Council will return to the horseshoe at city hall in the middle of September - hopefully they will behave a little better this time.

News 100 blueBy Pepper Parr

August 25, 2015


They will be back soon – that magnificent seven that get paid $100,000 + each year for serving as your representative on both city and regional council.
They have been away from the horseshoe at city hall since the middle of July – and except for the Association of Municipalities of Ontario that was held in Niagara Falls – they haven’t had much to do in the way of formal meetings.

Burlington tends to be very quiet at city hall during the summer. The non-union staff at city hall are not that young.

The five year age range of the 129 people who hold leadership positions

2% are 26 to 30 – 3 people
1% are between 31 and 35
9% are between 36 and 40 – 12 people
16% are between 41 and 45 – 21 people
19% are between 46 and 50 – 25 people
32% are between 51 and 55 – 41 people
13% are between 56 and 60 – 17 people
7% are between 61 and 65 – 9 people.

There is a lot of vacation time to be used up.

Goldring-Magi at Budget Bazzar

City hall leadership briefs the Mayor on an issue during the budget preparation process

The other interesting thing is that close to 50% of the leadership will retire within 10 years; something the Human Resources department spends a lot of time thinking about. The pension plan in place for the municipal sector is seen as very good and many choose to retire in the second half of their fifties and try and new career.

As the members of Council drift back into the city and begin looking at their agendas and gearing up for the fall session – which for them begin September when they do two days of meetings at Regional Council where they will look at the Transportation Service 2014 Progress Report; do an On-Site Visit to Verify Potential Threats to Halton Regional Municipal Water Supply; consider changes to Waste Collection Area Boundaries and a look at the Conservation Authorities Act which is being reviewed.

When Council adjourned in July for the summer break there was no holding of hands and singing Cumbia. The period of time from when all seven members were re-elected last October to the July break was as fractious as this reporter has seen – even in the days when Cam Jackson was Mayor.

Differences of opinion are part of serving the public but the nastiness with which these people treat each other is shameful. On December 18th this Council treated John Taylor, a member of Council with 26 years of  experience, terribly. Earlier in that December 18th meeting Taylor was given an long term service award – within a few hours he was basically stripped of committee memberships that he not only deserved but that were dear to his heart.

A few weeks later he came close to having to beg for financial support for Community Development Halton which they needed to cover them until a grant application was approved.


Car Free Sunday started as an event to convince people to get out of their cars and walk, bike or use public transit – it became a party put on at public expense for ward Councillors to entertain their constituents – at $10,000 a pop.

Earlier in the session members of Council approved the spending of $10,000 for Car Free Sundays for both wards four and five and ward six. Mayor Goldring commented at the time that the events looked more like politicking than they did occasions when the public got to learn why everyone needed to make less use of their cars. His Worship was right – the events have become political boondoggles; hopefully they won’t be in the 2015 budget.
Councillor Marianne Meed Ward is concerned with the way reports get to Council members and she wondered aloud if two much of the meeting management was in the hands of the Clerk’s Office when it perhaps should be in the hands of the members of Council.

Meed Ward wants to see more “quickly to action” on the part of this council. We are collecting a lot of data but we don’t seem to be getting all that much done. Our growth hinges on creating jobs in this city. While the city does not actually create the jobs is can create the environment and ensure that the services needed are in place.

That means a city hall bureaucracy that serves the needs of people doing business in the city and with the city. We hear of those situations where things don’t work – the complaints, like gossip make the rounds quickly. The good news tends to take a little longer – but there is some good news.

Development activity - Meed Ward workshop May 2015

The public got to see information that was not secret but seldom had they had an opportunity to see a lot of data put before them and then be able to discuss some ideas with developers.

A number of months ago Meed Ward held several workshops to which she invited the public and those developers who were prepared to sit down and talk specifics about a project they were developing.  Meed Ward will complete her write up, pull together all the data and put it in a format that is uiseful to the public.  There will be a final public meeting and then everything gets passed on to planning staff who may issue a report on what they heard.  staff played a large part in the public meetings – they were as interested as Meed Ward was in what the developers had to say and what the public wanted built in their city.

On balance they were a very worthwhile effort.  The final report, which Meed Ward hopes has an impact on the Official Plan Review.

Meed Ward is concerned about the Ontario Municipal Board hearing on the ADI Group development that has been unveiled for the bottom of Martha at Lakeshore Road. Many feel the proposed structure just doesn’t fit and the staff report the city put out made that point quite clearly.

Unfortunately, city council never got to the point where they were able to vote on the staff report which makes whatever case the city has just that much weaker.

ADI filed their appeal to the OMB on the 180th day after they had submitted their proposal. Everyone knew what ADI was going to do – that is the way they do business and what they did was perfectly legal. It is situations like this that bother Meed Ward and many people in the city.

Council she argues is not in charge – we are following – not leading. For Meed Ward the Martha – Lakeshore Road development is a game changer. Meed Ward puts it this way: “There is something wrong with our issues management process” and she wants to see changes made. “We are handcuffed with the current process” she said.

Council vote Dec 18-14 Water Street

Standing up and being counted – Councillor Meed Ward has asked for more recorded votes than any other member of Council. Knowing what your elected member is doing for you is an essential part of the democratic process.

City council meets next on the 14th of September.

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5 comments to Council will return to the horseshoe at city hall in the middle of September – hopefully they will behave a little better this time.

  • Paul

    Thanks Pepper for offering food for thought. However I have been wanting to comment on the fact that heaps of praise keep going to Mead Ward and her workshops. Now her data from them will be tabulated. I can’t help but notice that in snap shot photos of these workshops there are many white heads: though seniors have wisdom and experience I fear that these meetings are not balanced and reflect one particular demographic. Couples both working with kids, young singles commuting to Toronto, single mothers balancing two jobs; just a few examples of people who don’t have time in the week to sit around at a workshop. The needs and wants may not reflect the real full. needs of the community. We are getting one picture drawn by a particular group of people whose agenda may not reflect young families in Burlington trying to raise families and get to work.

    • Tom Muir

      I agree that younger people, who have jobs, families, daily commutes, kids in sports, and regular lives like everyone else, have precious little time to participate in civic affairs.

      I have had a problem with that situation since I first became interested and involved in what goes on in our city and region 25 years ago, because I care. Some meetings, and not just a few, actually took place during the day. So that is a big obstacle for anyone who wants to participate in person.

      But that’s not Meed Wards’ fault, and no reason for you to sound a little critical – the “heaps of praise” comment sounds like sour grapes.

      I attended all three workshops and was impressed by the discussion and the opportunity to engage with developers in person. It was the first time I ever felt really connected, and able to learn how they think, behave, and what they are like in person.

      They also shared what plans they had in mind for sometime in the future. There is a lot that is going on in the Downtown, and certainly not reflective of the many criticisms directed at Meed Ward that nothing was happening and it was her fault.

      There was great discussion every time, and I did not sense any real anti development sentiment at any time. Concerns about reasonableness, and demands for much more that the OP permits by right, and traffic congestion, were what I heard, not general NIMBY. I did not see any agenda other than the directions given to the workshops purposes.

      There were a number of younger people you wouldn’t see in the few photos that appeared in the Gazette. They may have different wants and needs than the white heads, as you put it, but the expressed willingness I heard, from citizens and developers both, to discuss and be considerate, pretty much covered the gamut of possible built forms and massing.

      These workshops ought to be models for all the Wards in the city. I don’t think the demographic you point out has much to fear, but that said, we can’t just use your views, or the Ward councillors assertions, to impute what is best for them.

      Instead, we must seek ways to engage this demographic in person. What do you suggest that can move us towards this aim?

  • Tom Muir

    The failure of Council to get to vote on the staff report on the ADI project within the 180 days has never been explained at all, and there has been no accountability.

    We all are entitled to a clear explanation, so where is it, and will the Mayor take the lead on getting this explanation to the citizens.

    I would like to know what happened and who is responsible. This kind of thing, given what was known about ADI, is totally unacceptable. It amounts to aiding ADI in its quest with a free pass to the OMB.

    I share Meed Ward’s, and others concerns, that we have a city management failure on this file, and that Council somehow dropped the ball, and failed in its charge.

    Again, no information means no transparency and no accountability. The Municipal Act charges councillors to undertake their duties and responsibilities in this manner. The Citizen Engagement Charter says the same thing.

    The draft Code of Conduct, which Council has argued about and punted to who knows where in the Strategic Plan process, also reflects the wording of the Municipal Act wording and the Engagement Charter. It is the only thing visible that contains an actual working mechanism for citizens to seek accountability.

    So you can see the pattern here and the underlying problem.

    • Herman

      The sad thing is Tom long before any accountability or answers come forth on this subject ADI will have already sold out in pre sales.
      If you look at ADI’s quick success and high sales they have obviously tapped into a need in Burlington. Once those people move in they are unfortunately as much a Burlington Citizen as you or I. As much as I think of these buyers as foreign to Burlington my retired neighbours have just told me they are looking at one of the new builds. I guess if these new condo builds stood empty the politicians would care about us more, but as long as people keep buying nobody cares. If buildings are 28 stories that’s a lot of voters who won’t hold it against the councillors next election. It’s too bad, we were here first.

      • Tom Muir

        You have a point Herman. I just don’t know how ADI can sell something they don’t have approval to build. Or for buyers to purchase said project, then to expect to move into something not yet approved never mind built. It seems like both parties can enter into some kind of speculative, lets pretend venture.

        Can you please explain how this could be when we live in a development world governed by laws and regulations? Your comment seems to me based on a hypothetical attempt at justification based on rationalization.

        My problem is your comment implies that the ADI style of development, based on “do what you want and anything goes”, can be rationalized somehow, and this is something you appear to try to do. 28 more stories of voters will not a wit of difference make.

        As far as the accountability and answers that are overdue, the Mayor, Council, and City Manager are responsible for providing this, and I would think they already know what happened, and just have to share that explanation with the citizens. They can do this long before this ADI project is approved and built. They can order it now, and explain it in September.

        If they don’t explain, then something else, as I noted, is definitely wrong.