Doing the same with less? Keeping the information flow constant & living a personal life at the same time? Best we can do is persevere.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON  September 4, 2012   Our Burlington is going to shift gears a bit and spend less time covering city council meetings and some city council committee meetings.  The shift will be gradual and the focus will move to finishing items that were started and want to finish.  But we will no longer cover council committee meetings on a regular basis.

The web site was designed to be a newspaper on a web site; something that would cover as much of what goes on in the city as possible without the space constrains the print media faces.  We had the added advantage of being able to maintain the content and make it available at any time.  No one wraps fish bones with our pages.

As an experiment and as a response to the Shaping Burlington recommendations – Our Burlington has succeeded.

Why the change?  Energy, financial, legal, but mostly the realization that what we started out to do, was not achievable by one person and at this stage in my life, it is not prudent to use the limited resources of a retiree for a project that might produce enough revenue to cover the cost of operation.

We foolishly thought the job that needed to be done could be done on a part time basis.  The truth was that the job required seven days a week with me at the keyboard till well past 1:00 am far too many days.

My wife, the reason I came to Burlington, wondered what she had gotten herself into.  We haven’t been able to spend the time together that we expected.

We haven’t been to a play yet this year – haven’t managed a night out to a movie either – thank goodness for DVD’s.

We are at the $20,000 level in terms of real cash we have spent on the newspaper on a web site – could have gotten elected to Council for that amount of money.

I am fortunate to have a small circle of advisers who don’t, for the most part, have a political axe to grind.  Their advice has been consistent – make the changes you need to make

I started a theology class at McMaster a year ago, and while I bought the text books, I didn’t get to read most of them and I completed just one of the term papers.  I hope that in the months ahead I will have the time to continue my study of Isaiah and perhaps return to the classroom.  The choice was the Waterfront Advisory Committee or Isaiah – wisdom prevailed.  That committee has four more meetings left in its life – they won’t be ignored.

I migrated from Toronto, where I lived in The Beach and found life rich and fulfilling there.  I am an urban animal and loved, fed off and contributed to the community I lived in.  It will come as no surprise to you that I was the founder, 45 years ago, of a weekly community newspaper that still publishes 40 pages a week.

The world of suburbia is not one that I have taken to very easily.    I used to be able to get into Toronto once every three or four weeks for my “urban “fix” but the demands of the web site curtailed that pleasure.

Without the Escarpment – we might as well merge with Oakville.

Burlington has so many positive things going for it: the geography is such a gift, your children will not be shot to death on the main streets, it is for the most part a crime free city, although that is changing with the number of criminals who see this city as easy pickings.

What constantly surprises me is how Burlington, with all that it has going for it, is so bland.  We are known for nothing.  A city as wealthy as this one is, doesn’t seem capable of excelling at something.  We have a terrible school board; one that doesn’t seem to care about real education and is close to incapable of listening to the parents of the children who attend the schools it runs.  Senior people within the Board of Education actually deliberately fail to tell parents the truth.  And they get away with it.  Thank Mike Harris for that one with his decision to gut the system of school trustees we had.

Burlington accepts gas prices that are usually three to four cents a litre higher here than they are in Hamilton, yet far too many people go bananas when members of Council get a pay raise that is determined by an independent citizens committee.   The city has values that are incompatible with each other.

This city fails to appreciate the amount of time our Council members put in.  Few fully understand that their council members do double duty as Regional Councillors.  And we pay them a portion of what they are worth.

The seven of them oversee a city that has more than 1,000 full time equivalents and they oversee a budget that is one of the largest in the city. And we pay them something around $120,000 a year; little wonder we are not able to attract the kind of talent the city needs to serve as council members.

The Mayor is out close to every evening each week. His ward is the whole city and every one wants a piece of him. Not a healthy life for a man with daughters that need face time.

They are out close to half of the evenings in a week; they take telephone calls at home every night.  The amount of time Mayor Goldring spends on civic business isn’t healthy.

There is a lot to look into:   What do the sales numbers at the Performing Arts Centre look like?  If they were great we would be hearing all about them.  We’re not hearing anything – that’s a clue.

Where are we with employment lands?  Council and some member of the community got their nickers in a knot when it was announced that a church was going to be built on a piece of land that faced onto the 407 – which meant an opportunity for a corporation to show their name and trade mark to those passing by was lost.  I kind of thought that a cross was a pretty good trade mark and one that I certainly want to see out there for everyone to see.  But the Economic Development Corporation spokesperson didn’t see it that way,  Unfortunate.  Was there the sound of relief when we learned that it was going to be an Anglican church and not a mosque?

Speaking of employment lands – what is going to be done with the downtown core?  Are we going to build a new city hall and stop paying rent to property owners?  Is city hall talking to Paletta International about some kind of a land deal?  And is it time to know more about what the Paletta’s have planned with their other property holdings?   The tendency is to look at developers as rapacious – but if we knew the full story of the Paletta family, I think there is a great success story to be told.  We will see what we can do at that level in the future.

Eagle Heights and the development at Tremaine and Dundas needs more attention.  There was some very good citizen involvement on the Tremaine development that we have yet to tell you about.

For a park of this dimension – this was the best that could be done for the Official Opening. Had they called it Apeldoorn Park – there would have been hundreds of people on the site – still a chance to change the name.

The story of the City View Park will unfold once the Pan Am Games are over – it is a little on the messy side.  Now that the city has pulled the plug on the re-development of the Roads and Parks Maintenance building on Elgin the embarrassingly little park that was going to have the name of our sister city Apeldoorn attached to it won’t happen.  Hopefully the Dutch community in Burlington will push to have City View Park, from which by the way – you can’t actually see the city – or so I am told by my colleague David Auger.

The Pier needs constant watching – we appear to have the construction issues under control – the legal issues and the financial fallout from that has the potential to take the cost of that pier up to as high as $20 million.  Ouch!

Beachway Park – one of the most significant stretches of water open to the public in the province.

The Beachway has tremendous potential for the city – but the city is going to have to get a wiggle on and actually take charge of this one – or we will end up with next to nothing.

The Official Plan review is going to need all kinds of help.  As a subject is as dry as toast and some very creative initiatives are going to have to come out of city hall if the public is to get an opportunity to have a meaningful part in this process. That will need to be followed.

The development of the east waterfront – with all kinds of possibilities has to be given a new home.  The demise of the Waterfront Access Committee means there is no longer a focus on this part of the city – other than what the Planning department chooses to do.  It will get developed – there are developers who already have dibs on critical pieces of the puzzle.  The when and the how any development down there takes place is something this city can and should determine.  Former Toronto Mayor David Crombie talked about the power of a “bully pulpit” but Mayor Goldring hasn’t managed yet to master that skill.

Ensuring that the Escarpment isn’t abused and ravaged by highways that really aren’t needed is an ongoing concern, as is what we are actually going to do with all that property between Dundas and Derry Road –there is very little real farming going on in that part of the city.  Instead it has become an enclave of the very well off who have large estates – there is a 20,000 square foot home looking for approval on Cedar Springs Road – and that is just the beginning.

For those with more money than they can count – there are some great offerings along Guelph, Walkers and Appleby Lines.

The quality and calibre of our representatives at the federal and provincial level is disappointing.  Is this the best we can do?  The Tory’s had to recruit McKenna who brought no experience or predilection for politics.  Marvellous Mike Wallace was to be the Mayor that followed Rob MacIsaac into that office but Cam Jackson pulled a fast one and scooped up that prize.  Then when Jackson was booted out as Mayor he wasn’t exactly able to go to Wallace for some kind of a federal appointment.

The city has treated Jackson terribly.  He wasn’t a disastrous Mayor.  He didn’t do anything illegal.  And yet there wasn’t a dinner for him to wish him well and send him along to the next phase of his career.  Cam Jackson was a career politician.  Many claim he was a career politician in high school – a genuine product of the community.  His treatment since losing office has been pretty shabby.

This city can produce better than what we have in terms of federal and provincial representation.  It’s out there – it just has to be encouraged, nurtured and supported.

So – you can see – there is a lot to be done.

We’ve also found that our readership, which has grown 10% every month for the past six months, and we haven’t spent a dime on advertising or promotion, wants more about their community and what takes place where they live.

Sports has been all but neglected and for a city with some 10,000 kids playing soccer and six Olympians amongst, that is a serious oversight.

And then there is the Board of Education and the Police Services Board and the Region.  It just never ends.

We will persevere.




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2 comments to Doing the same with less? Keeping the information flow constant & living a personal life at the same time? Best we can do is persevere.

  • Bravo to seeking a healthier balance in life – and, bland or not, Burlington is a great place to find it! Hear that? That’s the collective sigh of relief from Burlington politicians, reacting to the prospect of you following them less. Thank you for keeping us better informed and more engaged. I look forward to continuing to add some Pepper to satiate my appetite for local knowledge and insight, however Our Burlington evolves. Just don’t let those politicians breath too easy, please.

    Ed note: Fear not Sir – that show is just too good to miss – reminds me of the cartoons we used to see at the movies before the feature. We will be there should you choose to run as well.

  • tony millimgton

    Hey thats not fair that you are cutting back, how will I keep up with what is going on 🙂 Enjoy Life before its too late.