Doug Brown on engagement: City isn't doing enough of it.

By Pepper Parr

February 6th, 2024

BURLINGTON, ON

 

Good morning Committee of the Whole and Mayor Meed Ward.

It’s a pleasure to be here. I am representing the Burlington for Accessible Sustainable Transit.  We’ve been working for 12 years now on on trying to press for improvements in transit throughout the throughout the city. But today,  we want to raise some concerns, specific concerns, about the Robert Bateman Community Centre development and in particular.

Doug Brown, a long time leader of Bfast.

We are concerned that the report is looking at parking in isolation from the overall impact of the project on transportation. It’s our opinion that the report is not aligned with the Official Plan which requires an increase in transit modal share. from the current 3% to 15%.  There’s an implicit assumption that students attending the Brock University satellite campus, and other community centre users will all drive and park.  It is our view   that the city needs to develop a strategy to encourage students and community centre users to get to Bateman by transit or active transportation. So like to just elaborate on that. The report reports focus on parking and its lack of any measures to increase transit negative transportation modes is counter to our official plan or climate action plan and our integrated mobility plan.

Among the measures that should be assessed by staff is the charging and implementation of a transit pass for students over the brook sadly campus such as exist at McMaster University. The reports focus on parking and its lack of any measures to increase transit and active transportation modes is counter to the city’s official plan. What is needed is a transportation study to develop a plan.  Planning for only car access will result in more car use and result in more emissions and congestion.

I’d like to refer staff and council to some of the extensive research on parking requirements in a classic book, the High Cost of Free Parking by Donald Shoup

I have a copy here which you can see is an I’ve been making extensive use of it’s a real compendium of, of evidence based studies and it’s published by the American Planning Association so it is widely accepted and closer to home. I’d like to point out the findings of Matt Pender has an engineer who works on transportation planning, and he did a study while it’s I think 10 years ago of the impact of paid parking on transit use in central and suburban Hamilton and the results are really quite compelling. So for commuters that had free parking network, transit use was 5%. For those that did not have free parking network, transit use was 23%. So almost a five fold increase in transit use, there’d be a very effective measure to reduce parking requirements and traffic congestion. Others have request the same analysis.  And as a final comment, I’d like to express my disappointment in the engagement process.

I had planned to provide these comments at a public meeting held at Tansley Woods many months ago, but was stopped by the facilitator who said that they would only take the comments regarding the building itself. I asked when I could make comments and did not get a clear reply. This is an odd engagement. This summarizes my current comments. I’d be glad to respond to any questions.

Mayor Meed Ward then said: “Thank you very much just looking to the board and I’m not seeing any questions at the moment. So thank you very much for joining us.

It looked as if there were not going to be any questions until Councillor Sharman  said: One of the last things that you said actually sparked my question so I appreciate your patience. One of the themes that I’ve heard has been around being able to only provide feedback and different chunks or fragments or pieces, but not necessarily an opportunity to do visioning as a whole. Would would you recommend another engagement session at this point knowing how far along we are with actual contracted plans?

Doug Brown: “There has to be a lot more effort into publicizing these public information sessions.”

Brown responds: Yes, because I don’t think you’ve got the needed public input. I think an earlier delegation made  that clear for you. And yeah, I think another session should be should be held.

Sharman had a follow up question:  Shouldn’t we at this point, be seeing many more people at the podium than then to for such an update? What would we measure as strong public engagement? At this point?

Brown: “I would say that’s maybe a failure to communicate with a broad public because I was unaware that this was on the agenda until I got the Mayor’s newsletter on Friday. I was the only one that saw anything; I think there has to be a lot more effort into publicizing these public information sessions.

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4 comments to Doug Brown on engagement: City isn’t doing enough of it.

  • Jim Thomson

    It was the Deputy Mayor of Community Engagement that made the comment about people at the podium delegating against Bateman. Has anyone ever delegated in favour of anything that is being done at Bateman?

    The Council script has been revised, they no longer use the fallacious reasoning “if there are no questions it means you have been perfectly clear. “

  • Lynn Crosby

    Well said Doug!

    I am so sick of hearing council say that since tons of people aren’t delegating, it’s our fault that we aren’t heard. Engagement is not showing up on a workday to delegate, then being ignored with zero questions or being given questions which often seem designed to trip up the delegate, or be chastised and silenced because someone else already made the same point etc etc etc. The Mayor had nothing to say to this delegate? It’s offensive. Oh right, that’s because he was “perfectly clear”. What a condescending thing that is every time they say it to start every meeting. The entire delegation process needs a complete overhaul. The Engagement Charter exercise they are currently doing will turn out to be, I expect, the biggest piece of irony we’ve seen yet.

    Council members put out social media posts and newsletters with their own “take” – read spin – continually, yet comments are continually deleted if they dare criticize anything. Instead of shutting down comments – they should be accepting that as valid feedback. Phoning or emailing our councillor – that’s feedback. I’ve written to all council members numerous times and get zero replies from any of them except Lisa. Email is feedback.

    Stop making the atmosphere of delegating so incredibly unpleasant and maybe more will show up there too. Though like the point Doug made, we actually don’t dig through the city website trying to find agenda items to figure out when to delegate, nor do we even know – because we aren’t being communicated with properly – that things are even happening until they’ve been decided anyway or it’s too late.

    How many times are we supposed to go and delegate or attend city meetings with staff – council members rarely showing up – and have our feedback completely ignored before we say you know what? My time is too valuable to waste on this “political performance art.” That beautiful quote courtesy of the Spectator’s Scott Radley in an article on Hamilton council. Absolutely applies to Burlington too.

  • Joe Gaetan

    Hindsight is known to be 20/20. But from a Vision to Focus pesrspective, should we not be locating satellite, actually “remote” University campuses such as McMaster and Brock close to mobility hubs, rather than what we are now and have been doing? Just asking. There seems to be a disconnect between the V and the F.

    • Anne and Dave Marsden

      The use of the word disconnect in terms of the current Council Joe is right on. Disconnect with reality, the community they serve, efficiencies, the rules including those on accountability and trasparency and a whole lot more. The only thing they seem to remain strongly connected to is “the will of council” which was the term the City Manager coined in summer of 2019.

      He fully supported Council setting aside the previous council’s decision to take care of civic square unsafe failed pavement and access issues contrary to the 2016 city standards. Further, use of provincially designated funds to support rural businesses; for furniture and a rainbow crossing in our urban downtown.

      Connecting to “the will of council” on Civic Square alone, has cost us an extra 2.1l2 million in 2026 plus (staff design time etc. that was deemed “underwhelming”). Further, a civic square for our 150th anniversary that previous council and staff agreed was at its end of time long ago and badly needed fixing in terms of safety and access issues before this council and mayor came to power.

      Darn right Joe, totally disconnected.

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