t come soon enough !!!!

  • Tom Muir

    What a great commentary! Strikes to the heart of the takeover and looting of Burlington’s future. Backed up of course by all the consultants and propaganda that taxpayer money can buy.

    Thank you!

    Hiring Brent Toderian was not just a mistake – well maybe for residents, but not for them – it was because he was saying what they wanted to hear, so they can tell us what the “experts” say in support of what they are doing or want to do.

    Tanner brought in the “living document”, oops, real live Trojan Horse, filled to the tall buildings brim with, well, all the bearers of Cha-Ching.

    Burlington is completely unlike Vancouver in the entirety of context. But so what, when it matches what you want to do, and you can hire experts to tell us how great it is, what does the actual fit with our city really matter?

    In any case, none of them will be around when the mess they make will come to pass – just the residents, holding the bag.

    Hard not to be outraged by what these people are doing as they manipulate and screw us against our will, but you manage to describe it well, almost with humor.

    Thanks again.