Gazette reader takes issue with an interview given by the new Deputy city manager.

opinionandcommentBy Stephen White

January 4th, 2018



It was an interesting news story – the former Director of Planning doing a sit down interview with Colleen Podesta, a real estate agent. What could have looked like a fluff type interview by someone with a vested interest in the decisions the Director of Planning makes turned out to be something quite a bit different. Mary Lou Tanner, who is now the Deputy city manager explained that “granny flats” were possible in Burlington.

Tanner with Colleen Podesta

Colleen DePodesta, a Re/Max Escarpment real estate agent with Deputy city manager Mary Lou Tanner during an interview in the Atrium at city hall

The full interview can be seen at: Click here.

Stephen White didn’t see the interview that way.

He sent the Gazette some very pointed comments which were significant enough to be upgraded to an Opinion piece.

Here is what White had to say:

First question: since when were “granny flats” under consideration as an affordable housing option in Burlington?

Second question: since when do municipal public servants express public policy that, at least as far as I know, hasn’t been officially endorsed or sanctioned by Council?

Third question: why are local real estate agents interviewing municipal public servants for a promotional video that will be hosted on Ms. DePodestga’s website to advertise and promote the services of her business?

Fourth question: if a municipal public servant is supposed to maintain an arm’s length relationship with developers, real estate agents, etc., while ensuring a high degree of impartiality and objectivity in the process, why is she appearing in a featured interview? If she were being interviewed at a convention or broader public forum by a news agency that is one thing, but appearing in an exclusive interview for one business creates the impression of endorsement.

Fifth question: As per the City of Burlington’s policy on Media Relations, dated Wednesday December 24, 2014, Corp. Comm. -3-05, it states:

The Public Affairs department, which publishes City Talk, is run by Donna Kell, Manager Public Affairs. She directs a staff of 2.5 people plus a summer intern.

Donna Kell, Manager Public Affairs.

“The City of Burlington will designate corporate media spokespersons based on their accountability and responsibility. Corporate media relations spokespersons will function as the primary contacts with the media”.

Why wasn’t the Communications Manager the spokesperson on this issue.

Aside from the messaging the optics of this really stinks!


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6 comments to Gazette reader takes issue with an interview given by the new Deputy city manager.

  • itotsStephen

    Colleen needs to stick to selling houses and stay off social media. Her videos are terrible quality and embarrassing.

    Editor’s note: This comment comes too close to being rude. As we get into 2018 we are not going to post stuff like this. The least you could have done was had the courage of your convictions and used your name.

    What a surprise when we test the validity of the email address used – that doesn’t exist either.

  • Eve

    Great now all these sheds will be popping up in people’ backyards posing as granny flats . Totally agree with Mr White;s comments and me thinks Ms Tanner like the City Manager have too much power in City Gall . I did not elect City manager or deputy Manager so why are they proposing all this new legislation without Council input

  • Jeremy Skinner

    If you had a family member who wishes to maintain a level of independence, then you might appreciate the value of a garden suite (or granny flat) on your property instead of trying to acquire or rent a second distinct neighbourhood dwelling near-by to accommodate them. Many families can’t afford the costs of assisted care facilities for loved-ones which may exceed $6,000 per month and instead may wish to set up the situation where care can be managed by the family’s resources and capabilities and augmented when necessary by in-home services at a fraction of the assisted care cost.

    Canadian Mortgage & Housing Corp is a useful source of information on garden suites. Garden Suites are typically temporary structures which need to be dismantled within 20 years of erection.

    Ms. Tanner suggests through the interview that Council may be prepared to endorse the option of permitting the erection of a permanent structure which may have real estate value when the house (and secondary dwelling) is eventually put up for sale. If the secondary dwelling is a temporary structure, then it will need to be dismantled and removed prior to the time of real estate sale.

    I believe that we should support Council to make this proposal to permit the option of building permanent garden suites a reality.

    such as the document found here

    The proposed New Official Plan discusses Garden Suites in 8.7.2 (Land Use Policies – Urban Areas) under section entitled “Secondary Dwelling Areas” which has a reference to 12.1.10 (Implementation and Interpretation) under section “Temporary Use By-laws” under Policy 2 (c) of which I quote “The City may by by-law authorize the temporary use of a garden suite. This by-law shall define the area to which it applies and shall specify the period of time for which the authorization shall be in effect, which shall not exceed twenty (20) years from the date of passing of the by-law.”

  • Lynn

    Agree wholeheartedly with Stephen.

  • Brian Jones

    Very good points. I too watched and wondered. Anyone else?

  • Penny

    When I saw the video I felt exactly the same as Mr. White. Some residents looking to purchase condo’s in the core have been told that if development of large condos are not permitted it will mean that they will not be able to live in the area. No mention that an 8-12 storey building could also provide condos for sale.