They aren’t being evicted but the Magnificent Seven don’t think they are getting the respect they deserve from staff.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON April 20, 2011 – The budget is locked in place and everyone seems pleased. So what’s next? Well, new on the radar screen is a squabble about just where the Magnificent Seven are going to perch. Right now they are squirreled away in what Mayor Rick Goldring called “absolutely terrible office space” that he didn’t like one bit when he was just a council member. “There were times when I could hear three different conversations in adjoining offices” he commented at a Council meeting while a report was being reviewed on how space in City Hall was to be allocated.

Six of the Magnificent Seven aren’t being evicted but they are being sent packing – all the way up to the seventh floor.

Six of the Magnificent Seven aren’t being evicted but they are being sent packing – all the way up to the seventh floor.

There is as yet no consensus on what the best configuration should be. The matter of space was brought up when senior city hall staff wanted to put all the Clerk’s staff and the communications people in one location. The Clerks share the space on the ground floor with city councillors and their assistants.

Kim Phillips, General Manager Corporate Services, told Council that the moving around of staff wasn’t being driven by concerns as to where council members should be but rather by internal requirements. That didn’t go down particularly well with Councillor Paul Sharman

Councillor Rick Craven thinks every member of Council should be on the ground floor where they can be seen. Right now the Mayor is on the eighth floor and Council members on the first floor. Ms Phillips didn’t think putting city council on the ground floor where they could be seen was the best use of what she called prime space. She explained that council members are at the Region quite a bit and out in there wards frequently.

Sharman doesn’t have a window in his office and doesn’t feel appreciated either.

Sharman doesn’t have a window in his office and doesn’t feel appreciated either.

Councillor Paul Sharman had major concerns with the way staff was handling the proposed move to the seventh floor and was verbally sparring with Ms Phillips when he said the seventh floor was inconvenient but what bothered Sharman most was that he wondered when Staff was going to think about Council? The move was being driven by a need to get all the Clerk and the communications in one place. “We are being left behind, it is as if we are not really legitimate, we are just politicians.”

“Leadership” maintained Sharman “is Council and we should be right out front, we should be visible and on the ground floor where we are accessible. I don’t feel valued where I am now.” The offices the Council members currently occupy are stuffy little places with a single meeting room that looks like a bunker with no window. Several of the Council members have offices with no window and there is no coffee service. The space really is quite crummy, painted an institutional green that went out of style twenty years ago and certainly doesn’t suggest any dignity. All of the General Managers have much better space.

When things get a little sticky at Council or Committee meetings, City Manager Roman Martiuk steps in and usually starts his comments with the words: “Let me put this in context and then he proceeds to pour oil on troubled waters. Martiuk explained that the city I currently renting space in the Sims building across the street from City Hall and that staff was taking longer look at their space requirements and added that Councillor Sharman’s comments were heard.

At that point Kim Phillips piped in that she has a high regard for Council and that there is a longer report on space needs in the works. She added that this discussion was really about customer service and not about dumping council some place. She added that she felt they should all be together.

Councillor Taylor, an easy going guy, whom Councillor Lancaster has taken to calling “JT” wanted to know why the report on moving people around was even in front of the committee. “Our organizational review is at least two years away, there is no need to move, I believe most of the council members are comfortable”. That wasn’t quite the case. Councillor Craven said he liked the first floor because it allowed him to walk to any department he needed to talk to but he did feel that everyone should be in the same location, which for Craven would mean moving the Mayor down from the eight floor to the ground floor.

Mead Ward has a window in her office and institutional green walls

Mead Ward has a window in her office and institutional green walls

Councillor Lancaster said she felt having everyone together was a good idea. Councillor Mead Ward said her office was “virtual” and that it didn’t matter to her where she was – as long as she had her cell phone.

The Mayor said he felt detached from things being on the eighth floor. The plan was to move the council members and their assistants to the seventh floor where they could walk down one level to the sixth where the General Managers are and up one floor to where the Mayor and the City Manager are located

As the debate took place one could sense the tension between Council and Staff. The Council accommodation is dumpy and this Council wants to be treated with more respect and given office space that is not an embarrassment. Kim Phillips pointed out that the ground floor space is used by the public who went to City Hall last year to get 660 marriage licenses; have 1150 documents commissioned and to record 1400 deaths. Traffic to the offices of the Council members is not as heavy as the traffic is for service at the Clerk’s counter.

A move to the seventh floor was passed with one of those dreaded 4-3 votes.



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