City hall has been adapting on a daily, sometimes hourly basis as the rules from the province change.

News 100 blueBy Pepper Parr

June 15th, 2020



Audit Jones - said no

Sheila M. Jones, Executive Director, Strategy, Accountability

In a report to Council Sheila M. Jones, Executive Director, Strategy, Accountability, explained that “the need to re-design and to be agile to respond to the time-sensitive nature of some decisions, this report serves as a template for bringing decisions and information to the Corporate Services, Strategy, Risk and Accountability (CSSRA) Committee. As such, it is beneficial to provide an overview of how and what is expected in this report format.”

Jones was talking about the Service Redesign that gets upgraded almost every day. By service she means the services the city delivers to the citizens of the city – something that went through a radical change when the province declared a State of Emergency and used the power behind that legislation to order that municipalities limit severely the opportunities the members of the public have to congregate the city found itself having to lay off most of the part time staff and move most of the full time staff out of city hall and have them work from hone using ZOOM and their cell phones as their method of communicating.

In the early stages, mid March to near the end of April it was hectic and a close to 24/7 operation.

There wasn’t much news coming out of city hall, some city Councillors felt very much out of the loop.

City Manager Tim Commisso was living a constant round of meetings with the email volume almost unmanageable. The Gazette was able to get through to Commisso on a few occasions.

As the calendar rolled into May we began to see some stability and staff were a little more comfortable with the way they now had to do business.

The public wasn’t really aware with what senior city staff had to deal with – the change was relentless – they rarely knew was was coming at them next.

There were serious financial pressures building up – huge drops in revenue and expenses piling up at the same time.

Parks were closed; schools were closed. The streets were open and the public was asked to yes get out for some exercise but don’t congregate while out for a walk and stay at least six feet away from other people.

Pharmaceuticals were not rationed but all you could get was a one month supply. You had to keep your dog on a leash – which turned out to be very difficult to enforce.

The number of new Covid19 infections in Burlington are the lowest in the Region and the deaths at Long Term Care facilities were low – relative to the rest of the province.

Commisso had to not only manage his own time and energy but he had to keep a very close eye on his senior team to ensure that they are at least coping.

Tim Commisso - finger up hard eyesIn an interview with the Gazette Commisso said “I have a conversation with each of them frequently on how they are doing personally and listen very closely for signs that the stress might be getting to them.”

Commisso doesn’t talk about how he is coping. At times he does sound a little tired and he surely must wonder if taking on the task of serving as city Mayor was the smartest career move he ever made.

Burlington is now waiting hopefully for the province to announce that the GTAH – Greater Toronto Area including Hamilton can move into phase 2 which will allow, hopefully, some restaurants to open, and for more in the way of city services to be opened.

The Summer Camp program for kids was cancelled and Parks and Recreation is working through some ideas for what they will be able to offer once the province moves the city into Phase 2.

Thus the reporting template that Jones introduced on how the Emergency Coordination Group is going to get updates to Council.

It has been a hectic three months for this group of people; many have been pushed to the limit and worked well beyond an 8 hour day.

Vacations are coming up – Commisso knows that his people need that time off – but vacations are dependent on when the need to constantly adjust the programs being offered slows down a little.

Getting into Phase 2 is essential – limiting the number of Covid19 infections is vital.

And at this time in this world vital trumps essential.

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