Council finds the city manager’s Work Plan a little on the ambitious side and lacking prioritization.

News 100 redBy Pepper Parr

October 17, 2015


The Work Plan City Manager James Ridge put before city council is certainly an ambitious document – too ambitious?

James Ridge Day 1

City manager James Ridge gave council a long, a very long work plan – the enthusiasm was not evident.

Hard to tell – there wasn’t all that much interaction, discussion or debate between Ridge and the council he reports to. The first set of questions came from councillor Marianne Meed Ward – as usual, she had many – but after that – it was as if the tap had been turned off.


Mayor Goldring thought the work plan was “fantastic” but that it needed more in the way of prioritization – than that – he had no comment.

Mayor Goldring thought it was “fantastic” – but he didn’t follow that up with any other comment except to say he would like to see some prioritization.

The Mayor and the city manager appear at times to be work quite closely – that wasn’t the case with the work plan.

Councillors Taylor, Dennison, Craven and Lancaster mentioned that they had had a personal conversation with Ridge about his work plan. Dennison did say he “supported” the document.

Taylor expressed concerns over the city’s ability to achieve all the targets on the cultural file. It’s a file that has yet to find the traction it is going to need to really grow.


Councillor Meed Ward had a number of questions about the city manager’s work plan – the lack of transparency on the part of her colleagues bothered her.

It was at that point that Meed Ward realized there wasn’t going to be much, if any, public debate on the work plan. Most of the Councillors met privately with the city manager and either asked questions or expressed concerns – whichever the public will never know.

Councillor Sharman wasn’t at the Standing Committee – he serves as chair but has been away for this round of Standing committee meetings.

Meed Ward wanted there to be much more in the way of transparency – but there wasn’t going to be much this time around.

She suggested that each Council member might have their own priorities which will certainly keep the city manager hopping trying to meet the pet project each council member has.

Ridge did send a couple of clear signals. He said it was important that management understand they are in place to manage that that council is in place to govern and those paths are not to be crossed.

Burlington’s city council tends, far too frequently, to get into the weeds and begin to manage – even micro manage at times. Councillor Dennison just can’t help himself at times.

Taylor LaSalle

Councillor Taylor had concerns about the city manager being able to achieve all of his cultural objectives.

Ridge will have to let the Army Captain in him come out and ensure that the chain of command is respected and adhered to – this isn’t his personal strong point.

The sense that the work plan was on the ambitious side should been communicated to the city manager as he was putting the document together. Did the Council members not express that to Ridge when they met with him personally?

What was missing from the discussion was any sense of enthusiasm by council members – which suggests the cohesion that needs to be in place has not yet formed – all the oars are not being pulled in unison.

Is this because this council is not a truly unified body and if that is the case what is preventing that “all one team” from developing.

Ridge has been in place since late March and does not yet appear to have cemented a strong working relationship with this council.  Is he a slow starter or is the fit not quite right yet?


The city manager’s Work Plan

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5 comments to Council finds the city manager’s Work Plan a little on the ambitious side and lacking prioritization.

  • Blair Zielke

    Once again council will choose to not do what they were elected to do, run the city. They will look at this and say Oh no” this guy has a clue and we don’t! I am sure Mr. Ridge can count to 180 unlike our council.

  • Lois Best

    Circus dog and pony show continues!! That’s what our taxes go to!!

  • John

    Like all good managers Mr. Ridge has taken some time to assess what he has to work with, understand what is needed, and how best to achieve results that are relevant and measurable.
    With the limited information provided it appears he has embraced the responsibility of his position and has a plan to manage the city while providing council with what they need to do their job, govern.

    Is it ambitious ? Probable not for the managing of the city, for the councilors and the mayor, absolutely.

    Councilors rely on the city staff, their timely, professional, politically neutral opinions and analysis often form the basis of councils decisions.

    Having a well run city that’s direction is base on councils accountably of their decisions is traditionally to ambitious for some.

  • Peter Rusin

    The first step in the plan should be to fire the legal department and bring in new competent legal staff. Second step is legal needs to know that it does not run the city; that leads to governance.

    This type of confusion occurs when you have indecisive governance, as we have clearly witnessed in this city.

    It is irresponsible and highly negligent to stall an Official Plan review because we are waiting for a new planning director that the city anticipated early this year, and because the strategic plan is yet to be finalized. Is there something about the new strategic plan that is so different from the previous version that would justify the stalling of the Official Plan review? These times demand action and taking a proactive grasp of the antiquated Official Plan and Zoning Bylaw and breathing new life into the modern demands of what is taking place in the evolution of this city. This style of passive and resistant political governance by this council, is costing this city tens of millions of dollars annually.

    Ridge appears to have an uphill battle on his hands with this bunch. His plan is relatively straight forward, logical, and relatively simple to implement. The plan Ridge has outlined is something that should have been going on already; the initiatives and ideas in Ridge’s plan are nothing new; this is not a re-invention of the wheel. Ridge’s plan is what these elected people should have been already doing.

    Ridge is not the problem, staff are not the problem, council is the problem.

  • Monte

    Having met with James Ridge I have a great deal of respect for him, he probably will act slow but very precisely.

    One item that is always missing in any City Work Plan, which in my opinion, should be mentioned and singled out is “Cleaning up past unresolved issues”.

    There exists an issue in North Burlington that continues on from one court case to the next. That issue of course is the Burlington Airpark fill site. This has become one of the main issues that continues to drain funds out of the community, silences citizens input, and diverts attention to what could be positive projects in the community. Relationships have been ruined, citizens silenced and Democracy put on hold all because of an ill conceived, badly communicated project.

    Hundreds of thousands of dollars have left this community because of this, what many consider, is a negative project, certainly placing the issue to be solved in legal departments is negative. How many man hours, by citizens, have left the community? Personally I have ceased working on volunteer city projects in order to focus on, what I consider, this negative project. I do know of others as well, what a waste!

    Placing projects in a legal merry-go-round should NOT be an excuse to sit back and watch what happens. This ensures that, in fact lawyers are running the city and council just sits back and bounces from from decision to the next, without EVER taking control. Should a lawyer from the legal department have a permanent seat on Council – rather than hiding behind closed doors? Lawyers are part of the process but NOT the entire process.

    In conclusion, my request is simple “Topple the legal Silo and solve past issues, lawyers should not be setting direction and holding back any Work Plan”. This would free up resources to move forward in a positive direction.