City managers work plan has depth and detail - is it too ambitious?

News 100 blueBy Pepper Parr

October 16, 2015


Let’s dig a little deeper into the Work Plan city manager James Ridge presented to a Standing Committee earlier this week.

James Ridge Day 1

City Manager James Ridge

Ridge set his intentions out into groups, just the way any Army captain would and then delved into the groupings and what Ridge hoped to get done. We have added a few comments to expand on the tasks. which were:

City Strategic Plan: While many many months late Council and staff are now meeting to nail this down and move on to the Official Plan Review and the city budget.

Official Plan: On hold until the Strategic Plan has been struck. With a new planner due to start in November there may be a little lag time while she figures out what is where at city hall and gets to know her staff.

Transportation Master Plan: A work in progress

Corporate/ SMT Work Plan: 12-24 month detailed work plan addressing all Strategic and Official Plan work items. Develop master SMT work plan to deliver strategic objectives.
Each Director, General Manager and Service Owner to have a personal work plan, which will be a central element of their ongoing performance evaluation


How will citizens take to multi year strategic budgets?

Multi-Year Strategic Plan budget: Ensure that high level budgeting is undertaken to accompany the Strategic Plan and supporting multi-year work plan to guide priority setting and annual budget discussions. Multi-year budget projections for implementation of the Strategic and Official Plans and associated Work Plans.
The city’s finance department is probably the best run shop in the city – they don’t need to be told what to do – they do need other departments to work as efficiently and as effectively as the Joan Ford crew works.

City Manager Work Plan: Set out in detail below.
Work Plan management and reporting systems


Ridge wasn’t able to say much about initiatives – other than he thought there might be as many as 50 of them.

City Performance Indicators: Working with BEDC, Burlington Community Foundation and others, develop a macro set of performance measures that taken together are a reasonable proxy for the general wellbeing of the City. A clear set of key performance measures to measure the health, quality of life, and economic performance of the City tracked longitudinally.

Some very good data was released at a Standing Committee meeting earlier in the week. The Gazette is pulling that information together and will publish later this month – you won’t see this data anywhere else.

Workshop on Excellence in Strategic Governance: To support Strategic Plan implementation, have a facilitated workshop(s) to consider strategic governance principles and the appropriate governance/management relationship needed for successful implementation of the strategic plan.
Strategic governance workshop with Council and appropriate senior staff, to develop general principles of strategic governance and management.

Excellence in Governance Charter: City Council is widely seen as an exemplar of excellence in strategic governance. Develop with Council an “Excellence in Governance Charter.” Adopt as Council policy a series of best practices and decision tools that reflect accepted best practices in strategic governance for public and private sector organizations.

Watch this one carefully – it looks as if it might be what gets put in place of the Code of Conduct that most of this council does not want. The Code of Conduct is something this council needs and the public deserves.


Councillor John Taylor wants better agenda and council meeting planning – dislikes the way Clerk’s office manages the flow of paper – city manager wants to get rid of the paper.

Agenda Planning: Through regular reviews of the City Manager’s work plan, allow for better longer and medium term agenda planning. Several members of Council have complained about poor agenda planning and want material they are to discuss earlier in the process. When the calendar for 2016 was being discussed Councillor Dennison suggested a number of changes which the Clerk’s office wasn’t happy with. Mayor Goldring brought this up giving the Clerk an opportunity to explain what the problems were. Dennison wanted to know why he had not heard of the Clerk’s concerns. Now we know why there are problems with agenda planning – these people don’t talk to each other.

Council Agendas: Structure Council agendas to clearly identify strategic and good-governance agenda items. A proposal for a new model for Committee and Council agendas. Set for 2Q of 2016. Don’t bet the barn on that date.

Customer Service
Customer Relationship Management (CRM) Tool
One Stop Business Startup Centre
Service Management
Enterprise Risk Management
Enterprise Performance Measurement

Business Analytics Capability/Research and Data analysis: If possible, fast track the implementation of a business analytics tool to permit robust data analysis. As an interim measure, create a temporary new role to do data analysis, quantitative research, and coordinate surveys.

A suite of applications, tools and process that when implemented and operational support performance measurement, data analytics and corporate reporting.

One position (perhaps .5 FTE) to undertake quantitative analysis and detailed data analysis in support of Council and corporate initiatives.

During a presentation made by former Director of Planning Bruce Krushelnicki we learned that the city has absolutely no demographic capacity and that there is some statistical capacity but the person doing the job could not tell a Director how many homes there are in Alton Village. That staffer is apparently still cashing a pay cheque.

Revenue and Grant Coordinator: Create a role with an explicit focus, and dedicated time, to undertake grant requests, stay abreast of new funding opportunities, and seek other revenue opportunities. Create a new (likely .5 FTE position) in the City Manager’s office to coordinate City grant applications, research new and existing funding opportunities, and consider other municipal revenue opportunities.

This is the second mention of additional staff – Councillor Craven won’t let this happen – but Councillor Sharman might like to see someone who can gather data

Document Management: Multi-year project to reduce or eliminate use of paper, provide better access to information, and more transparent public access. First phase should be paperless meeting materials for those who wish to use. Paperless SMT meetings. Full transition is a major multi-year project.

City Marketing Cooperative: Explore the possibility of a marketing cooperative to share expertise and resources among City departments and City- funded agencies and boards. If agreement is reached among the parties, create a marketing cooperative to share expertise and mitigate duplication in marketing, print, web support activities.
This is one of those initiatives that is better not even attempted – bureaucrats are not marketers – this should be outsourced to a company that is given a strong, clear mandate.

Three VIA employees,all engineers in the diesel pulling the train were killed in the accident.  Train is being righted for removal.

Burlington didn’t lead the way it could have led during the Via derailment a number of years ago – the city now how seasoned Emergency Management in place

Emergency Management: Fully implement an emergency management plan, appropriate training, and develop and maintain business continuity plans.

This task is well underway – the Fire department brought in a season manager who explained what the department will be doing and how it will work – it is a very significant improvement over procedures that were in place previously.

Build Redevelopment Capacity in Planning Building and other relevant Departments: Evolve through hiring, professional development and resource allocation the Planning and Building department’s expertise and capacity from greenfield single family to infill and intensification.

Land Economist: Strengthen our planning and real estate management capability by tendering for a retainer for a municipal land economist to provide expert arms-length advice to City staff and Council on land economic issues, particularly independent assessments of development applications and the embedded assumptions around profitability at various densities and uses.


Marie Ann Coulson

Members of the team that run the finance department during a budget debate – they were updating data on the fly

People Plan Team: There is a general need for a team of union and non-union staff from across the City to focus on and make recommendations about, workplace quality and cultural concerns.

Culture Survey: In Q1 2016 undertake the Dennison survey of organizational culture as a baseline.

Performance Evaluation System: Develop a new Performance Evaluation system. Fully implemented new PE system that is modular, with elements for individual contributors, service owners, and Directors. Ridge wants this to be 100% use. He sees this as quarterly structured but less formal conversations with staff on performance, not a once a year report

Succession Planning: Create a corporate succession plan and succession planning policies. Initial identification of high potential management staff for detailed career planning. Initial identification of high potential front line staff with leadership potential for detailed career planning.

Succession plans complete for all departments. Corporate policies in place. SMT has created a list of high potential middle managers for immediate development


Storm Water Management: Implement the Council-approved program on expanded storm water management.
This program is going to have a very significant impact on the 2016 budget and will stun the owners of properties that have large parking areas. The city has done a very poor job of informing both residents and commercial property owners on the ramifications – they are significant.

Asset Management – Infrastructure Renewal

Conversion Reviews: In the context of the Official Plan review, develop (with BEDC) mechanisms to defensibly and consistently make recommendations on conversion requests.

Once the Strategic Plan is in place this will become a major matter for this Council. The development community does not believe the city needs all the Employment Land it has – and they want the opportunity to convert those lands to residential where the profits are much higher.

Zoned commercial, spitting distance to the QEW, minutes from downtown - owner wants to rezone and make it residential.

Zoned commercial, spitting distance to the QEW, minutes from downtown – owner wants to rezone and make it residential.

Major developers in this city have been sitting on land holdings for year – decades in some cases – waiting for the day when they can get a conversion. The province does not make it easy for any conversions to take place – but the developers have skilled planners who can make a donut look like a life saver.

Beachway Park: Negotiate with the Region cost sharing for Beachway Park, both Capital and Operating.

Sustainable Development Awards

Urban Design Review and Awards

Government Relations
Policies and Process: With the Mayor’s Office and Council develop formal policies, procedures for ongoing intergovernmental relations activities. Identify the first inventory of key intergovernmental issues and action plans.

This has always been a particularly weak area for this city administration. Having city managers move in and out of that office every two years didn’t help to develop strong working relationships. The city did hold a Burlington Day at Queen’s Park which amounted to everyone handing out business cards and getting 15 minutes with Ministers and some Deputy Ministers.

Burlington didn’t have a very effective MPP at the time which made it difficult to achieve very much.

The failure of the IKEA move to the North Service Road was due in no small measure to the lack of a deep understanding of how the Ministry of Transportation really works. The lead people on that file had not been properly mentored on how a city deals with a provincial ministry.

Redevelopment processes: Develop with Halton Region, a seamless process with known timelines for redevelopment applications. Done by 1Q 2017

LaSalle Pacillion

Our Building – on Hamilton’s land.

LaSalle Park: Reach agreement and Council approval on the transfer of LaSalle park ownership to Burlington by 1Q 2017
Community Engagement: Continue and build on the work that has been done on community engagement, support the Engagement Charter

New Resident Outreach: The City administration takes steps to proactively reach out to and engage communities, including immigrants, who have a very low incidence of engaging with City

Partnerships. The city wants a tighter working relationship with Hamilton where there is real economic growth; it also wants to strengthen the relationship with the Region.

This is most of what city manager James Ridge put before city council. In a separate article we report on how council reacted

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