City administration demands a Gazette column be taken down; leaving it up will damage the city’s reputation because according to the city we are making things up and telling lies.

SwP thumbnail graphicBy Pepper Parr

March 29th, 2018



Our relationship with the city administration is not all that good.

The city has a Senior Manager, Government Relations & Strategic Communications who wrote us recently saying:

“…  Yet again you have written another article which is completely false and damaging to Planning staff’s reputation.

You are blatantly accusing city staff of lying and making things up about developments in the city. The rendering in question was developed for the city by an outside consulting firm at the request of Council who wanted to know what different sites could develop as. There was discussion of this at committee around the public sidewalk width/heritage building trade-offs and the like.

The owners of the property were and are well aware of the renderings and have not raised any issues with the city. Anything else you say to the contrary is not true or accurate.

This is an article that we demand in the strongest terms be taken down; leaving it up will continue to do damage to the city’s reputation because according to the article we are making things up and telling lies.

This continues a pattern of known false articles you have written about the city.

Some facts: We did publish an article about a rendering of a building on a site on the north east corner of Brant and Lakeshore Road.

We talked directly to two of the principles who said they were unaware of the rendering and did not give anyone permission to have a rendering done. They weren’t asked for permission.

We did not identify the principles – developers don’t like to find themselves in messy situations with anyone at city hall – it just isn’t good for business.

We did not say that anyone at city hall was lying. We made reference to the President of the United States and the number lies he tells and wondered if that habit had migrated north.

There is nothing the Gazette can do to improve the city’s reputation. They own it and what they do with it is up to them.

What we do know is that a number of people do not feel the city administration is hearing what they have to say. The Gazette offers a forum where people can comment on news stories we write.

The piece we wrote on the architectural rendering can be found HERE

There are times when we make mistakes. We correct those mistakes.  There are no mistakes in the article.

What the comments made by the Senior Manager, Government Relations & Strategic Communications reveal is that we have an administration that bullies, threatens and cajoles.  The City Manager did just that with ECoB when they threatened them with legal action.

Engaged Citizens of Burlington (ECoB) To Whom it May Concern:

James Ridge - looking right

James Ridge – Burlington City Manager

On your website, in the area of letter writing campaign, you set out questions to be asked of the letter recipients. Among them is:

How can staff in the planning department be pushing these amendments when they know that they are not following The Professional Code of Practice of the Ontario Planners Institute which requires members to serve the public “to provide full, clear and accurate information on planning matters to decision makers and members of the public”?

This directly alleges that City staff have committed professional misconduct, and is categorically untrue. Staff have met or exceeded all requirements of their professional codes of practice, and have far exceeded the requirements of the planning act and other legislation in terms of consultation and provision of information. The fact you don’t like their recommendations does not mean they have acted unprofessionally.

I would like an immediate removal of these comments from your site, and an apology, or I will take all necessary steps to hold you accountable for these defamatory comments.

James Ridge City Manager

ECoB took the comments off their web site but took a pass on the opportunity to apologize.

There are times when the public makes mistakes and elects a city council that has a tin ear. That kind of mistake can be corrected during a municipal election.

Salt with Pepper is a column reflecting the opinions, musings and reflections of the Publisher of the Gazette.



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22 comments to City administration demands a Gazette column be taken down; leaving it up will damage the city’s reputation because according to the city we are making things up and telling lies.


    All I have to say is WOW!!! Between the White House and Burlington City Hall…I just shake my head. Time for change!!

  • Concerned Citizen

    Many delegations and comments the past few months have cited that Burlington residents do not want to be “another Toronto”, however there may be one area where they would like to be like Toronto.

    As detailed in the Toronto Star March 28th, Gregg Lintern has been named Toronto’s new Chief Planner, after being Acting Chief Planner for the past 6 months. Here are a few passages from that article:

    Lintern is extremely well-regarded “by staff for knowledge of their role, attention to detail and his understanding of policy at a challenging time when the city is growing at an unprecedented rate”. At the former Honest Ed’s site at Bloor and Bathurst Sts, Lintern has focused on including “a public market, park, hundreds of rental units and affordable housing” and is “focused on building a neighbourhood rather than a number of towers”. Lintern’s concern is “We’ve got to think about the livability for those people.”

    Downtown Toronto Councillor Joe Cressy says of Lintern that beyond being a “consummate professional” who brings a wealth of experience, Lintern has an important vision for the city, specifically within the downtown where Lintern led the TOcore initiative, and asked the question “How much development can downtown handle and what infrastructure is needed to support that development?”

    Cressy also said Lintern’s work overseeing the complex development at the former Honest Ed’s site at Bloor and Bathurst Streets that includes a public market, park, hundreds of rental units and affordable housing, is a prime example of acting on that vision. Lintern, he said, focused on building a neighborhood at the marquee corner, rather than just focusing on how to build a number of appropriately-sized towers.

    In 2012, Lintern was also Acting Chief Planner when then Deputy Mayor Doug Holyday said downtown was no place to raise children. Lintern told Holyday on the council floor that “it just makes for a healthier city” to have families living downtown. Since then, the city has pursued several strategies to look at the needs of families living in vertical communities.

    Lintern also takes over at a time when the Ontario Municipal Board, a quasi-judicial, provincial body that has the final say in many planning matters, is being significantly overhauled. “The changes proposed by the bill will enable municipalities to focus on adopting planning principles, what we call proactive planning, to address growth and change,” Lintern told a provincial committee he was asked to speak to last year. The city release said Lintern will initially focus on the transit network expansion, affordable housing, improving the review of development applications, and OMB reforms.

    •What is the vision for our City, when our City is also growing at an unprecedented rate?
    •Why are rental units and affordable housing being ignored in all our pending developments?
    •When will Burlington’s new developments include public markets and park spaces?
    •Who at the City is thinking about the livability of Burlington and the very real need to accommodate families living in vertical communities?
    •Where are Burlington’s proactive planning principles to address growth and change?

    This is the type of planning and city management we are expecting and asking for and if the people we have running our city can’t or won’t give us this then they should be replaced with people who can and will. Interesting that Toronto planners and Councillors aren’t saying the province has tied their hands etc. If Toronto can do this then so can Burlington. The excuses don’t cut it.

  • Steve Atkinson

    The Gazette was where I first learned about the concrete plans to close 2 Burlington schools. Not the Post, not the school board, not my Ward 4 newsletter. It was the first information, an article about a former trustee explaining the Hayden fiasco, that I stumbled across and thus found the Gazette. I have checked it almost daily ever since, and find it a great source of local news. I find the immediacy very compelling. Keep up the good work!

  • Stu Parr

    Could we perhaps have the name of the “Senior Manager, Government Relations & Strategic Communications”? I’m sure that he or she would appreciate “the sunshine”. I trust that this information is not confidential. Let’s have all members of this administration stand up and be counted.

  • Susie

    Mr. Parr, keep up your good work on keeping the communication trail active. Without a site such as yours to give the citizens of Burlington a voice, the City would selectively move forward treating us all like bobble heads. We all have full legal rights as taxpayers to bring forward legit comments and concerns for the betterment of our City, and these privileges should not be shunned upon by our officials with their thoughts only being the gospel, going forward.

  • Penny

    When ECoB received the letter from James Ridge threatening legal action, we chose to remove the one sentence that mentioned the responsibilities of the planners in accordance with their official body. In our response to Mr. Ridge we asked to bring this to the official body of the planning association, but received no answer back on this request. This is not new information, both Mr. Ridge’s email to ECoB and our response was made public in the Burlington Gazette as well as the Hamilton Spectator and The Burlington Post.

    The culture at the city has changed dramatically, this needs to change, preferably before October.

  • Steve

    It’s both comical and concerning to me that the city seems to not understand what defamation actually is. I can say I think someone is lying or trying to obscure their actual agenda all I want and no court would ever care. Slander is when I say that you have said things or done things that you have not done in an attempt to ruin your reputation. I have never read anything by ECOB or the Gazette that would even come close to qualifying.

    What the city fails to understand is that there is a reason people feel they are not acting in good faith, citizens aren’t just randomly saying it for no reason. I mean right now there is one copy of the official plan at one library branch that for some inexplicable reason you need ID to read and they’re surprised people are taking issue with them over a lack of clarity and accountability? They might want to think more about why their own actions make people feel this way instead of attacking them for expressing their opinion. And having an opinion that you don’t think the City is being transparent enough is not defamation and it’s ridiculous to say so.

  • Judy

    I fully support the Gazette. People wouldn’t know what is really going on without you. Thank you.

  • D.Duck

    James Ridge City Manager:

    “The lady doth protest too much, methinks”

  • Concerned Citizen

    From an article in Brain + Trust newsletter re: the Facebook fiasco, which says:
    Crisis is the true test of character. And because an organization’s character is expressed through its leaders, that means it’s also the true test of leadership. When given the chance to lead, Facebook’s leadership hid. For five days. CEO Mark Zuckerberg and COO Sheryl Sandberg, three days into the crisis, did not lead or even attend an employee all-hands meeting. The deputy general counsel of Facebook led that meeting. And that symbolic gesture shows what Facebook is really concerned about: the legal ramifications of what happens next.
    By running to legal and threatening lawsuits, the City of Burlington shows it doesn’t care about citizens or media or even getting things right – all they care about is the legal ramifications of issues, how they will affect the City and staff and how they can use legal means to quiet people whose opinions they disagree with. It would seem that our City leaders have no character. At least, not the character of good leaders.

  • Lynn Crosby

    Where is the leadership that this is what it has come to? Leaders set the tone of an organization.

  • Jim

    While I agree the City’s current reputation is self imposed what does irk me is the selectiveness in which most reporting (not just the Burlington Gazette) is done these days.

    “Apparently the city planning department didn’t ask the Molinaro people for permission to put together a rendering – they just did it.”

    There is no certainty in this statement. My immediate thought would be, now that I have one side of the situation, I should seek out the other side. Why not simply ask the question of City staff? Save the guessing?

  • George

    Dear Salt with Pepper,

    Thank you for your excellent article above. It is interesting that I had just read “The Art of the Deal” by Donald J. Trump just prior to reading this article that I would like to quote from:

    “If there is one thing I have learned from dealing with politicians over the years, it’s that the only thing guaranteed to force them into action is the press —— or, more specifically, fear of the press.”

    “What you have to understand about Ed Koch is that he’s a bully, pure and simple. Bullies act tough, but they are really closet cowards. The only people bullies push around are the ones they know they can beat. Confront a strong, competent person, and he’ll fight back harder than ever. Confront a bully, and in most cases he’ll fold like a deck of cards.” unquote

    Salt with Pepper … keep up the good work and know the citizens of Burlington appreciate your Burlington Gazette providing the excellent coverage of Burlington news.

  • Hans

    Hopefully after the next election there will be a new city administration with a better understanding of who their real “employer” is and what they need to do to be successful.

  • Diane

    I was appalled to read this blatant attempt at censorship this a.m.
    If there is anything being reported in error, let the City provide the details and facts.
    When news is reported, normally it is done with sources. As with any reporting, sometimes it is anonymous sources. Sometimes other information is unable to be provided for a reason.
    The City representatives, just as any citizen can rebut an argument or news story. To call for or pressure outright removal – well sorry that is not on. Retraction yes, if evidence is provided to counter what has been reported is in error, or sometimes even an apology.
    The news is there to hold one accountable, not to make friends. The news exists to provide facts. To provide information. People can draw their conclusions or seek further details as they see fit.

  • Dennis walker

    Did no one in city hall ever hear the expression don’t shoot the messenger?

  • Michael Jones

    This city is in sad shape to say the least. A number of people attended the Neighbourhood Information night for the James and Martha Street 18 storey development, this is zone for 4-8. When asked why a rendering was not done for a smaller sized development, the city representative said it would be too expensive for the developer to do. Apparently the city has enough money to draw imaginary resigns for property they have no control over. The entire City Hall has become greatly disconnected from the people. Most of them live in St. Catharines or Hamilton. It is time for sweeping change at all levels. We support the Burlington Gazette not these people.

  • Penny

    This past Tuesday I watched “The Issue” on Your TV. Mark Carr, the co-host , had Paul Sharman on to talk about the proposed New Official Plan. Mr Sharman explained in detail how Council is dealing with this. I have to ask the question if the rush to adopt this new official plan, against residents wishes, when many of the necessary studies, like transit, infrastructure, etc have not be done or completed is because this Council after 4 years has to have something they can say they accomplished during their term in office?

    The other guest on the program was Kathy Dudek a councillor in Oakville who discussed how they adopted their Official Plan. They truly engaged their residents. Residents were shown ( by the use of large and small blocks) what the Province mandated and asked them to suggest where they wanted the growth to be. A simple, but effective way of showing residents what things would look like. The Council also had citizen groups and staff come together to discuss how to move forward on a continual basis. There were citizen groups that met and still meet on a monthly basis, this engagement is ongoing. Staff, and Council working with the taxpayers to design a City that works for all.

    This program needs to be watched by all Burlington residents and mandatory for all staff, the mayor and council.
    It put a lot into perspective.

    Thank you Mr. Carr for bringing these 2 councillors together on the same program. Oakville did it right –
    Burlington ??????

  • Phillip

    Pepper, a very disturbing article that continues to illustrate the total disconnect between City Hall and the very people they are supposed to serve. The politicians and the bureaucracy don’t like to be questioned and challenged, feeling that they alone have a monopoly on what should be done. Of course, as Harry Truman once noted, “the buck stops here”–Goldring needs to rein in the bureaucracy although it has long been obvious to this writer that the politicians answer to the bureaucrats, not the other way round. One thing is clear, cleaning out the current mayor and council is only the beginning. Several senior bureaucrats also need to be replaced to change the culture at City Hall.

  • Stephen White

    First, I would hope that City Hall officials have something better to do than chase down articles the contents of which they may disagree. Threatening legal action does not promote understanding or improved relations. It promotes animosity, is confrontational, and does not generate understanding. It also does nothing to improve their public image.

    Second, City Hall officials have access to the Burlington Gazette just like everyone else. If they have alternate information to present, or different viewpoints to articulate, then they have access to this forum. Let them share it, and let readers understand their perspective and make their own decisions. That’s what living in a democracy is all about.

    Third, City Hall’s reputation is already damaged. Sorry, but it is. The Burlington Gazette alone didn’t create the problem. City Hall officials created the problem. Many readers on this site, myself included, have repeatedly expressed grave concerns regarding the development of the OP, Mobility Hubs and the entire Grow Bold initiative. As far back as July of 2017 I attended meetings and voiced concerns and questions regarding how information was presented, and how feedback was being collated, interpreted and incorporated into revisions. No comment was the response.

    The Mayor, this Council, and City Hall, have a serious credibility problem. It is up to them to fix it. The Burlington Gazette isn’t here to be the mouthpiece for their communications, or to acquiesce in promoting their agenda. If the Mayor wanted to demonstrate some real leadership on this issue he would appoint a mediator, bring together the different perspectives on this issue in a meeting (e.g. developers, Planning officials, ECoB, etc.), and try to develop a compromise solution that is reasonable, respectful and consensual. In fact, why not get the Burlington Gazette to organize it? Unfortunately, the Mayor’s response to this is to tool around Burlington in James Burchill’s little Smart car giving You Tube interviews while doing nothing to allay the growing tensions, angst and anger throughout the City relating to development.


    • Rob N


      The Gazette is the only way citizens are finding out what is really going on in Burlington.

      The information coming from City Hall is either so high level, that we don’t have any insight. Or it is “spun” so we think everything is kosher. It is good to have independent, reliable sources like the Gazette.

      Keep up the good reporting Mr. Parr!

  • William

    The senior manager of the city sets the tone for the City Hall culture.

    He or she should be the one who acts with wisdom and grace – a calming influence who ensures cooler heads prevail, so the right thing gets done. The city manager should be comfortable in his/her own skin, wiling to reach out and talk with those he/she disagrees with.

    Instead, our city manager comes across as thin-skinned and a bully – willing to use city resources, including legal action, to silence discussion. The tone he’s set has the city consumed with a siege mentality – viewing the public with suspicion and animosity.

    I can’t imagine Ridge will last more than a year.