Here is what I heard

BURLINGTON, ON  December 1, 2010  – A new start, difficult when the problems from the immediate past are there staring at you.  But Mayor Rick Goldring did his very best and while he still isn’t quite used to the idea that he is THE Mayor he got the city off to a good start.

It wasn’t a “rousing” speech but, OK, so he isn’t an orator.  He made the points he wanted to make and did all the “nice, nice” things.  The Burlington Teen Tour Band was there announce the arrival of the new Council into the chamber and there was a real Judge who signed documents.  The city does need to get a better chair for people to sit in while they sign documents after reading the oaths – think the budget can handle that.

The Council Chamber was filled with the usual dignitaries who were introduced.  One former Mayor seemed to be ready to make a speech but that was avoided.  The audience was pretty white though and for an event that was “by invitation only” there were at least four empty seats that I saw.

The Burlington Post in their December 1st issue, pointed out how graceless the previous Council had been in the way it handled itself at the closing meeting of that Council.  For a city that prides itself on its civility there is clearly some distance to go.

Mayor Goldring laid out a pretty decent set of goals – wants to keep the tax increase to 10% over the term of office – that’s still 2.5% a year at a time when the Region has come up with a 0% increase for the next year and Toronto, a city that really knows how to spend money is calling for a 0% increase as well.  Can we not do with less than 2.5% MORE each year?  Where is the value for this extra spending?

Our new Mayor declared that the Pier would be finished but he is less than fully candid when he makes that statement.  Every member of the old council and by now the members of this new Council know that the Pier could get completed eventually if we want to spend a lot more money,  but it won’t happen in 2011 or 2012 and, again, it is going to cost a lot more than this Council is prepared to tell you.

The Shape Burlington report recommendations will be acted upon – “addressed and implemented in some form” was the language the Mayor used.  City staff expect to have their response to the report ready for some time in February – that’s eight months after the report was delivered to Council.  It took the committee that put the report together just four months.  Is there a little foot dragging going on within city hall?

We learned from our new Mayor that Council is going to leave the running of the city to the people hired to do that job and that “Council cannot micromanage staff and expect to hold them accountable at the same time”.  Dead on – but let us be sure to actually hold city staff accountable.  Our Mayor wants there to be “clearly defined expectations” and is proposing “a community based service review in the first year of Council”.  He didn’t tightly define what that means but the one things that is always evident with Rick Goldring is that while still somewhat naïve – he is earnest and decent.  The kind of man who puts a bit of a spit shine on his shoes and makes time to talk to anyone who wants to talk to him.

The citizens of Burlington sent a clear message”, our Mayor told us and “they expect Council to operate differently, to be more open and accountable, to be more respectful, to listen and work with the community more closely, and to finish the Pier”.  The Mayor was dead right on the message the citizens sent and hopefully a Council on which half of the members are new will be able to make the three people who were part of the old Council deliver in a different way.  Cam Jackson isn’t there anymore – so they can’t blame him.

Our City is being led by a very decent human being who is going to take the next few days to attend a course in Orillia with other men and woman who are newly elected  Mayors – Mayoring 101 if you will – a good start.

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